The winter chill has set in so oily rag households have the wood burning stoves stoked up and the slow cookers brewing warm winter meals.

A couple of weeks ago Andrew asked: "Does anyone have some super simple, cheap recipes for meals for cold winter nights that are suitable for a young family?"

It is great to see the oily rag community rallying around with some yummy tips.

Jo from Christchurch writes, "For a cheap family meal there is nothing simpler than a mince stew. Hubby and I make one starting with browning the mince and adding spices that take your fancy. We also use a selection of sauces, and then we add every possible vegetable we can lay our hands on. Sometimes I use leftovers from the fridge too.

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Most often we make a bulk pack of mince into almost 10 litres of stew with veges -- you can't get much more economical than that. I also make up a 10-litre pot of soup, starting with cheap soup bones, then soup mix and again, as many veges as I can fit in. I cook it almost to a stew consistency ... but not quite. Both of these freeze well, and feed many for a minimal outlay. Both are scrummy and good for you."

Pam from Waiuku has sent this family favourite recipe: "You will need 750g of chuck steak or similar cheap cuts of beef, 1 packet French onion soup, and 1 can of coke. Cut beef into cubes, coat in soup mix, and add to a slow cooker with 1 tsp garlic and the coke. Slow cook for several hours then add 2 tbsp tomato paste 2 hours before serving to help thicken the mix. Absolutely delicious and so easy. Enjoy."

Nettie from Matarangi has this tip: "While pumpkins are cheap and plentiful I have been scooping out a whole pumpkin and stuffing it with flavoursome stuffings of rice, nuts, herbs and spices. Pop the lid you have cut off back on the pumpkin, wrap in tinfoil and bake for about an hour with the roast. Cut into wedges to serve -- and blend up the leftovers with some stock for a delicious pumpkin soup!"

M.M. has sent this fantastic recipe that their mum used to make: "It's cheap, quick and delicious and is now a family favourite in my home. This recipe also freezes really well, so you can make it in advance or freeze the leftovers. Ingredients: chicken legs and/or thighs; large tin of tomato soup; large carrot, sliced; 10 mushrooms, chopped in chunks; large brown onion, thinly sliced, 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs.

All you have to do is place the ingredients in a casserole dish, mix, and then place the lid on the dish. Cook in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. I usually stir it after 30 minutes to mix it all through. Serve with rice and beans or peas. It is such a hearty meal, you will all love it!"

And here is a versatile minced meat casserole that can make use of almost anything edible that is left-over in the fridge: "Put any of the following ingredients, in layers, in an ovenproof pie dish or casserole. Minced meat (beef, lamb, hogget, pork, chicken, rabbit or possum) plus a mixture of any of these -- sliced onions, chopped bacon or ham pieces, grated carrot or pumpkin, drained tinned tomatoes, finely sliced raw potatoes, frozen peas, beans or corn, odd bits of shredded cabbage or cauliflower (not broccoli as it goes a funny colour). You may like to try sprinkling sunflower or pumpkin seeds between the layers.

"A pinch of sage over pork, a sprinkle of rosemary over hogget or a smear of prepared mustard or horseradish sauce over beef is very tasty.

"Gently pour over the casserole a mixture of two cups of warm water, leftover gravy or tomato juice, with salt and pepper to taste, about a tablespoon of either tomato, Worcestershire, plum or black bean sauce and the same amount of vinegar.

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Put a lid on the dish or cover with cooking foil and bake gently at 225C for 90 minutes."

You can send in your ideas and join the Oily Rag mailing list by visiting oilyrag.co.nz or you can write to us at Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.
* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read our wealth of tips at target='_blank'>oilyrag.co.nz