I decided to put my money where my mouth is and go in search of cheaper food in the supermarket that is reaching its sell-by date.
Each chain has differing policies when it comes to ridding themselves of food that is still perfectly edible, but has a short shelf life.
Sometimes the shops pass on what they can’t sell to FoodCloud and this is then distributed to charities such as your local meals-on-wheels.
In other instances the food can end up in a basket in the refrigerator section with yellow stickers.
Then there are the three supermarkets that excel at offering food at well below market prices, so long as you are prepared to cook or eat whatever you get straight away.
I have been eyeing up the Aldi TooGoodToGo box for months ever since they first announced those magic boxes for the princely sum of €3.99.
Yet, I hadn’t managed to bag one thanks to high demand in my areas, until two weekends ago.
It was a rock and roll Saturday night driving up a dark country road to the closest store (we don’t have an Aldi in close proximity).
Collection time was 8:30pm and the entire supermarket was empty. Saturday nights aren’t exactly prime shopping time I admit.
After collecting our large cardboard crate I was seriously impressed. There was enough protein and carbohydrates in the crate to feed our family 3 main meals for the week ahead.
Most of the meat went straight into the freezer as I was not in the humour of cooking after 9pm at night. The box boasted chicken fillet chunks, over half a kilo of minced beef, chunky sausages, and varying salads and noodles. What a haul for €3.99.
The following week I was in Lidl and spotted several ‘Waste Not’ boxes behind the till for €3.
Again, I hadn’t been able to get one in the past so snapped up a box very promptly.
The difference is that the Lidl boxes contain fruit in vast quantities. This is good news for my banana bread addiction, and for the dog, who is partial to a little bit of mashed banana on a ‘licky mat’ as a treat.
Maybe now that we are living on even less than last year it has given me a razor-sharp focus on what I can buy on a budget. Possibly I was just in the right place at the right time.
Regardless, it’s proof that value can be found if you are persistent and know how to store whatever goodies you may snap up.
I’m feeling so optimistic about apps and saving money that I am giving a well-known meal kit another try in the weeks ahead. Watch this space.
In my column a couple of weeks ago I shared a recipe for pizza-flavoured muffins. They have proven very popular in the household and I added them to the monthly baking rotation. However, there was a very unhappy outcome recently when my husband helped himself to a muffin from the box not realising that they were savoury rather than sweet.
Still, it’s a timely reminder that labelling is extremely important. Making sure your food is clearly marked can be as low-budget as using a permanent marker or sharpy to write onto the packaging. This is probably the most foolproof method of etching the name of the dish, date it was made, and the date it expires by onto whatever I’m popping into the freezer.
A label maker is an investment but considering it can be used for far more than food items it may be a canny one. I have a Bluetooth-enabled handheld printer that connects to my phone so that I can print out whatever I want. I find it very helpful for schoolbooks and clothing as well.
Whatever your method of choice, make sure your labels are legible and clear. Muffins apparently is too broad a term for my husband. He now both asks before he helps himself and does a sniff test to check if the item is sweet or savoury. He says it’s because he has trust issues with what I am cooking. It was a tough lesson to learn but also I’m delighted that what I make looks so appetising!
I’ve added in some wholemeal flour to the recipe which gives it a nuttier texture.
Preheat a fan oven to 170°C. Line or grease two 18cm sandwich tins. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, add in the eggs one at a time until well combined. Pour in the flours and baking powder. Beat well until you get a stiff batter.
Pour in the coffee and beat again, the batter will be much looser.
Divide the mixture between the baking tins and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from the tin and allow to cool before icing.
To ice, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Pour in the coffee and beat again. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing and decorate with walnuts or chocolate shards.
Fish Scale Pie
A fishy fave, ready in two hours.
1 hours 30 mins
2 hours 0 mins
1 bay leaf
2 whole peppercorns
200g fresh or frozen fish
50g plain flour (extra for dusting the pastry)
75g frozen sweetcorn
75g frozen peas
200g shortcrust pastry
Milk to brush the ‘scales’
Heat the milk, bay leaf and peppercorns to a gentle simmer. Cook the fish in the milk. If the fish is cut in to small chunks they should only take 10 minutes. For larger pieces allow 15 minutes. Scoop out the fish and set to one side. Pick out the bay leaf and peppercorns and throw away. Pour the hot milk into a mug
Melt the butter in the same saucepan, sprinkle in the flour and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk from the mug, one quarter at a time, and stir each time until it is well mixed and you have a smooth paste. Add a little hot water unil you have a thick sauce.
Pour the sweetcorn and peas into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Stir in the cooked fish.
Preheat a fan oven to 180°C.
Grease an 18cm sandwich tin and dust with flour. Dust a flat surface with flour, divide the pastry into two sections and roll out one round to line the bottom and sides of the tin,
Pour the fish sauce into the lined tin and roll out the second section of pastry.
Cut out lots of small circles with a glass or a biscuit cutter, Combine and re-roll any trimmings as necessary.
Layer the ‘scales’ up to coat the top of the pie. Brush with milk and bake for 30 or so minutes until golden brown on top.