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.
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.
Creating food on a very tight budget is not something I’ve had to do much, and that’s a case of extreme privilege on my part. In today’s post I’m creating a recipe on a tighter budget, yet still not as tight as many in the UK have to survive on.
Many recipes suggested as low budget rely on the cook having access to store cupboard staples, often bought in bulk to reduce price. But that can only happen in situations where people have cupboard (or refrigerator) space to store bags and boxes and jars for later, not to mention the upfront money to buy store cupboard items in the first place. For many people, there’s no budget to build up such a pantry, nor any place for them to store one.
My lower budget dish is 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.
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.
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