If you’ve been reading any of my other recent blog posts, you may know that I am currently on the 10-day master cleanse, so it may come as a surprise to you that I’m posting about food. I’ve been wanting to post this for a while and since I’m still able to think, talk about and look at food without feeling like an animal about to go for its kill, I thought it would be a good time to get it out of the way.
Times are tough for many people around the world. I’m an American living in Ireland and although I find the food to be quite expensive here, I’m also hearing how expensive food has become from my family back home. We have good weeks and we have bad weeks here and on the bad weeks, I have to get thrifty with the grocery cost. Here are some cheap meal ideas. They won’t win you any gourmet cooking awards, but they will help reduce the cost of your food bill. Also, I can tell you that you can buy all of the ingredients for these items in Ireland.
#1. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Condensed Tomato Soup: You can buy bread here for as cheap as 69-89 cents a loaf if you shop at stores like Aldi and Lidl. I spent 54 cents on a can of tomato soup from Tesco and you can be 15 slices of processed cheese for 64 cents at Tesco. Butter is actually your biggest cost here. In case you’ve never made a grilled cheese before, heat up a fry pan on medium heat. Lightly butter one side of two slices of bread. Put one piece of bread butter-side down in the frying pan and lay one to two slices of cheese on top of it. Place the second slice of bread butter-side up over the top. Cook each side until golden brown. Be sure to check frequently, because there’s nothing worse than an overcooked grilled cheese sandwich.
#2. Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwich: Grilled peanut butter sandwiches are delightful. There’s nothing better than that warm, gooey peanut butter in the middle and the fried butter taste that comes with it. You make these the same way, but put smooth peanut butter in between layers instead of cheese. I personally like Tesco brand smooth peanut butter. It tastes the most like Skippy or Jiffy in the U.S.
#3. Classic Hotdogs and Potato Chips/Crisps: You can buy a 12 pack of hotdogs from Lidl for less than 2 Euro. Hotdog buns at Lidl are only 99 cents for a 6-pack. A jar of pickles (can be chopped up for relish) can be purchased just about anywhere for 89 cents and condiments are also cheap (particularly at Lidl and Aldi). I also make sort of a homemade ranch dressing using Creme Fresh (89 cents at Lidl), 2 Tablespoons of chopped chive, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of garlic and salt and pepper to taste. This can be used as a salad dressing or on the hotdogs. I simply boil my hotdogs until they’re done.
#4. Garden Salad: I love to eat salad. Of course I don’t eat healthy salad, but if it is your only meal, it’s okay to incorporate all of the food groups. Everyone’s salad is different, but here is what mine consists of: Freshly chopped lettuce (lettuce is 89 cents a head at Tesco), chopped cucumber (69 cents a piece at Tesco), sliced green olives (I get a huge jar of green olives at Lidl for less than 3 Euro), ranch dressing (can buy in some Tescos in Dublin area or make recipe above), shredded cheddar cheese (I buy 500 grams of shredded cheddar for less than 3 Euro at Lidl), diced tomato (always cheap), diced onion (always cheap again) and cottage cheese (if I have it – can be purchased for less than a Euro at many local stores). You can make your own croutons out of old bread by tossing bread cubes with butter and seasoning to taste.
#5. Buttered Noodles: If you’ve ever gone into a Noodles & Co. in the states, you may have seen or even tried buttered noodles. Sounds weird, but can be excellent. Pasta is cheap in this country. You can usually buy a bag of penne for less than a Euro (particularly at places like LIdl and Aldi). Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt 1 cup of butter in a frying pan. Add 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of Italian seasonings, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. Melt completely, but do not burn. Shred Parmesan cheese. To serve, fill bowl with hot pasta, pour plenty of butter sauce over the top and sprinkle generously with cheese. Again, the Parmesan and butter are going to be your most expensive purchases, but you should be able to get more than one of these meals out of a blocck of Parmesan. It depends on how much cheese you like and how many people are eating.
Here in Frankfurt I don’t go to the big German supermarkets but the smaller “ethnic” ones. I can get such cheap fruit and veg from the Turkish shop down the road, and I buy red lentils for not much more than a euro at the Indian shop.