$5 meal – Red lentil bolognaise

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Red lentil bolognaiseThe Destitute Gourmet, Sophie Gray, takes up our $5 Meal Challenge this week with her very tasty red lentil bolognaise, which costs a mere $4.43. What’s more, Random House has kindly offered two copies of Sophie’s latest book Feed the Family for $15 or Less to give away. See details below on how to enter the draw. Meanwhile, on to Sophie’s yummy meal.


Red lentils are the easiest of all the pulses to work with. They are dirt cheap, fast to cook and a good source of protein. This recipe can be served over pasta, as a layer in a roasted veg lasagne or spread over a pizza base. You can use this recipe as a meat extender.

Cost $4.43*

Serves 4-6

1 heaped cup red lentils, uncooked
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp basil pesto or a pinch of mixed herbs and a pinch of basil – add more or less to your taste
Salt and pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Pour in the lentils and stir to ensure they do not stick to the base of the saucepan. Boil the lentils for 8-10 minutes or until soft.

Heat the oil in a medium pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and herbs then stir in the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until flavours develop, around 15 minutes.

To use as a meat extender
Red lentils blend easily with beef mince. To use the lentils as a meat extender allow around ½ cup of lentils per 500 g mince. Cook the lentils in boiling water as outlined above.

In a medium size pan brown the meat, add the onion and garlic and continue to cook till soft. Add the remainder of the ingredients and 1 ½ tsp beef stock. When the lentils are cooked stir them into the meat sauce and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes until flavours are developed.

* Using canola oil and dried herbs instead of pesto


Feed the Family for $15 or Less
Sophie Gray
RRP: $35
Random House NZ

Feed the Family for $15 or LessSophie Gray’s destitute gourmet mantra of ‘living well by spending less’ remains as relevant as ever in these tough economic times. In all her books she shows that budgeting doesn’t need to be dreary or depressing. Feed the Family for $15 or Less is no exception. It’s a go-to cookbook for busy, cost-conscious households, with delicious, simple and affordable recipes. Recipes such as Fragrant Chicken Lemongrass Curry, Spicy Lamb Borek, Slow-cooker Sticky Pork Chops, Chilli Beef and Roasted Peanut Stir-fry, plus soups, salads, pizzas, breads, rolls and scrolls, and more. “The destitute gourmet approach to food means anyone can enjoy delicious food that doesn’t cost a fortune.”

We have 2 COPIES of Feed the Family for $15 or Less TO GIVE AWAY.



  1. Simply plan your meals according to the specials of the supermarkets. That saves a lot of money

  2. Roast whatever vegetables are in season or you have leftover in your fridge/cupboard or from your garden and then add a tin of Indian Spiced flavoured tomatoes (or other unflavoured or flavoured tomatoes to your liking) and heat through. Serve on rice/couscous/quinoa or pasta.

  3. Make your own marcaspone cheese

  4. This book would be marvellous, any tips on cutting down the food budget is greatly welcomed.

  5. my daughter has 4 boys and is a busy working mum..would love some more ideas to quick, nutricious and economical meals….and Sophie’s book seems to fit the bill!!…

  6. If a soup or casserole recipe calls for cubed potatoes, pumpkin or kumara, I always add a lot more than it says. This will extend the size of the dish, without really altering the flavours.

  7. All homes should have a copy and encourage the children to help plan meals.

  8. Rochelle Laurence says

    Am sure my brothers would find this book very helpful 🙂

  9. I love the idea of spending less on meals but find it difficult with 2 sets of twins that are all great eaters! The recipes in this book look super delicious 🙂

  10. carolyn abraham says

    hi i would love this book i am needing ideas

  11. This would be a great book to have for a family on a budget like mine!!!

  12. I’m going to put this book on my wish list if I don’t win. $15 to feed the family dinner sounds awesome.

  13. I would love to see some more of Sophie’s tasty recipies!

  14. Carole Cooper says

    Always looking for new ideas

  15. I love Sophie’s book Stunning Food From Small Change and hope to add to my collection with Feed The Family For $15 or Less.

  16. Alison Cresswell says

    Would be a handy guide to my Uni student grandsons

  17. I’d love to be able to vary cheaply what I feed my family.

  18. You can use brown lentils for this too, just whiz them up a bit before adding to the bolognaise so the kids dont see them 😀

  19. Brown lentils added to a traditional meat bolognaise sauce make it healthier and cheaper and still keeps the meat-eating man of the house happy!

  20. Trish Beavan says

    Just wanted to say hello and what a great job you are doing. Keep it up

  21. Hi, I’d love to win a copy of this book 🙂

  22. This book would make such a great Christmas gift. A very practical book for young families.

  23. awesome to see this lady on here!

  24. I am a huge Sophie Gray fan. I have all of her books to date – not this one though! My treasured books are autographed by Sophie. They are stained and dog eared etc. They are easliy the most used books in my slightly large recipe book collection. I have given many copies as gifts and recommend them to friends.I would love this new book but could not gaurantee that I would keep it in pristine condition!

  25. Love seeing the lentils in this recipe.I use lentils,rolled oats or even breadcrumbs to make mince go further.Get cunning and add just a bit and gradually you will find they dont notice.

    When making Stuffed cabbage rolls my family still think they are eating mince when in fact I use TVP or lentils instead.Both are cheaper sources of protein and keep without refrigeration which is handy for holidays when we camp.I even dished up a meat loaf entirely made of lentils and no one noticed it.

  26. Keep hens if at all possible – they eat scraps, keep weeds down and reward with wonderful eggs which are a great meal base. Good for children to learn about looking after pets too.

  27. Would be great to win this book. Need some new inspiration

  28. Shelley Gilmore says

    I would love this book – Sophie has some really sensible ideas.

  29. Keep a bowl with a cover in my freeze. Whenever you have leftover cooked veggies from dinner that you would normally throw away, toss them in the bowl. When the bowl is full, put them in a big stock pot and add some vegetable & chicken stock. It makes a delicious soup and each time the flavour is a little different. Plus it keeps you from cluttering the fridge with little bowls of leftover veggies that you usually forget to eat and end up throwing away.

  30. this book is just what my family needs:)

  31. I love big batch cooking….nice to know there is always a meal in the freezer for busy days when I don’t have time to cook

  32. Ngaire M Phillips says

    Cook lentils, split peas, add any left-over raw vegetables, cooked vegetables and meat left-overs, mix in a packet of spicy tomato soup. When cooked blend with a stick blender to make a nice soup.

  33. Stephanie Bond says

    would love to win this book, I have most of her others, and use them every week!

  34. Rachel Foreman says

    Would love to win the book – any help with bringing down the food budget!

  35. Pamela Donaldson says

    I buy all the supermarket brand basics like, sugar, flour etc. Same products but with less branding!

  36. Veronica Donaldson says

    I buy in bulk with the specials, and then go home and portion size freeze it all.

  37. Paul Greenfield says

    Farmers markets normally have some nice cheap produce.

  38. Lisa Woodley says

    One can never have enough cookbooks!

  39. Sounds like a fabulous cookbook to have for a growing family

  40. Sophies ideas are usually very easy and tasty.. just what busy mums need …

  41. Planning is so important. If you’re cooking a whole chicken, plan to use what’s left over the next night etc. Also a meat free meal helps. Love Sophie’s cookbooks!

  42. Grow your own herbs and vegetables if possible & when shopping buy what is seasonal.

  43. Love Sofie’s recipes, have most of her books but not this one.

  44. This is one of my regular week day meals … the meat eaters don’t even notice there is no meat in the sauce (well, most of the time anyway!)

  45. I love the idea of yummy healthy and affordable meals! We have a small veggie and herb garden that helps reducing the supermarket bills, and we are also trying to have at least 2-3 vegetarian dinners a week. Could do with more recipes and inspiration though, so Sophie Gray’s book would be a welcome addition to my kitchen 🙂

  46. Wish I could offer some great tips, but I need this book to learn some!!

  47. Love Sophie Gray and don’t have this book. I have taken to making bread again – I have several reciepes that are quick and easy (No knead) to more complicated. Also found out it’s easy to make my own crumpets and muffin splits and they taste so much better than the store ones. I work full time and still manage to fit this in.

  48. instead of letting leftovers go to waste in the fridge…buy packs of foil containers with cardboard lids…cheap from a $2 shop and freeze a meal for a later date…defrost or reheat from frozen..hard to tell it’s not freshly made and a great time and money saver

  49. Alison Cresswell says

    As a retiree $5 meals would be great. Would love to win. thanks for all your competitions and great ideas

  50. Mary Gordon says

    Hi there, I find that if I go to cook something and I am short of one ingredient I resist the urge to go to the shop to buy it (as that leads to LOTS of extra things being bought out of shopping cycle) – I’ll either borrow for neighbours, or more likely google “substitute for egg” etc. Amazing what google turns up. And when I want to bake/make something to take somewhere and am not confident about my skills – I GOOGLE it “easy scone recipe’…. it’s amazing what’s on the web. 😉

  51. Rain Johnson says

    Hi I love the idea of this book and would love to have it. Sounds wonderful.

  52. Sherry Walker says

    This book would surely come in handy…I am always stumped about what to make for dinner!

    Sherwalk at yahoo dot com

  53. potatoes!!! always a handy thing to have, you can make almost any meal with potatoes, like cottage pie, potatoe bake, stuffed potatoes etc, cheap, easy solution and very tasty 🙂

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