Budget Noms – Mung Bean Dal

To break up all these travel posts (I promise, my Beijing posts will soon be on their way!) it’s time to get some recipes up here. Due partly to my trip to Beijing but mostly lots of other crappy circumstances, I’m really struggling financially at the moment. Not great fun for me but it’s brought back my impressive cheapskate skills and I thought some budget recipes and tips might be helpful for some of you.

For the last month or so, I’ve not spent more than £10 in a week on food for the two of us. Luckily for me, as well as having great cheapskate skills, I’m also pretty good at hoarding food in my cupboards, which has been really helpful for me sticking to my budget. So far I’ve been able to keep my cupboard essentials (lentils, rice, beans, tinned vegetables, spices, oil etc) topped up within the £10 by getting just a few extras alongside my fresh veggies each week.
One bonus for me is that I work in a grocery store that stocks affordable basic wholefoods and organic fruit and veggies, this has helped immensely. The food I buy from there is generally cheaper than supermarkets, mostly organic and really good quality. I do also get a discount along with occasional freebies that we can’t sell, so this does put me in a good position to follow budget. However, whilst I may save a few quid a week with my discount, I still think the average person could do the same on around £12-£15 for 2 people.
This lot came to £10.67 without my work discount, despite the fact I needed to top up oil, marg and turmeric. The veg alone only came to £7.89 and I will likely have some leftover for next week too.
So, what has helped me keep costs down?
  • I only buy what I need for the week – this includes not bulk buying bags of veggies that will go off. I buy my vegetables loose, I don’t bulk buy tins of beans and tomatoes, I just get what I plan to use.
  • Source affordable food. – You may not live close to my shop, but look out for small local veg box schemes. A small box can go far and is usually under a tenner a week. Discount stores like Aldi and Lidl can be great for getting cheap flour, soy milk and tinned beans and tomatoes. Don’t just rely on the big supermarkets, they’re not as cheap as you expect.
  • Root vegetables – especially this time of year, they’re dirt cheap. I’m pretty much living off carrots, potatoes, parsnips, swede, beetroot, celeriac etc with a few cabbages and greens thrown into the mix.
  • Making use of my freezer – this goes for the obvious leftover dishes/sauces that you can’t bear to eat for a third day in a row but also I’ll buy a big bunch of greens (usually cavalo nero or spring greens) every 2-3 weeks, chop them up and divide them into portions in freezer bags. It lasts so much longer, I’m very guilty of using a whole bunch of greens for one meal and it’s just not necessary. The same goes for fresh herbs too.
  • Sandwiches – The best way to save money is to stick to peanut butter or jam sandwiches for your lunches. Gets a bit boring but it’s worth it when you see the savings. Sometimes I switch it up with a homemade filling, but generally keep it basic. I was buying lunch from work before and spending around £4 a day on lunch, it’s just not necessary.
  • Free food – Any opportunity I can get my hands on something free, I’m there. When bags of beans and lentils have split on our shopfloor and they’d otherwise go in the bin, I scoop them up and save them for my dinner, making sure to rinse before use. Some people might look down on that but I hate waste and needs must when on a budget. Obviously if something fell in poop I wouldn’t eat it. I know not everyone can do this but free food opportunities can crop up, keep your eyes peeled.
  • Get creative – I’m having a lot of the same veg week in, week out. If you don’t want to get bored get creative, look up recipes, experiment and try to keep your food exciting.
  • Waste nothing – If you can’t think of something to do with your leftovers straight away, freeze it and have a think. I’ve made cheezy sauces, meatballs and burgers from leftover root veg mash. Anything is possible!
Right, enough going on. Time to see my budget meals in action.
Vegetable Mung Bean Dal
I’ve made this a few times over the last month. It doesn’t look like it’ll be much but it’s enough for 6 generous portions. Perfect for a nice hearty dinner and then a few lunches during the week. It also freezes well.
  • 1 cup mung beans – 23p
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large carrot – 13p
  • 1 large parsnip – 28p
  • 1 handful of chopped greens – 18p
  • 1 tbsp oil – 2p
  • Spices: 3 tsp salt, 2 bay leaves, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp black onion seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 1/2 tsp asofetida – 20p at most
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped – 12p
= £1.16. Serves 6. 
= 19p per portion
  1. Combine the water, mung beans, cinnamon and bay leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Boil and cover for 20 minutes or so, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile chop the carrot and parsnip into small bitesize pieces.
  3. Remove any froth from the mung bean mixture and then add turmeric, the carrot and the parsnip. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes or so, until the beans and veggies are soft and broken up.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion seeds and chilli. Fry for a minute or so stirring constantly. Add the asofetida and fry for another 30 seconds. Pour into the dal.
  5. Add the greens and salt, simmer for another 5 minutes or so and then serve
I had mine with some basmati rice and a flatbread that I brushed with a little oil, chopped some garlic onto and then sprinkled a wee bit of coriander on top, baked in an oven for 5 minutes or so and it was a bit like nan. You don’t need to add these extras though, it’s filling just as it is.
I love this dish! Are any of you on a budget? Do you have any tips?

3 thoughts on “Budget Noms – Mung Bean Dal

  1. This is super! I always freeze fresh herbs. Especially rosemary. Such good ideas 🙂 Another one I heard recently which sounds odd, is that you can use very strong black tea in place of red wine in any recipe that calls for it (because of tannins or some other thing). I tried it recently in a rich stew and it worked. Much cheaper 😀


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