Category Archives: Recipes

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.

 

A Simple Supper

I have been visiting my mum in hospital after work and my daughters have been great at organising dinner. Last night darling daughter no 2 made a really tasty lentil and vegetable stew with crusty baguettes. She adapted it from a Nigel Slater recipe to suit what she could find in the fridge, as follows:

2 onions
2 tbsp veg oil
2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots
4 parsnips
2 sticks of celery
125g mushrooms
2 small sweet potatoes
150g red lentils
2 tbsp plain flour
750ml hot veg stock
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Large handful of spinach
tbsp wholegrain mustard

Chop all the vegetables and fry up in some oil until the parsnips are starting to turn golden. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock to the pan with the herbs and lentils and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the spinach, mustard and redcurrant jelly and stir then leave for a further ten minutes for the spinach to cook. This would be good with rice but we enjoyed it with some ready to bake crusty baguettes from Aldi.

I was able to take my mum home today. She has a lot of cramp in her new hip joint, but other than that she is doing well. My dad sorted her tea and I left her in bed as she didn’t get much sleep in hospital so needs to catch up. One down, one to go – my dad’s op is on Sunday.

It was a glorious day today with daffodils and primroses everywhere. I love spring! Until tomorrow, bye for now.

Veggie food and a sad lack of exercise

I finally got around to publishing my new page (you will find it at the top of the blog), My Frugal Bookshelf. I will be adding to it as and when I review a book so it will be regularly updated. 

I almost missed doing a blog post altogether yesterday. Usually I write it last thing at night to be published the next morning, but time ran away with me and I didn’t manage to do that. Still, I did publish one eventually, at about 9pm! I have kept up that new year’s resolution anyway. My resolution to get more exercise is failing miserably so I must make a bit more effort. I am hoping that the weather will improve soon and I will get some more energy!

I did a nice gentle yoga session last night at least. If you are interested I have a sequence that is great for an achy back here.

My daughter sent me the link to a lovely collection of cheap and healthy vegetarian dinners. They are from around the web and many of them look delicious – quite kind to your wallet as well. We all agreed we would try the Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes first, a vegan delight from the Minimalist Baker.  I also like the look of the veggie loaded breakfast casserole, although I would be more likely to eat it for lunch than breakfast! Check out the recipes here.

I am still sugar free and have found it very easy so far, apart from yesterday when I had cravings all day. I eventually ate a sweet (but sugar free) dried fruit bar from Aldi that I found in my locker! Thank heavens I keep a larder at work!

I am sweet enough

My lovely daughter decided to experiment with a sugar free cake for me yesterday, and made a chocolate sponge. She used half gluten free and half ordinary flour (just to use the gluten free stuff up) and it works surprisingly well. Otherwise the ingredients were the sort most of us would have in the cupboard. It does contain a little honey as she didn’t realise that I wasn’t eating it, but no refined sweeteners. I don’t want her to think I don’t appreciate her kind efforts, so I am eating it anyway. It is really quite nice – I think I may try some more sugar free cake recipes, perhaps using some mashed banana or stewed apples to add sweetness.

She is her mother’s daughter. She found a recipe online and adapted it to what we had in the cupboards. This is it:

Half cup of cocoa powder
Quarter cup of gluten free self-raising flour (can use ordinary flour)
Quarter cup of plain ordinary flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Half tsp cinnamon
6 eggs
Half a cup of honey
Half a cup of olive oil
Half a cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones and whisk well. Pour into a 9 inch greased and lined cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. Test at 50 minutes as you don’t want it to be dry. If you aren’t avoiding sugar you could ice it, but we have eaten it with a little Lactofree cream and chopped banana and it’s very nice.

I was hoping to lose a few pounds, but I have discovered another unexpected benefit of cutting out refined sugar. I am a lot less bloated! Without going into unnecessary detail, I suffer from IBS and know that it is mostly caused by what I am eating. Over the years I have identified dairy products (not hard cheese, which is fine), soya, onions, beans, leeks, cauliflower and cabbage as trigger foods. Luckily Lactofree milk, yogurts and soft cheese are now available  (more expensive than the usual stuff but taste just the same), I use celery where a recipe calls for onions and the other stuff is easy enough to avoid.  However, it never occurred to me that sweet things caused an issue. I am not saying I would give them up altogether, but perhaps only eat small amounts at any one time or on any single day.

I managed to sell 6 items on eBay this week, mainly clothes that my daughter was getting rid of. Not huge amounts of money, but every little helps! I have spent very little on anything since I was waiting on a new bank card, but since I buy practically nothing these days anyway it didn’t cause me any stress! I did need to pop to Lidl for some groceries for the week but other than that I haven’t spent anything at all. 

I checked my bank balance this morning and my statement looks very uncomplicated. There isn’t much on there that isn’t a direct debit or standing order against a particular bill. I need to do a spring clean and have a long, hard look to see if there is anything I could get rid of. I would like to wave goodbye to the TV package I have with Virgin but I have a year on the contract. I am determined to buy a Freeview box when the contract expires and just stick with the channels on there plus Netflix.

I am working on a books page for the blog now, to be titled My Frugal Bookshelf. There are so many inspiring books out there and it is good to share. If you have any you can recommend, let me know and I will try to get hold of a copy to review.

Have a happy Sunday!

Beauty products that last and last…

Last April I blogged about buying a solid deodorant bar from Lush. Ten months on, it is still going strong! I have occasionally used a roll on deodorant on hot, sticky days but other than that I have used the Lush one. Not bad for a £5.50 investment. I will definitely be purchasing another one of these when it eventually runs out.

It made me think about other health and beauty products that seem to last forever. One I tried and really wanted to get on with (but didn’t) was a Mooncup. I love the idea that these produce no waste and, after the initial investment, cost nothing. However, I didn’t find it comfortable to wear. I also tried washable sanitary pads and these lasted quite a long time, but were awkward when I was out and about so I eventually gave up on those.

I make my hairdryers last for years – in the past I have gone through them in under 12 months. Now I make sure I buy one with a two year guarantee and never use it on full power, as this is what makes them blow. My current one is four years old but I hope it will keep going for a while yet. I do blow dry my hair every couple of days so work it quite hard.

I have had the same plastic hairbrush for ever – easily 15 years I should think. I remember brushing my daughters’ hair with it when they were younger. It’s practically a family heirloom!

I make other things last too. I have been known to water down shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, I squeeze the last drop of toothpaste out of the tube by snipping the top off and the same with foundation. I found that putting a little baby oil on the mascara wand as it neared the end made it last ages longer. 

Do you have any products that are reusable or that just seem to last and last? Do you dilute products to extend their use?

Organised? I have to be

My colleagues quite often start a sentence with  ‘You’re organised, you will know this’ or ‘Jane will find this’ if they are looking for a particular file. I am pretty organised at work. I have to be – I have a terrible memory so I need to keep lists of what I need to do and when, set reminders in my calendar and have a sensible filing system. 

At home I am no different. I get really stressed if I’m not on top of the cleaning, laundry or shopping. At times I feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, but good time management and a routine keeps me in control.  I have to have a really good clean through every week and make sure any paperwork is taken care of. I do this on a Saturday.  I do washing about three times a week. I don’t iron much because I shake clothes out before I hang them and smooth them out as much as possible.

I check my bank balance once a week so that I can keep an eye on spending, make sure all the bills are paid and that there are no odd payments in the account. I know what I pay for everything. If I didn’t how would I know if I was getting a good deal? I also check to see if there is any extra that I can put in one of the savings accounts.

I plan the menus for the week as well as the shopping list. As things get low I write them on a board in the kitchen so we don’t run out.  I frequently cook double what I need to save myself a bit of time. We either eat it the next day as well or freeze it for those days when we are too tired to cook. On Sunday I made pukka yellow curry from Save with Jamie and we ate it again last night – curry is always better as leftovers! This is a nice recipe and it really is a good book. The recipe is here.

I started cleaning a cupboard or a drawer each week as my new year resolution in 2016 and it has really paid off. I know where things are and chuck out stuff we don’t need. Having said that, the drawers in my bedroom really need sorting at the moment as a continuation of my great wardrobe challenge, making sure I wear what I own or get rid of it. That’s one for next weekend. 

I never feel I have much spare time, but being organised helps a lot. If I do everything I need to on a Saturday I have the day free to relax on Sunday. We either go out for the day or spend some time in the garden, depending on what we feel like and the weather. 

I have areas I can improve on but I know that little and often is the way to go. Get things done, get organised and then you save time in the long run.

Are you an organised person? What are your tips to staying in control when you are really busy?

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!