Can you Eat Good Meat on a Tight Budget?

Budget Friendly Series Article 2

Preparing for Winter

Okay with astronomically high inflation, a price cap on energy-which really isn’t that much help, more families are set to be pushed into fuel poverty this winter, and with the rising cost of food, bills and with no pay increase to match, the UK isn’t looking so promising right now as we prepare for winter.

I’ve always loved Autumn, I see it as a chance to wind down from the hot summer and take time out to write and of course cook. It is my favourite season, but this year there is a sense of panic in the air as winter approaches over the horizon.

So, as the summer ends, I decided to set myself a challenge. I decided to go budget-friendly and see if I could sustain living on a minimal budget. I’ve always loved to save money, I see clothes as an investment that I’ll wear for years to come and am always on the hunt for good deals, so I thought I’d enjoy this challenge, but what I was most worried about was food.

I can cut down on little luxuries, I’m sure, but how am I going to feed a hungry family on such a small budget? So that’s when I decided I’d have to buy in bulk, meal plan and prep in advance. I started to grow my own veg this year, which has been an amazing learning journey, and I use a lot of pluses and grains. Carbs are cheap but what about meat? The cost of meat is rising rapidly and it’s something my family eats a lot of, so that’s when I ordered a huge meat box from Swaledale Butchers.

I gave myself a budget of £80 to spend on meat- which might sound like a lot, but it’s not really when I worked it out. When I added up everything my family eats a week, typically I spend around £36.99 per week on meat and £12 on fish, for example, a week before I started this, my meat shopping cost me:

  • 1 x portion diced chicken £3.50
  • 2 x steak £8.50
  • 1 x pack of sausages £3.50
  • 1 x bacon £2
  • 2 x salmon £6
  • 1 x pack of prawns £2.50
  • 1 x pack lamb koftas £3.50
  • 1 x mince £3.99
  • 1 x joint of pork loin £4.50
  • 1 x joint of beef £7.50
  • 1 x pack of cod £3.50

Now shamefully I must admit, the majority of my shopping comes from a supermarket. I just don’t have time to visit a butcher, I run a business and have two young kids, and I like to shop in one convenient place. But I know over winter, this will be my downfall and I’m going to have to change my spending habits.

I don’t think I reasonably overspend here; I have two growing children after all, and Sunday dinners are a time to spend time with the family, so I don’t mind splashing out on a joint to feed the family and I’m sure many families do this. So, I worked out that in a month I typically spend £147.96 on meat alone. £80 then would save me £67.96 per month.

Unboxing

So, I was really excited when my big box arrived. It’s been ages since I had a big delivery of meat and it really got my creative juices flowing. The meat itself was flat packed which was amazing because I was kind of shocked by how big the joints of meat were. This made them easy to freeze for later, and because all the meat is butchered to order, it means that it is absolutely suitable for freezing.

They came with two ice cooler packs to ensure the temperature of the meat was cool when delivered and I got free delivery because my order was over £60. Just a side note the minimum order is £40 here but if you buy in bulk for the month ahead, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Now one of the biggest problems I have personally is that I tend to decide what I want to eat that day, the fact that I used to chef in kitchens means that I’ve become spoilt. I’m used to having an abundance of ingredients all around, so even when I try to cut down on spending when it comes to food, it’s kind of hard for me to do because I lose track of how much I am spending. This really was going to be a challenge for me.

What attracted me to Swaledale butchers was the quality of the meat. It’s grass-fed animals and prime cuts of meat, so I thought to myself, well, if I’m going to have to eat less meat, I want to make sure it’s quality produce. I want more nutrients from my meat. I also liked that they supply to restaurants because I know this means they will be reliable with fast delivery and the taste is going to be phenomenal.

So, I put an order in, £80 I thought – “this is not going to be enough“. I started with the special offers. They have special offers on meat that change every month, so I’d recommend checking their special offers out. Then I looked at the prime steaks, way out of my price range but they looked amazing. I started to get hungry. They’ve got a large selection of meat boxes available, including a family meat box for £80 which would be a quick and convenient purchase for me in the future and still offers a fantastic selection of meat.

I decided to look at the offal and bones section, if I was seriously going to feed my family on a budget this looked like a good option. Bones make excellent stock and can be added to stews. Animal fat can be used to cook with and contains many nutrients and hearts are classified as superfoods. Although many people shy away from these parts, they’re an excellent alternative to provide sustenance for a fraction of the cost. What’s more, is that these animals are grass-fed so they’re going to be extremely healthy.

Here’s what I bought:

  • 2 x 2 Flat Iron Steaks
  • 1 x Smoked Ham Hock
  • 1 x Diced Leg of Lamb
  • 1 x Lamb Heart
  • 1 x Swaledale Chef’s Choice Meat Box which contained:
  • 1 x Pack of Yorkshire Breakfast Sausages
  • 1 x Pack of Lamb Merguez Sausages
  • 1 x Pack of Dry Cured Streaky Bacon
  • 1 x Pack of Tuscan Sausage Meat
  • 1 x Pack Marrow Boat Canoes
  • 1 X kg Salt Beef
  • 1 x 750g Smoked Pigs Cheek
  • 1 x 800g Pork Shoulder Chop

The Result

The biggest challenge I had here wasn’t the budget, after all, it was convincing my kids to eat lamb heart, it’s funny how squeamish they were, even after I read out all the benefits it still caused a fuss, but after some persistence eventually, they tried it and it actually wasn’t bad. I was amazed by all the drama and excitement it created around meal time and I’d recommend it just for that alone.

So I had my partner on hand to create some dishes with me. He enjoyed this challenge so much I’ve convinced him to start his own cooking blog… watch this space. Yay! So thanks Swaledale Butchers.

I tried to feed my family by using cupboard essentials and cheap ingredients that I thought most people would have access to. It was a tight budget challenge after all, so here’s a list of everything we made…

  • 2 steak dinners with chips, peas and peppercorn sauce
  • 1 crispy ham hock with crackling, a roast dinner for the family
  • 1 giant batch of ham hock soup with the leftovers which I froze in batches of around 12 hungry portions
  • 4 Irish lamb heart stew with a flat iron steak cut into pieces
  • Marrowbone butter on beer bread toast with sour cream, chives and smoked salmon
  • 2 litres of beef and vegetable stock made from the bones which we made into French onion soup 8 portions
  • 6 portions of Carbonara
  • 4 portions of sausage and mint mash with onion gravy
  • Roasted rare joint of beef, finely carved with Yorkshire puddings, mash, carrots and sausage meat sage and onion stuffing
  • 8 portions of vegetable, bacon and lentil soup
  • 4 portions of lamb and cashew nut Balti with homemade nan bread and rice
  • Lamb sausage koftas with homemade hummus, pita bread and a simple salad
  • Breakfast flatbread wraps with sausage, beans and egg
  • 4 portions of sausage casserole with mash
  • Tomato and olive spaghetti pasta with slices of steak from the leftover beef joint, and garlic bread
  • 4 portions of beef Stroganoff with the rest of the leftovers, steamed greens and cauliflower rice
  • BBQ, then slow-cooked pieces of pig cheek, with crackers, cheese and tapas
  • 6 Tacos, pork meat, salad, sour cream and red cabbage
  • 4 portions of Bourbon smoked pigs’ cheek in a honey and mustard glaze, pan-fried potatoes, roasted shallots with sweet potato carrot mash and steamed cabbage
  • Thai style Pork cheek with coconut sticky rice
  • 4 portions of Thai beef noodle soup
  • Herb brined pork chop with a Dijon mustard glaze Sunday dinner
  • 6 portions of Koren pork soup, made with bone stock

Now I still spent my usual budget of £12 per week on fish, which made up some meals in between, generally, I made paellas, steamed salmon with baked potatoes, fish pie and curries, so these were all wholesome and filling meals, nonetheless, I was totally surprised by how many meals I managed to make with this meat order. With some better planning, I probably could have made these go further. I also kept to basics, carbs are cheap, so these were a filling staple and I picked veg that I’m sure most people have around which are inexpensive.

When I started this, I really didn’t think that £80 was a big enough budget for meat that comes from a prime butcher, let alone one that won great taste awards. This order fed my entire family.

What I love about Swaledale Butchers is that because they’re a whole carcass butcher, they offer more than just standard cuts of meat. I’d recommend trying their range of offal to create whole cheap meals, especially as budgets get tight this winter.

Often offal, especially heart contains many more nutrients than other meat. It has a texture akin to liver and is soft when cooked low and slow. I think offal is an amazing alternative for families this winter, looking to feed their family with nutrients, but still looking for quality produce.

Recipes

As the summer winds down and the coolness of autumn sets in, I always forget how much I love this time of year, I have a little sadness that the summer season is coming to an end but then I remember autumn is a time for resting and recuperating. I like how cosy autumn is and I love to spend time cooking with my kids, although my son is getting older now and was quite pleased with himself after cooking an English breakfast. He said the sausages were “phenomenal.”

I was so excited to try some new recipes with this meat box. I’ve never eaten lamb heart and I must admit my partner and I were a little nervous about cooking it. We watched loads of recipes on YouTube about how to prepare it, which were all different, but in the end, we just went for it.

I recently did a genetic test with 23andMe, which was a cool birthday present, and I discovered that I’m 93% of Irish descent, so that inspired me to do an Irish stew…

Irish Lamb Heart Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lamb heart
  • 1 Flat Iron Steak
  • Garlic
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Celeriac
  • Homemade beef stock (made from marrow bone)
  • Potato
  • 1/2 pint of Guinness
  • 1 TBS of Worchester Sauce
  • 1 TBS of plain flour
  • 1 TBS Butter
  • Mint as a garnish

Side:

  • Swede and Carrot Mash
  • Steamed Cabbage

Method:

I was so grateful that the heart arrived pre-trimmed, this meant washing it really thoroughly before slicing it. Cut it by butterflying the heart. You can remove the cartilage but we just sliced it into chunks, it wasn’t huge so w didn’t want to waste any. Then we sliced the steak into chunks and fried them on high heat to seal them.

Add onions, carrots and celeriac to sweat.

Then we added 1 TBS of flour to cook in the heat and get rid of the taste of flour with a little butter, before adding half a pint of Guinness and beef stock, which we made from the marrow bones and vegetables the day before.

We added 3 whole cloves of garlic and cubes of potato, 1 TBS of Worchester sauce and then placed it in the slow cooker for 7 hours.

We served with a side of steamed cabbage and swede and carrot mash.

Lamb Merguez Sausage, homemade flatbread and Hummous

Ingredients:

Flatbread:

  • 3 TBS Extra virgin olive oil
  • Hymilian salt
  • 200g Plain Flour

Method:

Mix ingredients together, roll into 4 dough balls, flatten in pan frying on high heat for around 4 minutes on each side until slightly brown. Cover with black pepper and drizzle with olive oil to serve.

Hummous:

  • 1 tin Chickpeas
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oi
  • Cashews
  • Mint to garnish
  • 1 TSP Tahini
  • 1 TSP hot water
  • 1 TSP paprika
  • Lemon Juice
  • 1 TSP Tumeric
  • 1 TSP Cumin
  • Serve with slices of carrot and salted celery

Method:

Drain chickpeas, add to food processor with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, and blitz. Add 1 TSP Tahini and 1 TSP of hot water to stop it from seizing up. Blitz again. Add spices and blitz again until it forms a paste. Add more lemon juice and olive oil if needed then salt and pepper to taste. Serve scattered with Cashews, olive oil and mint to garnish.

Serve with lamb merguez sausages.

Homemade Dominos Style Pizza

To cut down on our spending budget, we have said farewell to takeaways, but my partner thought he’d give a dominos made at home a go and do you know something? I preferred it to Dominos and it was made for a fraction of the price. These breakfast sausages guys are amazing. The sauce was made with fresh herbs from our garden.

Crispy Smoked Lentil and Ham Hock Soup

After a huge Sunday dinner, we were left with a large amount of Ham Hock left over. All the meat is naturally smoked so no nasty chemicals are involved whatsoever, which usually puts me off buying smoked meat.

Ingredients:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Lentils
  • Soup mix with pearl barley
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Parsnip
  • Ham Hock whole
  • salt and pepper

Method:

So firstly we boiled the ham hock in enough water to cover it. We boiled it for around an hour before removing it and then cooking it in the oven for around 2 hours. Firstly this makes the rind easier to cut and salt to make nice crackling and secondly it flavours the water, becoming stock for the soup. We then added craft beer and sliced onion halves to a roasting tray. We had ham for a Sunday dinner, then used the remaining meat for the soup the next day.

Add vegetables and lentils to ham hock water and bring to a boil, cook on low heat for two hours, don’t salt the water yet as this can make the lentils tough. add chunks of ham, and garlic cloves and cook for longer adding chicken stock to top it up.

Finally blitz until finely blended. Serve with homemade bread and can be frozen in batches for later. Simply add more stock at a later date.

Marrow on Beer Bread Toast

Soak marrow bones in salted water for a few hours to sterilize any blood, then roast the bones in an oven for 35 mins. Serve like butter spread on toast. I topped mine with sour cream and smoked salmon. Use bones to make stock. Boil in water for a few hours with vegetables.

Beer Bread:

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of easy yeast
  • 500g of easy yeast
  • 1/2 Bottle of Craft Beer
  • 100ml of just off the boil water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Olive Oil

Method:

Add flour, sugar and easy yeast and stir. In a separate bowl add beer and 100ml of hot water. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix. Once resembling a dough add 1TBS of Salt. Knead and leave to prove somewhere warm for two hours. Knead again and add to a baking tray. Cover and leave to prove for an hour.

Bake for around 50 minutes at 160 degrees. tapping the base to make sure it’s cooked.

Thanks for reading today and to Swaledale Butchers– we were so impressed by the quality of your products. I asked my daughter to rate the taste and she gave you 9/10!

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