Chef’s tips to cheat the budget

Sugo’s Ian Harrison loves to share his expertise on making the most of our meals. Photo: John Borren.

When a cauliflower or a cabbage costs upwards of $5 each – and you’ve got mouths to feed for a whole seven days and money needed for other bills – how do you make the most of the food in the fridge?

Western Bay of Plenty residents are noticing the pinch in their pockets with living expenses on the up – as families face hard decisions on what to choose at the supermarket – so The Weekend Sun asked a Tauranga chef his tips on how to make food go further.

Enter Sugo’s chef Ian Harrison. With 24 years’ chef experience, and having cooked around the world before landing in Tauranga, the Englishman that cooks Italian at his restaurant is more than happy to share his foodie know-how.
When visiting the grocery store, Ian recommends “thinking like a chef”, meal planning and “buying what’s on the menu.”

“Don’t think of shopping as feeding your belly – think of it as if you were going to a restaurant,’ says Ian. “[In a restaurant] You’d have to weed what you want to eat,” says Ian.

“So it’s the same thing; write it down, make a plan, buy what you need for those dishes – and only for those and leave the fancy strawberries and the fancy yoghurt that aren’t on the menu off the list, because you’ve already written the menu.”

Ian’s menu method reduces risk of over-buying food “that the fridge kills” and then needs throwing out because “you’ve actually got a plan for what you have bought”.

Ian believes in the “nose to tail” philosophy when it comes to cooking and buying whole meats.

He gives the example of what you can get out of buying four whole chickens for a family of four.

“You’d have eight breasts, which would technically be two lots of meals; then you can do soy chicken wings, drumsticks, a curry with the thighs, and with the chicken leftover you can make a chicken stock and then a nice broth,” says Ian.

 “You’re going to get more out of using a whole chicken then you are going to Pak’nSave and buying those six chicken thighs.” Ian does admit you have to pay a little bit more to start with – however “that’s the thing – you have to pay more to save more”.

In these cold months, Ian says families would also benefit from having a basic ‘yummy soup’ recipe to fuel you – but not one like his mum made “where she boiled the broccoli for two days”.

Ian’s wife Krystal Harrison’s favourite thing is to rustle up a ‘lazy soup’, which is a “wholesome” while also being a “one pot wonder”.

“This type of fulfilling soup will easily feed a family of four and will cost you a couple of vegetables and a little bit of chicken. It’s yummy and takes three-four hours to make.”

Krystal has kindly offered to share her recipe. Grab it from the bottom of this story at:


Recipe: Krystal’s One Pot ‘Lazy’ Chicken and Ham/Bacon hock soup


8 chicken thighs, bone-in

1 ham hock or bacon hock (uncooked)

Bacon hock adds more flavour. If not a pork fan then can substitute for beef bones or can go without. If not using any bones, would recommend a good stock base.

2L chicken stock. I prefer liquid stock. If you have homemade then top up with water and Chicken Oxo cubes. Enough liquid to cover the meat.

Base to soup:

Cooking oil

3-4 celery stalks, rough dice

3-4 Carrots, rough dice

3-4 medium sized onions, rough dice

1-2 leeks, rough slice

6-8 heads of rough chopped garlic (your preference to taste)

2 bay leaf

1/2 cinnamon quill

4 whole cloves

4 sprig of thyme

Salt and pepper to season

1-2 Medium Agria Potatoes - rough cubes

1-2 medium Red Kumara rough cubes

1 x King Soup mix.

1 x can of creamed corn


Get a big pot, enough for about 10 litres. Needs to have a lid.

Put over low heat. Cover base of the pot with about four tablespoons of oil, and heat up.

Add base to soup mix: onions, celery, carrots, garlic, leeks and cook for about 10-15 minutes. They should not change colour but rather sweat down to bring out the flavours. Keep stirring every now and again to prevent sticking; onions should turn translucent, carrots soft. The mixture should reduce to half in size.

Add bay leaves, cinnamon and thyme. Do not salt yet as ham/bacon hock will add saltiness. Add whole bacon/ham hock, or beef bones, including fat and skin. This is where a lot of the flavor comes from.

Cover all meat with the stock and cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes to one hour. Or until the meat falls off the bone. Keep the lid on – you don’t want to reduce the liquid. If it starts to boil reduce the heat a little bit

Remove cinnamon and cloves if you think it’s smelling too aromatic. The aromats are optional if you don’t like spice, then don’t add it.

Once meat of the ham/bacon hock starts to fall off the bone remove bone, skin and fat.

If you don’t like fat let the soup cool for five-10 minutes and scrape fat off the top of the stock. Personally, I like the fat as it adds flavour and a different mouth feel.

Pick meat off bone and re-add to the pot. Turn heat down to low or remove from heat while doing this.

Add chicken thighs; these will take about 20-30 minutes. Return to medium/high heat. Once meat is falling off the bones you can remove the bones. Pick chicken off bones add back to the soup. Put pot back onto the heat. I keep the bones in but some people don’t like bones.

Depending on how much liquid is left you can add more stock or water; then add potatoes, kumara and ‘King soup’ mix.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Only add as much as you like; potatoes and kumara add starch and thicken the broth. Season with salt to your preference.

Add creamed corn, really just for flavour and thickening.

I usually whack this on during a Sunday afternoon. It smells great. It’s loaded with vegetables and meat and freezes down well for two-three months. This pot will make 5-6 litres of soup.

- Krystal Harrison.


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