Category Archives: £50 for a week challenge

Chicken Pasta Bake

Tonight’s dinner is using the last portion of chicken from the slow cooker whole chicken that I did at the start of the week. It was frozen for a few days to keep it fresh, and added defrosted in the fridge over night ready for use today.

Again it uses a jar of ready made sauce, because this is the cheapest and quickest way to make it when you haven’t got a well stocked pantry full of herbs. The sauce is wonderfully creamy and rich, and the family love it. The bake itself can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until it’s time to bake.

Chicken Pasta Bake

  • 210g cooked chicken (leftovers).
  • 1 jar Combino Creamy Pasta Bake.
  • 300g fussili pasta.
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix.
  • 30g of Cathedral City or Lidl own light mature cheddar.

The sauce has instructions for cooking the pasta in the sauce. In the past I’ve had less than pleasing results doing it this way, so now I cook it separately. Do however you choose, but if you wish to cook it first, boil in enough water to amply cover it for about 15 minutes.

Put the veggies on to steam for 25 minutes, and add the pasta and the chicken to an oven proof dish. Add the sauce and combine well. Top with 30g of grated light cheddar.

Place in the middle of a preheated oven (180 degrees) and bake for 20 minutes from warm, or 30 minutes from chilled. Serve when piping hot and the cheese has brown, with the veggies.

When made as described, this meal has 692 calories, and costs £3.90, or 97.5p per serving.


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Gammon and Mash

Gammon and mash always feels Christmassy to me, no matter what time of year it is served. It was always our boxing day meal when I was growing up, served with pickled onions and veg. So it’s kept a certain comforting feel to it, that always serves to cheer me up.

Though it has a long cooking time, it is relatively easy to do, needing only topping up with water regularly. The meat can be served hot or cold, however you prefer.

Gammon and Mash

  • 1 small unsmoked gammon joint, 750g (£2.99 Aldi).
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into boiling chunks (80p worth taken from a 2.5kg bag, Aldi).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (99p, Aldi).
  • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light (taken from a 1kg tub, 8p worth).
  • Pickled onions (Taken from a 440g jar Asda Smart Price, 12p worth).

Place the gammon in a pan that is big enough to hold it, plus enough boiling water to cover it. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to boil gently. Don’t have the heat too high or the water will boil over.

Cooking times vary by the weight of the joint. Allow 20 minutes for ever 450g, plus an extra 20 minutes on top. This is the minimum cooking time. Personally, we like our gammon to be really tender and so I cooked the 750g joint on a low boil for almost two hours.

Gammon is an incredibly salty joint, and though some people like that, others prefer it to be a little less so. Changing the water that you are boiling the joint in 1-2 times during the cooking will help to reduce how salty it is.

Put your potatoes on to boil 30 minutes before serving time. Put your frozen veggies on to cook 25 minutes before serving time if using a steamer-20 minutes if boiling in water.

Once the meat is cooking, remove it from the pan and drain. Cut into chunks by carving, or pulling the meat apart. Drain and mash the potatoes with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and remove the veggies from the steamer, or the pan of water and drain.

Serve altogether with some sweet pickled onions.

The total cost of this meal was £5, or £1.25 per serving. Per serving there were just 581 calories. Very waistline conscious!

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Nice and Easy-Hot dogs, 70p Per Person!

To finish up day 5 of the challenge we decided on an easy option. In short, we’d been busy all day and needed to cut our time in the kitchen. So we chose to have hot dogs and veggies, and an early night.

Hot Dogs and Veggies

  • 1 pack of six large finger rolls (80p).
  • 1 jar of 8 bratwurst style hot dogs (£1).
  • 1 bag of frozen veggies (99p).
  • Ketchup.

The veggies were steamed in the steamer for 25 minutes, as normal. We boiled the sausages for about 8 minutes to ensure that they were safely heated. Hot dogs are a big source of listeria, so safe heating is essential.

We split the rolls and serve the sausages on them, with the extra two sausages being split down the middle and served on the adult’s rolls. 1.5 rolls per person were served.

The total cook time was 25 minutes, with less than 5 minutes prep time. Total cost was just £2.79, or 70p per person.

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Challenge Day 4, Lunch and Ginger Pear Cake

Today Dinner Mama had guests at lunch time, and that means a break from the norm, and trying to be a little more creative while not hurting the budget too much. Thankfully we still have lots of fresh fruit and other snacks to offer, and enough of the basic ingredients to whip up a cake.

Lunch today-beans on toast. Warm on this cold day, cheap, and tasty. But the best thing is a fresh pear and chocolate chip cake, still warm from the oven.

This cake is far more dense than most cakes that I make, as a result of having two whole pears in it, and much more moist too. In fact it’s so dense that you might not trust that it’s cooked when it’s done-test it by inserting a thin, sharp knife or a tooth pick. If the pick or knife come out clean, it’s cooked. If raw cake mixture shows on the knife, put it back in for another five minutes.

I’ve used chopped chocolate buttons for this-half and half white and milk chocolate, but you can use whatever you have to hand, be that a bar of chocolate, dark chocolate, it will all taste nice. I chose not to grease my cake pan, but to use a layer of paper instead. This may lead to wrinkles in the edge of the cake but reduces the calories slightly.

You may also want to change how you handle the pears. I grated them, because I’m not a fan of chunks of fruit in cake, but if you prefer, you can chop them into small chunks instead. Either way the pears will sink to the bottom of the cake.

Pear and Chocolate Cake

  • 2 medium eggs.
  • 150g of demerara sugar.
  • 150g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, melted.
  • 100ml of skimmed milk.
  • 200g self raising flour.
  • Half teaspoon powdered ginger.
  • Half teaspoon powdered cinnamon.
  • 2 pears, peeled and grated, around 400g peeled weight.
  • 50g of chopped chocolate.
  • A little extra cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on the top.

Melt the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light in a bowl, in the microwave on half power for 20 seconds at a time till melted. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160 if you have a fan assisted oven). Line a spring form pan with baking or grease proof paper.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with a whisk. An electric whisk will do this more quickly, but a hand whisk will do it just fine. Once the egg is well beaten, add the sugar and mix, before slowly pouring the melted I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter into the mix-keep mixing as you pour it in.

Add the milk and whisk till well mixed, then sprinkle both the ginger and cinnamon onto the mix. The mix at this point will look very wet-that’s OK and to be expected.

Slowly add the flour, a little at a time and mix well. Once all of the flour is mixed in, and the mixture is lump free. Fold in the pears and the chopped chocolate and mix lightly.

Pour the mixture into your lined pan and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon and sugar, and place in the middle of the oven. Leave to cook for 45 minutes before checking. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire wrack for a few minutes before trying to remove the paper.

This moist, rich cake has 210 calories per serving (12 servings per cake). As made, it cost approximately £1.40 to make.

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Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice

Dinner tonight will be a quick and easy fix. The chicken was cooked two days ago in the slow cooker, a chicken joint that gave us enough meat for three meals. That means that all that I have to cook is the rice and veggies, and warm the meat, beans and sauce through.

Arguably, I could make a better, healthier Spanish chicken from scratch, using herbs and spices to taste. Unfortunately, I don’t have the spices needed for this in my pantry, and I can’t afford the buy them with our budget as it currently is. This ready made sauce jar cost just 79p, and is quick and easy to use, needing no prep and no cooking, no blending or spices, no experimenting to get a nice flavour. When paired up with the already cooked and chopped chicken, and a bag of frozen vegetables, it makes a quick and cheap dinner that should be a hit with the family.

I have to admit to being a huge fan of such easy, cheap meals!

Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice 

  • 250g pre-cooked chicken (left over from an earlier meal).
  • 1 can red kidney beans (Asda Smart Price, or equivalent shop own brand).
  • 1 bag of frozen vegetables (such as Lidl floret mix).
  • 300g of white rice (Aldi, or Asda Smart Price brand or similar).
  • 1 jar of Aldi Chicken Delight Spanish Chicken sauce.

Put your bag of vegetables in to cook the steamer or a pan of boiling water. Add your rice to a pan with hot water according to the instructions on the packet-commonly with twice the amount of water as rice. Cook vegetables for about 30 minutes in the steamer, or 20 minutes in the water, or until done to your liking.  Cook rice until nice and soft, 12-15 minutes.

Put the chicken and beans in a pan with the jar of sauce to heat while the vegetables and rice cook. Allow to heat together on a medium heat until piping hot-at least five minutes. Serve the Spanish chicken over rice, with the vegetables.

Per serving, this meal costs just 96p, and has 537 calories approximately. Adding corn adds another 58 calories per person per 80g serving, but is delicious (and is how we did it!).  Day three of our budget challenge is over, we’re almost at the half way mark!

If you wanted to adapt this for baby-led weaning, you would likely want to take the baby’s portion of chicken and beans out before the jar of sauce is added. As an alternative, a little tomato puree could be added so that baby has a sauce and their meal looks the same. As most baby-led weaning families will know, this is essential for stopping baby demanding your dinner instead!


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Challenge Day 3, Breakfast

Today is a yucky morning, weather wise, and it left the Dinner Mama family needing to get out of the house and on their way to work and school a little more rapidly than normally. That left a breakfast of cereal all round, because it’s quick and easy to both prepare and eat.

Frosted flakes and skimmed milk cost us just 165 calories from our daily calorie budget. On a horrid day like today, we have a warm lunch to look forward to, and a both warm and filling Spanish chicken for dinner tonight!

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Sausage and Mash

I’m sure that most children growing up in the UK in the last forty or fifty years will have looked forward to the nights when they were served sausage and mash. The Dinner Mama household is no different, with my children both loving this simple dinner.

While it’s quick and easy to make, the calorie count is good enough to not scare most people. Perhaps the biggest benefit however is the cost, with a family of four being served for just £3.

Sausage and Mash

  • 1 packet of 8 pork sausages (Aldi).
  • 1 bag of frozen floret mix (1kg bag, Aldi).
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.


Peel potatoes and chop into evenly sized pieces. Put into a large pan and cover with water, put onto boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. Put frozen veggies in a steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam for 30 minutes or until done to your liking. If boiling, allow around 20 minutes.

Place sausages under a high grill, or on the cooking plates of a stand alone grill (such as a George Foreman). Prick to allow the fat to drain out, and cook until golden brown all over, turning frequently.

Mash the potatoes in with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and serve with the veggies and two sausages per person. When prepared as directed, this meal has 593 calories per serving. Each serving costs just 75p, making this a cheap and easy go to meal!

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using salt free butter in the mash and slicing the sausages down the middle lengthwise. Day two of the challenge is complete, 6 meals down, 15 more to go!

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Challenge Day 2, Lunch

Today, we’re being a little dull. My youngest and I are having a Philadelphia sandwich again (14g of Philadelphia Light, 2 slices of Hovis Wholemeal, 196 calories) and a Brooklea strawberry rice pudding pot (198 calories) for a lunch time total of 394 calories.

Dinner dad is having cereal for his lunch, in order to keep his calories low for a treat later today.

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Challenge Day 2, Breakfast

This morning my smallest child loudly demanded an “eggy weggy woo” for his breakfast. So off to the kitchen I did trot to cook up a batch of boiled eggs, to refrigerate for later meals and snacks. You can choose to do them one at a time as needed if you wish, but I find this easier.

This left me with a breakfast today of a hard boiled egg and two slices of Hovis Wholemeal bread, toasted, with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light (277 calories in all) with a cup of tea. With the milk in my tea, my breakfast came to a total of 337 calories. This meal can be adapted for baby led weaning by using salt free butter on the toast, and simply slicing the egg in half.


My oldest child had a muffin, and dinner dad had Frosted flakes. My morning snack today is a pear, followed by a small treat-peanut butter on toast, bringing my total to 581 calories for the morning.

Four meals down, 17 more to go.

I’ve added a new section to the site because there was just too much information to add to a single post. See “eggs” at the top.

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Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (500 Calories)

I tend to buy the biggest chicken that I can find when I’m shopping, because it works out the best value for my money. This week, with the budget being more challenging than normal, I’ve decided to cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker instead of the oven, in the hopes of losing less to drying, and because a slow cooked chicken tends to literally fall apart, allowing you to get more from the carcass.

Cooked in the slow cooker, the chicken needs little to no attention and so will not take up much of your day. The vegetables tonight are frozen, as these are cheaper than buying fresh. The almost certainly will not look as appealing as the fresh varieties, but are far easier to use and cook as there is no prep needed. Allow 200-250g per person, and remember that they generally don’t take as long to cook as fresh vegetables would.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Dinner

  • 1 Large Chicken (around 2.2kg).
  • 1.1kg of potatoes (peeled weight).
  • 1kg bag of frozen floret mix frozen vegetables.
  • 40g of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light

Line the slow cooker with a double layer of tin foil. This isn’t essential but is a really useful step to take, as it allows you to use the foil to lift the chicken out. When cooked it will be so tender it will be literally falling apart, so trying to remove it with forks is likely to be difficult, if not essential. Preheat the slow cooker on high, and place the chicken in it, on top of the foil. Do not add any liquid. The chicken will produce lots of it’s own when cooking.



Allow to cook on high for one hour. This brings the meat up to temperature more quickly, a precaution that though possibly not necessary, I prefer to take with poultry. Turn down to low, and cook for a further five to six hours. Turn to warm if the chicken is cooked thoroughly too early. You can check by piercing through the thickest part of the meat-the thigh-and check the colour of the juices that run out. If they are clear, it’s cooked. If they are pink or red, give it more time (on high).

Once fully cooked, the chicken should be gently lifted from the cooker using the foil, and left to rest for ten minutes. I wrapped the foil around it and used this to turn the chicken over, to help the breast stay moist.

Put potatoes on to boil, and add the frozen veg to the steamer about half an hour before serving the chicken. The chicken can be carved as the potatoes and veggies cook. You may find that the chicken is too tender to carve easily, in which case it may be better to simply pull the meat from the bones, in chunks. Take care to ensure that any small bones are removed.

Boil the potatoes until soft, then mash with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Serve the mash and veggies with 50g of breast meat, and 45g of dark meat (from the thighs, drum sticks and so on) per person.


When cooked as prepared, this meal provides 500 calories per person, and costs 91p per serving. Gravy can be added, at 15 calories extra per person for Bisto.

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using unsalted butter, or milk instead of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light to make the mashed potatoes.

3 meals down, 18 more to go and day 1 of the budget challenge is over!

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