The concept of frugality has been on my mind of lot lately. Not really surprising in these current days. Not just because of the need ourselves to be frugal as the on-going pandemic affects our income, but more so seeing the inventiveness of others is inspiring. Sometimes even jaw droppingly so.
There is a saying necessity is the mother of invention, and I think this last year proves this point.
I’m someone who has had a long time interest in downsizing, tiny house or small space living and general make do, use it up, re-purpose style of living. Consequently, It is interesting to see the growth these areas have seen an interest in because of this past year.
Sadly, for many around the world necessity rather than choice has warranted these paths. Originally I had seen a growth of interest in tiny house living simply as an off-set to the cost of housing being out of reach of so many young potential house buyers. Now, I am seeing a switch of mindset to staying within ones means or even below. And choosing to live in a smaller space definitely helps with this option. It’s also no longer about the first time buyers, but all ages and incomes.
A number of years ago I wrote about living on 50 (insert currency here) a week. This was not an uncommon number at that time, though of course there were lower extremes. Now, it is becoming more prevalent to see 1 dollar meals, or living on 25 a week. Or even less. And usually, maybe surprising to many people, linked with being as healthy as possible.
This latter concept is actually really doable, though it may be a revelation for some. Mr P and I have long eaten extremely healthy on very little. There is a general conception that processed or junk food is actually cheaper than healthy eating. This is absolutely not the case. However, as with processed or pre-made foods, there is variations in costs. In example, asparagus costs more than broccoli, even and especially out of season. So Asparagus may not be in budget if your budget is low. So eating healthy yet inexpensively is about determining the best value.
What healthy eating does cost more of though is time. Time and some planning. Often the lower the budget, the more planning is required. In offset, there is also a direct correlation, the lower the budget, the less food wastage. No surprises really, as if your budget is very low you can’t afford to waste.
Frugality or, if you like, a desire to not be wasteful can often be the mother of invention. I never would have discovered broccoli stem pesto if it hadn’t been for not wishing to waste. Learning how to forage and grow our own food have subsequently become real passions. Not to mention food tastes better when grown yourself, even if space is limited to containers.
We still eat meat too, but now, and have done for a long time, look beyond chicken breasts and steak. Slow cooked meats (whether in a slow cooker of Dutch oven) are super tasty, sometimes even more so than their fast cooked counterparts. And they are cheaper, much cheaper. We cook in large batches, thus saving on electricity, and freeze portions for those times when we don’t feel like cooking. Our own ready meals at the ready.
So although it is saddening to see more and more people struggling with finances as this pandemic wears on, I am hopeful that frugality will give a measure of hope to some, independence to others or simply a sense of well being for a few.
I thought I would share my ‘cheapest’ recipe here. It’s my sardine pasta. (A good one to know if you have a pesky tin of sardines sitting there in the back of your cupboard needing using up – which is how I discovered this recipe.) It’s tasty, healthy and has a myriad of variations should the necessity of invention require. It’s also a good recipe for using odd things up. This is a quick stove top recipe, taking about 15 minutes. Serves 2 – so scale accordingly.
Tin of sardines – flavoured or not. Can substitute tinned tuna, fresh fish, or even no fish at all.
4 oz / ½ cup / 100 ml (give or take) Tomato sauce – homemade, tinned, leftover spaghetti sauce, tin of tomatoes, whatever is to hand
Veg – chopped up. I tend to go for, onion, broccoli and bell pepper, but honestly you can use anything.
Capers and/or lemon juice – optional
dill, fennel or cumin seeds (or ground spice) – optional
salt and pepper
For the pasta – I spiralise* a courgette (zucchini). This is a tool that turns veg into noodle shapes, like spaghetti. You could use ordinary wheat based pasta if you like. Simply cook separately and add at the end. Rice or quinoa or lentils could also be used. Again a good opportunity to use up any leftovers.
To Make: You will need a deep frying pan, preferably with a lid.
In a deep frying pan on the stove, on medium heat, put about a tablespoon of oil. If using dill, fennel or cumin seeds/spice add these first to release their aroma and flavourings. Give it a stir. Let sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add in your chopped veg, in order of the longer to cook veg first. Let cook for about 2 minutes before adding next veg. So for me it would be onion, then broccoli, then bell peppers. (Add a little more oil if needed so veg does not burn.) Stir in between each adding, mixing together.
Once all the veg is in, add tin of sardines. Roughly chop up the sardines in the pan. Add tomato sauce. Stir through. Add a teaspoon of capers and a squirt or ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice. Both are optional and can easily be left out. Season with a pinch/teaspoon of sale and pepper.
Lower heat and cover the pan. Let simmer for 5 minutes. If your tomato sauce is on the thick side you can add a little water to thin so it does not burn.
Add your spiralised raw noodles, or cooked wheat noodles, on top of the mixture. Cover again for 2 more minutes. And serve.
Along the lines of frugality, I recently discovered Frugal Jo. An expat American living with her family in the UK. In saving for a house, she has tasked herself to spend no more than 100 GBP a month on food and household necessities. If you have ever needed inspiration on how to save money, repair and re-purpose, her videos are worth a watch.
A spiraliser is great for using up veg, or even disguising often less liked veg. It’s also super useful if you wish to be gluten free. We use a handheld spiraliser, rather than the larger, more expensive, table top type. We are affiliated with Amazon, so as they sell various types of Spiralisers, I figured I would link to this write up so you can see what they look like if you are uncertain.