Cook, Eat, Save, Repeat For Thriftier Lunches
Last week I posted a new, thrifty Packed Lunch Planner. If you are joining me in saving money by following that plan, here are instructions and links for batching the Lentil Soup and Cheesy Cornbread for Mondays each week, and the Salmon And Cream Cheese Croissants for Tuesdays.
I will be batching up one lot of packed lunches each week and by the end of January will be back up to full, frugal, lunch-producing speed.
If you don’t want to follow my plan to the letter (or at all) you can download the blank planner and use it to create your own menu of packed lunches to stash away in the freezer and cupboard ready for you and yours to enjoy every day.
Monday Lunch: Lovely Lentil Soup and Cheesy Cornbread
Cornbread is very, very easy to make – bung ingredients in a bowl, stir up, pour into a baking tin, bake, done. (I am no stranger to kitchen disaster, and even I have never had a cornbread go wrong on me.) I will be using Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Chilli Cheese Cornbread recipe but will omit the chilli or the little Tartans will refuse to eat it. When it has cooled, cut it into bars and wrap in cling film before freezing.
Lentil soup needs no recipe – a bit of chopped bacon, an onion and other veg, lentils, stock cubes, some common sense… But just in case, you can’t go wrong with Jamie Oliver’s version here. When your soup has cooled pour it into four plastic tubs with lids and freeze.
Defrost your box of soup overnight. In the morning, pour it into a pot and bring to the boil. At the same time, boil a kettle. When the soup is bubbling, pour the boiled water into your flasks and then pour out again. Turn off the heat under the soup, decant into a jug and then pour into your flasks. Heating the flasks with boiled water will stop them from absorbing heat from the soup. This is especially helpful if you are using metal flasks.
It’s up to you whether you use fresh pineapple or tinned – I go for whichever is cheapest (it varies) but make sure to buy only fruit that is tinned in juice. I put it in little plastic pots, taping a cocktail stick to each lid for easy spearing.
Tuesday Lunch: Salmon And Cream Cheese Croissants
For these, I like to use the bags of croissants sold in Aldi and Lidl. At 99p for eight they are much cheaper than the freshly baked supermarket or bakery offerings, a more manageable size for little hands and mouths and, in my opinion, much tastier, with a soft rather than flaky texture. Their slightly sweet flavour works nicely with the salty fish. Split the croissants before freezing in bags.
To make the salmon and cream cheese pate, buy a bag of budget smoked salmon trimmings. (Lidl are my favourite for texture and flavour but most supermarkets do a decent version.) Combine these in a food processor with two packs of full fat cream cheese and black pepper. Put the salmon pate into sandwich bags, one for each week. Freezing the pate separately means that you can give it a quick stir once defrosted to restore its proper creamy texture before spooning it quickly into the split croissants. Different brands of cream cheese vary in how well they freeze, with some coming out a bit crumbly. If stirring alone doesn’t fix it, add a little mayonnaise. If the texture looks fine, just snip the bottom corner off the freezer bag and pipe the pate into the croissants like icing. Wonderfully pink icing with a surprising aroma…
Smoothies freeze well, and I find putting them in the lunch bag straight from the freezer helps to keep the salmon and cheese mix fresh. Little cartons are easy to use, but big cartons decanted into your own bottles are cheaper. Chop carrots into small sticks and pop them into little plastic tubs. Or use baby carrots and avoid fiddly chopping altogether.
Click here to download this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner.