• Cheap eats

    Sense mentioned she was keen for some new cheap recipes.

    Not sure how much I can help with that, but I thought I’d post up some dinner ideas.

    • Carbonara
    • Lemon basil pasta (sooo tasty! Simple, versatile and good)
    • Trusty old bolognese (with or without meat)
    • Mexican Rice
    • Nachos
    • Burrito bake
    • Chicken fiesta salad
    • Chili (or try a white chili version – it’s on my list of recipes to get to)
    • Corn fritters
    • Kebab or pita wraps
    • Fried rice
    • Basic stews with a bit of meat, onions, potatoes, carrots, leeks, kumara, whatever takes your fancy
    • Stirfrys (think we are finally giving up on store bought sauces – satays are runny, sweet and sour don’t have the intense flavour, lemon chicken too sweet, Chinese BBQ just…wrong) But we have had luck with curries (Pataks are good but pricey) and Thai curries (spice paste from the ethnic aisle, add a tin of coconut milk, meat, udon noodles and complementary veg – you can’t go wrong!)
    • Burgers! Easy to healthy up with loads of veggies. (And chicken nuggets – I may be outta my teens but I love me a good half dozen chicken nuggets. I blame it on hardly ever getting Happy Meals as a child).
    • And we keep our eye out for interesting things at the butchers – like recently we found chicken pieces stuffed with cranberry and rosemary. It was delicious after a half hour in the oven.
    • If there’s a good sale on, a hearty roast or silverside with roast veg.
    • And of course the trusty sausages/steak with mashed potatoes/oven chips/vegetables.

    **I am also bursting to try: Spanakorizo and Chickpea Curry from Closet Cooking! **

    Sorry it isn’t a very exciting or varied menu, but like I said, at $120 a week “destitute gourmet” is pushing the definition 🙂

    I find it really difficult to gauge if our grocery spending is reasonable. One of my friends said a while ago her family of four spends about what we do (or a bit more). WHAT?? But they are Indian and her mother stays home, I think, and they cook a lot from scratch.

    It’s all well and good for Hillbilly Housewife to go on about baking your own breads and stuff, but I am just too busy and want cheap and filling with less work. If I was a SAHP, I would totally adopt her ideas, though.

    We seem to spend more than the few friends we have who don’t still live at home. But we both have fast metabolisms and eat a lot. And we don’t eat out at all anymore, so our shopping accounts for ALL  our food. That, and I hate baked beans with a passion and rarely eat noodles – except for the Yum Yum shrimp flavoured packs, which are 50c compared to about 10c for the really cheap, nasty noodles. Seriously. Yum Yum noodles are the shiz.

  • Throwing out $3 worth of meat

    Tonight I made stirfry, with one of those Asian Wok packet sauces (Chinese BBQ for anyone who cares).

    Unfortunately, it really wasn’t that good. The beef was cooked, but it had a weird sort of soft, fleshy texture inside. Cheap steak, I guess – you get what you pay for. I didn’t manage to finish mine, and BF didn’t put much away either.

    But he did make sure to eat the onions and veges and gravy and all the rice, so ups to him! Our food budget is definitely going further these days, eating cheaper meats and managing to stay at around $120 a week, INCLUDING lunches.

    So right now we have a ton of stirfry meat leftover, and I don’t know what to do with it. I suggested chucking them in some sort of stew, or in a fried rice, both of which BF vetoed (“You need to stop trying to do something with it! It’s CRAP! Just throw it out!”)

    But…there’s so much of it! And it’s meat, precious MEAT!

    I probably won’t end up eating the leftovers…I can’t stomach much more of it. But I hate wasting (relatively) good food. What about you?

  • Do you eat round a dining table?


    It’s been a long time since I lived in a place which had a dining table. Our old apartment literally had no spare room for such a thing, and although we have a huge kitchen now, we don’t have a table in it to eat off. I remember in one of my old flats we squished a dining table and chairs into the area just off by the front door, but I still hardly ever used it.

    So generally we eat on the couch, or most of the time, in our room. I don’t like this arrangement, because a) when we eat on the bed, we inevitably splatter something ont the duvet or the sheet. or b) when we eat on the floor by the TV, something always gets on the carpet! The other night, I had had enough when BF got some curry on the carpet – the turmeric seriously digs its heels in and creates an eerie fluorescent glowing stain. So I brought in a huge tea towel to act as a picnic mat for us. Clever, huh? If only I’d thought of that AGES ago…..

    It’s a far cry from my parents’ house, where we had a rectangular dining table (it extended out both ends) covered in an easy-clean cover. I hesitate to call it a tablecloth, as it was made of a sort of vinyl type material, waterproof, that just wiped clean every night.

    In fact, we do so much differently to how we did things at home. We would never have things like 12 packs of Coke cans. We’d have big, huge 2.25l bottles of fizzy which went flat super fast. We often had ice cream, but only ever ate tiny portions at a time and so a 2l carton lasted forever. We never, EVER had frozen chips, or canned vegetables. But we did often have croissants, raspberry buns or doughnuts for after school snacks, bought from the supermarket. Now the situation is pretty reversed. Tinned tomatoes and corn are cheap, and since discovering freezer chips I’ve never looked back. But bakery goods are way too expensive, and I can’t remember the last time I had a raspbery bun (drool).

    And of course, the days of being served up a big plate of rice and then serving ourselves from a couple of different dishes (usually one meat and one veg) throughout the meal are gone. Now we tend to have one dish meals, or if we have dinners with several components, I put together nice little plates with a bit of everything and we can go back for seconds. But I guess that relates back to not having a dining table and being able to spread out dishes.

  • I’m not gonna try to be a super chef


    Laksa...yum yum

    Funnily enough, I have an entire bookmarks folder devoted to recipes. I go for the simple, 5 ingredient type meals whenever possible. But you know, you get bored of pasta, stir fries and meat and two veg…sometimes you want something different!

    Some of my most favourite foods I would never be able to make though. The labour, time taken and not to mention the insane amount of ingredients is just too offputting.

    For example, I really like ethnic foods…Thai, Indian, Malaysian…very spice heavy and full of things I’ve never actually heard of, let alone know where to find. (Not necessarily spicy dishes though,  my constitution isn’t that strong. It’s still stronger than BF’s, who couldn’t even handle this Mexican chicken fiesta salad…. I like a good strong mouthwatering laksa or curry, but only once in awhile. The flushing, sweating and scorched mouth are somewhat of a deterrent).

    Basically, they’re foods I love to eat, but reserve for eating out at cheap and cheerful food courts, or slightly nicer restaurants. Luckily we’ve got some really good eats in Auckland, not that our budget has stretched to this lately! I have a list of places I want

    to visit, but haven’t checked anything off it in a long time.

    I guess I’m just too lazy to actually get around to printing my recipes and putting down stuff on the weekly shopping list. Plus, after a couple, I get discouraged by the sheer amount of things I have to buy. Like FB, we tend to buy a lot of the same items every week – basics – and go from there. It does get repetitive, but it’s easy. I like easy.

    So, I’ve decided to try and whittle down my recipes list and try making one new dish a week – that way it doesn’t blow out our grocery bill. As Notes from the Frugal Trenches points out, it’s actually really expensive to be trying new recipes all the time, unless you happen to have all the ingredients on hand (unlikely, unless you’re a huge foodie).


  • Home baking

    Every week we leave the supermarket with a “treat” food. Lately it’s been ice cream, sometimes it’s biscuits or cake or a baking mix or muffins or cookies or something drinkable.

    But it gets old. Shortbread is yummy. So is chocolate. And peanut and macadamia. There are so many flavours of cookies and chips and even chocolate, but once you’ve tried them all, then you’ve tried them all.

    So I’ve decided I’m going to bake next week. In fact, I’ll be baking our snack foods for a while (as long as I can stand it!) Cakes, muffins, cookies, cheesecake – well, I plan to get no-bake cheese cake mix, but everything else WILL need actual time in the oven.

    That way it’s healthier, super fresh, and fun to make! We can make whatever the hell we want; the possibilities are endless, and we’ll get more for our money.

    I just hope it all works out well. Might do a couple of pre-made mixes to start off with. I’ve never successfully made a cake or cookies of any sort, so it could be a journey and a bit.

    Any ideas for simple baked foods? I have a really sweet tooth, and am this week tempted by Closet Cooking’s cake with Bailey’s frosting. But I’d say that’s a bit beyond me right now. I LOVE all his recipes; he’s a genius. But most of them are too advanced, or too much work for me. (And am not keen on putting beer in a cake. And I’d probably drink the Bailey’s. Maybe….these lemon bars. Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking…mmm.


  • Convenience foods

    I know they’re bad for you. But really, is there anything better than being able to pop some wedges in the oven and half an hour later having a nice crispy side to your meal? Or whipping up instant mashed potato to top off your shepherd’s pie?


    Cuz if there’s one food that I love but hate making, it’s mashed potatoes. Laborious, time consuming and somehow there’s never enough to satisfy you! (OK, maybe that’s just me). Instant stuff does the job just as well for some things. Nothing beats creamy mashed potato and gravy alongside some meat, but who wants to peel, chop, boil and mash up potatoes just to go into a dish like shepherd’s pie or my strange cornbeef fritter recipe? NOT me!