Feeding one person for 4 days and using up all the ingredients

Feb 15, 2014 | 6 comments


Feeding one person for 4 days and using up all the ingredients

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!



  1. Anne E

    Sorry I meant ‘chef’ not ‘chief’. 🙂

  2. Anne E

    Hi Bieke, welcome to England.
    I would buy some rolled oats as you can quickly make porridge and flavour it in lots of ways e.g. Jam, chocolate, mixed fruit. It’s also nice mixed into a flavoured yogurt, use to coat fish, in Lesley’s jammy oaty bars, etc. very cheap and filling for when the munchies strike. I like it made with water and also cold, but it’s probably an acquired taste that way.
    Also over time you could stock up on things like curry powder, so you could buy some minced beef an onion and a carrot and have a burger one day, spaghetti bolognaise day two and a curry day three. Onions carrots and potatoes are inexpensive and last two or more weeks if kept cool and in a dark place.
    Eggs also last up to three weeks and are very versatile. I like omelettes made with left over onion and cooked vegetables, they are also nice hard boiled and put in a vegetable curry.
    If you are friendly with any of the chiefs ask them for ideas. When they train they learn all about cooking with minimal waste, how to freshen up tired food, etc.
    Also if you have a friend nearby perhaps you could eat one meal a week at each other’s home, that way you get more variety and perhaps you could share packs of vegetables, fruit and spices, etc. to give you both more variety each week.
    Good luck.

  3. Sue

    Bieke, I think in this instance turning off the fridge is a false economy, unless of course you have monitored your electricity usage and know it is saving you more than you are spending on ready meals.

    Keeping the fridge on would allow you to buy foods that will last in there for a good two weeks. Bags of carrots, iceberg lettuce and celery will all last at least two weeks and therefore you will have time to use them up. Making up pans of soups or stews using leftovers from a planned meals and then freezing a couple of portions in the ice box part of the freezer will save you such a lot of money and mean that you get the most value possible for what you spend.

    It would be worth your while reading Jack Monroe’s blog too, as some of her recipes make full use of all the ingredients she buys each week.

  4. AlisonB43

    Hi there,
    I am currently living with my husband in our motorhome, and therefore our kitchen space is tiny; we do have a reasonable sized oven, a microwave and fridge with ice box. Having been used to a good sized fridge and separate freezer I thought I would never adjust to icebox, but have found it amazing what you can keep in there. My advice to you would be that by building up slowly you do not need to eat the same foods four days in one week, you could buy some inexpensive food boxes (like the take-away ones, available in supermarkets) and when you make a meal for yourself, freeze the other portion. This means that you will have a ‘ready’ meal in a week or so. As there are two of us I tend not to do that so much now, but will buy meat in ‘normal’ portions (usually around 500g) and then split into portions of 100g/200g, pack into cheap sandwich bags and pop into the icebox to freeze. It takes up far less space, but of course does mean that i will have to cook from scratch later.
    As for inspiration for what you might like to cook/is easy to cook, I do recommend looking at ‘student’ books. Although I am 50, I have (and still have) a few that are really brilliant for simple, quick, nutritions meals with the minimum of cooking equipment. Good luck in your kitchen endeavours, and I hope our replies are useful to you.

  5. Hayley

    Hard root vegetables like potatoes and onions actually keep longer if stored out of the fridge.
    Carrots and parsnips etc won’t rot if out of the fridge a couple of days either.
    Eggs can last if not stored in the fridge either, just follow the use by date guide lines on the packaging.
    Porridge oats are great as you can simply add boiled water and some jam. honey or salt for a filling meal.
    Powdered milk can be a life saver as you can simply make it up as you go, so no need to refrigerate.
    Canned vegetables and fruit are saviors too (chopped carrots 19p, processed peas 15p, new potatoes 15p, sliced peaches 33p, grapefruit 33p, sliced mandarins 23p).
    Canned veg can be added to stock and some red lentils for a quick soup,or some chopped tomatoes and pasta and the fruit can me made into a quick fruit salad, added to jellies or some natural yoghurt.

  6. jill in nyc

    Bieke..I can certainly relate, having worked my share of bizarre, extended shifts over the years.
    I relied on soups, beans and rice, stit frys and all things pasta…batched cooked and frozen in portions.
    You said that you turn off the fridge to save money.
    Have you calculated what you are actually saving vs what you end up spending for food and snacks from elsewhere?
    It may be worth your while to do the sums…even a tiny freezer can be packed with food stacked flat in plastic bags…or single portion containers.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Thrifty Lesley has an associated Facebook Group. Do come over and say hello if you haven’t already joined. I’d love to see you!

I’m a perpetual dieter, and to help with that endeavour, there is now also a Thrifty Lesley dieting group, a lovely, growing community.