Thrifty times

In Recipes on April 1, 2011 at 4:16 am

The cost of living is going up.  Utility bills, petrol prices, rents and mortgages, groceries – the only thing that never seems to go up is wages.  Even so called middle class households are doing it tough.  As a consequence the greed and rampant consumerism that characterized the eighties, nineties and early ‘noughties’ is out of vogue and thrift is most definitely in.  Come to think of it, for those of us who have always tried to live a sustainable life, it was never really out.  Wastage and over consumption have never been ‘green’.

Food is a big part of the household budget so it an obvious area where you can save money and cut down on wastage at the same time.  In every house’s budget there is always room for improvement.  One way of saving money at the supermarket is to ‘mix it up’.  I shop regularly at Coles, Woolworths, Aldi along with various Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, Vietnamese etc. markets and supermarkets.  This is why I eschew  ‘rewards’ cards as these cards are trying to lock you into shopping at one place.  Ultimately you will pay more and, with less competition in the marketplace, so will everyone else.  Unless I am making a specific dish for a special occasion, I try not to go shopping with a fixed idea in my mind of what I am going to make.  While there I’ll make my purchasing decisions based on what is on special and what is in season.

Then there are the cheaper ingredients.  Just because you are trying to save money you don’t have to eat bad food.  Buy good quality mince and get it on special when you can; buy a whole free range chicken instead of just the breast fillets and use the whole bird, saving the carcass and wings to make stock; buy the cheaper cuts of meat and use long, slow cooking and the addition of herbs and spices to transform them; buy the more expensive cuts of meat in smaller quantities – make a stir fry that uses vegetables and/or noodles with only a small amount of meat.  Eat vegetarian food a few times a week.  Vegetables, as long as they are in season (and barring natural disasters) are usually pretty cheap.  Supplement these with Italian tinned tomatoes, tinned and dried pulses and frozen peas.  Cheese, eggs and tofu are also good, cheap ingredients to bulk out vegetarian food.  Finally, make sure you have a well stocked spice cupboard and a few herbs in pots.  Of course, if you have the space (many people don’t) a vegetable garden is good but it is surprising how much flavour you can add to food with just a few well chosen spices and some fresh herbs.

The recipe here provides a good, tasty meal at a bargain price.

Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs


For the meatballs:

5o0 g pork and veal mince (beef mince and turkey mince are also good)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp tomato paste

1 tbs finely chopped fresh oregano

1 tbs finely chopped basil leaves

1 tbs finely shredded spring onions

freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste (remember the Parmesan is quite salty)

seasoned flour

1 tbs each of olive oil and sunflower oil and a small knob of butter

For the sauce:

450 g tin diced Italian tomatoes

1 onion (finely chopped)

1-2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1/cup chicken stock

pinch of all spice and salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh herbs


Place all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl.  Mix well, I find clean hands the best way to do this.  Shape into small balls and roll in the flour.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  Heat oil and butter in a heavy based pan.  Fry meatballs until golden brown, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure they brown on all sides and don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.  When brown remove from pan and set aside.

Drain a little oil from pan (if necessary) and add chopped onion and garlic.  Cook gently for 1-2 mins.  Add diced tomatoes, all spice and chicken stock.  Season to taste.  Reduce on high for ten minutes.  Return meatballs to pan and reduce to a simmer for a further 20 mins. turning the meatballs occasionally to make sure they get a good dousing in the sauce.  Finish with fresh herbs and freshly grated Parmesan.  Serve with spaghetti or polenta.  Serves 4.

Stay tuned for Pea and Ham soup.

  1. Food is definitely a large part of the household budget. Your meatball dish looks tasty. Another way to save is to pack the meal and take it to work to eat instead of buying lunch. I usually brown bag my lunch 4 days a week and buy on Fridays.

  2. You sold me on thrifty with this beautiful dish.

  3. I wonder how long this would feed me! 🙂

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