Caitríona Redmond: How to eat sustainably on a budget

It's a very happy coincidence that being more sustainable in the kitchen will save you money from both an energy and food perspective
Caitríona Redmond: How to eat sustainably on a budget

Noodle soup

There’s a huge amount of guilt associated with feeding your family and living on a budget. Culturally, Irish people are uncomfortable with discussing money, and in particular the lack thereof. We all love chatting about what we’ve bought shouting about a bargain but start talking about finding things difficult and everybody gets uncomfortable. Understandably so.

If you’re thinking that sustainability is a new guilt level to consider for cash-strapped families then you might want to reconsider.

There’s enough guilt associated with feeding our families on a budget. This is one area of living where struggling households can pause and take a bow. When you have less money to spend on food you are fastidious about using up every single item you buy.

The most sustainable households conserve energy and waste less food. Those families buy only what they need and throw away less, buy in season because it’s cheaper and as it happens seasonal food has less air miles.

Tools of the trade for families with less cash to spend are slow cookers, which use up the same energy as a conventional lightbulb, as opposed to higher energy options such as a fan oven or a hob. The fridge is set to medium, not low; if we do use the oven we open it when finished cooking to allow the residual heat to circulate around the house and cut down on the home heating bills. We use pots and saucepans with the lids on to keep the energy in and cut down on boiling times, and we reheat using the microwave rather than the oven.

It's a very happy coincidence that being more sustainable in the kitchen will save you money from both an energy and food perspective.

Watch out for spuds

The cheapest in the Irish Examiner sample shopping basket survey this week is Dunnes Stores thanks to a special offer on 1kg of baby potatoes; these cost 49c per kg and if you buy two bags it's cheaper than buying a 2kg bag.

Dunnes Stores has a great deal on baby potatoes.
Dunnes Stores has a great deal on baby potatoes.

Dairy increases

This week both SuperValu and Tesco increased the cost of 1 litre of their own brand milk by 10c rising from 85c per litre to 95c per litre. This represents an increase of over 11% in the cost of just 1 litre of milk. Dairy is increasing across the board with Lidl being the only supermarket holding at €1.49 for a half-pound of butter. However, in Tesco until May 17, Avonmore butter is on special offer and this makes it cheaper than their own brand at €1.50 per half-pound (I've included this in the calculations this week).

Milk has increased in price by 11%.
Milk has increased in price by 11%.

Less waste

If you are cooking for a smaller household and don't want to buy a full 1kg of carrots but still want to get the most out of your budget, I can recommend the 1kg mixed vegetables stewing pack from SuperValu. Containing an onion, carrots, parsnip, swede, and some parsley it's an economical way of cutting back on food waste and will certainly fill up a stew pot. As of today's survey, it costs €1.50 on special offer. Keep an eye out for stewing packs across the supermarkets.

Slow-Cooked Moroccan Style Lamb with Root Veg

recipe by:Caitriona Redmond 

If looking to cook on a budget, this is the perfect meal and can be made with stewing cuts of lamb such as neck or gigot chops

Slow-Cooked Moroccan Style Lamb with Root Veg

Servings

4

Preparation Time

30 mins

Cooking Time

6 hours 0 mins

Total Time

6 hours 30 mins

Course

Main

Cuisine

Moroccan

Ingredients

  • 2 small onions

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 2 tbsp Sunflower Oil for frying

  • 3 tsp harissa spice mix (or a spoon each of ground dried cumin, coriander, chilli, and black pepper)

  • 300g diced lamb or gigot chops

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes

  • 300ml water

  • 150g sultanas

  • 150g mixed lentils

  • 1 tin chickpeas

  • 4 medium potatoes

  • 3 medium carrots

Method

  1. Peel and slice the onions and garlic roughly.

  2. Put the saucepan on the hob on a medium heat and add the sunflower oil.

  3. Once hot fry off the onions and garlic for 5 mins then add the dried spices.

  4. Fry for another 3 mins but be careful not to stick your nose into the heat rising off the saucepan as the chilli has a kick and you will get an almighty cough!

  5. Add the lamb and fry on all sides until brown.

  6. Pour in the tin of tomatoes.

  7. Fill the empty tomato tin 3 times with water from the jug and pour into the pot as well.

  8. Add the sultanas, mixed lentils and chickpeas.

  9. Cover and simmer on the lowest heat setting for at least 4 hours (but preferably 6-8 or more), stirring occasionally. When I say lowest setting, the sauce should be at a slow bubble, if you have no bubble then increase the setting a little.

  10. Rotate the shank every now and again to be sure that it cooks evenly.

  11. 1 hour before serving peel and cube the potatoes and carrots then add to the sauce mixture.

  12. Simmer for a further 45 minutes.

  13. Season to taste and serve.

Quick corn noodle soup

recipe by:Caitriona Redmond 

This quick and easy corn noodle soup feels hearty and comforting

Quick corn noodle soup

Servings

4

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

15 mins

Course

Main

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • 400ml hot vegetable stock

  • 1 tsp ginger and garlic paste

  • 150g frozen sweetcorn

  • 100g fine egg noodles

  • 50g frozen peas

  • To serve: 

  • Dried chilli flakes

  • Spring onions

  • Soy sauce

Method

  1. Put a large pot on a medium heat, fill with hot stock and bring to a slow simmer. Spoon in the ginger and garlic paste (found in a jar in many Asian food stores and grocers). Stir the sweetcorn into the hot stock and stir well until they are defrosted completely.

  2. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully immerse the head of the stick blender. Pulse until the sweetcorn is mixed into the stock. It will foam on top, don’t worry that will disappear later. I like to leave my corn with some texture.

  3. Return the pot to the heat and break in the egg noodles. Simmer for 5 minutes until the noodles are cooked, then stir in the frozen peas. They will thaw immediately in the hot soup.

  4. Serve once the peas are hot through (about 2 minutes) and sprinkle with dried chilli if you’re a heat fiend. Drizzle soy sauce on top to season if you like and scatter with finely sliced spring onion. Do bear in mind though that if you’ve used a stock cube for the base, then it will be salty already.

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