Friday, 31 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 31-5-13

B  Porridge made with oats, water, a sliced banana and 30mls yogurt
L:  Broccoli soup (supposed to be for yesterday and from the freezer), bread and butter from allowance
D:  Bean and vegetable bolognaise, 50g pasta, 20g grated cheese, stewed rhubarb and yoghurt
Sn: None, I think.  That's good!
Dr:  coffee, cuppa tea, water

And all this, given a few freebies and bead and butter that are a weekly allowance so paid for weekly, it's come to around 90p. And I am stuffed!  And pleased.

A ponder

When I was thinking through the whole Live below The Line scenario I realised that I am really enjoying the way I'm doing things now.  Cheaper than Chips started off as a whim, a fancy, based on the fact that I had decided NOT to do LBTL (cough) but felt that I needed a change.

I've done it for just over a month now.  Today is the last day of the fifth week and it seems a good time for a little ponder.  Don't feel you have to read further!  You know what I'm like when I get going . . .

I can see so many advantages.
1.  I'm spending a lot less - and I mean a whole LOT less.  I'm not going into details.  You'll have to take my word for it.  Suffice it to say my bank account never looked healthier and I shall be moving some across to the savings as well as donating to hunger charities.

2.  I'm eating a lot better.  Sure, some of it is 'value' food, but nevertheless much of what's going in is home cooked, fresh, made from scratch and absolutely delicious.  Herbs and spices are having a field day!  The whole day's eating is balanced.  It rather reminds me of how I ate as a child.  The alcohol is out, the fizzy low cal drinks are out and plain water rules the roost (aided and abetted by black coffee)

3.  I'm respecting food more (I hope that doesn't sound silly).  No more shovelling bags of crisps down so fast they hardly touch the side.  In fact, no more bags of crisps - have you seen how much they cost????  I now look at leftovers with new vision.  They are there to be used, not thrown away.  I keep a sharp eye open for things that need using up.  Today I have some rapidly ripening bananas and I won't eat them in time so I am making banana bread to freeze in slices.  See, they're worth using, they don't deserve to be discarded . . .

4.  . . . and, as a natural result, the amount I throw out has reduced significantly.  That's not just food waste, it is also cans, bottles and plastic.  That has to be good.

5.  I'm losing weight.  I know I am because of the way my clothes feel.  I'm not weighing, I'm not thinking about calories.  At first I got very muddled between calories and pennies and I've got it cleared now.  Pennies are a lot more tangible than calories!
Maybe I will hop on the scales at the end of term, just to see.  And maybe I won't.  It doesn't matter.

6.  Perhaps the most important.  I'm in charge, I'm in control!  This is for the rest of my life!  It's fun.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 20-5-13 (early)

Starting to prepare for LBTL.  Not that it's around the corner.  far from it, we're starting on June 9th, but I'm an awful planner.
I've had a look through my cupboards and sorted out things we can use (with their cost taken off the final amount, of course) because what's the point in buying stuff you already have in?
I'm trying to make bread with plain flour rather than strong flour.  Not sure about that one but fingers crossed.  I may end up with unleavened bread!
And I KNOW (because I know me) that I will have every i dotted and every t crossed, the week's eating totally planned out and everything ready in pots in the fridge or freezer before I start!
Because that's me!

Back to today.  Today's eating has been or is going to be (because I've taken it out of the freezer):
B:  Porridge with blackberry jam (delish)
L:  Broccoli soup with bread and butter from my allowance and a (free) apple
D:  Beef paprikash (from freezer) and some boiled new potatoes added in.  Fruit crumble and yoghurt

As there's some old freezer meals in there, the cost is £1.50.  It's probably more but it's swings and roundabouts on this issue, I think.

Living Below The Line

Please sponsor us.  Here's the link and there's more info in Diary of a Teacher.

More later.  :-)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 29-5-13

Do you like the changes?  I decided yesterday that I fancied a slightly different look and I do like this particular background.  The photo at the top is my kitchen window ledge.

Today I have eaten, or plan to eat:
B:  porridge with banana and yoghurt
L:  Salad with some Wensleydale cheese (a gift from my parents), a piece of fruit (I've been off fruit recently and have missed it)
D:  bacon, tomato, hash browns and mushrooms (I'm craving a fry up but this won't be greasy!  Fruit crumble and yoghurt (might not have this, it depends how hungry I feel after the first course)
Dr:  coffee and sparkling water
Sn:  Toast and a scraping of marmite this morning and digestives this afternoon.  The bread was from my allowance.

Oh, I have been so hungry today.  I suppose it's the combination of finally feeling better and not having eaten all that much for a few days.  Anyway, the digestives have taken a battering.  Such a shame their calorie value isn't the same as their monetary value.

I'm wibbling.  Daughter has persuaded me to join her in five days of Eating Below The Line with a joint sponsor page.  Eeeeeeeeeeek!  I'm really not at all sure but I guess I have to have a go and if we buy together and split, it will make it easier, I think.

Oh, my!  Value lemon curd, here I come!

Recipe: Butter bean and sausage burgers: cheaper than chips

After reading a blog from A Girl Called Jack, I bought some sausage meat from Sainsbury's.  Not proper sausages, you understand, sausage meat in a big - er - sausage shape, 500g for something like £2.25 with a percentage of pork that was over 60.  Not good but a darn sight more 'meaty' than the value sausages!
Anyway, it's now been shared into tenths and nine of them are in the freezer, well wrapped, while the tenth made these.

It is Jack Monroe's idea, I lay no claim whatsoever to it.  The tweaks are mine though

50g sausage meat
1 tbsp oil
half a small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small carrot, grated
the seeds from three cardamom pods, crushed with a pestle and mortar.
a squeeze of garlic puree
cooked butter beans (I used the cooked equivalent of 25g of dried beans - sorry not to be more precise but they were in the freezer), roughly mashed with a fork
breadcrumbs from about 1/4 of a supermarket roll that was lurking in the freezer
parsley, chopped
about 10ml plain flour
salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add salt)

Heat the oil and saute the onion and carrot until soft.  Add the camdamom seeds and garlic and sautee for a few more minutes.

In a bowl, place the breadcrumbs, the mashed butter beans, the softened onion and carrot, the sausage meat, lemon juice, salt, pepper, flour and parsley and mix it all up well together.  Shape into patties.

Place in the fridge to chill and firm up before frying.  Fat will come out of the sausage meat as they fry.

I managed to make four thin burgers but I think that was pushing it.  I wanted enough for two meals.  Three would be better but awkward in terms of providing two meals

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 28-5-13

Starting to recover now.  Lunched caused no obvious repercussions!  Fingers crossed that dinner will settle well too because I'm hungry!!!!!

B:  None  (I know, I know, but there are still a few cramps and I'm not hungry.  I waited for lunch)
L:  Egg and salad (egg is binding, yes?), sautéed new potatoes (I needed something hot)
D:  sausage and butter bean burgers (recipe will follow if they're nice), more salad (because I have it and some of it needs eating up), fruit crumble (from the freezer)

Total cost is £1.50 because of the freezer item.  I reckon it would come to more or less that anyway.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 27-5-13

Yesterday I posted before I ate (or not) the evening meal and, sadly, it was 'not' as I was feeling yuck.  Also sadly I had to throw it out as it was second day rice warmed up, so not sensible to then freeze it.  It went very much against the grain but it hit the inside of the bin all the same!
So yesterday's amount stays the same.

B:  None - I was feeling decidedly queasy still and didn't fancy breakfast at all, not even porridge.
L:  Bacon and broccoli soup with bread and butter.
D:  Still not well.  Had half a cuppa tea and that's it.

Definitely a frugal day!!  Given that the soup was around 10p (broccoli was free) and the bread and butter was out of my allowance, I think I've spent around 15p today in total (not counting the meds).  Ah, well, that's the silver lining, isn't it - making up for the indulgence of a few days ago, that's for sure!

Here's to a better day tomorrow!

Recipe: Strawberry and blueberry sorbet

I've just made this (in the interests of using up freezer stuff, you understand) and, oh, my goodness, it is delicious.

I used Thermione but you could easily use a processor/blender (not a stick blender though) as there's nothing thermomix-specific about it apart from the fact that she does the job superbly well!

I ground 40g sugar into powder (or use icing sugar to start with).  Then I added some frozen strawberries and blueberries.  The strawberries were some I picked last year and froze singly before popping them into a poly bag.  I suppose I must have used around fifteen berries.  The blueberries were what I had in an opened bag of frozen blueberries from Sainsbury's and they were really rather old but seeing as they were going to get all  crushed up, who cares?  Not me!

These could possibly be the very strawberries - or not!!

Anyway, I crushed the frozen fruit until it was all mushed up with the sugar, then added 10g lemon juice and churned for 1 minute at speed 9, pushing the mixture down with the spatula as it churned.  If using a blender, you'd need to keep stopping and pushing the mixture down the side.  It goes all smooth and scrummy after a while.

After than, add the butterfly whisk, pop in one egg white from a smallish egg and 1/2 tbsp glycerine and whisk on 4 for about 30 seconds until light and sort of foamy.  If using a blender, you'd need to insert the whisk, if you have one, or whisk by hand.

I find it's a little too mushy to server immediately and don't want it now anyway, so it's in a plastic container and in the freezer for later.  I reckon it makes enough for five, depending on how much you call a serving!   I'm hoping the glycerine will make it easy to scoop.

Not really frugal but a darn sight cheaper (and nicer) than shop bought of similar quality!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cheaper than chips update: 26-5-13

|A nice day's eating.
B:  Banana pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
D:  Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers with carrot and cranberry coleslaw and chips.  Rhubarb sorbet
T:  Savoury rice (as yesterday but without the tuna) with grated cheese on top, flapjack
Dr: coffee and sparkly water

Total spend:  £1.30

Now the weather is picking up (fingers crossed) when I was shopping I bought a couple of 'living lettuce' pots.  In each pot there's three different lettuces, all alive and, one hopes, still growing.  That's the idea anyway, but even if none of them grow another lead, it's not bad value for three 'posh' lettuces per pot.

Recipe: Jack's carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger

The original recipe can be found here, on Jack Monroe's site, A Girl Called Jack.

As always, I adapted it to suit what I had.  I used a value tin of kidney beans, an onion, some celery that really needed using up. more carrot than it said because I have lots of freebies in the fridge, some soda bread crumbs left over from yesterday and this morning (just half a slice and a nog-end) and an egg yolk that also really needed using up too.

I also used Thermione but the order of stuff was more or less the same.  She chopped the onion, carrot and celery into fine pieces for me and sautéed them in a little oil.  I added cumin, seasonings and dried mixed herbs (I don't like coriander), then added the kidney beans (which were lovely and soft so didn't need cooking any more) and pulsed until softly chunky.  I then let it cool before adding the breadcrumbs and the egg yolk.

It's swings and roundabouts with the difference in cost.  The kidney beans cost more, the carrot was free, overall it made six burgers (using my burger press - the link is to the waxed discs but the press is the one I have, not the updated one they now sell) at 9p a burger.  We had two each for lunch, me, Beth and Alex, with a carrot coleslaw and some chips and I thought it was absolutely delicious!  I am definitely making more.

Thanks, Jack!  I love your recipe.

Cheaper than chips: update 25-5-13

Today has been an expensive day - comparatively expensive, anyway - because of having a guest.  Yes, A, it's all your fault totally.  I hope you feel properly guilty!  :-)  It was extremely tasty though!

B:  Scrambled eggs on toasted soda bread
L:  More soda bread with tuna, lettuce and cucumber, a satsuma and a flapjack (the flapjack was unnecessary but there!)
D:  Finishing off the tuna and the leftover peas, plus other leftover stuff in a savoury rice sort of dish, banana and leftover custard from yesterday
Dr: coffee and water

I've tried my best to cost it out with the eggs and the tuna (which amounts to over a pound all on its own) and the soda bread plus the other bits and bobs and it comes to £2-30 < wince >!

Back on the frugality wagon tomorrow!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Recipe: a dressing for fish

I had some value fish - pollack fillets.  25p per fillet, not very big (rather small, in fact) but it was fish and I've missed my fish.

I wanted something to dress it up a little bit, taste-wise.  Looking around, I mixed some lemon juice (about 1 tsp) with a little bit of runny honey (less than the lemon juice) and half a tsp grain mustard.  I mixed it well together.

I put the fish on some foil, drizzled over the dressing with a few sprigs of thyme from the plant on the window sill and a tiny (very tiny) sprinkling of salt, wrapped the foil into a bag and popped it into the oven (which was already on for some chips) for about 20 mins.

I thought it was very nice with a sweetness coming through from the tiny bit of honey as well as the flavours of lemon, mustard and thyme.  Next time I will dot or smear a little bit of butter over the fish before adding the dressing and I might also add a titchy bit of chilli too.

Cheaper than chips: update 24-5-13

B:  The usual porridge with banana and yoghurt.  I love it!
L:  Carrot and lentil soup, bread and butter, flapjack, possible fruit
D:  Fish (pollack, cheap!), baked in foil with something, probably lemon and honey and some mustard, chips and peas.  Banana in custard (well, I do have a guest!)
Sn:  fruit at school
Drinks:  coffee, sparkly water, bottle of cider (very welcome gift from above friend, thank you very much indeed!)

And even with the banana custard, carefully costed out, it came to just £1.24

The weekly amount, including the bread and butter allowances, came to around £9.50, which would have been a lot more, had I included the cost of the freebies, of course.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Recipe: soda bread

I've been making soda bread these last few days because my guest can't eat 'normal' bread.  I love soda bread - it takes me back to a family holiday in Ireland when I was a teenager.  We stayed on a farm and the farmer's wife baked us endless loaves of soda bread which we children devoured warm with melting butter and cheese or home made jam.   You'd have thought we hadn't been fed for a month of Sundays, the way we leapt on it with shouts of delight!

Anyway - soda bread.  It's so easy to make and so utterly delicious, I thought I'd post a recipe for it here.  It may not be extremely frugal but it is certainly a whole lot less expensive than the bought kind and, I think, nicer too.  It's also quite a forgiving recipe.  Buttermilk is the best liquid to use (and most supermarkets seem to stock this now) but I have made it with yoghurt and I have made it with just milk  and I have made it with a mixture of water and yoghurt and it seems to respond well to all of those.  And I must remember that if I have milk that is just starting to go off and which I would normally throw out, that works too.

Anyway, here's the recipe I use.
170g self raising flour (I use white)
170g plain flour (I use wholemeal - in fact this week I have used strong wholemeal because that's all I had in the wholemeal line, but you can use white)
half tsp bicarbonate of soda (if you're using all plain flour, increase this to about 1 heaped tsp)
half tsp salt
(I also rub in a little butter, but you don't have to)
290mls buttermilk.  I use a pot and I just make it up to 290 with some milk.

Heat the oven to 200/gas 6
Mix the flours, salt and bicarb in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a fork to make a soft dough.  Tip out onto a floured board and knead briefly (or cheat and bung it in Thermione to do all the work - 1m30 seconds on bread is enough kneading)
Shape into a ball, flatten by pressing down on the top, cut a cross in the centre with a sharp knife (or use a long handle of a wooden spoon to make a deep cross -the loaf can then be separated into quarter segments which is handy for serving).  Place on a lightly floured baking tray (I use a teflon liner)
Place a bowl of boiling water in the bottom of the oven and bake the loaf for around 30 mins until it sounds hollow when the base is tapped.  Cool on a wire rack.
It dried out quickly so what you don't eat soon can be well wrapped and frozen.

I've just costed it out using value white flour and Morrison's buttermilk it comes to 72p.  It makes a loaf that can serve four to six (depending how greed - er, I mean hungry - you are.
It makes a 630g loaf:  to put this into perspective, the only supermarket soda bread I could find was the Rankin Irish Brown Soda Bread and that costs £1.25 for a 400g loaf.  It's a win-win-win - win for time, win for taste and win for cost!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: update 23-5-13

Today's food and spending . . .

B:  porridge with banana and yogurt
L:  vegetable chilli, pasta and grated cheese, fruit
D:  two butterbean burgers, fried tomatoes, chutney
Sn:  a little bit of home made soda bread and butter (no idea of cost but it certainly wasn't much), 2 digestive biscuits, 1 flapjack (it's jolly cold today - comfort needed)

All of which comes to the grand total of around £1.10.

The banana, fruit and tomatoes are free, the vegetable chilli and the burgers are home made, priced and out of the freezer.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: update 22-5-13

My food today has been:

B:  porridge with banana and yoghurt
L:  the rest of the broccoli stem soup that has been sitting in the freezer since Saturday (already costed in), bread and butter from allowance, fruit (free) - that's what you call a cheap lunch, cheap but nourishing and mostly home made!
D:  Hairy Dieters meatballs in tomato sauce (freezer), pasta.  I was going to have a flapjack too but I'm nicely full.
Sn:  Playtime fruit (free)
Dr: coffee x 4, water

Back on the frugality wagon AND using up something in the freezer.  Excellent!

No recipe today - there's not enough freezer space to cook any more at the moment!

Finally, a bit of a ponder.  I reckon I am going to have to shelve the frugal shopping in June/July, while the strawberry picking season is upon us.  You see, I always go to Lathcoat's farm at least twice to pick their lovely strawberries and I use quite a lot of what I pick to make  jammy thank-yous for all my lovely parent helpers.  In time it pays for itself as well as making the best gifts in the world, but it ain't cheap!  It's spend to save really.
I don't have to abandon it in any other way though, do I?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: update 21-5-13

OK, so today is a disaster as far as the CtC project is concerned but it's a lovely disaster.  I have truly enjoyed my meal out with the girls tonight but I've been as frugal as I could be under the circumstances.  I know some of my readers will think 'why???' but the truth is I want to continue being careful.  Eating out occasionally is a fact of my life, but spending a fortune on one meal doesn't have to be and I don't want it to be.  I'm luckier than a lot in being able to go out like this.

In fact, it wasn't too difficult as I always have the smaller plate meals anyway so that was one stumbling block out of the way.  You'd think a large lady like me would be able to tuck away a huge plateful but the fact is that it's not the amount I eat that's the problem, it's the type of food and I'm doing something about that now.

Anyway, after all that, here's what I have eaten.
B:  scrambled eggs on toast
L:  Leftovers of the mango chicken with boiled rice

And then, for dinner . . .
    no starter (I never do anyway)
    crispy chicken strips (I do love chicken!) with peas and chips and it was delicious
    and then ice cream for dessert.
And now I am stuffed!

I can't cost it all out today because there's too many variables and the lunch came from the freezer anyway.

Recipe: rhubarb sorbet

This is a thermomix recipe and jolly nice it is too.  However, if you have a powerful processor and start with icing sugar rather than demerara (or if it can grind the demerara into an icing sugar consistency) there's no reason why you can't make this without one..

Rhubarb sorbet
 Servings:  it depends how huge your servings are but I would say six to eight.  If the rhubarb is free (mine was) the cost is 8.5p if serving six and 6.5p if you’re serving eight.  It would be nice if you used strawberries as well as rhubarb or made a strawberry sauce/purée.

650g rhubarb
120g Demerara sugar
1 egg white
lemon juice

Method: (for thermomix)
The day before, cook the rhubarb in as little water as you can get away with.
Line a sided oven tray with baking parchment by tearing off a piece large enough to fit in the tray and up the sides, scrunching it under the cold tap, shaking it out and pressing it into the tray.  Pour the soft rhubarb into the tray, smooth off the top, cover with easy leave or cling film and put in the freezer for about 24 hours (or longer – but if longer, put into a poly bag).

Making the sorbet
Get the rhubarb out of the freezer, remove it from the tray (you might need to dip the tray bottom briefly into hot water) and peel off the paper and easy-leave/cling film.  With a strong, sharp knife, cut the slab into ice cube sized chunks (it isn't that hard, just be careful)

Into the Tmx, weigh 120g demerara sugar and grind on 10 until it resembles icing sugar (it takes longer than granulated takes).
Then pile in the rhubarb ice cubes and crush at speed 6 until the mixture no longer moves around the bowl (you can hear this)
Add the lemon juice and honey (and any liqueur you want to add – strawberry would be lovely) and churn for up to 1 minute/speed 9, stirring through the top with the spatula as it churns.  It should end up very smooth.
Add the egg white and glycerine.  The insert the butterfly whisk and whisk for 30 seconds on 4 until light and creamy.
Serve immediately or pop into a pot and freeze for later.

Believe me, it is very, very delicious!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update 20-5-13

Here's today's summary:

B  Porridge with banana and yogurt
L  Bean and tomato pasta with 20g grated cheese, piece of fruit
D  chicken and mango curry with rice and I will chop in the left over vegetables from yesterday's lunch, 2 digestive biccies
Dr  coffees and water
Sn apple at playtime (free)

The total is £1.50 because dinner comes from the freezer, but the costed total comes to something like 65p, which is fine!
However, it is less economically evil than at first thought because the spicy chicken and mango plus left over veg was enough to make two portions so guess what I am having for lunch tomorrow.  Yup, that's right.  I wonder if my colleagues will be envious!
However (again) tomorrow is total bank bustin' because I am going out in the evening.  Yes, I am.  I'm going to blow about a fortnight's food money on a meal out.
Actually, when I think of it like that I think blimey . . . my perspective changes!

Recipe: Wraps

Wraps are jolly useful.  Not only are they a great alternative to bread, they are good for using as a thin pizza base, as a lining for a quiche (I've tried both of these and it works well) and for scooping up a delicious curry sauce.  I suspect one could always bake them crunchy too, like crispy tortillas, although I haven't tried that yet.
Unfortunately, wraps are expensive.  My Supermarket tells me that a pack of 8 Sainsbury's ordinary wraps cost £1.20, making each wrap 15p while Mission deli wraps are more than 20p each.  Ouch.

So I was delighted when, as I was trawling through Jack Monroe's recipes, I found a link to this recipe on the rather interesting looking Frugal Feeding blog - do take a look.
An easy peasy recipe for home made wraps.

I'm not going to reproduce the recipe here as it is very well explained over there, but I did tweak it slightly for making in the thermomix as well as making half the amount - the same number of wraps though, so rather smaller but just the right size for me.
Here's the tweaked version with all acknowledgement and thanks to the creator.


Ingredients to make 8 medium sized wraps, around 2p each
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting and rolling (I used value/basic flour and it was fine)
1/2 tbsp butter (again, I used basic)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
150ml hot water

Usual Method:
Follow the link

Method for the Thermomix
Place the first 4 ingredients in the bowl and mix on 5 for about 5 seconds.
Add the water, mix briefly, then knead for five minutes.

Divide into 8 small balls (each will be around 60g)

When you roll each ball out into a very thin sort of circular shape; they don't HAVE to be circular and some of mine were a very odd shape indeed!.  Use flour for dusting (needed).

Heat up a frying pan large enough to take the wraps until very hot.  Dry fry each wrap in turn, giving each side no more than 2 minutes.  I found it was a lot less, in fact, and I did need to flatten them down because they puffed up a lot.  You certainly can't go off and do anything else, however short a time it takes.  As you remove each one from the pan, stack it under a clean tea towel.

I have no idea how long these stay fresh.  It’s probably best to interleave each one and pop them in the freezer somewhere they won’t get knocked, to use individually if you're not going to eat them immediately.

I've eaten one and it was very nice.  Now to think of other ways of flavouring – garlic, black pepper, celery salt perhaps, mint – mmm, mint wrap and falafels.  Or I could roll them with some of my bean and tomato mixture (already heated), sprinkle some grated cheese on to and warm up in the oven.  

And here's the link again.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update 19-5-13

Scrummy eating day today.  It's all been delicious so far.

B:  Porridge (made with some milk as I have some again now), dried fruit and yoghurt, a satsuma
D:  Vegetable and bean crumble, roasted parsnips, pea purée  broccoli, rhubarb sorbet and strawberry coulis (sounds posher than 'sauce', doesn't it?
T:  It was going to be more beany tomato stuff with pasta and cheese, but I'm still full up from dinner so I reckon it will be marmite on toast later on followed by a flapjack.  Or maybe nothing at all
Dr: coffee, sparkly water, still water
Sn:  one digestive biccie

It's a bit hard to work out the total, especially as the last meal has changed but I work it out at around £1.20, give or take a few pence.

The pea purée wasn't planned.  I had some home cooked mushy peas in the freezer but they were a bit dry and tasteless so I heated them up with a sprig of mint, discarded the mint, added some butter (not a lot) and then used my bamix to zizz the lot down to a purée   And you know what?  It was really scrummy and I shall be doing that again.  There's some broccoli and some parsnip left but the pea puree all got eaten.  Success!

I looked at the satsuma peel and wondered if there was anything I could do with it.  If anyone has any ideas, please would you leave a comment and let me know?  Thanks.

Recipe: bean, lentil and tomato stew

I'm such a failure.  I set out to reduce the stuff in my freezer and I just continue to add to it!  Therefore, no Jack Monroe recipe for me this afternoon.  I HAVE to use up some freezer stuff!Ho hum!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (or more, to individual taste!)
2 smallish carrots
100g mixed sliced peppers (I used frozen because they’re such good value)
3 mushrooms 
1 tsp smoked paprika
squidge garlic puree
80g frozen peas
1 can chopped tomatoes
40g red lentils
2 tsp vegetable stock paste
150g mixed pulses (I used chick peas, kidney beans and butter beans)
a good pinch dried mixed herbs
a grinding of pepper
half tube tomato puree

While the oil is heating in a good sized pan, peel and chop the onion and carrot and slice the mushrooms.
Saute the carrots, peppers and onion in the olive oil until softening.  Add the smoked paprika and the garlic puree, stir and saute for a couple more minutes.
Add the peas, mushrooms, lentils, stock paste, dried herbs, pulses, chopped tomato and half a can of water.  Give it a good grinding of pepper but no salt as the stock paste has salt.  Add a tsp sugar and stir well.
Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to a minimum, cover and allow to bubble away gently until all the veg are cooked and the lentils have softened and are thickening the liquid.  Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick and scorch.
Add the half tube of tomato puree and stir it in well, then cook for about another 5 minutes.  Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

It should all be nice and gooey and thick, perfect for lasagne, crumble, etc.  You could add meat to it if wanted, such as left over shreds of chicken or ham.  You could add wine to the cooking liquid instead of the extra water.

Today the total cost was £1.40 and I split it into 7 individual and (I think) generous portions that cost 20p each.  Given that it’s packed with protein from the lentils and pulses and also pretty good on the old veg too, I'm pleased with that.  Just shows how much you can save by cooking from scratch (even the pulses were cooked from dried, not a can of mixed beans) and using value ingredients when appropriate.

If one threw in some dried apricots, it would be a delicious tagine – I shall do that to one of the portions.  Start off with chilli and appropriate spices and you've got a very filling curry that just needs rice and a dollop of yoghurt.  This is one I shall do again for sure.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update 18-5-13

Today I've eaten or intend to eat:
B:  Banana and bacon pancakes with honey and yoghurt - this is getting to be my weekly spoil myself on a Saturday morning and the fact that it is also great value is very cheering!
L:  Cream of broccoli soup (using the stem that would be chucked), bread and butter.
D:  Vegetable chilli with rice and a sprinkle of grated cheese, rhubarb pancakes with yoghurt (the pancakes are made with leftover batter from this morning.

Sn:  some gorgeous cake* that Beth brought round - so free!  I've been very good and cut it into five, one of which is in my tum now and the rest individually wrapped for another day.
Drinks.  five coffees < hangs head in shame > and some value sparkling water (which I love - the sparkle, I mean)

I did the pancakes a little differently today.  The lady I buy my eggs from has some new chickens that are laying eggs in miniature right now.  Really - they are titchy and sit very comfortably in a teaspoon with just a little overhang.  She popped a couple in as an extra freebie - thanks so much Jules.
Also I didn't have any milk!!
So I used 30g SR flour, the titchy little egg, a quarter of the banana, around 20 mls natural yoghurt  a pinch of salt and some water and zizzed it all up together until smooth.  And you know what - they were delicious. And I got four (not huge) pancakes out of the mix so I can feast on rhubarb and yoghurt pancakes for dessert this evening.

Nearly forgot to say, the total of the eating today should come to around 80p which is daft.
However, I remember that the banana is free, the rhubarb was also a gift, the broccoli in the soup doesn't count because I have worked out the cost based on the florets so it has already been 'absorbed', so to speak, the yogurt is home made so much, much better value and other ingredients are value ingredients.

*Here's the link to the cake recipe.  If you like cake you MUST make it: it's wonderful.

Saturday shop

I've just finished putting my shopping away and, honestly, it takes longer to do that than it does to do the actual shop.  The reason for this is that I like to price up everything before I put it away -  price per 10 ml/10g/50g or whatever.  I write the info on the packet with my lovely retractable sharpie pen  It's a bit of a pain but it saves a lot of time and temper at the other end, the cooking end.  What else helps is having a calculator (a value one, of course) in the kitchen.  It certainlly earns its space.

I went to Sainsbury's for a change and also because I wanted to look at their clothes and, inevitably, I bought a couple of things.  Nothing unnecessary but it did whop the final bill up considerably, as did the two foody magazines that somehow jumped into my trolley when I wasn't looking.

I think I've solved the milk issue (not using it up quickly enough).  I've poured half into a container and it will go into the freezer until I need it.  Canny, eh?

One think I did get that wasn't really planned was fish.  Value fish, of course, which was pollack, and I have no idea what it's like but I am missing fish in my diet and they are 25p per fillet, so not a bank-buster.  Bread crumbed and with some chips and peas, it should make a tasty treat, or I could make some into a fish pie or crumble.  So now my freezer is bursting at the seams even more!  So unreal, isn't it?

The other big purchase was a big block of cheddar.  It comes out at around 5.5p for 10g which is pretty good as cheddar goes, even value cheese.  Now I have to face the task of grating it all up - this is the first time I am regretting giving away my food processor when I got Thermione!  Ah well, everything comes at a price, doesn't it and it's not always a cash price either!

And finally, something that surprised me.  When I've read blogs written by people doing this very frugal thing, almost all have said they have to cut out coffee.  Well, I was getting low so I got a refill bag today and priced it out.  Now, I know I don't have my coffee strong and I don't have it with milk or sugar but I do use a good kind, Millicano, so I was expecting it to come out as more (and I've been counting it as more up to now).  However, it seems that my mug of coffee only costs me 1p a time.  Perhaps they mean filter coffee or something exotic and fancy from Costa because it doesn't seem to be expensive at all, not in the amounts I have.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cheaper than chips daily update: 17-5-13 and weekly ponder

Today I have eaten or intend to eat:
B:  porridge made with water (could get used to it) with banana and natural yoghurt
L:  Savoury rice (the other half of yesterday's dinner) and a flapjack
D:  chicken balti (home made and from the freezer) with rice, stewed rhubarb and yoghurt
Sn:  chocolate digestive (staffroom freebie) and two value digestives when I got home.
Coffee:  3 at home, some at work too.

So the daily total has to be £1.50 because of the freezer meal.

And the weekly total is a bit under £9.00 for the whole week.  I'm quite pleased with that - no, I'm very pleased.  I've eaten well in an ordinary way and things seem to be falling into a sort of pattern.

I have decided that chicken is a Jolly Good Buy.  Actually, that's not totally true, I already knew, but now I am all the more sure.  Last Sunday I roasted a medium chicken (three for a tenner) and half plus the second drumstick was accounted for that dinner time, mostly by teenage grandson who can eat the spots off a leopard when he's feeling hungry.  The rest of that bird has provided the meat element of five meals plus enough good stock for a flavoursome gravy next time round.  OK, none of the meals is over-lavish in the meat department and that's fine because cutting down on meat is something I am aiming to do.  There's enough, that's what matters.
Meal 1:  the bottom of a chicken and ham crumble
Meals 2 and 3:  sliced chicken in the stock that I got when I boiled up the carcass which I will have with veg and maybe a roastie or two - at present both containers are in the freezer.
Meals 4 and 5:  the not inconsiderable bits that fell off the bones after they had been boiled up.  Not as flavoursome as the sliced chicken but fine in things like pie, crumble, savoury rice and the like, or in a chicken based soup.  One pot (with stock) is in the freezer while the other (with stock) was polished off in the savoury rice I had yesterday and today.
Each of those pots of meat is around 30p while the stock on its own is 'free'.  Really not bad at all, is it?

I'm getting into the swing of things quite nicely now.  It's going great but, as I remind myself, it's not reality.  If it was reality, if I had no choice, if overindulgence one day meant no food the next, if I could not afford to buy for the following weeks, take advantage of three chickens for a tenner, etc, it would be a very different kettle of (way too expensive) fish indeed -  it wouldn't be fun at all.  I have to remember this because it's all too easy to say 'If I can do it, anyone can . . .' forgetting that my 'doing it' is not how it really is for thousands and thousands of people in our country today.  I am not sure I could really do it, but I would have to.

I am delighted with one side effect though and that is that I'm losing weight.  That's interesting because I'm not eating expensive lean protein, lots of fruit and veg, salads coming out of my ears, etc, nor am I cutting out fats, carbohydrates and so on and so forth.  I'm not buying (and consuming) diet/sugar free drinks.  However, I'm not eating seconds because seconds can provide another meal, wine is now a rare treat, not a regular taken for granted, desserts are usually home made yoghurt (delicious) with stewed fruit and coffee intake has been considerably reduced, at least it has at home where I'm paying for it!.  I get hungry before meals, sure, who doesn't, but the home made from scratch meals are proving to be very satisfying indeed in a number of different ways.  And I know the weight is coming off because of the way the clothes are fitting - and believe me, that has to be a very good thing and can continue for months ahead, if you don't mind, thank you!

I was going to waffle on about getting muddled between counting calories (which I can be expert on) and counting pennies, but I've gone on quite long enough for one ponder.  It can wait!

Recipe: Savoury rice

Not a particularly inspiring name for what turned out to be a very delicious meal, is it?  Never mind.

The big thing about this is to have a tasty stock.  A dash of soy sauce or Worcester sauce also helps.  I suppose it is rather risotto-ish but made with ordinary value rice which keeps the cost down.
The vegetables are more or less what's in the house really, as is whatever you use for meat.  I also added some kidney beans from a batch that I'd just cooked and they made a tasty addition.

And all for under 50p a portion!

Savoury rice

Ingredients to make two good portions.
1/2 tbsp olive oil  
20g onion   
70g 'cooking bacon' (take the fat off)  
50g mixed peppers (frozen)  
squidge of garlic puree   
100g rice (Value)   
1 level tsp chicken stock paste  or a tasty, flavoursome vegetable stock
boiling water
chicken bits in stock (from a boiled up chicken carcass) 
Dried or fresh herbs
Black pepper
40g mushrooms 
3 or 4 cherry tomatoes

Peel and chop the onion (I used a wedge from a larger onion).   Cut the bacon into pieces
Chop the mushrooms.   Quarter the tomatoes.  Wash the rice in a sieve and drain well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan.  Add the onion and bacon and sauté gently until the bacon is just cooked and the onions are softening.  Add the peppers and a squidgy of garlic and continue for a few more minutes.

Turn up the heat, add the rice and fry, stirring until; the rice becomes translucent (be careful it doesn't catch).
Add some boiling water and the chicken stock.  Amount of water is whatever it takes – you can add more.  You need enough to cook the rice uncovered.  Stock is to taste.  If using dried herbs, add now, also the black pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is almost gone, then add the chicken bits in stock (or chicken bits and add more water and a bit more stock flavouring.  Keep tasting and adjusting seasoning – I didn't add salt as the stock is salty, as is the bacon.  Remember that salt will intensify as the liquid evaporates away

By now the rice should be a bit harder than al dente.  Continue to simmer until; the rice is just cooked.  Be careful it doesn't stick and burn at this point.  If there’s too much liquid still, increase the heat, if there’s not enough, add more boiling water (or stock liquid).

Finally, add the chopped mushrooms, the cherry tomatoes quarters and fresh herbs (if used).  Stir gently in – the heat from the rice mixture will heat and cook as much as needed (which isn’t much).
Check seasoning again and adjust if needed.

Serve piping hot.  You could add some soy sauce, some grated cheese or a few shakes of Worcester sauce.  While cooking you could add sweetcorn, peas, whatever!  It’s very flexible.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update 16-5-13

Today I have eaten or intend to eat

B:   Porridge, banana and natural yoghurt
L:  Ham and pea soup, a bit of leftover turkey stew from last night's dinner, 2 satsumas (I may keep one for after school)
D:  Savoury chicken and bacon rice (I haven't had it yet but if it's OK I will post the recipe), flapjack

Coffee: 3

The total cost seems to amount to 70p.  That's because the turkey stew was already counted, the satsumas and banana are free and I have run out of milk* so the porridge was made with just water rather than a mixture of milk and water.  An interesting experience and one that will have to be repeated tomorrow as I am determined I will not go shopping until Saturday!

And the leftover stew was so filling that I saved the soup until I got home.  Nice!

(* Actually, not quite true - I had to throw some away, much to my disgust, because it was well past its date and didn't smell or taste right.  I need to think this one through because it could so easily happen again and that's not on.).

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Cheaper than chips daily update: 15-5-13

Today I have eaten or am hoping to eat:

B:  bacon, tomatoes and a hash brown (and very tasty it was too)
L:  carrot and lentil soup, apple, flapjack
D:  turkey stew (made from Christmas leftovers and frozen) with 30g grated cheese

Sn:  satsuma, marmite on toast (allowances, mainly)
Coffee: 3 plus more at school - too much, I know.

As I've had a meal from the freezer I'm counting it as £1.50 which is my maximum amount.  The hash brown was from half a bag I found hiding in the freezer and which I ought to start using up.  I priced it using My Supermarket.

I've been feeling very cold and hungry today - the cold is because of the weather and the hungry is a consequence, I suspect.  Hence the marmite on toast.  I have no idea how to price the marmite so I won't bother - it wasn't all that much anyway.  I've just watched the start of the news and there's been snow - SNOW - over parts of the country!  That's just ridiculous.

Recipe: Ham and yellow split pea soup

I made this with some leftover stock after boiling up a gammon joint.  It is frugal because the ham stock is what one might usually throw away after boiling up a ham.  To ensure it is not impossibly salty . . .
·       use unsmoked ham
·       soak the ham before boiling
If you don't have ham stock you could use vegetable stock but the flavour will be quite different, of course.

Below the thermomix method is the conventional method.

Ham and yellow split pea soup

Ingredients to make five portions 

100g yellow split peas
1 carrot, topped and tailed
1 rib celery, trimmed
1 onion, peeled
1 tsp olive oil
squidge garlic puree
200g potatoes, peeled and diced
500mls ham stock and 100ml water (to top up)
Good pinch dried mixed herbs
NO SALT as the ham stock will have salt in it.


Yellow split peas
Weigh the yellow split peas into the bowl and grind until powdered (it took nearly 2 mins on 10 so I rested it for a short time in the middle)
Tip the pea powder into a bowl and set aside.

Cut into chunks, put into the bowl and chop for about 10 seconds, speed 6

olive oil
garlic puree
Add the olive oil and sauté on 100, speed 2, 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and give it another minute.

split pea powder
ham stock
Add the potatoes, pea powder and ham stock to the bowl.  Grind in some pepper and add a good pinch of dried herbs.
Cook on Varoma, 15 mins, speed 2, then check that it is cooked.  if not, give it a few more minutes.  Mine was fine.

Finally, blend the lot into the consistency you want, or leave it just as it is with a softly chunky texture.  It was very thick because I used two potatoes that needed using up as they were close to being chucked.  They’re not necessary really.
I found that it needed slackening with water - it was very think, especially once it had cooled.

It made four good portions or five school-lunch portions (five portions was 10p per portion)

The usual way:
Soak the peas overnight in water (which you then discard) or grind them to a powder.
Chop the vegetables into small dice and sauté in the oil until softened.  Add the garlic and give it a bit longer.
Add the peas, potatoes, stock, water and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until everything is cooked, stirring occasionally.
Zizz with a blender until the way you want it.  Check seasonings and adjust if needed

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update: 14-5-13

Today I have eaten or intend to eat:

B:  Porridge with banana and natural yogurt
L:  Ham and pea soup, tomato quarters, apple
D: Chicken and mushroom crumble with broccoli, rhubarb and yogurt
Sn:  2 satsumas
Coffee: 2
Total, excluding freebies and allowances:  94p

I do like using peppers in cooking - stir fries, casseroles, etc, they all taste better for a bit of red/yellow/green pepper.  However, peppers are so expensive.  Even the value bags of peppers come out pretty dear for each pepper.  This evening I looked in Morrison's and in their freezer section that had a bag of sliced peppers for a pound   That's ten portions (I know, they're already in 50g portions in poly bags and in the freezer).  That's just right for me and much better value than using fresh would be.  And I was pleasantly surprised at the content too.  I rather expected that there would be loads of green pepper and not much other but, in fact, it's the other way round.  More red and yellow than green.  It's definitely the way I intend to go from now on, for cooking anyway.

Frugal and useful tomato sauce: recipe

Not tomato sauce as in ketchup on your chips, but tomato sauce as in bung it on pasta sauce.  Last night I sautéed a very little bit of onion and two chopped mushrooms (value ones, of course!!!) in a little bit of butter, added the sauce (which I've frozen in single portions) and some chopped chicken from the Sunday roast plus a little bit of balsamic vinegar, cooked 50g of pasta  mixed the two and added 10g grated cheddar (6p per 10g) and it made the most scrummy dinner!  As I liked it, I'm sharing.

Here's the tomato sauce recipe, both for Thermione and done the normal way.  I wanted a fairly smooth sauce but you could leave the veg more chunky if you wished.

Frugal tomato sauce (for all sorts of things – stir fries, pasta, etc)

Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil
Ingredients to make 8 single portions (18.5p as of middle of May 2013)
half a large onion
1 red pepper
a rib of celery
three or four mushrooms
a squidge of chilli puree and garlic puree (to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 value can chopped tomatoes
1/4 can water
1 heaped tsp stock paste
half tsp sugar
t tsp dried herbs (I used mixed)
a grinding of black pepper
half a tube of tomato puree
a shaking of balsamic vinegar

Method for Thermione

half a large onion
1 red pepper
a rib of celery
three or four mushrooms
Prepare and cut into chunks.  Throw into the bowl and chop briefly on speed 6 until in very small bits’

1 tbsp olive oil
Add the olive oil and sauté on 100, speed 2, 5 mins

1 value can chopped tomatoes
1/4 can water
1 heaped tsp stock paste
half tsp sugar
t tsp dried herbs (I used mixed)
a grinding of black pepper
Add these ingredients to the pan.  Cook at 100, 15 mins, speed 2.
Check seasonings and adjust to taste if necessary.  If it seems very slack, cook again for two or three minutes with the measuring cup squiffy, so the steam can escape but the sauce won't splatter out.

half a tube of tomato puree
a shaking of balsamic vinegar
Add these and cook for another 2 mins, 100,  speed 2

Puree at 9 for about one minute.

 Freeze in single serving pots.

Normal done-in-a-saucepan method.
Peel and finely chop the vegetables and sauté with the olive oil in a pan until vegetables are softening.  Add the chilli and garlic purees and sauté for another two minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, water, stock paste, sugar, herbs and black pepper.
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 mins, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomato puree, and balsamic vinegar and simmer for another few minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Zizz to the texture you want.

Freeze in single serving pots

Monday, 13 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update: 13-5-13

Today I have eaten:
B  2 eggs, scrambled plus toast and butter from allowance
L  carrot and lentil soup, bread and butter, 1 apple (free)
D  Chicken and tomato pasta (very tasty!) with 20g grated cheese on top
Total cost today is £1.27

Bread: recipe
The staff of life they call it, don't they?  Bread - you get it in all shapes, sizes, colours and descriptions.  Decent bread costs - unless it is made at home.  And then it costs time but not oceans of money.
I do have a bread maker and I use it when I need to make a lot of bread, but more and more right now I am making bread by hand.  Well, sort of by hand.  I have to confess that I cheat and get Thermione to do the hardest bit, the kneading.  It's so effortless.  Bung the ingredients in, mix it all up and then set it to knead for five minutes and bob's your uncle!

So here's my recipe for what I think is really nice basic bread.   I cut each loaf in half and freeze separately so I can get just half out at a time.  Home made bread has no preserving gunk in it, you see, so it doesn't keep as long.

Home made bread – the frugal kind

Ingredients to make two small loaves (each loaf does me for 1 week, with care)
400g value bread flour from Aldi (45p for 1.5k)
1 heaped tsp dried yeast (from a Dove pack, not sachets) - the kind that does not need 'starting'.
1 tsp salt
15-20g butter from allowance
250mls/g water

Place all the ingredients in Thermione’s bowl.
Briefly mix on 6 (about 5 seconds or so), then set to knead for 4-5 mins.
(or mix the dry ingredients, rub in the butter (or use oil), make a well, add the water and first mix, then knead, until the dough is elastic and stretchy)

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and continue as you do for bread!  In other words, cover the bowl with cling film and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, then knock it back again, divide into two, shape, put in loaf tins and allow to rise again before baking for about 25 mins in a 400C oven

Costed out yesterday it was 35p for both loaves.  Perhaps not as cheap as value sliced bread but it has to be infinitely nicer, actually very tasty indeed and 18p for a week's bread really isn't so bad.  Must go and check this.
OK, I've just checked using My Supermarket and a value loaf from Sainsbury's is 50p, so it might just possibly be almost comparable in price.  The taste cannot be compared though.

Now - next challenge - can I make frugal fresh pasta? And will it freeze?  There's a recipe in Thermione's recipe book!  Has anyone reading this made pasta using bog-standard value strong flour (instead of the proper fine grained pasta flour)?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: daily update 12-5-13

It's gone well today.  I decided to count my share of the Sunday dinner rather than ignore it and I felt 'right' about that decision.

So today's food has been/will be:
B:  Porridge with (free) banana and yoghurt
D:  Roast chicken (one of three for £10), chips, broccoli and carrots, stewed apple and plum with yoghurt
T:  Ham and pea soup, bread and butter, stewed rhubarb (free rhubarb) and ginger with yoghurt topping
Coffee:  3
Total spend for the day:  £1.38

Dearest Daughter asked for one of the three lentil burgers I had made for her so that's two in the freezer for another time.  Excellent.

I seem to have had plenty of yoghurt today.  Better make some more before I run out and have to buy a new pot for a starter.  That would never do!

Three cheers for lovely daughters

There's several problems with extreme frugality.  One of them is that even value fruit comes out quite expensive, comparatively speaking.  Even yucky value apples (and they are often yucky!) are more than 10p each.  That's a lot when you are aiming for between £1 and £1.50 for the whole day.

So three hearty cheers for a lovely daughter who turns up with an armful of freshly pulled rhubarb, leaves still on, saying 'This is not for dessert, it's for you' (or words to that affect?  effect? < blush > ).

So it's now simmering away in brown sugar (20p), water and root ginger (that's the last of my fresh root ginger and goodness only knows how much it cost - let's say 8p and I bet it's less than that), making the house smell wonderful and I now have to re-plan some meals.  Yippeeeee!

Even better - she says that when she splits one of her roots (crowns?) in the autumn,  I can have one.  Excellent!  I've even got a place for it in the garden.

Addition - 7 little pots, so that's 4p per pot, six for the freezer and one for me this evening.  And root ginger goes on the shopping list . . . just in case.

Red lentil burgers: recipe

This was very tasty and very frugal too.  I had one yesterday with lettuce  home made red cabbage coleslaw and a few oven chips with it and spooned some home made 'allotment' chutney on top.  Another I will definitely do again, especially when money is tight.  I think this will be a very versatile recipe for me as lentils can be seasoned in many different ways.  Also, one could add little shreds of leftover meat that aren't enough to make a portion on their own.

I adapted it for Thermione as that's what I used to make it and what I did is below the normal method.  It was jolly easy that way too.

Red lentil burgers
I found this recipe while trawling around for a lentil burger recipe and tried it because it looked easy and not too fussy.  The original recipe is here.  I changed it just a bit, halved the amounts and used my burger press to shape them.  I love my burger press - a simple little gadget but it's great!.

With the ingredients I used, each burger costs around 11p

Ingredients to make 4
100 g dried red lentils  
150 mls water and 1/2 tsp stock paste (or 150 mls vegetable stock)
1/4 medium carrot, chopped very small or grated
1/4 stick celery, chopped very small
1 small onion, chopped very small
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
a squidge of garlic puree
black pepper
40g fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tbsp oil (if making in the Tmx) plus more for frying.
I didn’t use salt because the stock paste is salty enough

Combine lentils, stock, carrots, celery, onion, herbs in a saucepan. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, checking that it doesn't boil too dry and start catching.
Stir in the bread crumbs. Allow to cool a bit.  Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Shape mixture into 3 large patties.  Cover and chill until needed.
Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add patties and cook until browned on both sides. Serve patties on rolls.

The Thermione way:
chop the veg into chunks (peel the onion and top or tail the carrot as needed).
chop on 6/8 until all chopped up.

Add the lentils, the water, the stock paste, garlic and herbs.
Cook at 100, reverse spoon or 1, 13 mins with cup on, then, if needed, take the cup off and give it another 2 mins at same temp and speed to evaporate water and thicken the mixture.
(keep checking as you might need to add a little water half way through and also push any stray lentils off the top of the blade where they won’t cook)
When cooked, spoon into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs.  Stir well, check seasonings and allow to cool a bit.
Shape into patties (I used my burger press and it made 4 burgers), cover and chill in the fridge until needed.
Before frying, brush both sides with oil and fry gently in a non stick pan until both sides are browned.

Cheaper than chips: 11-5-13

Apologies for not posting last night.  I was so tired that after sleeping my way though most of a programme I went up to bed and almost slept the clock round.

Yesterday wasn't all that successful.  I managed to keep under the pound but dinner was a home made sweet and sound (Hairy Bikers recipe) so not so good.  I didn't feel I was doing so badly so I will have to review this 'only 60p when having a freezer dinner' because it might simply be unrealistic and perhaps 80p would be the more sensible figure.  Or maybe, looking at what I ate, I just ate too much.  We will see, iut was Saturday after all!

Anyway . . .
B:  banana and bacon pancakes with maple syrup
L:  home made lentil burger with chips (cheap as . . .), lettuce, tomato and red cabbage coleslaw
D:  Sweet and sour chicken with plain rice followed by some leftover birthday chocolates (presents, so free).
And. allowing for freebies and allowances, it came to 85.5p

(I have to say, it was nice having some meat again - well, chicken, anyway)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Banana and bacon pancakes with maple syrup: recipe and cheaper than chips

I started this last week and, while it was tasty, it wasn't quite right.  I modified my ideas and here's the result. Delicious (I think so, anyway)

Banana and bacon pancakes with maple syrup

60g cooking bacon (Morrison’s Value)  
30g self raising flour
1 small very ripe banana
60mls milk
very small pinch salt
Small knob of butter, if needed
1 tsp maple syrup

Fry the bacon in its own fat until cooked and as you like it.  Set aside in a warm oven.  Keep the fat
Make the batter.  Place the flour and the pinch of salt in a bowl and add 1/3 of the banana, mushed up (I used my hands).
Add the milk and whisk into the batter.  It won’t be totally smooth because of the banana, unless you zizz it.
Make sure the bacon pan in hot (add a little butter if needed) and pour in half the batter.  Fry on one side, then turn and cry the other side, then tip onto a warmed plate (and keep warm.  Do the same with the other half of the batter – you’ll probably need a little butter in the pan first.
Thinly slice the rest of the banana.

Serve by arranging the two pancakes on the warm plate, scatter over the sliced banana, top with the bacon and then drizzle the 1tsp of maple syrup over the top.

Eat straight away.  Delicious.

And, with the ingredients I used which included a free banana it cost me 24p in total.  

Cheaper than chips? Really?

I did a bit of a shop last night.  I needed a few bits and bobs without which life would be rather boring.  Things like washing liquid and deodorant.

On my way round I spied chickens at three for a tenner (Morrison's chickens so not terribly yucky and bad) and now two are residing in the freezer and one is in the fridge awaiting a brining today followed by a roasting in Handy Andy tomorrow morning.  The leftovers will probably provide me with meat for the rest of the week.  I continued round getting things I really did need until I found myself in the frozen food area and there before me, plaintively calling out (yes, it was), was a big bag of value chips.  Reader, I cannot lie - I bought a bag.  100g costs around 6/7p.  Healthy - not a chance.  Frugal - yes, undoubtedly.  I wonder how they will cook up.  Fingers crossed.

I think I need to call my project 'Cheaper than not-value Chips' from now on!


Friday, 10 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: 10-5-13 and weekly ponder

First of all, today's figures.  All authentic, although, obviously, there are freebies and allowance food.

B:  2 boiled eggs (Thermione does boil eggs so beautifully), toast and butter (allowance)
L:  carrot and lentil soup (which really is so delicious and I am definitely going to make this again), bread and butter, two satsumas (freebies)
D:  Vegetable chilli with pasta, digestive biccie.
(and Friday wine, but we won't talk about that, OK?)

So, the total cost for the day (not counting the wine because we're not talking about that, are we?) is a triumphant 91p - ish! (I'm tending to round up rather than down)

I'm not commenting on the week's figures because they're hardly fair or accurate, what with being away last weekend and the party on Tuesday.  I start again from waking up tomorrow.

And now for the ponder.
I'm finding I'm not using home cooked meals that are in the freezer because it is impossible to price them.  Now that's totally idiotic, isn't it?  They are there, I have paid for them, cooked them, lovingly packaged them and stored them in the freezer.  I MUST use what's in there or the whole thing is a farce.  So - what to do?
OK, so, given that the idea is not to spend, I'm not going to count what's in the freezer.  Yup, that's right, every freezer meal (the ones I froze before I started this, I mean - the latest ones have their price on them) will count as a freebie.  Apart from anything else, perhaps that will encourage me to use up what I have stored, because it's utterly daft not doing so, isn't it?  But - big but - on the days that I use freebie freezer food I will aim for the rest of the day to cost no more than 60p of active spending (plus allowances, of course).

I think I'm getting a bit obsessive, but I'm having a whole load of fun too so who cares?  Not me!!

And finally . . .
According to the counter, the number of people reading this has gone up (not that it could have gone down that much before, but that's not the point).
It would be really lovely if people would consider leaving comments.  I get some spam but that's not what I mean.  Please, do feel free to give me feedback, share your own Cheaper than Chips recipes and generally encourage me . . . it would be lovely.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: 9-5-13

Today was just about back to normal apart from the freebies presently in my fridge.  I'm using them up sensibly though and I hope there will be no waste.

I was cooking some butter beans and I managed to burn them in the first good boiling.  I then bunged them in the slow cooker which is living up to its name because they've been in for ages and they're still not completely soft.  It's a right pain and I'm very much tending towards investing in a pressure cooker.  They are so much better nowadays than when I last had one - that one used to scare the life out of me with all the banking and hissing and rattling.  I gather you can cook pulses very quickly and even without the need to soak first.  What a bonus that would be!

Anyway - back to today.
B:  Porridge with mashed banana (free) and natural yogurt
Pl:  Apple (free)
L:  carrot and lentil soup, bread and butter (allowance), banana (free)
D:  Ham (leftovers), new potatoes, broccoli and 'allotment chutney'
three coffees at home (and several freebies at school)

Today I seem to have eaten 80ps-worth but remember the ham and the fruit was free.  The yogurt is home made so very good value.  The chutney is also home made using veg given to me.

Still going OK!

Recipe: vegetable chilli

Nothing special, certainly not 'authentic', but jolly tasty, packed with vegetables and very frugal.  A good one for using up veg at the end of the week.  As always, amounts are variable and I have rounded them.  A carrot, after all, is a carrot, not so many grammes!

Butter from allowance (around a rounded tsp-worth)
70g onion
70g pepper (I used yellow and green because that's what I had in the fridge)
120g carrot
80g parsnip
30g mushroom
40g celery
2 chillis (I used one red and one green).  Chilli purée would do (and be cheaper)  but it doesn't have the fresh flavour of a real chilli.
1 value can chopped tomatoes plus half a can of water
2 tsps vegetable stock paste
a squidge of garlic puree
40g tomato puree
mixed herbs, black pepper to taste
1 value can red kidney beans

Prepare all the vegetables by peeling and dicing until the size you want.  I did mine quite small.
Prepare the chillis by topping, halving and scraping out the seeds (leave them in if you like it hotter), then very carefully and very finely chopping into tiny bits.

Melt the butter in a solid based saucepan, add the veg, the chillis and the garlic puree, stir well, cover and let it all sweat in the butter for about ten minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the half can of water, the stock paste, the pepper and herbs.  Stir well, bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 mins or until the vegetables are cooked.  The sauce should have thickened somewhat as the water evaporates.
Add the tomato puree and the drained kidney beans and stir well.  Check seasoning and adjust, if necessary.

Serve with rice or pasta.  Grate some cheese over the top if you're feeling lavish!!!

This made five portions, one for tomorrow and four for the freezer.  Without the rice, pasta and cheese it came to 28p per portion.  Price will vary, of course, depending on what you use.  I went for value stuff when I could  . . .

(I don't add more salt because the stock paste is salty - if you use a different stock, you might need to add a bit of salt)
(quite a long list of veg but basically it was what I had - it can change to suit what you have)
(not impressed with the Aldi chopped tomatoes - will stick with Morrisons for the same price)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: 8-5-13

I fought off an incredibly strong impulse to go and spend money today after school.  It was a hard battle but I won - and by that I mean I didn't spend!  Phew!

B:  Toast, butter and strawberry jam.  The toast and butter are out of the week's allowance and the jam was home made last year and only a little bit left in the bottom of the jar anyway.  (by the way, I checked my jam and chutney shelf and there's plenty there to keep me going, so that's good.)
L:  Cheg, salad, mayo (all leftovers from the party and very nice it was too!), 2 satsumas (free)
D:  The other butter bean burger from last week, chips (a few in a bag in the corner of the freezer, celery and carrot sticks (leftovers),

I'm not even going to attempt to cost it out, I wouldn't have a clue, but it's all frugal in that it's leftovers or freebies mainly.  So I think it's going to be OK, even though the actual costings are not possible this week.

(and I'm making some more butter beans - they've been soaking all day, I've boiled them for 20 mins (because of any toxins) and now they're in the slow cooker to simmer away overnight!)

Cheaper than chips: 7-5-13

I was totally wiped out last night after Alex's party and didn't even think about updating.  So I'm here now!

B  Nothing but a coffee.  i just wasn't hungry.  I know this is not a Good Thing as by playtime I was peckish and succumbed to two choccy biscuits that were on the staffroom table (with others, of course .  They were free, of course, but not in calorific terms!
L  leftovers from Monday's dinner, tomato and bacon pasta.
D  No comment!

So now I'm in a peculiar situation.  Beth took most of the party food home with her but she left some ham, some salad, some cheg and a few other bits and bobs.  I cannot possibly even start to cost it all out so I won't try, just be grateful that meals are there for the next few days and start afresh on Saturday.  I doubt I will need to do any food shopping at all next week.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Cheaper than chips: 6-5-13

We will draw a veil over breakfast which was still at my parents'.  It wasn't so lavish really but it did include an apple and they are dear!

L  Cream of broccoli soup
D:  bacon and tomato pasta and I allowed myself 10g of grated cheese.  Very nice too!

That's it today.  The total is 78p but some of that is tomorrow's school lunch, some of the bacon and tomato pasta.  It wasn't worth splitting the cost so tomorrow it won't count.

Cream (sort of) of broccoli (stem) soup: Cheaper than chips

This is a Thermione recipe but can be done the usual way just as easily.  I would just add the rice whole and zizz it up at the end.
And because it is a cheaper than chips recipe, given that the butter came from the week's allowance and the broccoli didn't cost anything because I'd already worked out the cost based on the florets, this thick, creamy textured, very tasty soup cost me all of 10p!  I could have afforded the Stilton cheese crumbled over the top, should I have had some in the house.

Broccoli stem soup

Ingredients to serve 1 (jolly good portion)
(amounts vary, depending on size of veg, all veg weights are for unprepared veg)
long grain rice
broccoli stem, left after all the florets have been removed

small squidge garlic puree (or equivalent)
1 tsp
vegetable stock paste

long grain rice
Weigh into the bowl and grind on 9/10 for about 1 minute until a flour consistency.  remove from pan and set aside

Peel the onion and cut into chunks.  Top and tail carrot as necessary and chunk, ditto with celery.  Cut off the dried end of the broccoli stalk and slice the remaining stem into ‘coins!
Place all veg in the Tmx and grate to very small bits – speed 6 for about 10 secs.

about 20g of butter
Add the butter briefly zizz for 2 seconds.  Push the mixture down from the sides.  Saute at 100/ 5 mins/ speed 1.  Add squidge garlic and continue to sauté for 1 more minute.  Push mixture down the sides again

400mls water
good tsp vegetable stock paste
ground rice
Add the water, the ground rice and the stock paste.  Cook on Varoma, 12 mins/ speed 4

Check all is cooked, then zizz on speed 9 for about 1 minute.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Reheat to piping hot and serve with stilton crumbled over.  Very tasty!

(the vegetable stock paste was the only seasoning I wanted, but one could us ones imagination