Stretch your mince – spaghetti bolognese with lentils 89p p/p

I may have mentioned that I have a very particular child. She knows what she likes, and isn’t afraid to let you know. Food can be a problem…. So, when I discovered that she enjoyed Bolognese, it immediately went onto the menu plan.

The problem is, mince isn’t exactly cheap at £2.89/500g at my supermarket of choice, and I need to make it do at least 3 meals for the three of us at that price.

So, my bolognese isn’t exactly authentic, but it does taste good.

Pressure Cooker Bolognese with lentils (to feed 6 adults @89p per person)

1 onion, finely chopped (9p)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (20p)
2 TBSP oil + 30g butter (20p)
500g beef mince (£2.89)
150g brown lentils (30p) [you could use red lentils which will disappear completely]
100 mL milk (4p)
1 x 500mL carton passata (33p)
100g tomato puree (24p)
3 TBSP tomato ketchup (8p)
1/8 tsp salt (less than 1p)
600g spaghetti (26p)
grated cheddar to serve – optional (60p)

Melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat and cook the carrots and onions gently until soft.
Turn up the heat and brown the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
Add the milk and boil until it has all evaporated (this coats the mince and removes the gritty taste you sometimes get).
Add the remainder of the ingredients, stir well, put on the lid and bring to High pressure.
Turn down the heat to whatever your hob requires to keep the pressure cooker fizzing, and cook at High pressure for 15 minutes.

Once the pressure cooker is doing its thing, put the spaghetti in a pan of lightly salted water, put on the lid, and bring to the boil.  As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and leave to cook with the lid on for 8-10 min depending on how you like it.

Reduce the pressure quickly using either cold water (old fashioned cooker) or your release valve.  Stir well.  Add a cupful of the bolognese mix to the pasta and mix to coat the spaghetti.  Serve with an extra spoonful or so of bolognese sauce on the top of each bowl, and a grating of cheddar cheese.

See what everyone else is doing at Menu Plan Monday with OrgJunkie


Experimental cooking: fishcakes at 31p each

We managed to cook rather too much potato at the weekend, leaving me with 200g of mash in the fridge. I’d already made soup, so that wasn’t my preferred option (though mashed potato is an excellent way of thickening up a soup or stew).

Inspiration struck in the local Lidl, where I spotted a 200g tin of herring fillet in a mozzarella & tomato sauce for 79p. At least, I assume that’s what it was, as the ingredients were all in German, as was the front of the tin.


I poured the contents of the tin (sauce and all) into a large bowl and mashed it up with a fork, added the 200g of mashed potato, along with breadcrumbs from the heel of a loaf of bread, and mixed it together well. I formed it into patties, dusted them with flour, and fried two for 5-ish minutes a side.

Next time, I’ll add another heel’s worth of crumbs, as the cakes were a bit on the soft-and-sloppy side, but served with the last of the sweet chilli sauce from the back of the cupboard, they were delicious. A bit of salad would have been nice too, but I didn’t have time to make coleslaw so we did without.

The herring comes with all sorts of different sauces, so I can see trying them all out for interestingly-flavoured fishcakes.

Recipe: Fishcakes (feeds 4 @ 31p each)


1 tin Lidl herring in tomato & mozzarella sauce [79p]
200g potatoes, peeled, cooked & mashed (or equivalent of instant mash) [20p]
2 heels of bread, grated/whizzed to form crumbs [free, would have been thrown out]
2 TBS flour for dusting [5p]
oil for frying [4p]
4 slices bread-and-butter to eat alongside [16p or a little more – depending on your choice of bread and spread]

1 TBS sweet chilli sauce (optional) to serve


  1. mash the fish into the sauce until well blended.
  2. add the mashed potato and mix well
  3. add the breadcrumbs and mix well
  4. using oiled hands, shape the mixture into 4 large or 8 small patties and place on a floured plate or board
  5. fry on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes a side until heated through and crispy on the outside
  6. serve with sweet chilli or your preferred sauce, and bread or a salad (or both)

Menu Plan Monday: A new approach

I’ve started a new job with lots of new stuff to learn, and am finding it hard to settle down to planning every week.  So, for a while at least, we’re going to be on a predictable round of meals.  If we get bored, well, I’ll change things around a little, but this is the basic outline.


  • non-branded shreddies / chocolate weetabix for small
  • 1/2 cup of mix made from Lidl musli (750g) with added porridge oats (250g) soaked in milk / bread & marmalade for big


  • biscuits (bought custard creams and ginger nut biscuits; might make oatie biscuits if there’s time)
  • apples
  • satsumas
  • bread-and-jam

To drink:

  • water
  • tea / decaf tea / bush tea / coffee (big)
  • ribena (small)
  • milk (small)


  • sultana loaf / banana bread / girdle scones / muffins (all can be frozen)
  • Pressure cooker rice pudding (once you add in the prep & heating / cooling time, it’s closer to 20 mins than the 9 she quotes, but hey it’s still quick)
  • natural yogurt and cake-decorating sprinkles (stir to make rainbows in your bowl)
  • ice cream cone

Main Meals:


  • school dinner (£1.80) / bean burger leftovers or soup
  • pressure cooker risotto (still working on getting small person to eat this – she likes rice pudding, so…?)


  • Chicken mayo wrap (from frozen cooked chicken leftovers) / risotto leftovers
  • Poached egg / Omelettes with boiled potatoes ( make extra for tomorrow’s lunches)


  • potato salad (or coleslaw?) with cheese cubes (small person gets an after-school extra meal as she has dance class – possibly egg mayo?)
  • bean goulash (or my modified version of Butternut, spinach & chickpea curry without the chilli) & rice


  • hotdog / leftover bean goulash or soup
  • pasta & cheese sauce with carrot sticks for crunch


  • Tuna wrap or hamster mix / leftover pasta or soup, depending on quantities
  • Baked potatoes with cheese (small) or tuna salad (big)


  • Potato soup with carrot & milk instead of yogurt (small person had seconds, so this is definitely on the menu!)
  • Sausage & mash OR slow cooker roast chicken


  • Soup of some description (small person does NOT like tomato)
  • Bean burgers served in muffins or on rice (may not work for small person so fish fingers a reliable option)

Just a reminder: I’m cooking for two adults (one female, one male) and a 5yo with a history of reflux who would still happily live on milk alone.

Reference link of the week: Things to do with powdered milk.

Hop over to Menu Plan Monday on to see what everyone else has got planned.

Menu plan Wednesday?

So things haven’t gone all that smoothly this week, and I’m only getting my menu plan up today.  Sorry about that!  It’s been on the fridge since Sunday night, though, and that’s what really matters!


  • the last of the ham with mayo/mustard on bread with cucumber & fruit
  • bangers &  mash for her and me, J eats at work



  • banana loaf, fruit & biscuits for them – was supposed to be a snack but they stayed out for lunch – and cheese sarnie for me.
  • Finally (finally!) got to eat that cobbler after the casserole was frozen last week due to to not having time to make the scones.  It was awesome, despite being made with only 2 chicken breasts instead of 4, and bacon bits instead of sausages.



  • Tuna mayo wraps with fruit and Banana Loaf (recipe below) for them, tuna salad for me
  • Peshawari Biryani with Pilau Rice (recipe to follow)


  • leftover biryani for me, tuna salad for him, tattie salad & cheese for her
  • the other half of the cobbler (nomnomnom)


  • cheese & coleslaw for us, tattie salad & cheese for her
  • Greek Rice with mint & feta (will do two meals, so one for the freezer)


  • day out in Jed fur her and me.  Tattie salad & cheese, banana loaf
  • carry out dinner for a treat before the 2h drive home, J eats at work


  • Pizza Muffins (hopefully to do school lunches too)
  • Roast duck breast (from the freezer) with veg & potatoes

Recipe of the Week:

Banana Loaf
Recipe given to Bronwen (Granny Bron) Noble by Jean (Grandma) Noble
Makes 2 loaves (~14 slices per loaf)


4 cups flour
1 cup (~200g) butter / marge
3 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 beaten eggs
2 cups mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)


  1. Cream butter & sugar
  2. Add beaten eggs & mix
  3. Sift in dry ingredients & mix
  4. Add mashed bananas & mix
  5. Spoon into lined or greased & floured loaf tins
  6. Bake at 200C for ~1hr or until the top is lightly browned and the centre does not stick to a skewer.
  7. Leave in the tins for 10 mins before turning out onto a rack to cool fully.


  1. 1 cup = 240ml
  2. mash bananas with a potato masher
  3. you can substitute up to 50% of the fat with sunflower / vegetable oil for a loaf that keeps longer and tastes just as good
  4. Leave until the next day before slicing to avoid it falling apart
  5. Freezes wonderfully
  6. Keep the heels, chop into cubes, and serve with custard for a decadent and almost-free dessert

Hop over to Menu Plan Monday to see what everyone else is making this week.

Menu plan Monday: 29 July 2013

Last week’s plan had a few modifications, but having the plan meant I never had to scrabble for food, or wonder if I had all the ingredients I needed for a particular meal.  What with the pair of us juggling shifts and childcare, that is a very good thing!

We didn’t manage to get to the cobbler, despite me thawing out the chicken and bacon on Sunday, so that’s on the list for this week again….


  • Potato salad for small person, left over Bean Goulash & rice for me, DH will eat at work (this has already fed us once for dinner, and once for lunch in pita breads)
  • frozen pizza at £3 for 3 from Farmfoods (we’ll use two) as we won’t get in until after 6pm and I didn’t plan well enough to have something in the slow cooker


  • hot dogs for small person, left over Pressure Cooker Risotto for me & DH
  • Baked potatoes & home-made coleslaw & cheese for me, baked potato and cheese for small person, DH eats at work


  • chicken mayo wrap for small person, home made coleslaw & bread/cheese for me & DH
  • potato & chickpea curry (using a jar of jalfrezi sauce I found in the cupboard) for grownups, boiled eggs for small person


  • Tuna mayo wrap for small person, leftover curry (I hope) for me & DH
  • Chicken cobbler as planned for last week.  I’ve already made the stew, so all that remains to do is make the scone topping and bake.


  • Ham sandwiches for all of us, with coleslaw for grownups
  • poached eggs – both eggs and bread need to be used up!


  • morning concert for summer dance school means we will be out – picnic lunch of home made houmous/pita for grownups & hotdog for small person with fruit & banana pancakes (from the freezer).
  • Bangers & mash – a treat from our local butcher


  • Ham & Cheese sandwiches with fruit & Sultana Loaf (from the freezer) for a picnic lunch: work has a corporate ticket for Our Dynamic Earth, and I have booked it for the weekend!
  • Bean, Cumin & Carrot burgers again.  They were wonderful, and we have plenty of beans!  Small person remains to be convinced, though, so may have to put something else on her muffin….  Hoping to have a friend round for dinner too, so will make double quantities.

Quick Scone Recipe (Aunty Phyllis Cowell)

2 cups flour
1/4 cup cooking oil + 1 lightly beaten egg & top up with milk to 1 cup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 level tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder

1. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients & mix very lightly.
2. Pat out to 2-3cm thick on a floured board and cut with a floured scone cutter.
3. Bake at 230C for 12 minutes

I use this for both sweet scones and to make a savoury cobbler topping as I loathe the mess and hassle of rubbing fat into flour to make traditional scones.  You can add up to 1/4 cup of any fruit or nuts to the scone dough if you wish; and herbs or spices to the cobbler topping.  Melted butter works just as well as cooking oil, but you do need to measure it separately!


 See what other people are doing over on Menu Plan Monday with Orgjunkie.

Menu Plan Monday

As I said, I plan my week on a Sunday night (or Monday pre-morning, if you prefer).

I roasted a chicken in the slow cooker yesterday, and we had the drumsticks and wings along with potato salad, cucumber & bread in the park for supper along with home made Sultana Loaf (recipe makes two).

This week, we are having:


  • Hotdog for the small person, bread & cheese & fruit for grownups
  • Pressure cooker risotto using stock from slow-cooker roasted chicken (3/4 cup rice feeds two adults) plus chicken sandwich for miss picky


  • Chicken Mayo wraps, with coleslaw for grownups
  • Chilli from the freezer with rice (sadly, small person can’t cope with hot spice yet, so hers will probably be various raw veg with cheese, again)



  • Bread with cubed cheese, raisins & chopped apple (known as hamster mix in our house)
  • Pasta & cheese sauce


  • Chicken Mayo wraps, with coleslaw for grownups
  • Sausages, mash & peas


  • Banana Pancakes (crumpets) from the freezer (recipe to follow)
  • Bean Goulash with rice (new recipe, so will have a fallback of something else for miss picky)


  • Microwave baked potatoes with tuna salad
  • Chicken & sausage cobbler (with a little bacon from the freezer instead of the sausage) using the left over chicken breast meat from the past weekend’s roast chicken.  This is basically a chicken pie with savoury scones for topping instead of pastry.  Very tasty, and very filling too!

I’m feeding two adults (one male, one female) and a 5yo who has had reflux issues.

See what other people are doing over on Menu Plan Monday with Orgjunkie.

Sunday night: when my week begins

It’s an old idea, but a good one: my day starts not at sunrise, but at sunset.  It means I can prepare for the day (and week) to come, and gives me time to deal with anything that might derail the next morning.

Tonight, it’s menu planning.

I have a wonderful 5-year-old daughter, who is quite prepared to try anything.  One bite is generally enough, though….  It’s not my choice to cook two meals every night, but DH isn’t willing to eat the same few things in rotation, and I have to admit I get a bit bored too.

Baked potatoes are a good standby, as she has hers with cheese, and we  can enjoy a lovely mixed tuna salad with ours.

Tuna Salad
recipe from Lise Maleham
(makes enough for 4 large baked potatoes)

1 tin tuna in oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 apples, in 1cm dice
2 cm off a block of cheddar, in 1cm dice
1 handful sultanas/raisins
2-3 large spoonsful mayonnaise
2-3 large spoonsful natural yogurt (or just use all mayo)

Mix the yogurt and mayo in a large bowl.
Add the apple and onion, and mix well.  This stops the apple browning.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

Keeps in the fridge for 5 days (but seldom gets the chance)

Now to decide on meals for the other six nights….

Lessons in Money Management 101

5-year-old Miss F has just bumped into the perils of spending money you don’t yet have.

“Mummy, look, I found some money in my drawer!”

“Thank you, that’s just enough to pay me back for that small fluffy toy you wanted last week, and didn’t have enough money for. We agreed that you’d pay me back with your pocket money, so I’ll just sign off this I.O.U.”

“But, I wanted to go to the shops with that money! I hate I.O.U’s!”

Don’t we all….

She then asked if there was any way to earn more money.  I explained that it would have to be a job that I would usually do, rather than something she normally helped with anyway, and set her to polishing shoes at 20p per shoe (40p for Daddy’s size 12s) so the lesson will hopefully stick.