I am blessed to count among my friends many amazing food bloggers. And one of them is Elissa from Five Beans Food who has contributed a wonderful and interesting recipe for this week’s post.
What I love about Elissa’s cooking is the simple joy she expresses. Her food presents as wholesome, nourishing and made with love. Having visited her home and met her family, I can see that her cooking is an extension of her rich and joyful life. Oh, and husband Dave has a fabulous Canberra coffee business as a side hustle that combines both ethical principles with uncompromising taste. Truly a foodie family.
“Feeding four people for $5 is easier said than done! I consider myself a budget conscious person and have a lot of practice feeding our family on a budget. However, I have to admit I rarely spend time calculating the cost of each meal with any precision and my budgeting is more of a big picture approach. So, I found it a challenge to come up with a $5 Friday dinner. Mission accomplished with this simple and tasty meal of chicken and chickpea meatballs with rice and vegetables
Principles of budget cooking
The recipe relies on the usual suspects of cost-conscious cooking principles to keep it within the $5 budget:
- Cook from scratch rather than using processed or packaged food;
- Use less meat and more vegetables, grains and pulses;
- Use fresh vegetables that are in season rather than paying extra for out of season stock; and
- Waste less by making the most of your ingredients.
Each of these principles features in this meal, which is essentially a variation on that old classic frugal plate of rice and beans. The stock for the sauce and the chickpeas are both cooked from scratch; the chicken meatballs have hidden chickpeas to use less meat; the vegetables are seasonal specials (I chose vegetables that were $2 per kilo or less); and I’ve worked hard to squeeze everything I can out of most of the ingredients, including using the chickpea cooking water and the vegetable peelings.
It’s actually surprisingly filling, and quite a tasty meal. A bonus for allergy conscious cooks is that the recipe is egg and nut free, and gluten free if you use wheat-free soy or tamari.
The recipe starts with cooked chickpeas, assuming you have already done the work of soaking and cooking the dried chickpeas and saving the precious cooking water.
It’s not a bad habit to get into – regularly cooking up a batch of dried something or other. Once cooked (in a pressure cooker, saucepan or even the slow cooker) they can sit in the fridge and be added to salads, soups, dips and stews as a handy, tasty and budget-friendly meal booster. Make sure to save the chickpea cooking liquid, the aquafaba, as it’s surprising qualities mean it can be substituted for egg whites in some recipes, and helps bind the meatballs in this meal.
Saving those precious carrot peelings and the knobbly ends of the broccoli stalks is a classic way to minimise food waste and harvest all the flavour and goodness of your ingredients. Sadly, making stock from the peelings and odds & ends is an age-old approach which is absent in most modern kitchens. Time vs money, perhaps?
Since I wanted to save money for this dinner, I took the time and made the stock from scratch. It gave me a tasty liquid to add extra flavour to both the meatballs and vegetables for no extra cost.
Chicken and chickpea meatballs with vegetables and rice
- 125g dried chickpeas
- 280g uncooked white rice
- 1 medium onion (approx 100g)
- 2 carrots (approx 200g)
- Approx 300g green vegetables, such as broccoli or other seasonal vegetable
- 200g chicken mince
- 1 ½ teaspoons minced ginger
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce (or use wheat free soy or tamari to keep it gluten free)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste
For the chickpeas:
Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of water. Drain and rinse. Cook the chickpeas until tender, either in a pressure cooker, slow cooker or saucepan. This should yield approx 250g cooked chickpeas. Reserve the cooking liquid and set aside. Mash the cooked chickpeas in a large bowl.
For the stock:
- 1 teaspoon of the chicken mince
- Offcuts from the green vegetables
- A little bit of the onion, diced
- Peelings and ends from the carrots
- A little of the oil for the pan
Add the oil to a saucepan on medium heat. Lightly brown the chicken mince in the pan, then add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the other ingredients and to the pan and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Remove the pan from the heat and add 2 cups water. Return the pan to the heat and allow the liquid to boil down and reduce to approx ½ cup liquid, which may take approx half an hour. Add a little salt and pepper. Strain the liquid stock into a jug and discard the other ingredients. (NB, some of the stock will be used for the meatballs and some for the vegetables).
For the rice:
Cook 280g of white rice, either in a rice cooker or saucepan.
For the meatballs:
- the 250g mashed, cooked chickpeas
- approx 200g chicken mince (minus the small amount used in the stock)
- 1 of the carrots, grated
- ½ of the onion, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea cooking liquid (aquafaba)
- 2 teaspoons of the soy (or wheat free soy or tamari)
- 1 teaspoon of the minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon of the stock
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Once the chickpeas are mashed, stir through the ginger and soy sauce and mix until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. Form the mixture into 12 balls and set out on a plate or tray.
Add a little oil to an oven proof pan and fry gently for approx 5 minutes, until lightly browned (don’t cook them too rapidly or they might fall apart).
Place the pan in the oven and cook the meatballs for approx 15 minutes.
Serve 3 meatballs per person with the rice and vegetables.
For the vegetables:
- ½ onion, sliced lengthways
- 1 of the carrots, chopped
- 1 head of broccoli (or other green seasonal vegetable)
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons of the soy (or wheat free soy or tamari)
Heat a little of the oil in a wok or pan. Add the onion and ginger and cook gently until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the other vegetables and cook, stirring. Add the remainder of the stock a little at a time.
To serve, place on the plate with the rice and meatballs and drizzle the pan juices over the vegetables and meatballs.
I was surprised how difficult it was to carefully calculate portions and limit my choice of ingredients. The fact it was such a challenge makes me realise I don’t always pay that much attention to the cost of each meal.
If you do have more money and less time, try the luxury version of this recipe:
- use a tin of cooked chickpeas (remember to save the liquid);
- use pre-prepared or purchased stock; and
- use whatever vegetables you like, without the $2 per kilo limit.
I have to warn you though, your meal will be missing a secret ingredient: time. Even though it does take longer and you do need to plan ahead, cooking from scratch will reward you with a tastier dish, and a cheaper one at that. Time to plan for the next frugal, full of flavour meal!
Proof that it actually cost me $5
|Amount used in total for the meal||Price per kilo or unit||Price for recipe|
|rice||280g (70g dry per person)||$2.50 per kilo (based on Sunrice medium grain white rice 5 kilo pack at $5 in Woolworths)||0.70|
|1 medium onion||100g||$2 per kilo||0.20|
|2 carrots –||200g||$1.50 per kilo||0.30|
|Broccoli (or other veg at $2 per kilo)||300g, 100g or about ½ cup per person||$2 per kilo||0.60|
|Chicken mince||200g||$11 per kilo||$2.20|
|chickpeas||250g cooked (125g dried)||0.48 per 100g||0.60|
|Minced ginger||1 ½ teaspoons (4 grams)||$2.07 per 100g||0.10|
|Soy sauce||4 teaspoons (10 mls)||Kikkoman soy $6.25 for 600ml||0.10|
Elissa is a Canberra mum who blogs at fivebeansfood.com, where her motto is to “enjoy and share home cooked food on a budget”. She loves simple, tasty recipes that are easy to make and easy to share with others. Find Five Beans Food on Facebook Instagram and Pinterest