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As it is a sunny day, I am lazing my days away

What? That’s not practising what you preach!

You’re right and I’m not: in fact I’m multitasking.  Well, I hope.

I thought I’d share my first go at microwaving (or at least partially microwaving) a roast chicken.

What on earth for?

Well, I hear many people saying they cannot afford to cook given how high energy prices are, especially on the radio. Part of me thinks that’s because they aren’t in a position to see what can be done for very little money. This is an experiment.

Whatever!

A raw chicken, 1.626kg. Half a packet of paxo stuffing, three potatoes and half a courgette came to:

  • Chicken: £5.
  • Potatoes: £0.30.
  • Stuffing: £0.50
  • Courgette: £0.52.
  • Gravy: £0.20.
  • Carrot: £0.10 (a big carrot).
  • Leek: £0.46.
  • Baby corn: £0.80.

Now, some of these I am going to cook together in my combination microwave. I slice up the courgette, make up the stuffing (225ml of boiling water), quarter the potatoes (I don’t bother peeling them but next time I will), and put a little fat (about 15ml of oil) in the bottom of a glass roasting tray. I stuff the chicken and put that on top of the veg, upside down.

According to the instruction book, my chicken should take 45 minutes to cook at 190C for the convection oven and a simmer for the microwave power. 45 minutes to cook half a meal at a power rating of about 1.5kW, so that’s 31p or £0.31 to cook half the meal, plus £0.07 to make the stuffing: if I were just doing that, the meal would cost £0.38 to cook. I set the timer and a 20 minute timer to remind me to flip the chicken half way through the cycle.

So I can have cheap gravy, I’m doing a few veg on the hob – the left over water will be used to make the gravy. I need 250ml for that, so after 40 minutes I boil up 300ml of water to cook the vegetables, the carrot, leek, and baby corn. I measure out two teaspoons of gravy and put that in a pyrex jug and place it in the sink. Once the pinger goes on the microwave, the water used to cook the vegetables will go onto the bisto gravy and make a tasty and nutritious gravy.

I wait to turn the chicken and I have to say it’s all looking good. Once I have 12 minutes left of the times, I heat the water for the vegetables and add the carrots. I wait until the timer says 7 minutes and add the corn and the leek goes in with 4 minutes left on the clock. I’ve had the plates warming on top of the microwave to ensure I have hot plates for no extra cost. The vegetables are being cooked on a halogen hob: so not the most efficient but I’m not heating much water and I keep the lid on. I’m guessing £0.21 and my smart meter confirms that.

The cost of cooking my meal for three adults has been:

  • chicken, potatoes, stuffing, and courgette: £0.38.
  • Vegetables and gravy: £0.21.

That’s £0.51 to cook a roast meal plus the £7.88 to buy the food: I could have sourced the food from somewhere cheaper rather than Waitrose – at Aldi, the same meal would have cost £3 from Aldi, but cooking the meal is not the expensive part. For three people, the meal I cooked at £8.39 works out at £2.80 per plate.

It would have cost at least twice that to cook in a conventional oven, but then I could have cooked the vegetables in the oven at the same time and still had the boiling water for the gravy, the cost then would be around £9 or £3 a plate.

A delicious meal for £2.80, half eaten. If we’d been careful, it would have cost £1.60.

Now, we have meat left over for two to three meals if I’m careful about measuring it out.

Left overs for other meals.

And I use the bones to make my own chicken stock – again in the microwave, from the bones and a few left over veg from the meal. Materials wise, it’s about £0.25 extra on top of the leftovers and cooking in the microwave is about £0.07. It tastes great and makes a really cheap soup for two or three people.

A cheap home made chicken stock for home made soup.

Food is more expensive, electricity, and fossil fuels are more expensive, but nutritious cooked food to sustain life is not that expensive, if you can make your own food at home. A microwave that would do this at this cost is £125 from Argos, if you don’t have one already.

If you’re game, you don’t need the combination one – my family cooked whole chickens by microwave in the 1980s. Not quite the same crispy skin but extremely cheap cooking, which is why we were having it. Instead of 12 minutes per 450g, you are looking at 4-5 minutes per 450g. That’s dropping the cost of cooking down again. Of course, you are not going to get roast potatoes done at the same time, and vegetables places in the mircowave will add to the time. But that is cheap cooking for many people.

A single function microwave costs £45, which is a generous Christmas present from a parent.

I want to know what the other meals are?!

Oh, sorry. The three meals are: chicken and mushroom risotto (can be done cheaper with just basmati rice), chicken pie – a chicken stew with a puff pastry top, and either chicken curry (tikka masala) or chicken pasta a la Genovese.

The stock I’ll use for a stilton and celery soup.

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