Category Archives: Other

Dinner for $5…Can it really be done???

I am part of the Adelaide Families on A Budget social media group. A lovely lady posted that she needed dinner ideas for $5.00 TOTAL. Whilst there were lots of low cost suggestions like sausages, canned beans and spaghetti on toast, it really got me thinking. Can we really provide a balanced, tasty meal for $5.00?

When I think of a balanced meal I think it should include vegetables, a source of protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a great way of stretching a meal making it both filling and cheap. Use things like rice, pasta, bread, legumes and potatoes. Vegetables are also much cheaper that meat proteins and provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

So on the fly, on a rainy Sunday morning, I put my head to use and came up with a few ideas that in my opinion ticked all the boxes.

Flavour ü Vegetables ü Carbohydrates ü Protein ü Budget ü

Whilst these may not be to everyone’s personal taste, it shows that it can be done. These are suggestions only and take into account individual portions of sauces, herbs and spices used that may already be in the pantry or fridge. Where possible I use supermarket branded items that are a fraction in price of “Brand” name competitors.

This is what I came up with:

Although I wasn’t under $5.00 I was pretty close. My prices also reflect that chicken breast was purchased from the deli counter of the local supermarket. This is one of the cheapest places to purchase not only dollar per kilogram but you can buy singular pieces rather than vacuum-packed trays.

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A New Beginning

I am back in the blogging hot seat after an unscheduled break. My excuse…Motherhood!

Since my last blog, I’m happy to say that I now officially work in the cooking industry and I love every minute of it. I am the Cook for a very nice, brand new childcare centre. Whilst it is completely satisfying to have a job that I enjoy and am passionate about, it still comes with its trials and tribulations. I no longer cook for just one toddler, I cook for a centre full of the fussy little tots!!!

It is a real pleasure to walk into work each morning and be greeted with happy smiling faces. Being in a brand new centre from day one has allowed me to bond and build relationships with all enrolled children. It however comes with negatives. I now feel somewhat obliged to keep these little ones happy and try to accommodate all their personal likes and dislikes just as if they were my own children. As we grow, we will have 120 children everyday at capacity, I logistically and mentally cannot keep up with the demands. In a very short time I have learnt that what they like today, they may absolutely loathe tomorrow.  I am learning to not take it to heart. It’s what kids do!

The biggest challenge faced by childcare cooks is the extremely tight budget. Less than $2 per child a day to provide morning tea, a wholesome, nutritious cooked lunch and afternoon tea. It is a real stretch for some. Budgets are calculated per head, so whilst we only had a few children each day, the budget reflected this. I slowly filled my pantry over a few weeks with home branded staples and avoided convenience sauces and prepackaged foods. This has really helped in keeping the costs down. Home brand (or supermarket branded) products are super cheap and of a good quality. I would definitely recommend if you were on a tight budget. Budget cooking doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless. With a little know how, you can get really good tasting food without the heavy price tag.

Here are a few of my latest dishes that really were cheap to produce and hits all round at work and at home.

Sweet and Sour Pork, came in at $15.00 for a family of 4. The pork fillet was the expensive component at $9.90 as I used Pork Fillet. I served this meal  with plain steamed rice, which was just $1.50 per kilogram.

Honey Soy Chicken, came in at just $5.70!!! This fed 4 very hungry children and 1 adult when paired with noodles and steamed vegetables. I used Changs Long Life Noodles (they taste like Maggi 2 Minute Noodles without the seasoning) at $1.10 a packet. Purchasing the Chicken Breast Fillet from the supermarket Deli department rather than the meat department held down the cost.

Happy Cooking

🙂 Kelly

Stretching Christmas Budgets

Hard to believe that Christmas is just over two weeks away and for most this is a busy and stressful time. Undoubted, Christmas is also the most expensive time of year…social functions, gift buying and Christmas Day dinner.

This year is a first for us as we are joining my sister’s in-laws and going out for our lunch on Christmas Day. We are going as we wish to spend the day with loved ones but I am finding it really hard to justify the $85 per head price tag to have Christmas lunch at the local Pub!!! I need to stop and remember that the day is all about spending time with family. Having said that, a fantastic Christmas lunch can be had at home at a fraction of the price all with a little planning.

Traditionally, we have a cooked lunch at home with family. Roast Chicken, Turkey and Pork along with all the trimmings of roast vegetables, Cranberry Sauce, Apple Sauce, Gravy and all topped off with Mum’s famous Christmas pudding and Brandy Custard. To go out and buy all these items the day before makes a huge dent in the budget. So how do we get a fantastic dinner without the huge outlay? Planning is the key.

The larger cuts of roasting meats can be rather expensive so grab them when they are on special at the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to grab yourself a bargain when you see it and pop it into the freezer. Just last weekend, our local supermarket had whole chickens at just $2.99 per kilo. Most were around the 2.2-2.6kgs, a great size for feeding a family and all priced $10 and under. We managed to snatch a 2.2kg Chicken with a “Reduced Sticker” costing just $5.80. We also bought a 2.4kg rolled Pork Shoulder for $9.70. That’s two great sized roasting cuts for just $15.50. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Reduced Sticker meat. You should either eat them fairly quickly or store them in the freezer. Late afternoon Christmas Eve is a great time to grab a meat bargain as the supermarkets are closed for the public holidays.

Another way to take the strain off your budget is by purchasing your extras in the grocery shops leading up to Christmas. By spreading the cost, your final grocery shop in going to be cheaper. Things like Bon Bon’s, Cranberry Sauce, Mince Pies, Nuts, Chips, Lollies, Drinks, Pudding etc. can all be purchased well in advance. By splitting the costs, you don’t notice the extra $5-$10 as opposed to the extra $100 – $150 in one shop.

In my next blog I will include some ideas for side dishes including crunchy roast potatoes, tasty meat stuffing and homemade Apple Sauce. I will also share my thoughts on the Christmas Food Hampers and whether they are value for money.

Happy Cooking J

Kelly

Quiche for Cheats

Time to blog has been a little rare and as a result, I have been distracted, my apologies. Between trying to be Supermum and trying to keep my boss happy, I’m also trying to organize Mr. M’s 40th birthday, Miss A’s 1st birthday and trying to redo the backyard before the new shed and Christmas arrive. This is a follow on from my previous post about my abundance of fresh eggs.

Quiche is an easy weeknight dinner but takes time when you make your own shortcrust pastry. Homemade shortcrust pastry is light and crumbly and makes a great quiche base but who has the time after work, dealing with kids and doing household chores? Some days I feel I should be starting dinner prep at lunchtime!

The solution is simple! Frozen pastry is a great time saver if you want a traditional base. For a lighter alternative I will use Filo Pastry. Filo Pastry requires a little more work when buttering and layering but the added steps produce a golden brown, crisp pastry case. I am more than happy to make my own shortcrust pastry but refuse to make Filo or Puff Pastry (although I had previously) as the low cost and convenience factor well out way the time and muscle needed. You can find my Filo Quiche recipe here.

Friends of ours also have chickens so there are eggs a plenty. Mrs. Friend was dealing with a family issue interstate, so Mr. Friend rang here wanting to know how to make pastry. So here is my simple shortcrust pastry recipe. My sister also likes to make quiche for fingerfood but can never remember the Egg to Cream Ratio. The ratio is really simple to remember for every egg you will need 100ml of cream.

1 Egg: 100ml Cream

Therefore alter the amount depending on the size you need and you’ll never need to reference a cookbook again. For example:

3 Eggs: 300ml Cream

5 Eggs: 500ml Cream

8 Eggs: 800ml Cream

If you stick to this ratio, you will have set custard that doesn’t taste overly eggy. Which is great when you are like me and don’t like eggs! Yes, you read that, I don’t like plain egg and would NEVER eat a fried or boiled egg but will eat Quiche…go figure!!!!

If you are super short on time, or don’t have the ingredients, forget the pastry all together. It’s also marginally better for your waistline. A crust-free Quiche is known as a Frittata.

Happy Cooking xxx

🙂 Kelly

Eggs, Eggs & More Eggs

We proudly own three Isa Brown Chickens. This flock of feathered friends are not only entertaining and low maintenance but also keep us in a steady stream of fresh eggs.Chooks

There however, is a downside to our family friends…we simply can’t eat eggs as quickly as they lay them! Each chicken will lay one egg per day, that’s 21 eggs per week. We will happily send friends and family home with our oversupply when they pop past. I do however try to use them in my cooking as much as possible.

Donna Hay can be quoted from one of her many cookbooks “If you have eggs in the fridge, you have a meal on the table”. This quote is definitely true.

Eggs are versatile ingredients as you can eat them on their own in a multitude of ways such as fried, poached, scrambled, boiled or baked. Eggs also have a sometimes hidden culinary role in aiding to thicken, bind, glaze, aerate, emulsify, clarify and enrich a dish. Eggs are to cooking as Glue, Nails, Screws, Paint and Wood are to Building!

Eggs are highly perishable and start deteriorating as soon as they are laid. So how do you tell if an egg is fresh? The easiest way is to place the egg into a glass of water. If the egg sinks, it is good. If the egg floats, it is not. An eggshell is porous and allows air to penetrate the egg over time creating an air pocket. This is what makes the egg float. Fresher eggs have a much smaller air pocket and hence will not float.

I could blog about eggs forever so I will keep it to the basics this week. Sometime I have to remember it’s all about simple, delicious & cheap before I get carried away with my excitement. I will follow with more in the weeks to come but first, this is what I made this week with my eggs.

For a quick weeknight meal, I will whip up a Frittata or Vegetable Slice. These are great dinner options that use up vegetables and eggs and don’t need the added step of making pastry. For a cheats quick and easy quiche, I will use Filo Pastry. It is lighter in texture but still provides that crispiness that a great pastry base deserves. You can also make your own shortcrust pastry if time permits, as it is cheap to make.

Last week, you may have noticed that Mr. M won a huge 4.5kg Toblerone. We managed to share this amongst family and friends but were still left with a considerable piece. So I decided to make Toblerone Icecream. What better way to combine an oversupply of both chocolate and eggs? It was also an excuse to use my new icecream maker that I received for my birthday in late August. I followed the chocolate icecream recipe as per my icecream maker instructions and folded through chunks of Toblerone at the end before my final deep freeze. I understand that not everyone has an icecream maker so I have my no-churn Parfait recipe here that is just as good without the need of a machine.

Happy Cooking xxx

🙂 Kelly

More than just Mayo

Who doesn’t love a great smear of mayonnaise on a fresh sandwich? But did you know that Mayonnaise is the base of many a great sauce. There is no need to have a multitude of bottles filling up your fridge such as Garlic Aioli, Caesar Dressing, Cocktail or Thousand Island dressing, Tartare Sauce and Honey Mustard Dressing. All you simply need is Mayonnaise and a few extra pantry/fridge ingredients.

If you had one of each in the fridge, you would have an average of $20-$25 of sauce. It really does add up when you think about it. Not to mention the valuable fridge space being consumed with a handfuls of bottles.

I first fell in love with Garlic Aioli when I undertook work experience in a lovely hotel on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. It is there I learnt so much more about Mayonnaise and its versatility…something we never learnt at trade school. I really wish I could go back into a kitchen and leave the safety of my boring Dental job.

Making your own mayonnaise at home is really simple once you master the technique and flavours. I try to keep plain mayonnaise and garlic aioli on hand in the fridge to use as a base sauce in a hurry. Plain for sandwiches because you don’t want garlic on your sandwich and aioli because I find the garlic flavour develops when left. I will never buy mayonnaise again. The flavors are better than store bought, pale, flavourless, preservative filled goo.

Here is my Simple Mayonnaise Recipe. Add the following ingredients to the basic mayo and transform it into a completely different sauce.

  • Aioli = Mayo + Lemon Juice & Crushed Garlic
  • Caesar Dressing = Mayo + Parmesan Cheese, Worcestershire                                               Sauce & Anchovies
  • Tartare Sauce = Mayo + Gherkin (Pickles) & Capers
  • Honey Mustard = Mayo + Honey & Wholegrain Mustard
  • Cocktail Sauce = Mayo + Tomato Sauce & Worcestershire Sauce
  • Burger Sauce = Mayo + Tomato Sauce & Gherkin (Pickles)

Mayonnaise is a great base to experiment and create new and interesting sauces. You can add chilli, lime, herbs, different mustards or vinegars for a fantastic sauce you would never find on the supermarket shelf. A great way to add interest to sandwiches, burgers, potato salad and fish. Hot chips and Aioli is a great combination in my opinion! I find that my mayonnaise will last approximately two weeks in a sealed container in the fridge. In saying that, we normally eat it much quicker.

Experiment and have fun. You might surprise yourself.

Happy Cooking xxx

Kelly