Morning poll

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Top austerity breakfast recipes

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There is so much more to life than cornflakes. Try these breakfast dishes to liven up the family breakfast table.


  • 8oz/ 200g porridge oats
  • 1 apple, grated
  • Handful of raisins, sultanas or currants
  • 5 oz/125 ml natural yoghurt
  • 5 oz/125 ml apple juice
  • Handful of nuts (optional)
  • Squeeze of honey

Mix the ingredients together and leave overnight in the fridge for the oats and dried fruit to swell. Serve for breakfast or as an after-school snack. You can top the mixture with berries, bananas or kiwi fruit before serving.

Banana split yoghurts

  • 1 banana
  • Small carton natural yoghurt
  • Nutella

Put yoghurt into a dish, and slice banana over the top. Drizzle a little Nutella over it all.

Stewed apple

  • One apple per person, eating apple variety  (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Lemon rind or a squeeze of juice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • Raisins (optional)

Bring the water to a boil with the lemon rind and cloves, and the raisins if you are using them, and then turn down the heat and add the eating apples. Let the apples simmer gently until tender. Drain them off and leave the to cool, serving with yoghurt or a little creme fraiche. You can also serve them hot as a dessert for a family supper, with custard.

Five tinned foods that punch above their weight

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I’ve been nosying around my winter survival cupboard today to see what needs topping up, and I am about to make a big trip to the cash and carry to stock up on tins. Interestingly enough, a lot of tinned foods have more vitamins in them than fresh food that things that have been lying around your kitchen for a week or so.  Here are some great additions to a store cupboard that I will be bringing home later.

Tinned tomatoes – these come in different forms but particularly useful are the ones with garlic and herbs already in the mix. Passata in large jars can go onto home made pizza bases with a big of grated cheese and some salami for a Saturday treat.

Pulses – try different kinds such as lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, butter beans, mixed spicy beans and canneloni beans. Great with mince, in salads, to bulk out a bolognaise or shepherd’s pie, or to make an instant vegetarian chili.

Stone fruits – cherries, plums and mirabelles make great crumbles and pies, can be served with cream or yoghurt for a quick dessert, and can even be added to smoothies or put on top of muesli.

Exotic fruits – pineapple, lychees, mangos are all wonderful to have around, and give you the makings of a very sophisticated winter fruit salad, but look for tins which state they are in their own juices rather than in syrup.

Fish – Sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and even shrimps are all great for sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish pie, salads and little toasts to have as a nibble with a glass of wine.

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Feeding the tribe

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To avoid waste and minimise expenditure, you need to take a view over a month of what you are likely to need in the way of food. To that end, I have devised a monthly menu plan for a family’s evening meals, which I have linked to related weekly shopping lists, designed for precisely this purpose.  It should feed a family of four, where each family member is out at work or school during weekdays, and getting a school dinner or a light mid-day meal at work, but having lunch at home at the weekends. In addition to the meals listed in each weekly menu plan (see in the Food and Cooking Category), a healthy breakfast on a budget could be chosen from the following options, avoiding expensive branded cereals:

  • Porridge (add cinnamon and/or raisins for a treat)
  • Toast and Marmite, jam or marmalade
  • Boiled egg and soldiers
  • Baked beans on toast
  • Yoghurt with banana
  • Stewed apple and yoghurt – see my post on Austerity breakfast recipes.
  • Birchermuesli – ditto, see the Austerity breakfast recipe post.
  • Apple or orange juice (diluted for children to protect their teeth)
  • Hot or cold milk, tea or coffee

Ignore fiddly packed lunch recipes in fancy books aimed at fictitious yummy mummies with time and money to waste. Simple and cheap packed lunches for children could contain things like this, and they are just as likely to eat the contents.

  • Ham or cheese sandwich
  • Apple or satsuma
  • Carrot sticks
  • A  piece of home made fruit cake or flapjack (see recipes)
  • Some diluted fruit juice in a reusable metal water bottle.

You can compare the cost of shopping online using price comparison websites such as A healthy and sustainable housekeeping budget at 2010 prices, using leading supermarkets, is something in the region of £25 per person per week for parts of London and the South East (considerably less in some other regions), although this should be seen in monthly terms as some weeks you will spend a lot more than others. This budget includes food from the monthly menu plan as well as breakfasts and packed lunches, cleaning materials, and everything you need to do the laundry, as well as basic toiletries.

Image: Suat Eman /

Healthy diets, the 1910 way.

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As you have probably read on other pages of this blog, my starting point for investigations into housekeeping practices and their effect on family wellbeing started with a series of home management books produced for schools in 1910, written by Wilena Hitching (previously a headmistress and school inspector). These books were designed to give a thorough, almost scientific introduction to the study of housekeeping to girls between the ages of about 11-14, with a view to preparing them for lives as wives and mothers. While some of the advice she gave sounds dated today, most of it has surprisingly significant relevance for men and women a hundred years later, particularly in times of financial constraint. My focus today will be what Miss Hitching considered to be a healthy diet for families, viewed through a 21st century lens.

Breakfast options (served at 8am)


Bread crusts soaked in warm milk

Brown bread and butter and an egg


Smoked Finnan haddock

Hot milk for children

Cocoa for adults

Most of these are high in fibre and protein, with very little sugar evident and comparatively little fat (with the exception of the bacon). This is clearly an idealised diet – Miss Hitching does permit the drinking of tea and coffee, but regards it as somewhat stimulating and less preferable than cocoa.

Luncheon (which took place mid-morning, around 10.30 am, and was really for children)

Hot milk and a biscuit

Brown bread and butter and a banana

Dinner options (which took place in the middle of the day, around 1pm). A good housekeeper would prepare a two or three course meal, depending on the weather and the type of work family members were engaging in.

Pea soup

Lentil soup

Haricot soup

Roast meats, leftovers minced or served in shepherd’s pie (for example)

Chops or steaks


Poached fish



Savoury Yorkshire pudding (served alongside roast meats or before the meal with gravy as a kind of appetiser)

Savoury or sweet suet puddings, such as steak and kidney pudding or jam roly poly (but not both in the same meal!)

Macaroni or rice pudding

Stewed fruit and custard

These are high protein meals, comparatively high in saturated fat, but the amount of sugar used in the desserts is comparatively low – a teaspoon of sugar here, a little bit of jam there. There is ample use of fruit, vegetables and pulses, simply prepared, meaning the meals are comparatively high in fibre as well.

Tea (served mid-afternoon, around 4pm; again, mainly aimed at children)

Bread and butter

Watercress, lettuce or radishes

Stewed fruit (apples, rhubarb, prunes, etc)

Once again, this is a high fibre meal with more fruit and vegetables, designed to maximise satiety (feeling of fullness). Watercress is packed full of vitamins, iron and other minerals, representing a kind of Edwardian superfood.

Supper (served before bed, around 7pm) – one or more of the following might be served.

Bread and butter or bread and dripping

Hot milk


Boiled onions

Cream crackers, butter and cheese

Simple fare, and perhaps less extensive that in modern times for the time of day. This is presumably because the bulk of the calories needed was taken in during breakfast and lunch, and the family had had the opportunity to gather together for a hot meal during the middle of the day as well. The need to give the stomach a rest from meat overnight is emphasised in Miss Hitching’s book.

I look at all this food, and wonder whether personally I could plough my way through all of this every day, even taking out the ‘luncheon’ and ‘tea’ on the basis of not being a growing child. It is also intriguing to wonder what might happen to the body, were we to start eating like this regularly. Given that the calorific intake is probably higher than we are used to today, would we end up fatter? Or would the simple nature of the food allow our bodies to process the fats and sugars more effectively than we tend to now, leading to fewer metabolic problems such as diabetes and obesity. I think I have an inkling as to the answer, when I think about rationing that was to come thirty years later during World War II, which involved a diet not too far removed from what we are seeing in this 1910 list, albeit with less meat. This led to an improvement in the nation’s health, so perhaps the answers to the obesity epidemic lie in what our grandmothers already knew about choosing food for the family?

Having a delicious weekend

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To maximise your relaxation time this weekend, make sure you have done your food shopping by 12 noon Saturday at the latest. Even better if you can book a delivery now for first thing tomorrow, or have it done in person by close of play tonight. Treat yourself by stocking up your cupboards and fridge with healthy things you like eating, rather than the boring run of the mill things you eat every week anyway.

While the weather seems to be good today, we have a good few days of light rain ahead of us, so think about making a light summer soup for lunch tomorrow, for example plum tomato and basil, followed by a cheeseboard and an artisanal bread or a ciabatta, preferably home made if you enjoy that sort of thing.

For dinner, grilling a bit of lamb and serving home made potato salad with Jersey royal potatoes and a few designer leaves makes cooking easy. Perhaps follow it with some English strawberries with freshly squeezed orange juice and a little black pepper ground over the top.

For Sunday brunch you might want to make up some pancake batter and using a decent non-stick pan, make crepes for the family topped with lemon and sugar or melted leftover Easter egg if you have some to hand (mix a bit of double cream in to the melted chocolate to make a smoother, more delicious sauce).  If you prefer to concentrate on Sunday lunch as the focus of the day, think about serving roast chicken (organic free range ones seemed to be half price in Waitrose this week, and a real bargain) with green beans, carrot batons and boiled Jersey potatoes tossed in butter and fresh mint from the garden or window box. Dessert could be a lemon meringue pie if you have lemons left over from earlier in the day, or if you have older kids or are child free, affogato is an excellent simple dessert. For this, pour a measure of espresso coffee over a scoop over the most perfect scoop of quality vanilla ice cream and serve in a tea cup or cocktail glass.

Sunday supper can be a few cold cuts – the best ham you can afford, leftover chicken and a bit of Italian or French salami, with tomato and red onion salad, leftover potato salad from the day before, and Gem lettuce and cucumber (ridge cucumber gives a slightly better flavour although it’s a little more expensive). You can cook a rice pudding with selection of dried fruits (plump sultanas, apricots, dates) at lunchtime while you are doing the chicken, and then chill to eat Spanish style after supper that evening.

Image: Suat Eman /