The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Best great budget recipes for 50% or less: Cottage Smallholder 2009 Challenge January review

Photo: Cavalero Nero

Photo: Cavalero Nero

So how did we do?

This is quite a tough challenge as it involves buying ingredients for 50% or less or being given food. Luckily D is honing his hunting skills at the Tesco condemned food counter and I am happy to try any transform these ingredients into something tasty. Or bung them in the freezer until we have enough to make a meal.

When I go shopping my trolley whizzes to the CFC in Tesco before I venture anywhere else. In the other supermarkets my eyes are now trained to spot the small red labels that indicate marked down prices.

This evening Danny brought home fresh herbs. So I decided to make soup for tomorrow’s lunch. We have two bags of potatoes knocked down to 40p for 2.5 kilos and a normal price leek. So it will be winter leek and potato soup chunky rather than the pureed cold version (vichychoisse). It will come in at well under 50% cost per portion. So it counts as a challenge dish. You would have to be very lucky to find all the ingredients for a dish discounted.

We have eaten very well this month and our monthly outgoings for food are steadily decreasing. We are having more fun with our cooking too.  Finding a bargain definitely gives us a frissance and suddenly we are thinking on our feet. A whacky cottage version of Masterchef.

We have been swapping our bacon for food too. Curing your own bacon is almost like printing money. Despite being the best bacon that I have ever tasted, our freerange organic smoked streaky costs us about £5.00 a kilo. As a barter it is worth far more as you would be hard pressed to find it in the shops for under £12.00 a kilo.

In the past I never would have dreamt of eating streaky bacon for breakfast. Our bacon tastes so good that I rarely splash out on a loin to cure.

I started by giving it away and gradually people are giving us back game, home grown vegetables, marmalade and preserves. It’s a sort of polite, unspoken barter. If you cure and smoked a free range loin you would be even more popular. Five years ago six slices of free range back bacon cost me over seven quid from the butcher’s counter in Waitrose. It was good but not a patch on home cured.

As our friend Tessa has proved that you can smoke excellent bacon in a small chiminea. At the moment these are on sale locally for £20. Our wet cure recipe is here – it’s a low salt recipe that tastes wonderful. The organic free-range streaky lasts much longer in the fridge than an ordinary belly of pork.  And of course pancetta is cured belly of pork so you have your own to toss into dishes for next to nothing.

This is the list of our recipes in January that cost less than 50%:

Plaice with a creamy prawn sauce recipe

Continental style warming winter pie recipe

Che’s suggestion for great char grilled sirloin steaks recipe

D also found fillet steak (enough for 2) for £3.30 and we cooked it using Che’s method. Mouthwatering.

We did well with our organic 1.5 kilo (£6.12 normal price) free range corn fed organic chicken too. We made it stretch to:

  1. Half a roast chicken (for two) with a lemon, saffron and cream sauce. The leftovers made one large (heavy on the chicken) sandwich
  2. Chicken and ham pie with vegetables for four (recipe to follow soon)
  3. Chicken risotto for four
  4. 1.2 litres of cheat’s Cock-a-Leekie soup (a starter or snack lunch for four)

The key ingredient in the risotto, pie and soup was the stock. Ten meals and another five snacky meals. So it wasn’t so expensive after all.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Clare

    Great that you are enjoying the site!

    I’m not sure how long our fruit cake lasts. We are still pigging out and it was made in Christmas week. But make it about 2-3 weeks before the wedding to guarantee that it’s enjoyed fresh.

    Frisson – is a great word however it’s spelt 🙂

    Yesterday I ordered the updated version of The Pauper’s Cookbook – just the sort of book that we need ATM. Thanks so much for the tip.

  2. Love this site, found it when looking for a fruit cake recipe (going to use it for a wedding cake). “Frisson” often has Barbara Cartland type meanings! For many years my bible was Jocasta Innes’ “The Pauper’s Cookbook” which uses ideas like your one chicken, many meals. My copy opens at “Onion, bacon and potato hotpot”, delicious.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Barbara

    We love a challenge but it means that there is rarely a meal plan. That can cause upsets 🙂

    We are enjoying the battle though! We’ll eat well for next to nothing.

    Hi S.O.L.

    They are being sold locally at Kitchens N Tings (Newmarket). I spent a good half an hour searching for you on the internet but most suppliers have switched to cast iron (more expensive and they’d be too hot unless you bought 15 foot ducting).

    Keep your eyes open at the garden centre, B&Q, Homebase, Tesco, Ebay as they might have an offer on a clay one. And this is the one that you need, the cast iron ones would generate far too much heat. If you find one (clay) email me and I’ll fill you in with the method. Hot coals and a wet soaked log or two to smoulder. What you need is smoke rather than heat.

    Hello Toffeeapple

    We don’t have much time on our hands but a challenge is a challenge!

    Hi Cindy

    I originally spelt it with zz’s. Danny edited it and Pamela opened up to the word. A group effort. It means the same as pizzazz. (probably spelt this wrong too!

    Hello Sally

    Raspberry vodka is to die for. Great that you are enjoying the site.

    Hello Pamela

    Thank you! I meant that – just didn’t know how to spell it and it was very late at night for searching for the torch let alone the dictionary.

    Hi Cindy

    Use Pamela’s version! I think that mine is probably Cottage Smallholder speak and wouldn’t be understood outside the confines of this site 🙂

  4. Cindy Smith

    Thanks, Pamela. I think they’re both terrific words, or forms of the same word. I’m going to try to find ways to use them.

  5. I think you may find that the word Fiona was searching for was the French word “frisson” which means a thrill or a shiver of pleasure. But I rather like Fiona’s anglicised version too.

  6. such interesting reading… I am hooked already and only found you a few days ago .
    cannot wait to get my raspberry vodka started 🙂

  7. Cindy Smith

    Hi – I looked up frissance and can’t find a definition for it and wonder what it means. It’s a lovely word.

  8. Toffeeapple

    Don’t you do well? I guess the time will come when I have time on my hands to do the same but not just yet.

  9. Great reading. Could you please tell me where the chimnea’s are being sold at £20. I would love to get my hands on one to make smoked meats!

    snowing like heck here. I reckon we have had about 7-8 inches, slow constant snow falling since about 3am…

    Sorry to hear about peace…

  10. Hello again,
    how interesting as always. I am glad that you are having such success with your challenges.

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