Frugal Pasta: Spaghetti Aglio E Olio <$1 per serve

This is a nice little spicy dish that is very simple, but delicious and a staple in our household. I originally got it from the TearFund “One Helping” cookbook which is part of their “Live Below the Line” challenge – available here or at Countdown. I do put my own little twists on it, but as a basic recipe it’s very easy, very filling, and very very cheap!

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Start off boiling your pasta. I find a little bit of oil goes a long way to making it not stick together. This meal is mostly pasta, and so we would have it about once a week maximum, as it’s good to get a good variety of food into your diet – but we get plenty of that from our soups and stews so think it’s fine to have a fairly cheap filling meal purely to bring the budget down. Besides, it tastes good.

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Next, I’ve diced up some olives – these are really not necessary to the dish, but they give it a great little extra oomph in both flavour and texture.

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Set a large frypan up with a bit of oil on a low heat – be generous, as this will be one of the main agents to cover and distribute flavour across the pasta. I crack out my good quality olive oil for this (I got this oil for $10 a bottle on sale, and it is DELICIOUS). Great quality oil really makes a massive contribution to flavour here. Sizzle away a bit of crushed garlic and your diced olives (if you choose to add them in).

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Add in some chilli flakes for the final couple of minutes of frying (once your pasta is almost ready). A couple pinches should do it, but you basically add more if you like it super hot, or have a few less if you want a less chilli-to-pasta ratio. I buy these little packets for $2.50 at Countdown and they last me a good couple of months.

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Once your pasta is done, chuck it in the pan and mix everything through. You’ll want to mix it constantly so your pasta doesn’t stick to the pan. Once the oil and bits and pieces are well distributed, you’re done. The whole meal should only take about 20 minutes to whip up.

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Once it’s in bowls, add a little parmesan cheese to top it off.

Side note: I bought one of these bags once, and now I usually just get a block of parmesan and grate it myself to refill the bag. It’s way cheaper for the same taste and a few minutes effort.

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So delicious…. A handy tip if you’re not super keen on spicy food – drink a bit of milk BEFORE you start eating, and it makes a protective coating on your tongue that will take the edge off. Drinking milk AFTER you’ve eaten it isn’t nearly as effective!

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The Live Below the Line Challenge is an annual fundraiser that TearFund runs – the challenge being to live below the poverty line (less than $2.25 food per person per day for five days). The money raised by people sponsoring participants goes towards rescuing people from human trafficking, and all the follow up care that is required afterwards. You can read about it here. The sale of the cookbook (again, here) also donates money towards this.

This challenge was really one of the inspiring factors for me that started me out on my mission of frugality. I thought “Well, $2.25 is pretty extreme, but what if I could just lower the cost of my food altogether all year round?” It also came from the horrible realization that being wasteful with food was sucking out most of our budget each month.

If you would like to join in my personal challenge of living on $350 groceries a month (adjusting the amount for the size of your family – we are two adults and a baby remember!) please do and share with us what tips and recipes you’ve found helpful. You can read more about my $350 a month challenge here.

Our budgeting software is YNAB (You Need A Budget) and is available here – you get a free months trial with a free course that teaches you the basics, and then you can choose whether to buy it (totally worth it) or take what you’ve learned and apply it elsewhere.

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