Cheap Portuguese Lunches

Vegetable soup - healthy and cheap

Traditionally in our household, we follow the extravagance of the Christmas and New Year period with ‘frugal January.’ This is our annual tradition of living on a tight budget throughout the month of January in order to recover from both the expense of Christmas and the richness of the food consumed throughout the festive season.

Vegetable soup - healthy and cheap

Vegetable soup – healthy and cheap

This year, with a baby on the way, frugal January is particularly important to us. Every penny saved on food shopping (as well as other areas) is another penny that goes towards the expense of parenthood.

Interestingly, we’ve found over the years that living frugally in January sees us eating more fresh food than normal and savouring the tastes of local produce. Whereas other months might see us throw a frozen pizza in the oven for lunch for the sake of convenience while we work, in January the emphasis is on low-cost healthy eating, packed full of fresh ingredients.

So far this month, our cheap Portuguese lunches have included all sorts of delights. Here we pick five of the best to share with you.

Octopus salad - quick and easy to make

Octopus salad – quick and easy to make

Vegetable soup – most supermarkets in Portugal sell vegetable soup packs, consisting of a selection of chopped up vegetables. The one we purchased contained half a cabbage, carrot, leek and a few other goodies. While the resulting soup can be a little bland, we found that adding heaps of chilli flakes gave it a nice kick. As well as eating it on the day it was made, we produced enough to freeze two more lunches worth, making this a true bargain lunch.

Tosta mistas – as Christmas has seen a toasted sandwich maker added to our kitchen appliances, we enjoyed a cheap lunch of tosta mistas (toasted cheese and ham sandwiches, which are available in pretty much every café in Portugal).

Octopus salad – with a tin of octopus in garlic oil and a jar of mixed pickled vegetables already in the store cupboard, all we needed to buy to make this delicious lunch was some fresh coriander and a couple of bread rolls to warm through and eat with it. Octopus salad takes just a few minutes to prepare, as no cooking is required – only chopping. Perfection.

Portuguese carrots - one of our favourites

Portuguese carrots – one of our favourites

Sardine paste, Portuguese carrots and fresh bread – although properly defined as couvert (the Portuguese pre-starters served at the beginning of a meal), this combination often serves us as one of our favourite cheap and delicious Portuguese lunches. The Portuguese carrots are quick to make and can be prepared the day before.

Hummus – although not precisely a Portuguese food, chick peas are so ridiculously cheap here that we often enjoy homemade hummus for lunch. The chick peas are simply blended with garlic, oil, lemon juice, seasoning and (as tahini can be hard to get hold of) some toasted sesame seeds. We serve it with whatever crunchy vegetables we happen to have in the fridge that can be dipped into it, along with some whole wheat crackers.  Tasty and packed full of goodness.

What are your favourite cheap Portuguese lunches? Let us know via the comments box.

Image credit: Flickr