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Inspired by a recent cookery post, I decided to share the results of an experiment I recently conducted. Like many other families, we always try to eat well, and make the most out of the food we buy. Owing to my recent changes in my circumstances I wanted to see how cost effectively we could feed ourselves for a week. We always use the left over meat from larger meals to feed ourselves later in the week, a frugal tradition that I have a hunch has been lost in many homes. I decided to base this experiment on a simple and cheap set of basic ingredients:Chicken

  • One large Chicken
  • Bag of Potatoes
  • A few Carrots
  • One swede
  • Two Parsnips
  • A few Onions

Total Cost approximately £9.95

Day 1 – Roast Chicken with some trimmings

Cooked using a variation of this recipe, accompanied by some of the vegetables and gravy. The size of the chicken meant that this Roast dinner for two adults and one child didn’t even clear one of the chicken breasts.

Approximate additional cost 75p

Day 2 – Cold Chicken & Chips

Proper left over meal; slices of cold meat with oven chips and beans – easy food for a busy day. Could easily have been made much healthier had we have had time to use some of the potatoes instead of the chips, but alas we did not.

Approximate additional cost 80p.

Day 3 – Chicken Salad or Sandwiches

Only light meals were needed for us on day three so a small amount of chicken was used to make a sandwiches, but could equally have been used for salad, pasta or rice dish.

Approximate additional cost 50p-£1

Day 4 – Stew

The cook-down. Boiling up the remains of the chicken carcase to make a delicious chicken stew. Adding the remainder of the vegetables and that’s another meal sorted, with suet and flour from the cupboard to make dumplings. Slow and messy but delicious.

Approximate additional cost 25p

Day 5 – Curry [or Soup]

The intention was to use the remainder of the stew to make an unusual, but none-the-less tasty curry and rice.

Approximate additional cost 30p

However on this occasion time was against us again, so the remaining stew went in the blender with some extra vegetable stock and became a thick and flavoursome soup. The addition of some saltines [essential accompaniment to soup] did add to the cost.

Approximate additional cost 25p

Summary

In summary five meals for two adults and one child came to a total² of £13.05, or £2.61 per meal. Which equates to a approximately £1 per adult [portion], per meal per day.

I wanted to prove that it was still possible to feed a family well and cost effectively. News stories about food prices or healthy eating often show clips of people complaining that good food costs more than healthy or home made food. I did not believe that. Granted eating chicken for a whole week is not very interesting, and you do need to be careful about food hygiene when cooking, chilling and reheating foods. However with the exception of the Saltines and the chips, all of the meals were completely home-made, so we were able to monitor what was in each meal, and could have adapted the meals to make them healthier. Clearly this would not work every week, but with a bit of imagination interesting variations could be introduced; for example some Tandoori Curry Paste with chicken before frying it with some Onions is a delicious way of using some pre-cooked Chicken.

All I am really advocating, is the kind of common sense cooking that many people will be doing week-in-week-out, and was the norm for parents and grandparents, however I do think that many people have forgotten how to do it, and if they haven’t I think supermarkets are doing their best to convince them other wise. For example a quick search on MySupermarket brought up packs of two chicken Breast Fillet Portions for £3.96 or a Freedom Food Endorsed Whole Chicken for £5. In my example the two Chicken breasts Fillets would have made the first day’s meal, but the extra £1.04 of the whole chicken would have provided the additional meat for the remainder of the week.

¹ I would usually advocate using local shops rather than the supermarket, but on this occasion I ended up at Sainsbury’s, and I would also usually prefer free-range, or at least friendly Chicken, but on this occasion I forget to check where this bird was from. #EthicsFail. Also, shopping at a cheaper supermarket would have brought the total cost down still further, as would I believe shopping at the local butchers and grocers, but that is an experiment for another day.

² This does not include the energy cost of cooking the meals. I have not included this cost mainly as alternatives would also need to be cooked.

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