“I live on good soup, not on fine words” Moliere
I am so in love with soup…..yeah, that actually makes me sound quite pathetic I know. But on a cold winter’s day I can think of nothing more comforting than curling up on the sofa with a bowl of something steaming hot…in fact, anything hot that can be eaten with a spoon has to be up there in my all-time comfort foods list. The fact that I have about a dozen varieties of soup in my repertoire, from chilli butternut squash, to Minestra (with baked beans and melting cheese) goes some way to conveying the extent of my obsession. I have to say that most of them are thick (stew-like even) in texture and consistency, the type that fill you up and satisfy you, not the kind that fills your tummy with water, and leaves you feeling even more hungry than you were at the start.
“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless you get your soup in a can” Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking1988)
The other reason I love soup so much is that it is so cheap to make. With the addition of a good loaf of bread, the whole family has a complete meal. And can I just say that homemade is so much cheaper than shop bought! I wouldnt make it every day (I have a breadmaker, but its so big and noisy I relegated it to the shed), in fact, maybe once a week at most in the winter, but it is such a good accompaniment to stews and soups – increasing the comfort-food factor even further.
I recently worked out that this batch of Pea and Bacon Soup, with fresh bread cost around 48p per head. How good is that?! That’s just £2.90 for all of the ingredients, and it was really filling. What’s more, it has meat in it, so those with more carnivorous tendancies (like my old man) are satisfied too. Everyone’s a winner!
I found the recipe in Fay Ripley’s What’s For Dinner ~ Easy And Delicious Recipes For Everyday Cooking 2012.
Here it is:
1 onion, peeled and chopped
180g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
( use unsmoked back bacon if you prefer)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 ltr vegetable stock
(use a bit less if you like your soup thick)
1 kg frozen petit pois
30g fresh mint leaves
(that’s quite a lot of mint!
use less if you want)
In a large heavy-based saucepan fry the bacon and onion in the oil, then when they are cooked through, add the garlic and fry for a minute.
- Pour in the stock and the peas. Bring to the boil, then cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- when cooked, remove the soup from the heat and blitz two-thirds of it in a blender (or use a hand blender) with the mint. Be sure to blend it really smooth, otherwise you’ll get bits of pea shell in the soup…not nice. (The original recipe says to sieve the soup back into the pan, then discard the pulp, but I’ve never felt the need to do this) mix the blended and unblended soup back together, then reheat before serving.
This recipe will easily serve at least 5. I make a double batch, then freeze half for the next week.
The deal with the bread ~
I know making bread goes against the whole faff-free idea, and by all means, use any bread you want. But making the dough takes moments, and kneading it is not only a great way to vent any pent-up frustration, but it’s also a good cheap workout for your arms! Plus, the kids will probably love to get involved too. Sainsburys sell a 1.5 kg bag of strong bread flour for 66p (I follow the recipe on the side of the flour packet), and 8 sachets of yeast for 87p, which works out at 11p per sachet. So basically you’ve got a loaf of bread for around 40p…and it tastes so good! You’ll have a great sense of pride in your finished loaf as you present it to the table, and you’ll earn extra brownie points from the rest of the family. The only problem (mostly for the waistline) is that it’s too moorish.
The 80p per head challenge
So once I worked out how cheap the soup was, it got me to wondering how many other meals I could make that cost pennies per head. I have literally been working out the costings of every dinner I’ve made recently. I’ve challenged myself to only cook meals that cost less than 80p per head (that’s £4.80 for six people), and even less as if possible…unless it’s a sunday, in which case I’ll push the boat out to 95p per head. If your family is smaller, just cut the quantities down, or freeze the leftovers (I love Pour ‘N Store bags! Make sure you label what’s in them though, and when you made it…unless you like playing Freezer Roulette)
One of the reasons for all this frugality is that I’m trying to cut my monthly shopping bill by £100 to help pay for a family holiday. It means I have to think more creatively about what I cook, and it makes me shop more wisely. And I don’t waste anything! Oh, and that’s another great thing about soups, while we’re on the subject…any bendy carrots, broccoli, parsnips etc, or any meat, chuck them in a pot with some stock…be creative.
Do you have something you are saving for too? Or do you just want to cut down on your shopping bill? How about you take the 80p challenge too?…Don’t forget to let me know how you get on, what your cheapest meal was per head, and what recipes you created or discovered. (If you need any help working out the costings of your meals, just ask.)
Look out for my post coming up next week, where I see how many meals I can serve my family from one whole chicken.