When I think “budget food” I think about Mac&Cheese, Cup Noodles and Spaghetti Carbonara. For every damn meal. But week 1 proved that this definitely does not have to be the case. It was a great success, with decent meals for 1 for a reasonable price. I used certain items (such as cooking cream) for multiple days to avoid leftovers. The small amount of leftovers was all used up, either by freezing, using in salads to take to work for lunch or as an addition to the pantry such as the leftover spaghetti. The leftover bacon will be used this week.
I had such a great time doing the first week of the budget challenge.
So, week 2… a new menu, with nine new dishes. I am using frozen fish and shrimp this time, proving that cod, salmon and shrimp do fit within a budget as long as you buy wisely. The meat choice is minced beef, which is split into an Asian meal and an Italian meal.
You can find the budget challenge recipes of all weeks under BC Recipes. They are linked below as well; click on the dish names at each day to get forwarded to the corresponding recipe.
My shopping list of this week (if I bought more, the quantity bought is between brackets):
- 500gr potatoes (2.5kg)
- 500gr broccoli
- 1 leek (2)
- Bell pepper mix – 3 peppers; green-yellow-red
- Little gem lettuce – pack of 3
- Chili peppers
- 50gr frozen peas (500gr)
- 250ml cooking cream, 15% fat
- 150gr noodles (500gr)
- 2 Stock cubes (pack of 10)
- 1 small tin tomato puree (pack of 4)
- 1 can tomatoes
- 300gr minced beef (500gr)
- 100gr frozen cod (1kg)
- bush fresh coriander
I spent €18.81. This includes the following leftovers for the freezer: 400gr frozen peas and 900gr frozen cod, plus one leek because my brain somehow kept saying “no I am sure you need two”… and I didn’t… My pantry will get two kilo potatoes (make potato gratin and freeze portions, or make fries out of them), 3 cans of tomato puree, 8 stock cubes and 350gr noodle nests will be added to my pantry. One bell pepper was used for my work lunch, the reason I got three was because the three-pack was cheaper than two loose bell peppers.
The main expensive items I need from my pantry are frozen salmon and frozen shrimp, which are much cheaper when bought frozen, I get them for less than €14,- per kilo from Lidl or a wholesale store. The Lidl near me has salmon for as little as €9.20 per kilo but for budgeting purposes I shall use the higher price when determining the meal price.
The tomato puree I got at the same store, but I know another (more expensive) supermarket which has tomato paste for €0.05. I stupidly paid 32 cents a can (the can are bigger but I would only need 2 small cans this week) because I did not think to consider a cheap ingredient like tomato paste could save me quite a bit.
It is definitely worth always having some tomato puree, canned tomatoes and coconut milk in your pantry, so stock up whenever they are on sale, or from cheaper sources.
Day 1 – Saturday
Lunch: Rustic Soup
I adore rustic soups. They are a great way to use up leftover vegetables and it is actually really filling too. It would make the perfect end to a week, in order to clean some stuff from your fridge before you get new groceries. You can throw whatever you want in a soup like this. I actually bought the frozen peas for this soup, but a three-pack of bell peppers was almost as expensive as a single red bell pepper so I bought the three-pack instead. With the peppers and leftover carrot, the soup was very full already so I left the peas out (they are frozen anyways and are great to have on standby for risottos, soups and pasta dishes. Pasta with wilted lettuce and peas is a brilliant dish and uses up any leftover lettuce you have as well).
Pantry items: Soy sauce. Small carrot and some macaroni from last week’s groceries.
Dinner: Fish Pie with a Potato-Leek-Mustard Mash
A fish pie doesn’t get easier than this. You simply mix the defrosted fish with the cold cream and dill, place it in an ovenproof dish and top it with mashed potato. I make the mash myself but if you feel especially lazy, get pre-made or from a box.
The salmon comes from my freezer. I budgeted it at €14,- per kilo, the most expensive frozen salmon at the Lidl nearby is €13,- per kilo, and even a full 500gr bag would have almost fitted within the €25,- grocery budget of this week. The only reason I did not get any was because I still had a full bag in my freezer.
Using frozen fish, you can use cod and salmon and still have a great price for this meal. It definitely does not feel cheap.
Pantry items: Frozen salmon, butter, milk, mustard, dried dill
Day 2 – Sunday
Lunch: Potato Salad with Bacon and Eggs
Potato salad can make a lovely lunch dish. This one benefits from the great combination of bacon and eggs. With the added lettuce, it becomes a bit healthier. It really makes a very large portion, with 2 eggs as well, but for a small price. I used fresh chives from my balcony herb “garden”, but you can use dried chives as well (I budgeted dried chives).
Pantry items: Fresh chives. Bacon and eggs from last week’s groceries.
Dinner: Pasta in a Tomato Vodka Sauce
Wait, wait, before you close the browser and swear to never return to this site, hear me out. Vodka goes so well in a creamy tomato sauce. It really does. I am not a big fan of alcohol but you honestly wouldn’t know the vodka was there, but if you leave it out it isn’t as good. In Italy the use of vodka in tomato sauce is more common, and we all know the Italians are king when it comes to making brilliant pasta sauces. I added the leftover broccoli as the vegetable part, which pairs nicely with the flavours, but this would also be great with mushrooms, pumpkin, cauliflower or courgette.
Pantry items: Vodka, dried parsley. Bacon from last week’s groceries.
Day 3 – Monday
Dinner: Lettuce and Pea Soup
Trust me, this is really fit to have for. It is filling and delicious, and it definitely proves how something simple can be brilliant at the same time. Lettuce and peas are sweet vegetables and pair wonderfully together. I use the leftover tomato paste in the soup, together with some of last week’s macaroni. Together with the leftover leek and the unaccounted for lettuce (the last little gem was planned for tomorrow’s meal) it is leftover heaven. Whenever you have lettuce left over from your work lunch, use it in soup or in risotto, or even in a stew or pasta sauce. It’s a vegetable that is definitely much more versatile than is thought.
Pantry items: Macaroni of last week’s bag.
Day 4 – Tuesday
Dinner: Asian Lettuce Boats with Beef
This is a carb free meal, but it is filling enough. It can go very well in a diet if you substitute lean mince for the regular minced beef and pork (50/50) I used. It is very flavourful. The lettuce boats make eating nice and simple, and who doesn’t like an excuse to eat with their hands? It is also a great dish to serve as a starter for a fancier dinner.
You use half a chili pepper for this. You can freeze the rest, chopped with some oil in an ice cube tray works brilliantly and gives you instant accessibility to chili oil at all times. This works great for leftover herbs too.
Pantry items: Brown sugar, ground ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce. Onion of last week’s groceries.
Day 5 – Wednesday
Dinner: Spaghetti Meatballs with Balsamic Tomato Sauce
Yes, you must think I am some weird person. First with the vodka and now with adding balsamic vinegar to a tomato sauce. It is however a great way to enrich a sauce and I can recommend it for many sauces. Balsamic vinegar is not cheap, but it livens up an otherwise very cheap sauce so much that it is definitely worth it. This is a dish with lots of meatballs, so you do not feel cheated at all, and it is still cheap.
Pantry items: Balsamic vinegar, breadcrumbs, cumin, paprika powder, garlic. Onion, spaghetti, egg from last week’s leftover groceries.
Day 6 – Thursday
Dinner: Shrimp Stir-Fry
This is the most expensive item on the menu this week, which isn’t strange as there are shrimp and bell peppers in the dish. The bell pepper was actually just because I would have leftovers from the three-pack. I get a kilo bag of frozen shrimp for €13,- and keep them in the freezer, to take a bit when needed. They defrost very quickly in a half-filled sink of cold water (yes, cold) so can be used as a last-minute resort as well.
Pantry items: Frozen shrimp, red onion, soy sauce, sambal and sunflower oil.
Day 7 – Friday
Dinner: Baked Egg in a Bell Pepper Bowl
This is nothing incredibly fancy, but it is a lovely way to use up the leftover bell pepper, tomato cubes and an egg and a potato. It is filling too. You can liven it up by making the tomatoes into a tomato sauce with garlic and herbs, or by adding some cream to the egg. But I kept it very simple and basic instead.
Pantry items: 1 egg from last week’s groceries. Paprika powder.
Grocery costs: €18.81
Recipes total: €14.43