Wednesday 31 January 2018

Wednesday, 31-01-18

So here we are at the last day of January.  I shall be doing my end of month financial check today, going through each payout and pay in, ensuring that nothing has been missed and moving any excess over to savings.  There will be excess because this month I have two state pension payments (as they are every four weeks rather than monthly, goodness knows why) so that will all go over and next month I don't pay any rates/water rates, so I will add that up and move it too.

What I don't do is a detailed analysis of exactly where everything has gone although I admire people who do.  It just feels too much number crunching for dyscalculic me who has to add up the figures at least three times, perhaps more, to be sure and even then . . .
(I know you can set up tables in Excel with formulae, etc, but I haven't the foggiest how to do that!)

I know I don't have much extra apart from the above but this month I have funded the car service and a short break away over half term so I'm not too concerned.  I've also bought some rather better quality (and more expensive - ouch) secateurs as the last two cheaper pairs both fell apart in my hand while I was using them.  I've bought a dress pattern, a few recipe books and other bits and bobs but have stayed well within my income.

What I haven't done is had any takeaways, eaten out or bought wine, all of which were habits in the past.  I've been careful with my eating for health reasons and it's all working together to save what comes to quite a lot over the months.

Moving on . . .
Today's food plans
B:  porridge, fruit and yogurt
L:  scrambled egg on toast, yogurt
D:  it's going to be a concoction based on Sue's blog (Cottage at the end of a lane) entry last week describing how she made a sausage and egg pie with a side salad

Mine won't be the same as Sue's as my leftovers are different and I won't be using an egg.  I have some pizza sauce left over from yesterday which is just a mixture of home made passata, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, garlic puree, herbs and seasonings.  I also have some sausage meat in the freezer from a YS purchase ages ago that I split into portions before freezing.

So I will spread the sausage meat into the bottom of a small oven proof dish, maybe with some added mixed herbs and maybe also some Savers stuffing mix from an opened packet.  Then I will add some pre-roasted veg (onion, mushroom, red pepper and baby corn) mixed with the tomato sauce.  Over that I will spread some sliced, cooked potato as a topping and spray it with oil.  Half an hour or so should see it ready to eat!

Thanks very much for the idea, Sue.

From the freezer
Just the sausage meat

The frugal factor
B:  Very frugal with home made natural yogurt and savers tinned fruit
L:  One egg and home made bread
D:  The sausage meat is YS, the tomato sauce is leftovers and the potatoes are the very last of the garden grown ones while the salad is also what's leftover from yesterday evening.

I'm trying to use up the multitude of stuff in the freezer.
I want to make the most of my hard earned pension so am aiming for sensible frugality in my meal planning and making.
I have gall bladder problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure so am taking myself in hand with low fat, high fruit and veg, generally healthy meals but with plenty of flavour - and frugal.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Tuesday, 30-01-18

Morning, everyone.

Today's plans are . . .
B:  muesli, fruit (probably tinned) and yogurt
L:  leek, potato and lentil soup
D:  home made veg pizza with salad and coleslaw - Beth's coming round for dinner after work and I know she likes pizza.  I'll make the base myself, from flour and yogurt.

From the freezer:
the soup
passata for the pizza sauce

The frugal factor:
Muesli - gifted
Tinned fruit is from the cheaper range
Yogurt is home made
The lettuce for the salad is still Aldi's super six - it's stayed crisp for ages!
The coleslaw is home made
The pizza toppings will cost a bit more but will be vegetables because Beth is vegetarian, which will make it cheaper.  I'm hoping to get some half fat mozzarella but if I can't it will be the normal kind

I shall try to do without my fruit snacks today.

Monday 29 January 2018

Recipe: shortbread biscuits

Because a friend is coming round and because I wanted to christen some cookie cutters, I made some shortbread.
Shortbread isn't cheap but it is frugal when you have butter that's been in the dish for weeks (I can't have much butter at the moment), can't be frozen as a) it is quite 'old' in butter-years and b) was initially frozen anyway.  To avoid just wasting it, which would never do, I thought I'd bake with it and this is the ideal opportunity.

I used the 3,2,1 proportions - one part sugar, two parts butter, three parts plain flour.
Cream the butter and sugar, mix in the flour, bring it all together with your hands, chill, roll out and cut.  They bake at 160C for about half an hour, maybe a little less (I use parchment on a baking sheet).  Then leave to cool a bit before transferring to a cooling rack.  Sprinkle with sugar.

I made them plain but you can add flavours.  Christmas spices are lovely, or lemon/orange zest, choc chips - whatever you fancy really.

I think C will like these.

. . . and whatever she doesn't eat, she can take home for her two little lads.  Win-win!

Monday, 29-01-18

Good morning!

I was really pleased to see, when I worked on clearing and tidying the herb bed yesterday, that the chives and the oregano have both started growing again.  Not long before I'm picking again and perhaps, this year, I will get some into the freezer for next winter.

Today's food plans:
B:  porridge with strawberry 'foam' and natural yogurt
L:  roasted tomato and lentil soup
D:  salmon pasta - I have some salmon philly so I will use that for the sauce and add some mushroom and a bit of smoked salmon, plus some watercress on the side.
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer
The soup
Smoked salmon

The frugal factor
Breakfast - even the yogurt is home made.
The soup, made with passata from garden tomatoes
The salmon is not very cheap but it is trimmings and just a quarter of the pack.

I have a friend coming round for coffee so I'm going to make a little bit of shortbread to offer her.  It will freeze well if there's any left and I intend being good and not having any - well, no more than one anyway!

And finally, thank you to Sooze, Pam and Sue for your advice yesterday.  Much appreciated.  My herb bed needs a top up so I'll use some of it for that and mix the rest with new stuff for the container top ups and the tomatoes.

Sunday 28 January 2018

My garden space: a question

A few, in fact, for all the whizz, green-fingered gardeners who read in here.

I have some soil that the potatoes grew in.  It feels lovely!

Can I re-use it again this year?  If yes, do I need to treat it? 

If no, can I use it for anything else, like the tomatoes in pots (with some slow release stuff mixed in)?

Thanking you very much, in advance.

My garden space

As the months pass, I'll probably go on quite a lot about my garden so I thought it might be nice to show you what it looks like.  These photos were taken last summer when it was all looking lush and green and productive. 
I have just a little garden and, for convenience's sake, when I was working all the hours there were as a teacher, I had it paved over with three raised beds.  I kind of regret that now I have so much more time but it's extremely manageable, I'm not getting any younger and I do get some veg and fruit from it.  It's a nice place to sit out of a summer evening with a good book and a glass of chilled white.

One bed (the one on the left that you can hardly see) is for herbs and foliage, the middle one is flowers (and runner beans|) and the one on the right is strawberries and tomatoes.

You can see the runner beans growing up and over the archways and through the right hand archway there are more tomatoes - I do love home grown tomatoes.  The planter in the foreground has strawberries in the top.

 Sorry about the bad light.  

This one is the strawberry and tomato bed and front right you can see my bay bush which I've never managed to kill, even though all the leaves fell off one bad winter.  I was going to chuck it but, being lazy, didn't get round to it and then it started leafing up again.  Just behind the bed is two planters with blueberries and further left, trained up the fence, is a tayberry - the plant that refused to die, despite the best efforts of me and then my at the time two young garden helpers.

In the herb bed I have thyme, rosemary (somewhat overgrown - I need to prune it right back), oregano and chives with three different mints in pots beside it.  I have a little sage in a pot and must find a place for it somewhere.  There's also some attractive foliage.

So that's my little patch, not that it looks anything like that right now but nothing that a bit of hard work won't solve!

I'll show you the allotment that I share with Beth in another post at some point.

Sunday, 28-01-18

Good morning, everyone.
I may have failed with breakfast yesterday but dinner more than made up.  I made Tunisian chicken, a Rosemary Conley recipe, and I've searched the internet so I can share it but no luck.  As it's in a currently published book, I don't feel I can do more than just list the ingredients which were spray oil, sliced onion, chicken, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom, chicken stock, plain flour, oregano, chopped tomatoes, orange peel, orange juice and salt and pepper.
I subbed dried herbs for oregano and home grown passata instead of chopped tomatoes and I added some thin sliced mushroom and some sultanas.  It was glorious with basmati rice, even if my photo makes it look like a dog's dinner!

Maybe there was a bit to much cayenne for my wimpish taste buds but I'll do it exactly like that again and the elderflower jelly was perfect to calm everything down again.

Today's plans:
B:  porridge, fruit and natural yogurt
L:  turkey hotpot soup
D:  crustless quiche, salad, maybe SW chips or sweet potato fries
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer:
The soup
Mixed peppers for the quiche

The frugal factor:
Porridge as always
The turkey hotpot was made with Christmas leftovers and as I didn't buy the turkey . . .
The quiche will probably just have onion and mixed peppers in it as I will have had meat for lunch.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Ooops: Five Frugal Fings

I forgot yesterday.  Eeek!

1.  I used some left over plum juice to make a delicious jelly.  I've discovered that one and a half sheets of leaf gelatin is fine for 200 mls liquid and will be trying just one sheet next time.  I always pour it into a glass dish anyway so it doesn'#t have to be firm, just - well - jellied!

2.  I'm still remembering to run the dishwasher overnight on the cheaper rate.  I forgot once but that's all.  It won't be saving much each time but times that by maybe around 300 plus washes over the year and it will mount up.

3.  This is really advanced frugality but I've started getting the garden sorted for this year's vegetables and fruit.  Thanks to both Sues for inspiring me.

4.  I went into town today and came back with a skirt pattern.  Paper patterns are flippin' expensive nowadays but this was half price and is one I will use again and again, very simple but nicely shaped and in five different sizes.  I have fabric in the cupboard too!  Over time this will save me money.

5.  I used a bit of leftover savoury crumble mix (flour, cheese and not-butter plus seasonings) with half a slice of fresh breadcrumbs to make a crumb coating for fish and it was lovely.  I'd have thrown away the crumble topping otherwise because it wasn't even enough for one titchy portion.

Recipe: smoked salmon pate

a.k.a. the 'Oh, dear, what shall I do' pate.

I was going to treat myself to a lovely breakfast.  Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast.
I had eggs
I got the bread and the smoked salmon trimmings out of the freezer.

And then it occurred to me that I wasn't that sure how old the eggs were so I did the water test.

Oh, dear, did ever eggs float more merrily than mine did this morning?
(so, I am ashamed to say, I had to throw them out)

A bit of quick thinking later, this is what I did.

I got out my mini zizzer in into the bowl I put . . .
the trimmings that I had cooked briefly in the microwave (to thaw them out so I just gave them a bit longer)
a dollop of soft cheese (Morrisons Savers)
a good splash of lemon juice from a bottle
a little dollop of dijon mustard
(no salt, smoked salmon is already salty enough, but one could add some black pepper)

and I zizzed it all into a slightly rough pate and spread it onto warm toast.

You know what?  It was absolutely delicious so I got my treat after all!

Apologies for the bites - I had started eating before I remembered to take a photo.

And eggs are now on the shopping list!

Saturday, 27-01-18

Morning, all!

It's the weekend so today I am being a bit lavish.  If you read a previous post, you may remember that I said that I was aiming to spend more or less between £1.50 and £2.00 a day on my meals.  The calculating is fairly rough and ready but I have, over the decades, developed a reasonable sense of how much I am spending and I know that several days recently have been pretty frugal so today's little splash out really won't dent the finances too much - and I already have the stuff in anyway (not that that makes it any cheaper).

The calories will be OK, even if the cost is a little bit more.

Today's plans:
B:  going posh - scrambled egg with smoked salmon on toast (the last two are from the freezer - that's my excuse!)
L:  soup, perhaps mushroom as I have some mushrooms to use up
D:  Tunisian chicken - a Rosemary Conley recipe so it has to be low fat.  I've not made it before and  I think I will have it with rice or, maybe, orzo.  Dessert will be the elderflower jelly I didn't make yesterday.  I've just made it and it's cooling before I pop it in the fridge to chill and set.
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer:
smoked salmon
bread for toast
chicken chunks
passata (instead of a quarter of a can of chopped tomatoes)

The frugal factor
. . . er . . .
The soup - home made is always cheaper: mine is anyway!
Looking at the ingredients for the chicken, that won't be too bad either as I have some chicken chunks frozen that I got from the market and which weren't ruinously expensive.  There's quite a list of ingredients but most are spices (and I have them all)

One sad thing - I think I have come to the end of the garden potatoes and finished them off last night by sort of mini-chipping them to have with fish and mushy peas.  I'll turn out the bags at some point soon just to check but if I find anything, it will only be a titchy little one.
It wasn't a huge harvest because the potatoes I used were just ones that had sprouted in the bag.  I think this year I will use proper seed potatoes and see if that makes a difference to the number of potatoes I get.  What do you think?

Friday 26 January 2018

Friday, 26-01-18

Good morning!
I enjoyed the haggis meal last night although next time I will choose veg that have more colour to them as it was a very brown and beige plate of food.

After I had stewed the morning plums, I had some syrup left so later on I made it up to 250g with some apple juice and turned it into a jelly.  It was absolutely delicious.  Sometimes I add a star anise to plums and I wish I had done that yesterday because that would have been good too.  Next time. . .

Today's menu
B:  porridge, mango, natural yogurt
L:  leek, potato and lentil soup, small watercress salad
D:  home made fish fingers, potato chunk chips, mushy peas, elderflower jelly
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer:
Leeks for the soup
The fish for the fish fingers.
The mushy peas which are very mushy as I slightly (cough) overcooked them!

The frugal factor:
The fruit for the porridge is some of a YS mango which is rather soft but will be fine mashed into porridge which, itself, is the most frugal breakfast out.  The yogurt is home made.
The soup is home made too
The fish for the fish fingers is pollack and the 'breadcrumbs are partly left over crumble topping mixed with breadcrumbs made with half a slice of bread saved from yesterday's lunchtime toast - thinking ahead, you see.
The potato chunk chips are so called because I'm making them, from the garden potatoes dug up t'other day and some of them are too small to make chips or even reasonable sized wedges - so 'chunks' they shall be!  They're all made the same way anyway!
(note to self - check if there are any more potatoes out there)

The elderflower jelly is going to be made with a little bit of elderflower cordial that I have had in the fridge for rather a long time and which ought to be used up.  Should be a refreshing end to dinner.

Later Edit:
I've just dealt with the mango and, to my surprise, all the bits that felt super mushy and which I expected to have to cut out and chuck are, in fact perfectly sound, just gloriously soft and juicy.  As a result, I have more mango that I thought I would have so dessert has changed from the jelly (tomorrow now) to mango and yogurt.  Yum.

Thursday 25 January 2018

One Day's Food

. . . in pictures





Frugal does not mean going short, does it?

Thursday, 25-01-18

Good morning.

Today's plans:
B:  Muesli, fruit and natural yogurt
L:  Boiled eggs, toasty soldiers
D:  It's Burns' Night and it just so happens that I have some haggis, bought cheap after Burns' Night more years ago than I care to say and sliced before freezing.  I don't have whisky so whisky sauce is out of the question; in fact I don't have any alcohol at all.   Cranberry sauce is supposed to go well and mashing the potatoes with some softened spring onions seems to be a thing too.  However, I was wondering about a sauce made with creme fraiche, mushrooms and dijon or grain mustard.   What do you think?  Also either swede or parsnips.  I have both and while I know swede is the traditional accompaniment, I rather fancy parsnips
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer:
Fruit for the muesli
Bread for the toast
Slices of haggis and, if I make a cranberry sauce, the cranberries are frozen.  I've used up all my Christmas cranberry sauce now.

The frugal factor:
The muesli is a gift and the yogurt is home made
Eggs are lovely frugal packages of delicious goodness and my bread costs very little
The haggis was YS - however I have to find it in the chilly depths of the freezer!

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Recipe: savoury crumble

For the crumble topping:
50g plain flour
20g butter or compromise with something like Beautifully Butterly (Aldi)
10g finely grated Not-Parmesan (I had a tiny piece left and actually it was 9g)
pinch of salt, mustard powder and dried herbs
bit of ground black pepper

Rub the fat into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Stir in the other ingredients.
That's it!

I sometimes add some oats too which give it a more robust texture - but not today.
Very tasty and very frugal.

The above quantities were aimed for one portion (I measured them out this time whereas I normally just do it by eye) but I had a bit left over so I think 40g flour and about 18g of fat would be just about right.

I shall use this with a few added breadcrumbs when I make fish fingers, planned for later in the week.  No point wasting it!

To make the dish:
You need:
crumble topping as above
something for the base.  I used a bean and veg mixture and added two chicken chipolatas (YS, low fat, perfick!), each cut into five bits and dry fried until more or less cooked through.

Put the tomato mixture and sausage pieces in an ovenproof dish and spread evenly.

Spoon over the topping and spread it over.  Give it a little shake to level it off.

Bake at about 200C (it's not all that fussy) for about 30 mins until the topping is browned by which time the underneath should be bubbling.

Serve with veg and enjoy.

You can use all sorts of variations.  It's nice with a savoury mince and it's also nice with a fish pie mixture.  Lots of options.

Recipe: Flatbread using garlic and herb quark

I wanted something to have with my roasted tomato and lentil soup and I also wanted ideas to use my garlic and onion quark so this is what I did.  I started with 25g flour because that's roughly how much is in one slice of my home made bread.

Ingredients to make one small flatbread
25g plain flour (I will try SR next time)
25g garlic and herb quark
small pinch salt
spray oil.

I mixed the quark with the flour and salt using a spoon.  It didn't take long for it all to come together.  Then I kneaded it very briefly so it was smooth.  I made it early so I wrapped it in some cling film and popped it in the fridge (couldn't do this if I'd used SR)

Just before I needed it, while the soup was warming up, I rolled the dough out very thin, sprayed some oil on both sides and smoothed it all over.  I warmed a non stick pan over a medium hot ring and cooked the dough for around 3 minutes per side, maybe a little less.  It puffed up a bit and then dropped again.

Did it work?  I should say it did, it was very nice with just a slight hint of garlic and herb.  I dunked it in the soup and mmmmmmmmmm.


Different things work for different people but this works for me.
I like to plan all my meals, not just the main ones and I use a table on Word to record the plans.

Breakfasts tend to be much of a muchness most of the time but occasionally I will plan in something a bit more lavish.
At present, through the winter, lunches also tend to look the same but, because I make all my soups, they're really quite different.  Where it just says 'soup', it's because I haven't decided what kind - it will depend on a) what I have and b) what I fancy.  The one consistent is that they are all frugal.

I really ring the changes with dinner.  I use my up to date (usually) audits to see what I have, look at what I jotted down on the previous plan and go for it!
They do change.  Maybe I have unexpected leftovers, maybe I really like the idea of something else, maybe I have planned something more time consuming and I find I don't have the time, but generally I stick with it.

As my plans are based on what I already have (which is loads, hence the freezer challenge), my shopping list is usually small but I have a post-it beside the keyboard and I jot down anything I will need to get.  The one beside me at the moment says milk and frozen peas.

The last column is for other stuff, a bit like a mini diary.  I deleted that before screenshotting because it's personal to me and pasted it back afterwards.

Once it's done and printed out, when I see something I'd really like to make (such as Sue's sausage and egg pie from her blog today), I note it down underneath and plan it in the next time I do my planning.

It's a bit regimented, I know, but when I was teaching I had very little spare time and knowing exactly where I was with my food worked for me, even though it wasn't frugal.
Now I am time richer so I continue using the same system but it is a lot more frugal.  I worked hard for my pension and want to make every penny count.

Here's a screen shot of this week's and next week's plan (updated and extended into next week just now).

As I said - it really works for me.

Wednesday, 24-1-18

First of all, a heartfelt thank you for all the lovely comments yesterday.  I think I've answered them all and I'm grateful for the ideas and helpful remarks.

Well, yesterday went all upsy down in the evening as Beth wasn't able to come round.  I made up the beany vegetarian mixture but I didn't faff around with lasagne for just me, I just baked a few of the potatoes I dug up the other day and had it with them instead and it was delicious.  So the cheese wasn't touched!  What I didn't use I will deal with today.
I added some chilli to the mixture and decided where weren't enough kidney beans so I popped out the the freezer and got a few more - that's one of the nice things about having a bag of loose beans (so to speak!) available.
There's a fair amount left so I will use some for today and that will leave a portion for the freezer.

I've also started making my own yogurt again.  I have this super electric yogurt maker that's dead easy to use and if you use long life milk, you don't even have to heat the milk and cool it again.  I loved the yogurt I was buying from the shop but home made is also very good (and a lot cheaper) and it's about time I got back in the habit.

As things come in threes, I made up the tomato and lentil soup using the not-tasteless-after-roasting tomatoes, more or less following the recipe I posted the other day but I added some lentils (and therefore more liquid and stock as well), some milk (needed using up*) and a good dollop of soft cheese which makes it taste so creamy.  By the time I'd finished tweaking it, I had made double the usual amount so that was one for me yesterday, another one for me today and two for the freezer!
   *The milk was twelve days out of date, still smelled and tasted fine but couldn't have lasted much longer.

Today's plans:
B:  porridge, strawberry 'foam' and natural yogurt
L:  roasted tomato and lentil soup, flatbread made with flour and some garlic and herb quark (an experiment which may or may not work!)
D:  Sausage, bean and veg crumble (recipe will be in a separate post), sprouts; yogurt
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer:
Just a couple of those Heck sausages for the crumble but I'm using stuff that would otherwise have to go in the freezer.
But . . .
Into the freezer go two portions of soup and one of beany mixture.  I seem to be going backwards with the freezer challenge at the moment but at least I'm using what I have got, not buying extra.

The frugal factor
Breakfast is all frugal!
Home made soup - adding lentils makes more and they are very cheap.  Lovely!
The sausages were YS so the two I use cost just 25p - and they're also reasonable on calories too.
The beany mix is very frugal, using garden passata, savers mixed veg, pulses cooked myself and the topping is just flour, savers not-really-butter (I think I have some) and some grated Not-Parmesan.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Recipe: fish pie

This was a complete meal as I included peas in the bottom.

spray oil
a shallot, quarter of a small red pepper, two wrinkled mushrooms, all chopped
a portion of frozen peas
half a smoked basa fillets
six prawns
a dollop of garlic and herb flavoured quark
thickening granules
dried parsley
bit of salt and pepper

half a small sweet potato and the same amount of ordinary potato, peeled and cut into cubes
bit of grated Not-Parmesan (Supermarket hard Italian cheese - cheaper and vegetarian friendly)

I softened the vegetables in spray oil plus a splash of water.

Then I added the fish, cubed, and the prawns and then the quark with some milk.  As it heated it threatened to split so I hurriedly added some thickening granules which stopped it.  I think it was lack of fat that caused the 'damage'.

I added some seasoning (not much salt because of the fish) and some dried parsley.

I steam cooked the two potatoes together and then mashed them up with salt, pepper, and a bit of grated Not-Parmesan.

I put the fish mix in the ovenproof dish, spooned the topping over and spread it out

. . . and then baked it at 200 C fan for about 35 to 40 mins.

It was jolly tasty but . . .
. . . apart from the splitting problems, the bottom and the topping sort of amalgamated as they cooked so there wasn't really a clear division or sauce, it was more like a large fish cake.  I suspect that was the quark too and in future I will use lower fat soft cheese instead as I usually do, or just make a sauce with milk and thickening granules.
But now I know I can use that quark in fishcakes and probably in veggie burgers, etc, too.  I don't find it particularly nice 'raw', so to speak.

The potato and sweet potato topping was delicious.

Tuesday, 23-01-18

Today is a day to rejoice my heart.  It's the day my teacher's pension arrived in my bank account.  I don't start using it until February so it's strictly off limits at the moment but it's there!  It's my main source of income now so three cheers!

The fish pie was quite nice.  I did get some prawns so it was more lavish that it could have been but they did make a difference so no regrets!  I made the sauce (a few problems here which I will mention is a separate post and the topping was half and half mashed potato and sweet potato which worked very well.  The topping looks burnt but that's the light - it was just well browned.

I rootled in the garden potato bags and pulled out some more.  I don't think there are many left in the soil now but there may be a few and they can wait in the dark as it seems to be good for them!  They have a great flavour and I will definitely do this again this year.  More bags of them too!

Today's plans:
B:  muesli with fruit and natural yogurt
L:  soup - I might make tomato and lentil; as I have lots of home made passata in the freezer
D:  Beth is coming for our weekly meal together and I'm doing a vegetable lasagne.  Last week I found a small oven proof dish in Sainsbury's, perfect for two and high sided enough to make a lasagne with more than one layer (most small dishes aren't) and I promised her we would road test it this week.  I will use sheets of lasagne rather than thin sliced courgette or whatever and make a proper cheese sauce with some strong cheddar that I got on special for Christmas and never used. I'll just not have a lot of it! 
Thank goodness cheese lasts for ages although I really ought to grate the rest and pop it in the freezer now.
With it I will probably have a watercress based salad and maybe use the last of a white cabbage to make some coleslaw or the tiny little potatoes to make a potato salad.
Ss:  apple and orange

I'm also baking a couple of loaves for Beth to take home when she leaves.

From the freezer:
The fruit for the muesli
Passata for the soup
Mixed veg, peppers, pulses and passata for the lasagne

The frugal factor:
The muesli is a gift.
The passata for the soup was made with last year's garden produce.  It was a great year for tomatoes and I froze loads.  Or I might use the last of the Super Six tomatoes I got from Aldi.
It's a no meat lasagne which brings down the cost straight away.  The cheese was bought on special and was really excellent value. 

I succumbed to temptation yesterday.  I always take a look at the YS stuff and they had some Heck chicken chipolatas at half price so I got two packs (I did leave plenty for others).  They are now frozen in twos (at 25p for two) for convenience.
I know they're not the tastiest of sausages but spiced up with a nice sauce or cut up for a casserole or similar they will be fine and they are low fat which matters right now.
So I have added to my freezer supplies  (prawns and sausages) but I know they will be used and they are now on the list so won't be forgotten

(sorry about the long post - there seemed to be a lot to mention today).

Monday 22 January 2018

Monday, 22-1-18

Morning, all!

I made a nice soup yesterday.  I think I'll call it bitsa soup.  Bitsa this, that and the other, specifically onion, leek, carrot, potato, lentils, stock cube, garlic and so on.  The usual stuff.  And I did what I always do now when the soup contains potato - make up the rest right to zizzing, then chop the potato into small bits and add, cook and mash in.  To zizz the soup to smooth would make the potato go gloopy and this way avoids that as well as keeping a nice potato texture in the soup..
It was perfect for a cold winter day and used up veg that needed using up.

Today's plans:
B:  porridge, marmalade or jam, natural yogurt
L:  soup - ham and split pea sounds nice
D:  I shall make a fish pie using a piece of the smoked basa I got a little while ago and use some garlic and herb quark in the sauce.  Hopefully the two will work together.  I've got mushrooms to add in and I am umming and ahing about buying a small bag of prawns and adding four or five of them for extra flavour, texture and colour (the rest will go in the freezer).
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer
The fish and maybe prawns but I will have bought them today so that doesn't really count, does it?
The soup - I'm running out of soup in the freezer now but I know I have a few more servings.

The frugal factor
Porridge!  Also the jam or marmalade is home made
Home made soup too.  The last time I had tinned soup - a 'good' brand too - I thought it was nothing compared to my home made and four times the price!
The fish pie won't be pound a day cheap but it won't be outrageous either.  I trawled around My Supermarket and you can't get a decent fish pie under about £3.00.  Even a value one was £1.50 and mine will be a lot nicer for a lot less.  Home made usually is more frugal, whatever the quality, especially comparing like with like but often compared to an inferior product too.

Thanks for all the comments on yesterday's crumble post.  It was lovely to hear from you all.  Welcome to my new readers too - make yourself at home.  :-)

Sunday 21 January 2018

Recipe: simple crumble topping with variations

This is so easy and so well known, I hesitated to post it but it's my blog and I'll do what I want, to coin a phrase, so here goes.  :-)

It's a three ingredient mixture with optional extras.
For each portion of plain flour, you want about half that amount of butter and less than half that amount of sugar (the sweetness is to taste really).
So if you have 100g flour, you will need 50g butter and between 30 and 50g sugar.
(Recipes vary in their amounts so it obviously doesn't really matter all that much)

Put the flour in a bowl and add the butter cut into cubes.  Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar.
And that's it!
If you want to freeze some, just pop it into a plastic box or a poly bag and when you next need some, just spoon out what's wanted.  Dead easy!

There are loads of variations.  My mum used to add chopped walnuts and oats which was lovely.  I've seen recipes with desiccated coconut added to the basic mix and sweet spices usually go well with the fruity bottom.  Or you can use different sugars - demerara gives a nice crunch, for example, as well as a deeper flavour.  One other addition that really appeals to me is to use grated lemon zest.

Frugal tip:  if you use caster sugar (you don't have to for crumble topping), pop some granulated sugar into a zizz and grind it down to the right texture.  With granulated sugar currently £1.00 for 2k in Morrisons and caster sugar at £1.60 for 1k, it's a no brainer!
(However, only zizz down what you need each time)
You can also continue zizzing it down into icing sugar, if that's what you need.

As for the fruity bottom, all I will add is that rhubarb and strawberry is a flavour marriage made in heaven and I have both in my freezer, produce from last summer's garden and allotment. 
Do I need to say more|?

Sunday, 21-01-18

Good morning.
The Christmas dinner went down a treat and, despite the small quantities of each item, there's enough to feel one person left, two people if they cook another veg.  I'm really pleased about that - it makes the whole effort much more reasonable in price.

Today's food plans:
B:  muesli, fruit and natural yogurt
L:  toast and marmite or there's some leek that needs using up so I might make a leek and potato soup.
D:  lamb leg steak (one between three so not nearly as bad as it sounds, mash, sprouts, carrots, apple crumble

From the freezer
Just the lamb steak

The frugal factor
The main frugal thing is that I'm not paying for the ingredients!
But if I was . . .
Home made soup is rarely even close to costing much to make.
Lamb is expensive but sharing the steak between three makes it manageable and also gets each portion closer to the recommended amount of protein on the plate which is a lot less than you might think.
The apple for the crumble is from next door's apple tree (a gift, not scrumped) and crumble topping isn't expensive - just flour, butter and sugar and not a lot of any for the small amount I want.  In fact, if it were just for me, I'd make a batch and freeze most of it as you can then spoon out just what you want, when you want it!

Saturday 20 January 2018

Saturday, 20-01-18

Good morning!  The weekend has arrived and I'm not just cooking for myself (and generally not paying either) but frugality still impacts on some meals while generally I try not to be daft with what I prepare.

Today's plans:
B:  porridge with fruit and yogurt
L:  toast with pate or marmite, apple
D:  < takes deep breath >  roast turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roasties, roasted parsnips, sprouts, gravy, cranberry sauce followed by fruit salad.
S:  orange

From the freezer
The turkey and the stuffing

The frugal factor
Breakfast and lunch as usual  :-)
Dinner isn't as bad as it looks.  The turkey is part of a large breast that was bought for Christmas and cut into two.  The stuffing is leftover from Christmas, the veg are already in the fridge and it's one chipolata per person (making two pigs).  The cranberry sauce is left over from Christmas and was made from cranberries that had been in the freezer for longer than I care to mention.  It could be a lot worse - glamming it up as a Christmas roast dinner makes it look less frugal than it really is; because there's so many elements, each is a pretty small helping.

I think we will all enjoy it!

Friday 19 January 2018

Deja vu?

This has just made me laugh.  I posted it on Facebook on Jan 19th, 2013. 

I have milk.
I have cheese.
I have so much meat in the freezer, you wouldn't believe.
I have veg and potatoes.
I have a cupboard full of tins and packets.
I have plenty of bread flour and yeast.
I have plenty of loo roll, etc.
So why on *earth* do I think, when I hear we might be getting heavy snow tomorrow, that I HAVE to go and stock up in Morrisons?????
Fighting it! 

I wonder if I'd feel the same today.
Do you?

Friday, 10-01-18

Last night's dinner - and very nice it was too!  I dipped the sweet potato chips into the chorizo and bean stew and mmmmmmmmm.  The recipes for both are in separate posts.

Good morning.  After yesterday's deliciousness, today's menu is less certain.
B:  muesli, cherries and yogurt
L:  probably toast and marmite or pate, maybe a yogurt
D:  really not sure yet.
Ss:  apple and orange or maybe banana

From the freezer:
The cherries
Bread for the toast
Probably whatever meat I decide to have and maybe the veg as well.

The frugal factor
The muesli is a gift (and I have another bag waiting when I finish this one - good old Dad!).
The cherries are frozen so, while not exactly cheap, are better than fresh ones
The bread is home made and comes to about 1p per slice.
The banana is from Aldi.

How's it going for you?  What's your favourite frugal meal?

Thursday 18 January 2018

Five Frugal Fings

Here we go again.  A recap on five ways in which I have been (or have tried to be) frugal this week.

(thought I'd go pretty with my divider this week!)
1.  I'm on a longer term mission to use up all the old stuff in my freezer and this week I really feel I'm getting somewhere again after the Christmas/New Year blip.  Spaces are appearing as little pots and packets get taken out and used up and, apart from fresh stuff, I've not needed to shop much at all, the bank balance reflecting that rather nicely.  There's a long way to go still but that's OK, more cash into the old savings at the end of each month when I do my bigger reckoning.
2.  I mentioned about the electricity credit and the significant reduction in my monthly payments until July and, as I know it will go up again then, I've been looking to find ways of saving a bit more.  One thing I am really bad at is turning off lights so I have been making an effort to remember to switch off as I leave each room.  There's plenty of room for improvement - I've just got up to turn off the landing light and the light in the other half of this room - but, as the saying goes, every little helps.
3.  At the moment I'm having to make car journeys quite often.  It's only about seventy five minutes each way but petrol costs mount up so I've been thinking I ought to walk more locally instead of taking the car.  Now that my weight is slowly going down, my bad ankle isn't hurting so much (surprise, surprise) so I ought to be able to walk further without limping.  I could walk to Morrisons instead of driving unless I know there will be heavy bags.
I'll be honest and say that I haven't really started this.  Walking isn't a favoured thing because my ankle hurts so much afterwards, but I must hunt for some motivation.  If you have any, please send it over.  Thanks!
4.  I haven't thrown away any leftovers all week!    They've all been used up next day.  On the other hand, I have just had to throw away a yogurt that was hidden behind other things and which was too old for comfort so that's not good at all.  There's always room for improvement, isn't there?
5.  This weeks meal planning shows two fish based dinners and one vegetarian dinner which isn't bad.  I'd really like to aim for two fish and two vegetarian but I'm getting there, slowly.  Lunches have been mostly home made soups which are always very frugal and breakfasts have been porridge (dead cheap, even with added fruit) or muesli, which was a gift.  Everything has been made from scratch and has been low fat so I'm really rather pleased with the way this week has gone.
Here's to frugality!

Recipe: spicy sweet potato chips

one sensible sized sweet potato (i.e. Not Too Big!)
half tsp smoked paprika
quarter tsp salt
quarter tsp garlic granules
freshly milled black pepper
pinch each of cumin and cayenne
spray oil

Heat the oven to 220C
Scrub or peel the sweet potato and cut into chips.
Place them in a small poly bag and add all the seasonings/spices.  Scrunch them around in the bag so that all the spices are evenly coating the chips.
Place baking parchment on an oven tray and spray with oil.  Lay out the chips and spray the tops.
Pop in the oven and bake for about fifteen minutes, turn them over and bake again until done and just charring at the edges.

Eat immediately.  They were very nice indeed.

Note to self.  If taking a photo, make sure everything is straight!

Recipe: Repost of chorizo and bean stew
(I've checked the link and it still works)

Above is the inspiration for this, taken from the helpful'Eat Well For Less' site.  I really enjoyed those programmes, even if I did get a bit 'frustrated' with the participants at time!  I've taken the recipe and 'shoestringed' it to match what I have available.

It makes enough for six which is  27p per portion (rounded up) which is brilliantly frugal.  However, these prices only relate to what I had in my cupboard at this moment in time and will vary according to brand, supermarket and price hikes of which, sadly, there are rather a lot right now.

1 tbsp veg oil* - 2p
72g chorizo, sliced lengthways and each half then sliced thinly (I had some left over which needed using up, hence the odd amount (and it was YS)- 70g-100g would be fine, just adjust the cost) - 65p
some onion, roughly chopped (I had half to use up plus one small 'wonky' one) - 3p
100g cooking bacon, chopped - 10p
a squeeze of garlic puree - 3p
1 chicken stock cube - 3p
1 can chopped tomatoes plus half the can of water - 25p
20g drained sundried tomato, chopped (an optional extra but I love the flavour they impart) - 14p
2/3 tin baked beans, rinsed (I had this in the fridge to use up but a whole can would be fine.  I washed and drained them because I didn't want the baked bean sauce taste) - 18p
45g chopped mushrooms - 9p
some dried parsley
some tomato puree - 8p
seasonings, if needed
Total: £1.60

(*I missed a trick here as I have some sundried tomato oil to use up - must remember that as it's 'free' - I costed the drained weight only.  Don't ever throw this away, it is packed with sunshine flavour.)

Gently saute the onion and chorizo in the oil until the oil runs from the chorizo and everything is a lovely orange shade.  Add the cooking bacon, and continue frying it gently for about five mins, stirring now and again.  Add the garlic puree and cook for another minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes and extra water, the stock cube, the sundried tomato and the rinsed beans with a little grating of black pepper.  Mix well, bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and allow it to simmer, covered, for about half an hour, stirring it now and again to stop any sticking.
Then add the mushroom, parsley and tomato puree, stir well, increase the heat a little and let it bubble, uncovered, so that the mixture thickens a bit, stirring now and again.

Taste, adjust seasonings if necessary (I didn't need to) and it's finished.  Eat with pasta, rice or , maybe, mash. or use as a filling for cannelloni or even on top of a pizza base.  You could do lots of things with it.

I shared it into 6 portions which are, as I type, cooling ready for freezing.  Very flavoursome and very frugal.   When you reduce the overall size of your portions, as I have done, you want every mouthful to be a real burst of flavour and this certainly fits the bill in that respect!

Thursday, 18-1-18

Good morning, everyone.

Today's frugal food plans:
B:  porridge with tinned fruit and natural yogurt
L:  pea soup, yogurt
D:  chorizo and bean stew, sweet potato fried, side salad
Ss:  apple, orange

From the freezer:
The pea soup and I might also get some frozen peas to garnish.
The chorizo and bean stew.

The frugal fractor:
Porridge!  And the fruit is tinned and is from the Saver's range.
The pea soup was very inexpensive to make from dried peas, some veg and some stock
I made the stew several months ago now when I was doing pound a day but I remember that the chorizo was a yellow sticker purchase and the beans (pulses) were home soaked and cooked.  I made a batch and froze it in single portions.
The sweet potatoes were a bag of five for £1.00 which seemed very good value.  I'll have to look up how to make the fries but I am assuming it is more or less the same as making SW chips.
The salad is from Aldi Super Six veg and the last bit of red pepper from a bag of Wonky peppers.

(As an aside, yesterday's savoury mince for the pasta bolognaise was made a while ago and frozen and didn't taste half as flavoursome as the mixture I made at the weekend with the roasted mince.  It was nice but . . . )

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Recipe: roasted tomato soup

I thought that, having raved about this soup (and it was nicer second day), I ought to post the recipe although it was a bit chuck it in, taste and see.
Here goes.

6 very tasteless tomatoes (Aldi super six)
garlic granules
A bit of oil, as little as you can get away with
half an onion
half a carrot
some celery
(these three are the base for most of my soups)
chicken or veg stock powder (I used Knorr chicken stock granules but Marigold would also work)
tomato puree
dried mustard
bit of salt - if the stock was salty, be careful

Earlier, preferably when you have the oven on for something else, cut the tomatoes into quarters, toss them in a very little oil, add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and some garlic granules (or puree or the proper stuff), mix it all up well so that everything is coated and pop in the oven for half an hour or so turning it all over now and again..  The tomatoes will firstly go juicy, then start thickening and charring slightly.  You want a little bit of char but not too much.

Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.  Cover and refrigerate if left overnight

The next day tip it all into a pan and add all the other ingredients apart from the milk and quark.  Pour a bit of boiling water into the roasting dish and use it to scape out all the sticky bits because they have wonderful flavour.

Bring to a simmer and let it all gently bubble for ten minutes or so or until all the veg is soft.  Add more water if it gets too thick.

Tip into a blender and zizz until smooth.  Then you could push it all through a sieve, if you want.  I did.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  You could add more stock powder at this point too, if needed.

Pop the soup back into the pan and add some milk to dilute and a dollop of quark.  Whisk it all together and re-heat to just under boiling.

Serve.  You could add some grated cheese, some croutons, some bacon crumbles - but |I love it just as it is.

(and if you don't have fresh tomatoes, use a can of chopped tomatoes instead.  It could be cheaper and will taste great.)

Wednesday, 17-1-18

Good morning and welcome to another frugal day!

My food plans for today are . . .
B:  Muesli, fruit (probably from a can), natural yogurt
L:  The other half of yesterday's roasted tomato soup which was totally and absolutely delicious, so tasty that you'd never have thought it was made with some extremely nondescript, plastic wrapped, so-called tomatoes.  Roasting the tomatoes really does make a flavour difference.  The oven was already turned on for something else so there were no extra fuel costs.
D:  pasta bolognaise, salad.  Dinner is a bit problematic today.  I am out until 6:00 and then back out for a school governors' meeting at about 6:20 so I will have to get it all ready beforehand so I can just pop it in the microwave when I get in after the evening meeting.  The bolognaise part is already made and in the freezer so no hassle.

From the freezer:
Just the bolognaise, although by having the soup again I have stopped it needing to go in the freezer.

The frugal factor
The muesli is a gift
Tinned fruit is cheaper than fresh - the kind I get is, anyway.
The soup tastes loads more expensive than it cost to make.  It would be even cheaper if I used one of my cans of chopped tomatoes and that is what I usually do when I make this soup.
The bolognaise is from a batch bake, well loaded with veg, oats and lentils.
Most of the salad is Aldi Super Six

And, just for the record, the 'hidden in plain sight' potatoes, baked and eaten yesterday, were totally scrummy.  I felt so privileged which may sound a bit silly but there you go!

I'm trying to use up the multitude of stuff in the freezer.
I want to make the most of my hard earned pension so am aiming for sensible frugality in my meal planning and making.
I have gall bladder problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure so am taking myself in hand with low fat, high fruit and veg, generally healthy meals but with plenty of flavour.
Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 16 January 2018


Good morning.  :-)
I had a lovely frugal surprise yesterday when I got home from my parents'.  It was a letter from my electricity supplier telling me that from now until July they are more than halving my monthly payment because I am in credit.
Now, there are some very good reasons why I'm in credit, not ones that would be appropriate to share here, and it won't stay like that for ever but I have been using my tumble dryer more during the winter months and come the spring, when the days are longer, brighter and warmer, I will be drying my washing on the line again which will be a saving and I have been making more use of the cheaper electricity overnight too.  So it will all even out.

However, whatever the reasons, it's a bit more cash to toss over into savings each month.  Cheers!
(actually the above shows how much I have changed because one upon a time it would have been 'Cheers, I can go and buy something!)
So what with that, the two state pension payments this month and no rates/water rates in February and March, my ISA will be happy!

Today's plans (I have my daughter coming over for dinner):
B:  porridge, strawberry foam, yogurt
L:  roasted tomato soup
D:  Jack burgers (those famous kidney bean burgers from Jack Monroe's early days), salad, jacket potatoes (some of those little ones I posted about yesterday), maybe Christmas cake
Ss:  apple and orange

From the freezer
Just the kidney beans to make the Jack-burgers (that's what we call them)

The frugal factor
Breakfast, as always.  Must get some more oats though as I'm nearly out and that would never do!
The tomatoes for the soup are from Aldi's recent Super Six and I roasted them last night when I had the oven on anyway.
The burgers are frugal anyway, the salad veg is mostly still from Aldi (who says Aldi stuff goes off quickly - not me!) and the potatoes are from the garden (yay!).
I have some bread crumbs left over from yesterday so I will add them to the burger mix.

Here's the link to Jack's web site and that famous burger recipe.  It is nice and very adaptable.

Monday 15 January 2018

Recipe: salmon fingers

This was very nice indeed.  I used the flour paste and breadcrumb method (thanks again to Jamie) and the paste created a crunchy coating so that the salmon inside didn't dry out.

Ingredients to make enough for one
one salmon fillet
1 tsp plain flour mixed with water to make a coating paste - not too thick - and a bit of seasoning salt
breadcrumbs - I zizzed up one of my 1lb loaf slices and there was plenty left

Preheat oven to 200C

Cut the salmon across the short middle, removing the skin as well, if necessary, and then across long ways so you end up with four fingers
Dip each finger in the flour and water and then cover with breadcrumbs.  They stick really easily.

Place on a baking tray covered with parchment and sprayed with oil.  Spray a little more oil on top.
Bake in the oven for about 15 mins until the breadcrumbs are turning golden.

I served them with a salad and some Slimming World chips (but used the wrong kind of potatoes so they were nice but not really chips - shame).  You could also add a lemon wedge and some tartar sauce if you were feeling lavish.  I wasn't.

Definitely, definitely one to do again.  Also, I shall make my own fish fingers using this method and some cheaper white fish.  It was so tasty.

Hidden in plain sight

. . . or, less poetically, I can't see for looking!

Last summer I let some potatoes sprout.  Not on purpose, stuff happened and I didn't use them in time so they went sprouty and, as they were King Edwards or were they Maris Pipers, more expensive ones anyway, I thought I'd have a go at planting them in a strong bag. 

I had some rubble sacks which are very strong but not huge so I punched holes around the bottom for drainage, added some soil and popped in some of the spuds.  I'd already planted some new potatoes (left over from the allotment planting) in the same way and they had done a bit OK, not great but OK.  Over time they grew and I covered them, they grew and I covered them until they got to the top, the leaves and stem did their bit, withered and fell off.

And I sort of forgot about them, even though the bags are in plain sight.  Despite the impression I accidentally give from time to time, I'm not a whizz gardener.  My garden is small and growing space is smaller.  I do OK with the runner beans and the tomatoes while the strawberries seem to like me but I don't have green fingers and tend to be death to house plants!
So I sort of forgot.
Until this morning when I went out to the shed and they called out to me.  Well - I noticed them anyway.

I rather thought by now they would be all manky so I dug my hand in with a bit of a shudder but, to my delight, up came some perfect potatoes.  Small, for sure, smaller than they look in the photo but real, edible potatoes.  Lovely smelling, muddy and gorgeous


And there's more there but I left them for now because I was getting wet.

That's a few days' worth of potatoes there, for sure.  They are drying, then I will just brush the soil off a bit and pop them in the potato bag where they should stay good for a while.

What a shame I have already prepped my potatoes for dinner tonight!

Guess what I shall be doing again this summer!


Good morning, everyone.  I was very disciplined yesterday, cut out the nibbles (I had a drink of water every time I was tempted) and lo, and behold, the gallstone is behaving itself again.  A great relief.

The second day mince, made into a cottage pie, was, if possible, even nicer than on Saturday and very satisfying to eat.  Tom K is right - depth of flavour really does make a difference.

Today's plans:
B:  porridge with jam and natural yogurt
L:  the broccoli soup I chucked in the freezer last week
D:  salmon bites, SW chips (must try those wonky harmony potatoes as chips), side salad.
Ss:  apple and orange

I have some pieces of salmon in the freezer so I shall defrost one piece, cut it into chunks and flour and breadcrumb them, Jamie-style, before oven baking.  It should work out fine.

From the freezer.
The soup
The salmon
The bread for breadcrumbs

The frugal factor
Porridge as always and home made jam
The broccoli soup was made with a broccoli stem.
The potatoes are Morrisons Wonkies!
The salad is still mostly Aldi's Super Six so very reasonably priced.
While the the oven is on for the chips and fish, I will roast some chopped tomatoes (thanks, Margie) for tomorrow's soup
AND - no extra nibblies!

Salmon, of course, is not at all frugal but I have it in the freezer so it would be daft not to use it up.