Anyone for a mixed tape?

So, the new student arrived and seems a lovely girl. DD1 had to feed and entertain her last night as I was rushing off to my yoga class, but they seemed to get on like a house on fire. I had pre-prepared the veg so all my daughter had to do was cook some chicken to go with it. I had also made an apple crumble the day before, so dessert was sorted.

I tend to use Sunday as my prepare ahead day. When I chop the veg for the meal I tend to do extra for the following day to save time. I need to be prepared as my Mondays are always manic !

Dinner is usually something like a casserole in the slow cooker, so I can grab a bowlful before I shoot off to class. Last night it was cereal as I  got stuck in traffic so had to bolt it. Tonight will be a more leisurely affair, and I will have the chance to eat and chat with the student. I will make chilli and tacos with salad – this always seems to go down well with everybody.

We had a hilarious conversation over lunch as one of the girls has bought an old car with a cassette player in it so had therefore been scouring the charity shops to find cassettes to play on it. We were reminiscing about making mixed tapes and taping songs from the radio, and having to wait whilst you rewound he whole thing to the beginning. You have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate the whole cassette thing, which I am!

Anyone else remember cassettes?

 

 

Give me just a little more time

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, which meant I had a bit of extra time before I had to leave the house. What a difference an hour and a half makes!

imageI made a bolognese sauce for dinner, to serve with my bargain Approved Foods pasta which I have in large quantity. This was made with entirely home grown ingredients, apart from the beef. No room to raise cattle here! (Although it was yellow stickered and a bargain). I used home grown onions, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes and herbs. I love that!

I also chopped up and froze two big bags of courgettes to use in soups and stews over the winter, and picked the latest batch of tomatoes and runner beans. I need to freeze more of those as well as soon as I get the chance.

Then I sat in the doctor’s waiting room to write my blog. I am well ahead of the game! Still have the day job to catch up on though…

Using up the leftovers and indulging in some curly veg

Watch out, they taste curly!

Watch out, they taste curly!

I have had a very productive weekend, although there are still a lot of things I would have liked to do. I did have a lie in this morning though – I made a point of it. What a luxury to chill out a bit on a Sunday morning!

I made some scrumptious banana bread. I always use the Delia Smith recipe here, but this time I substituted the orange and lemon peel for some toffee chips I bought a while ago to decorate a cake and it worked incredibly well – toffee and banana is a winning combination. I was also a lot easier than faffing around pulling peel off fruit and then wondering what to do with the fruit itself!

banana breadWhilst the oven was on I used the week’s bread ends to make bread pudding. Mr S took half for his Mum, and the rest will be used for lunches and puddings through the week.

For dinner I used Frugal Queen’s cheat’s meatballs recipe, which was very nice with home grown beans, carrots and chard. I made double for tomorrow’s dinner too. It was dead easy and certainly cheaper than a roast.

shedI sound as if I have done nothing but cook all day, but we did manage to get out and do a bit of tidying up in the garden, plus picking the veg for tea. I have no idea why the carrots turned out to be curly as we grew them in big pots so there were no stones. Still, they tasted nice! Mr S continues to make his sheds look fabulous, putting an old enamel sign he came across on the wall of one of them. I think he has plans for a woodburning stove and a veranda. He will be on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces next 🙂

To top it all, the new series of Downton Abbey started tonight. Brilliant as usual and an excellent way to finish the weekend. What did you all get up to?

Bring out the slow cooker

I haven’t used my slow cooker that much recently, although I really should. Even in summer you can cook a nice ratatouille in it.

imageI was very short of time the other day. I knew I would be late back from work, I really didn’t have time to prepare anything in advance and I had a whole chicken. I couldn’t roast it in the oven when I got home as we didn’t want to be eating at bedtime, and I didn’t have time before work to start jointing it and chopping veg to make a casserole. In the end I chucked it into the slow cooker whole with some white wine, chopped carrot and onion, and a bit of stock. DD3 did some mash and veg when she got back from school and it was marvellous, melt in the mouth and flavoursome.

The remaining chicken made a delicious curry last night, warmed through with a jar of sauce from Approved Food and served with brown rice. This is what  need when you work full time: quick, cheap and healthy!

Do you use your slow cooker? What do you use it for?

Just another manic Sunday

imageimageimageI spent the day doing a bit of overtime yesterday, earning extra money for Christmas. I was working on a stand at the Essex Country Show in Barleylands. I love doing these events. I get paid double time for one thing, but it is fun to meet lots of people and get out in the fresh air. I also got to have a look around for free!

As you would expect, I didn’t buy anything. I took my own flask and picnic, and tried lots of delicious tidbits of food in the interesting but very expensive food hall.

It was exhausting though and I collapsed on the sofa when I got home!

I still don’t gave my car back from the garage and I am not looking forward to the bill . Never mind, I can’t do without it, so will bite the bullet, and take every opportunity to earn more money!

One step forward, two steps back

Feeling a bit down today. I had been feeling great as First Utility had agreed to a huge rebate for all of the grief and stress they have given me over the past 6 months and it would be going in this week. Then the car developed a funny squeak. The garage said it was brake cable and back brakes and repaired it in Wednesday for £300. Never mind, I thought, I will still have enough for my Christmas fund and to pay off some bills. Then today it felt terrible to drive and was dragging me to the right as I drove to work. I dropped it straight at the garage thinking it must be a tracking issue. I have just heard it is too dangerous to drive and will cost me a further £380! I can’t believe it 🙁

At least I have the money. If it hadn’t been for the first Utility credit I would be stuffed.

I had to update this post to show you the damage. The mechanic wasn’t exaggerating when he said it was too dangerous to drive. The front of the car could have collapsed at any time! I am thankful that it didn’t and we are all safe!

image

So, back to small frugal steps…

The family always moan about crispy towels in my house. I actually quite like a crispy towel for a brisk rub down after my shower, but I think I am alone on that one!! A while ago I gave in and started to buy Aldi’s fabric softener. It didn’t seem to achieve much and the towels stayed crispy. I decided to try white vinegar as a softener instead to see what they thought. I have to say, it has left the towels a lot softer and there is not a hint of eau de vinegar about them! Vinegar is a wonderful thing. I use it for a lot of my cleaning  too. I bought about 6 bottles ages ago for about 60p each in Asda. I couldn’t find them the other day, so I need to find another source and stick up as I am nearly out. Cheaper than the big brand fabric softeners and more effective than a cheap one, that’s for sure.

imageStill loads of veg coming through. The tomato crop has been fabulous! Still loads of runner beans and chard too, with a steady supply of courgettes.

So we won’t starve even if my plans for the First Utility money have been scuppered! C’est la vie.

Developing a World War Two mentality

imageI heard a very interesting radio programme on Radio 4 recently, the Food Programme (always good and looks at so many topics around food) and I have been mulling it over ever since. This particular episode looked at a woman who, in the interests of health and frugality, had decided to follow a ration book diet. She blogged about it here: http://1940sexperiment.wordpress.com/rationing-diet-sheets/

I have heard that we were healthier than we have ever been during the war. Because of rationing, we ate lots of fruit and vegetables, but very little meat, sugar and fat. We appreciated every mouthful of what we ate and we wasted nothing. In fact, it was illegal to waste food – I wish that was the case today!! I think it is disgraceful that we waste so much of everything when there are so many people in the world with nothing.

Part of my natural frugality is deeply ingrained. My parents were wartime children and weren’t wasteful. We had sweets once a week and didn’t know what junk food was. It wasn’t weird or a fad for them to grow vegetables in the garden, as I do now.

The culture has changed and my own daughters think nothing of buying a burger if they feel like it. They don’t eat whatever I put in front of them with no complaints as I did as a child. However, there are glimpses of my influence: they all like fruit and vegetables; they understand the value of money and shop around; they are avid car boot customers and gleefully run for the charity shops when they go to town. They would never throw an item away if it had any life left in it and someone else might use it.

There is hope for my children, but the world is a horribly wasteful place. Check out this post on the Life after Money blog if you don’t believe me: http://meanqueen-lifeaftermoney.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/saved-from-tip-new-lease-of-life.html?m=1. (Sorry, can’t work out how to make this a link on my phone!!) A skip full of really good quality items that a charity shop or needy family would have loved to receive. This made me turn briefly into the grumpy Victor Meldrew! ‘I don’t believe it!’

So, it is up to us frugalistas to change attitudes and bring back a bit of war time mentality towards waste!

A day of small frugal steps

My daughter asked when I was planning to go shopping this week – I usually go on Friday, but this week we seem to have a lot of food and, now that I have sorted the store cupboard, we have plenty to keep us going. I only intend to buy a few bits such as milk, bread, cat food and maybe some chicken. She constantly complains that there is no food in the house. What she means is that there isn’t loads of rubbish that she can eat with no effort. I try to guide my daughters towards sensible eating, but it is a struggle sometimes! So I need to make sure there is some easy food that keeps us withing budget.

roasted tomatoesI began my day by putting 2 and a half kilograms of tomatoes on to roast with some olive oil and garlic. Whilst they were cooking I made porridge for everyone and touched up my roots – I don’t like to admit to going grey just yet. My hair costs hardly anything to do. I could spend £50 at the hairdressers having it coloured, but instead I mix up half a box of dye and brush it on myself. Yesterday in Boots they had my usual colour at 3 boxes for the price of two – so £12 for 3. These will last me at least 8 months. I intend to call the local college this week to book myself and DD3 in for a cut and blow dry each. This will cost about £8 each.

Tomato soupHair sorted and myself showered and dressed, I used the tomatoes to make a big pot of tomato and barley soup (determined to use up those store cupboard supplies!) and a smaller pot of roasted tomato sauce for the freezer. So that was lunch sorted for the next few days! As I grew the tomatoes, the cost was minimal.

I gave the house a thorough clean, including the student’s room. I don’t have one due until next month, but it will be one job less to do when she comes. This is an important source of income for me, so I have completed a form for a different agency today as well. They find placements on a slightly longer term basis. I think it is unlikely I will get any more students until the Spring with the agency I use currently.

I then made some courgette fritters for our tea, using up some from the garden – we had them with sausages, but I would be happy to have them as they are. I used some of the tomato sauce I made this morning with them.

I have spent the past hour checking my bank statement to see how the budget is going and to make sure there is nothing amiss. I have also changed energy supplier – hopefully now that First Utility have resolved our argument this will go through OK. I decided on Good Energy.  They aren’t the cheapest, but they come highest for customer satisfaction and use 100% renewable energy. After my nightmare with First Utility, getting a decent service is my top priority.

I have taken some plums out of the freezer and tomorrow I will make a plum crumble using the super cheap crumble mix I bought from Approved Foods. This should stop the troops moaning and keep them happy!! If I get time I will make a victoria sponge for the week as well.

I have also washed and hung two lots of laundry. One lot dried outside, but it clouded over and I thought it might rain, so the other is drying inside on the clothes horse. No tumble drying for me – far too expensive!!

So, a day of lots of small frugal steps. This is why I love weekends and I can potter and get a bit of control. What have you managed to do to save money today?

Sorting out the store cupboard

Thanks for all the comments yesterday. I am glad to discover I am not the only one who likes a

Before...

Before…

After!!

After!!

cheat every now and again!!

I kept my promise to myself and spent an hour sorting my larder cupboard out last night. There were things in there I had forgotten I had bought! I have store cupboard staples to last me for months, so meal planning should be easy and my grocery bills quite small for a while. I am setting myself the challenge to start using up some of the items that have been there for months, such as lentils, dried chickpeas, a can of coconut milk and lots of flour. They last a long time but not forever and I don’t want to waste them.

So, chick pea curry is on the cards and perhaps a cake for the weekend. Any ideas for a bag and a half of pearl barley?

 

Need to get organised!!!

My store cupboard is in a shocking state, I am ashamed to say! I had an Approved Food order delivered at the same time as I did my weekly shop, it was a busy evening and everyimagething ended up shoved and squeezed in all over the place.

This is not a good situation for the frugal cook. You need to know what you have in your store cupboard so that you can plan your meals around what is available, use things up and make sure you don’t waste money buying things you already have.

I have a free evening tomorrow so I will stick on the Archers on Radio 4 and get it sorted!

I do know that there is lots if food in the house though, with my stores and the fresh veg in the garden, so this week’s grocery shop should be minimal.

I intend to eat very little meat and will use just enough to stop the troops moaning about rabbit food. They don’t appreciate that I am managing to keep them and my bank balance healthy, and saving the planet at the same time!

There has been a lot on the news recently about western countries eating far too much meat. From an environmental point of view, red meat is particularly bad, as it’s production creates a lot of greenhouse gases and large areas of land are given over to beef and animal feed particularly.

I will tell them this next time they complain and hope it leaks into their consciences somewhere. We can but try!!