On the telly this evening
Banshees, coffee cake, heart trees, shining stars, onions and hyacinths - phew!

I received this in my inbox recently. This young woman is struggling with the practicalities of feeding herself with the combination of shifts she does. The gap between needing food and not (when she gets fed at work) is several days to a week and things would go off. What she needs are ideas and recipes to feed one, using the entirety of the ingredients.

I have suggested a few things, but I am posting it as I am sure you lovely, talented people out there will have plenty more ideas for her

Please do post ideas and suggestions in the comments. I will be very interested to see what we come up with


Dear Lesley,

My name is Bieke, I’m 19 years old and I came to London from a little village in Belgium about 4 months ago. First of all I want to say thank you I’ve very much enjoyed your site and I think a lot of people could really benefit from your unique mix between eating like a king and spending like… Well like a Lesley!

I originally came to London for the same reason that many do I suppose, following a dream, looking for something new. I work in a Peruvian restaurant as a comiswaitres now near Tottanham court road called Lima.

What I was trying to say is that your recipes have come in really handy for me as I struggle with a very restricted budget. The shifts I do in the restaurant change weekly but usually I have 3 to 4 days of food provided by them during my working hours. I have 2 days a week off and usually 1 or 2 days a week where I work the ‘late’ shift meaning from 19 o’clock to 1 at the latest, meaning they expect me to have eaten before.

I was raised by my grandmother who always kept me wellfed so this whole cooking thing is very new to me and I struggle every week to find something to make. Now I live by myself, I have absolutely nothing in my kitchen except a bottle of oil, some pasta and now a tiny shaker of oragano. I always dread having to cook for myself as it seems like such a waste. I cook one normal sized meal (such as spaghetti or something) and then spread this over the days that I’m off. Buth then my big problem: Buying perishables such as dairy, eggs, vegetables, meat or basically anything with an experation date makes me nervous as I loathe the thought of having to throw it away after only using half of it and buying in small portions quickly adds up in price. I also turn my fridge off as frequently as I can meaning when my fridge is just plain empty (which is often) so as to also save some money on my energy bill.

So I was wondering Lesley if you had some good recipes that were not only cheap but would also used all of the ingredients in one go so there would be no reason for me to look nervously at the half bag of vegetables sitting solidary in my fridge and slowly turning to mush.

I don’t know if I managed to explain my problem right so here I’ll give you a quick example. I need one dish a week (preferably dinner) either 3 of 4 servings (I usually go 4)

So for instance your chickpea crumble is something I could not make 🙁

as I would need 100 g of onions, 220 g of potatoes, 80g of self raising flour, 50 g of salted peanuts, 40 g porridge oats and 200 g chick peas. Meaning even if I bought everything in the smallest available quantities I’d still be stuck with lots of leftovers that I’d have to hang on to for 7 days (if not more) and then needed to incorporate in a new dish.

I hope I haven’t inconvenienced you with my (far too long) e-mail but I find it frustrating that even though I have more than half the food I’d need already provided from work (for free) and no need for either breakfast or lunch I struggle to find even one recipe I could make to save me from from 2 pound tesco pizza’s or 2.50 pound burger and fries from the nearest fish & ship shop.

Thank you very much Lesley for your wonderful recipes and I will definitely stay a devoted follower of your website!


My first thought is a pk of value mackerel fillets, a 300g pk of value soft cheese, and a pk of value pasta. Use half of one fillet, mix it with some soft cheese and stir it through cooked pasta. http://wp.me/p3MXF5-9y You can use the same mix with some carrot batons, on nice bread or a jkt potato to use another fillet. The recipes say to use half a fillet for two people, but in this case, to use it up in the time you have, I would have half a fillet to yourself.  Using about 200g potato per portion  ( you could buy what you need loose), and a beetroot from a value pk, make a salad with another fillet http://wp.me/p3MXF5-9E

Use the Beetroot up in a borscht soup
Pkt of rice and a box of eggs, a third fillet of mackerel, Kedgeree, http://wp.me/p3MXF5-9M
You could use the rest of the eggs in omelette, scrambled, egg on toast. A pkt of rice or pasta will keep for months.
The soft cheese can be used in another pasta sauce by mixing some with a dollop of tomato purée, recipe on blog
By mixing it with garlic and having it on bread (breakfast?)
You could get a pkt of value smoked salmon pieces, £1’ish. Another pasta sauce with the soft cheese. Use up the rest with some eggs in a pastry case, maybe bought if you don’t want to buy oil and flour – they last for ages tho
What do you do for breakfast or lunch?
Can you use up fresh veg in a soup? I take it you have no freezer room available. If none at home, is it possible to use any at work?
I’ll think of some more, and if I can post this, I’m sure our lovely readers will come up with plenty more

Email two

Eating the same thing for four days is mainly for convenience as it seemed cooking large quantities at once was the only way for me to avoid overspending or tossing things out.
For breakfast or lunch I don’t eat most of the time except (if I’ve been good and budget allows) maybe if I buy a big package of stuff like shortbread or brioche rolls (when I come back from work after a late shift so that’s between 12.30 or 3 I very often ravage these as well if I have them to my great shame)
I have a little freezercompartment(?)/freezerspace(?)/freezer-thingy(?!) in my fridge, never used it though as I have it is to small for a frrezerpizza which made up 50 percent of my diet before.
Reason behind this being that until recently I was not in the possesion of any cookingsupplies, my older sister visited me from Belgium however and gave her famous older-sister-glare when I admitted I’d used my fridge only once since moving in and immediately bought me a small pot to boil some pasta in, some rice, pasta, oil, jar-ed(?) tomato sauce and some oregano. She’s also the on who pointed out your article in the newspaper to me.
Ever since I’ve tentatively been some stuff with my little pot but mostly with quite dissapontinh results.
I’m sure your readers will have some nice recipes. I’m so very ready to never eat out ever again!!
So thank you for your e-mail! I’m looking forward to using my little kitchen!

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On the telly this evening
Banshees, coffee cake, heart trees, shining stars, onions and hyacinths - phew!