The £3 dinner challenge

The £3 dinner challenge

We recently blogged about the challenge buyagift.com and The Trussell Trust, a charity supplying food banks in the UK, set people to buy and prepare a meal for two, for £3. It aimed to highlight the difficulty that many families face in putting a meal on the table on a limited budget. Last weekend, I embarked on the challenge.

Before hitting the shops with £3 in my purse, I took some inspiration from Jack Monroe and her website, agirlcalledjack.com. Jack has pioneered a campaign to show people that tasty, nutritious food can be done cheaply. With my student days in the not too distant past, I had already decided that I didn’t want to prepare a pasta or rice dish, knowing all too well that having pasta on the table every night doesn’t make for an exciting dinner by the end of the week.
My bargain bounty
Instead, I opted to do my own twist on Jack Monroe’s recipe for aubergine and kidney bean burgers. When I started shopping, I rapidly realised that putting together my meal was not going to be as simple as I originally thought. Substituting the kidney beans for the chickpeas I wanted to include was easy enough as tinned pulses don’t vary too much in price, but when it came to choosing the main ingredient for the burger, I found myself frantically picking up different vegetables, weighing them and putting them back, deciding that it was too much of my budget to spend.
The experience of walking around the supermarket and having to think carefully about what was going into my basket was eye-opening. I settled on butternut squash as the main ingredient for my burgers because it was in season, and therefore relatively cheap. After scouring the shelves for thrifty additions such as garlic, pitta bread and mozzarella, I managed to buy everything for £2.84, feeling chuffed that I came out with 16p to spare. But, following The Trussell Trust’s guidelines, ingredients such as oil and herbs are not included in the budgeted £3, so my meal would actually clock in at more than £3.
Roasted and ready for whizzing
After whizzing the roasted butternut squash with garlic and chickpeas, forming the burgers, cooking and serving in a pitta bread with shredded mozzarella, I still had half of the blended butternut squash, garlic and chickpea mixture and a few pitta breads left. Not only was I able to serve dinner on a budget, but soup and bread for lunch the next day was sorted as well. Although it was a struggle to start with, I had to spend more time thinking and planning about what ingredients I could use. The challenge did pay off. It not only drove home the real value of food but also highlighted the importance of seasonality.
Dinner is served 



My shopping list
Pack of six pitta breads – 22p
Garlic – 30p
Butternut squash – £1.43
Tinned chickpeas – 45p
Mozzarella – 44p

The winner of the challenge will be announced on 22 December but if you’re looking for some nifty thrifty inspiration, check out all the entrants at the Three Pound Cooking Challenge Facebook album.

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