What with rent, bills, travel costs and all the other myriad costs of living it’s no surprise that for many people, there’s scant little left over for food. Many across the UK are struggling, as is witnessed by the upsurge of demand for food banks which are increasingly making up for the growing shortfall of our ailing welfare system.
For some, the lack of money to eat properly is a long, bitter and unending misery, one I’m ashamed is so prevalent in our modern ‘civilised’ society. For others, it’s a few lean days towards the end of the month, when one pay cheque has long since dwindled and the next one’s desperately awaited. In either case, most of us can benefit from ideas of how to eat well for less, and how to stretch a meagre budget. I’ve read many posts from friends and fellow bloggers about the challenge of feeding a family on a fixed budget a day, many of which have been part of the Live Below The Line campaign.
Of course, poverty is a worldwide problem and there are regions of the world in which many people do not have access to clean water, let alone enough to eat.
That’s why I’m participating in the Voucherbox’ £2 Challenge, which they are running in conjunction with Zamcog, a charity that aims to feed, educate and clothe children in Zambia. The challenge calls on us to feed our family for a day on a budget of £2 per person and to share our experience. For each blog post published about the £2 Challenge, Voucherbox are donating £50 to Zamcog.
For costing our breakfast, lunch and dinner for one day, I divide the item cost of many items (such as oats, bread, milk, jam and other ingredients) by how much is used for the recipe. So where a 454 gram jar of honey costs £1 and I use 30 grams, I list the cost as 9 pence and where a 1 kilo bag of porridge oats costs 75 pence and I use 50 grams, I list the cost as 4 pence. That works well in situations where you have cupboard (or refrigerator) space to store the rest of the jar or bag for later, but it also means that the upfront cost is higher, especially if you don’t have much in the pantry already.
For my main dish, I’ve chosen a savoury bread pudding – particularly useful if you have stale bread that you don’t want to waste. I’ve also seen this kind of dish referred to as a bread casserole and a bread bake. My amounts make enough to serve two people, but you can scale up the amounts to make a larger pudding if you have a suitable size casserole dish.
Bacon, Cheese & Onion Savoury Bread Pudding
- 100 g bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 5 thick slices bread (or a few more if medium or thin sliced)
- 50 g strong cheddar, grated
- 1 tsp dried herbs
- 3 large eggs
- 300 ml full fat milk
- generous pinch salt
Equipment: You will need a medium sized casserole dish or deep baking dish – mine is 20 cm in diameter, about 7 cm deep.
You can either use sliced bacon, chopped into small pieces, or ready-cubed pancetta or bacon (sometimes sold as lardons).
We used an equal mix of thyme and sage.
Preheat oven to 200 °C (fan).
Cook the bacon pieces in a saucepan until they are just starting to show a hint of brown, then remove from pan and set aside.
Use the same pan (with the bacon fat left in it) to cook the onions until they are lightly caramelised.
In the mean time, cut the bread into pieces – we cut each slice into nine.
In a jug or mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, dried herbs and salt and set aside.
Layer about two thirds of the sliced bread into your casserole dish, standing the pieces up on their sides. Mix them up so that they don’t sit as large blocks, but have nooks and crannies between them.
Scatter half the bacon and half of the grated cheese evenly over the bread, and then spread all of the caramelised onions over the top.
Cover with the remaining pieces of bread, laid flat across the top of the previous layer.
Scatter the remaining bacon over the top, and about half of the remaining cheese.
Carefully pour in the egg and milk mixture, making sure to distribute it evenly around the casserole dish – we pour in a spiral pattern from outer edges in.
Sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top.
Transfer the casserole dish into your hot oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
100 grams bacon – 43 pence
1 large onion – 8 pence
5 slices of thick-sliced bread – 20 pence
50 grams strong cheddar – 30 pence
1 teaspoon dried herbs – 5 pence
3 large eggs – 45 pence
300 ml full fat milk – 20 pence
(Prices based on Aldi, as of date of publication)
Cost for 2 people = £1.71
With £4 to spend across the day, that leaves me £2.29 to cover lunch and breakfast. My pick for breakfast is porridge, and for lunch, jacket potatoes with a simple mackerel and crème fraiche topping.
When it comes to breakfast, porridge is a winner on multiple levels. As well as being very low cost, it’s warming, filling and is great for slow-release energy throughout the morning, keeping you going until lunchtime.
For one adult, you will need 50 grams of porridge oats and about 350 ml of milk or water (depending on how thick or runny you like your porridge).
If you like your porridge savoury, you can add salt, or a teaspoon of Marmite or Bovril. I prefer it sweet, and like to stir in strawberry jam, honey, golden syrup or chocolate spread – a couple of tablespoons is plenty.
To make porridge, you simply need to cook the oats in the liquid:
- On the stove, place oats and liquid in a saucepan, bring the boil and then simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes.
- In a microwave, place oats and liquid in a bowl, microwave on full power for 2 minutes, stir and then microwave for 1-2 minutes more, depending on power of microwave.
50 grams Porridge Oats – 4 pence
350 ml milk (optional, or use water) – 23 pence
1 teaspoon Marmite (or supermarket own brand yeast extract) – 5 pence
1 teaspoon Bovril (or supermarket own brand beef extract) – 14 pence
2 tablespoons (30 grams) strawberry jam – 2 pence
2 tablespoons (30 grams) honey – 9 pence
2 tablespoons (30 grams) golden syrup – 8 pence
2 tablespoons (30 grams) chocolate spread – 10 pence
(Prices based on Aldi and Sainsbury’s, as of date of publication)
Cost per person of some potential combinations
Oats, water, salt = 4 pence
Oats, water, strawberry jam = 6 pence
Oats, water, Marmite = 9 pence
Oats, water, golden syrup = 13 pence
Oats, milk, honey = 36 pence
Oats, milk, chocolate spread = 37 pence
Oats, milk, Bovril = 41 pence
Lunch Jacket Potatoes with Smoked Mackerel Paté
We usually use our slow cooker to bake jacket potatoes, though you can use a regular oven or your microwave if you prefer.
A simple smoked fish paté or dip makes a great jacket potato filling, and 1 pack of smoked mackerel fillets mixed with a 300 ml tub of crème fraiche makes enough for four servings. If cooking for two, enjoy one serving each on potatoes one day and the rest on toast or in a sandwich the next day.
- Tip the contents of the tin of mackerel into a bowl, break apart thoroughly with a fork and then mix in the crème fraiche.
1 large potato = 24 pence
1 packet smoked mackerel fillets = 1.29 pence
300 ml creme fraiche = 69 pence
Cost for 2 people = £1.47
Save the bread pudding recipe on Pinterest using this handy tall collage:
You may also enjoy reading these tips budget-friendly recipes from fellow bloggers:
- Fab Food 4 All’s Simple Pork Fried Rice
- Food to Glow’s Spicy Peanut Soup and Flatbreads
- Natural Kitchen’s Breakfast Kedgeree
- The Crafty Larder’s Rubber Chicken
- Utterly Scrummy Mummy’s Flatbreads, Crackers and Drop Scones
- Veggie Lad’s Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
For those who would like a better understanding of food poverty in the UK – the reality of feeding yourself well on a very limited budget, and why demonising those who eat poorly is neither helpful nor fair, I urge you to read Miss South Food’s archive of food poverty posts.
Kavey Eats received a small fee from Voucherbox to participate in this challenge, in addition to the £50 donation they are making to Zamcog on publication of this post.