Thursday, 12 December 2013

Cheap eats (Φθηνά)

When my kids were young, I fed them standard portions of food at standard times. They maintained this regime throughout primary school, but in the last year, I notice how voracious their appetites have become. They are getting taller, older and hungrier, especially in the evenings, when they have been out and about doing their after-school activities.

Our main lunch meals during the week usually consist of slow-cooked bean dishes, a mince sauce for pasta and one egg meal a week, with a good deal of  'leftovers' clearance. But our evening meals are often more exciting: If I don't have time to whip up a pita (or the kitchen is too cold for rolling out dough in it), we've established a souvlaki night, I sometimes resort to a baking a frozen pizza and a quick dakos snack is also in order, with or without grated tomato (our supply is about to run out soon). But nothing beats a warm meal on a winter's night, prepared by mother.
Evening meals need to be quick and easy to prepare and cook. My choice dish for something quick and easy is an orzo pasta rice meal. You can add virtually anyting to it, including leftovers and various odds and sods that need to be used up before they gooff. If cooked in double quantities, it can be served the next day as leftovers, or perhaps as a side dish to complement another meal. All I added to this one was a few frozen/canned vegetables, olive oil and some spices. It's very filling and can be warmed up easily. 
My tuna patties were made by mashing a large can of tuna and adding a few slices of crumbled bread (not breadcrumbs), as well as some herbs and spices, garlic and onion. They were easy to make and there were enough for two meals (to accompany a lentil stew the next day). Canned tuna is not always cheap, so the addition of bread, onion and herbs makes it go a longer way.
Frozen chicken pieces are generally cheap and they cook quickly - a packet of 10 small legs costs about €4-4.50, while wings cost about half that. Small potatoes have been selling for €0.38/kg for the past month, so this meal - which made enough food to be served the next day for lunch as well - was very economical. Frozen chicken doesn't need a long time to cook - the meat becomes tender quite quickly - and if you cut up the potatoes into small chunks, it is ready in an hour from when you placed the baking tin in the oven. 
A souvlaki costs about €2 in Hania at the moment - if you used this price as a cost-per-person for a meal, then souvlaki is the most expensive meal out of all the dishes I've presented in this post. A souvlaki looks cheap on the face of it, but it would still cost you more to eat souvlaki every night than it would to prepare a filling meal virtually from scratch using basic supermarket ingredients. Home-made food is still much cheaper to serve in Greece than meals out, including the cost of the ingredients and the energy needed to cook them. They needn't take too much time to prepare or even cook, nor do they need to cost much money - what's more, they remain very healthy transparent meals for a growing family.

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