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.

 

Think you don’t like pulses? Ten thrifty recipes that might change your mind

We all know that meat is expensive, so if you are trying to save money on your groceries it makes sense to eat less of it. There is also a substantial body of evidence showing that a well thought out vegetarian diet is healthier too.

However, I  have lost count of the number of times people have told me that they hate pulses whilst being known to happily scoff a nice pot of hummus, baked beans or a spicy lentil dahl!

Here at Shoestring Cottage we enjoy a wide variety of meals, some of which contain a little meat and some that are meat free. We often include beans and pulses in our meals. As well as being packed with protein, they are low in fat and a great source of fibre. You can buy them cheaply in cans and sachets, so don’t have to spend a lot of your precious time soaking and cooking them.

Here are some of our favourite frugal meals containing pulses (forgive my chick pea obsession):

Smoky chicken with chickpeas. This is mildly spiced and the cheaper chickpeas stretch the chicken and uses my favourite smoked paprika.

Tarka dhal, a recipe featured by Jamie Oliver. This is nice as a side dish or can be eaten with rice or bread for a simple, super frugal meal.

Chick pea curry. This is cheap, tasty and easy to make.

Red dragon pie. I have been cooking this for years from my old copy of Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen – lovely book! This recipe involves a lot of chopping but is much easier if you use canned beans, as I usually do. This link takes you to a nice little website called Sprinkles of Love, which is an online shared cook book but sadly nobody seems to be contributing any more.

Spanish chicken with butterbeans, chorizo and tomatoes. One from the lovely Delia Smith. My friend cooked this for me at a dinner party one evening and it was delicious!

Chick pea burgers. Stick them in a bun with some salad and relish.

Cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. I like this with lots of veggies and gravy.

Quick beany enchiladas. One from the BBC Food website. I like to double up when making the filling and freeze if for a quick ready meal to use with rice. They use frozen peppers, although I tend to use fresh since I always have some in the fridge.

Another one from Delia, although you can find versions of this all over the Internet: Boston baked beans. As I am generally pushed for time, I always buy canned beans to use in this.  It needs long, slow cooking.

Finally, the recipe that launched Jack Monroe’s career as a cookery writer, carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger. How can you go wrong when you can make a burger for around 10p?

Give beans and  pulses a try. They can help you stick to your budget and improve your nutrition.

 

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

Bargain of the week

Yesterday I said I don’t rely on yellow sticker bargains. I did, of course, take a peek in the reduced sections when I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday but there was nothing I wanted and the reductions weren’t that great. I only go in there for the cat food and my Lactofree milk anyway so trudged over to the pet aisle and was amazed to find this:

That is my idea of a yellow sticker bargain, 48 sachets of cat food for 99p! I don’t know why it was reduced so drastically. The box was a bit damaged but nothing major. I was chuffed and so were the cats!

I spent £45 for the 3 of us in Aldi for the week, which wasn’t bad at all. Last night we had a delicious chicken tray bake. I already had a pack of peppers that needed using and some olives. I adapted the recipe to use what was in the larder: green olives instead of black, dried thyme instead of fresh and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. The chorizo in Aldi was in huge packs for almost £2.50. I bought pepperoni instead at 89p and will use some of that today. I am making paella to use up some rice. I also added a 15p can of Aldi potatoes to make it more substantial and served it with canned sweet corn. It was lovely. The original recipe is here. I got it from the BBCGood Food website, which is a great resource when you need a little inspiration.

What are you cooking this weekend? Do you adapt recipes to suit what you have or what you can afford?

Soup, soup, wonderful soup!

I love soup at any time of the year, but it is particularly satisfying when it is cold and dark, you are broke and hungry and you want something comforting. I tend to go for vegetable soups so they are really healthy – you drink a couple of your five a day!

I plan to try Margaret’s yummy looking pestou soup here, which looks like a meal in itself. I very often just chuck whatever I have in the fridge into a pan with onions and stock and it always works out delicious, but I have some favourites I enjoy too.

Here are some of the recipes I like:

Carrot and coriander

Courgette and celery

Minestrone (another meal in itself)

I can recommend investing in some Sistema microwave cups if you like taking your soup to heat at work. They don’t leak and heat up really quickly, although they are prone to stain if you like tomato soup 😀. I will get some of the batch I made over Christmas out of the freezer for lunch today. 

I dredged the bottom of the freezer for last night’s dinner and found a pack of Quorn sausages that needed eating. These are not my favourite – I won’t buy them again -but they cooked up a treat in a sausage casserole. I used an onion, some garlic, a pepper, half a jar of pasta sauce, a tin of tomatoes and the end of a bottle of red wine with some herbs chucked in and it was nice with sweet potato mash. 

This morning I will top up what I have in the cupboards with a small shop at Aldi. I have my list at the ready. Have a great weekend!

Got the L plates on!

So, I am now a driving instructor! Not a qualified one – it is Mum’s Driving School. DD3 has been out several times with her instructor but this was the first with me and, once she got used to the clutch, she did well. I’m going to take her out at least once a week so that she can get through her test as quickly as possible.

My friend at work brings me food from time to time – I don’t know why, maybe I look under nourished! His mum is a great Jamaican cook and he has given me Jamaican patties a couple of times now. They are delicious, like Cornish pasties but with a kick. The pastry is also spiced and golden yellow. This is good frugal food with a difference and worth exploring I think. He is promising me rice and peas next which sounds right up my street. I am going to check out some recipes.

I am off to London tonight on the train to see my old college friends. I don’t enjoy going into the city much but I am looking forward to having our annual catch up. Should be fun! I shall report back…

Moroccan rice with chicken and sausage

What to cook when you have just returned from holiday and don’t have much food in? A search of the freezer found a couple of small chicken breasts and 4 sausages. In the fridge we had onions, peppers and a few slightly wrinkled mushrooms. I thought I would make a kind of poor man’s paella, but only had normal rice, so came up with this! It serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

10 oz rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper, any colour, chopped
100g chopped mushrooms
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken stock cube
4tsp Moroccan seasoning (I used the Asda one)
2 chicken breasts, sliced
4 sausages, chopped into chunks
Olive or vegetable oil
2tsp dried mixed herbs

Cook the rice in boiling water with the stock cube. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the chicken, sausage and onions, frying gently until the meat is almost cooked through. Put the garlic, mushrooms, pepper and Moroccan seasoning in the pan and fry for another five minutes or so. Add the canned tomatoes, mixed herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook through. Drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir well and serve with a green vegetable and maybe some crusty bread. 

We were tired when we got back from Devon yesterday, so it was great to find my eldest daughter, who had been looking after the cats, had kept the house tidy and made us all dinner. I still had a ton of laundry to do today though! Luckily the forecast rain didn’t materialise so at least some is dry. Work tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to the 100’s of emails I will find in my inbox, but that’s the price to be paid for my holiday! Have a good week. 

Frugal recipes!

As I am on holiday and have some time and energy to spare, I have started something I have wanted to do for ages and collected some of the recipes I have featured on  the blog over the years in one place. You can find the page at the top. It is a work in progress so I will add a few more over the next few days. I hadn’t realised there were so many! So if you ar stuck for frugal inspiration, take a look.

It was such an interesting exercise as it meant revisiting some old blog posts. This site acts as a diary for me and I loved going through the old memories and pictures. It is a great hobby in this respect and I always enjoy comments and advice from readers.

Just a short post this morning as we are off out to RHS Rosemoor and out to the cinema tonight to see Bridget Jones’ Baby. See you later!

A frugal Indian dinner party

home made indianI mentioned previously that I was having the girls round at the weekend. I don’t do dinner parties much as it always seems to cost so much even when I try really hard to be thrifty. When you have guests you feel you need to give them a treat with three courses, plus there is wine to buy of course.

Well, this time I think I have cracked it. I made three Indian inspired dishes, one of my own recipes smoky chicken and chickpeas (not exactly Indian since the main spice is smoked paprika, but it went well with the other dishes); a tarka dhal recipe that I found on the Internet (on Jamie Oliver’s site but not one of his recipes) and one from the book I found in the charity shop the other day, Save with Jamie, for sag aloo. I can’t find that anywhere on the web so here it is:

1 onion
2 ripe tomatoes
half a bunch fresh coriander
2 heaped tbsp rogan josh curry paste
oil
1.2kg potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli
2 tsp cumin seeds
300g frozen spinach

Peel the onion and blitz with the tomatoes, coriander stalks and curry paste in a food processor until combined, then spoon into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat with a lug of oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the potatoes with some salt and pepper. Pour in enough water to come half way up the potatoes, bring to the boil then simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the heat up a bit for another 15-20 minutes until the potatoes start to get crispy and golden. Meanwhile make a flavoured oil called a temper. Peel the garlic and finely slice with the chilli, place in a small pan and fry with the cumin seeds and a good lug of oil and until golden, then take off the heat. When the potatoes are reading stir the spinach into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Serve the sag aloo drizzled with the temper with the coriander leaves scattered on top.

Because I made this the evening before, I stirred the temper in rather than serving it on top. It was really nice!

sag alooThe food went down very well and I had lots of compliments. It also fed far more that the 6 of us, so we have been eating it most of the weekend. The starter was poppadums from Aldi with mango chutney and a simple raita made from yogurt mixed with chopped mint and grated cucumber. Because I was at work all day I didn’t have time to make a pudding, so the non frugal part of the meal was a lemon tart from Sainsbury’s with some ice cream.  I also bought two  bottles of wine but I didn’t really need to since everybody brought a bottle as well.

beehiveIt was a success and a very good way to feed a crowd cheaply. I think the quantity I made would have fed 10 easily.

It was glorious here on Saturday so I spent the whole day in the garden. I could happily do that every day – maybe I should retrain as a gardener? Mind you, I hate the cold, so I would end up as a fair weather gardener and starve in the winter. I rescued my currant bushes from the bindweed (this is the bane of my life), I weeded my small wild flower garden ready to add sweet peas to the wigwam when they are ready, repotted my geraniums and rescued an old bee hive Mr S had abandoned at the bottom of the garden to display them on. I was shattered!

I still managed to get up for the boot sale but that is another story and my next blog post…

Stretching the chicken rations: warming smoky chicken with chickpeas


We had a lazy kind of day today. Up late, big breakfast, a drive for tea and cakes to my parents and then home for dinner. We watched The Durrells on TV as well – I love this and it has brought back happy memories of our holiday to Corfu last year. It is the most beautiful place and I would love to return. One day!
I had a couple of sad looking chicken breasts in the freezer. Not really enough for dinner, so I decided to stretch them with chick peas. I got a few ideas from the Internet, then cobbled this together. You could use ordinary paprika but I think the smoked variety added a lovely depth of flavour. I chucked in a bit of cooked spinach too as it needed using up but it isn’t essential.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, with a little salt
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1tsp cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp turmeric
400g can chick peas
400g can chopped tomatoes
Chicken stock cube
2tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil
Heat the oil and sweat the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add the chicken and spices and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Dissolve the chicken stock in a quarter of a pint of boiling water and add to the pan with the tomatoes. Add the lemon juice and bring to the boil, then tip the chick peas in and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for another 10 minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice and bread. It
Serves 4.

Jane’s War on Waste!

Has anybody seen Hugh’s War on Waste on BBC1 at all? I watched the first one on catch up over the weekend and I heartily applaud what he is doing. 

Seeing a parsnip farmer going out of business because the supermarket they supply to will only accept parsnips of equal size and shape was painful and frustrating. This means tons of perfectly good fresh produce is being thrown away because the supermarkets insist that we, as their customers, will only accept perfect looking vegetables free of blemishes. The sad thing is I think this may be true for many people. Unless we grow our own produce we have been conditioned to think that misshapen veg is odd, when actually it is quite normal.

I was not surprised to see the amount of food that some of the households featured threw away each week. In the UK this averages £15 a week! That’s almost £800 a year -a holiday perhaps or at least a small pay rise. Our grandmothers would have had a fit – in the war it actually was illegal to waste food. It was a scarce and precious resource. They used every scrap and stretched every morsel and we were all the healthier for it.
  I don’t waste as much as the average person but have been known to forget the half a pot of hummus lurking at the back of the fridge, to chuck the last bits of the salad bag because they are looking a bit the worse for wear, to let the cereal go stale and to leave dry goods such as sugar and flour too long before I use them up.

Inspired by Hugh, this weekend I made sure we started to use some bits up. I made a banana cake with some rather brown bananas and some flour near its end date (not that I take much notice of that with dry goods), I made everyone have salad in their sandwiches at lunchtime, I made soup from the leftover cooked veg that I have been collecting in the freezer, I forced the last of a bottle of red wine down Mr S’s neck (surprisingly easy that one) and I made a large batch of apple purée from the windfalls that have been hanging around for a few weeks. 

I still have the Halloween pumpkin to use in some way but there is no rush since we went out and never actually got the chance to carve it! That will probably go for soup too as I love it and it’s good for work lunches.

It makes me mad when food is wasted, but if makes me madder if the person wasting it is me!

Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

  I love chick peas! And I love spinach. Mostly I love frugal healthy food and this fits the bill on both counts. 

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper. chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 400g can chick peas, drained
half to one tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsps cumin
half pint veg stock
oil
salt and pepper

Fry up the onions, garlic and pepper  in the oil until soft, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach and all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for at least half an hour, covered. Taste and season.

A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!

Using up windfall or wrinkly apples: American apple cake

apple cakeI have a big bag of windfall apples, plus our own little trees are finally producing some nice fruit. This is great, but I eat most of the apples in this house and my tooth is still a bit odd so they aren’t getting eaten! This is a great way to use them up. I usually resort to apple pie or crumble, but I thought I would make a cake for a change. This one is packed full of apples and is lovely by itself or warm with custard. It is adapted from the Best of Sainsbury’s Baking and is an old favourite.

125g (4 oz) butter
350g (12 oz) caster sugar
2 eggs
250g (8 oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
2 tsp mixed spice
750g (1.5 llb) apples (recipe calls for desert apples, but I have used cooking apples as well and they are fine)
125g (4 oz) chopped mixed nuts

Preheat oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour, soda and spices and fold in, then mix in the apples and nuts. Work together well, then turn into a well greased baking tin about 9x 13 inches. Bake for 1.5 hours, then check to see if cooked and cooker for a further 15-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine cooked in 1 hr 45.

Leftovers risotto: waste not want not!

imageSometimes you need to be creative in your frugal kitchen. You can’t always slavishly follow a recipe. I frequently adapt recipes to make use of what I have, and sometimes I just make it up.

imageLast night I looked in the fridge and freezer and I had some shredded chicken from Sunday’s roast (frozen), half a punnet of mushrooms that were looking a bit sorry for themselves and half a jar of spanish chicken sauce. So what to do with all these leftovers? I decided on a sort of risotto. This is what I did:

imageFried the mushrooms in oil and a little butter with two cloves of garlic and two large shallots purchased by our French student when he made the ratatouille last week. I added a handful of frozen peas too. I cooked about 350g basmati rice and threw that on top with the half a jar of sauce, a can of tomatoes and half a glass of white wine that was lurking in the fridge. I boiled it up for a bit and added a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée, salt and pepper and a couple of shakes of smoked paprika. Finally I threw in the shredded defrosted chicken and warmed it through thoroughly. It was delicious! This fed three of us last night and we finished it for lunch today.

imageSimple, nutritious and it used up some leftovers that some folk would have ended up throwing in the bin.

imageWhat are your best leftover recipes?

Review of January: Did you reach your frugal goals? And a marinade for meat

I started my month with some resolutions  that I really wanted to stick to. I gave up alcohol and chocolate for the month – I lasted until 26th January!! I needed a shorter month :). I don’t intend to consume much of either in February, but I will allow both as a treat.

More important were my financial goals. I wanted to stick to a budget of £90 a week for groceries, pet food and cleaning products. I am still way over this!! I spend anything from £45 to £80 a week in Aldi, which is fine. If I could buy everything I needed in there I would be OK, but I buy my dairy products in Sainsbury’s as I need to purchase Lactofree. These aren’t cheap and I do often ending up buying items on a whim whilst I am in there. It may only work out at a few pounds more, but it all adds up. I also buy my cat food in Sainsbury’s usually, although I have made some progress persuading the cats to eat food other than the Gourmet variety in the past few weeks and they have tried both Sainsburys and Aldi’s own brands with mixed success. I spend between £20 and £40 in Sainsburys each week. 

Going through my bank statement, the other thing I have begun to make a habit of is popping to my local convenience store to top up my main shop – for teabags, juice, wine, crisps and snacks. This has got to stop!!! I need to ensure I buy enough of this kind of thing as part of my Aldi shop as it is so much cheaper. Does anyone else do this?  From now on I will be taking cash out at the start of the week for my grocery shopping and once it is gone, it is gone….!

I have stuck to my resolution of cleaning out a cupboard at week and generally decluttering. This is fantastically satisfying and therapeutic. Who knew?

I have put money into my holiday, car, birthday and contingency funds and paid a lump of my credit card. I will pay a bit more as soon as my payment for my French student arrives.

I have been doing a regular short yoga practice. I swear this keeps me really healthy and gives me a good immune system. Everyone around me at work has been falling like flies with coughs, colds and tummy bugs and so far the germs have avoided me :). We haven’t done that much walking though as the weather has been awful.

Pork in marinadeWe have eaten quite a lot of meat this week as we have our house guest. It is always a challenge to cook something interesting that doesn’t take too much time and energy when I have been at work all day. Last night we had Aldi pork chops, oven baked in a home made marinade. This is very easy to make and went down a treat with some sauteed courgettes and mushrooms. I usually put it on chicken, but its sweetness went well with the pork.

Here’s how to make it:

Half a medium red onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp clear honey
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Tabasco
Plain seasoned flour

courgettes and mushroomsFry the onion and garlic on a lowish heat for 5 minutes to soften – don’t allow it to brown. Add all of the other ingredients except the flour and stir well. Dip your meat of choice into the seasoned flour and then into the marinade. Bake for the recommended amount of time. You don’t need to cover the baking tray. I cooked my pork chops for 30 minutes in a fan oven at 190 degrees.

Did you make New Year’s resolutions and, if so, how are yours going? Are you like me in topping up your main shop and losing control of your spending?

Soup, sunshine and a tidy cupboard (another exciting Sunday at Shoestring Cottage!)

Mr Shoestring and his twin!! Fun with the panoramics

Mr Shoestring and his twin!! Fun with the panoramics

It was a beautiful cold but sunny winter’s day here in Essex today with (so far) no sign of the snow that was predicted. We took advantage and went for a nice long walk down to the Blue Bottle earthworks in Lexden to see the ducks.

We came back to a huge bowl of ‘leftovers soup’, my favourite kind! I made stock last night with 3 chicken carcasses from the freezer. One of them had quite a lot of chicken still on it, so I picked that off to put in the soup later. All I had to do today was add some veg – I put in a bag of frozen home grown courgettes, some celery and carrots, and 3 small tubs of left over cooked veg, again from the freezer. I keep old plastic tubs in there and put in any left over veg when I have cooked a bit too much. This makes soup making so easy as there is hardly any peeling and chopping to do, and it is super thrifty. Waste not want not!! Then when it was all cooked up I seasoned it, blended it and added the shredded chicken. It was yummy.

Leftovers from the freezer

Leftovers from the freezer

Made into soup!

Made into soup!

I also tidied up the linen cupboard from hell. I put a pic on yesterday – the shame!! I threw out some single duvet sets that are no longer used and some old towels. It looks so much better – it lifts the soul!! It really doesn’t take much to make me happy 🙂

tidy cupboardI am still missing my regular glass of wine – January is feeling like a long month. However, when I have finished Dry January I will try to stick to wine at the weekends. I rarely drink much, but have a glass with dinner or watching TV on a fairly regular basis. That will save me some money too.

We have been looking at holidays today. It is very important for me to have a break somewhere nice if at all possible, and I am happy to do without other things to get one. We have been looking at a site called Sunshine.co.uk, recommended by a friend of mine, and there are some very reasonable deals to Greece. I have never been, so if we can find one at a good price we will book it. It will just be the two of us as the other girls are going away with friends and the youngest is having a trip to New York with her father, so we don’t have to go during term time and can pay low season rates.

What are your holiday plans? And have you managed some frugal food today?

Slow cooked beef and mushroom one pot casserole

imageI managed to make dinner in 5 minutes flat yesterday morning, and threw it in the slow cooker before I left for work. No fuss winter grub. This serves 5-6. All of the ingredients were from Aldi.

Pack of three frying steaks (you could use stewing steak but as it happened this was cheaper)
Medium onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
Tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 pint beef stock
Large handful of chopped mushrooms
Tin potatoes
Heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs
Splash of Worcester sauce
Seasoning to taste

imageChop it up and throw it on the slow cooker on medium for 6-8 hours. It was so easy and delicious, and the meat was really tender. We had some broccoli with ours.

I love my slow cooker! I frequently just tip it all in and rarely follow a recipe and it usually works perfectly.

What are you cooking in yours?

Black bananas in the bin? Not with this lovely loaf and you can even make it gluten free

imageDelia’s banana loaf is my go to recipe when I have over ripe bananas to use up. I tweak it depending on what ingredients I have in the house. I have replaced the walnuts with hazel nuts or even chocolate chips before and left out the citrus fruit peel when I haven’t had any.  The original recipe is here,: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/banana-and-walnut-loaf.html, and my gluten free adaptation is below:

75g soft margarine or butter
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
The grated rind of one lemon and one orange. (I used 3 heaped tsp of mixed peel as I had this from my Christmas pudding)
60g ground almonds
170g gluten free self raising flour
2tsp gf baking powder
1/2 tsp Xanthum gum (optional)
2 tbsp milk
4 medium bananas, mashed
59g walnuts, chopped

imagePreheat oven to gas 4, 180c. Grease a standard loaf tin. Place the marg, sugar, milk and egg into a bowl.sift over the flour, baking powder and xanthum gum if using, then the almonds. Whisk this all together. Add the mashed bananas and whisk again until thoroughly combined. Stir in the citrus rinds or mixed peel and nuts and place the mixture into your loaf tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 55-60 minutes, turning the temperature down a bit of it gets too brown.

This is delicious warm or cold spread with butter and a nice cup of tea :-).

Jack’s creamy mustard chicken

imageI tried another of the recipes from my bargain Girl Called Jack recipe book yesterday. It was a winner. However, I would tweak it if I did it again – Jack seems to use an awful lot of liquid in her recipes and there was far too much sauce. Although you could plan for this and use it the next day on cooked pasta – that’s what I am having for lunch! I didn’t have fresh herbs so I used dried, and it turned out quite delicious. It tasted nice even before I added the cream, so it would be possible to do a lighter, cheaper version without this. With the cream I think it would even be special enough for entertaining.

Here is my adapted version with less liquid:

2 tbsp oil
10 chicken thighs
200g cooking bacon
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
600ml chicken stock
200ml cream
2 heaped tsp mixed herbs (or a handful of fresh chopped parsley and thyme if you have them).

Heat the oil and brown the chicken with the bacon. Add the onion and carrot and fry for a few minutes, then pour over the stock, mustard and herbs, cover and cook for half an hour until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and keep warm, then add the cream and boil rapidly for a few minutes to reduce the sauce. Return the chicken to the pan and serve with creamy mash or rice.

Easy and delish!

Still got leftovers? How about Turkey with pasta and blue cheese?

imageI thought we had used most of our Christmas leftovers, but then Mr S turned up with a great hunk of cooked turkey breast from his brother! Never one to waste such a gift I decided to adapt a recipe I have had for years and use it with the remaining Stilton and a bit of cream and wine to make a delicious pasta sauce. The original recipe uses fresh chicken breast, Gorgonzola and white wine but it worked just as well with the cooked meat, Stilton and a bit of rose wine that had been hanging around for too long in the fridge. If you are using raw meat, fry it in the oil with the garlic for a bit and then proceed as below.

4oz spinach, chopped (or frozen peas, or par cooked broccoli)
2tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
About 8oz cooked turkey or chicken
14oz dried pasta
4fl oz white wine
7 fl oz cream
4 oz blue cheese

Put your pasta on to boil as per instructions. Heat the oil and gently sweat the garlic then add the veg and fry for a few minutes before tipping on the meat. Warm through then add the cheese cut into cubes, the cream and the wine. Allow it all to bubble away until the cheese has melted and the meat is heated right through. Season to taste then stir into the cooked and drained pasta and serve.

We had ours with some salad that needed eating but it’s nice with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

I found a great little blog via Instagram yesterday which I will be passing into my daughter for inspiration. If you know a young person who needs a kick to start saving, send them to:

Www.cantswingacat.wordpress.com

 

A Girl Called Jack recipe book

Look what my daughter found for me in the charity shop for 99p:

image

Most of you will have come across Jack’s interesting and unique blog (if you haven’t then take a look: www.agirlcalledjack.com), with its mixture of politics, opinion and nutritious budget recipes. She has her detractors; the usual mix of malicious trolls and others who don’t like the fact that she is no longer a single mum struggling to feed her son on £10 a week, or maybe that she is a mouthy lesbian with the guts to tell the politicians how it is. Her intelligent, inspiring and, above all, honest blog has led to a book deal (she is on her second), an appearance in an advert for Sainsbury’s, a regular column in the Guardian and various interviews in the media.

As a fellow Essex girl, I wish Jack well. I think she is great and I hope she is allowed to continue to be successful without too much of a backlash.

Some of the recipes look pretty good too. I will definitely be trying her sausage and lentil one pot dinner, diet coke chicken, easy chicken satay and fishy cakes. I will report back!

 

Ready to party?

It’s my last day at work today. I am girding my loins for a trip to the supermarket tomorrow to get my last minute veg and salads for Christmas. I am not looking forward to it! I did consider going tonight after work,  but I doubt I will be able to get in Aldi’s car park at 5.30. I could go later as they are open until 10, but I am worried they might have run out of things that I need.

I also have to make the chocolate brownies to take to my sister’s on Boxing Day. We are having a whole clan gathering – even my nephew is coming from Thailand – and there will be 19 of us. Fantastic! Total chaos!

I have news that I am getting a language student for a couple of weeks at the end of January which is unusual.  This should help me kick start my New Year financial resolutions so is good news. Let’s hope there will be lots more to follow!

How are your last minute christmas preparations coming along?

Pauper’s Spanish Omelette

Last night’s Spanish omelettes were a big success. As ever, if I can produce something quick, tasty , cheap and delicious I am happy. I rarely spend long cooking, unless I am entertaining. However that is rare theses days as it can be an expensive business.

imageFor two people I chopped up half a green pepper and sautéed it gently with 6 chopped mushrooms. I also used 10 small potatoes from an tin from Aldi, sliced. These cost 15p and are incredibly useful – I am sure that must be cheaper than fresh. I will use the rest up in a casserole. I whizzed up 2 eggs for each of us in separate jugs with salt and pepper and a little milk then added half of the vegetables to each. I decided to make two separate omelettes rather than one big one as they cook more quickly but you could do it in a big frying pan if you are making this for more people. I cooked them gently in a small frying pan and when nearly set I added a handful I grated cheese to each and finished them off under a hot grill.

Today we had planned a drive out somewhere as the girls are all doing their own thing. However it is currently pouring, despite the forecast saying dry with sunny spells. Maybe it will have improved by the time we are ready to go!

Once again the dehumidifier is coming in handy, both drying the laundry and preventing our condensation problem resurfacing. Looks like it may be on all day today as I have washed all the bed linen!

What are you doing on this rainy Remembrance Sunday? I hate the idea of war, and lots of the young men who died in the First World War seemed to be little but cannon fodder. I will spare a thought for them today.
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Simple grub: vegetable gratin

I still haven’t been shopping! We seem to have a glut of unused veg in the fridge so I put off the Aldi trip another day to use them up.

imageI also took the opportunity to use a couple of sachets of cheese sauce mix that came from Approved Foods. I don’t usually use packet sauces, but they were so cheap, and the parsley sauces I bought last time were pretty good, so I thought I would give them a try.

imageI used two sticks of celery, a large courgette, a yellow pepper, a head of broccoli and a handful of mushrooms, but you could throw in any veg that needs using up. I sautéed all the veg for about 5 minutes, chopped quite small. If you prefer your veg less crunchy you could parboil it. I made the sauce and mixed it all together, put it in a casserole dish and topped with grated cheese. I then baked it for 20 minutes so that the cheese was golden and bubbly. We had this witimageh baked potatoes and spinach, so most of our five a day in one hit. It went down a treat and the cheese sauce mix was pretty good.

I will do a shop tonight though: I can’t put it off forever !

Winter carrot salad

imageI should have done my food shop on Tuesday night but went to my parents for dinner instead. Last night Mr S is here for dinner so we made do with what was in the freezer – a lovely cheese and broccoli quiche that was reduced in Asda a few weeks ago served with chips and, as I had nothing in the way of more traditional salad ingredients, a yummy carrot salad.

I love this every bit as much , if not more, than a lettuce based salad. It is easy to make and nutritious too. My kids enjoyed this when they were little, and it is still a favourite.

To make it you will need:

500g (1lb) carrots, grated
1 tbsp chopped chives or spring onion tops
Vinaigrette:
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to season

Place the carrots and chives in a salad bowl. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a jug and beat together. Pour over the carrots and stir. Season to taste.

Easy!

Glutney Chutney!

I found an interesting recipe to use up the summer glut on the Love Food Hate Waste website for Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall’s ‘glutney’ – chutney made with courgettes, tomatoes, onions and apples. So, perfect for me at the moment! I made six jars last night in between feeding everyone, sorting a load of laundry and having a bit of a tidy up.

imageIt is looking quite promising but will need to be left a few weeks to mature.

You can find the recipe here if you are interested:
http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/1671

 
A friend has just told me that a tablespoon of chutney is really nice added to stews or casseroles. I will try it! She also whizzes it up with cooked pulses to make a veggie dip, which sounds as if it might have potential.

Anyone else still preserving the summer glut?

Macaroni Cheese – doubt you need a recipe, but here is one anyway :-)

I have had a busy Saturday, as usual, shopping and cleaning and getting everything done today so that I can have a relaxing day tomorrow. I am going to meet my old college friends. It has been 25 years since I have seen most of them. I am totally excited!! One is coming from Colorado. All being well, there will be 10 of us – I can hardly wait 🙂

I will leave the girls in charge of the student at lunchtime,  but I will need to be back to give her dinner, as they will be going to see their Dad. I will prepare the vegetables in the morning and just throw a couple of chops under the grill to serve with them when I get home.

Tonight I wanted something easy for tea, and macaroni cheese was perfect. It is so simple yet cheap and delicious. This was yummy – total comfort food on a rainy Autumn day.

mac cheeseHere is the recipe I use, although I vary it by adding bacon, mushrooms, leeks, or sometimes all three:

To serve 4

250g macaroni
2 heaped dessertspoons marg or butter
2 heaped dessertspoons plain flour
500ml milk
half tsp mustard powder or made up mustard
150g cheddar, grated
Lots of ground pepper and salt to taste

Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water and whilst it is cooking, make the sauce. Melt the marg or butter then add the flour and mustard and cook gently for a minute or so. Whisk in the milk and and bring to the boil, stirring all the time so that it doesn’t catch. Lower the heat and stir until thickened. Add the grated cheese, then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Drain the macaroni and stir in most of the cheese, leaving some to sprinkle on the top. Pop under a preheated grill for 5 minutes until it turns golden and bubbly. Serve straight away with a green salad or some vegetables.

We had runner beans with this as we still have plenty coming through.

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?

Spicy roasted tomato sauce – a great way to use the glut

Roasted and ready to be whizzed up - I could have eaten these as they were with some crusty bread

Roasted and ready to be whizzed up – I could have eaten these as they were with some crusty bread

I found this recipe on the internet but adapted it slightly. It is delicious and spicy, and because we have lots of lovely ripe tomatoes at the moment, it is also very, very cheap.

To serve 4-5

500g pasta
1kg tomatoes, halved
70 ml olive oil
Clove garlic, crushed
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
I medium chilli pepper, kept whole
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, gas mark 6. Place the oil, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir. Dip each tomato half into the oil mix and place face up onto an oven proof dish with the whole chilli. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Cook for one hour. Allow to cool, remove the chilli and cut out the seeds. If you don’t like your sauce too hot just put half of the chilli in with the tomatoes, but if you can take the heat put the whole thing in, and whizz up with a hand blender.

You can sieve the sauce if you want it really smooth, but I didn’t bother. Mix in with your cooked pasta and top with. Grated cheese.

Mmm, delish!

Kitchen gadgets I couldn’t live without

Chopped up the veg...

Chopped up the veg…

image

Made some chicken stock…

image

Topped it up with some of the giant catering pack of veg stock I got from Approved Foods…

image

Whiz zed it up with my trusty hand blender…

image

And poured it all into containers ready for the freezer!

I finally managed to make a mega batch of courgette soup this morning. Lots to keep our bellies full until the pumpkins are ready and the next soup making session begins. They are cooling in the kitchen in a load of recycled ice cream and yogurt containers. I need to organise the freezers to fit them all in. So, fave kitchen gadget number 1 is my hand blender!!

Chopping up the plums

Chopping up the plums

Out with the mixer...

Out with the mixer…

Mmm... Yummy plum cake

Mmm… Yummy plum cake

We found plums being given away for free when we were in Long Melford the other day, so today I froze some and used the remainder to make a delicious almond and plum cake, which we had for dessert tonight. So, fave gadget no 2 is my hand mixer.

I think these two items are essential for the frugal kitchen, and I couldn’t be without them. I do have a food processor, but I rarely use it as it is such a faff to get it out of the cupboard and find the bits I need then wash it all  and put it back.

Not a bad way to spend a rainy bank holiday Monday – a thrifty and productive day!

Which kitchen gadgets would you hate to live without?

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!

 

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?

Smart Phones, Burgers and too much Wine

We had an unexpected last minute invitation to a barbecue yesterday evening. It arrived so late we had already eaten our tea (Mr S’s sister decided to be spontaneous), so we went along for a few drinks anyway. I only had a couple, but I am such a lightweight I have had a headache all morning!

imageWe finally discovered something our fussy student would eat with a junk food tea of burgers in buns and chips. It was quite nice actually – I can recommend the Aldi frozen quarter pounders, but I am not eating like that too often!

I got a new iPhone at a bargain price yesterday. I am already a Tesco customer so I managed to negotiate a brilliant deal on a new iPhone 5 that is only a couple of pounds more than I pay now. I managed to get the old one to last me nearly four years, but it was so slow, kept switching off and then I dropped it and cracked the screen. It is good for blogging and I am using it now!

Making it up as I go along: pasta with everything

Our student declared at the last minute that he didn’t want dinner. I was grateful not to have to eat the junk food tea I had planned in order to get him to eat something (burger and chips – I will have to endure that tonight!), so I had to decide what to make at the last minute. I looked what was lying around in the fridge and  decided on pasta with a courgette and mushrooms sweated in butter, some grilled chopped bacon, half a pot of tomato pesto that DD1 had opened and a third of a pot of soft cheese. I mixed it all together and also chucked in some canned sweetcorn I found lurking asimage well.

Guess what? It was delicious and had the added advantage of using up lots of bits and pieces that needed eating. I had the last portion for my lunch today at work.

 

If you can’t stand the heat …

imageIt is so hot! I don’t like to complain as I love the sunshine, but I am feeling a little frazzled after a day in a very hot office where, for some inexplicable reason, there are two radiators that have been stuck on for weeks and it seems there isn’t a heating engineer in Essex who can sort it out!

imageSo I  came straight home, shed the office shoes in favour of my flip flops,  and went outside to rescue my plants and water the pots and the greenhouse.

I think tonight’s plan of action is to sit in the garden with a couple of nice cold beers from the fridge. I should go to the gym but I can’t face it.

Don’t curse me if you are sitting looking at the rain! What’s the weather like where you are?

Quick and easy pasta with bacon and vegetables

This was tonight’s supper and was thrown together from what I could find in the kitchen. I am trying to keep the fat content of our food as low as possible so grilled the bacon and just added a small amount of grated cheddar.

image

Serves 6

500g pasta, cooked
250g bacon, grilled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large courgette, cut into cubes
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Marigold vegetable stock
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese to top

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the courgette and mushrooms and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir, then add the stock powder and dried herbs and mix together well. Finally, chop up the cooked bacon and add to the sauce. Season to taste. Cover
and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the cooked pasta. Serve with a little grated cheese and a green salad.

imageI got the lettuce straight from the garden – you don’t get any fresher than that!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Strange weather today – very heavy rain punctuated by strong sunshine. Still, we got to see this:

imageI have been doing a deep clean today. All of the decorating and gardening and general busy-ness hasn’t left much time for cleaning so the place was a bit grubby. I still have a bit to do in the morning, but it is looking so much nicer it is worth the effort.

making meatloafMeatloaf turned out to be a very easy dinner as it just involved throwing all of the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and putting them in the oven in a loaf tin. It was tasty too with some creamy mashed spuds and broccoli. I would put more herbs and spices in if I made it again. I actually doubled up and made two, one for the freezer. The recipe suggests it feeds 6, but I would say only if you have a very small appetite. It made plenty for 4 however.

meatloaf

It is here if you want to try it:

 http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6772/mum-s-meatloaf.aspx?o_is=Hub_TopRecipe_1

 

Budget Dinners Week

Feeling the need for inspiration for budget dinners that are quick and easy to do after work, I have been scouring the internet. A site that I think is pretty impressive for this is allrecipes.co.uk.

Looking promising so far:

Crispy rosemary chicken and chips

Crispy rosemary chicken (made with chicken thighs)
Meatloaf (made with half sausage meat and half beef mince – I will use the cheapie pork sausages from Aldi and remove the skins)
Cheesy cottage pie
Slow cooker butter chicken (made with chicken thighs)
Slow cooker veggie chilli

Slow cooker veggie chilli

I don’t have time for fussy stuff and these all look delicious without being time consuming and fiddly. They are also frugal, nutritious and the sort of food my family will happily eat.

What sites can you recommend? Which recipes do you come back to time and time again?

Don’t waste the bread ends!!

Take the leftover veggies...

Take the leftover veggies…

I had a super productive day yesterday. I cleaned the whole house, took DD3 to get her hair cut in town (we found a great little place that charges £10 for a cut and blow dry, and they were excellent), had a quick whizz around the charity shops and, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I made chicken stock then used it to make Shoestring Cottage leftover veggie soup. This was delicious. I used some fresh veg – some sad looking celery, leeks from the garden and some carrots – but it mostly consisted of bits and pieces of mashed potato with an assortment of vegetables such as runner beans, peas, carrots and cabbage. I often cook too much, so I put the leftovers in old ice cream tubs in the freezer for this very purpose. I stuck a few lentils in too to thicken it up and it went down a treat. This should last us for lunch today and tomorrow as well.

...and make them into tasty soup!

…and make them into tasty soup!

Whilst I was on a roll I used up the ends of the bread and made some breadcrumbs in the food processor. These are great for stretching bolognese type sauces, for nut roasts and meatloaf, and for coating meat and fish. If I wanted them to be crisp I would  bake them in the oven for 10 minutes or so, but for now they are just in a big bag in the freezer. I don’t understand why anybody would buy breadcrumbs – certainly not the strange orange variety you often find in the shops. If you have a food processor they take literally seconds to make.

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor...

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor…

...and Bob's your uncle!

…and Bob’s your uncle!

Chick Pea Burgers and Super Cheap Veggie Soup

chick pea burgers 1It being Sod’s Law and a Saturday, I did of course wake up at 5.30 am, so no lie in for me. The up side of being a naturally early riser is that I am quite productive in the mornings. The down side is that I will be fast asleep on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder by about 9 pm … I am nothing if not entertaining!

I need to keep everything as cheap as possible this month as I have had a couple of unexpected bills. So I am planning to eat from the freezer and store cupboard as much as I can over the next few days. This means more veggie meals, which I love but everyone else will doubtless compain about. They will have to cope!

The first recipe in my store cupboard blitz is for these tasty little chick pea burgers. They are cheap, healthy and quick (as well as being vegetarian, vegan and excellent if you are on a low GI diet).

For 10-12 small burgers you will need:

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
Large handful of fresh coriander if you have it – failing that parsley is good too
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste

chick pea burgers 2Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until mostly smooth, although a few lumps of chick pea is nice. Put a little flour on a chopping board and shape the mixture into about 12 little patties. Cover and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill. When you are ready to cook them, heat some oil in a frying pan and cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. They are nice with some chilli jam on the side.

Since I was having a clear out, I pulled two chicken carcasses out of the freezer and made them into stock with 3 celery sticks, a large carrot, an onion, 3 bayleaves and 6 peppercorns. This is currently simmering away and I will drain it and use it for soup for lunch. I have saved bits and pieces of leftover cooked veg in the freezer, so that is defrosting, and I will add some onion, celery, carrots, pearl barley and whatever else I can find to make a good veggie soup.

So a good start to my mega cheap week!