Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spaghetti Bolognese - half soya, half beef

Spaghetti Bolognese, another family classic. We don't have much money at the moment so I'm trying to keep costs down. My theory is as long as I don't skimp on a few key tasty ingredients I can make a really cheap meal that tastes like it cost a lot more!

I've substituted half the mince with rehydrated soya mince which is a lot cheaper. You could of course use all beef mince, or all soya mince depending on your diet and budget, or mix with a different ratio to 50:50. My plan with mixing the types of mince was to fake the meatiness so my family didn't notice the difference (and it worked).
To keep the taste I've cooked the spaghetti in olive oil and used Schwartz Perfect Shake for Pasta to flavour the sauce. 

1 tin of chopped tomatoes                                                         34p
50g of dried soya mince rehydrated with 150mls of water          27p
200g of beef mince                                                                   80p
1 medium onion                                                                        16p      
1 beef stock cube                                                                       2p
Schwartz Perfect Shake for Pasta                                            18p

Spaghetti  (half a pack)                                                              10p    
Olive Oil                                                                                     6p      

Grated Cheese to top                                                                30p

Total                                                                                       £2.23
Cost per serving (based on serves 6)                                           37p


1. Start the Spaghetti boiling. Once fully submerged in the water add 5-10mls of olive oil. Cook as per packet instructions

2. Finely chop the onion and brown the onion and beef mince in a sauce pan.

3. Make up the beef stock as per instructions. Add the beef stock and soya mince to the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes allowing the water to reduce and the soya mince to absorbed the flavours from the stock and the beef mince.

4. Add a generous helping of Schwartz Perfect Shake for Pasta.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

6. Drain the pasta and serve immediately. I love to top my spaghetti bolognese with a generous helping of grated cheese.

Everyone really enjoyed the meal and it was a very tasty Spag bol. The combination of meat mince and soya mince cut a bit off the cost of the meal but you couldn't tell. There were just enough meaty chunks of beef mince that it felt as if the whole dish was the real thing. I did tell my husband I'd made it 50:50, but he was very impressed and said he couldn't tell. The children gave no indication they could tell either. 

The flavour from the Schwartz Perfect Shake for Pasta made for a very tasty sauce. It was very easy to use and a had just the right blend for the dish! Also a very quick mid week dish to make. 

Pricing: I've worked out the price of the mince approximately based on Tesco fresh value mince and the soya based on Holland and Barrett. The price of the Schwartz Perfect shake is based on RRP using a 10th of the jar, which is probably more than you would need. Olive oil is Tesco own brand, Onion is the single price quoted on Tesco for an onion and other costs worked out from using Tesco Everyday Value products. I do however buy my meat and vegetables locally but have costed from Tesco as not everyone is lucky enough to have such good local shops as I do. Prices are correct at time of publishing. 

Disclaimer: I received the Schwartz Perfect Shake for Pasta for free and for the purposes of reviewing on the blog. The recipe idea is my own and pretty much what we had planned for tea anyway! 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Meal Planning Monday

In an attempt to save money, eat better and eat down the massive amounts of tins and frozen stuff we have I've decided to be a lot stricter about menuing the week.

Lunch time is a bit of a free for all so I haven't planned for that. We've been having slightly bigger breakfasts that keep tummy's fuller for longer, including a cereal and a protein each day, but not going as far as a full English every day. Tea time is still the main meal of the day and we are eating as a family again, having spent a few weeks with the kids and grown ups eating at different times.

The nice people from Schwartz have sent us some Flavour shots and some Perfect Shake so they will feature in some meals this week. I'm also hoping to replace mince with soya protein for some meals to keep costs down though I'm thinking half meat, half soya to being with.

Here's the plan for this week:


Bacon Sandwiches

Spaghetti Bolognese



Chicken Jalfrazi
Garlic Fried Rice
Naan Bread


Eggy Bread




Jacket Potato


Egg Sandwiches

Fish Pie



Another slightly more complicated curry meal, to be decided! We love curry! 


Full English

Roast Lamb

Meal Planning Monday

Friday, 21 March 2014

Corned Beef Hash

Very simple and cheap food. A family favourite in our house.

700g potatoes                                         57p
1 medium onion                                      16p
340g tin of Corned Beef                      £1.69
Cheese to top (optional)                          30p

Total                                                   £2.72
Cost per serving (based on serves 6)      45p


1. Peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Boil until cooked, but don't let them over cook and go too soft. Drain and leave to dry for a couple of minutes.

2. Finely chop the onion and chop the corned beef into chunks. Brown the onion in the frying pan and then add the corned beef.

3. Add the potato and mix.

4. As the meal cooks continue to mix. The corned beef will break down and mush into the potato. If some of the potato pieces look a bit big feel free to chop them in half with the spatula, but avoid mashing the potato itself allowing some of the lumps to remain.

5. When the potatoes begin to turn a little golden transfer to a pyrex dish. If you are looking for comfort food cover with cheese, but this can be left off if going for a slightly healthier option (not that corned beef hash is something I'd call "healthy")

6. Brown in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve with baked beans for proper comfort food, or alternatively with vegetables and gravy. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Chicken Curry and Cauliflower Rice

With hubby on a diet and me trying to eat healthy, we have been exploring some new foods. Something we have come across recently is Cauliflower rice. Gram for gram its a 5th of the calories. Once it's covered with a curry sauce its a pretty convincing substitute.  Here is our recipe for Chicken Curry and Cauliflower Rice. It serves 2 with very generous portions and contains around 300 calories per serving.

The Curry Sauce will work with many different types of curry so you could substitute the chicken for more vegetables, another meat, prawns, or whatever takes your fancy. Apparently Cauliflower Rice can be used under a sauce, in a stir fry, or as a substitute for salad-rice dishes, but it won't work well in Risotto style dishes. 

The Rice: 

300g Cauliflower

1. Chop the cauliflower into florets and place in a food processor.

2. Process until the Cauliflower is about the size of rice. It doesn't take very long.

3. Use a microwavable dish with a lid. Microwave for 4-5 minutes. DO NOT ADD WATER because this will make it mushy.

Serve and enjoy.

The Curry: 

1 Large Onion
1 teaspoon Garlic Puree
Half a tin of chopped tomato
200g sliced Mushrooms
2 large Chicken Breasts
1 tablespoon oil
Madras Powder

1. Roughly chop the onion. Place in a saucepan along with the garlic puree and add enough water to completely cover the onion. Cook for around 45 minutes until the onion is soft. Add more water if needed.

 2. In a food processor, add the boiled onions along with 2-3 tablespoons of the water they were boiled in. Blend into a fine paste.

3. Add 2-3 desert spoons of Madras Powder to the mixture. More if you want a hotter dish, or depending on the strength of the powder.

 4. Chop the chicken breast into large chunks. Add a tablespoon of the onion mixture along with a splash of oil to a high sided frying pan and brown the chicken breast in the onion mixture. Then add the mushrooms.

5. Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes to the rest of the onion mixture and a tablespoon of oil. Blend well.

6. Add the sauce to the Chicken and Mushroom, bring to a low boil and then simmer for another 20minutes. If the curry appears watery then cook without a lid, if it appears thick cover to stop the moisture from escaping.

Serve and Enjoy.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A bit of batch cooking!

Thirty Meals in three evenings? No problem. Just get batch cooking! 

We usually eat our meals as a family, however the adults are on healthy eating plans so as well as eating non child friendly food its become sensible for us to eat a little later. This left me with a bit of a problem. The children don't eat all that much at once, they can be quite fussy at times and I really don't feel like spending 40minute or more every evening cooking them home cooked dinners, and then spending the same time cooking for the adults. At the same time though I have no desire to give the children oven junk or tinned food every evening.

The solution, batch cook and store in child sized portions!

Step 1. Planing

First thing to do is write a list of all the dishes you plan to cook. Pick meals that will freeze well, reheat easily but most importantly that your children will like. Things like curry or lasagne would also have worked well and fit into my cooking plan but probably wouldn't have been eaten by children.

Here's what we cooked.
  • Chicken, Bacon & Leak Casserole 
  • Minced Beef Hot Pot
  • Sausage Casserole
  • Pasta Bolognese
  • Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta bake
  • Mixed Bean Chilli (for me)
  • Fish Pie
  • Shepherds Pie
 Step 2. Shopping

Quite an obvious stage really. We did our monthly shop just before preparing our batches so had everything in stock that we needed. As a lot of the dishes share ingredients its a pretty economical way of doing it. 

Step 3. Cooking

I cooked over the course of three days just before dinner time. I don't see the point in slaving away in the kitchen and not getting at least one meal out of it.

I split the list of meals into three, cooking those that were similar at the same time. So we ended up with oven cooked gravy based casseroles, dishes using tomato sauce, dishes using mashed potato.

The oven cooked gravy based casseroles were:
  • Chicken, Bacon & Leak Casserole 
  • Minced Beef Hot Pot
  • Sausage Casserole
I set out 3 casserole dishes. The meals all contain similar ingredients, so instead of preparing potatoes for just one, prepare for all 3. And so on with other similar ingredients.I prepared the gravy based sauces for each separately to give them a different taste. Our oven could fit all three in at once, so more economical.

The dishes using tomato sauce were:
  • Pasta Bolognese
  • Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta bake
  • Mixed Bean Chilli (for me)
For these I made a pan of tomato sauce, with fresh tomatoes, chopped tinned tomatoes, onion and herbs and a pan of pasta. I then prepared the individual pasta sauces one at a time and added them to half the pasta each. With the remaining tomato sauce I added vegetables, beans, chilli and spice to make me a few portions of chilli.

 The mashed potato dishes were:
  • Fish Pie
  • Shepherds Pie
A simple case of making a big pan of mashed potato up along with the two bases.

Step 4. Divide into portions.

I portioned them up in the size my children would eat together if the meal was served with a side dish (either extra veg, or bread depending on the meal). The casseroles and pasta were bagged into freezer bag. Remember to write on first! The sausage casserole, Shepherd's pie and Fish pie were stored in those plastic take away boxed. For the Shepherd's pie and Fish pie this represented the last stage in their preparation. I put the sauce in first then spread the mashed potato on top.

Step 5. Freeze.

Once the meals have cooled down, simply pop in the freezer until its time to use them.

From 3 days of cooking, which took only a little longer than to prepare than a normal dinner would I made enough food to serve both my 3 year old and 2 year old for more than 30 meals. So if they ate nothing else for dinner that's a month's worth of meals. As it is I think it will more likely represent 3-4 meals a week, so I'm hoping I won't need to do another batch for at least 6 weeks.Most importantly the children get a home cooked meal without the hassle.