Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ten Tips for Budget Vegetarian Meals: plus Tomato, Parmesan and Rocket Tart



In the current economic climate, almost everyone is on a budget and looking for a bargain. This goes for food shopping as well as shopping on the high street. Personally, I can't believe how much the price of food has increased this year - almost 20% since last year according to a BBC report in May 2011. At the start of the year, a packet of pasta cost 50p in my local Asda. Slowly it crawled up to the 60p mark, then 70p, then last week it was 81p. This week, I paid 89p for the same packet of pasta. Similarly, two loaves of bread cost £1.50 at the start of the year, and now they cost £2.00 for two. It seems that the price of basic food items is being pushed up so much, that if it keeps on rising, many people will start forfeiting luxuries and basics from their weekly shop as they are no longer affordable.

As a vegetarian family, I think that our shopping bill is probably less than the average family as I don't buy any meat or fish which really pushes the shopping bill up, but I still seem to be spending more each week just buying the same things. Of course, if I truly wanted to save money, I could live like a student on beans on toast, tomato pasta, tinned fruit and soup and lots of frozen meals, but I want my kids to eat healthy food cooked from fresh ingredients. For some families however, a diet of tinned and frozen food is often the norm as fresh ingredients cost more to buy than ready made. I think it's sad that the government and NHS want to tackle childhood obesity and yet the price of fresh food is getting so expensive that you can understand why those on a budget turn to alternatives. 

So what could you do to reduce your food shopping bill? 

Here are my Top Ten Tips:
  1. Plan your Meals for the week or for the month. Write a list of what you need and stick to the list. Netmums do great weekly and monthly planners here.
  2. Shop Online to save money, fuel, and those little extras which sneak their way into the shopping trolley as you go round.
  3. Buy Reduced Items. Find out when your local supermarket reduces their food and go and pick up some reduced food bargains.
  4. Buy in Bulk. We have a Costco near us, which is great for stocking up and sells many basics at cheaper prices in bulk than the supermarkets.
  5. Eat Vegetarian a couple of times a week. Omitting meat and fish from your diet could save on the shopping bill and also help save the environment. See Meat Free Monday for more details
  6. Buy from the local market. Buying your fruit and veg from the local market is often much cheaper and much fresher. If buying at the supermarket, buy your fruit and veg loose as it is often cheaper than the priced packets.
  7. Shop around for the best deals. Try MySupermarket to compare the prices of different supermarkets
  8. Cook in Bulk  I often cook veggie mince and either divide it between two meals i.e. spaghetti bolognese and then bolognese with wedges the next night, or I cook a bulk batch of something such as a chicken casserole, then use half for a pie filling and freeze the other half for a later date.
  9. Use store cupboard staples such as lentils, beans and tinned tomatoes to bulk out meals.
  10. Cook from Scratch. Try making your own bread, cakes, biscuits and treats. Bakery items are often cheaper and more tasty made from scratch.
So bearing my tips in mind, the other day I popped into my local Waitrose for milk on the way home and saw that they were making their reductions. Of course, I could just have cooked tomato pasta for tea, but as I am a bit of a foodie, I want to eat on a budget, but still have a range of food with different flavours, textures and variety sometimes, so I managed to pick up a salad for 39p and some herb potatoes for 19p. Bargain! I decided to make a Tomato, Parmesan and Rocket Tart, and serve with the Baby Potatoes and remaining salad. 






Reduced Vegetarian Meal: Tomato, Parmesan and Rocket Tart served with Baby Potatoes and Rocket Salad

Ingredients

1 Pack of ready rolled Puff Pastry  £1.50
Half a tube of Tomato Puree 50p (25p for half)
1 packet of Rocket and Mozzarella Salad reduced to 39p
1 packet of Ready to Roast Potatoes with garlic and rosemary  - reduced to 19p
A sprinkle of grated Cheddar (or any other cheese you have) 75p

Total £3.08 = £1.54 per serving for two people or 77p per serving for a family of two adults and two small children.

Method

1) Cook the potatoes in a roasting tray as directed by the packet.
2) Roll out the ready to roll pastry onto a flat oven tray
3) Spread the tomato puree onto the pastry, leaving about an inch or so around each of the sides.
4) Top with the Rocket and then sprinkle the Parmesan and grated cheese over the top
5) Bake in the oven at 220 degrees for about 20 minutes
6) Serve with the remaining salad leaves.






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