Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Family Meals for much less than a fiver (1) - Lentils

Feeding the family every week can be costly. It really is possible to cook filling, healthy meals for four people for much less than a fiver. In this series of articles I will be talking about how I keep the costs down and introduce some favourite recipes. Many such meals are vegetarian because often veggie meals are cheaper.

The key to cheaper meals is cooking from scratch rather than using pre-cooked or processed food (as well as getting the best deals in the supermarket – see Reducing Your Food Bills). And to use good value basic ingredients to which you can add flavour.

Take pulses for example, packed with protein, low fat – and cheap. Lentils are particularly good because they are quick to cook, as unlike many pulses they do not require pre-soaking. If you are new to using pulses, try changing one meal a week to a veggie meal.

A 500g bag of lentils from Sainsbury's is 88p. That is enough to be the main event in at least two meals for four.

 Lentils with rice and vegetables – less than £2.50 for 4 people

 225g split red lentils                                  40p        Sainsbury’s 88p for 500g

75g easy cook basmati rice                        14p        Sainsbury’s £1.74 for 1kg

1 litre vegetable stock                                10p         Sainsbury’s 66p for 6 cubes

1 medium leek, sliced                                60p

2 garlic clove, crushes                                 7p

400g tin chopped tomatoes                        33p         Sainsbury’s basics

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 red pepper                                               40p      Sainsbury’s basics mixed peppers £1.28

50g frozen runner beans                                6p      Sainsbury’s own   £1.19 per kilo

40g frozen peas                                           4p       Sainsbury’s basics £1.52 for 1.81kg

You can vary the vegetable with your own preferences – broccoli, baby corn for example.

 In a large heavy bottom saucepan or flame proof casserole dish put the lentils, rice, and vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils and rice are cooked. Stir occasionally to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add all the other ingredients, bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Serve by itself or with some green salad and crusty granary loaf.

Lentil and Tomato Soup

Good for a substantial lunch – less than £1.50 for 4

125g  red lentils                                       22p

1 litre vegetable stock                                6p

2 large carrots, chopped                           25p

2 onions chopped                                     25p

400g chopped tomatoes                            33p     

2 garlic cloves, crushes                              8p

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 fresh chilli, or 1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp lemon juice

200ml milk                                                16p

In a saucepan put the lentils, carrots, onion, tomatoes and garlic and the stock. Add the spices and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes or so until all the veg is tender. Add the milk and lemon juice. Blend the soup in a food processor. Leave some lentils and onions unprocessed to give the soup more texture. Serve with crusty bread.

What are lentils? (just in case you didn't know and were curious)

Lentils are the seeds of a bushy plant which is part of the legume family. It was originally grown in India and has probably been part of the human diet since Neolithic times. Lentils are eaten all over the world and often play an important part of vegetarian diets.

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