Why you Should Make a Meal of Leftovers

LeftoversI was shattered when I got home from work yesterday, so I was happy to have a quick and easy dinner planned. Jacket potatoes with leftovers from the freezer; in this case some bolognese sauce and/or beef casserole. It may sound an odd combination but it was filling and tasty. A can of Smart Price sweetcorn ensured at least one of our five a day. With a little planning it is so easy to make a meal of leftovers.

How to make a meal of leftovers

I rarely throw food away. Even small amounts of mash or veg can be frozen to use to thicken soups and stews. Wrinkled apples make an excellent puree to mix with yogurt or serve with custard. Bread pudding is better made with stale bread (and I use the crusts). I also whizz up slightly stale bread into breadcrumbs and leave a bag in the freezer – you never know when you might need these. If yogurts are getting near their use by date I freeze them – when the kids were small I would put a lolly stick in the bottom of small fromage frais pots for a treat on a warm day. If I roast a chicken I usually deliberately get a larger one than I need and turn the excess into curry or make a creamy chicken pasta sauce. The carcass goes back into the freezer and when I have a couple I make stock.

Ignore best before dates

I ignore best before dates (and frequently buy from Approved Food, which sells food near or past its best before date at a hugely reduced price. In addition, I use my eyes and nose before chucking anything out that has a use by date. If you use my referral link I will earn a small commission.

I shop with a list and always have at least a week’s meal plans, so I don’t buy food that won’t be used. I do a regular stock take of my fridge, freezer and larder to see what needs using up, then plan meals around what is there. If I am working late, my plan will take that into account and I will either throw a meal together in the slow cooker or defrost something from the freezer. This way I am never tempted to get a take away when I get home late and tired. We will also eat something healthy.

I never guess how much rice or pasta to cook – I always measure 3 ounces of pasta and 2-3 ounces of rice, depending on how hungry we are. Sometimes I cook too much on purpose so that I can take some for lunch the following day.

Love Food Hate Waste

It is shocking what people throw away, not just because it is a waste of money, but because it seems immoral to be so cavalier about food when so many people in the world don’t have enough. There is lots of information, guidance on how to avoid wasting food and recipes at Love Food Hate Waste.

If you have stale bread to use up, here is my favourite bread pudding recipe, from my trusty and ancient Cranks Recipe Book. They don’t sell this fab book any more but Amazon has the one below, which according to the reviews has a fab selection of classics from the original (disclaimer – this is an affiliate link).

Spiced Bread Pudding (I always double up this quantity – it gets scoffed very quickly)

Stale bread, 8 oz (225g); half a pint of milk (284ml); mixed dried fruit 4 oz (100g); grated butter 2 oz (50g); brown sugar 4 oz (100g); mixed spice 1 tbsp (15ml); 1 egg; 4 tbsp milk (60ml); pinch of ground nutmeg

Break up the bread and place in a mixing bowl with the milk. Leave to soak. Add the dried fruit, butter, suga and mixed spice. Beat well. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the bread mixture. Turn into a greased shallow ovenproof dish, level the surface and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Bake at 180 C (350F/Gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes, until set (in my fan oven 35 minutes will do). Really delicious!!

There are more ideas for how you can make a meal from your leftovers, here, here and here.


Batten down the hatches!

imageApparently we are going to get the remains of Hurricane Bertha tomorrow, with high winds and heavy rain forecast. This is odd as today the weather was glorious.

imageI woke up really early – Sod’s law at the weekend – but it did mean that I had got all the housework done by 11.30. I took DD1 out for a driving lesson, then Mr S appeared and we got out in the garden. We gave the front a good cut back and tidy up, and planted some more of the plants we seem to be accumulating into pots, including a really nice clematis that I found in Aldi yesterday for £4.99. I had been looking for a purple one but they usually cost twice that.

imageI buy a lot of Aldi plants. You have to get them when they first arrive because they don’t look after them well, but if you get them at the right time they are excellent value. I got a few lobelia plants early in the season for a few pounds and they have looked like this for months.


I have found the best place for potting compost at the moment is Home Bargains at £3 a bag. After our work today I need to pop in there in the week and get some more.

We put everything away that might blow off in the wind and tied down a few loose plants. Let’s hope the storm isn’t too bad.

Anyone else got tips for cheap gardening?

A Tribute to the Fallen

imageIsn’t this incredibly beautiful and a fantastic memorial to the soldiers who died in the First World War? This pic was taken by my sister, who was lucky enough to see it at the Tower of London and has even put her name down to do a shift of ceramic poppy planting.

I have urged my latest student to go and see this amazing sculpture when he visits the capital. I intend to see it myself when I go to London to visit DD2 at university. I’m not sure I can afford to go into the Tower at £23 a person, but hopefully it will be visible from the outside.

Anyone else going?

My new student is lovely and eats almost anything. Sadly though he doesn’t appear to be a fan of courgettes! A shame when we have so many. Still the rest of us are still eating them! I like them simply fried in butter with a few mushrooms.


Say it with Flowers

imageI have barely had any time to get in my garden lately, but I did manage an hour last night. We brought loads of plants from various places at the weekend and I wanted to put some of them into the containers that were donated to us recently by Mr Shoestring’s neighbour.image

imageI love the fact that they are old and weathered and look like they have been there for years!

Another short post as I am still running round like a headless chicken. Oh to be bored!

All the Fun of the Fair and a Very Late Night

abberton feteWell my busy weekend turned out to be just that. I managed to do everything I had planned apart from painting the doors though. That was a bit over ambitious!

We had a really nice afternoon at the Abberton Manor fete – my friend works there. The weather was glorious after an unpromising start. It was a proper, old fashioned event, with splat the rat, the tombola, a rather marvellous cake stall, a hilarious dog show, Pimms and cream teas. We made straight for the plant stall of course – at 50p a plant we filled up the car!cake stall I was also persuaded to take part in the sack race. I was rubbish and came last! I also nearly died laughing 🙂

Getting thrashed by Mr S's sister

Getting thrashed by Mr S’s sister

On Sunday we had a reasonably successful boot sale and it was a beautiful sunny morning, which brought out the crowds. Getting up so early did mean that I was rather exhausted by the evening, and I had planned an early night. This was scuppered by our latest language student, who was supposed to arrive by 9 pm, but didn’t turn up until 12.35am!! It wasn’t his fault, bless him – his flight from Spain was delayed. He seems like a lovely lad anyway.

I have been shattered all day today and nothing is going to stop me hitting the sack early!

imageI can’t believe I have never made a pasty before – well I hadn’t until the other night when I decided on a cheese and veg pasty. DD3 made the filling of onion, cubed potato, carrots and blue cheese and I did the pastry. Thus was easy as I found some ready made stuff in the freezer which I decided to use up! So it was fast food really 🙂 and cheap too. Home made pastry is better but this was ok and they tasted lovely.

So, with my immense super woman powers, this weekend I am trying to fit in making a cake for a fete this afternoon and attending the fete, doing all the cleaning and laundry too before I go, making courgette soup for the freezer, painting two doors in the hall that never got a second coat when I decorated ( I have ordered the stair carpet so I am on a deadline), getting all of the boot sale stuff in my car for tomorrow morning , actually doing the boot sale, then coming home and taking  the gecko to her new home ( we had to; the kitten was terrorising her). At some point I need to go out and pick the beans , tomatoes and courgettes or they will be monsters! Actually I will sell the excess at the boot sale I think. There is loads to do in the garden still, although Mr S  mowed all the lawns and cleared the patio of weeds in the week.

Then tomorrow evening we have a new student arriving from Spain for three weeks. I hope he is a Mediterranean hunk who loves courgettes but we shall see…

It is madness really. I also need to find time to cook and eat but will get the darling daughters to at least do that and a bit of cleaning too. Oh to be bored!

A new recipe for courgettes! Stuffed with feta

At this time of the year I am always on the look out for new recipes to try to use up the courgette glut. Last night I made a pot of  stock using chicken carcasses from the freezer, and I will use that to make courgette soup for the freezer.

imageFor dinner I made stuffed courgettes, using a recipe I found in an old student cookbook and which I adapted slightly. I really enjoyed it, but Mr S was looking for the meat! Next time I will add chopped bacon to stop him feeling deprived.

Stuffed courgettes

4 medium courgettes
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion, chopped
8oz sweet corn
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
3oz feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Halve the courgettes lengthways, carefully scoop out some of the insides to make room for the stuffing and arrange in a baking dish.

Put all the other ingredients apart from the feta into a food processor with some salt and pepper and whizz it, then crumble in half the cheese. Stuff the courgettes with the filling then crumble the rest of the feta on top. Bake for about 40 minutes.
I think this would be nice served with a tomato sauce or just as it is with salad and new potatoes. We had it with rubber beans as that is the other glut.

If you have recipes for the courgette glut, please bring them on!


Busy Busy! I need more hours in my days

Firstly, I just want to say thanks to Declutterbug for nominating me for the Very Inspiring blog award. I will take a proper look at what I need to do for that over the next few days.

It’s all getting very extraordinarily busy here at Shoestring Cottage. The lovely Italian student we had at the start of the year wants to come back to see us and spend time with DD3, as they became the best of friends during her time with us and have been Face Timing ever since. The trouble is she can only come when the Spanish boy we are expecting this Sunday is still here. She will sleep in with DD3 – as she won’t be a paying guest she doesn’t need her own room.

Then, on the day she leaves us, our Mexican family will be turning up to see if we are suitable hosts to leave their 16 year old with as she studies for her A levels. This will be tricky as I need to work that day so I guess the best thing will be to provide a pre- prepared buffet so we can all get to know each other.

My head is spinning with the number of jobs I would like to get done before they arrive. I would like first impressions to be good! However I am a realist. I won’t manage to redecorate the kitchen but I can make sure the stair carpet is in place, the garden is tidy and and the downstairs loo gets a lick of paint.

Well, you know I hate to be bored and work best to a deadline so hopefully it will all work out.


I love a container!

I love a container!

We have an area of the garden that just isn’t working. I had a plan to make a cottage garden bed there but because there are a large number of trees along the fence line on my neighbour’s side the bed is too dry for anything much.

We were thinking of abandoning it, maybe gravelling an area and growing some plants in pots. The problem is that large pots can be expensive! Stroke of luck then. One of Mr S’s neighbours rang him a couple of days ago to say she was revamping her garden and did he know of anyone who might want all her old containers 🙂 result!image

Now we just need to find some plants to it in them!

Knitting your own Yogurt :-)

I popped into Sainsbury’s after yoga last night to buy a few bits that they don’t sell in Aldi. I was debating how many Lactofree yogurts I could afford (ie none really as I really need to stretch my budget!). They were £1.25 for four little pots; not extortionate but I could get 6 Sainsbury’s fruit yogurts for £1.

Mix up the ingredients...

Mix up the ingredients…

So, in the spirit of frugality, I decided it was high time I made my own again. It really takes just minutes in my Easi-yo yogurt maker, so there is no excuse.

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker...

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker…

I bought some Lactofree UHT milk, a small pot of live natural yogurt to use as my starter and some dried milk powder to make my yogurt thicker. Ok, this lot won’t be lactose free, but as I have a dairy intolerance rather than an allergy it doesn’t matter that much. However, if anyone can suggest a thickener other than milk powder I would be grateful – I like my yogurt thick!

Put the container of milk and away you go

Put the container of milk and away you go

This morning I mixed a tablespoon of milk powder with the same amount of starter, then whisked in the milk. I filled my yogurt maker up to the required level with boiling water, stood the pot in it and put the lid on. By the time I get home from work this should be ready to go in the fridge.

I have some blackberries in the garden so I will make a purée to mix with the yogurt and take a small pot to work each day. I reckon it will make double the amount contained in the 4 little pots and cost me £1.35 for a litre of Lactofree UHT AND 50p for my starter pot plus about £1 for the milk powder. Next time I won’t have to buy the powder or starter so it will be £1.35 for at least 8 pots of yogurt.

Do you knit your own yogurt? Any tips on a lactose free thickener?