With us now being a single income household, budgets have to be kept to more keenly.
So mealtime is not as lightly thought about as when both of us staggered in after 7pm, barely able to prepare more that a cup of tea.
Food needs to be considered - how long can it be made to last? How many other ways can it be served? Can it be frozen and reused?
Well this past Yule/Christmas, we went for a beef brisket again instead of a roast bird. Partly because until we get the oven fixed, we needed something we could cook on the stovetop, but also because it was easy to keep and reuse. It was marinated in the annual bottle of red wine Howard gets as a gift from someone at work, with various spices - ginger, juniper berries, cloves & a cinnamon stick added, to give a pleasing old fashioned mulled feel to it.
We had slices, hot & cold, on plates as part of meals or in sandwiches, hot or cold (best of all was a beef, cheese & mustard fried sandwich). The end sections were chopped up - one portion went in a sauce serve with gnocchi and the very last cubes and crumbs went in a spicy broth with egg noodles.
All in all, we managed to make that one cut of meat (about 2 1/2 kilo) last a week, without it feeling a chore.
This week we're going to have another very cheap cut of meat - breast of lamb. Probably no way as versatile as brisket, but a big stew, with plenty of vegetables, pulses & pot barley, will last us well into the middle of the week - including portions taken in for an office lunch.
The butchers have run out of ham hocks, so I improvised by getting a pack of what Sainsburys call "cooking bacon" - the offcuts from slicing bacon rashers. For just over a pound, you get about the equivalent of half a ham hock, in assorted shaped and sized chunks. This has been dome in a Dutch pea soup - pot barley and green split peas soaked and then pre cooked, then added to a mixture of onions, celery and bacon, chopped and gently fried until soft. Once the pea and barley mix are soft, they were added to the bacon & veg, and pureed with a hand held blender. This managed to do two meals at home, with the rest frozen for lunches.
An even cheaper version uses a mix of barley and red lentils, with a veg mix with carrots replacing the bacon. The batch I made up must have worked out at less than 10p a portion.
These soups, with a sliced or two of buttered toast - from a loaf of REAL bread, will set you up for whatever the Winter can throw at you.