Cheap eats: Pork belly and greens 

I absolutely love pork belly. Its fattiness feels decadent but it’s such a doddle to prepare. This is a great Friday night supper, when you want something a bit special because it’s the weekend but you’re also knackered from a week at work and your kids are finally in bed.

You can get 6 or 7 pork belly slices from Aldi for less than £2, which is enough for 2 adult dinners plus a bit of lunch the next day for one of you. Add some pak choi at about £1.50 and some rice or super noodles and that’s about £4.00 for 3 meals, assuming you have the store cupboard bits.

What you need

  • 500g pork belly slices
  • Small knob of ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • Slug of dark soy sauce
  • Tablespoon of honey
  • 2 star anise or a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder
  • Pack of pak choi
  • Rice or noodles, to serve

What you do

  1. Mix together the ginger, garlic, soy, honey and star anise/5 spice then rub into the pork. I find the best way to do this is to put everything into a freezer bag, tie off the top and mush it together. Then you can throw the bag in the bin when you’re done!
  2. Marinate for as long as you can. If you do this in the morning before work, that’s perfect.
  3. Tip the meat and sauce into a baking dish and cook at 180C for 40-50 mins, turning once.
  4. Meanwhile, cook your rice or noodles and steam the pak choi.
  5. Pour any sauce over the meat and green to serve. That’s it!

Make it veggie: Well, it’s pork belly, so you know…You could use a similar marinade for firm tofu.
Make it low-carb: Remove the noodles/rice or replace with a zero version
Make it child-friendly: Add a little more honey and a squirt of tomato ketchup to the marinade


Cheap eats: Quiche


I love a quiche, I do. Quick and cheap. Makes dinner plus lunches the next day. Great for using up the last of the tinned sweetcorn and curling ham slices and a sad half pepper and some tired mushrooms. Easily bulked out with frozen veg. Can be eaten hot or cold, summer or winter. Mum used to make one at least once a fortnight and I understand why.

The pastry for this costs pennies. Cream costs about 75p and you’ll need about 50p of grated cheese, plus 2 eggs. So about £2 plus whatever other ingredients you choose to include.

What you need

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100 butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100ml cream
  • handful of grated cheese
  • Protein fillings: try chopped ham, crispy bacon, smoked salmon
  • Veg fillings: I’ve used tinned sweetcorn, frozen peas, diced peppers, cherry or sundried tomatoes, asparagus tips, broccoli, sliced mushrooms, spring onions, diced courgette, diced butternut squash, artichokes in olive oil, olives. (Blast peppers, courgettes and squash in the microwave to soften first.)

What you do

  1. Make the pastry by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the butter. Rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the salt, then chill in the fridge for 20 mins.
  2. Roll the pastry out into a pie dish, prick the bottom and blind bake at 180C for 15-20 mins followed by 5 mins uncovered, until just brown.
  3. Mix together the eggs, cream, cheese and fillings. Pour into the pie crust and bake for 20-25 mins until the filling is just set.
  4. Serve with salad or green beans, if you like.

Make it veggie: Leave out the meat and fish. Add some feat, perhaps
Make it low-carb: You can bake the filling without a crust
Make it child-friendly: Let the kids choose the veg, and make them in muffin tins for child-sized portions

Cheap eats: Sausage and spinach pasta 

I try not to eat too much pasta but it’s definitely a cost effective way of feeding the family. I also got some new pasta bowls for my birthday (not the one pictured which came from a pound shop about 10 years ago) which are just screaming out for a big tangle of linguine or tagliatelle.

I used just two pork sausages for this from a pack of 8, plus half a bag of baby spinach and a few spoons of creme fraiche. It will depend on how good the sausages are, but I estimate this cost about £2.00 for two portions.

What you need

  • 2 pork sausages, skins removed
  • Half a bag of baby spinach
  • A clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 fat tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • A teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
  • Enough long pasta for two people
  • Splash of olive oil

What you do

  1. Put your pasta on to cook
  2. Fry off the garlic in the olive oil, then crumble in the sausage meat and brown
  3. Add the creme fraiche and mustard to the pan, then add the spinach and cook until it wilts
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with a drop of the cooking water and mix together. Done.


Make it veggie: Hmm, probably not worth it. You could try Quorn mince but I wouldn’t bother, frankly
Make it low-carb: LOL. Pasta.
Make it child-friendly: Use a mild mustard.

Kid-friendly meals: Savoury mince and vegetable pie

Big G has very strict rules on what constitutes a pie. It should have both a pastry top and bottom, none of this “casserole with a pastry lid” nonsense. He’s not alone – there was even a petition about this a few years ago.

But time is of the essence, so this pie only has pastry on the top. Sorry, Big G.

This pie is the food of childhood. Your mother probably made one; your grandmother definitely would have done. It’s very plain, using basic mince, but so tasty.

Feeds a family of four with plenty of leftovers.

What you need

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup of diced vegetables
  • 250ml beef stock
  • Tablespoon of flour
  • Tsp tomato puree
  • Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Block of ready-made pastry
  • 1 egg

What you do

  1. In a little oil, soften the onion.
  2. Add the diced veg and cook until soft but still firm. I used sweet potato, carrot and frozen peas. Mushrooms would have been good but Big G doesn’t eat them. I see a lot of recipes suggesting tomatoes and celery; I say, it’s not a bolognese. Once cooked, set the vegetables to one side.
  3. In the same frypan, brown the mince until all moisture has evaporated. Stir in the flour, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Add the veg back to the pan and pour over the stock. Simmer for 20 mins, until thickened.
  5. Pour the mixture into a pie dish and allow to cool.
  6. Cover with a pastry top. Decorate with pastry shapes, if you like, and make a small slit to allow steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg then bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is brown and crispy and the filling is hot.

There is enough in the pie that you could serve it alone, but I served it with mash and creamed spinach.

Make it veggie: Quorn would be the obvious substitute here, but with enough ‘meaty’ veg you could omit it. Try lots of mushrooms, kidney beans and finely diced sweet potato and swede.

10 little acts of self care you can do right now

Sunday blues. I still get them, even with a new job to look forward to and a lovely weekend with the family behind me.

It’s a feeling of unnamed dread, the sense that something terrible is looming, it’s all moving too fast, and I won’t be able to cope. Perhaps you’re going back to a job that makes you anxious, perhaps it’s the thought of five days without your partner to help with the kids, perhaps you’ve seen your friends this weekend but the week ahead is long and lonely. But while our brains are going flat out, there are things we can do to calm them, and still our bodies, and ground us.

Whatever makes you anxious and stressed, here are a few quick things you can do to manage you situation and how you feel.


Tidy up It could be as simple as making your bed (which you can then lie in) or folding the washing (which can be done sitting in front of the TV). Or you could sort your spice rack, or pair the tupperware with their respective lids, or arrange a bookshelf, or throw out some grotty old pants. You don’t have to go all Marie Kondo, just bring a tiny bit of oder into your environment, which a feverish brain will appreciate.

Have a bath I know, this a terrible cliche, like people suggesting you ‘book a spa day’ as revenge for your partner going out on the lash, but there’s science behind the suggestion. Specifically, if you have trouble falling asleep, have a hot bath before bedtime. Your body temperature naturally drops before you fall asleep, so forcing the change will help you drop off.

Ring your mum There’s something comforting about ringing your mum. You don’t have to talk about what’s troubling you if you don’t want. She’ll tell you all about the neighbour’s new conservatory and what the dog did and a bargain she got at the supermarket, and you can pretend you’re at school again and that you’re going to wash your hair and watch Top of the Pops.

Eat a salad As tempting as it is to mainline cheese, try to put something nourishing into your body. A good salad is fresh and interesting and has the right ratio of time to prepare vs time to eat. I made three suggestions of salads to eat when you are sad last week. Conversely,

Eat a cake You could make one, or better still you could go to a coffee shop and order something stupendous. Have a decent cup of tea, and use a fork. Make it an occasion. Cake is delicious.

Read a comfort book It’s nice to regress. And a book from your teens with which you are familiar will keep your mind occupied but not require too much brain power to keep up with the narrative. My go-to is the Dark is Rising series, but consider Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, Pippi Longstocking, Adrian Mole, some Austen or some cheeky Chalet School.

Get creative It might making be an elaborate meal, knitting a pair of socks, doing some colouring, or building with lego. Give yourself a shit hot manicure. Fold some origami. Or even a paper plane. Write some rude limericks. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how complex it is or isn’t – the act of creating will be satisfying.

Do some exercise Yeah, this is one you’ll have heard a lot. The trick is to find the right exercise. I can’t take long walks or do yoga, because my brain recognises the silence and starts making lists and harrassing me.  I prefer a class at the gym, something very fast and complex, so I have no time to think about anything. But walk the kids to the park, do some gardening, cycle to the pub in the next village – just move a little bit. On the other hand, if circumstances allow,

Have a duvet day Do it properly: clean sheets, clean jammies, a good box set. Eat cereal and scrambled egg on toast and drinks many cups of tea. Snooze and read in between.

Give back Acts of altruism have a positive impact on our own mental health. Donate to a charity, knit something for an organisation  that needs knitters, clean out your wardrobe and take stuff to a charity shop, see if your elderly neighbour needs anything from the shop.

Above all, be kind to yourself. We all have good days, and bad days, and on the days when we are feeling fragile it’s ok to retreat from the world. But take care of yourself, too, and please talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Self care will help day to day, but you should seek help if you need it longer term.

What do you do to look after yourself?

Salads for when you are sad

If you are feeling miserable, and cannot bear to get dressed in anything more than leggings or sweatpants, it is tempting to eat a tray of macaroni cheese, followed by some chocolate eclairs. And, indeed, I would encourage you to do that.

But…perhaps not every day.

Some days, you should eat a salad. Not just because it’s good for you, but because a well-crafted salad is a thing of beauty. Its lovely little tasty bits will wake up your mouth and interest your palate, and by taking care of the ingredients – separating soft leaves, slow roasting veg, careful peeling – you begin to take care of yourself.

A great salad has the following elements:

Something crunchy – This is often the salad leaves themselves, but could also be nuts, or crispy bacon, or a crips apple
Something soft – A different type of salad leaf, perhaps, or some roasted vegetables, or, best of all, cheese
Something bright and sharp – some citrus fruit, or a sharp vinaigrette
Something salty – bacon or cheese again, or a handful of capers, or some wee anchovies scattered over

Here are three salads I’ve eaten this past fortnight, sometimes in my trackie bottoms.

Pear, hazlenut, watercress and blue cheese

Cut a ripe pear into bite-sized chunks. Mix in a bowl with a handful of watercress, then scatter over some chopped hazlenuts and blue cheese. Make a dressing of 2 parts oil and 1 part wine vinegar.

Fig, walnut and goats cheese

Add some honey, balsamic and salt to the bottom of a salad bowl and warm briefly in the microwave to melt the honey. Toss the walnuts through to coat. Throw in some leaves (I used lamb’s tongue lettuce) and the figs, then scatter over the goats cheese.

Lentil, sweet potato and feta

Chop a sweet potato into small pieces and roast until soft. Take green lentils (you can cook them yourself, if you like; I used a pre-prepared packet) and add the cooked sweet potato and some rocket. Crumble over the feta. Make a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic; add some chilli if you’d like.

(These are guides, rather than exact amounts – keep tasting and adjusting. Most of the leaves can be substituted for something else, depending on what you have in the fridge.)

What’s your favourite salad? And what do you what do you eat when you’re feeling down?

Kid-friendly meals: Tortilla nachos

I know, I know, nachos are pretty junky. But they’re such a nice Saturday evening tea – perfect before a movie night, and you can eat them with your fingers.

So I  made this version with whole tortillas, instead of shop-bought corn crisps, and a homemade sauce. There was much less sugar than there might have been, only what’s in the tortillas. And I got a surprising amount of veg in: tomatoes, kidney beans, sweet corn and avocado. Which is pretty good going for a Saturday night.

G Major did nearly all of this herself as well, under supervision, so this is a  nice one to do with the kids.

What you’ll need (Feeds 2 hungry children and one hovering adult)

  • 3 mini tortillas or 2 regular sized ones
  • 250g beef mince (I froze the other half of the pack for some distant bolognese)
  • Small tin of kidney beans
  • Half a brown onion, finely chopped
  • Sprinkle of paprika and ground cumin
  • Small tin chopped tomatoes
  • An avocado
  • Grated cheese and sour cream, to serve

What you do

  1. Cut the tortillas into small triangles. Put them onto a baking tray and drizzle over a tiny bit of oil, then bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, giving them the occasional shake, until crisped up
  2. Chop the kidney beans to roughly the same consistency as the beef. I did a short burst in the food processor but go easy – you don’t want mush, just unidentifiable bean-y bits
  3. Heat a little oil in a fry pan and brown the onion and then the mince. Sprinkle in the paprika and cumin
  4. Add the chopped kidney beans, the tomatoes and sweet corn and cook for another few minutes
  5. Meanwhile, mash the avocado. You could add a splash of lemon juice if you like. This isn’t proper guacamole, FYI, just a cooling accompaniment; if you want to make authentic guac, go for it
  6. Plate up. Traditionally you layer up the corn chips, put the mince mixture on top then cover in cheese before grilling. I couldn’t deal with  the drama of hot plates, though, so I served the meat in the middle and tortilla chips around the edge to scoop
  7. Let the kids help themselves to cheese, avocado and sour cream

Make it veggie: Use Quorn mince or just stick with the beans