Ever since we moved in together in September, Larisa and I are trying our best to organize our finances well, splitting the money between rent, bills, girls stuff and FOOD (going out money and new clothes being a luxury). We’re not doing bad at all with the rent and bills part, however when it comes to food, we’re entering a tricky zone. We’re both gourmands and even though it’s not noticeable (muahahahahah) we eat quite a lot. People might say we’re well lucky. Our wallet doesn’t really think the same. We’re not healthy food freaks, but we do try to cook very often and avoid the instant noodles and the ready meals. Sometimes we fail miserably and end up getting the usual curry takeaway or Dominos (Yum), but this year we’ve decided to improve our lifestyle and eating better on a tight budget is one of the main things we’ll focus on. We’re Romanian village girls, for god’s sake, our grandmothers taught us well!
Having crazy schedules, long shifts and living with another 8 people doesn’t help much with cooking at a reasonable hour so we are planning to cook more food and freeze it in batches for emergencies. That will also help with saving up money as buying in bulk always ends up cheaper. Another issue we’re trying to work on is the fact that Larisa is not a big fan of no-meat meals so this is one of the biggest challenges. As we would like to avoid having only rice, pasta, noodles, pizza and spending money on takeaways and fast-food, inspired by our Romanian lifestyle, my year abroad and our last years in England, I put together a list of food ideas that we cook, but we could never be bothered to do it more often due to time, money or just plain laziness. This is to help everyone who gets stuck with eating pasta every day for a week.
– Home made pizza (make more dough and freeze the rest. when you fancy pizza just defrost it and add your favorite toppings)
– Spaghetti alla carbonara
– Bolognese – make more bolognese sauce and freeze the rest in 2 servings plastic containers
– Cabbage soup with pork – it’s a Romanian dish we always used to have at home
– Chicken fajitas
– Egg fried rice with vegetables and bacon – our number 1 dinner when we’re getting back late from work
– Lasagna – make plenty of it and freeze the rest in servings
– Chicken curry – you can cook the sauce from scratch if you have time or cheat with the ready made sauce in jars
– Fried chicken thighs with mashed potatoes ( add some tomato paste, herbs and some water to the chicken and get a great gravy for the mash)
– Baked beans – make it the Romanian way and serve it with pickles, pickled cabbage/tomatoes/watermelons and you’ve got heaven’s favorite food
– Tagliatelle with spinach and bacon
– Carrot soup + croutons
– French onion soup
– Olivier salad – in Romania, we call it salata de beouf and it’s always made around Christmas and New Year’s time
– Romanian sarmale – a mix of vegetables, rice and minced meat in a wine leaf. Served with sour cream and mamaliga/polenta
– Bacon and vegetables risotto
– Mushroom and chicken risotto
– Home made chips, fried eggs and a whole lot of cheese (preferably feta cheese) + mamaliga (back home, we used to eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s legendary 😀
– Sheppard’s pie/ cottage pie – my favorite English dishes after the full English breakfast
– Roasted chicken/sausages with vegetables
– Vanilla rice pudding – served with jam or not
– Lapte cu faina – some sort of sweet pudding made with milk, flour and sugar that my great-grandmother used to make very often for all the kids (Ce ne mai adunam pe prispa cu totii si mancam lapte cu faina pana ne durea burta. Mamaia batrana ne certa “stati cu curul pe tolic, ca-i rece betonu’ cela si-o sa raciti”)
– Doughnuts – our Romanian doughnuts are nothing like the famous ring doughnut, they start as a circle, but when frying, they end up shapeless and covered in vanilla sugar are the best thing ever.
– Pancakes or crepes – served with everything: jam, sugar, chocolate spread, maple syrup, golden syrup , bacon (freaks) , strawberry, bananas etc.
– Sweet cheese. Whenever I would visit, my other grandmother, Lipica (dad’s mum, I call her by name, everyone does) always made for me this sweet desert. Just add sugar to fresh cow cheese and I could eat half a kilo in one go. In England is quite difficult to find fresh cheese, unless you’re making it yourself at home (another thing I’d like to try this year coming)
– Potato borsch
– Chiftele (with sauce or without) – mini burgers made of mince meat, egg, onion, garlic, carrot and herbs, fried in a lot of oil or grilled.
– Spanish tortilla
– Garlic soup – pretty amazing in the winter or when you have a cold.
– Aletria – Portuguese pudding made from thin pasta, eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
– Biscuit salami – probably the easiest and tastiest desert when on budget and pressured by time
– Aubergine salad
– Romanian meatball soup/ ciorba de perisoare
– Stuffed peppers – using the same stuffing from sarmale
– Chicken schnitzel with roasted potatoes (+ dill = love)
I will probably be adding many more ideas in time, but that’s pretty much all the meals I can think of at the moment that are easy to make, don’t cost a fortune and are DE-LI-CIOUS and healthy-ish too. I would love to learn to make a lot of Romanian pies (apple/ cheese/ pumpkin/ apple + wallnut/ sweet cabbage), tripe soup, cozonac and many more cakes, but I’m taking it easy, step by step.
I would like to thank Larisa, Chef Dino, Jacek, Arek, Karolina and the master chefs – Mum, both grandmothers, Mamaia and Alina for teaching me to cook all these.
What are your ideas of an easy, cheap and tasty meal?