Sunday, 30 June 2013

Recipe: Moroccan pork mince

Now that's a contradiction in terms - Moroccan and pork do not sit well together, do they.  But never mind, I found this recipe on the Food site and, as always, jiggled it about a bit to suit what I have in stock.  The original recipe can be found here.

Here's my version.  It's dead easy!

Ingredients (made six of my sized portions)
1 tbsp olive oil
400 g pork mince
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 onion, chopped
a squidge of garlic purée
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
100g sliced mixed peppers (frozen)
1  can chopped tomatoes plus half a can of water
1 heaped tsp marigold vegetable bouillon or other stock powder
8 or 9 dried apricots, sliced into three
a squidge of tomato purée
a pinch of salt to taste

Heat the oil in s solid based pan, add the mince and stir.  While it is browning, add the garlic purée, ginger, paprika, cumin and cinnamon and stir well.  Cook out for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
Then add all the other ingredients, stir well, and fry for another two or three minutes.  Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 30 mins, stirring now and again.  Add more water if it seems to be drying out or cover with the pan lid.  A dash of white wine might be nice, if you have any.

Taste, adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.

I worked out that using what I have in the cupboard/freezer, with the bargain half price meat, it comes to around 45/50p per portion.

Recipe: no buttermilk soda bread: cheaper than chips

Buttermilk is quite expensive.  Given that it's the residue from butter making, you'd have thought it would cost less than it does.  That means that while home made soda bread is better value (and nicer) than shop bought, it's not all that frugal.
So I looked for a recipe that used milk instead of buttermilk.  Really, I ought to use up any sour milk baking soda bread, but I always seem to forget.

Anyway, here it is and it was very tasty.  I actually made half quantities because it was a test and the loaf it made wasn't huge but rose well and will provide three of us with bread for our soup today.
It is not my recipe, I found it a long time ago and saved it on my hard drive.  I can't remember where it comes from but if i do, I will amend this post accordingly.

Photo borrowed from Google but my bread looked just like this
400g (1lb) plain white flour (or a mixture of white and wholemeal flour which makes it more expensive)
1 tsps. salt or less

2 tsps. bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps. cream of tartar 
4 tsp baking powder
(I used baking powder)

25g (l oz) fat (I used 15  ml veg oil and it was fine)
250ml (1/2 pint) milk (approx.)


Sift the flour, salt, soda and cream of tartar into a bowl. Rub in the fat and add enough milk to make a soft dough.

Turn the mixture onto a floured board and knead lightly for one minute. Shape into a round and place on a greased baking sheet. Mark with a cross, cutting almost to the base of the dough.

Bake at 220 C (425 F) Gas 7 for 40-50 mins until well risen, lightly browned and firm underneath (my smaller loaf took a lot less time - more like 20 mins and then another five turned over).

Note: The bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar can be replaced by 4 tsps. of baking powder.

If soured milk  is used instead of fresh milk reduce the cream of tartar to 2 tsps.

And the cost per quarter is around 12p, assuming value flour is used.

Cheaper than Chips menu: 30-6-13

Yesterday went a bit doolally but not in a bad way.  I did a fair bit of baking and creating in the kitchen.  I made:
white bread
pork, apple and sage burgers
carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers (using up some kidney beans)
broccoli soup (with some broccoli stems)
banana bread (to use up some manky bananas)
soda bread without buttermilk (nice)
half and half bread (half strong white flour, half plain wholemeal)

The soda bread was a bit of a test run, to see if baking powder would make up for a lack of buttermilk. (yes, it did) so, of course, I had to taste.  I'll post the recipe in another message.  As soon as the banana bread was cold I sliced it, wrapped it and bunged it in the freezer but I kept the two ends out and ate them with butter.  Very, very tasty indeed!  And frugal, as the bananas were free.  I'll post that recipe at some point too.

As a result, I wasn't hungry at dinner time so didn't have the meatballs, etc, which must be eaten tonight or they won't be good.

Today's eating plans therefore are:
Breakfast:  banana pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
Dinner:  broccoli soup, roast chicken, roasties, carrots, broccoli and peas, strawberries and yoghurt.  Yup, a three course meal.  I hope Beth and Alex are hungry!
Tea:  meatballs in tomato sauce, a bit of pasta, side salad of leaves, tomato, cucumber, celery and coleslaw
No snacks, I hope
Drinks: water, coffee, fruit tea.

Despite all the ups and downs of this month, gastronomically speaking, I still seem to have managed to lose 4 lbs so I'm not complaining!  I thought I'd gained.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Recipe: pork, apple and sage burgers: cheaper than chips

Pork, apple and sage burgers

400g pork mince  (£1.50)
1 small onion  (4p)
1 small apple  (free)
several sage leaves (picked from garden)
a good dash of lemon juice - and grated zest, if using a fresh lemon which I didn't (no idea, estimate 5p)
30g fresh breadcrumbs (I used wholemeal) (free because they'd already been costed in a few weeks back but the bread wasn't used so I zizzed it into crumbs and froze them)
Salt and pepper to taste (estimate 2p)
a squeeze of garlic puree
1 mini egg (free) - or about one third of a bigger egg and use the rest for scrambled egg or whatever.

I made this using Thermione and I will post what I did below but here's the 'normal' way.

Put the mince in a bowl.
Peel and finely chop the onion.  Peel, core and finely chop the apple.  Add to the bowl.
Finely chop the sage leaves and add.
Add the lemon juice, the breadcrumbs, the salt, pepper and egg.
Mix very well together until everything is well combined.  I would use my hands for this.

Heat a small saucepan and fry a little bit to taste.  If necessary, adjust seasoning.

Shape into burgers, fry and eat, or wrap well and freeze.

The Thermione way

Peel and chunk the onion.  Peel, core and chunk the apple.
Put the onion, apple and sage in the bowl and zizz for about 7 to 10 seconds on 6.  Push down the sides and, if not fine enough, zizz again until it is the texture you want.

Add all the other ingredients and reverse/speed 1 until all is well combined.  Then continue as above.

Using my burger press, I made nine burgers which are now in the freezer.  With the cheapies and freebies, each burger costs approximately 18.5p  Without the freebies they would cost more but not terribly expensive all the same.  I could have made it go further by using some crushed pulses of some kind - chick peas or kidney beans.

Cheaper than chips menu: 29-6-13

The no-spend week has officially started.  Not before I picked up a bargain yesterday evening though.  Morrison's had 800g pork mince for £3.00 so I had to get some.  Yes, I did!  
I've been ummimg and ahing about how to use it but for now I will freeze it in smaller portions until I decide unless inspiration strikes over the weekend.

And now Morrison's is off limits for the week.  Verboten.  Don't go there!  I wonder if I will manage that!

When I got the eggs yesterday, there were three extra mini eggs free.  Lovely!

 Today's eating plans are:

  • Breakfast:  Beans on toast (to use up the rest of the beans from yesterday's lunch)
  • Lunch: Potato and corn soup (freezer), bread (making as I type), banana
  • Dinner:  Meatballs in tomato sauce (Hairy Dieters recipe, in freezer) with the remains of the spaghetti from the LBTL challenge,  melon and strawberries with yoghurt
  • Drinks: coffee, fruit tea, water
  • Snacks:  I have a few increasingly manky looking satsumas that need eating or they will soon have to be chucked, so it is my bounden duty, obviously . . .

Friday, 28 June 2013


End of the week and things are slowly getting back on track.  I'm still spending more than I would have liked but it's getting under control.  It's as if those five days of extreme organisation and frugality broke something that had been going really well and it seems to be taking ages to get back to normal again.

However, while in Morrison's yesterday, I managed to get some fresh broccoli at half price and some cheap chicken thighs, quite large ones, so I feel more set up now.  I think I am declaring a no-spend week next week - well, starting tomorrow.  I have enough in stores to last me for months, to be honest, including frozen milk.  I have to buy the eggs, that's a weekly commitment, but I don't think there's anything else I absolutely need to get.

So next week is a no-spend cupboard and freezer week.

However, today's food is:
Breakfast:  two eggs, scrambled, on toast, banana (free)
Lunch:  beans on toast, melon slice, natural yogurt
Dinner:  Sort of savoury mince curry on rice, strawberries, pineapple and yoghurt
Drinks:  decaf coffee, fruit tea, water
Snack:  playtime fruit

Toast for two meals isn't good, but there's bread to use up!

And it all comes to between £1.40 and £1.50.  I don't feel I can give more than an approximate value because prices vary, depending on where you buy things and, sadly, also from week to week, always in an upward direction at the moment,  When a can of value spuds goes up by 25% from one week to the next, it's a bit of a shock.  OK, so still cheap, but when you're counting every penny, it's not good.
So I know almost to the penny, but it wouldn't necessarily be particularly valid for all my readers.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Cheaper than Chips menu: 27-6-13

The crumble yesterday was delicious.  I added a good handful of mixed veg so there was some of the filling left over for today's lunch (with pasta) so that's a very frugal meal!

Today's food:
Breakfast:  Porridge, banana and yoghurt
Lunch:  Pasta bolognaise, pineapple and yoghurt
Dinner:  Cottage pie (instant mash topping, sorry, but it's easy and when mixed with butter, Dijon mustard and herbs it tastes not too bad), peas or mixed veg, melon

Drinks:  Fruit teas, decaf coffee, water
Snack:  Playtime fruit

And it all comes to round about £1,15, the greatest amount of which is for dinner.  And it's all ready apart from the actual cooking!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Cheaper than chips menu: 26-6-13 (and a ramble)

I find that I am at my culinary best early morning and also that I have the energy and ooomph for kitchen work then.  As a result, I try to get the whole day's food sorted out and ready to go, BodyChef style, before I leave for school.  By the time I get home in the evening, if the food's not easily prepared, that's when I go off plan,
I learnt this while doing BodyChef before and, if it wasn't so jolly expensive (well over £100 a week for one just cannot compare with under £15 a week, can it?) I'd do it again.  It was so, so  easy!
Some things don't led themselves to this sort of approach, but most do.

So in my fridge, all stacked neatly, are a pot of cooked savoury mince, a little pot of crumble topping and a pot of pineapple.

I got the pot habit (if I may call it this without misunderstanding . . .) from BodyChef too.  In fact, some of the pots I still use came with food in from their hampers and jolly useful they are too for all sorts of thing.  In my lunch bag there are several.  One with salad in, one with coleslaw, one with chopped egg and a titchy one with salad dressing (home made, of course!!!!).

Organisation seems to be the key to it all - what a shame I'm not that organised!

Enough rambling

Breakfast:  Porridge with jam (the very last of the LBTL jam) and yoghurt
Lunch:  Egg salad, fruit
Dinner:  Savoury mince and vegetable crumble, pineapple and yoghurt
Snack:  Playtime fruit
Drinks:  decaf coffee, fruit teas, water

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Cheaper than chips menu: 25-6-13

and loving it!

Breakfast:   toast and jam (yum yum)
Lunch: leftover chilli con carne, pineapple and yoghurt
Dinner:  pasta bolognaise, melon
Drinks:  decaf coffee, fruit tea, water
Snack: playtime fruit

Monday, 24 June 2013

Recipe: Strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry jam: cheaper than chips . . .

. . . this time it was anyway.

I had strawberries from last week when my son found loads of punnets reduced from £2.00 to 30p, bought them and handed some round to family.  I had two punnets - that's all I asked for, silly me!  I had rhubarb freshly pulled from Beth's garden (with her permission, I hasten to add).  I had cranberries in the freezer.  Lovely fat, red ones.

The original recipe didn't call for cranberries.  However, I was short on rhubarb and didn't feel like a drive over to Beth's for one more stick.  So I improvised and what a lucky improvisation it was, to be sure!  Everyone knows (I hope) that rhubarb and strawberries go together wonderfully well - now you can add cranberries to the ambrosial mix!

I had absolutely no problems with setting, even though strawberries and rhubarb are both low in pectin.  The cranberries probably helped here, as did the orange and lemon.
Here's the adapted recipe.

600g strawberries
450g rhubarb 

150g cranberries (I used frozen)
900g sugar (I had about 500g preserving sugar in the cupboard so I used that and made it up to 900g with granulated sugar)
1 large lemon: finely grated zest and juice (I actually used two smaller ones as that's what I had)
1 juicy orange: finely grated zest and juice

Rinse and hull the strawberries. Slice the rhubarb in 1cm chunks. Place both plus the cranberries (no need to thaw them first) in a large, heavy-bottomed pan with the juice and zest.  Simmer gently, cooking until the juices cover the rhubarb, carefully stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat even lower and cook until the rhubarb is tender.
Take the pan off the heat.  Tip the sugar into the fruit, stir gently and leave until the sugar has completely dissolved into the juicy fruity mix.  No need to stir constantly as it's off the heat but the occasional stir helps.

Put the pan back on the heat, turn the heat as high as possible and bring to a rolling boil, allowing the frothy jam to boil high in the pan. Stir regularly, watching out for splashes and paying particular attention to the bottom and sides of the pan, stirring round, across and in a figure of eight, continuing for 10 min before dropping a teaspoonful of jam on a saucer. Allow to go cold, then push with the side of a finger to assess the crinkle factor, which is likely to be nil. Boil, stirring, for a further 5 min or so until the frothy bubbling submerges slightly. Test again — it will be less runny. 
Turn off the heat. Leave for 15 min, which ensures that the fruit settles evenly through the jam. Scrape any white foam to the side and out of the pan (there wasn't any after a few stirs, it all dispersed back into the jam without residue). 
Pour jam through a funnel into sterilised jars, filling right to the top. Cover immediately with waxed circles and lids. Cool, wipe away jam dribbles, label and store away from direct light. 
I got seven pots-worth plus a little bit that went straight onto some bread and butter.  One has to test it, you see!

Dead easy!  And I still love my maslin pan!

Cheaper than chips menu: 24-6-13

Breakfast:   two boiled eggs, buttered toast, decaf coffee
Lunch:  Potato and sweetcorn soup, crackers or bread and butter, fruit (free)
Dinner:  Chilli con carne, rice, natural yoghurt with pineapple
Drinks:  fruit tea x 3, decaf coffee x 3, water

And all this yumminess comes to just over £1.50!

. . . and loving it!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Leftover mince recipe: the sequel!

If you scroll back a few days you will see that I predicted that the savoury mince would make eight portions.  In the end it made seven good portions at around 40p each.
I will use most of it this week.  If there are leftovers, they will be part of the next day's lunch.

Today:  Savoury mince with 1/3 head of broccoli
Monday:  chilli con carne (add chilli and kidney beans)
Tuesday:  Pasta bolognaise (add oragano, thyme, etc)
Wednesday:  Savoury crumble with peas
Thursday:  potato topped pie
Friday:  Mince curry (add curry spices after cooking out in a little oil first - not sure about this one but it's worth a go - it'll be eaten anyway)

That's as far as I've planned and it uses six of the seven portions so I won't really have added to the freezer contents.  I must do more flexible basics from time to time.

I think the following week might be a freezer week - see how much I can use out of the freezer in the week.

Cheaper than chips menu: 23-6-13

I have things to use up this week but I've planned the whole week's eating very carefully and this is what I have got for today.

Breakfast:  2 eggs, poached, toast and butter
Lunch:  Potato and sweetcorn soup (home made), bread, pineapple and yoghurt (I dearly love my home made yoghurt and I must stock up with more long life milk from Aldi or Lidl))
Dinner:  Savoury mince, 1/3 head of broccoli, melon (either as a starter or as a dessert, I haven't decided yet)
Drinks:  fruit tea, decaf coffee, mint tea, water

I'm going to make some strawberry and rhubarb jam today, having picked some rhubarb from Beth's garden yesterday.  I am mighty impressed with what she's got and look forward to some handouts in exchange for the bread and eggs.  Bartering like this is great!

And finally, skinflint that I am, I now make all my fruit teas in a teapot rather than straight in the mug, the reason being that you can get three mugs-worth out of a teapot for the one bag!  I feel very civilised, pouring by cuppa from the pot, even if it's just a bog-standard plain white one from Boundary Mill.  One day I will use my bone china teapot and then I will be really upper (frugal) class!  :-)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Recipe: Use Up All The Leftovers And Scrag Ends savoury mince: Cheaper than Chips

I had two onions that had decided they wanted to fulfil their prime directive and grow, a manky old parsnip and an equally manky old carrot, three quarters of a can of value chopped tomatoes that really and some free tomatoes that had gone squidgy.  Oh, the shame!

So this is what I did.

First of all I blitzed the tomatoes in Thermione for quite a long time, then pushed the resulting goo through a fine sieve and discarded what remained in the sieve.  Normally I would use two cans chopped tomatoes.

I peeled and chopped (and discarded bits of) the sprouting onions.  I peeled and fairly finely chopped the parsnip and the carrot.

I measured 30mls vegetable oil into my pressure cooker, added the vegetables and gentry fried them until they were nice and soft.

Then I added a good squidge of garlic purée and a good squidge of chilli purée and stirred it well in.

In went 500g mince (the mince that cost me just £1.00), up went the heat a little bit, and I broke it up and stirred it until it had all gone brown.

Then I added the tomato juice from the manky tomatoes, the 3/4 can of chopped tomatoes, some vegetable stock paste, plenty of pepper, some sugar (for the tomatoes), 30g oats and 60g red lentils.

After a good stir I put on the pressure lid, brought it up to pressure and cooked it for around 15 minutes, maybe 20 minutes.   Then I reduced the pressure, took off the lid and - eeek - it had stuck to the bottom.  However, this has happened before in the oven so I just left it to stand and the stuck bits sort of got reabsorbed.

Finally I added a can of value baked beans and about half a tube of tomato puree, stirred it well, tasted, added a bit more salt and bobs your uncle, a good basic savoury mince.  When I go shopping I'm going to  get a value tin of peas and ditto of corn and add some of those too as it needs some colour.  Then I will portion it out and freeze.

For a con carne I will fry some chilli powder in oil before adding it and some kidney beans to the basic mixture, or add chilli puree and beans, serving it with maybe a wrap and some yoghurt.
To make it more Italian-y I will add oregano, thyme, etc and maybe some balsamic vinegar.
For a curry flavour I will do the same as for the con carne, using a curry mix of some kind.
And so on!!
I'm going to base my week's main meals around this and see how it all pans out.

 At the moment I'm guessing eight large portions which makes it around 35p a portion.  It's high in veg (carrot, parsnip, onion, tomato, peas, sweet corn), there's plenty of protein from the mince, the lentils and the beans and it tastes pretty great on its own.  I think that's pretty good for a main meal although it would be more if I hadn't been so lucky as to have had that mince so cheaply.  I could have used pulses instead though, that would have been delicious and great value too, especially if home cooked.

Of course, you could add any veg.  I wanted to use up stuff but mushrooms, peppers, celery - oh, all sorts of things would be good to use.  The possibilities are endless.

Cheaper than chips menu: 22-6-13

Breakfast:   Proper porridge, made mostly with water.  Banana and yoghurt.

Lunch:  Jack Monroe has just posted a recipe for spiced potato soup on her blog, A Girl Called Jack, and I'm going to try it out.  I have some 'real' chicken stock so will use that rather than a stock cube, because, basically, it's free, and add extra herbs from the window ledge and garden.!  With it I shall have some fresh baked bread.  Sounds good and I hope it tastes good too.

Dinner.  A Hairy Dieters chicken korma - I mean it's their recipe - from the freezer.  With it I want to try to make a wrap 'basket' by lightly oiling a wrap on both sides, moulding it over a pyrex basin and then baking it for a short time in Handy Andy (my halogen oven) which will be cheaper.  I have no idea if it will work, I will let you know!  It's a bit of foodie vanity anyway!  And then i will have some fruit and yoghurt.

I haven't worked out the cost but, given that the main meal is from the freezer, the rest won't come to all that much.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Cheaper than chips menu: 21-6-13

I'm so glad I have upped my limit to between £1.50 and £2.00.  It makes a world of difference.

B:  Porridge, banana and yoghurt.  I've made the porridge with all milk today which has upped the cost, I know, but the milk is at the end of its time and I really don't want to waste it.  Normally I split the pint and put half in the fridge but I didn't do that this week, sadly.  It's looking very 'creamy'.  Cost - around 20p as the banana is free.

L  2 egg salad.  the salad is leaves from the plants, a few tomatoes, a bit of cucumber, home made coleslaw, chopped carrots and a home made oil and vinegar dressing.  I found it's really hard to make a one portion dressing so I made up a small batch in a small jam jar with a lid and I just shake and pour . . . well, spoon out anyway!  I have these cute and titchy little pots that hold just enough for one portion - ideal for school!  Cost - around 60p; some of the salad stuff is free

D:  A freezer meal.  Still home made but impossible to cost out.  Afterwards I shall have strawberries and yoghurt

Drinks:  four fruit teas (20p) probably three decaf coffees (3p) and lots of water.

Snacks: playtime fruit - free!

Edited a bit later to add:
I've decided I don't like porridge made with all milk.  Not nice at all, far to cloying and sickly.  It's back to a bit of milk and mostly water for me!!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Recipe: Best ever chicken balti

I make no claims for it being the best ever, I wouldn't know, but it certainly is very tasty and delicious and so on.  Not all that frugal, sadly, but a darn sight better than a supermarket ready meal or, heavens forbid, a takeaway!

It makes loads, especially if you ignore the ;list of ingredients and add a few suitable vegetables, softened in butter before adding (I do).   I don't add the fresh coriander because I don't like eating soapy tasting stuff.  I have a feeling last time I made it I used some chopped tomatoes too.  The mango chutney is essential!   Finally, it isn't a balti, of course, but who cares.  It's scrummy and that's all that matters!!

Here's the recipe as I have saved it on my hard drive.

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons oil
2 green chilies, chopped
2 tablespoons single cream

1 Blend together the tomato puree, yoghurt, garam masala, chili powder, garlic, mango chutney, salt and sugar.

2 Heat oil and add tomato mixture-cook for approx 2 minutes-stirring occasionally.

3 Add chopped chicken and a little cold water, and continue to cook until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.

 4 Add chilies, coriander and cream, stir in well and cook for a few minutes more. If the sauce is a little thick just add water to achieve your preferred consistency.

5 Serve with boiled rice and/or naan bread.

N.B -This freezes well

Could also add chopped red pepper, a can of chopped tomatoes, use coconut milk instead of cream, etc.

Cheaper than Chips daily menu: 20-6-13

Here we go, today's effort at getting back on track!

B:  2 eggs and a toasted crumpet (rather delicious)  about 45p
L:  Pumpkin, tomato and lentil soup (from the freezer), pineapple and yoghurt - costable total about 12p
D:  Egg salad (I have loads of eggs that need using up) - about 60p

Playtime fruit - free.
Drinks:  fruit tea: 15p, decaf coffee: about 5p, water, lots of water as it feels as if it is going to be a hot day today.  The windows are already all open to air the house!

Edited in the evening to add, didn't have egg salad, I had curry (from the freezer) and rice (value) because I felt like it.  I will make an egg salad for school lunch tomorrow!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Oops - sorry

Apologies for not appearing yesterday.  Things are a bit heavy at work with lots of stuff going on, not necessarily bad, but there.
Cheaper than Chips has crashed and I'm trying to be kind and non-judgemental to myself.  It will be back very shortly!
Take care!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Cheaper than chips: menu 17-6-13

Isn't that nice!  Many thanks to Diane who reads my blogs and decided to create a logo for me.  !  It looks like a big iced cookie and I love it!  Thanks again.

My plans for today are:
B:  Porridge with jam and yoghurt
L:  Chicken salad, using bits of chicken from yesterday's boil up.  Pineapple and yoghurt
D:  Chicken pasta (using more boil up bits) - hopefully I will make enough to provide lunch for Tuesday as well).  Melon and yoghurt.  A lot of yoghurt, I know, but I don;t have milk in tea or in coffee.
Dr:  Fruit tea, decaf coffee, water

If the pasta works out I will post the recipe, but it will be the bog standard one, nothing all that different.  It works though!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mint tea

Fruit and herb tea bags cost 4p to 5p per bag.  Nice but dear.
Here's how to get round this as far as mint is concerned, using mint in your garden.

Mint Tea

One good sized sprig of mint or two smaller sprigs, per person cut from the garden
Boiling water.
Honey if wanted (I don't)

Put the kettle on to boil and warm the pot or mug.
Wash the sprigs of mint, then roll them between your hands to start releasing the oils.
Empty the hot water from the pot or mug, pop in the sprigs of mint and pour over boiling water.  Stif well, then leave to steep for five minutes or so.
Pour through a strainer or, if making in a mug, remove the sprig.


I have learnt that there are lots of different kinds of mint and I think many of those kinds would make a delicious infusion.  There's even chocolate mint, would you believe?  It sounds like After Eights!

Cheaper than Chips: 16-6-13 review

Well, it's certainly been an interesting day.

First of all, the plans all panned out well, dinner was delicious as were breakfast and tea.

Beth came in with a whole chicken asking would I be interested in a carcass.  As I had roasted a chicken for lunch, I was highly confused but all was made clear soon enough.  Alex had to take certain items into school to make a curry in food technology.  Unfortunately, the ingredients, if bought separately, amounted to around £10.  Yes, there would be leftovers, but it's a lot to shell out for one lesson.  One of the items was certain chicken pieces and Beth quite rightly reckoned that if she bought a chicken she would get what she needed and more by cutting it up.  Hence the carcass.  So not only did I have the carcass from the roasted chicken, I also had a carcass from a raw chicken.  No complaints there.

However, it made me think - if you were a family really close to the line, there's no way you could provide those ingredients for your child.  That would mean the parent having to approach the school to explain, something that could be very difficult and potentially embarrassing and distressing for parent and child.  It just confirms me in my belief that teaching children how to cook should be a home based activity in the context of a family meal, not an activity costing goodness knows what for one portion!  Frugality and cooking skills could be taught together while producing meals for the family to enjoy.  There's little more satisfying than seeing your loved ones tuck in with enjoyment!

Anyway, back to the chicken, I now have a load of stock, which I intend to reduce down to a thick jelly, and various bits of chicken.  I have to say that, for a vegetarian, she did a fine job of cutting that chicken up into portions with minimum waste!

On to the mint tea.  I Googled and it's dead easy.  Cut your mint.  Bung it in a teapot or mug, pour over boiling water.  Leave to steel for five minutes.  Pour and drink.  And it was really very nice indeed.  I'll post this separately too, so apologies to my regular readers.

Last of all I got an email from my friend who is involved in the food bank here, asking me if I would like to get involved in one particular way.  I'm thinking it through but the feeling is to say yes.  More later on if it comes to anything.

So, as I said, an interesting day!

16-6-13 Cheaper than Chips menu

I really need a logo . . .

Today's plans:
B:  Yoghurt with melon and strawberries.  Lemon and ginger tea.
D:  Roast chicken, roast potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, pea puree
T:  Egg salad with coleslaw.  Pineapple and yoghurt

With a few extras (oil for roasting, etc)  it will come to around about £1.50, which is just about right

I had a few strokes of luck.  I found a melon for £1.00 in Morrison's and my son and partner found some Tiptree farm strawberries at the incredible price of 30p per punnet (350g) and I have two of them.  They are a day over shelf life but mist still have life in them.  For now I have vacu-packed them in a special container and that should keep them good for a few days.

Also, the carrots and parsnips for roasting are out of the freezer and were given to me by Beth from her allotment.

Less fortunately, I have found that I really rather like 'fruit' teas.  Unfortunately, they are around 5p a go!  Must Google for a recipe for mint tea and then I can use my garden mint (if it is cheaper)!

I'm basing the cost of the chicken on six helpings.  I might get more but better safe than sorry.

Photos to follow!

Recipe: Wrap pizza: Cheaper Than Chips

I made this yesterday and it was good so I'm sharing it.  You will need a home made wrap for real frugality so why not set to and make a batch?  They keep well in the freezer and I have done an entry on the recipe here.

Wrap pizza
One of my first wraps so hardly circular, but it really doesn't matter, does it?

1 smallish wrap.  Cost 2.5p
1/4 can of chopped tomatoes, simmered for a while to thicken, added pinch of salt and sugar and herbs if wanted, then zizzed to a smoothing and thick spreading sauce.  You may not need all of this.  I used some of my breakfast tomatoes that had been sauteed in the bacon fat.  Cost, under 8p
a small amount of chopped onion, 50g frozen mixed peppers (or fresh equivalent, but frozen is better value), a few (value) mushrooms, sliced, simmered in a very little oil until softening.  Cost: around 16p
20g value grated mozarella and 10g grated cheddar (from Lidl).  Cost 18p.
You can add herbs, spices, garlic, etc, to taste
Place the wrap on a non stick oven tray, spread over some sauce, then add the vegetables and finally sprinkle over the cheese.  Cook in the oven at 200C for about 15 mins.

Cost around 40p - 50 p.

I was going to have it with a salad but in the end I didn't need a salad too!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Cheaper than Chips restarted: a ponder and the day's planned menu

After five days of Living below the Line and one evening of self indulgence (which is now rebounding - oh, my poor tum!) it's back on the frugal pathway once more.  I've done a bit of evaluation and decided that I will up the amount I spend per day to between £1.50 and £2.00 on average through the week.  This won't include freebies or foraged stuff (like blackberries from Streele Farm) and older, unpriced meals from the freezer will just be acknowledged and the cost for that day will be lower, which seems a lot simpler than  before.  It does to me anyway.

This is a constantly developing project and I'm sure it will change again before long.  The aim is to make it a lifelong change and to do that it has to work for me, which means not too many complicating factors!
I've been delighted in the interest shown on the Facebook page Beth and I set up for our Living Below The Line week (OK, five days!) and that members want to continue to share frugal recipes and support others doing LBTL.  I've also been pleased and surprised in the increased views of this blog each day and would like to say welcome to the new readers.  I hope you find it interesting and, maybe, helpful too.

Here are today's plans:

B:  bacon (value) and tomatoes (free)
L:  Soup from the freezer, bread and butter (from weekly allowance), pineapple and yoghurt (10p)
D:  Wrap pizza (will post recipe if it works OK), side salad (leaves, tomato, cucumber, coleslaw)
Drinks:  decaf coffee, fruit tea, water

Friday, 14 June 2013

Living below the line: the very last guest post.

As always, a message worth pondering.  Thank you so much, Beth for being my guest blogger this week.

And we’re done!

Finished, success!
We seemed to eat nearly at the £1 limit every day but we’ve got a few bits left over, which suggests to me we overestimated the value of things a little. I’ve got yoghurt left, a portion of mushy peas a few kidney beans, some flour, the dregs of the marmalade and teabags. Quite a lot of teabags. If I made flatbreads, it would be enough to feed one person reasonably well, if rather oddly, if they so intended.
(Hint: I do not intend to do so...)

We’re in a jubilant mood, after surviving just five days of living below the line. And that’s OK. But of course for those in real poverty there isn’t an end. Living below the line drags on and on with no end or respite in sight. We are truly very lucky.

So. On the last day our menus were as follows:
Breakfast: Porridge, jam and a cuppa.
Lunch for Alex: Ham and soft cheese sandwich, crisps, final two digestives.
Lunch for me: Portion of split pea and vegetable soup
Dinner for Alex: Two slices of toast, half a tin of baked beans and a portion of meatballs. Rhubarb and yoghurt.
Dinner for me: Two slices of toast, half a tin of baked beans mixed with quarter of a tin of kidney beans. Rhubarb and yoghurt.
Alex had his last packet of crisps in the evening, bringing his total to 97p. Mine only came to 78p, bargainous!

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who supported us, by donation if their circumstances permitted, or simply by cheering us on via our Facebook page. Your support has kept us going and we are thrilled to have raised over £450 for The Hunger Project. Don’t forget, you can donate till the end of the month- it isn’t too late! Best of luck to the people doing this next week.

And roll on 2014, when I expect I’ll be doing it all again. Now, where’s that cake? 

Joy back again:
If Beth wanted to ask me to join her next year, I might just give it some thought.  It's been great, I've broken a caffeine addiction (I now have decaf and fruit teas in my locker at school) and I reckon we will have raised more or less £500.  Fantastic!!!  Thank you to you all.

Living Below The Line . . .

. . . has officially finished now.
However, this is day six because the food isn't going to waste!  Not if I can help it.

B:  2 boiled eggs (left over) and 1 slice of toast (left over), banana
L:  Spaghetti bolognaise (left over), 20g grated cheese (not left over), pineapple and yoghurt (because I've really enjoyed that this week)
D: (definitely not left over)  Steak, home made wedges, salad, Probably no dessert because the steak will be filling.

Back on Cheaper than Chips tomorrow!  That's a promise (or do I mean threat?).

A final plea to consider making a donation.  If you can and would like to, here's where to go:
Huge and hearty thanks to everyone who has donated - you are wonderful and we appreciate your generosity.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Living Below the Line: Update on day 5

Nearly the last message I shall write on Living Below The Line and I think I'm going to miss it.  It's been fun.

Here's today's food.
B:  Porridge, jam and yoghurt

L:  Pea and broccoli soup, bread, pineapple and yoghurt

D:  Spaghetti bolognaise, 3 digestives with cream cheese and jam (so delicious).  I didn't have the pancakes, I wasn't hungry enough for them.  Maybe over the weekend . . .
I could have done with a good grating of cheese over this!

I have some food left over too.
Some spaghetti (because I had shredded cabbage yesterday instead of spaghetti), some rhubarb, some pea purée, two eggs, one slice of bread, some yoghurt.
Best of all, half of the spag bol from this evening, because there was just so much.  I shall have it for lunch tomorrow with some grated cheese.  That will work in Cheaper than Chips because I've already paid for it! And I could have boiled eggs and toasty soldiers tomorrow for breakfast too.  That will slightly compensate for the steak and alcohol I intend to down for dinner tomorrow.

I have one decision to make now though.  Caffeine.  The brain fug has vanished and I feel a lot better than I have for a while.  Is this the result of not having caffeine?  Do I dive for the coffee first thing tomorrow morning or do I raid the caffeine free stuff that I keep for Beth and others?  I'm not sure.

But now I must go and start off a new lot of yoghurt . . .

Living Below The Line: a ponder.

It's all over now, all bar one more sleep.  I've had my frugal meals, spent roughly £1.00 a day, thoroughly enjoyed the creativity side of things and using my meagre cooking skills to make my meals tasty and interesting.  I've learnt things like being able to make bread with value plain flour which means that a very delicious white loaf - reasonably large white loaf that gave us 18 slices - costs around 30p, max, probably a bit less.  I can make a mean wrap!  I am SURE I have lost weight and done it in a much more pleasant way than 'going on a diet'.  I feel better in myself, probably because of the lack of caffeine in my body and I am sleeping very soundly.

I've felt hungry, sure, but what's actually wrong with that, given that we know where and when the next meal is.  Maybe that sort of hunger maybe ought to be built into our lives a bit more.  Maybe we ought to see it as a friend, something that gives a good appetite and helps us to appreciate our food much more.

Real hunger, the kind that goes on and on, the kind for which there is no next meal, no good meal, no nourishing meal or sustaining meal, is evil.  It's totally wrong.  Even in this country I know that parents go short in order to feed their children.  They go to bed hungry every night, worrying about where the food is coming from or whether they will have to beg to be allowed to use a food bank.
I know that some parents can't cook because they don't know how to.
I know that my generation (some, anyway) put going back to work before our children in the sense that we did not provide them with a good role model in the kitchen, we didn't guide, support, encourage our children to get involved in food preparation.  We thought that the extra income would benefit the family, we thought that having a satisfied, fulfilled mum and dad would benefit the family, we thought that foreign holidays were essential . . .
So a child grew up not knowing how to take basic ingredients and turn them into a good meal and, as an adult, was not able to then teach their child how to do the same.  They don't know that not only can it be fun, it's a real money saver!
Two generations, that's all.  It's scary.

I know all of this is a generalisation but there's enough truth in it to make me worry.

There was a programme on a few years ago.  I wonder if you watched it.  It was called 'Economy Gastronomy' and the idea was that two chefs went into a family home where ridiculous amounts of money were being spent on food and taught the whole family how to cook, how to be economic, how to make the best of fewer ingredients.  I loved it - I thought it was brilliant.  But they never made another series . . . and I do wonder why.

Sorry about the waffle!  I haven't done a ponder for a while, that's my excuse.

Living Below The Line: guest post - limping into the final straight

Thanks again, Beth.  I am so very glad Alex will be rewarded.  What a star he has been.

Limping into the final straight
One more day to go!
The biscuits are a distant memory, the last being carted off in the boy’s lunchbox today. The bread we need for our beans ‘n’ things on toast tonight is in the freezer and there it will stay: I haven’t dared take it out yet because I’ll almost certainly eat it if I do. The jam is gone, dolloped on our last portion of porridge this morning.
Supplies are looking very thin indeed.

Temptation was very much on the menu yesterday. Alex went to youth group. They usually have a snack there, crisps and biscuits, but for some reason yesterday they had hot dogs and posh doughnuts! Poor Alex, sitting there, trying to be strong, nursing his packet of Value crisps! He got his reward though. The youth leader, concerned, came over to find out what was going on, and when she heard about LBTL she was so impressed she said Alex could choose next week’s snack. I gather he gave her quite a long list to take home with her. * hee *
I had my fair share of temptation too. I went out yesterday to meet a friend for coffee, or rather, she had an extremely delicious smelling iced mango drink and I had a glass of tap water (free!) and felt very virtuous. I looked at the piles of delicious cakes and buns and was unmoved by them until I got home, and then oh my... I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

So temptation averted on both counts, but we are so having cake tomorrow. We are so having cake tomorrow. We are so having cake tomorrow...
Yesterday our menu was:
Breakfast: Porridge, jam and a cuppa
Lunch for Alex: Two wraps with soft cheese and meatballs, economy crisps, digestives.
Lunch for me: omelette with titchy amount of onion, pepper and tinned potato.
Dinner: Pasta with a sauce made from soft cheese and milk, bit of onion and pepper, and the lad had some ham chopped up in his.
Later: rhubarb and yoghurt, and the lad took an extra packet of crisps to youth group.
And I had several biscuits and cups of tea...

Totals for yesterday were 93p for me and it was Alex’s turn to just scrape by on a full pound as he had meat twice and an extra packet of crisps at club.

Living Below The Line: last day

Here we are at day 5.  The last day.  My menu plans are . . .

B:  As always, porridge, jam and yoghurt.  It will be nice to be able to add a banana to this again tomorrow.
L:  Pea and broccoli soup, bread (no butter as I am saving what I have left for the pancakes), pineapple pieces and yoghurt
D:  Spaghetti bolognaise with broccoli in the side.  Jammy, fruity pancakes.
S:  If I can manage any supper after all that, it will be the remains of the digestives and cream cheese.

Fingers crossed . . .