Having stumbled across a website called Cheap Family Recipes – which aims to show you how to feed a family of four for just £100 a month all in (prices will have risen since 2010, when they were calculated) – I really wanted to test out a recipe or two to see if such low cost meals could really be tasty.
We’re lucky enough that we don’t have to keep the food budget as low as this, so I didn’t want to test their monthly meal planner in its entirety – there’s some aspects of it I’m not too keen on (too much white bread for my tastes, although it’s good that it’s homemade). However, the site is aimed at those on really low incomes/trying to get by on benefits, and it would be a great resource to help you get your five a day and avoid processed rubbish if you’re on such a low income. There’s definitely some good tips in there for everyone who’s trying to reduce their food spends, even by just a bit.
The recipe I decided to test out tonight was their pasta funghi, but I made quite a few changes. I completely forgot to add onions (didn’t check the recipe today before making), used fresh garlic instead of garlic powder and used homemade chicken stock to make the sauce, which really made the dish. I also added peas and dried mushrooms and decided not to bake the pasta so it would be quicker. I have to say it was delicious and really unusual! We served with salad and homemade foccacia as a treat for Dave (it’s his favourite).
Mushroom and Pea Pasta (serves two; 58p per portion)
- 200g mushrooms, finely sliced 43p (75p / 350g, Tescos)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed 7p (25p / bulb, Morrisons, avg 8 cloves a bulb)
- 150-250ml chicken or vegetable stock (I used homemade, free from freezer)
- 80g frozen peas (up this to 160g if not serving with salad) 8p (89p / 900g, Morrisons)
- 1 tbsp cornflour 5p (£1.19 / 500g Tescos)
- 150-200g dried pasta (we only used 150g as were serving with bread) 9p (30p / 500g Morrisons)
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil 9p (£1.99 / 500ml Morrisons)
- 10g dried mushrooms (optional; I have a catering sized 400g tub I was given as a gift, but would have cost us 35p for this if we’d paid for the tub, which is currently retailing for £13.99 online)
Heat the stock in a small saucepan to simmering point (you only need around 150ml, but I had too much in my freezer tub, so I reduced it a bit here) and add the dried mushrooms, if using. Either turn off the heat and allow the mushrooms to rehydrate, or simmer away if you want to concentrate the stock a bit.
Meanwhile, heat around 3/4 of a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan, and add the mushrooms. Stir round for a few minutes until well-cooked, adding a dash of oil if it dries up (mushrooms soak up oil really quickly). Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the dried mushrooms from the stock with a slotted spoon, and this is also a good point to put the pasta on to cook as per packet directions.
Scoop out the mushrooms and garlic and add the rest of the oil to the pan. Take it off the heat and add in the cornflour, stirring to make a yellow paste. Slowly pour in the stock, stirring or whisking very well to avoid lumps. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add the peas and cook through for another couple of minutes. Serve stirred through the drained pasta with salad and/or bread if desired.
This is definitely the cheapest main meal I’ve made since starting the blog, at 58p per portion; it would have only been 41p if we’d not used the dried mushrooms. Of course, if you use the small packs of dried mushrooms from the supermarket, it would cost you a bit more for these – I love my catering-sized tub! We also served a side salad and homemade foccacia, but if you upped the peas and pasta, you probably wouldn’t need these.