Sticking to the meal plan…

meal plan

Last week’s meal plan went awry! We were out when we were supposed to be in, Mr S was off doing stuff so it was just me a few nights and I couldn’t be bothered…. I ended up eating eggs and chips instead of making something ‘proper’. We also had an unplanned dinner with my parents. Never mind, meal plans need to be flexible and it did mean I only had to spend around £15 topping up and didn’t buy much at all.

This week hopefully we shall sticking to the meal plan. Generally speaking, I love meal planning for the time and money saved with a small amount of organisation and forward planning.


Smoked salmon pasta. This was one of the meals we didn’t get around to. The smoked salmon was frozen so it is fine to use this week. We will use up a bag of salad I bought a few days ago.


Chicken casserole for Mr S, roast potatoes and kale.  I shall have one of my veggie meals from the freezer.

If I feel OK, I may make a cake! Not sure what yet but will try to use what is in the cupboard.


meal plan

Lentil dahl

Some of the lentil dahl I made last week and froze. It was yummy!! Served with rice and a naan from the freezer. I played around with this, and will publish the recipe next week.


Spaghetti Bolognese. I have  minced beef in the freezer for Mr S and will freeze half of his Bolognese sauce for another time. I will have a simple tomato and pepper sauce with grated cheese.


Salmon from the freezer with potatoes and vegetables. I have a packet of hollandaise sauce in the cupboard so will cheat on that!


meal plan

Aubergine and chick pea tagine

Just me in for dinner, so will see what is leftover or eat something I made earlier from the freezer. I still have some of the aubergine and chickpea tagine in there. This was delicious! Perhaps that with some rice.


Valentine’s Day! We will have a home made but easy dinner as I said in this post.

I will have another go at getting rid of the burgers in the freezer, with air fried chips and salad or veg. Still loving my air fryer, even if I’m not very adventurous with it.

So, this week’s meal plan is pretty straightforward, but as I am still in pain it needs to be. Do you meal plan? If so, what are you eating this week? Let me know in the comments below.

As usual, I am linking up with Katy Kicker for this week’s meal planning linky. Hop over and see what she has on her meal plan.

For more of my frugal food ideas, have a look at my recipes page here.

Got a Brexit stockpile? Stock up with Approved Food

Brexit Stockpile

I asked on my Instagram page if anyone else was making a little ‘just in case’ Brexit stockpile, and a surprising number said that they were! To start with, I thought it was just media scare mongering. Then I read this article from the BBC and I started to wonder.

As a result, I have started my Brexit stockpile with a large bag of non perishables from Aldi. Tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn and potatoes, tea bags, pasta, rice, etc. It might be unnecessary, but what’s the worst that can happen? I have lots of staples to see us through for a few months.

My Brexit stash shopping list

I had planned to get a few bits each week. Then I remembered that many of these staples are usually super cheap on Approved Food. So I went on last night and bought the following.

It’s always worth checking out the bundles and boxed deals. My biggest bargain was a box of sauces worth £21.33 for £4.99. I will be interested to see what’s included, but the reviews are good! I usually cook from scratch, but it is always handy to have some jars of sauce for when I need something quick and easy after work.

2kg Whiskas dry cat food, £5.25 – hope they like this. Much cheaper than the usual stuff I buy!

500g Tate and Lyle brown sugar, £1

Huge 1kg bag white sugar, £1.49

1 kg Hovis granary bread flour, 2 for £1.50

‘Perfectly Good’ self-raising white flour, 2 x 1.5kg bags for £1 (that’s a lot of flour!!)

500g plain flour, McDougalls, 2 for £1

Ryvita thins multi-seed flatbreads, 2 packs for £1.50

Rajah Biryani Curry Paste , 2 for £1

Jordan’s 6 pack Frusli bars, 99p

Kallo vegetable stock cubes, 2 for £1

Kernal King peanut butter, 2 for £1.50

Resisting temptation

Brexit stockpile

My Brexit starter pack…

I’m not going to lie, you have to wade through pages of catering size packs of items such as yellow icing to find the useful stuff. There is also a lot of temptation in the way of cakes, chocolates, crisps and other snacks (useful if you have hungry kids, though!). However, the savings, especially on branded items are immense. Some things are near or past their best before dates, but last a long time anyway.

You do need to check that the discounted brands aren’t still more expensive than the supermarket own brands too. Usually you can bag a bargain on most things, though.

Approved Food can be absolutely brilliant for gluten free stuff and items for particular dietary requirements. As these tend to be expensive and branded, buying close to or after the best before date can save you lots of money.

The household section can be interesting too. Everything from shoes polish to notepads, pens to gift sets is on there at really big discounts. It’s a bit random, but worth a look.

Watch out for catering packs

Another tip is to check the sizes you buy. I once inadvertently bought a catering size pack of stock powder. It was so huge it would have lasted us way past the need for a Brexit stockpile and into Armageddon! I ended up giving everyone who stepped through the door a little tub to get rid of the stuff!

There is a delivery charge if you spend less than £55. It’s £5.99 for a single box and £8.50 for 2 boxes. It’s worth clubbing together with a friend or family member to make sure you spend enough to get your delivery free.

My box of staples for my Brexit stockpile cost just over £33 including delivery. I will also continue to pop a few bits in my basket each week to add to our stores. I am reassured by our decision to resurrect our vegetable patches in the garden this year. We are going to start buying our seeds this month.  Hopefully then, even if the shelves are bare post Brexit, we will be OK.

What do you think? Are you building a Brexit stockpile or do you think I am bonkers?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission but it won’t impact on the price you pay. Thanks.

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

aubergine and chick pea tagine

I recently made this aubergine and chick pea tagine for one of my vegan days – I try to eat completely meat and dairy free twice a week. This recipe comes from a very old book, The Cancer Prevention Cook Book. Despite its slightly scary title, it is full of nice foodie ideas and healthy too. I don’t think it is still in publication, but you might be lucky and pick it up on Amazon.

aubergine and chick pea tagine

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

This is nice with rice or couscous. Serves 4.


1 small aubergine, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

150g mushrooms, halved

1tbsp ground coriander

2tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp groung cinnamon

2 txp ground turmeric

225g new potatoes, sliced thinly (I found it best to par boil these)

60ml bottle of passata

1tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp chilli sauce

75g ready to eat dried apricots

400g can of chick peas

Salt and pepper

(I also added 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika and 1 heaped tsp vegan stock powder)


aubergine and chick pea tagine

Sprinkle salt over the aubergines and courgettes and leave for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry. Then toss in 2 tbsp of the oil and grill for 10 minutes, until tender. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another minute, stirring to allow the flavours to mingle. Add the potatoes, tomato puree and half a pint of water (add the vegan stock at this point, if you are using it). Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the aubergine, courgettes, chilli sauce, apricots and chick peas. Season and cook, partially covered for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add extra water if the tagine becomes too dry.

I really enjoyed this aubergine and chick pea tagine and can see it becoming a regular on my meal plans. Better still, it freezes really well.

For more frugal recipe ideas, check out my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

This post contains affiliate links.

Using it up: Cheap meals from the freezer


cheap meals

Our freezer is rammed full with the possibility of lots of cheap meals. It looks as if I have been unconsciously storing stuff up for a no deal Brexit… We need to eat it! Here is what is there:

What’s in our freezer

A ton of redcurrants and blackcurrants from the garden.

Two bags of foraged blackberries.

For some odd reason, two packs of fish fingers. We hardly ever eat them, but a fish finger sandwich makes a nice lunch.

A large pack of diced beef, bought yellow stickered.

2 packs of lean steak mince, again yellow stickered.

Pack smoked salmon trimmings.

3 fish in breadcrumbs

2 bags Yorkshires

6 pots home made soup

3 beef burgers – I bought these when we had our last language student

2 vegeburgers

Pack of vegetarian butternut squash sausages

Half pack vegetable falafel

A giant pig in blanket – seemed like a good idea at Christmas…

Jam roly poly

Frozen peas

1 steak

1 salmon steak

4 chicken thighs

2 lots of vegetable tagine, home made

Box of ready to bake sausage rolls

2 packs pitta bread

2 lots of home made chick pea curry

1 lot of home made chicken and chick pea curry

1 naan bread

2 loaves bread plus various odds and ends saved for bread pudding

A container full of veg ends for soup making

Ready for Brexit?

cheap meals

The start of our Brexit stash

I don’t even know how some of this arrived in the freezer! I think the girls must have bought the sausage rolls and jam roly poly when they were here at Christmas.

Anyway, the meal plan this week will incorporate some of this. I want to make space for some frozen fruit and veg, just in case there are shortages if there is a no deal Brexit. Despite my comment at the beginning of this post, I have started a Brexit store of tins and non perishables in the last couple of weeks.

The media may well be scaremongering, but it pays to be prepared. We will be stocking up on seeds to grow some of our own fresh food this summer as well. We had a year off last year, but now is the time to get the wellies and spade out. (Well, as I can’t dig with my trapped nerve, I will have to stick to the light stuff for now!)

As I have rambled on, here is  a rough meal plan to create cheap meals and use stuff up.

Cheap meals from our freezer


Beef stew for Mr S and defrosted aubergine and chickpea stew for me, with kale and potatoes. This will be one of my vegan days.


The same for Mr S as there is a lot of beef in that pack! I will have a chick pea curry and we can both have rice.

Jam roly poly and custard for pudding.

If we are home, fish finger sarnies for lunch.


cheap meals

Chicken and chick pea curry

Another vegan day for me. I will have lentil dahl with rice . Home made soup for lunch.


Burgers, home made chips and peas.  My daughter is round for lunch so will shall have some of the pittas with falafel, humous and salad.


I will make some kind of pasta dish to use the smoked salmon in. This one looks nice. I will substitute the double cream for a Lactofree version. We will have some broccoli with this.


Just me for dinner so I will eat leftover pasta from Wednesday.


Butternut squash sausages, with mash potato and vegetables.

This week of cheap meals from the freezer should free up a little space, hopefully.  I am hoping my neck pain will allow me to finally make some currant jelly too at some point. Do you plan your meals and find it saves you time and money? Check out some of my favourite frugal recipes here.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.


A Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

Valentine’s Day can be an expensive time. Even if you are careful, you could spend £60 plus on a meal out with a glass of fizz, another £30 on flowers, £60 on some aftershave… whatever takes your fancy. Of course, you could just choose to ignore it altogether and save your money! We tend to go for the mid ground and eat a treat meal at home. So, if you want a Valentine’s meal on a budget, what could you go for?

I don’t want to have to do a lot of fancy cooking for a meal in. It’s not a treat if I have to spend ages preparing and clearing up. So I will be looking at easy options at the discount supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl. We will have two courses with some nice olives and nibbles to start with and, of course, some fizz.


Aldi do a nice pot of Greek olives with feta or some stuffed cherry peppers with ricotta, both for a mere £1.49. We have eaten these before and they are lovely. Alternatively we might chop up some cantaloupe melon from Lidl for 99p.

Main course

Lidl do a delicious looking Cheese and dill salmon wellington at £3.99. Fish would be a good choice for us, as I eat fish but not meat. Mr S eats pretty much anything!

Another Lidl choice might be two Deluxe salmon fillets for £3.75.

If you prefer a steak, as Mr S would, Lidl have two rump steaks with mustard butter for £4.99.

All of the above could be teamed with Aldi’s steak cut chips for 99p, or some baby potatoes from Lidl for 72p. Lidl also do a nice speciality broccoli for £1.15.


Lidl Deluxe continental apple tart for £1.99 or maybe a Deluxe Belgian chocolate cheesecake for 2.99.

Aldi offers a heavenly chocolate fudge cake for a mere £1.29 or a double chocolate gateau for £1.69.

Belgian chocolate luxury mousses are only 49p each at Aldi.


Aldi’s cheapest Prosecco is pretty good – we had some at Christmas. Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC comes in at just £5.49 a bottle. If you prefer your bubbles to be pink, Lidl do a very good Cava Rosado Brut at just £4.99.

Our Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

This is what we have chosen for our Valentine’s meal on a budget this year.


Greek olives with feta          £1.49

Main course

Salmon fillets (Lidl)              £3.75

Baby potatoes (Lidl)             72p

Hollandaise sauce (Lidl)     65p

Speciality broccoli                £1.15


Aldi heavenly chocolate cake   £1.29


Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC  £5.49

Our pretty luxurious three course meal with fizz comes in at £14.54. OK, we have to do the washing up ourselves, but it should be pretty minimal! A meal like this would cost a lot more in a restaurant, so I am happy with our Valentine’s meal on a budget.

As reader Laura points out, Tesco also does a mean meal deal of a main, a side, a pud and a drink for a tenner so it’s worth seeing if you fancy the choice there. We have tried both the Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s meal deals in the past and they are pretty good and excellent value.

Alternatively, you could go super cheap and have pizza and cola for £1.92, as suggested by Skint Dad in this post! Don’t think Mr S would be too impressed, but in the end if you were with your one true love…

Do you aim to save money on Valentine’s day, ignore it all together, or push the boat out on a restaurant meal?

More healthy dinners: this week’s #mealplan

healthy dinners

I am planning more healthy dinners this week. Being unwell for so long has made me determined to be super healthy and get better! I take so many pills at the moment I can’t wait to get this trapped nerve sorted once and for all. Still waiting for my MRI… I am doing some extremely gentle exercise whilst I wait, but plan a mega fitness regime as soon as I am sorted!

My two vegan days went well last week so I am doing the same again this week, on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t enjoy almond milk in my tea at all, although it was OK in my coffee and porridge. This week I am buying oat milk instead.

A week of healthy dinners


healthy meals

Aubergine and chick pea tagine. This sounds delicious. I haven’t made it before but came across it in an old recipe book that cost me 20p in a library sale. I use it a lot. It’s called The Cancer Prevention Cook Book, and it is chock full of lovely, healthy recipes with great photos. You can find it on Amazon still for about 40p! I recommend it!

There is couscous in the larder that really needs eating so I will serve some of that with this dish.


We will have a roast dinner today. Mr S will have roast chicken or a chop and I will have a nut cutlet, with roast potatoes, lots of veg and a Yorkshire pudding.

I will make plum crumble with our home grown plums that are in the freezer. If I use the vegan margarine this can be one of my vegan days and I will attempt to make custard with oat milk. Not sure how that will work out but I can but try!


Not strictly a vegan day, but I really fancy making a tomato and lentil dahl, again from the Cancer Prevention Cookbook. It uses ingredients I have in the cupboard anyway. We will have it with brown rice.


Salmon with potatoes and vegetables, with a hollandaise sauce. One of my favourite simple but healthy dinners.


Spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce and grated cheese. Mr S can have mince in his, as I bought lots of yellow stickered stuff which is in the freezer. I will make extra and freeze for some ready meals once I get back to work. We will have salad or veg with this, depending on what’s left.


healthy dinners

A nice bit of comfort food – macaroni cheese with a large salad and avocado. I will use whole wheat macaroni.


Probably the same again – I don’t mind eating the same thing two days in a row! Less cooking.

So this is our week of healthy dinners. Not much meat or fish, some pulses and lots of vegetables. What are you eating?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.

Sarah Brown’s Spiced Almond Risotto

spiced almond risotto

As I have finally commenced my new year’s resolution to eat completely vegan twice a week, I have been looking up some recipes in my old cookbooks. Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen is one of my favourite go to veggie recipe books, and contains a lot of vegan dishes too. On Sunday I made this yummy dish, as per my flexitarian meal plan. It was really nice with a nice big salad. If you have a meat eater in the house, as I do, it goes well with a roast chicken thigh or two.

Spiced almond risotto

Serves 4


1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove crushed garlic

6oz brown rice

3 sticks of celery

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 pint boiling water

2 oz sultanas

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

4 oz almonds

Salt and pepper to season


spiced almond risotto

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and fry the onion, garlic and rice for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the celery, sliced, along with the spices and fry for 3 minutes more. Pour over the boiling water and add the sultanas, mushrooms, pepper and almonds. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes,, until the rice is cooked. Ideally you want all of the water to be absorbed but keep checking to make sure the rice doesn’t boil dry. Add more liquid if you need to. Season well to taste.

I hope you enjoy this spiced almond risotto as much as we did.

This post contains affiliate links.

A flexitarian diet? This week’s meal plan

The Flexitarian DietA flexitarian diet?

Did anybody see the story in the news this week about the ideal diet we should all be adopting? This so-called ‘flexitarian diet’ promises to make us all healthier, feed 10 billion people and prevent the catastrophic damage our current food and farming practices do to the planet. You can read the details here.

It reminded me that my new year’s resolution was to eat vegan twice a week and has inspired me to get on with it. Because we had the cheese mountain left over from Christmas I didn’t start it as I didn’t want to waste the cheese. We still have some but it is at a more manageable level, so now is the time to belatedly start my resolution. I am going to do it on Sundays and Mondays as a minimum.

Now that I have heard of the flexitarian diet, it seems it is well established, with a plethora of books available to get you started. I like the look of this one on Amazon,
The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way To Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, And Add Years To Your Lifeflexitarian diet

I like the idea of losing weight and adding years to my life!

When I go shopping I will buy almond or oat milk for my breakfast porridge. I can’t stomach soya. I already have some vegan margarine that needs eating. Otherwise, I actually eat quite a lot of vegan meals at dinner time anyway. I will buy some dairy free dark chocolate though! A girl needs a treat, flexitarian diet or not.

A pot of humous should be fine for my lunches with pitta bread and salad.

I have to be mindful that this is my resolution and not Mr S’s. He doesn’t want to give up meat or dairy altogether although he is happy to eat more vegetables and grains.


Vegetable spaghetti Bolognese, made with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, celery and half a tin of mung beans that have been frozen. This could be vegan, but I will grate some of the cheese up to eat with this. Mr S has a meat Bolognese batch cooked from the freezer.

We have strawberry yogurt in the fridge that needs eating for dessert.


Sarah Brown’s spiced almond risotto with salad. Mr S will have a couple of chicken thighs with his.

For some reason we have a ton of ground almonds, so I plan to use some of them up in this vegan lemon drizzle cake. No idea how it will come out without eggs, but I am happy to experiment. This will be good for dessert this week or just a snack with a cup of tea.


Chick pea curry, with added spinach and chapatis.


Probably chick pea curry again. Chicken curry for Mr S.


Penne with tuna and black olives. Steamed broccoli.


Leftovers. Whatever is hanging about from this week’s meals.


Baked potatoes with an omelette and large salad.

So there you have our meals for this week. My version of the flexitarian diet. Not strictly vegan or even vegetarian, but incorporating a lot of plant based meals and not much meat, fish or dairy. Hopefully, this will make us healthier and perhaps a bit leaner. What are your thoughts on trying to feed yourself and your family using the flexitarian diet?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links.


This week’s frugal meal plan 12th January 2019

Frugal meal plan

Again this week I want to spend as little as possible on groceries to go along with my no spend January. So it is another frugal meal plan!

We mostly stuck to last week’s meal plan, although ended up eating spaghetti Bolognese two nights in a row as I made quite a lot. There are two portions in the freezer too, as well as some of the spicy parsnip soup that I made. The cheese mountain is still in the fridge, so I will be incorporating cheese into our meals as well.

Frugal meal plan, 12th January


Kipper kedgeree with hard boiled eggs. I often make this. It is super cheap as kippers cost so little compared to smoked haddock, for example. Still lots of healthy fish oils, too. Grated carrot salad and avocado on the side.


Nut cutlet or pork chop with roast potatoes, broccoli, Yorkshire puddings and home made gravy.

Apple crumble with windfalls given by a neighbour with natural Greek yogurt or custard. I was recently delighted to find that, despite being lactose intolerant, I can cope with proper stained Greek yogurt, which I love. Apparently, when it is strained it loses a lot of the lactose.


Macaroni multi-cheese (i.e. mac cheese made with various hard cheeses from the fridge) with more carrot salad and avocado.


Chick pea curry with rice and poppadoms. Might do a chicken curry to go alongside this for the carnivores.


We are having a little party to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday! The plan is to make afternoon tea, with sandwiches, sausage rolls, a giant pig in blanket that I bought at Christmas but never used and an assortment of crisps. This will be followed by birthday cake (which I will make) and some shop bought cream cakes. We also have lots of Prosecco left from Christmas. I can’t drink it because of my painkillers, but I expect the others will have a glass or two.

I don’t think we will want a big dinner after that little lot, so will just do some baked potatoes with cheese and salad for tea.


Salmon fillet with home made air fryer sweet potato chips and peas/broccoli.


Fish in breadcrumbs from the freezer, with home made air fryer chips and frozen peas.

So this is my frugal meal plan. What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

A meal plan for a low spend January

Running alongside my no spend January I am doing a low spend food month. Like many people, we have lots of food in the house post Christmas. Mainly cheese! For some reason we went a little mad on the stuff. Luckily it lasts a long time if it isn’t opened. I want to spend as little as I can get away with on food this month to maximise our savings, so here is my meal plan for a low spend January.

low spend January

Meal plan for a low spend January


Blue cheese pasta with salad and garlic bread. This will use up some of the Stilton and some lettuce that needs eating too. I don’t usually have ready made garlic bread in the freezer but my daughter bought some when she was home.

Because there is a lot of frozen fruit from the garden, I will also make a plum crumble to have over the next few days with custard. Mr S is a sucker for an old fashioned pud.


Fish pie. We have cod in the freezer but I will need to nip to the shop for some more spuds to make this. We will eat broccoli and carrots alongside this and have more of the crumble for dessert. I have one sad sweet potato in fridge so will add that to the mash.low spend


Fish pie again. There should be leftovers. Peas from the freezer to accompany it this time with more carrots as we have a large bag to eat up.


Sausages, onion gravy and mashed swede (there is some in the freezer) mixed with potatoes. I have meaty sausages as well as the veggie sort. Probably peas and carrots again with this.


Spaghetti Bolognese. I will make two lots, one veggie and one meaty and freeze whatever we don’t eat. Then we will have some quick and easy ready meals for when we are too busy or can’t be bothered to cook! There is Quorn mince in the freezer so I will use that up.


Veggie burgers with home made chips from the air fryer. I will make a salad of grated carrots, chives and tinned sweetcorn to go alongside this.


Cheese omelettes, bakes potatoes and carrot salad.

low spend

In addition, I will make some spicy parsnip soup to use up a bag we have. As I type this, I have a big pot of home made vegetable stock on, made with all the peelings and odds and ends of veg from the last couple of weeks. I keep old ice cream containers in the freezer and fill them up as I go along. This makes a super thrifty, nutritious and delicious base for a soup.

I can foresee quite a few versions of cheese on toast to go alongside the soup for our lunches. We also have tinned sardines so may go for sardines on toast too. No one can say we aren’t wildly adventurous!

Because we have so much cheese in the house, I am putting my plan to eat vegan twice a week on hold. I don’t want to waste any food!

Are you on a low spend January too? What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

What are we eating? This week’s budget meal plan

budget meal plan

At this time of year, when there is so much to spend your money on, it is particularly important to stick to the budget. Meal planning keeps me organised, stops me spending too much and prevents food from going to waste. We buy what we need and no more.  Here is this week’s budget meal plan.

This week’s budget meal plan


We have all three daughters for dinner – quite a rare occasion these days. We are having Spanish cod bake. It should be made with chorizo, but I substitute this for tinned anchovies. It is a delicious dinner from the Ocado website. They have lots of lovely recipes on there.

We will have it with chopped greens and carrots. No 1 daughter is bringing pudding.


We are out for the day and will probably have lunch out. So tea needs to be easy. We will have jacket potatoes with beans and cheese, accompanied by a green salad.


Macaroni cheese and salad. I like a lot of sauce on my mac cheese. If there is veg hanging about, such as mushrooms or sweetcorn, I will throw those in too to use them up.


I quite fancy a quick and easy mushroom stroganoff, like this one. I can’t eat soya so I will substitute this for Lactofree cream. If there is salad left we will eat that or maybe have a corn on the cob from the freezer.


budget meal plan

Pie, mash, broccoli, peas and gravy. Another quick dinner for after work as I bought these mushroom and camembert pies from Tesco Groceries the other week. They have a 3 for £4 offer on a lot of their frozen vegetarian products still, which is good value I think. I hope these are as nice as they sound!

Thursday and Friday

Red wine and mushroom risotto.  I will make enough of this to last two meals as it is going to be a busy week and it gives me a night off cooking!

As I type this, I have just realised that this week’s budget meal plan is heavy on the mushrooms! Never mind – I love mushrooms!

What are you eating this week? For inspiration on a budget meal plan see my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Eight of the best frugal food blogs to help you save money

best frugal food blogs

I love food and experimenting with recipes and, just because I am on a budget, I don’t want to eat badly. Glossy cookbooks and food programmes are all very well, but sometimes require fancy ingredients that are expensive. This is why when I want inspiration I go to my favourite frugal food blogs. (Incidentally, some of my own frugal recipes are to be found here.)

Here are some of the best frugal food blogs, in no particular order.

Best Frugal Food Blogs

Cooking on a Bootstrap

Master of the budget recipe is Jack Monroe. It started with A Girl Called Jack, but you will now find the blog at Cooking on a Bootstrap. What I like about Jack is the recipe descriptions – there is often a story behind a particular creation – and the way the cost of each recipe is so carefully calculated. The cooking here is all vegan now, but that makes it interesting and very cheap.

Reduced Grub

Kelly at Reduced Grub is well worth a visit. She has loads of recipes on her blog. They aren’t as cheap as some of the other blogs I have mentioned, but still good family food on a budget. She has recently appeared on Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money.

Diary of a Frugal Family

Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family is the winner of the 2018 SHOMOS award for best frugal food blog.  She emphasises the importance of meal planning, which is my mantra too for those attempting to stick to a budget. This is good, family food and includes plenty of delicious home baking.

Thrifty Lesley

Thrifty Lesley shows you how to feed yourself for £1 a day. The recipes are interesting and healthy too. Lesley uses very little meat, which is how her food is so cheap I think. This is a clever and well organised blog. She has written menu plans to help you stick to the £1 a day budget, whatever your circumstances. There is even a no power meal plan, aimed at people who have no power in their accommodation. This is serious stuff and really useful.

Utterly Scrummy Food for Families

A brand new blog to me is Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, which has an emphasis on budgeting and meal planning. Michelle presents plenty of inspiration and advice on using leftovers, reducing your food bills and producing delicious meals on a budget. I particularly fancy this potato and vegetable bake. My kind of frugal food blog!

Eat Not Spend

Jane from Eat Not Spend is the author of Home Economics: How to eat like a king on a budget. Who could resist such a promise? The blog is well organised, with shopping lists and meal plans to suit everyone. The vegan chocolate cakes looks good, which uses avocado to create a creamy topping.

Thrifty Cook

Although it doesn’t appear to have been updated for a while, Thrifty Cook is still full of useful and tasty looking budget recipes. The spinach and mushroom pancakes sound delicious! This is another one that is light on the meat, making it great if you are looking for vegetarian food.

Frugal Food

Faye’s blog, Frugal Food, does what it says on the tin. She focusses on producing frugal meals with quality ingredients. Being frugal doesn’t have to mean being cheap! Some recipes are quite adventurous, but sound delicious, such as Toro Rosso pie, made with minced beef and Hungarian sausage hot pot.

Which frugal food blogs inspire you? I hope you enjoy my suggestions..

Note: I first published my best frugal food blogs post in 2017. However, with the sad loss of Frugal Queen, I thought it was due an update. I hope you enjoy it!

Stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

This vegan dish of stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews is simplicity itself, a budget, healthy meal that takes just 15 minutes to prepare. It is also gluten free if you make sure you use rice noodles. You can chuck pretty much any crunchy vegetables into this. I often use carrots or greens, peas and green beans too.

Stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

Serves 2-3


2-3 tbsp sesame oil

2-3 tbsp soy sauce

One heaped tsp Marigold vegan stock

1 chopped onion

2 celery sticks, chopped into matchsticks

1 red pepper sliced

Half a head of broccoli, chopped into small florets

200g mushrooms, sliced

100 g cashew nuts, toasted for a few minutes in a dry frying pan


Heat 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the onions and celery and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then throw in the rest of your vegetables. Keep stirring and tossing the veg over quite a high heat for a few more minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook and drain the rice noodles. This should only take 4 minutes or so in boiling water. Add your soy sauce and stir, then add the stock dissolved in enough hot water to barely cover your veg. Stir thoroughly and taste. Add the extra spoonful of sesame oil and more soy sauce to taste. Stir in your noodles and serve immediately with your toasted cashews sprinkled on top.

This dish of stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashew nuts is super healthy and easy. If you like you can add some ginger for a bit of a kick too.

For more of my frugal recipe ideas see my recipe page.


Money saving meal plan

This week’s meal plan is a bit late, as we actually started it yesterday! I can’t stress how important it is to me to plan our meals. It means we eat healthily for less, and we don’t waste food. As we approach Christmas, we can’t afford to throw our money in the bin, so a money saving meal plan is essential.

Money saving meal plan


money saving meal plan

The weather here in Essex is cold, grey and wet, as it probably is anywhere in the UK right now. So a hearty, warming vegetable casserole is a good plan. I used celery, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, peas with a good veg stock, thickened with a little flour and flavoured with rosemary and bay leaves.

The slow cooker is out and will be quite a lot through the winter I suspect. We will eat this with creamy mashed potato.


money saving meal planningA ready made nut cutlet for me and a pork chop for Mr S with roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Tesco do a really nice nut cutlet I have discovered, and they are currently on offer at three packs for £4. A good price!


Work is always super busy on Monday and I am likely to be tired. I will go for a vegetable stir fry with noodles and toasted cashew nuts. It takes very little effort and is really delicious. I will post this recipe soon!


Tuna pasta casserole with salad. This is super cheap and easy budget food.


Fisherman’s pie. I will keep this simple and cheap, using frozen haddock and hard boiled eggs in a white sauce with mashed potatoes on top.

money saving meal plan


Spaghetti cheese casserole. This is the ultimate comfort food and we have it regularly.


Cheese omelettes with air fried chips and peas. I am still enjoying using my air fryer! Chips cook so quickly in it – just as quick as frozen oven chips, just healthier.

This week’s money saving meal plan uses up food we already have, which means I won’t have to do any extra shopping this week, apart from some cheese, salad and milk.  What are you planning food wise?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

money saving meal plan

Super healthy meal plan!

Why a super healthy meal plan?  Well, last week we had no meal plan. We were both ill with a nasty winter vomiting thing and didn’t feel much like food. As soon as I started to feel more human I made vegetable stock and a big pot of veggie soup from that. I wanted maximum nutrition but could only eat something very light.

This week I want to be super healthy so that we can ward off any of the flu bugs that seem to be rife! Got to love winter!healthy meal plan

Our kitchen spoons are mostly plastic and seem to have all started breaking. I have invested in this set of stainless steel ones, since I am trying to avoid plastic wherever possible. It’s a shame the plastic ones can’t be recycled. Hopefully the stainless steel ones will last forever.

This week’s super healthy meal plan


Out for dinner at a friends so I don’t have much control over this. I will offer a fruit salad for dessert.


We have some haddock and salmon in the freezer so will make a parsley sauce and have broccoli, carrots and mashed potatoes with it.

I also plan a banana loaf with three bananas that are past their best. Don’t want to waste them.


Salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot and avocado. We seem to have a lot of pre-prepared vegetarian items like rissoles and burgers in the freezer. I had a tidy up and found some lurking at the back. They will go with the salad, maybe with some boiled potatoes.


Tuna with penne and olives. There should be leftover salad to go with this. We eat this a lot as it is quick, healthy, cheap and easy to make.


Vegetable casserole made in the slow cooker with carrots, onions, celery, peas, parsnips and mushrooms. Everything in the fridge, basically. Mr S can have the same thing with a couple of chicken thighs in his. We will have this with rice.


healthy meal plan

Vegetable Lincolnshire sausages with mash, gravy and kale.


Our usual easy end of week dinner. Cheese omelette with a baked sweet potato and whatever vegetables are left in the fridge.

I am buying black grapes and oranges this week. We have loads of apples donated by a neighbour, so we can snack on fruit. Plain Greek yogurt with honey is another nice dessert option. I buy the lactose free version from Asda when I am passing. The packs of mixed nuts from Lidl are also good for healthy snacking.

That doesn’t mean I won’t eat chocolate or drink wine! But as I have had neither for a week, I won’t go crazy. Silver lining – I managed to lose 4 lb!

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

The importance of meal planning

I am finally coming out the other side of having a ridiculously painful trapped nerve in my neck. After 8 weeks, I can keep it under control and have been back at work full time. Meal planning is even more important when you are unwell. I have organised meals that don’t take long to prepare with easy ingredients. I will carry on in this way until I am completely better.

Meal planning is something I do because it saves us time and money. I don’t know about you, but as we approach Christmas there seems to be little of either. Meal planning may very well help save your sanity too!

meal planningSaturday

Basa fillets with crispy potatoes, vegetables and parsley sauce. I would love to say I am making the sauce from scratch, but I’m going for speed and convenience on this one with a 30p sauce mix.

I have to get the cat to the vets and clean the house today so need to save time where I can.


We have guests for lunch today. They are pescatarians like myself, but I am planning on a proper veggie dinner. We are having red dragon pie with vegetables and onion gravy. For pudding we will have fruit crumble and custard. I love this recipe from Jack Monroe, but will add some apples since we have some needing using.


Something from the freezer as it’s just me. If there happens to be leftovers from Sunday that will be good….


We have lots of stuff in the freezer. My daughter purchased quite a few packs of vegetarian sausages, fritters, etc but never got round to eating them so left them with me. I will give them a go! Mr S will have pork chops and we will both have mashed potatoes and broccoli.


Tuna pasta bake.  Something warm and comforting. I think I will go for this recipe, or might just make it up as I go along.


Leftover tuna pasta bake.


I bought some lovely sweet potatoes the other day so we will have one baked with an omelette and maybe salad if we have some kicking around.

meal planning

Lunches at this time of year are generally home made soups, salads or sandwiches. We still have plenty of the curried pumpkin I made last weekend in the freezer. If I have time I will make a fruit cake. This recipe is an all in one super easy one.

So that’s our meal planning done for the week. What will you be eating?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.



Mega thrifty home made vegetable stock

home made vegetable stock

Home made vegetable stock

A good stock is the basis of so many great recipes. But did you know you can make the best and thriftiest home made vegetable stock from the bits of your veg you would usually throw away?

Home made vegetable stock is so easy and means that you can use all the trimmings and peelings from your veg that might go in the compost, food waste bin or even in your trash. It is a way to take every last bit of goodness from your food, as many of the vitamins are directly under the skin.

I don’t always peel my veg but when I do, rather than put the peelings and trimmings in the compost bin as I used to do I put them in an old ice cream container in the freezer. Once I have a couple of containers full, it is time to make the stock. Really anything will do, but I don’t use the peel from onions as they are bitter.

home made vegetable stock


All you need to do is place your vegetable peelings into a large saucepan with a large onion chopped in half. a stick of celery sliced in two, 10 or so black peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves. Just cover with water and bring to the boil. Add a teaspoon or two of salt.  Cover and simmer for two hours.

When your home made vegetable stock is cool, strain it and discard the vegetable matter in your food waste bin or wormery, if you are lucky enough to have one.

I use it to make soup usually and have a batch ready for some pumpkin soup once now that we have finished with our Halloween lantern. It has a great flavour already so will add to the soup. Do you make home made vegetable stock from your trimmings?

For more of my frugal food ideas, see my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

This week’s meal plan: low waste shopping

low waste shopping

I am going to try to do our grocery shop a little differently this weekend. I may have to hit the supermarket at some point, but I intend to get into town today and buy as much as possible from the food coop that I recently joined as well as a fabulous greengrocer and international store I have just discovered. My aim is to buy food with as little packaging as possible so I am going for low waste shopping. It still needs to be low cost though, so I am not going to bust the budget!

It will be interesting to discover how I get on with this. However, I don’t always have time to travel into town. Nipping into Aldi on the way home saves a lot of time.

This week’s meal plan is therefore subject to change, depending on what I pick up. To be honest, it is always subject to change, depending on my mood, the time available, etc. However, sticking to a general meal plan always saves both time and money.

The plan is to use up as much of the Halloween pumpkin as possible in soup this weekend, but if I have time I might make some pumpkin muffins too.

This week’s low waste shopping meal plan

low waste shoppingSaturday

Some kind of fish with mini roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Maybe smoked haddock. I will see what looks good!


Pork chops or vegetable rissoles with creamed mixed root vegetables. We have parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and swede.


Pumpkin soup with a jacket potato and grated cheese.

low waste shopping


Prawns with vermicelli – love the look of this! Simple and tasty food.


Creamy egg curry with rice and poppadoms.


Risotto from the freezer with vegetables.


Stir fry vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews.

Sadly, we no longer have a fishmonger in town so my fish will come from the supermarket. However, we still have one butcher and a couple of greengrocers, some bakeries and a couple of health food shops so I will attempt to get the other ingredients we need from them.  We also have a small market but it sells very little food – just fruit and vegetables. Low waste shopping may not be as easy as it once was, but I am going to give it a try.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my tips on meal planning, try this post.



Home made croutons: stop wasting bread

Stop wasting bread – make croutons!

stop wasting bread

I recently read that 32% of bread is thrown away in the UK. This is a staggering waste of this food staple. It is so cheap that we don’t value it, so it is easy to eat half a loaf and then chuck the rest if it is a bit stale or mouldy. I am always looking for ways reduce food waste – and save money – and there are endless recipes to stop wasting bread. Be it bread pudding, breadcrumbs, bread and butter pudding, apple Charlotte or gazpacho, there is much you can do rather than chuck those unused loaves in your bin.

stop wasting bread

My latest favourite way to stop wasting bread is to make croutons, especially now that soup season is upon us. They are so easy and quick. If you have never made croutons, give this a try and I swear you will never buy them again.

The quantities below are a bit loose, as it depends how much bread you have to use up.

Garlic and oregano croutons


stop wasting bread

About a third of a loaf of stale bread. If it is mouldy at the crusts, be sure to remove these.

Garlic oil

Dried oregano



Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade or equivalent. Chop your bread into cubes. How big or small is up to you, but I like them around 1 to 1.5 inches square  so that they are crispy throughout. Place them in a bowl and drizzle on your oil, until they are fairly evenly coated but not soaked. Add a teaspoon or two of oregano plus a teaspoon or so of salt and toss to mix. Grease a baking tray and spread them over in a single layer.

Place the tray in the oven for 5 minutes. After this take them out and toss them, then give them a further 5 minutes to crisp up. Et voila! Crispy and delicious croutons in about 15 minutes. They are delicious with soup, on salads or even just as a snack.

Once cool they can be stored in an airtight jar and will last a week or so. You can vary the seasonings depending on what you have. If you have no garlic oil, crush a clove finely and mix with the oil before pouring over.

What do you do to stop wasting bread?

For more food ideas, see my frugal recipes page here.

A no shopping week: this week’s meal plan

I am not planning a shop at all this week, as we still have quite a lot of food in the house. Our meal plan will be based on what we can find in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. It is a no shopping week!

I am still recovering from my trapped nerve, although it does feel a little better. Even so, I am keeping it super easy.

no shopping week

A meal plan for no shopping week


Cheese omelettes, jacket potatoes and salad. We need something really easy as we were up at 4 in the morning taking our student for her bus. 4 am on a Saturday!!!! How did I get talked into that?


We will have a roast today. Mr S has chicken thighs and I have nut cutlets in the freezer. Will have roast potatoes, lots of veg and Yorkshires.


All being well with my neck pain, I hope to be back at work. I expect to be tired and I am not planning on any major cooking. Mr S won’t be here, so I will make do with bread and soup.


Penne with tuna and black olives. This is a healthy store cupboard favourite that is quick to make too.


Prawn risotto, as I have both prawns and peppers in the freezer, with salad.


Fish and chips – nothing home made here. Both from the freezer. We will have peas with this and some salad if there is any left. I have a massage booked for my neck and shoulder so I need something quick anyway.


Slow cooker vegetable casserole. I will chop it all up before work and chuck it in the slow cooker. I love coming home to something warming from the slow cooker.

Not the most inspiring of menus, I realise, but I am not pushing myself until I am completely better! I will embrace my no shopping week as it saves time and money.

One more thing before you go…

One more plea to vote for Shoestring Cottage in the SHOMOS Peoples Vote, if you haven’t already. You need to do it before the 31st October. Here is the link.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my tips on meal planning, try this post.

Feeding a teenager: this week’s meal plan

We have a French language student arriving later today for the week. I have been doing this long enough to know that feeding a teenager is not the same as providing food for anyone else. Sure, some of them are pretty adventurous and will eat all of the meals we usually eat. More often than not, however, they are fussy!

Feeding a teenager could mean eating just brown food for the week. I am not prepared to go that far, but I will adapt some meals to include common foods beloved by teenagers the world over. As long as there isn’t lots of waste, I don’t mind this.

If she was  MY teenager, I would make her eat all the weird stuff. However, as she is a guest, we will eat quite conservatively for a week.

We will provide all meals each day. Breakfast will be cereals, toast or baguettes, jam, marmalade, etc. Lunch is two rolls with ham or cheese, some crisps, fruit, cake and water (they will get theirs in a reusable bottle as I refuse to buy it in disposable plastic). Then each evening we will eat our main meal together.

feeding a teenager

A meal plan for feeding a teenager


Pizza and salad. The coach is arriving quite late and I don’t think they will want a heavy meal before bed. Fruit or yogurt for pudding.


The students are off on a coach tour to Harry Potter World today. I plan to make a beef and mushroom casserole for them and Mr S. I will make a veggie stew for me and put any spare in the freezer. Chocolate cake for pudding.


Macaroni au gratin from Delia’s Frugal Food. This contains bacon, so I will make a smaller separate one without bacon for me. Fruit, yogurt or cake for pudding.


Burgers, buns and air fried chips, probably with some salad too. I will have a veggie burger. Fruit, yogurt or cake for pudding.


Creamy mustard chicken from A Girl Called Jack. I will make one without the chicken for me and serve both with rice and vegetables. Fruit, yogurt or ice cream for pudding.


Chicken or Quorn kievs with vegetables and jacket potatoes. Fruit, yogurt or ice cream for pudding.


Cheese omelettes, home made chips and corn on the cob. Fruit, yogurt or ice cream for pudding.

We only have dessert once or twice a week usually, but I am obliged to offer a pud to my guest. Does anyone else host language students and what do you feed them? Do you have any tips for feeding a teenager?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my tips on meal planning, try this post.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. Thanks!


Buying nothing: this week’s vegetarian meal plan

Mr S is away this week, so it is just me, the lodger and the cats! The lodger can take care of her own meals, thank goodness, so I can please myself.  I am still trying to get through the bulk purchase of Quorn that I bought on offer months ago, before I realised nobody likes Quorn…. my challenge is to use up quite a lot of it in this week’s vegetarian meal plan.

I am also giving myself an easy week by doubling up on meals. I will make enough for four, eat two portions over a couple of days and freeze the rest for another time. I barely need to buy anything – just milk, fruit, some oil, some salad leaves and maybe some broccoli, so it is going to be a very cheap week.

A vegetarian meal plan


vegetarian meal plan

Quorn spaghetti bolognese. I will use this recipe from BBC Good Food, as I think the addition of red wine will make it more tasty. We have a bottle open and I am not drinking alcohol at the moment so I need to use it up anyway.

I will make a salad from lettuce, spinach and grated raw carrot.


You guessed it – I will have the Quorn spaghetti bolognese again and eat it with more of the salad.


Potato curry. I will try to publish this recipe next week. I really enjoyed it and it is so cheap and tasty. I will make four portions and freeze two.


My daughter will be round for tea. She is not a curry fan, so instead we will have veggie burgers from the freezer with sweet potato chips cooked in my VonShef Digital Air Fryer and some salad.


More of the potato curry with rice.


vegetarian meal plan

Vegetable sausages from the freezer with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I am still on the search for the perfect non-soya veggie banger. These are from Asda and are butternut squash, sweet potato and red pepper sausages. They are OK, but not really what I call a sausage – more a vegetable pattie.


My usual Friday omelette, possibly with air fryer chips, maybe just salad, depending on how hungry I am.

So, a really simple vegetarian meal plan this week. Next week I have a French student for a week, so I will have to do some shopping and have a good think about meals they might enjoy.

What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at their blogs. For more of my tips on meal planning, try  this post.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

Cheap and filling spuds for this week’s budget meals

budget meals

I found a very promising potato cook book in the charity shop this morning for 50p, all about cooking with potatoes. Spuds are delicious in so many forms. I am hoping this makes me a bit more adventurous when using this very cheap and filling ingredient.  Going to use some of these for our budget meals this week and in the coming weeks.

This week’s budget meals


Fish pie. We have all three daughters here for this. I am using cheap frozen blocks of cod with a few prawns and some hard boiled eggs, topped with a creamy sauce and finally mashed potatoes. We will have this with kale.


No cooking today. We are off to my sister’s house to see my nephew. He lives in Thailand now and we haven’t seen him for three years. We are all so looking forward to catching up.


Vegetable burgers with home made chips cooked in the air fryer and salad. I  tried some from Amy’s Kitchen, but I have to say I am not keen on the taste or the texture. They are incredibly bland. Still they will be fine with some ketchup, hopefully. I can’t waste them!


budget meals

Potato curry from my bargain potato cookery book. The recipe calls for cauliflower. I can’t stomach this sadly, so I will replace it with broccoli to add some colour and nutrition. Mr S loves a curry. We will eat this with poppadoms and mango chutney.


Spanish tortilla and salad. Again, I will use the recipe in my potato book.

Thursday and Friday

Macaroni cheese with lots of vegetables. This is a quick and easy after work supper. I will make double quantity and have the same on Friday, as I am bound to be tired at the end of the week.

budget meals

This is a relatively easy week of budget meals. The fibromyalgia is still playing up and I still have a lot of pain in my shoulder, so I am taking it easy. What are you planning to eat this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes – Book Review

I can’t believe I have never written a review of Girl Called Jack, as I really thought I had. This is a book I use a lot, as you will notice if you following any of my weekly meal planning posts.  Still, better late than never!

A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes was Jack Monroe’s first book, which grew from the original blog (now called Cooking on a Bootstrap). The recipes came from Jack trying to eat healthily on a suddenly massively reduced budget when, as parent to a 4 year old, the reality of a year being unemployed hit. Jack experimented with cheaper ingredients from the supermarket budget ranges and found it was possible, after all, to stretch the budget and eat well.

“There’s no tarting about, no fancy ingredients, but still, when I call my friends and invite them over for dinner, I manage to fill a table and they manage to clear their plates with compliments and smiles and disbelief that I do it so cheaply.” 

I love that you don’t need a dried porcini mushroom, a sun-dried tomato or even actual risotto rice to make some of the recipes in A Girl Called Jack. As soon as you get all ‘cheffy’ your budget tends to go out of the window!

A girl called jack

From home made breads, through soups made with store cupboard ingredients thick enough for dinner, to spicy pulse dishes and meaty casseroles, there is a breadth of variety here. A Girl Called Jack has recipes for the vegan, vegetarian and confirmed carnivore. There are some very nice puddings too.


The recipes that we have eaten regularly include pork kokkinistou, chicken chasseur, creamy mustard chicken with winter veg, and sausage and lentil one pot dinner. Now that I am vegetarian I enjoy her earthy red wine and mustard risotto, mushroom chasseur and vegetable masala curry. The carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers are legendary.

I tend to ignore the tinned vegetables in recipes as I prefer fresh or frozen. However, tinned are often cheaper if your budget is tiny.

Not all of the recipes are successful. We really didn’t enjoy creamy salmon pasta with a chilli lemon kick, made with a jar of salmon paste. The hummus is too thick and dry for me.

I am also not a fan of fruit in savoury dishes, such as Jack’s roman pasta with mandarins and a creamy basil sauce or peach and chick pea curry.  They might be nice but we have avoided them!

All in all though, A Girl Called Jack is one of my favourite go to recipe books. I have the subsequent two – A Year in 120 Recipes and Cooking on a Bootstrap, but this will forever be my favourite I think.

Anybody else got this book? What do you think?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

This week’s shoestring meal plan 29th September

shoestring meal plan

Something has triggered my ongoing neck and shoulder issue and it is killing me! I am rubbing on the ibuprofen gel and stuffing painkillers at regular intervals. This week’s shoestring meal plan needs to be straightforward in case it continues. Otherwise it will be egg on toast made by Mr Shoestring or the chippy. This is where I really wish he could cook!

It’s a good job he does lots of other stuff. He never stops. The garden is looking incredibly tidy at the moment and he has been cutting back great swathes of greenery at his mum’s too. He will have biceps like Desperate Dan at this rate!

This week’s shoestring meal plan


Chicken or mushroom chasseur with rice. I tend to use Jack Monroe’s recipes for both from A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes. The plan was to give you a link to these on the Cooking on a Bootstrap website, but alas – they don’t appear to be there. This book is so worth buying if you don’t have it already. Darling Daughter no 3 is home this weekend so she will lend a hand.

I am intrigued by this peanut butter and jam crumble from Jack. We have lots of apples so if I have time this weekend I shall adapt it slightly to use these. Sounds delicious! We all love pretty much anything with custard. I will make this the old fashioned way with custard powder so that 1) it’s lactose free and 2) I don’t have any packaging to throw away.


Mr S will have a pork fillet and I will use the last slice of the cashew and mushroom roast from last weekend – both from the freezer. I will serve this with roast potatoes and vegetables.


Sweet potato, chick pea and spinach curry from Jamie Oliver. I have the day off work so will have time to make this, although it looks pretty straightforward. We have leftover chapatis in the freezer, which were lovely, so we can use those up with this.


Cheese and onion burgers with air fried chips and peas. If there are sweet potatoes left from the curry I will use those for the chips rather than ordinary spuds.


Sardine spaghetti. Cheap, healthy and easy.  I tend to use the sardines in tomato sauce for this, rather than in olive oil, as this recipe suggests. If there are salad leaves left we will use these as an accompaniment. If not, I will just make a quick salad of tinned sweetcorn and grated carrot.


Pho. We still love this Vietnamese noodle soup dish and it is very quick to make. We replaced the bean sprouts with pak choi last time we made it and it was nicer, so shall do this again. Darling daughter no 1 will be over for dinner and this is her speciality so I will leave her to it.


End of week omelette, chips and salad. I can never be bothered to mess around on a Friday night!

So, this is my shoestring meal plan for the week. Here’s hoping the neck pain abates and I can get on with things. It is hard to sleep and then even harder to concentrate at the moment. Still, no point moaning. Onward and upwards.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Sarah Brown’s Layered Cashew and Mushroom Roast

cashew and mushroom roast

This delicious vegetarian cashew and mushroom roast features in my meal plans from time to time and is always a hit. It is from Sarah Brown’s classic veggie cookery book, Vegetarian Kitchen, which features loads of timeless and reliable dishes.

You could make your cashew and mushroom roast gluten free very easily by whizzing up the ends of a gluten free loaf for the breadcrumbs. Leave out the egg and fry your mushrooms in oil to make it vegan. I am sure it will bind pretty well without it.

Layered Cashew and Mushroom Roast

Serves 6


1 tbsp oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

8oz (225g) cashew nuts

4 oz (110g) fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg

3 med parsnips, cooked and mashed

1tsp rosemary

1tsp thyme

1 tsp yeast extract, dissolved in 1/4 pint boiling water


1 0z (25g) butter

8 oz (225g) mushrooms


Heat the oven to 180C. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil gently until soft. Grind the cashew nuts (I just whizz them in my food processor), then mix with the breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg, then stir in the mashed parsnips, herbs and onion. Mix well and then add the yeast extract dissolved in the hot water. Season with some salt and pepper.

Melt the butter or oil and saute the chopped mushrooms. Grease and line a 2lb (900g) and press in half of the nut mixture. Cover with the mushrooms and then top with the rest of the nut mix. Press down, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. I like to remove the foil for the last 10 minutes to slightly brown the top. Leave it in the tin for another 10 minutes to cool before turning it out and slicing.

We enjoy this with all the usual Sunday roast trimmings and some veggie gravy.

I wish I knew what had happened to Sarah Brown. She has some other books available but nothing very recent. I keep saying it is high time there was another vegetarian TV series, so maybe she will come back?

Check out my other favourite recipes here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

This week’s frugal eating plan

As I have been having fun this week using up the grape harvest, this week we will be mainly eating grape jelly! I haven’t made any jam for ages. In truth, I hadn’t even thought about preserving grapes in this way, but someone suggested it on Facebook, so I thought ‘Why not?’ I love pottering around in the kitchen when I have the time and I really didn’t want to waste them. This week’s frugal meal plan continues to use up odds and ends and keep waste to a minimum.

Frugal eatingI am determined to have an easy week though, so won’t be doing major cooking whilst I am working.

This week’s frugal eating meal plan


Frugal eatingLeftovers from my dinner party: Cashew nut and mushroom loaf, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Apple and almond pudding with home made custard.


Smoked mackerel with new potatoes and salad.


frugal eating

Tuna penne with black olives. I will make enough of this to eat on Tuesday too. We will have this with carrot salad as we have a large bag in the fridge.


As above. I can save my energy to do a bit of yoga or just chill with a glass of wine :).


We have various odds and ends of fish in the freezer and a can of anchovies in the cupboard. I think I will make Delia Smith’s utterly delicious baked fish with potatoes. A simple but filling and tasty dish.


A risotto ‘ready meal’ from a large batch cooked last week and stored in the freezer, with whatever veg or salad needs using.


frugal eatingWe always seem to have at least one meal based around eggs. I just love them in any form, but will probably have them fried with some home made chips from my Air Fryer . I am still using this regularly and it really does make lovely chips!

Are you going for frugal eating this week? What is on your meal plan?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog. For more of my tips on meal planning, try  this post.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Meal planning to save time

meal planning to save time

Although it can seem like a faff, meal planning really does pay dividends. It saves both money and time. The latter I seem to be particularly short of at the moment. There aren’t enough hours in the day! Meal planning to save time is essential this week.

We have a student from China staying for a fortnight from tomorrow. She has finished her studies at the university and is obliged to leave her accommodation, but wants to hang around for a couple of weeks. As our lodger left yesterday and we don’t have anyone long term at the moment, this suits us. We do have a few people asking to view the room, though, so I hope she keeps it tidy!

A deep clean

I have been spending time giving the house a deeper clean than usual. Sorting and cleaning drawers, the oven, the fridge and freezers, for example. When you have someone new coming to stay, it makes you hyper critical!

We also couldn’t let our grape harvest rot on the vines so have pulled some off to make grape liqueur. It is a very basic mix of grapes, a small amount of sugar and some cheap vodka. Hopefully it will be ready for Christmas! I need to find time at some point very soon to make some grape jelly too. We offered the grapes to everyone we know to see if anyone fancied making wine, but had no takers. They aren’t really sweet enough to just eat, so we need to find ways to preserve the harvest.

With all this activity and our usual hours at work, no wonder time is short!

Meal planning to save time: this week’s dinners

Our student is happy to sort out her own food, so that’s something. It means I don’t have to fuss. I do have friends round on Friday for dinner, though! I will have to make it all the evening before as I am working on Friday. Everything apart from the food for Friday is quick and easy to put together.


Pork chops or veggie burgers with new potatoes, broccoli and peas.


Nut burgers with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, carrots and broccoli. We have quite a few bananas that need eating, so will have those with custard for dessert.


Haddock with parsley sauce, new potatoes and green beans from the freezer.


The last of the chilli for Mr S and chick pea curry for me, both from the freezer, with some Indian wraps I found in Lidl.


meal planning to save time

Vegetable risotto and salad. Mr S can have a chicken breast with his. I shall just top mine with some grated cheddar.


Something really quick so I can get on with cooking tomorrow’s dinner! Just an omelette and chips I think or maybe some leftover risotto is there is some.


This is the evening I have the girls round! We are having cashew nut and mushroom roast, with roast potatoes, onion gravy and vegetables. For pudding I am planning apple and almond pudding – a Delia Smith recipe that I really love. It is easy to make and gluten free to boot. We won’t have a starter – just some nibbles.

Do you do meal planning to save time and money? For more on this see my post here.

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker . If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

Reduce food waste: Ten ideas to use your leftovers

reduce food waste

I have been thinking really carefully about how to reduce food waste recently. Generally, I tend to think we don’t waste much that is edible, but the recent Zero Waste Week made me hyper aware when we did. For a start, our food waste bin isn’t empty! Occasionally, we simply cook too much.

Sometimes we forget about stuff at the back of the fridge, or are too tired or uninspired to use ingredients before they go a bit manky. Some non-perishables are perfectly usable, but have been sitting in the cupboard for months or even years. They haven’t ended up in the food waste so far and we need to use them up before they do.

Over the past few weeks, I have started whittling away at our stockpiles. That half bag of couscous, the custard powder, various baking ingredients and two carrier bags (yes, two!) of hazel nuts from a neighbour’s tree last year need to be eaten.  I am not bothered about best before dates here; they are more for the retailer’s benefit that ours.

I am quite good at using up leftovers, however. They either get eaten at work for lunch or we have them two days in a row. Alternatively, I anticipate leftovers from one meal and incorporate them into another. I also use my freezer to conserve even the smallest amounts of leftover food. The challenge is then to remember what is frozen and work it into my meal planning to ensure it is used up.

Here are some ideas for using foods that are commonly left over to reduce food waste and save yourself some money!

Reduce food waste and use it up

Bread ends

Unless you have a large family and eat lots of bread, it pays to keep a sliced loaf in the freezer and remove slices as you plan to use them. However, even if you do this, what to do with the bread ends?

Bread crumbs – whizz them up in a food processor or grate them by hand. I then refreeze these and believe it is perfectly safe to do so.

Bread pudding, apple brown betty, bread and butter pudding, croutons and bread sauce can all be made using the crusts of bread.


Keep them in the fridge in the summer so that you don’t end up with lots of soft, sprouting spuds. Even if you do, they are safe to eat. Just cut out the eyes and any brown bits and use as usual.

Leftover mashed potatoes are easy to use up in lots of dishes. Indeed, in this week’s meal plan I deliberately made too much so that I could add it to soup as a thickener! They can be made into fish cakes, added to a meat or nut loaf, chucked into soups and stews, or mixed with grated vegetables for your own home made veggie burger. Then there is the classic bubble and squeak, which will use up your uneaten green veggies as well.

Whole potatoes are a treat sliced, fried and served with a couple of eggs and some baked beans for brunch or supper.

Roast potatoes can also go into soup, but I fancy this leftover Sunday lunch hash.

Cooked vegetables

You can chop up your uneaten vegetables and throw them into an omelette or frittata or use them in soups and stews. I actually keep a bag in the fridge and put all unwanted cooked vegetables in it for my regular soup making sessions. Many will be nice in a pasta sauce too, although I probably wouldn’t use sprouts or cabbage in this way (I know some people would!).

Fresh herbs

Have you ever bought a load of parsley or coriander for a recipe and left the rest of it to go soggy in your fridge? Yes, me too. However, there is nothing lovelier than a cheese and chopped herb omelette. You can cut them up and stick them in a salad too. If you have a lot of a particular herb you can chop finely and freeze. You can even dry them yourself.


I don’t eat meat now, but proper gravy made with the juices from the roast was always a treat. Certainly too good to chuck in the bin. Gravy will keep a couple of days in the fridge so you could make a point of using it at another meal. It will also add lots of flavour to a casserole or soup and you can freeze it to use when you are ready.

Leftover gravy adds depth to a shepherd’s pie or you could use it as a kind of cook-in sauce with meatballs. How about adding it to leftover meat or vegetables as a pie filling?


I know you have to be careful with rice. Once it is cooked, it needs to be kept cool and eaten quickly. Don’t leave it lying around! It is another leftover ingredient that I freeze to add to soup, but it can be fried up with an egg and some veg for a DIY egg fried rice, made into a kind of risotto with lots of vegetables and some tomatoes or transformed into some delicious cheesy rice balls. If you have a lot, you could make this Mediterranean rice salad.


Banana loaf or muffins are so delicious you almost wait for your bananas to turn black so that you can bake some! You can also freeze them in slices to add to smoothies or you could make them into an easy vegan chocolate ice cream.


We seem to have gone off apples in our household. The last few times I have bought them they have turned wrinkly in the fruit bowl. Fortunately, we are all happy to eat them stewed with custard. They also freeze well peeled and sliced or you can dry them in the oven.

My favourite to use up apples is in a crumble or in spiced apple cake.

If you have other fruit to use up quickly, there are some amazing ice lolly ideas here.

Make stock

If, like me, you love to make soup, then making your own stock first is a great way to save your vegetable scraps from the bin. There are some good instructions here.

You can also use meat bones to make fabulous stock. I often make save chicken carcasses in the freezer for this very purpose. It seems a crying shame to throw meat bones out when you can reduce food waste in this way.

Wilting salad

These days I try to buy small amounts of salad at a tim. I then make sure it is built into our meal plan so that we use it. However, wilting salad leaves do get thrown into our soups and stir fries and no one is ever the wiser. There are some excellent ideas for using up tired lettuce here.

In the end, smarter planning and shopping will stop you having so many leftovers in the first place. Keeping track of what you have already and storing it correctly will also help. Nevertheless, none of us is perfect. Even with good planning we end up with more than we can eat before it spoils. With a bit of determination and creativity, we can all reduce food waste.

Take the challenge to reduce food waste and use up your leftovers. What are your favourite ideas and recipes to stop food going in the bin?

Using it up to keep food bills low

using it up

Even though Zero Waste Week is now over, I am continuing to use the items I identified as ‘forgotten’ when I did my stock take last week. I don’t want to waste food or money! So I will continue using it up this week.

My ‘using it up’ meal plan


Roast chicken or nut roast for dinner (this was a special request from my daughter for her birthday)! We will have roast potatoes and parsnips, broccoli cheese, Yorkshire puds, stuffing and peas with this.  Dessert will be home-made chocolate birthday cake.


Red wine and mushroom risotto from A Girl Called Jack. This is  hearty and delicious!


using it up

Macaroni cheese. We have a big jar of macaroni that has been sitting around because we are eating mainly gluten free for my low gluten diet. As the girls will all be round it is a good time to be using it up. I will cook and chop up some of the unwanted sausages I mentioned in last week’s plan for Zero Waste Week  in theirs.


Prawn korma with poppadums. We have a couple of jars of curry sauce that need eating and will use one of them.


Veggie burgers or pork chops, vegetables and mash. I will deliberately do too much mash. I plan to make soup and it‘s a great thickener.


Home made chunky vegetable soup. Tuna and cheese pittas.


using it up

More of the soup, probably with a jacket potato. This will be an easy end of week tea.

Snacks and treats

Our fantastic little plum tree is still going strong, so I will be stewing some to have as my fruit pots at work next week. I ran out of time to make the gluten free peanut butter cookies last weekend as we ended up doing a lot of work in the garden. That huge jar of peanut butter needs to be used, so I will have another try this weekend.

I like this using it up mentality as it makes me more creative. It gives me a warm glow of satisfaction to know I am saving money and preventing food waste.

Other meals

Lunches need to be portable and are usually leftovers, home made soup or sandwiches. Breakfast tends to be either muesli with yogurt or porridge. As we have a lot of the latter and it is getting cooler, I think porridge will be favourite this week.

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker . If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

A meal plan for Zero Waste Week

Next week is Zero Waste Week and I have a blog post coming along all about it! I try really hard not to waste things, especially food, but I am not perfect and sometimes something slips through.  However, my meal plan for Zero Waste Week needs to be better. If I make a bit effort it will make me more conscious day to day.

I won’t achieve zero waste. There isn’t enough time in my life to grow all our food from scratch. Neither is there a specialist zero waste store nearby for me to buy all of our ingredients with no packaging. However, by using much of what we already have, especially those items tucked at the back of the cupboard that I am cheerfully ignoring, I won’t be wasting them. The ingredients I do buy must be minimally packaged, so I will be taking my reusable bags and containers to the shops to avoid plastic bags as much as possible.

meal plan for zero waste week

What is lurking?

Here are some of the items lurking in the back of the cupboard. I want to use at least some of these as part of my Zero Waste Week meal plan.

Tins of potatoes, chickpeas, green lentils, aduki beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn.  I also have a tin of coconut milk and a can of mushroom soup that has been there for, possibly, years! (Why is it there? None of us like it!). There is a large jar of green olives too, which we forgot about. Usually olives get eaten really quickly as we love them. A pack of poppadoms too.

I have a jar of korma sauce, a green Thai curry kit and a small pot of tikka masala paste.

Lots of tuna! About 6 cans. Plus a small tin of anchovies. A jar of mango chutney and another of apple sauce.

I also have a massive bag of pudding rice. Rice pudding is a favourite for me but it requires forward planning. There is also a bag of organic coconut flour that I bought on a whim in Aldi. Buying an unfamiliar ingredient with no plan for using it is not a good idea.

In the freezer there is a lot of frozen fruit: blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. We also have a bag of apples someone gave us in the fridge and our tree is full of ripening plums. There are also quite a few cans of fruit – prunes, peaches and pears. I am not in a hurry to use these as we have fresh and frozen to eat first.

There are some frozen chicken breasts and 4 small lamb chops that were yellow stickered.

There are two portions each of chick pea curry and chilli con carne that I batch cooked last week. I also have some veggie burgers that I don’t like and some meat sausages that were bought on offer that Mr S isn’t keen on. I need to find a way to sneak these into the zero wast meal plan!

The Zero Waste Meal Plan


Lunch is courgette soup from the freezer. I use old butter pots to store this.

Dinner will be lamb chops for Mr S and veggie burgers for me (I will smother them in onion gravy). We will have these with new potatoes and frozen corn on the cob. Leftover plum cake and custard.


If we are in we will have cheese on toast or a sandwich for lunch.

Dinner will be lamb chops again for Mr S and a piece of haddock for me, this time with roast potatoes and broccoli. Fruit crumble and custard.


We have quite a few eggs. I will make Spanish omelette and use the tinned potatoes if we don’t have enough fresh.  We will have this with tinned corn or whatever needs eating.


Chick pea curry for me and chilli for Mr S from the freezer, both with boiled rice. We will eat the poppadoms with this and some mango chutney.


Tuna penne with black olives, except I shall use the green ones! I will make a simple carrot salad as there is a large bag in the fridge.


Just me for dinner tonight. I will probably have something on toast whilst I write some more blog posts!


Chicken and vegetable curry with rice. The girls will all be home, so I will make a large pan full using the chicken breasts, some peppers, courgettes and carrots. I will do a smaller pan without any meat and perhaps add the green lentils.

Work lunches

All my lunches at work will be either leftovers or home made soups and sandwiches. I don’t buy a pre-prepared lunch anyway, so no unnecessary packaging here. Also, I never buy coffee out and make mine in the office. I will take some home made cookies (see below) for snacks.

Snacks and sweets

I will make a slow cooker rice pudding tomorrow and at the same time some stewed fruit, using up the apples and some of the frozen berries. This will be good to take to work next week instead of buying more fresh fruit.

I did an internet search for recipes using coconut flour and found these gluten free chocolate chip cookies. We have half a bar of dark chocolate in the fridge, so I can use that up rather than buying choc chips. I planned to make biscuits this week anyway  as home made means less packaging, so this works well. Another super easy biscuit recipe is this peanut butter cookie recipe. My friend bought these into work yesterday and they were delicious. Gluten free and super easy. I have a huge jar of peanut butter so can bake some of these if I have time.

Progress not perfection

In the end, any effort towards reducing our waste is one worth making. We are aiming for progress, not perfection. One step towards zero waste is far better than standing still like a rabbit in the headlights watching an environmental disaster unfolding!

So, this is my zero waste week meal plan. I am still at a loss as to what to do with the tin of mushroom soup, so your suggestions would be gratefully received! What’s on your menu this week?

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

Five great blogs for cheap meal ideas #5frugalthings

cheap meal ideas

In an effort to give myself a bit of inspiration in planning our frugal meals, I have been taking a fresh look at some blogs and resources online. Here are my five favourite blogs and websites for cheap meal ideas.

Thrifty Lesley

Lesley’s blog is packed full of cheap meal ideas, including 10 meal plans to enable you to feed yourself and your family for around £1 a day each. There is a lot of vegetarian food in the plans, but some meat as well.

The food is pretty basic (although very healthy), but if you are on a really tight budget the cheap meal ideas here will be very helpful.

BBC Good Food

If you want some more exciting cheap meal ideas, you can’t beat the budget food section of the BBC Good Food website. The ingredients in these recipes might cost slightly more, but many are still very frugal. I use this site a lot. Roasted aubergine and tomato curry sounds promising and I have made the prawn pho (using cheapest frozen prawns) several times. I substitute all of the fresh herbs and spices with dried, which makes it a lot cheaper. You could leave the prawns out or substitute with a bit of cooked chicken.

Utterly Scrummy Food

Michelle at Utterly Scrummy makes gorgeous budget food. Her Instagram page is a joy to behold as everything looks so delicious. Michelle’s vegetarian meal plan is very good for me. I don’t eat meat (although I still eat fish). However, she uses meat in her cheap meal ideas as well, which Mr S appreciates.

This is a lovely food blog for families as it has lots of ideas for children, such a party food and snacks. There is also a lot of advice on using up leftovers – great for those of us trying to reduce food waste!

Diary of a Frugal Family

Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family is an immensely creative person. Amazingly she works full time as well as bringing up her young family. I don’t know how she fits it all in. Anyway, she has some really nice and varied cheap meal ideas, including a lot of adaptations of Slimming World recipes. Check out her frugal food section.

Cooking on a Bootstrap

I debated whether or not to include this one. I’m really not keen on a lot of Jack’s newer recipes. However, the classic early ones still feature and I make them regularly so it would have been unfair not to include Cooking on a Bootstrap in my top five.

There is a lot of vegan and vegetarian food. Jack is now fully vegan, but her frugal recipes including meat and fish still feature. The food is still carefully costed and super thrifty; great for those of us on a tight budget. Creamy mustard chicken is one of Mr Shoestring’s favourites and I really like the mushroom chasseur.

There are many more fantastic blogs and sites with fabulous cheap meal ideas. What are yours?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

Sarah Brown’s Red Dragon Pie

As I keep mentioning Sarah Brown’s Red Dragon Pie in my meal plans, I thought I had better publish the recipe. The book it comes from is Vegetarian Kitchen, which is out of print now.

I do wish they would do a reprint of this one. It is packed full of great, easy to make and unfussy recipes. I think it is more relevant than ever with the current popularity of vegetarianism and veganism. If you are lucky, you might find it second hand on Amazon.

Red Dragon Pie is the veggie replacement for shepherd’s pie. Just as tasty and delicious with vegetables and vegetarian gravy. I tend to use cans of aduki beans for this as it is much quicker to make. However, if you use dried you will need to soak them over night or in boiling water for 1 hour. Rinse them, bring to the boil and cook for 50 minutes. Drain and reserve the stock.

Red Dragon Pie

Serves 4


110g aduki beans

50g rice

1 tbsp oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

25g carrots, diced

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp mixed herbs

Half a pint of stock or the reserved liquid from the aduki beans

salt and pepper

450g potatoes, peeled and chopped

25g butter


Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked beans and rice. Mix the soy sauce, tomato puree and herbs with the stock, then pour over the beans and vegetables. Season to taste, adding a little more liquid if necessary. Transfer to a greased 1.5 litre casserole dish.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until cooked and mash with the butter. Season well and top your bean mixture. Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes until the top has browned.

For more frugal recipes we enjoy, see my Frugal Recipes page.

A meal plan to reduce your food bill

If you read my recent post How to Slash your Food Bill, you will know that our grocery bill has been creeping up. Meal planning is absolutely crucial if you want to reduce your food bill. By planning every meal, using up what you already have, writing a shopping list containing only what you need and then sticking to your list you really can save lots of money.

With money saving on my mind as we move into Autumn and towards Christmas, here is what I have planned for this week.

A meal plan to reduce your food bill


Spaghetti cheese casserole. This is one we eat regularly, made with cheap store cupboard ingredients. Aldi had two corn on the cobs on their specials when I popped in last week at 35p for two! Bargain. We will eat the last of these with the casserole.Reduce your food bill


Red Dragon Pie. This is a classic from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen, and is delicious. This is a really old book, but you can pick it and some of her others up on Amazon from time to time. It is worth having.


Chick pea curry and rice. I will make a large batch of this and freeze some.


Pho. We all loved this Vietnamese noodle soup last time and it was so easy to make!


Chilli con carne with jacket potatoes and chilli sin carne for me! Both will have as a base some of the batch cooked tomato sauce I am making this weekend.


Spanish omelette, using any leftover veggies that are hanging around.


Chick pea curry again. End of the week laziness with a large glass of white wine!

For lunches we still have quite a lot of courgette soup on the freezer. I will also have salads with either hard boiled eggs or tinned tuna. If we are at home it will be sardines or eggs on toast.

Breakfasts are almost always muesli with yogurt or microwaved porridge.

Snacks will include fruit, mixed nuts from Lidl (as they are a good price in there), cereals such as cornflakes or cheese and crackers. I need to keep these at a minimum though to stop our waistlines expanding!

Are you looking to reduce your food bill? What are your top tips to save money on groceries?

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

How to slash your food bill

I am on a challenge to dramatically reduce our food bill. It has been slowly creeping up. I want to save more money than ever in the run up to Christmas. If you want to slash your food bill too, read on!

It is all about being organised. I want to get it as low as possible whilst eating a nutritionally good diet. Here is how I intend to do it. I will let you know how I get on!

slash your food bill

Give up on the major supermarkets

I spend so much less on our weekly shop if I stick to Aldi or Lidl. Of the two, I prefer Aldi as I find their own ranges excellent and their fruit and vegetables of better quality. However, Lidl is round the corner and has better parking so I do pop in their too.

Iceland is another good budget supermarket. Although I avoid their huge range of ready meals, the prices are very good for plain meat, fish and vegetables. Even some of their tinned goods are good value.

Approved Food is also worth keeping an eye on. However, you need to factor in the delivery charge of £5, but if you spend over £55 on your first box you get it free. It’s worth combining an order with a friend. Be careful though – it is easy to fill up your basket with chocolate and treats! A good one for Christmas maybe.

Buy fruit and vegetables at the market

Most towns have a market. Ours isn’t the best, but we do have a couple of decent fruit and vegetable stalls selling at way below supermarket prices. If you go at the end of the day on there are likely to be huge reductions on perishables.

Look out for food bargains in places like Poundland, Home Bargains and B&M.

Eat less meat and fish

There is no doubt about it, meat and fish are expensive. I don’t eat meat anyway, but I do often go for fish as an easy option. I tend to buy frozen or tinned, which is much cheaper. Mr S and my daughter are confirmed carnivores. However, I intend to cook meals just twice a week with meat or fish at the centre. Let’s see how long it takes them to notice!

I will continue to use tinned tuna, sardines and anchovies as these are flavoursome, nutritious and inexpensive. Pulses will begin to feature more in our dinners.

Planning, planning, planning

It is worth repeating! Meal planning saves loads of time and money. Keep a running shopping list and make sure you always take it with you when you go grocery shopping. Be aware of how much items cost. If you don’t, how do you know when you are getting a bargain?

Some folk keep a price book so that they know where they can buy each item cheapest. I don’t have the time to go to lots of different shops, though, so I don’t think this would work for me.

Shop from the larder

This is really important if you want to slash your food bill. Be honest, how many times have you gone shopping and duplicated items you already have rammed at the back of your cupboard? How often do you go through everything in your fridge, freezer and larder and plan your week’s meals using what you already have? It is surprising how little extra you have to buy when you shop from the larder first.

Cook every meal from scratch

Cooking from scratch saves lots of money. Home cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. A cheese omelette with home made chips and some frozen peas is one of my favourite meals. Quick and easy too! Keeping it simple is essential for me. I don’t have time for fancy cordon bleu style cooking.

There are other advantages to cooking from scratch. If you make a spaghetti sauce you know exactly what is in it. You can control salt and sugar levels. What you make will contain minimal additives. You can even get a warm, green glow because when you quit buying convenience meals you will bring a lot less packaging into your home.

Keep it simple. I avoid recipes that insist I go out and buy lots of things I don’t usually use. Miguel Barclay’s book FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals: Delicious Food For Less is good for inspiration. He has a new one
Miguel Barclay’s FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals, which is on my Christmas wish list.

Make soup

This is where your end of day bargain vegetables from the market come into their own. Or if you grow your own and have a glut. Make soup!

I make a huge vat at a time and freeze it in old yogurt and margarine containers. This makes lunches for pennies.

Soup isn’t difficult to make. You don’t need a recipe most of the time. I find a base of chopped, sauted onions and celery means pretty much anything can be thrown into your soup. A decent veg stock such as Marigold is worth buying, but supermarket stock cubes will do. For a nice thick soup, use some potatoes.

Save any scraps of mashed potato, cooked rice and pasta and leftover vegetables in the freezer. When you make your next batch of soup, throw them in! A simple hand blender is a useful investment if you are going to start making soup. However, you don’t need a fancy soup maker.

Batch cook

Batch cooking takes a little organisation and time, but pays dividends in terms of money saving. If you tend to buy lots of jars of spaghetti sauce, for example, you can save loads by making your own in big batches and freezing. I will be making a simple sauce of tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs this weekend in a huge pan. To this I can add minced beef or Quorn mince to make a bolognese, use it for lasagne, turn it into a veggie stew with the addition of pulses and chopped vegetables, add curry spices and chicken or lentils and have it with rice. I  might even have it as it is on pasta with some grated cheese.

Other good things to batch cook are curry, casseroles, pastry, bread rolls… there are loads of dishes that freeze well.

Head for the supermarket value brands

I don’t have the money for any brand loyalty. If you want to slash your food bill, then switch to the supermarket value brands. If you don’t like those, move up to the supermarket own brands. One will suit and I bet no one notices.

Shop at weird times

Ilona over at Life After Money is the maestro of the yellow sticker bargain. I am in awe! She knows exactly when to visit each supermarket in her area for the best reductions and does her shopping in the evenings near closing time. She doesn’t worry about best before or even use by dates. I am going to do some more shopping in the evenings to see what I can find. About 3.30 on a Sunday seems to be a good time at my local Asda.

Ilona is a huge inspiration – if you don’t know her yet and want to save money, you must pay her a visit! Incidentally, you can read my interview with her here.

Use up leftovers and don’t waste food

If you waste food, you are throwing money down the drain. I did a whole post on this here. Being organised, meal planning and eating from the larder will all help you to reduce your food waste and save lots of money.

Buy in bulk

Buy large packets of non perishables, as they are always cheaper. For example, the basmati rice in the world foods section seems to come in huge bags and works out much cheap gram by gram, as do dried lentils and pulses. Iceland is good for large bags of frozen fruit and vegetables.

Grow your own to slash your food bill

For the past few years we have had two small vegetable patches, a greenhouse and lots of fruit. This year we haven’t had the time or energy to grow our own. However, all is not lost. It seems our friends all have a glut at this time of the year. We have had runner beans, salad items, courgettes, beetroot, aubergines, tomatoes…all the things we usually grow.

I have also seen people selling their gluts outside their houses very cheaply. it is worth stocking up to freeze or make soup.

We do have fruit still and have a freezer full of redcurrants and blackcurrants, and now the plums and apples are on the way.

Go foraging

At this time of year blackberries are everywhere, free for the picking. We already have some in the freezer. We have picked sloes, cherries, nettles and apples in the past, all growing wild. If you want to get really good at finding food for nothing, invest in a copy of Richard Mabey’s classic book Food For Free .

Drink more water

I am talking about tap water, which is pretty much free. The more water you drink, the less tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, juice, squash and alcohol you will need. A much healthier option. Don’t buy the bottled stuff though as that won’t save you money and creates a lot of plastic waste.

Frugal food bloggers who can help you slash your food bill

There is a lot of information on the internet to help you slash your food bill. You could try some of my Favourite Frugal Recipes! Thrifty Lesley is another blog I go to for frugal cooking inspiration. There are loads more on my Best Frugal Blogs post.

What are your ideas to slash your food bill?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Meal plan 11th August


I am determined to have a good old clean and declutter. Decluttering is an ongoing project here at Shoestring Cottage. As fast as I get rid of stuff, more seems to appear. Oh well, I find it therapeutic anyway.

Last night I went through the linen cupboard and the shelves in the bedroom. I am gathering suitable items for a boot sale in a couple of weeks. It’s hard to find time for major blitzing when you work full time and have hobbies you want to dedicate some hours to as well – like my blog!

As well as the boot sale, another reason for a deep clean is that I am advertising for a new lodger. Our current one is finishing her masters in a month and will be disappearing back off to Nottingham. I am going to miss her and hope we can find such an easy going person as a replacement.

As I am busy, it is even more important to plan our meals to save time and money. I am going for easy options this week.

meal plan

This week’s meal plan


Ratatouille with rice plus a pork loin steak for Mr S.  I will have grated cheese on mine. Yes, we are still eating donated courgettes. I am almost glad we are not growing them this year!


Spaghetti cheese casserole. We haven’t had this for ages and it’s one of my fave vegetarian dinners.


Veggie burgers from the freezer with fries made in the air fryer and salad. A ‘junk food’ dinner that is actually low fat and nutritious.


meal plan

As we have a lot of potatoes (I bought some but didn’t realise my daughter also had) and they don’t last in the heat, I need to use them up! I am going to try this recipe from Delia Smith, baked fish and potatoes. This looks lovely!


Cheese and courgette quiche with new potatoes and salad. Need to use up the salad ingredients!


Baked salmon with whatever veg we have lying around.


Vegetable curry and rice. I generally make this up as I go with a vegetable selection such as potatoes, peas, celery, broccoli, peas and carrots, a pot of paste and a tin of tomatoes. There are a couple of naans in the freezer that need to be eaten with this.

A bit of balance

I want to make sure we are eating lots of fruit and vegetables and getting at least our five a day. On the other hand, I don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove! My daughter is an excellent cook and she helps a lot, so these are all meals she will happily join in with. Mr S, on the other hand, is terrified of cooking. Definitely a can’t cook, won’t cook sort o person. Luckily, he is otherwise the most handy and practical person I know so we keep him busy anyway.

What’s going on in your kitchen this week? Anything exciting on your meal plan?

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Mediterranean Fish Stew

Mediterranean fish stew

You can be all fancy about a Mediterranean fish stew and start chucking prawns and mussels in. Delicious but expensive! Here I have used only frozen white fish so include whatever you can pick up at a reasonable price.

Mediterranean Fish Stew

Serves 4


I medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

1 large pepper, chopped

A handful fresh chopped parsley (or use dried, 2 tsp)

A heaped tsp dried thyme

Half to 1 tsp dried chilli seeds, depending on how spicy you like it

A heaped tsp vegetable stock powder

About 12 black olives

Salt and pepper to taste


Soften the onions and garlic in some oil, then add the peppers. Fry for a few minutes and then add the fish. You can defrost it first if you are using frozen, but you don’t need to as it cooks quickly and breaks up in the hot liquid. Mix together and throw in the tomatoes and stock powder. Bring to a gentle simmer, then add the herbs and chilli. Taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  When the fish is almost cooked, add the olives to heat through.

We had this Mediterranean fish stew with rice for an easy mid-week meal. For more of my frugal recipes, see here.

A home grown meal plan

meal plan

I popped into Asda mid week for some milk and cat food. Whilst I was there, I managed to pick up some yellow stickered fish – salmon and kippers. We also have a fridge full of vegetables. No home grown ones this year, but as people keep giving us their excess runner beans, courgettes and salad ingredients we haven’t felt deprived! I just need to factor the home grown food into my meal plan this week.

We also have eggs, veggie burgers, prawns, pork, white fish, sausages, frozen broccoli and peppers. This means that, apart from fruit, we really don’t need to buy anything else.

I have made a huge batch of courgette soup. Some will go into the freezer and some will be taken for lunches. Mr S and his brother also managed to find and pick some samphire. A rare treat!

This week’s home grown meal plan

meal planSaturday

Salmon with parsley sauce, new potatoes and runner beans.


Prawn and samphire spaghetti (inspired by this recipe, which will just be a starting point. I love to adapt!).


Veggie burgers and chips, made in my air fryer. We have lots of donated cherry tomatoes to have with this.


Sicilian fish stew. I don’t have any capers, but will add some olives at the end instead to get that same salty hit.


Sausages, mash and whatever veg needs using up.


Cheese and parsley omelettes with salad.


Tuna with penne. An easy, end of week dinner using store cupboard staples.

What’s in your meal plan this week? As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

Meal planning for a heat wave

meal planning

Back to meal planning this week. I have had a couple of weeks of shopping from the cupboards, buying bits and pieces and eating home grown food donated by friends and family. Now it is time to get organised, restock and get back to The Plan. This is to eat light and healthily, easy in our current heatwave.

Meal planning saves me a lot of time and money. It is worth the effort so, if you struggle with a tight budget for food, or find you end up throwing food away, I urge you to give it a try. It seems that this week we will be eating a lot of fish dishes! I will buy a couple of large bags of prawns from Iceland.

Meal planning for hot weather


My daughter visited a Vietnamese restaurant in Colchester, which seems to be getting a great name for itself. She had a dish called Pho – a kind of noodle soup and loved it. Since then, she has made it for all of us and it really is delicious. I am going to give this recipe a go.


Salad Nicoise. In case you have never had it, there is a recipe here. I will probably do something along those lines but won’t stick rigidly to a recipe. Probably won’t bother with the anchovies. I like them, but not everyone does.


Vegetable and prawn stir fry. This will be a mixture of whatever veg we have. I don’t tend to buy the ready made packs, although I do quite enjoy an Aldi stir fry sauce if I am feeling lazy! It’s easy enough to make from scratch though.


Mediterranean fish stew with rice. I will make this up and it will contain white fish, prawns (hopefully we will have some left), peppers, garlic, tomatoes and possibly a courgette or two.


Vegetable risotto.  I don’t always use risotto rice and will probably go with basmati, as we have a large bag of that.


Leftovers from the risotto or the fish stew. There are bound to be some….


Spanish omelettes, using some of the leftover new potatoes from the nicoise salad, accompanied by a salad of whatever needs using up.

meal planning

So, that is our week in food. Are you meal planning? If so, what are you going for and how is the weather where you are?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at their blogs.

Experimenting with my air fryer

air fryer

I mentioned my new air fryer in last week’s meal planning post. This week we have all been trying it out. I haven’t done anything very adventurous yet, but I thought I had better start with some basics. My air fryer recipes (if you can call them recipes) have mostly been potato based. It has been fun, with mostly successful results!

I was very lucky in being sent my VonShef air fryer from Domu for review. Quite impressed with it so far. It is so easy to use and also to clean when you have finished with it.


So far I have discovered that it is best to cut your spuds into even sized pieces and to shake the basket thoroughly half way through cooking. This air fryer cooks things more quickly than my oven, so I need to be careful to cut the cooking time and check fairly often that the food is not over cooking.

It is also important not to overload the basket, or the food doesn’t cook evenly. Only a small amount of oil is required, but it does need some.

Roast potatoes

air fryer

In the past I have tried making low fat roast potatoes in the oven. They are fine, but potatoes tend to go a little sweet when roasted with little oil.  This didn’t happen in the air fryer. I peeled and quartered each potato, dried them off on a tea towel and then mixed them in a bowl with about about a table spoon of olive oil and some salt. They only took 25 minutes to cook and came out brown and crispy.

They were so easy! I added rosemary half way through (when I took them out to give them a good shake), but it didn’t work as the herbs fell through the holes at the bottom of the air fryer! I think any seasonings will need to be in powdered form so that they stick.

Sweet potato fries

air fryer

Next, I had a go at air fryer sweet potato chips.  I cut them quite small and did them in exactly the same as the roast potatoes, but for about 20 minutes. This was too long as they were very brown, but they still tasted delicious and not at all burnt. I will cook them for 15 minutes next time.

Standard potato fries

Nothing different here. I cut them into chunky chips and they were fine with 20 minutes cooking. Delicious, in fact. My daughter also used it to cook some French fries from the freezer. She said they only took eight minutes and were perfect.

Baked eggs

air fryerMy one failure with my air fryer? Eggs! I attempted to cook them in that for breakfast one day. However, I did them for far too long! Initially I put them on for five minutes. Because they were still quite runny, I put them on for another five. They were pretty solid with a hard skin on top. Edible, but in no way the delicious breakfast eggs we usually go for with a nice runny yolk.

I will have another attempt some time and try them for around seven minutes.

What next for the air fryer?

We have been given a mass of courgettes, but I still haven’t got round to cooking those in the air fryer. Definitely something for this weekend! I intend to dip them in flour and egg, then cover them in breadcrumbs.

Overall, I am really pleased with my air fryer. It easily made enough of each of the potato dishes for the three of us. However, for a big family I am not sure this 3.5 litre model would be large enough. It would be easier to cook your spuds in the oven. I am sure larger models are available, though.

It is very quiet and doesn’t take up too much space on the worktop. An air fryer is also very versatile it seems.  You can use it instead of an oven to bake or roast. Apparently you can even bake cakes! An air fryer is not suitable for very greasy items such as sausages though.

I think it would be super useful for a student or for someone living in a studio flat. If you had this and a stove you wouldn’t need much else.

I intend to keep experimenting with my air fryer and will let you know how I get on. Does anyone else have one? If so, what are your top tips?