When good money-saving recipes go bad

posted by in Budgeting

The MoneyAware team read tons of thrifty and delicious recipes every day, and we try to practice what we preach, and cook them.

So when James recently had the bright idea that we attempt to make something yummy from some cheap cuts of meat, I jumped at the opportunity. I wish I hadn’t.

When I was assigned with cooking beef shin I really didn’t know what to expect. I should’ve known I was in trouble when I told the butcher I intended on roasting the beef shin rather than stew it. Why? Because he pulled this face at me.

Recognise it? You should. That’s the face you pull when someone’s clearly put their make-up on in the dark. That’s what you look like when someone grabs the karaoke mic after one too many sambuca shots. That’s the face you’ll be wearing until you get to the end of this article, too. You’ve been warned…

Don’t try this at home. Really.

What would even cause my tragic lapse in judgment, you ask? Well, I’d been searching online for a pretty simple beef shin recipe, and I wasn’t having much luck. Thing is, if I have to factor in more than six or seven ingredients (including salt and pepper), everything usually goes to pot.

Also, I’m meant to be saving money, aren’t I? How am I meant to do that if I’m running about buying every random herb and spice known to man?

So when I found this easy-to-follow roasted shin beef recipe, I was over the moon. Easy-to-find ingredients with minimal faffing about? One of those ingredients being a large can of my favourite beer? Cheap, simple and low maintenance? This recipe was actually written for me, I was sure!

A list of my cooking failures

So, how did I manage to screw this up? Let me count the ways…

  • I should have made a bed of root vegetables in the roasting tin like my cringing butcher recommended. Thing is, the shin itself and all of the ingredients in this recipe already cost me just over a tenner. I didn’t fancy pushing my budget further with parsnips and carrots.
  • I used dry herbs instead of fresh ones. They were in my cupboard already, so why would I buy fresh? Why indeed.
  • I didn’t roast the beef shin for long enough. I’d committed to making this for mine and my boyfriend’s tea that night, even though it would take four hours to cook. As you can see, timing – and being an adult in general – is still something I’m working on.

The results

Terrible cooking by Rachel

Look at this tragedy. It’s actually grey. It even tasted grey, if that’s even possible. There’s no filter on this photo. Why’s that? Because I wanted the world to know that there is such a thing as food that hates itself. In fact its self-loathing is surpassed only by its hatred of me, if the queasy stomach I suffered that night is anything to go by.

And for the record, I don’t blame the recipe at all. I don’t doubt there are some talented artisans reading this and scoffing into their chef smocks at my folly. I don’t blame them either.

What I learned from my failed experiment

What can you take away from this? Three things really:

  1. Don’t get all maverick and try to roast a beef shin, unless you have a craving for meat that tastes like truck tyres (in which case, rock on)
  2. If I offer to cook for you, run and don’t look back
  3. If you’re going to do cheap and cheerful meals, start off with meat that’s actually flavoursome such as pork, or quick to cook such as chicken. Striking a balance between costs, time and general faffing about is key to doing thrifty and yummy meals like a boss

Not all of the MoneyAware team’s meat experiments led to failure though. Check out the full cheap cuts of meat article to find out how the rest of the team got on.

Rachel Connor has been with the charity for over 8 years, starting in Helpline before joining the MoneyAware team in 2012. Rach enjoys travelling, video games, watching anime, reading and creative writing in her spare time (currently writing a Young Adult fantasy series). She had a previous life as head writer on Cartoon Network's Ed Edd n Eddy and as a copywriter for LivingSocial. She's also written comics and graphic novels for the animated series Regular Show.

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