This very nourishing and totally satisfying Shepherd’s Pie was a big hit with my family and a wonderful way to use up the left overs of a slow cooked leg of lamb.
There is no denying the fact that beginning on the path to better eating can seem expensive and overwhelming at first. A trip to the health food shop to buy ingredients to make organic bliss balls for the first time can leave you without much change of fifty dollars. Arriving home from the Farmers Market to discover the kids have already demolished the organic berries that cost you a small fortune or investing in an organic, local, grass fed shoulder of lamb to feed a family of five renders you vegetarian for the rest of the week.
Revealing the cost of real food can be a shock, however, once we consider the alternative which is why is processed food so cheap? and start to think about the reasons why we want to make the switch (our health, our children’s well being, the environment…), it doesn’t seem so expensive after all.
Travelling along the path to better eating, we pick up ideas for how to make things more affordable, more simple and more sustainable for our families.
Here are some of the things I do for my family so we can eat well on a budget:
- Organic Fruit + Vegetables – We commit to a weekly delivery of local, organic fruits and vegetables. For around $50 each week, we receive an abundant supply of in season produce which we ensure we use every last bit of before heading to the shops to buy more. It means getting creative in the kitchen and in the winter, eating a lot of soup, but we think it’s worth it to have pesticide free ingredients on which to base our family meals. Search your local area for a co-op or delivery service.
- Cook from scratch – a lot – We do a lot of cooking in our family and perhaps more so, a lot of food preparation. Once you learn how, soaking beans or legumes for stews or soups, soaking oats to make porridge and making your own staples such as stock, almond milk or nut butter means you can save by buying raw ingredients in bulk. It seems time consuming to begin with but be patient while you are acquiring these new skills. It is so worth it in the end.
- Make hay while the sun shines – When you see things on special like organic bananas or summer strawberries, stock up and fill the freezer for things like smoothies or making muffins. It doesn’t matter if they are a little bruised or slightly past their best. We love organic sour dough bread which we are fortunate to buy from a local bakery. We sometimes buy the day-old bread at a great discount and slice it up to store in the freezer for toast.
- Waste not, want not – I admit that previously, I had a terrible habit of wasting food. I would buy fruit and vegetables that would sit in the fridge all week and end up throwing it in the rubbish bin because I didn’t know what to do with it. I am now incredibly chuffed with myself when I rescue leftovers or something we have an abundance of in the garden, it feels good! Soups, stews, stocks, pesto, sauces, jams, muffins and cakes are all great things to make with excess produce. Get on google and get creative!
- Grow it yourself or barter for it – There is no need to aim for total self sufficiency but growing a few seasonal things in your own back yard can make a difference and save you some money. I find herbs particularly useful as I never use the entire store bought bunch before it wilts and dies. Greens like lettuce or silver beet are also incredibly easy to grow and don’t take up much room at all. In our area, we have found a local SWAP page on Facebook where people exchange goods and services they have an abundance of…plum jam, here we come!
- Keep it simple – Dinner does not have to be a gourmet extravaganza every night! Keep meals simple and just appreciate the beautiful ingredients you have invested in. Roasted organic chicken with some roasted potatoes and a little pesto for example or maybe a simple pasta with some garlic, chilli and herbs from your garden.
- Use it, then use it again – Make the absolute most out of the produce you buy by using it for several things at once. Roast chicken for dinner makes great leftover chicken sandwiches for lunch the next day and the chicken carcass can be cooked down in a stock to add beautiful flavour and nutrition to a simple soup or risotto. Cooking beans from scratch is easy but takes time so make double and store the excess in the freezer, ready to go into a beany stew or soup and I don’t even have to bring up bolognese, do I? When you roast a leg of lamb, choose a larger size than normal and make plans for the left overs…like this delicious Shepherd’s Pie for example…
Leftover Lamb Shepherd’s Pie
Sometimes, when we have a pizza night and have the wood fire oven going, we will chuck in a lamb roast before we go to bed and in the morning, wake to find the most perfectly, slow roasted lamb ever (ok, it was a total fluke the first time, we had no idea what to expect!).
Makes enough to serve 4-6 depending on just how much leftovers you can rustle up.
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
4-5 cups of leftover roast lamb, shredded
2 cups of whatever veggies you have hanging around in the fridge, such as carrot, celery, zucchini, tomatoes and onion, diced up or grated if you have fussy eaters
Herbs – a tablespoon or two – rosemary works nicely with lamb or you could use oregano, thyme, parsley, chopped up or use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs.
1 tablespoon of flour – spelt if fine or even corn flour if you want to keep it GF.
Water or stock, about 3-4 cups
Potatoes and sweet potatoes to mash – I used four potatoes and one small sweet potato.
Ghee or butter for mashing
A handful of parmesan cheese if desired
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper for seasoning
What to do:
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a large baking dish (or several small ones) with a little olive oil.
Heat a casserole dish over medium heat and add olive oil. Add in your diced veggies and herbs and cook, stirring often until softened, around ten minutes.
Tip: If you have an flame proof casserole dish like a Le creuset, use it for the whole dish to save on dishes!
Add the lamb and flour and stir well to combine. Cover the mixture with stock or water and bring to the boil. Partially cover with a lid and let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and it smells amazing!
Meanwhile – get your potatoes and sweet potatoes steaming so they are ready to be mashed. If you haven’t got a steamer, just boil them in a saucepan with plenty of water and a good pinch of sea salt until a knife goes through them easily.
Once the potatoes are ready, mash them with plenty of ghee and a good pinch of salt. If you are dairy free, just add a drizzle of olive oil.
Tip: I always reserve a bit of cooking water to add back in to get a lovely smooth finish on my mash potatoes!
Time to assemble:
Put the lamb mixture into the casserole dish first and then top with your lovely mash potatoes. Rough up the surface a little bit with a fork so it gets crunchy and golden. Sprinkle over some parmesan cheese if you like.
Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until golden, bubbling and you can’t wait any longer!
Tip: If you have pre-made the Shepherd’s Pie and stored it in the fridge, allow a longer time in the oven for it to heat through!
Serve with greens, either a fresh salad or steamed peas and beans and some tomato relish.
How about you? What tips do you have for eating well on a budget? I’d love to hear them!
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