Taking control of your Family food budget is one of the best ways to save money. When people ask me for money saving advice, Batch Cooking is always something I like to promote. Combine this with careful meal planning, a frugal shopping list and utilising ways of stretching your ingredients and you are well on the way to live more cheaply.
Today I utilised a reduced 500g pack of Beef mince to make three main dishes to serve four people. A Beef Lasagna, a Cottage Pie and a Beef ragu Pasta sauce.
Here I am going to explain how I came to have just the best looking Lasagna for tea!
My lovely cheap meals started with 500g of mince and a 'not sure what to make' attitude.
There were no chilli's in the fridge so a Chilli Con Carne was out of the question, but a further rummage in the fridge produced, some Bacon a Chorizo, some onions, carrots, garlic and a leek. There is still parsley and Thyme growing in the Greenhouse so I helped myself to lots of that and then returned to the kitchen and prepped all my veggies.
The kitchen cupboards produced a tin of chopped tomatoes, baked beans, chickpeas (which I didn't use in the end). A jar of peppers and a jar of Sun-dried tomatoes.
Knowing 500g of mince was going to be difficult to stretch into twelve meals I also cooked up a cup of green lentils and measured out a cup of orange lentils (which ended up in the ragu - which is subject of a separate blog entry).
The three onions were chopped and seasoned with Black pepper and two teaspoons of paprika, a splash of olive oil and cooked down on a low heat for around 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick pan with a little oil and add the mince, browning it and breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go.
When the mince is cooked add the onion
In the (now empty) onion pan, add the chopped chorizo and a few rashers of chopped bacon (I used three) and gently fry off the fat.
Meanwhile add the cup of uncooked red lentils, a tin of tomatoes and a big squeeze of tomato puree to the pan, then use the can from the tomatoes and add a 'can of water' and a beef stock cube (optional)
Turn the heat down and let it simmer to cook the lentils (will take 7-10 minutes but will also absorb a lot of the moisture so keep an eye on it and stir frequently to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, start the Cottage Pie and Ragu - see separate blog entry.
To finish the Lasagna - when the Red Lentils are cooked taking about a third of the mixture, add a little of the cooked bacon/Chorizo mix, and a whole jar of chopped Sundried tomatoes.
Season with Oregano and then make up a half pint of cheese or white sauce.
Starting with the beef mixture put a thin layer in the bottom of an oven proof dish and then thinly layer with lasagna pasta and the cheese sauce finishing with cheese sauce. You should be able to get three thin layers of beef out of the mixture.
At this point the dish, once cooled, will store in the fridge for a couple of days (but cover with cling film to stop it drying out).
To finish sprinkle with grated cheese and heat in the oven (remove the cling film first!) at 180C for about an hour - but check that it's piping hot throughout before serving with peas/chips/garlic bread.