Another week, another round of energy price increases. It’s a feeling of deja vu with a secondary order of growing anxiety. Companies that have announced increases in their energy costs over the past fortnight must now find between €5 and €10 extra per week in their family budget. With food prices slowly rising, our collective purses will naturally tighten.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), bread is the most wasted food in Ireland, with over 41% of people saying they regularly threw away bread in 2020. When I buy a sliced pan, I put it directly in the freezer, once it is hard. frozen, a yank on the side of the counter will detach the slices individually and I just take what I want out of the wrapper and put the bread back in the freezer. If I have a crusty loaf from the bakery, I cut it in half or quarters as soon as I get home before wrapping up the portions and putting ¾ or half in the freezer for later in the week. The heels or ends of stale bread turn into breadcrumbs which I also keep in a bag in the freezer.
You can also bake your own brown bread and I’ve included my simple, less messy recipe this week for you to try with storage instructions. Irish brown flour will probably be easier to find in the coming months and this recipe works great for Irish ingredients.
I hope last week you took my advice and went through your food cupboards to see what you had and what you could use to save money on your shopping. What did you do if you found things you didn’t like? Have you considered swapping your unloved ingredients with friends or neighbors for something you like instead? Did you find any old open jars in the spice rack? Spices and dried herbs lose potency over time once they have been opened. Rather than pouring the contents of long-opened jars into the trash, use double or triple amounts to get the flavor you’re looking for while cooking. It’s a great way to use what you have.
I’ll be tracking the cost of a basket of groceries in supermarkets over the next few weeks, you’ll see this week’s results below along with my picks for the best value deals on the shelf this week.
As you can see above, this week Aldi is significantly cheaper for our sample cart thanks to special offers on ground beef, chicken and carrots. Use my recipe for cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker for sandwich fillings and you’ll have plenty of fresh chicken to enjoy all week.
I realize that spending €50, getting €10 off your next store deal is very attractive at Dunnes Stores, and SuperValu is sending out their cashback vouchers right now, but it’s always worth checking out other supermarkets to see if there are better prices for the foods you buy regularly. Like the choice of energy suppliers, there is no additional loyalty discount. Do your research and shop at the supermarket that offers the best value for you and your family.
The best value for ground beef this week is actually Lidl, who are offering a special offer for 750g of ground beef for just €3. It’s a deal worth stocking your freezer with. We have about fifteen days off to fill the lunch boxes thanks to the Easter holidays. I will fill the fruit bowl with lots of fruit for the hungry children; luckily Tesco has a 10 pack of fun sized apples for 89c and a dash of easy peel tangerines for 85c.
Less messy brown bread
I played around with my mom’s brown bread recipe and found a version that takes 5 minutes to throw in a bowl and stir with a fork before putting it in the oven.
1 hour 5 mins
Preheat a ventilated oven to 210℃. Line a 2 lb loaf pan with parchment paper. You can either grease it well and sprinkle it generously with white flour. Take a large mixing bowl and place all the dry ingredients inside. Using a fork, stir together the dry ingredients until combined.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and break the 2 eggs into it, pour in half the buttermilk. Using the fork, mix everything together until it starts to clump together. Pour in the rest of the buttermilk and stir once more. You will get a very thick paste. It doesn’t look like bread dough at all!
Pour the batter into the lined cake tin and place the cake tin in the hot oven.
Bake at 210℃ for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 200°C after 20 minutes and cook for another 45 minutes.
After this time, check that the bread is cooked by inserting a skewer deep into the bread. If it comes out dry and clean, the bread is done. If not, return it to the oven for another 10 minutes before testing again.
Once the bread is cooked, take the mold out of the oven, and carefully remove the bread from the mold (it’s very hot). Wrap it in a damp kitchen towel and place it on a cooling rack. This will soften the crust to make it easier to slice. If you prefer a crispy crust, turn off the oven and return the bread to the oven rack while it cools.
Once completely cold, the bread will keep for 3 days in a bread box, you can freeze it for up to 3 months if it is well wrapped. You can also slice the bread, then freeze individual slices that will keep for up to 1 month. If you’re cooking for one or two people, I recommend this method of cooking, slicing, then freezing.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Sandwich Filling
A few weeks ago I recommended cooking a whole ham to reduce the cost of more expensive sliced ham for lunch boxes. Some readers have contacted me asking if I have a suggestion of cooked chicken or turkey for the sandwiches.
3 hours 0 minutes
3 hours 5 mins
Place the chicken fillets in the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle with herbs and spices. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours. Once cooked, leave the lid on and let come to room temperature before slicing or shredding and storing in the fridge or freezer.
For even more value, cook a large whole chicken (this will give you about 1 kg of white and dark meat). Place whole chicken in slow cooker, sprinkle herbs and spices on top and cook on high for 5-6 hours. Let the chicken cool completely before removing the meat from the bones. I distribute the meat in lunch boxes. Once cooked, it will keep in the fridge in an airtight lunch box for up to 3 days. If I’ve made enough for an entire week, I’ll put half in the freezer.