THE FRUGAL FOODIE: The queen of bulking up with breadcrumbs

Bread and butter pudding
Bread and butter pudding

For those of you who didn’t see last week’s Gazette, I have been challenging myself to only spend £50 per month on my grocery shop, which has earned me the nickname of the frugal foodie.

It’s nearing the end of month two of my £50 challenge. I’m still in budget and feeling pretty confident.

So many people have told me how inspired they are to become a bit more frugal, to grow a bit of veg and even to get themselves some hens. I think it’s great.

Anything that makes people think about what they’re buying and, more importantly, wasting has got to be a good thing and that’s what people are telling me they’re doing.

This week, I have had friends using their chicken carcasses to make meals and foraging for wild garlic, something that they had never done before. This makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

In order to stick to budget, it’s been really important to make every ingredient go as far as it possibly can. I have become the queen of bulking up meals and you really can’t tell the difference. They are just as delicious and knowing that you’ve saved lots of money makes it taste all the better. I thought I would share some of my vital ingredients and tips.

I use breadcrumbs all the time. I always have jars of them in my cupboard. Whenever you have a bit of stale bread, if you’re not going to use it, whizz it up into breadcrumbs. Stick them in the oven on a low heat until they are all completely dried. You’ll have to give them a stir, midway. Then you can put them in sterile jars to use whenever you need them.

Use them to coat fish and chicken, for fishcakes and pie toppings and for adding to dishes to make a little meat go a long way. They’re so versatile.

If you haven’t got time to cook your breadcrumbs, just stick them in the freezer and take what you need, as and when you need it. Try whizzing up some Parmesan cheese with it too. You’ll have a great cheesy topping at the ready, whenever you need it.

I am never without tinned tomatoes in my kitchen. If you have a tin of tomatoes, you can rustle up so many meals out of what seems like nothing. Use them to make pasta and pizza sauces, soups and to make fresh vegetables and meat go further. Remember, too, that tomatoes are even better for you when they’re cooked.

I challenge you to see how many meals you can make from 500g of beef mince. I made mince and potatoes for the kids one night. I split the remainder into two and made a lasagne and a cottage pie that would easily feed six adults each. In fact, all four of us had two meals fromeach and I also had lasagne for my lunch on another day.

Check out my blog (tinyurl.com/kn7dvkg) for full recipe details but, suffice to say, breadcrumbs and tinned tomatoes, along with the indispensable plain flour, played a big part in making this possible. Stale bread is not just used to make breadcrumbs. I can make numerous meals where the stale bread is the star of the dish.

One of my most popular blog posts has been ‘Ways with stale bread. Meals from nothing’.

Tuscan bread salad is to die for, eggy bread is one of my children’s favourite meals, cheese pudding is like a super-simple, comforting, soufflé without the faff or worry.Make a gourmet toasted sandwich that is far too good for a quick lunch.

And treat the family to a bread and butter pudding. Jazz it up with fudge, marmalade, banana or chocolate or go adventurous with coconut and cardamon. This can easily be frozen and you’ve got a fantastic pudding at your disposable if you have impromptu guests or just fancy a treat.

Or go all American and make a meat loaf. And then there are the obvious things like croutons, bruschetta, stuffings and toast. The world’s your crumb-topped oyster!

Chickpeas are another amazing way to make really filling meals with little or no meat in them. I use them so often nowadays that they’ve become almost as important as tinned tomatoes in my cupboard. I’m going to add to my ‘Ways with...’ series with chickpeas in a couple of weeks. They count towards your five (or seven)-a-day too. Remember, it’s not just fresh fruit and veg that count, beans and pulses count too.

Although, they might not count towards your five-a-day, potatoes are an essential ingredient if you want to make your, more pricey, meat and fresh veg go further.

Other absolute essentials are flour, sugar, eggs, butter and milk. Have these and you have batters, doughs (breads, pizzas, scones etc), pastries, custards and sauces at your fingertips to make the cheapest possible everyday meals.

If you’ve got the freezer space, buy milk and butter in bulk so that you can stay out of the shops and away from temptation as much as possible. It may sound silly but learn what your dairy products should look and smell like. You get a lot longer out of them than you may think.

I’m going to share a classic bread and butter pudding recipe. You can add so many different flavours to this and I was tempted to use peanut butter however I decided to stick with the original as it really is the ultimate frugal store cupboard treat.

A classic, versatile, cost-saving dessert

I’m going to share a classic bread and butter pudding recipe. You can add so many different flavours to this and I was tempted to use peanut butter, however, I decided to stick with the original as it really is the ultimate frugal store cupboard treat.

Butter approx 6-8 thick slices of stale bread and cut them into triangles. Leave the crusts on – they’re lovely when they are sugary and crunchy.

Soak a handful of currants in some tea for around 15 minutes or as long as you can.

Arrange half of the bread in a buttered pie dish, slightly overlapping each triangle.

Sprinkle most of the currants over the first layer of bread.

Arrange the rest of the bread on top and sprinkle the remaining currants on it.

Beat 3 eggs and whisk together with 350mls milk, 60g caster sugar and a pinch cinnamon. If you have any vanilla sugar, you could use this or substitute some for it.

Pour the custard mixture over the bread and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes but longer is better.

When you’re ready to cook it, mix 1 egg with 2tbsp sugar and 100mls milk. Pour over the bread.

Sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the pudding and bake for around 50minutes at 180c/ gas 4.

Serve with custard.

Does it get any more frugal?