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.


Is Easter the best time to cut out sugar?

Well, why not?

I recently blogged about how I had a sugar free March. I didn’t find it difficult generally and lost a couple of pounds, even though I ate as much of everything else as I wanted. Mr S didn’t do it as strictly as me but he also felt a lot healthier.

I noticed that my IBS symptoms improved massively, which was a big surprise. There are a lot of foods that I now avoid (cabbage, onions, milk products unless they are Lactofree, cauliflower and highly spiced food are some), but I had never considered that sugar might irritate my sensitive gut.

I have allowed myself some sweet stuff again in the past couple of weeks – mainly chocolate, which I love – and have had an upset tummy most days. It’s hard to avoid the realisation that these two things are inextricably linked! 

We ate half a Lindt Easter bunny between us last night and I feel awful today, so I am going to cut sugar right out of my diet starting now. 

I now realise there is a whole area of research around sugar, candida and yeast infections which I intend to research. Perhaps that is the root cause of my IBS?

Speaking to a colleague today, he has also given up sugar and started to exercise and eat healthily as he was diagnosed with diabetes. A couple of months in, his blood sugar is normal, he no longer had diabetes and he has lost a stone! Living proof that a high sugar intake and a poor diet have massive health implications.

Sugar sneaks into many foods, even savoury. I bought some cup-a-soups on a whim recently as I had run out of home made for work and they are full of rubbish (plus they taste horrible). Sugar is the third ingredient! Whatever possessed me I don’t know but I won’t be buying them again. I will try to avoid refined sugar wherever possible. 

I have told everyone that I don’t want any more chocolate over Easter and we will have a fruit salad for dessert on Easter Sunday.

Has anyone else stopped eating sugar? How have you found it?

It doesn’t take much to make me happy!

Really! It doesn’t. I was in the middle of a busy work day, craving chocolate but determined not to give in and spend 80p in the vending machine, when I suddenly remembered I had a Daim bar tucked away in my handbag. It had been in there for weeks. Like I said, it doesn’t take much 😀.

I don’t eat that much chocolate but could do with cutting down a bit. I am considering doing a sugar free March actually as I still haven’t lost the extra half a stone that makes my clothes a bit tight. It will be cheaper to lose it than buy new ones!

On the news yesterday they were reporting that we should all be aiming to eat TEN portions of fruit and veg every day, rather than the five we have been told to aim for. I am one of the few people I know who does manage five. I take three prices of fruit to snack on at work and have two lots of veg with my dinner. Sometimes I have more, but even I would be pushed to eat ten. Perhaps I will try this when I cut out the sugar. If I have a glass of juice and a banana on my porridge, take three pieces of fruit to work with vegetable soup or a salad for lunch that makes six, three portions of veg with dinner and more fruit for pudding I might make it but will never stop eating!

I think poorer families are likely to think eating ten portions a day is too expensive. I don’t think it needs to be. If you replace some meat  with cheaper pulses, eat more tinned and frozen and buy from the discount supermarkets or, even better, a real market stall it would be possible. Maybe we all need to go vegetarian? 

How about you? Are you seduced by chocolate or would you rather have an apple? Could you eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day?

Thanks for all the comments yesterday on my post about whether money can buy happiness, some really interesting ones I thought. 

This week I will mainly be eating…purple food!

I am still eating from the larder and freezer and they are looking a bit sparse now. As I have a French student arriving for a week tomorrow now is the time to do a proper shop I think. They might not want too much in the way of lentil bolognese and vegetable curry! I will do a week’s eating plan tonight with my shopping list and be first in Aldi in the morning, before the hoards arrive.

I found quite a few blackcurrants and blackberries lurking in the freezer from last summer’s harvest. This is great timing as last night I watched How to Stay Young  on BBC2 which featured a bunch of very old but extremely healthy Japanese pensioners, with very low levels of heart disease and vascular dementia. The research suggests that they are protected from these health problems because they eat a type of purple sweet potato every day. These contain  high levels of a nutrient called anthocyanin. We can’t easily get hold of these purple sweet potatoes but we can eat other purple foods that contain it. So blackcurrants and blackberries are good, along with blueberries, red cabbage and aubergines. I had a large handful of blackcurrants on my porridge today! I also had purple sprouting broccoli with last night’s dinner. 

I think the link between nutrition and physical and mental well being is so obvious I can’t understand why we, as a general populace, continue to eat so badly. I guess it is ignorance but there is plenty of good information and advice out there if you look for it.

I don’t think it costs more to eat well either – fruit and veg are cheaper than meat and ready made processed dinners! It’s all about education – I wish schools would take this more seriously and go back to proper cookery lessons with a focus on nutrition as well.

Anyway, rant over! My student maybe eating quite a bit of red cabbage with their meat this week…

Exercise and weight loss for free!

  I caught a look at myself the other night as I was taking a pic of the kitten and got a shock. I wasn’t holding anything in and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I am getting fat!! I am naturally pretty slim and always in the go, and I wouldn’t be classed as overweight, but even so the middle aged spread does like to creep on every now and again. 

There was a time when I did a lot more exercise than I do now. I still practice yoga, but I used to go to the gym too. Now I have other financial priorities and a gym membership is too expensive. I am a qualified yoga teacher so can practice for free, so no excuses there. Jogging is free, not that’s not an option for me as I have dodgy knees, so I have decided to start walking again. 
  I dragged DD3 out for  a power walk this morning. I downloaded an app called Map My Walk which measures distance, pace and the number of calories burned. As you can see we just went round the block – a gentle start but I didn’t want to frighten her off!

I intend to do this at least twice week, and up the yoga too. 

I am also cutting out the three Cs: crisps, cakes and chocolate! I have downloaded a second app, My Fitness Pal. This keeps a diary of what I eat and the number of calories. I am aiming for 1200 a day, although I can eat more if I exercise. I could join a slimming club but again I have other plans for my hard earned cash! It is common sense; if you eat too much you will get fat!

Snacking is my downfall. I eat really healthy meals but too much rubbish in between. As I know I will snack, I am making sure I have healthy choices in the house, like cottage cheese, low fat humous, carrot and cucumber sticks, fruit and popcorn. I will take some to work as well to ensure I don’t resort to the chocolate machine. I can exercise for free and I don’t need to spend loads of money on ‘diet food’. I aim to lose 9 pounds. I will let you know how I get on!