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Cooking for people who can’t cook!

Stew veggies

To cook frugally you have to understand a little about food and cooking. Staple foods are foods that we tend to have with every meal. They are carbohydrate rich and cheap. Staples are bread, potatoes and rice. To a lesser extent dairy products can be viewed as staple food, because milk can be important in your diet.

When people first had fire to cook on they probably poked a stick through their food and held it over the fire to cook. We can do a little better these days, but many people still struggle to cook a meal. If you can’t cook try the easy things first. The things you don’t need to cook; like salad.  You need lettuce, tomato and then a protein food like a hard boiled egg, cold chicken, cheese, prawns or canned fish. You can lots of things to your salad to make it more interesting and tasty. Salad cream (keep it in the fridge once opened)  is an obvious choice. There are also lots of pickles you might like. You can add celery, grated carrot, chopped apple, whatever you like; be imaginative.

Eggs are useful food and can be boiled, scrambled, fried, poached or made into omelettes. Toasted bread tastes much better than plain bread and if you put a egg on top, you have a reasonable meal or snack. You can also put tinned spaghetti on toast or baked beans on toast. Tinned plum tomatoes are reasonably cheap and those are good on toast too.

You do need vegetables with your meals so that you have vitamins and minerals. If you have something like beans on toast, have fruit afterwards, so you’re getting some fibre and vitamins. A glass of milk with it, will add vitamins and calcium.

Potatoes are a useful staple food and easy to cook. You can boil them in water, bake them in the oven, microwave them or fry them. If you do boiled potatoes, try mashing them and then have sausages and vegetables with them. Bangers and mash is an old favourite. Sausages go well with baked potatoes too. Cut the potato in half insert a fried sausage and pile on green vegetables.

Choosing meat to cook can be difficult. Poultry like chicken and turkey is cheapest and if you’re cooking for one, you can put a chicken leg or some drumsticks in the oven for about 30 minutes and very little can go wrong; they should cook to golden brown. Consider cooking extra, cold chicken is nice on a salad or for making sandwiches. Pork is the next cheapest meat and can be fried if it a pork chop or medallion. Pork is often sold diced for stir fries too and can be stir fried in a pan or wok. Then you add boiled rice, chopped onion, soy sauce and 5 spice and stir fry for delicious stir fry. The rice absorbs the fat from the pork, soy sauce and 5 spice and you can also add other vegetables like frozen peas. It’s cheap and easy to cook.

Lamb is more expensive. It is mostly available as chops and steak that can be fried slowly and eaten with new potatoes and a selection of vegetables. If you’re going to attempt to cook beef, that is more difficult and the tougher cuts need to be cooked slowly. Try to buy it from a butcher who will give you free advice on cooking it; depending on the cut. Braising steak for example is better cooked in the oven. I would avoid beef if you are learning to cook.

Other things worth trying are easy things like oven chips. In England you can pop out to a fish and chip shop to buy chips, take them home and cook chicken to go with them. That is quite frugal and a tasty meal. Pizza is easy, you buy the pizza and just heat it in the oven. It isn’t very nourishing or cheap though. Why not try cheese on toast instead, with tomato? Simply toast your bread so it’s toasted lightly, cover it with cheese and pop it back under the grill to melt the cheese. Slice your tomato thinly on top and pop back under the grill to cook the tomato.

Cooking  stew is easy. I did one with my vegetables. Cook a leg of chicken in water until it’s cooked well. Remove it from the water and then remove all the meat from the bones. Now put the meat back in the water and discard the bones. Now you can add lots of chopped vegetables to the water, salt and pepper, herbs de Provence and cook for an hour. I used a couple of sticks of celery, a couple of onions and carrots and a large potato. it smells delicious when it’s cooking and I make 1.5 litres at a time. It is frugal too – cheap and cheerful food. 

Cooking is the process of making food that is really tough to eat when it’s raw; edible. It helps to make it taste nice too and the seasoning, herbs and spices helps to do that. When you get reasonably good at it, then try following recipes.

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