Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Nile Mince and Scotch Pies for less than 25p

Nile Mince and Scotch Pies for less than 25p

An Essential for any (non-vegetarian/vegan) Frugal Food Challenge

The River Nile is said to be the longest river on the face of our planet. It stretches some 6,853 km (4,258 miles) and flows through eleven different countries before eventually entering the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, it can be seen from space! It is the main water source for at least two of these countries - Egypt and Sudan - so the Nile is of the utmost importance to all of these countries, communities and cultures. It is essential to the success of life, itself. Its true source remains a mystery to many, even to this day. The fact is, it stretches an unbelievably long way and there is no doubt about that.

So, frugal friends, how can I compare the mighty Nile to a pack of mince? That's easy - I simply show you how far I can make mine stretch and prove to you that it is a valuable source of food that can stretch across many days and feed many mouths. Quite simply, it is the Nile of meat produce if you don't want to eat offal.


It comes in many forms - beef, pork, mutton, lamb, chicken, turkey and even soya. To me, it represents protein in the diet and is classed as one of the staples in a frugal household. Most importantly, mince is cheap! You can buy it from as little as £3 per kilo or pay up to nearer £10 per kilo, depending on source, how lean you want it and percentage fat it contains. Prices fluctuate and, at any given time, beef, pork, chicken, lamb and turkey prices can affect how much it will cost you in the shops. My suggestion is to look for the best quality you can afford and that way, once you have stretched it out as far as it can possibly go, you will still be producing nutritious meals.
Let's start with a standard 500g pack of mince. Under less frugal circumstances, this would simply be browned and then cooked with onions and gravy to produce a single family meal and, as we all know, few people consider portion sizes with any great care, so a pack of mince would be used to feed a family of four. Even using the cheapest mince and serving it with the traditional gravy, potatoes and veg, this family meal could cost around £6 when cooking costs are incorporated. That's a cheap meal for many, I admit, but at £1.50 per person for a single meal, it's a small fortune if you are budgeting £1 per person for all meals.
Here in Frugaldom, I tend to slow cook the mince and it's normally lean beef mince. We don't have any supermarkets within easy reach, so I need to rely on multi-buys on the odd occasion I can get to a mainstream store or else pay a premium to have it delivered. Either way, I'm paying top-end of the scale at almost £8 per kilo, which normally represents 10 x 100g servings (80p per person) so I like to bulk that out to get at least 10 servings from one 500g pack.
How far will 500g mince go?
Protein is of the utmost importance in our diet, we all need it in some way, shape or form and, for many of us, meat is the main source, along with the likes of eggs and dairy products. But did you know that a handful of mushrooms served with broccoli and corn can also make up a portion of protein while also representing part of our 5-a-day recommended vegetable portions? That's worth knowing when looking out for bargains in your local supermarket, especially as each of those items can be frozen. In the case of Scotch pies, we normally opt for serving them topped with baked beans or peas. / CC BY-SA
Today, I have had a quick rummage through the kitchen cupboard of stock-piled bargain buys and am now cooking up a batch of 'Nile' mince to see how far it will go in pie making. I have listed ingredients at current supermarket prices, although all were bought on offer when I stocked up with mine, so cost me less.

Ingredients for Frugaldom Scotch Pie Filling
500g lean beef mince - £3.50
100g diced onions - 10p
Beef stock - 15p
50g Granose soya mince - 50p
75g basic sage and onion stuffing - 15p
50g plain cous cous - 10p
Ground black pepper and salt - 5p
250g rolled oats - 19p
Total amount = £4.74
Once cooked and simmered down, this is enough to fill 24 Frugaldom-style Scotch pies but, of course, we aren't actually feeding 24 people, so I'll make quarter for lunches and freeze the remainder for future pie-making. (You can freeze the pie filling on its own or make and freeze the complete pies.)

Traditionally, Scotch pies were made from cheap cuts of mutton, but a mince meat pie is a mince meat pie... see what's available to you at the best price, as mutton is seldom a supermarket option.
Scotch Pie Pastry (per 6 pie cases)
250g plain flour - 10p
85g lard - 13p
115ml warm water - free
pinch of salt - negligible
Splash of milk for glazing when baking - negligible

Total amount = 23p (92p for 24 pastry cases)
The trick with this pastry is to work it warm, unlike short crust. Warm the bowl, melt the lard in hot water before adding the flour and salt. If possible, try not to allow the pastry to get cold while making the pie cases.

You want your cases to measure between 8 and 10cm in diameter and at least 3cm in depth. Roll out each circle of pastry individually and use a tin, ramekin dish or even the bottom of a wide jar to shape the pie case around it. Leave them to cool before filling them, this way they should retain their shape.

Cut a flat lid for the top of each case, remembering to cut a hole in the middle to allow steam to escape while cooking. If you are fortunate enough to have individual pie cases, it makes the job a whole lot easier, but these pies are for enjoying, they aren't for decorative use, so imperfections simply add to the home baked appeal of them. Improvise wherever possible.

Scoop a rounded tablespoon of the meat mix into each pie case, enough to make it about two thirds full. The filling should be almost thick enough to pick up and make into patties, which some people do, by adding breadcrumbs.  Add a top to each, pushing it down and pinching around the edge to allow about 1cm of a lip around the top of the pastry case - once cooked, this is where the mash, peas or beans sit. Give the tops a quick brush with milk or egg - again, this is optional - and then bake in a pre-heated oven as you would any other pie. I used my mini oven at 200C and baked for about 25 minutes.

Overall, it would cost £5.66 for ingredients to make 24 pies when using prime steak mince - less than 25p per pie/person. This could be greatly reduced by cooking with cheaper ingredients, so don't be scared to mix and match while pie-making.

In all honesty, a Scotch pie is seen by many as leftovers baked in pastry. Leftover mince or stew mixed with porridge (we cook ours with water and salt), plus the remains of the daily bread made into crumbs. Once mixed together, seasoned with pepper and baked in a pie case, it's anyone's guess what meal should be served (or has been included) when Scotch Pies are on the menu. I've even known people to eat them cold for breakfast!

I'll need to return to this post to add more photos because today's pie got scoffed under half a tin of baked beans before I remembered that I was supposed to take a photograph. Sorry 'bout that' :)

Some useful links from Wikipedia:

What is a Scotch pie?
Hot water crust pastry
Meat pies

Happy pie making, frugalers. They're a cheap, cheerful and nutritious way of using up leftovers and better still, they can be savoury or sweet.

NYK Media, Frugaldom


  1. My Nile mince is a 15oz tin of pilchards in tomato sauce. So far have got it to 12 portions. 4 ilchard burgers, 4 portions pilchard pate and 4 portions of pilchard, bean, veg and cheese flan.Comes in at £1.09 in |Tesco but Have seen tins of Mackerel in tomato sauce were about 75p. Can remember in the 1950's my mum worked on 2oz of mince per person. Rationing was still casting its web.

    1. That would be Nile pilchards, then? :) Being coastal, I can get fresh mackerel but, as luck would have it, my house-sharing counterpart doesn't like fish unless it's breaded or battered haddock or cod - something the frugal grocery budget doesn't afford, no matter how hard I might try.

      Surprisingly, 2oz mince per serving is slightly more than I'm working on, I usually try to get it to 50g per serving. In the case of the pies, it's about 20g per individual pie, hence the reason they need to be served with some other form of protein, like beans. :)

      If you have the time, could you maybe post your pilchard meals list on under the frugal food section?

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. My youngest DS is a vegetarian (lifelong, his choice in a meat eating household) When everyone else had a Scotch pie he would have a macaroni pie. Pretty much same as the meat version except filled with macaroni and cheese with/without the lid.

      You've inspired me to have a go at making a macaroni pie for him! I'll work out the costings :-)

    4. I love macaroni pies, too. I think once you master the hot water pastry that it's then a case of add what you like - have you tried them with stew or chicken curry? Or the mini ones filled with stewed fruit then served with ice cream, custard or cream on the top? Someone I've known all my life actually owns a pie factory - OK, it's classed as a bakery - I'm sure he won't mind me having used a photo of his pies in the forum. (Sorry, David, we're too frugal to buy them, we make our own.)

  2. Haven't had a Scotch pie in ages, we pay around $8 for four here in Canada, really easy to make should do it

    1. Amazingly, they cost almost the same here if I'd to buy them from our local store, it's quite shocking! I believe they're under £1 each to buy from supermarkets and some butchers & bakers but we have none of those within easy reach.


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