Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

When a survival strategy turns into a comfort zone treat.

I used to make a meal for the boys when we were REALLY short of money. It was the meal I went to when the pantry was bare and I needed to stretch the grocery money for another few days, so we’d have to eat whatever was at home.


Or as my youngest called them – Oakcakes.

It’s a gourmet mix of raw eggs, rolled oats, salt and some dried or fresh parsley that you form into patties and shallow fry. If I had some leftover meat, I’d chop that into small chunks and add that too, but often, particularly in the early days, that wasn’t an option.

Smother with lots of tomato sauce and serve with mashed potato and veggies.

Sounds appetising, doesn’t it?

Ok, I know some of you are feeling slightly ill at this point. But Oakcakes are surprisingly tasty, especially with the ‘fancy’ addition of the meat chunks. The tomato sauce is a must, though.

This was bare pantry desperation cooking. I needed something filling and nutritious for the boys, yet it had to be something that they’d all eat because I couldn’t afford to throw uneaten food away. If something worked with all 4 of them, (or even 3 of them), it was in high rotation.

Now that they’re all in their twenties and two of them don’t live at home any more, I’ve started ‘Sunday Roast’. Every Sunday lunchtime I make a roast for whoever wants to come. The added bonus is that there are often leftovers for Mondays and Tuesdays.

A couple of months ago I came home from work, looked in the fridge and thought about what I was going to make for dinner that night. The two boys were going to be in, so it was the three of us. The weather was a little cool, I didn’t feel like making a salad-y thing, hmmm what to do?

Then I remembered Oakcakes.

I suggested them to Ryan24. His eyes lit up.’That’s a GREAT idea! Oakcakes! I love them!”

David 25 was also enthusiastic.

So I mixed up the mixture… which is a strange sentence to type… put the potatoes in the thermomix to make mashed potatoes and prepped the veggies.

Now… this is confession time. The one thing I used to hate about Oakcakes is cooking them. So I got one of the boys to do that. As a responsible parent, it’s my job to prepare them for Real Life by making them do the household chores that I dislike.

But how funny life is sometimes.

The food that I made for them when we were so poor is now their comfort food. Since that meal, we’ve had Oakcakes every couple of weeks after a Sunday Roast when we’ve had lamb or beef. The boys, especially Ryan24, are the ones asking for it and it makes their night when the answer is, “Yes, we have some leftover roast. Let’s do it!”

I can’t help wondering if we are the only family where this has happened.  Are we weird or do you have a similar tale to tell about how something – doesn’t have to be food – morphed over time from “survival strategy” to ” delightful comfort zone?”

(Hmmm… now I think I’m hungry.)


  1. Diana E Sung

    I believe something like 90% of Korean cuisine is inspired by similar “use everything cheap up in the pantry and smother it with yummy sauce” thinking. (The other 10% is kimchi) Amazing stuff.

    Now to try oatcakes…

    • FrogdancerJones

      We ate kimchi every day in North Korea. Loved it.

  2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Rice porridge! I used to resent eating it when I was young and sick but now I crave it whenever I’m sick!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I think we used to call it ‘creamy rice’ when I was a kid. Mum used to make it for dessert and I loved it.
      Haven’t eaten it for decades…

  3. Veronica

    When I visit my adult daughters and sons in law I often offer to cook and ask for requests. Top of the list is sausage casserole and shepherds pie. Humble comfort budget stretching food. Quite funny really as they would consider themselves quite sophisticated foodies! I find your blog quite inspiring and enjoy your positivity. Thanks

    • FrogdancerJones

      Sausage casserole!! Sounds delish.
      I love shepherds pie… all that mashed potato and sauce.

  4. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    I’ve been lucky enough to never need a survival strategy (knock on wood), but there is one dish that’s my go-to comfort food. It’s basically the only thing that will get me to cook. It’s chicken, salsa/water (50/50 mix), beans, corn and taco seasoning (plus a little cheese to thicken the sauce) served over rice. It’s warm and hearty and delicious.

  5. freddy smidlap

    that is exactly how the muffurito was born. we had some leftover burrito mix but no tortillas. we had some english muffins. we made the english muffin burrito or “muffurito” with the catchy name.

    i’ve tried to make oat cakes, oddly enough, but they’re always too wet. you just use the egg for liquid? i’ll try them again as yours look great but mine ran all over the pan.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yep, just egg. I’m glad we can swap such gourmet recipes.
      (Julia Child is probably spinning in her grave…)

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