This blog is called “Cheap & Cheerful Life” because it links up with a couple of (neglected) social media platforms I have. I set up these about 6 years ago when, for a short time, we were on a single income. We were living on the cheap, but I was trying very hard to be cheerful. I’m not sure how well I was doing – maybe others can judge that better – but since then, I have been competing with my local supermarket to dish up healthy meals that are on a reasonable budget.
I made a bold statement the other day to someone where I proclaimed I could feed four people for about $2.50 a serve. Although this is probably true of a number of dishes I cook, I decided to do a costing of the lunch I was going home to prepare … just to see.
While I pondered the cost of an average onion, I recalled an article someone had drawn to my attention recently. It was a discussion about why people below the poverty line buy take-away food. The conclusion was that the initial outlay of cooking utensils was prohibitive. People who are living week to week aren’t going to invest hundreds of dollars on a high-end set of saucepans, or an exotic set of European knives. For this recipe, I’m glad to say it only requires a sharp knife, peeler, chopping board, wooden spoon and a saucepan. It also makes me glad because the fewer utensils, the less washing up I have to do!
Just out of interest, based on these thoughts, I had a look at my local Ikea website to see what a 2018 costing would be for utensils. I only picked Ikea because it is global, unlike a lot of our cheap department stores where these items could also be found, and possibly cheaper. I discovered for about $AUD55, I could purchase two pots and a frying pan, two chopping boards, three sharp knives, a peeler and wooden spoon. This is marginally less than two McDonalds Family McFavourites boxes.
So, what was my super-cheap meal?
(only in quotes, because I’m sure it’s not exactly the traditional variety)
3 strips rindless shortcut bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
400g tinned diced tomatoes
400g tinned kidney beans, drained
250ml vegetable stock
More water, if you want
Pinch or two of salt
In the saucepan, cook up the bacon, garlic and onion. When mostly cooked, add carrots and celery to soften slightly. Add tomatoes, beans, stock, extra water, salt and allow to simmer for a bit. Serve up and eat 🙂
So … how does this cost up?
At my local supermarket, my costings came in as follows:
Bacon $10/500g …$1.90
Onion $2.00/kg … $0.30
Carrots $1.50/kg … $0.30
Celery $3/celery … $0.30
400g tinned tomatoes $0.80
400g tinned kidney beans $1.50
250ml vegetable stock ) $1.00 (generous approximation)
More water, if you want )
Pinch or two of salt )
Additional two slices of toast $3.50/loaf … $0.50 (including a bit of butter)
Now for four people … $6.10 + $2.00 for toast = $2.03 per serve.
Well, if that ain’t cheap and cheerful, I don’t know what is! 🙂
PS I would have given you a photo of a bowl of steaming, hot soup, except for a couple of reasons: a) we ate the soup before I thought about writing about it; and b) I don’t know when I’m making it next, as the weather has suddenly jumped up to the high twenties (Celsius), so we’ve hit the salads!
PPS And a few days later, right on cue, the spring weather goes cold and so soup is back on the menu 🙂