Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mealplan and Spending Update 30/09

I didn’t do my usual Sunday cooking yesterday – but luckily I was off work for a local holiday today, so I got it all done in the end.  Actually, I did even more than usual.  Since I’m tired from all the cooking, I’ll tell the story in pictures:

Homemade natural yoghurt with banana and honey (keep your eyes out for the method later on in the week!).

banana and yoghurt

Loaf of seeded brown bread.

brown loaf

Six brown rolls.

brown rolls

Six portions of lentil and tomato soup.

tomato and lentil soup

Six portions of the mince mix for mince and tatties/cottage pie (had two tonight for dinner with mash)

mince and tatties

Eight white wraps.

photo (98)


Sun 29 – baked potatoes (mine with tuna & sweetcorn, Dave’s with homemade baked beans from the freezer)

Mon 30 – mince & tatties (recipe later this week)

Tues 1 vegetable fajitas

Wed 2 – squash and chickpea curry with rice

Thurs 3  – spicy prawn spaghetti with salad

Fri 4  – sticky Asian turkey with stirfried veg and rice

Sat 5 – chestnut, blue cheese and beer puff pastry pie with veg and potatoes

September Spending Update (£183.13 / £185)

Creme fraiche £1.16

October Spending Update (£42.71 / £170)

Fruit & veg £8.32
Broccoli 335g 60p
Smartprice brown onions 2kg 98p
Parsnips x2 (370g) 55p
Carrots x10 (1.6kg) £1.44
Organic garlic 3pk 70p
Courgettes 3pk £1
Bananas x4 40p
Rocket salad £1
Fresh chillies 50p
Living basil £1.15

Dairy & eggs £3.35
Whole milk 4pints £1
Meadow park whole milk 2ltr 97p
Shropshire cheese 166g £1.38

Meat & fish £2
Beef mince 500g £2

General £23.79
Cola 4pk x2 £4.30
Smartprice individual orange juice 3pk 45p
Smartprice ketchup 18p
Brown sauce 68p
Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts 200g £1.98
Smartprice chopped tomatoes x2 68p
Tuna in brine 4pk £3.99
White cooking chocolate 150g 74p
Smartprice tinned pineapple 27p
Smartprice tinned mandarins x2 46p
Basmati rice 2kg £2.98
Smartprice spaghetti x2 46p
Smartprice penne pasta 29p
Blue dragon soy sauce 375ml £1.58
Smartprice dark chocolate 100g x2 60p
McCoys 6pk x2 £3
Fresh pasta £1.15

Household £4.75
Smartprice washing up liquid 40p
Smartprice kitchen roll 4pk £1.25
Smartprice cat litter x2 £3.10

Walking over hot coals

So instead of writing up a mealplan and a spending update tonight, I’m just having a chill out instead.

The mealplan will come tomorrow, but I needed to chill out because I spent most of the evening doing something scary for charity – a Firewalk (eek!)!

It was a great challenge, even if I had to practically run on the end because I got a little ember stuck on my foot and it burned. So it’s not entirely painless, but it was safe and really fun and I’m so very glad I did it.

Back tomorrow with the usual chat about mealplans and money saving recipes!

Adjusting the meal plan – mackerel and creme fraiche pasta

mackerel pasta

I might not have said this before, but when you make your meal plan, you want to ensure there’s a bit of flexibility in there.  A bit of wiggle room in case your plans change.

Only you know how often your plans will change – some people like to be more spontaneous, or have more hectic jobs – but for me, I find that it’s a rare week one of my meals doesn’t change.  Maybe this doesn’t come across well in my weekly meal planning posts, but most weeks I’ll be unexpectedly invited out to dinner one night, or will have a busy night and need to make something faster, or Dave will be working late and I’ll be eating alone.

In this case, it was the latter – Dave had to work a ‘sleepover’ shift to cover someone being off sick (it’s pretty rare he does these now), so he’ll eat at work.  Meanwhile, I look at the meal plan and decide if I still want the original planned meal – usually not, because I like to take advantage of Dave being away to make things he doesn’t like.  This week, I had a couple of days notice, so decided to shift the meals around and have the stroganoff on Tuesday and skip the fish fingers.

The reason this works is because I always plan at least one meal where we won’t be wasting fresh ingredients if we don’;t have it.  E.g. spag bol or stew, where the sauce is already in the freezer, or something store-cupboardy, like lentil dhal.  Most of the components of the homemade fish fingers were already frozen and the potatoes will keep, so no big deal to miss it out this week.

I had two thirds of a tub of crème fraîche to use up and Dave hates creamy pasta sauce, so I kind of had pasta in mind.  Since I was going for a run, I’d be home late, so wanted something super quick, and mackerel pasta definitely fit that.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, I do already have a mackerel and pea pasta recipe on the blog.  Clearly mackerel and peas are my go-to thing when I need fast, tasty nutrition.  This one is different, promise.)

mackerel pasta 2

Mackerel and crème fraîche pasta (serves one at £1.44)

  • 75g pasta 5p
  • 1 tin mackerel, drained (mine was in oil – don’t use the one in tomato sauce) 89p
  • 80g frozen peas 8p
  • 1/3 tub small crème fraîche (or whatever you have left really) 39p
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard 3p

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta.  Boil until only a couple of minutes away from being cooked to your liking (mine were in for about 9 minutes at this stage).

Meanwhile, mix the crème fraîche, mustard and drained mackerel in a bowl.  Season with pepper.

When the pasta is a couple of minutes away from being done, add the peas and continue to cool until the peas and pasta are both just tender with a little bite.

Drain, add to the mackerel mix and stir through. Serve with salad if you want (I did).

Lovely white bean goulash

bean goulash

Yes, I still have loads of cooked beans in my freezer.  The problem I’m having is that Morrisons only seems to sell chickpeas and white beans (cannellini, butter and haricot) and I’m getting a bit fed up with white beans.  I want some variety – pinto, black-eyed and black beans are particularly on my mind right now.

I’ve checked and my local Waitrose sells these for the same price as Tesco (which I’ll not be shopping at while I still have a valid Asda delivery saver) so I’ll definitely pop in there to get a couple of bags of beans to cook up.  In the meantime, how to use up white beans?

This recipe is based on one from Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian, which I pretty much opened at random to find a recipe.  It’s a good cookbook – if a little overwhelming as it’s got so many recipes and no pictures – and the recipe was really good, especially given how simple it is to make.  The only adjustments I made were to half everything except the paprika and add in some cayenne pepper, because I wanted to spice it up.  I was surprised at how much Dave liked it, but he really did.

Oh and I served this with mash, because I was so in a mash mood, but rice would be the more usual accompaniment, or even crusty bread.

bean goulash header

White bean goulash (serves 2 at 72p per portion, plus extra for potatoes/rice)

  • 1 can of white beans* (I used previously cooked and defrosted dried butter beans that I’d frozen in can-weight bags) 20p
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes 31p
  • 1 onion, sliced into half-moons 10p
  • 1 pepper (I used green), sliced 30p
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1p
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée 8p
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 6p
  • 2 tsp paprika 4p
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 2p
  • 1 tsp sugar (or to taste) (less than 1p)
  • 1/2 small tub soured cream, or equivalent amount natural yoghurt 30p

If your beans are dried and uncooked, soak and cook them as per packet instructions or in your pressure cooker (you’ll need roughly 100g), but I’d recommend doing the whole packet at once and freezing in can sized portions instead. 

Heat the oil in a deep-sided saucepan and gently fry the onion and pepper slices for a few minutes, until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

bean goulash 4

Mix in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and spices and leave to cook for ten minutes or so, until everything is well combined.  Taste and add the sugar if required, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the beans and leave to heat through.

Serve with rice or potatoes (baked potatoes would work well too, actually), and topped with the soured cream or yoghurt.

Barbecue pork and Cajun rice

pork and barbecue sauce header

Decided to make another recipe from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals last night – pork fillet steak done in a barbecue type sauce with a Cajun-style brown rice and vegetable side dish.

I probably don’t need to point out that it took a lot longer than 15 minutes, but it was quite tasty. Not sure that I gave his recipe a proper chance though, as I made so many changes to it – well, you have to use up what you have in, don’t you?

One side effect of using the veg I had in was that the sweetcorn and orange peppers kind of blended with the brown rice to make a very beige-looking side dish. Now, I normally associate beige food with processed ‘ready meals’, chips and other unhealthy, fatty and salty foods – so let me assure you the rice is packed full of whole grains, spices and lots of vegetables. You might prefer to mix up the colours of the veg a bit if you’re making it though!

I totally changed the sauce too (mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients required for the proper sauce) and it was lovely but quite runny – his looked nice and gloopy so beat mine there.

Barbecue pork steaks with Cajun rice (serves two)

  • 2 pork fillet steaks
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp molasses (or just double the honey)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp oil

For the Cajun rice

  • x brown rice, cooked as per packet directions
  • 100g sweetcorn or peas, defrosted by pouring boiling water over them
  • 1 pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Large pinch cumin
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Couple of sliced pickled gherkins, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • Couple of spoonfuls natural yoghurt

Mix all the ingredients for  the pork sauce (except the oil and allspice) and leave in a bowl.

Preheat the grill.  Meanwhile, heat another 1/2tbsp of oil in a frying pan.  Rub the pork steaks with allspice, salt and pepper, then fry on each side for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a deep sided frying pan and add the pepper, onion and celery.  Fry for a few minutes until soft, then add the peas or sweetcorn, pickled gherkin slices, brown rice, cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, paprika and a little more .  Cook for a few minutes longer, stirring, until everything is cooked through and well coated.

When the pork is golden, put into a baking dish, cover with the sauce and grill for a few minutes, until the pork is cooked through.  Serve with the rice and with the natural yoghurt drizzled over.

Mealplan and Spending Update 22/08

Had internet problems yesterday so this never went up – sorry!  Will follow with another post tonight.


I finally got round to defrosting the freezer this weekend (so glad I got it over with!) and did a proper inventory of the contents while I was doing it. Not too many surprises in there but I did have to chuck a couple of things that had been in there since the last defrost and we just clearly don’t want to eat – not good planning. I’ll continue trying to use up the stuff in there regularly in an attempt to stop that happening again.

Decided to mix it up a bit for lunches this week – I’ve made a batch of home ‘baked’ barbecue beans in my pressure cooker and pittas, so will have bean pittas and vegetable sticks some of the days (Dave’s going to have pittas and the bagels remainibg from last week instead of rolls for his sandwiches too). I haven’t made any soup so will have pasta, rice or couscous salads any day I don’t want beans.

Both of us have made a pact to fit in a lot more exercise this week (we are fairly good but have been slacking off lately) so we’re going to try doing healthy snacks as well to make it a really good week. Veg sticks, bananas and almonds for me, crackers (with or without peanut butter), tinned fruit and cashews for him.


Sun 22 – barbeque pork fillet steaks with spiced vegetable rice

Mon 23 Spanish vegetable stew with mash

Tues 24homemade fish fingers, chips and veg

Wed 25 turkey burger (veg burger for me) with chips and salad

Thurs 26mushroom stroganoff with rice and salad

Fri 27 – veggie lasagne and salad

Sat 28 – pasta with spicy tomato sauce and turkey

Spending Update £181.79 / £185

Fruit & veg £5.73
Savers mushrooms 375g 75p
Bananas x5 53p
Harlequin squash £1
Mixed salad 340g £1
Onions x7 65p
Peppers 5pk £1.50
Lemon 30p

Meat & fish £10.45
Back bacon 20 rashers £4
RTC cod pieces 200g 95p
Pork loin steaks 500g £3.75
RTC turkey breast 500g £1.75

Dairy & eggs 99p
Savers butter 99p
Meadow park milk 2ltr 97p

Bread 35p
RTC white rolls x4 35p

General £7.03
Extra virgin olive oil 500ml £1.99
Savers chopped tomatoes x2 62p
Savers tinned pineapple 20p
Black peppercorns £1.89
Savers pasta 32p
Cola x2 £1.20
Savers lasagne 32p
Tomato puree 49p

Household £2.90
Radox bath salts £1.00
Shower gel 79p
Savers kitchen roll 3pk £1.11

Rules for banana milkshakes

banana milkshake

Blueberry and banana milkshake

This isn’t really a recipe, but I wanted to share a few ideas for the breakfast milkshakes I have most weekends.

I’m not brave enough to go down the ‘green smoothies’ route, but I do like fruit smoothies and milkshakes.  My love of milkshakes stems from childhood – my mum used to make banana milkshakes for my sister and I as a way to get more milk into us.  She only put bananas and whole milk in them, so they were a healthy source of fruit, protein and calcium.

When we were young, my mum occasionally made strawberry milkshakes but we weren’t that keen, and since strawberries are more acidic, we added sugar to them.  I’ve experimented with different fruit combinations since then and have learned a few basic rules:

  • To make a large basic banana milkshake for one (makes 1 pint), you need two bananas and 1/2 pint milk.  Stick in a blender and blitz until smooth (a stick blender doesn’t work that well for this in my experience).
  • It works best if one or both bananas is frozen as it chills and thickens it, like icecream has been added.  I freeze them whole in their skins, then just cut the skiins off when I’m cutting into chunks as I make the milkshake – but you can peel and cut up first if you prefer.
  • You can substitute 80g of pretty much any berry for one of the bananas, but not both – you need the banana to make it sweet enough without adding sugar.  My favourite is blueberry, but raspberry and strawberry both work well.  Or you could use a mix of two or more berries.
  • Even better, use frozen berries – either freeze your own (works well if you can get them reduced) or buy the ready frpozen ones, that cost up to half the amount of fresh.
  • You can swap the milk for water or apple juice (or other fruit juice) with a a couple of spoonfuls of natural yoghurt added in, to make a yoghurt smoothie instead.   Or skip the yoghurt to make a plain smoothie.
  • You can also experiment with different fruits in place of the berries and/or banana but keep it simple and use fruits that work well together.  The worst thing I made was a melon, pear and apple juice smoothie (just because my melon and pears needed used up) – it just tasted terrible for some reason!  A good combo could be mango, banana and orange juice with honey, for example.
  • Optional – in either case, you can add a spoonful of honey.
  • Even more optional and considerably less healthy – you can use one less banana and some vanilla or other icecream instead – maybe not for breakfast though!

So do you make milkshakes or smoothies?  My favourite combo is banana, blueberry and milk, but I’m also a sucker for the plain banana milkshake.  Are you brave enough to try green or vegetable based smoothies?