At the end of this post I said: “I’m now having to consider how I feed myself this week.”
I survive on ESA so my budget for food is always tight – I’ve also got that whole thing happening about choosing whether to heat or eat in winter.
Sometimes, whether it’s winter or summer at this point in the 2 week fortnight when my ESA will come in next Thursday, I find out that I’ve got very little food left to eat.
Since I’ve been on benefits and had ME, cooking has become something on the tick-list of things I have to make sure I’ve got covered well in advance.
Before ME, I adored cooking, I loved it. I fond it creative, relaxing and enjoyable. I used to love cooking for other people too.
These days having enough energy to think through a meal plan is hard and cooking is often the last thing I feel I can add to the list of daily household chores.
Add washing up, tidying up, cleaning up….there goes my daily energy budget without even doing any actual cooking!
Not having a lot of money and also having CFSME – double whammy
How I deal with it
How I deal with it is to have a cupboard and a freezer filled with things I can sling together when I need to.
I’ve had to change the amount of meat I eat because meat is very expensive. You don’t need to eat meat often to be healthy.
As my diet needs to support my body being as healthy as possible to deal with my illness, I’ve made friends with vegetarian recipes and fishy recipes.
I buy vegetables in freezer bags and chop up any veggies I buy fresh and freeze them if it looks like I’m not going to use them immediately.
I never, ever, ever throw anything away. Never. Can’t afford it.
Cooking on an energy budget
I aim to cook once a week. If I’m going to use energy, time and electricity to cook, I’ll do it all at once.
As I’m single I cook everything in large batches
I ask my friend who visits me to keep all his take away boxes. He washes them and gives them to me. I wash them in very hot water and hang onto them. They go in my fridge or freezer with large batches of food.
Today was cooking day
Here’s what I cooked:
Tuna Potato Fishcakes
Why bother making loads of little fishcakes when you can cook one large batch of fishcake recipe as a pie. That takes much less time.
2 cans tuna in water
1 bag of freezer sweetcorn
3 large potatoes
Turmeric powder and Cayenne pepper powder
A bit of fresh root ginger
Leftover bread / pitta bread for breadcrumbs
A large shallow baking dish
Peel and slice the potatoes and put in a pan of water with 2 tsps Turmeric and 2 tsps of cayenne pepper powder. Boil until soft. Drain. Put to one side.
Chop the spring onions and ginger together into small slices.
Put the spring onions, ginger, the drained tuna and the potatoes and the sweetcorn in a large bowl. Mix together. Add 2 eggs.
Keep mixing until it’s well mixed together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In the meanwhile using a blender make breadcrumbs out of 3 or 4 slices of bread. Put to one side in a bowl.
Pile all of the potato tuna mixture into a shallow baking dish. If you want to save on washing up, line it with baking sheets first.
Then mix together the remaining egg and the breadcrumbs in the bowl.
Normally with fishcakes you’d dip them in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs, you don’t need to do that with this pie.
Spread the breadcrumb mix all over the top of the potato tuna mix.
Put in the oven at 180 degrees / gas mark 6 for about 40 minutes. Make sure the breadcrumbs don’t burn.
Done! Take it out, slice it into pieces.
Put the pieces into the old take away tubs, put in the fridge. There’s your dinner for 5 nights.
It’s healthier because you’ve baked it and not fried it like you would with normal fish cakes.
Courgette and leek fritata.
Cheese – any will do
Pepper and salt & cayenne pepper
1 leek sliced
5 or 6 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
Parsley if you have some
A nob of butter
Using the same shallow baking dish, re-line it with new baking sheet. This will save on your washing up.
Shallow fry your garlic and leeks in a frying pan with a nob of butter
Line your shallow baking dish with the courgette rings first
In another bowl, crack 3 eggs and add milk and cream if you have any. Add pepper, salt, cayenne pepper. Grate your cheese into the mix too.
Then add the leeks and garlic to your shallow baking dish.
Chop your parsley if it’s fresh. Sprinkle it on top of the leek/courgette mix in the baking dish. If using dried parsley add it to the milk egg cheese mix instead.
Pour the eggs, milk, cream mix over everything in the pan.
Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes on 180 degrees / gas mark 6-7.
Make sure it’s cooked all through by using a knife to pierce the mixture from the top to the bottom. It’s cooked when the mixture is solid all through.
Lift it out of the shallow dish by using the baking sheet and slice. Add it to more take away boxes and put in the fridge.
That’s either lunch or a change for dinner.
A this point, the oven’s been on for an hour, which saves on electricity.
I’ve cooked 2 big dishes and got them in cartons in the fridge and they can be heated in 3 minutes in the microwave. That saves electricity, time AND energy.
Last up – one of my favorite recipes from when I lived in North London and used to buy them from Greek shops on Green Lanes in Haringey.
Feta spinach pastry parcels
Get one block of puff pastry from a shop’s freezer section, feta cheese, frozen spinach and 1 egg.
Roll out the pastry so that it looks like an oblong.
Chop the feta and spinach into small chunks.
Using the same shallow baking dish again – re-line with new baking paper.
One one half of the pastry, put the feta cheese and spinach chunks making sure you leave about 1 cm around the edge. You’ll be folding the half you’ve not put any feta or spinach onto over the top of this half and sealing it with egg around the outsides.
When you’ve finished putting the spinach and feta onto one half, use the egg to cover the exposed edge of pastry. Fold one half over the top of the other half and seal either by using a fork to press 2 sides together, or your fingers to press the 2 halves together.
With the remaining egg, brush the pastry until it’s covered. This will turn glossy and golden when it’s cooked.
Put it in your shallow baking dish and put in an oven at about 180 degrees / gas 7 for about 1/2 an hour – 40 minutes. It’s cooked when it’s puffed up and the egg glaze is golden, but not burned.
Turn out and slice. You can eat this cold or warm. You can keep it in the fridge for days.
Serve with salad.
All in all I spent about £18.00 on these ingredients. Some I had anyway, some I had to get in to cook – like the pastry which cost about £1.40.
I don’t need to think about food again until it’s run out.
That’s how I deal with the ME / welfare combo when energy and money is on a tight budget.
© Lindy 2015
P.s. read tomorrow’s diary for the “are you safe when you cook with MECFS” story, that interrupted my cooking today.