/ Food & Drink

Can you bake a Great British Bake Off showstopper on a budget?

baking

We’re coming up to autumn – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of hearty stews and warming pies. And the return of The Great British Bake Off.

Guest Penny Campbell from Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week shares her tips for baking  on a budget.

There’s no denying it: Bake Off has rekindled the nation’s love of baking.

So what if we can’t produce showstoppers like Candice or Nadiya? Making homemade treats for your children is invaluable, and nothing beats getting them to pitch in and passing on those top-secret family recipes you were taught by your mother or grandmother.

Preprepared vs homemade

Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week started off as group on Facebook with the aim of helping reeducate people who rely on preprepared goods, packets and jars to feed their families. We post recipes, tips and advice, and in just over a year, we’ve built up a following of over 500,000 members.

We know it can be tempting to buy preprepared packets and jars when you don’t have all the ingredients in your cupboards – especially when you only need to add water to cupcake mixtures or pancake batter to make sweet treats for your family.

And while you may look at the cost of individual items and think it’s cheaper to buy preprepared, once you’ve divided the cost of that bag of flour or sugar by how many recipes you can make, it really isn’t.

Shopping around for the essentials and gradually building up a staple of herbs, spices, dried fruits, etc, makes a huge difference. Often these ingredients last well past their listed use-by date and are worth snapping up when they’re reduced. (Herbs are ideal for freezing in an ice cube tray, too.)

Concocting the masterpieces seen on Bake Off to the finest icing detail can be expensive, and it can be hard to source those pretty edible flowers or gold-leaf decorations. But, there are often cheaper alternatives available and plenty of tricks to make your baking go that little bit further, too.

Cost cutting

What if you’ve let your creative juices take over and the cake you’ve made is going dry? Simple: you can easily make it into a delicious trifle, or dip it in beaten egg and fry in butter for a unique French toast.

Alternatively, cut a hole in the leftover cake, top with a scoop of ice cream and spread on some jam, top with a meringue and use a blow torch to brown it. This takes no time, looks elegant and costs pennies to make.

Struggling with leftover yolks from making the meringue? Turn them into a tasty lemon curd.

If you’re pushed for time, a slow cooker or pressure cooker can be your best friend and means you can make your family good, nutritious, home-cooked meals while you’re busy doing something else. You can even make cakes in a slow cooker – try out our delicious chocolate lava cake recipe for size.

Make meals in bulk and use your freezer well; you’ll find a renewed love of cooking and your purse will love the savings.

For more hints and tips, see the Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week website.

This is a guest post by Penny Campbell, administrator for Feed Your Family For About £20 A Week. All views expressed here at Penny’s and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

Do you have any savvy money-saving baking or cooking tips?

Comments
Member

As I’m not really a baker, I tend to buy cakes rather than make them myself. Does anyone else do this?

Member

All the time! My lack of baking skills are legendary. My showstoppers are ban pie (banoffee without the offee) and tarmac tart (jam tart set so hard you could drive a car over it).

On another note, my nan had a friend who would send mince pies at Christmas as gifts. They were clearly shop-bought but had had the edges cut off and a sprinkling of icing sugar dusted over them to make them appear as if she’d baked them herself. You couldn’t make it up.

Member

Don’t really eat cakes. And I’m still wincing at “preprepared”, which isn’t even a word. 🙂

Member

Ha ha. Preprepared is a word – I looked it up, but agree it does look odd. I’ve never liked ‘newest’. Perhaps we should have a convo on words we don’t like. 🙂

Member

It doesn’t exist in the OED, Mel. It can be created by adding a hyphen between the first and second pres, but it doesn’t exist as is.

But ‘prepared’ means to make ready before. So it’s hard to see how an extra ‘pre’ can add anything, really. Bit like unique. I shudder when folk talk about ‘very unique’, and groan when folk talk about disinteresting as boring. Being a pedant is sometimes a lonely life… 🙂

Member

The first “pre” is unnecessary – it is prepared already. If you want to use another pre, for some reason. I’d suggest “pre-prepared”. And shouldn’t it be “re educate”?

I don’t like “got” and I wonder why we use there’s and we’re when “there is” and “we are” take up little more effort? I also do not like the newish fad for adding an overlong pause between the announcement of a decision and the result. Could of, nucular, I could go on…and on…..

You did ask and I am not normally a pedant 🙂

Member

Malcolm I assume it means previously prepared and ready to eat 🙂 Now there’s food for thought (Ooops!)

Member

I’d like to see how you feed a family for £20 a week. Can’t find it on the website. That’s 24p a meal. Just curious.

Member

Yes malcolm I would too . It makes me very angry that HMG dogma and propaganda like an MP “living ” for a day or so on meager rations so that they can cut welfare to the bone to pay the IMF/WB while the City live in luxury and the rich get tax cuts. I keep getting asked to PROVE 100 % everything I post okay then PROVE 100 % that its possible to live on that for years otherwise I will disbelieve YOU ! I am a living example of someone who grew up in abject poverty existing on thin air , fainting at school, suffering permanent organic complaints due to LONG TERM malnutrition , permanent illness , living on berries gathered from blitzed gardens after WW2 , raking bins for lemonade bottles to take to a newsagent to get a few pence to go to the Co-op store and ask for a bag of broken biscuits , it just got worse . Now its called”Dumpster diving ” just to survive , people begging, homeless, committing a crime so they can get shelter and food , females prostituting themselves for the sake of their children . This country has now been condemned by none other than the UN for its lack of a proper welfare system while the rich get richer so I demand answers !! I want 100 % PROOF that £20/week is enough for a family not only to survive but but to live without vitamin deficiencies I am talking of where the majority of poor live in cities and towns.

Member

Cake is a special treat for me at the moment as I have almost reached my goal of losing 14lbs in the last 5 months. I do allow myself the occasional treat with a coffee or tea when out but never at home because the temptation to devour more than one biscuit or cake is too great.

I used to cook a lot when all 4 children were at home but nothing too fancy. The old favourite Victoria sandwich filled with butter cream and jam and my mothers recipe of boiled fruit cake which was quick and easy to make and finished off in the oven. Sunday roast, lamb or beef which was eaten cold on Monday with oven baked jacket potatoes. Sausage and mash and baked beans on Tuesday. Cheese pie and carrots (a particular favourite) on Wednesday, Spagetti bolognese on Thursday, Fish fingers on Friday and Cottage pie or hot pot on Saturday. Pizza, curry and Chinese takeaways were something people ate when on holiday if you could afford one. Main meals were always followed by pudding, home made apple pie or steamed treacle pudding with custard on Sunday, the rest of the week either oven baked rice pudding, Angel Delight, stewed fruit or banana custard.

Now it’s whatever I fancy from the freezer, baked in the combi oven, never grilled, with lots of vegetables 🙂 I try to limit ready meals to 2 a week for when I have had a really tiring and busy day in the garden or in the house. Low fat Greek yoghurt with fruit or cheese and crackers and fresh fruit for pudding, lovely 🙂

I never managed £20 a week, more like £50 to feed a family of 6, but that was a long time ago. I dread to think how much it would cost today but with both parents now having to work to make ends meet and pre-prepared meals so ready available £20 pounds does seem a little unrealistic.

Member

I enjoy baking cakes and biscuits. My tip is to test out new recipes once or twice before inflicting the results on anyone else.

As a child I took little interest in learning to cook until when starting the sixth form, the sports teacher, having noticed my reluctance to engage with PE and sports, said that if I did not want to play sport I would have to do cooking instead. I said that I would be delighted to and so did a friend in the same class. The two of us taught ourselves to cook and were able to get on with it without supervision. Very happy days.

Member

Well I think you are really missing out if you can’t bake anything yourself. Eating that cake or pie is only a small part of the enjoyment. A shop-bought cake is too uniformly cooked and doesn’t have the lovely brown edge which we fight over. You also miss out on the lovely smell of a cake cooking – and/or the dubious pleasure of scraping the bowl and licking the spatula.

I prefer savoury food though and think that more people would actually enjoy making their own soup if they were given the chance. It’s so easy and so much nicer than the tinned or packet variety. I’d expect to get three meals out of a roast chicken and that would include using the stock made in a slow cooker from the carcase. (I used to be forever boiling dry the stock when I just used a pan.) Home made stock is so much nicer than stock cubes which are generally so very salty.

Member

I enjoy the smell of cakes and bread baking – only surpassed by the smell of proper coffee. When baking biscuits there are always some seconds that are not quite good enough to offer to anyone else, but they can still be enjoyed by the cook. 🙂

Soup is very easy to make and freeze and mine has less salt than the commercial variety.

Member

For anyone who may have been inspired by this series of GBBO before you get your apron on have a look at our latest mixer news: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/move-over-kenwood-and-kitchenaid-aldi-launches-premium-stand-mixer-for-150/

Member

I was disappointed to discover that Which? no longer reviews stick blenders.

Member

I would like a new mixer to take the hard work out of bread making.

GBBO seem to have removed the brand names from their mixers although they look rather like KitchenAids.

I already have an old food processor, but it doesn’t knead bread, so if I do get a new one, it must be robust enough to the job. Both first looks by Which? at the Aldi machines mention cheap quality so perhaps not for me.

Member

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-4844200/Spot-difference-KitchenAid-Aldi-mixers.html

I suspect that neither is very good value for money, albeit for quite different reasons.

Member

Worth looking at Which? mixer reviews. I suspect like many chaep motorised products the Aldi may well do a decent job, but not last as long as more expensive products. But if you just have an occasional use for it it may be good value.

What disappoints me about Which? reviews is they do not usually give any indication as to durability . That would be a key requirement of mine in deciding whether to spend more on something that should be more robust, better built, with decent components. Knowledge of components is needed of course, and what to look for and how – taking a product to pieces after it has gone through its testing should tell a knowledgeable examiner a lot about its build quality. Do Which? have the kind of people in the test labs they use who can do this?

Member

As a matter of public education it would be useful as malcolm says to do breakdowns of these competing machines and discuss the very real differences between plastics in terms of cost , weight, and correct usage. Types of motor and of bearings are all things of which most of us give no thought but are important if you want something to last decades. Our Kenwood is into its third decade and has had plenty of use.

There seems to be a vibe that what is cheap is Okay because if it breaks we can replace it. I would suggest that with a sluggish economy that people may not have the money for replacing items often.

As Which? contracts its’ testing out it has no capability to do this knockdown of machines – and one wonders if any testing laboratory would be keen to do the work.

Perhaps we should get people to put their experiences of this and other mixers in the Member Community forum so subscribers long term action testing can be recorded. I have various new machines which are revealing aspects that the Which? contracted testing does not cover. And of course items Which? has never covered like the A4 and A3 ereaders so useful for those with poor eyesight.

Member

Hi Alfa – our first look review says “We tried out a variety of baking tasks, and thought it did a fair job of mixing cake batter, kneading bread dough and whipping cream and buttercream.” I would be hopeful that this would suit your kneads 😉 but it all depends on how much bread you make.

malcolm, that’s a very good question. I will have to do a bit of research into that to see what tests we do to check durability. A good indicator is the member reviews below which tell you how they reacted in the home, and often people discuss the durability. I’ll look into this further for you though.

Member

@awhittle,, thanks Alex. The problem that has often been pointed out with online reviews is they are often comments on the product when new, rather than after they’ve used it for enough time to assess its real qualities. I wonder if Which? do dismantle products; that would be the best short term way of assessing real quality (or not!). At the same time I would hope they would do endurance tests – so run mixers, for exampl,e repeatedly for an extended period doing the usual tasks to simulate longer-term use.