When I talk about feeding families on a budget I hasten to add that it affects us all.
You could have a higher than average earnings but creche fees, a car loan, and high rent which would result in a low disposable income. The more that we feel the price increases across energy, fuel for our cars, rent (or mortgage), the less money families will have to pay for groceries. Or that families will be faced with having to make decisions about which bill is more important.
In the Irish Examiner this week we reported that the average household is facing an increase of €330 on its shopping bill due to inflationary hikes, this information is courtesy of Kantar.
That’s €6.35 extra we have to find every week to buy the same groceries we bought last year and that’s before the additional money we need to find from an ever diminishing pot to pay for utility increases etc.
I’m combatting these price increases at home by making my meals ‘stretchy’ and adding extra ingredients to sauces to make them go further. A tin of chickpeas in the beef cheek ragout featured this week makes the meal stretch from feeding a family of four for dinner to feeding them twice (makes enough for another day). A tin of some form of beans is my fallback when I’m cooking sauces and I’m always trying to figure out where I can fit them in to make the most of my cooking time and effort.
Likewise, I’m plumping up my dried fruit with a little tea or orange juice before baking and adding either some ripe bananas or grated apples to my granola bars. Not only does the added fruit make the granola bars go further but it also increases the fruit and fibre intake for those who eat them.
Always checking the label is a good motto to stick by and SuperValu this week is a great example of this. 750g of beef mince is only €3. However, a double mince pack is €6 and each package weighs 500g, making it more economical to buy two €3 packets of mince to get 50% extra meat.
Lidl remains the cheapest shop to buy your butter at €1.49 per half a pound. All the other supermarkets cost at least €1.65 per half pound and Tesco prices just rose in the past week to €1.79 per half pound and a whopping €2.99 for a pound of butter. Unfortunately, this price increase is going to be mirrored across the supermarkets in the coming weeks due to pressure on dairy prices. Thankfully the cost of a litre of milk is still fixed at 85c for now.
I am well aware that there are deep-rooted loyalties when it comes to your chosen brand of tea. So, without getting into a debate about whether Lyons or Barry's is better, I have looked into both options. 160 Lyons teabags are reduced to €4 in Dunnes Stores this week while the original green box Barry's is reduced to €6 for 160 teabags. Both of which are the cheapest prices to be found for the respective teas, whatever your preference is.
Slow cooker beef cheek ragout
This recipe is perfectly suited to long slow cooking or a blast in the pressure cooker. Either way, the beef cheek needs a steady amount of heat and a decent stretch to tenderise
Cooking Time 9 hours 20 mins
Total Time 9 hours 20 mins
1 trimmed beef cheek
1 large onion, chopped
2 peppers, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed (more or less if you prefer)
1 tsp each salt, white pepper, paprika, sugar, and dried oregano
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker pot and stir well. Cook on high for 8 hours or until the beef cheek is fall-apart tender. If cooking in a pressure cooker this dish will take about 2 hours.
To serve, break up the meat with a spoon and stir in some freshly cooked pasta. Garnish with chopped basil.
To make this meal stretch further add a drained can of chickpeas at the start.
Fruity granola bars
These chewy fruity granola bars will keep for up to 5 days in a sealed dry box in a cool place. This is a reliable recipe that I use to fill lunchboxes and for snacks during the week. Make them on a Sunday and you’ve your extras sorted for the school week
Preparation Time 5 mins
Cooking Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
75g coconut oil
75g soft brown sugar
50g maple syrup
50g raisins (chopped dried apriocots or figs are fine too)
250g rolled oats (make sure these are gluten free if you are catering for a gluten free diet)
2 black bananas (if you have a banana allergy or none in the house you can use 2 eating apples)
Preheat a (fan) oven to 170℃.
Put the oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a large saucepan & heat until the ingredients are melted together. Stir in the raisins and oats then stir well so that everything is coated in the mixture.
Skin and mash the 2 bananas (or roughly grate 2 eating apples including the skin), then add the fruit to the oat mixture. Stir again so that it’s well combined. Press the mixture into a 15cm square brownie tin. I line mine with baking parchment to stop things getting too messy and for easy serving.
Put the tin in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once they start to turn golden brown on top, remove and allow to cool for 30 minutes before using a knife to impress the flapjack shapes on top of the mixture. Wait until fully cool before breaking into the pieces you’ve impressed using the knife.
Try soaking the raisins in about 200ml of orange juice or steep in a cup of tea for an hour or two before making these granola bars. It stops the raisins from drying out when baking and adds a little extra flavour.
This recipe is plant based and allergy friendly. To make it gluten free make sure you buy certified gluten free oats and be careful of cross contamination in the kitchen.
If you’re concerned about the sugar content remove the maple syrup and use both bananas and grated apples instead.