As prices rise, families may have to decide which bill is bigger

When I talk about feeding families on a budget, I hasten to add that it concerns all of us.

You might have above-average income, but childcare costs, a car loan, and high rent, which would translate into low disposable income. The more we feel prices are rising for energy, fuel for our cars, rent (or mortgage), the less money families will have to pay for groceries. Or that families will have to decide which bill is more important.

In this week’s Irish Examiner we reported that the average household faces a €330 rise on their shopping bill due to inflationary rises, this information courtesy of Kantar.

That’s an extra £6.35 we have to find every week to buy the same groceries we bought last year and that’s before the extra money we have to find from a jar of increasingly reduced to pay for utility increases, etc.

I fight these price increases at home by making my meals “stretchable” and adding extra ingredients to sauces to make them go further. A can of chickpeas in the beef cheek stew featured this week takes the meal from feeding a family of four for dinner to feeding them twice (actually enough for another day). A can of some form of beans is my go-to when cooking sauces and I always try to find where I can fit them in to get the most out of my cooking time and effort.

Likewise, I plump up my dried fruit with a little tea or orange juice before baking and add either ripe bananas or grated apples to my granola bars. Not only does the added fruit make granola bars go further, it also increases fruit and fiber intake for those who eat them.

Spot the bargains

Always check the label is a good motto to stick to and SuperValu this week is a great example of that. 750g of minced beef costs only €3. However, a double pack of mince costs €6 and each pack weighs 500g, making it cheaper to buy two €3 packs of mince to get 50% more meat.

The price of butter increases while milk remains the same.

The price of butter on the rise

Lidl remains the cheapest store to buy its butter at €1.49 per half pound. All other supermarkets cost at least €1.65 a half pound and Tesco’s prices just increased last week to €1.79 a half pound and €2.99 a pound of butter. Unfortunately, this price increase will be reflected in supermarkets in the coming weeks due to pressure on dairy prices. Fortunately, the cost of a liter of milk is still set at 85c for now.

spill the tea

I am well aware that there are deep-rooted loyalties regarding the brand of tea you have chosen. So, without getting into a debate about whether Lyon or Barry is better, I looked at both options. 160 Lyons tea bags are reduced to €4 in Dunnes Stores this week while the original Barry’s green box is reduced to €6 for 160 tea bags. Both are the cheapest prices for the respective teas, whatever your preference.

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Stew

recipe from:Caitriona Redmond

This recipe is perfect for a long, slow cook or a pressure cooker explosion. Either way, beef cheek needs a steady amount of heat and a decent stretch to tenderize.

Slow Cooker Beef Cheek Stew

Cooking time

9 hours 20 minutes

Total time

9 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 trimmed beef cheek

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 bell peppers, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes

  • 4-5 garlic cloves, crushed (more or less if you prefer)

  • 1 teaspoon salt, white pepper, paprika, sugar and dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker pot and mix well. Cook over high heat for 8 hours or until the beef cheek is tender. If you cook in a pressure cooker, this dish will take about 2 hours.
  2. To serve, break up meat with a spoon and stir in freshly cooked pasta. Garnish with chopped basil.

  3. To stretch this meal further, add a can of drained chickpeas at the start.

Fruity granola bars

recipe from:Caitriona Redmond

These fruity and chewy granola bars will keep for up to 5 days in a sealed dry box in a cool place. This is a reliable recipe that I use to fill lunchboxes and for snacks during the week. Make them on a Sunday and you have your extras sorted for the school week

Fruity granola bars

Preparation time

5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 75g coconut oil

  • 75g sweet brown sugar

  • 50g of maple syrup

  • 50g raisins (chopped dried apricots or figs are fine too)

  • 250g rolled oats (make sure they’re gluten-free if you’re on a gluten-free diet)

  • 2 black bananas (if you have a banana allergy or none in the house, you can use 2 eating apples)

Method

  1. Preheat a (ventilated) oven to 170℃.

  2. Place the oil, maple syrup and sugar in a large saucepan and heat until the ingredients are melted together. Stir in the raisins and rolled oats then mix well so that everything is coated with the mixture.

  3. Peel and mash the 2 bananas (or coarsely grate 2 table apples with the skin on), then add the fruit to the oat mixture. Stir again to combine well. Press mixture into a 15cm square brownie pan. I line mine with parchment paper to keep things from getting too messy and for easy serving.

  4. Put the mold in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once they start to brown on top, remove and let cool for 30 minutes before using a knife to stamp the flapjack shapes onto the mixture. Wait until it has completely cooled before breaking off the pieces you have impressed using the knife.

    recipe notes
    Try soaking raisins in about 200ml of orange juice or soaking them in a cup of tea for an hour or two before making these granola bars. It keeps the raisins from drying out while baking and adds a little extra flavor.
    This recipe is plant-based and hypoallergenic. To make it gluten-free, be sure to buy certified gluten-free oats and watch out for cross-contamination in the kitchen.
    If you are concerned about the sugar content, remove the maple syrup and use bananas and grated apples instead.

Julio V. Miller