Monthly Archives: April 2014

What I Ate Wednesday 30/04

What I Ate Wednesday is a blog link-up hosted over at Peas & Crayons, encouraging bloggers to post pictures of what they ate over a whole day.  Hopefully taking part will show you guys whether or not I stick to the mealplan and give a bit more insight into what I can eat on my budget.


photo (13)

I ate breakfast at home today, and had bran flakes with banana and whole milk for a change.


Usual snack of tinned fruit pieces – pineapple this time.

photo (12)


photo (14)

Lunch today was lentil and veg soup (made with homemade ham stock, a little bit of ham dripping, onions, carrots, swede, peas and red lentils) with some homemade brown bread.


I don’t usually snack in the afternoon but my colleague had brought in some homemade caramel shortbread so it seem rude to refuse 😉

photo (11)


lentil stew

Dinner was:

  • Lentil stew (green-brown lentils with carrot, sweet potato, onions, veg stock, tomato puree, smoked paprika, various herbs) – yes, I realise I had a lot of lentils today!
  • Herby suet dumplings (veg suet, flour, salt, dried herbs)
  • Frozen green beans on the side

Well that was Monday’s food – I’ll try and remember to take part next week too, and to vary the diet a bit more.  Can you tell I like lentils?!


How much does it cost to get protein in your diet?

cooked chicken

I decided to try out a new recipe from Cheap Family Recipes today – the red pepper tart (with a couple of changes but not too many).  It was delicious but extremely low in protein and thus not overly filling – I suspect it’s low in protein as a way of cutting cost because, in general, the protein is going to be the most expensive bit of your meal.

It got me thinking about how best to fill your protein requirements on a low income.  I used Tesco online for prices and protein contents to keep everything standard (obviously the food could cost more or less depending where you shop).  For an average woman (i.e. me) the government recommendation is 45g of protein a day (men need more, people who work out a lot need more).  How much would this cost me and how much food would this be?


Eggs & dairy

  • 1 egg = 7g protein at 16p (Tesco free range medium eggs, £1.95 for 12)
  • 200ml whole milk = 6g protein at 9p (Tesco, £1/2.272 litres)
  • 50g feta-type cheese = 9g protein at 19p (Tesco Everyday Value, 75p / 200g)
  • 50g cheddar = 13g protein at 28p (Tesco Everyday Value, £5.60 / kg)


  • 50g porridge oats = 5g protein at 4p (Tesco Everyday Value, 75p/kg)
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread = 8g protein at 5p (Tesco Everyday Value, 45p – assumed 18 slices)
  • 75g basmati rice = 6g protein at 11p (Tesco Everyday Value, £1.40)

Beans & lentils

  • 1/2 can red kidney beans = 8g protein at 15p (Tesco Everyday Value, 30p per can)
  • 50g red lentils = 12g protein at 8p (Indus, £2.99 / 2kg)
  • 1/2 can baked beans = 7g protein at 12p (Tesco Everyday Value, 24p per can)
  • 100g tofu = 8g protein at 40p (Cauldron, £1.60 / 396g)


  • 40g almonds = 8g protein at 46p (Tesco, £1.15 / 100g)
  • 30g peanut butter = 7g protein at 5p (Tesco Everyday Value – 62p / 340g jar)
  • 25g pumpkin seeds = 7g protein at 22p (Tesco, 85p / 100g)

Meat & fish

  • 125g beef mince = 23g protein at 50p (Tesco, £4 / kg)
  • 125g chicken breast = 29g protein at 83p (Tesco, £6.67 / kg)
  • 125g free range chicken breast = 29g protein at £1.88 (Tesco Finest, £15/kg)
  • 125g salmon fillet = 24g protein at £1.37 (Tesco Everyday Value, £10.97/kg)
  • 1/2 can tinned tuna = 15g protein at 43p (Tesco Everyday Value, 86p/tin)
  • 2 rashers bacon = 13g protein at 50p (Tesco, £4 / 16 rashers)
  • 2 sausages = 14g protein at 50p (Tesco Butcher’s Choice, £1.99 / 8 sausages)


  • 80g frozen peas = 5g protein at 8p (Tesco Everyday Value at £1 / kg)

butternut squash and feta spaghetti 2

Sample Meal Plan Ideas

Here’s some reasonably-priced meal-plans using the info above to get you to your total protein limit (not a complete meal-plan – obviously you’d need to eat other things throughout the day, and this isn’t included in the costs.  Bear in mind that these other foods do contain some protein too.  Even veg contains small amounts):

  • 50g porridge oats made with 200ml whole milk (13p) – 11g protein
  • Salad with 50g feta cheese and 25g pumpkin seeds (41p) – 16g protein
  • Curry with 50g red lentils served with 75g basmati rice – 18g protein (19p)

TOTAL = 45g protein, 73p

  • 1/2 can baked beans with 2 slices wholemeal toast (17p) – 15g protein
  • Salad with 1/2 can tuna (43p) – 15g protein
  • 2 sausages with 80g peas (58p) – 19g protein

TOTAL = 49g protein, £1.21

  • Sandwich with 2 slices wholemeal bread and 50g cheese (33p) = 21g protein
  • 125g chicken breast (83p) – 29g protein

TOTAL = 50g protein, £1.16

chickpeas 2

So what does this tell us?  Unsurprisingly it’s easier for meat-eaters to get their protein requirements – 1 small chicken breast is over half of a woman’s protein requirements (and a large one could be almost all of it).  Non meat-eaters have to try a little harder, especially there are few sources of plant protein that are ‘complete proteins’, so they need to mix and match different sources of protein to get all of the amino acids required.  However, since meat and fish are the most expensive sources of protein, it is possible to get your requirements more cheaply on a vegetarian diet.

Either way, it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to meet your protein needs.  I could have made that tart more filling by scattering some cheese on the top or serving a bean salad on the side, and neither would have cost too much (probably not even as much as the bag of crisps Dave had later to fill up).  Although it was pretty tasty as it was so it’d also make a nice meal on a day when you’re getting

So do you ever think about how much protein you’re eating, or do you not give it a second thought?  How do you make sure you get enough protein without breaking the bank?

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/04


OK, confession time – I totally lost track at the end of the April budget, hence why I’ve been staying away.  Ooops.  But I’ve had an estimate in my head and am pretty sure I only came around £5 or £10 over.  Still not good though.

I’ve upped the budget to £180 this month party because we’re overdue a massive stock-up and since the cat’s moved to wet food from dried (the dried has unfortunately started making her throw up) we spend a lot more on cat food.  Did a massive Tesco shop which was delivered today to fill some gaps in the cupboard so hoping to just do small shops of £20 or so for the next three weeks, just to fill up on fruit, veg, milk and meat.


Sun 27 – Peri-peri chicken & peppers (from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals but made with chicken breasts rather than thighs) with new potatoes and salad

Mon 28 – Puy lentil & veg stew with dumplings

Tues 29 – mac and cheese with broccoli and salad

Wed 30  – tuna & veg kebabs with salad and couscous

Thurs 1 – tomato & red pepper tart with new potatoes and salad

Fri 2 – veggie curry with rice and naans

Sat 3 – chicken and rice burritoes

Spending Update £107.81/£180

Fruit & veg
Broccoli 85p
Fresh & Naked mixed little leaves x2 £1
Baby button mushrooms 200g £1
Frozen spinach 1kg £1.50
Frozen raspberries 350g £2
E'day Value frozen peas 1kg 89p
Bananas x6 89p
Limes x4 £1
Sweet potato 42p
Birds eye chillies 90p
Salad potatoes 2.5kg £1.50
Basil pot £1.25
E'day Value carrots 1.5kg 89p
E'day Value peppers 900g £1.75

Meat & fish
Finest free range chicken 1.85kg £9.47
Tuna steak £3.52

Brown bread flour 1.5kg x2 £1.70
Tinned pears x2 £1
Tesco instant coffee 200g £1.95
Napolina Extra virgin olive oil 1ltr £4
Granulated sugar 1kg 79p
E'day Value spaghetti 500g 20p
E'day Value baked beans x2 48p
E'day Value penne 500g 29p
Lentilles vertes 500g £1.09
E'day value clear honey 99p
E'day Value chopped tomatoes x6 £2.04
E'day value kidney beans x2 60p
E'day Value basmati rice 1kg £1.40
E'day Value sultanas 500g 84p
E'day Value gravy granules 20p
E'day Value tinned mandarins 27p
E'day Value table salt 1kg 25p
Wholewheat couscous 1kg £1.35
McCoys crisps 6pk x2 £2
Pride coconut milk x2 £1.90
Indus red split lentils 2kg £2.99
Indus chickpeas 2kg £2.99
E'day Value mild chilli powder 85p
E'day Value oregano 85p
Tinned mango x2 £1.50
Tuna flakes x2 98p
Tinned pineapple x2 72p

Tesco toothpaste 40p
E'day value kitchen roll £1.18
E'day Value cling film 60p
E'day Value bio washing liquid £1.50
Whiskas pouches in jelly x4 £10
E'day Value cat litter x4 £6.20
Gillette razors £3.69
E'day Value washing up liquid 33p
Shower gel 70p
Shampoo & conditioner £1.60
Smartt bin bags 50pk £2.70
Tesco cola x7 £5.11

Dairy & eggs
Whole milk 4pints £1
Mature cheddar 450g x2 £5

Happy Easter!

No mealplan today – I haven’t done any shopping yet because I’m away at my mum’s!  probably won’t get any shopping in until Tuesday as I’m back late tomorrow night.

See you all soon, and hope you’re having a fabulous bank holiday weekend!

Embed from Getty Images

Carrot & cashew nut cutlets/burgers


This recipe was from a cookbook called The New Vegetarian Kitchen, which I think I’ve mentioned before – I really recommend it, though the recipes aren’t that frugal.  I did play about with the recipe a bit though.  You should know my feelings about vegetables by now: as many as I can possibly fit on the plate please! So I added some chopped yellow pepper to the mix.  I changed the spices, keeping cumin but swapping fenugreek for a hot chilli powder, because I wanted something spicy.

I was out of pistachios so also didn’t serve with the intriguing-sounding pistachio salsa, though i’m so making that another day.  Instead of serving wrapped in a naan bread, like a burger, I used mine as veggie ‘cutlets’ (as a student, I used to buy this type of thing from the frozen section in the supermarket; I assume you can still get them) and served with salad, yoghurt (with finely chopped onion and a little mint sauce added to make raita) and couscous for a light but filling summery meal.  Monday was the first warm, sunny spring day around here so it felt like the right sort of food 🙂

These are easy to make completely by hand, but would be even easier with a food processor – I annoyingly broke my a couple of weeks ago and haven’t quite got round to replacing it yet.  I miss it so much! Oh and if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can crush the cashews by placing in a food bag and bashing with a rolling pin, though you won’t get them as fine.

Carrot and cashew nut cutlets (serves 2)

  • 75g cashew nuts
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 30g breadcrumbs (1 small slice of homemade bread – I toasted then used a grater as I couldn’t do them in the food processor)

Preheat your grill.  Toast the cashews on a baking tray under the hot grill for a few minutes, keeping an eye on them and shaking occasionally to prevent burning (they will toast a lot faster under the grill than in the oven, so be careful).  Once golden, remove and grind well, either in a food processor, coffee grinder (one you don’t use to grind coffee, obviously), in a mortar and pestle or even by putting in a food bag and bashing with a rolling pin.  You want it reasonably finely ground, but a bit of texture is OK.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions and pepper until soft.  Add the crushed garlic and fry for a further minute before removing from the heat.

Mix the ground nuts, cooked vegetables, grated carrots, breadcrumbs and spices.  Beat the egg well into the mix and use your hands to separate into two balls and press into a rough burger shape.  Place on a baking tray and grill for around 8 minutes, turning once.

Serve as a burger, or with couscous and salad, or potatoes and veg – however you want really!

Summery lemony couscous salad

  • 100g plain dried couscous
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 6 dried apricot halves, sliced

Make up the couscous using packet directions – I pour over an equal volume of salted boiling water to couscous, then add an extra splash to be on the safe side, drizzle with olive oil then cover with a tea towel for 10-15 minutes.  Once the couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff up with a fork and add all the other ingredients, stirring well.  Serve on the side of the nut cutlets or with other summery dishes (would be especially nice with griddled chicken or a veggie tagine).

What I Ate Wednesday 16/04

What I Ate Wednesday is a blog link-up hosted over at Peas & Crayons, encouraging bloggers to post pictures of what they ate over a whole day.  Hopefully taking part will show you guys whether or not I stick to the mealplan and give a bit more insight into what I can eat on my budget.

9am – Breakfast

photo (10)

Just like last time, I had breakfast at work – porridge (rolled oats made in the microwave with a mix of semi-skimmed milk and water, a shake of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp brown sugar and a pinch of salt), topped with sliced banana.  You can see I made it less soup-like this time 😉

11.30am – Snack

photo (9)Normally I go for fruit, but today I had a couple of small carrots cut into sticks and dipped in a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter.


1pm – Lunch

photo (8)


photo (7)

Lunch was cream of parsnip soup I made at the weekend (with parsnips, onion, vegetable stock from a cube, double cream, nutmeg and a little whole milk to top up the cream, as I didn’t have enough. Oh, and a little vegetable oil to fry the onion in) with some homemade brown bread.  Finished with a tub of tinned pineapple pieces (about a third of the tin).

7.45pm – Dinner


Bit of a late dinner tonight – I went for a short run after work so was late getting started with cooking (first run in months, ahem).  We had a new recipe, right on mealplan: 

  • carrot and cashew nut cutlets (carrot, onion, garlic, yellow pepper, breadcrumbs, cashews, cumin, chilli powder, an egg and a little vegetable oil);
  • served with couscous flavoured with lemon juice, chopped coriander and sliced dried apricots;
  • salad leaves, spring onions and tomatoes dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar;
  • and finally an easy raita made by stirring mint sauce and finely sliced onion into natural yoghurt.

Full recipe for the nut cutlets to follow tomorrow – they were seriously good!

Mealplan and Spending Update 13/4


Looking forward to the mealplan this week – I’ve made the effort to include some new recipes as I was getting a bit bored eating the same things!  I’m especially looking forward to the nut cutlets – I love that kind of thing and rarely make them now I’m not vegetarian.


Sun 13 – roast chicken legs with roast potatoes, sage and chestnut stuffing, cabbage, carrots, sweetcorn and gravy

Mon 14 – cashew and carrot nut cutlets with salad and couscous

Tues 15 – lemongrass pork and vegetable stir-fry with sticky rice

Wed 16 – soup, homemade bread and apple crumble

Thurs 18 – hot smoked salmon with salad, rice and roasted veg

Fri 19 – out for dinner with family

Sat 20 – black bean mole with chickpea pancakes and yoghurt

Lunches – cream of parsnip soup with bread or couscous salad for me; tuna or ham sandwiches for Dave

Spending (£142.10 / £160)

Didn’t head to the shop this week at all until Sunday – probably because we were away on Friday night and most of Saturday.

Fruit & veg £10.18
Butternut squash 99p
Savoy cabbage 80p
Savers mushrooms 79p
Lime 30p
Spring onions 49p
Bananas x6 66p
Lemons 5pk 99p
Herb garden salad x2 £1.98
Coriander bunch 79p
Garlic 4pk £1
Fresh lemongrass 4pk £1.39

Meat & fish £8
Smoked gammon joint 1.25kg £6
Prime Fayre back bacon 8pk £2

Dairy & eggs £1.44
Savers yoghurt 45p
Savers butter 99p

General £7.39
Savers tinned pineapple 25p
Savers tinned peaches 35p
Vegetable oil 1ltr £1.35
Cornflour 75p
Strong brown flour £1.27
Passata x2 £1
Savers peanut butter 62p
Light brown sugar £1.39
Cream crackers 41p

Household £7.22
Morrisons cat food pouches 12pk £2.68
Savers bio washing liquid £1.60
Colgate toothpaste £1.19
Vaseline deodorant £1.75