Monthly Archives: December 2013

Homemade butter

new camera 281213 012

So…I know I haven’t posted here for a couple of weeks. Forgive me – I’ve been INCREDIBLY busy. Turns out it really isn’t possible to work full-time, blog, sort out Christmas, keep up an exercise routine and a normal social life, all while planning a wedding (which is in just over two months now, eep!).  Now that Christmas is over, I’m going to try my hardest to get back into some kind of blogging routine though.

I’ll  go through my receipts for December (if I still have them all!), total up and write a post updating you all on my Grocery Challenge progress. But in the meantime, I’ve got a nice wee easy how-to post on making butter for anybody who’s got cream to use up after Christmas.

I’d heard rumours on MSE that supermarkets tend to mark down (or ‘yellow sticker’) fresh cream after Christmas, perfect for butter-making, so when I went into my local Morrisons a couple of days ago I kept my eyes out – and sure enough, there was a whole section of shelves FULL of big tubs of all sorts of cream, all half-price.  My Morrisons is rubbish for reductions by the way; your local supermarket might reduce down to 25% or even less of the original price.

I ended up picking up three big cartons of double cream and was so pleased with how it easy it was in the end – I used two of the cartons (keeping the third to freeze for use in cooking) and got nearly 600g butter out of it, to which I added a bit of salt.  After some deliberation, I realised that I was going to find it hard to use it all since I have plenty of butter and vegetable fat in for baking already, so I decided to turn the butter into ghee (a type of clarified butter used in Indian cooking) to preserve it for longer – I’ll post the method later this week.

Homemade butter

homemade butter

  • Double cream, as much as you have (I used two of the 600ml cartons they sell in the supermarket)
  • A little salt to taste (optional; I used 1/2tsp but might have preferred a wee bit less)

Yup, that’s it. You’ll find this easier if you have an electric whisk or stand mixer, but the internet tells me you can do it in a food processor or even by shaking the cream in a large jar by hand (sounds tiring to me!).

I poured the cream into a large bowl and whisked it with my electric whisk on full power. First of all, you end up with whipped cream, then as it continues to whip, the cream gets thicker and yellower. After a few minutes, you start to hear a slight sloshing and can see a whitish liquid separating from the butter (this is your buttermilk).

Strain the butter, reserving the buttermilk, and mold the butter together into a lump. Pop into a bowl of cold water and knead until the water becomes cloudy, then repeat a couple of times. You’re aiming to wash out as much of the buttermilk as possible, to help the butter keep.  If you don’t add salt, it’ll only keep a few days (you can freeze it though); with salt it should keep a couple of weeks.

Costing – I spent £1.68 to make 600g butter, and it would have cost £2.35 for the equivalent of value brand butter (98p per 250g pack).  The butter-making was easy and the end result was good, but I wouldn’t do it unless I had reduced cream as otherwise it’s cheaper just to buy it.  

Note on Buttermilk

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Don’t expect your buttermilk to be like the thick, tangy buttermilk you can buy in the supermarket and use to make sour-tasting scones – what you actually get is thin and mild-tasting.  Turns out the buttermilk you can buy is a twentieth-century invention made by adding a culture to milk (a bit like yoghurt) and isn’t related to butter-making at all.  Beware of using your buttermilk in baking recipes calling for the usual cultured stuff, because it doesn’t have the same sour taste, but you can drink it (it’s quite pleasant-tasting) or use it instead of normal milk in recipes e.g. I made some scones from this recipe with some of mine. 

PS Hope you liked my lovely sharp pictures – I got a new camera for Christmas!  Along with lots of mismatched plates and boards for blog pics, an electric food slicer and some recipes books, so I’m all set for cooking and blogging more in the new year.


Mealplan and Spending Update 10/12

Well we’ve managed to spend a fortune this week! I let Dave loose on the shops midweek (I’m still super busy at the moment) and we had a big order this weekend too since we needed to stock up on cleaning stuff.

BUT one of the main reasons for the high total is an amazing deal I got on a beef joint – £14.30 for a 3.5kg topside joint (yes, that works out as only FOUR POUNDS per kilo) – which will keep us going in roasts, casseroles and sandwiches for the next few weeks.  Asda has a £4 p/kilo rollback offer on their cheaper 2.25kg beef joints at the moment, and they must have run out, because in my order today they’d substituted it for one big and more expensive topside joint – so glad they price match substitutions because I would have been really unhappy to miss out on this.

I cut the joint into three roughly equal pieces – one will be roasted for dinner tonight, with lots of leftovers for another meal; one’s been frozen as is; and the third I chopped into chunks and froze – it should be enough to make three casseroles for the two of us. I’ve estimated that it’ll provide around 10-11 meals for the two of us (but I’ll probably use some for Dave’s sandwiches rather than making another meal out of it; I think he’ll be happy for a change from ham).


Sun 8 – roast beef with Yorkshires, gravy and roasted root veg

Mon 9  – mushroom stroganoff with potatoes and salad

Tues 10 – Chinese chicken curry with egg fried rice

Wed 11  – Nigerian red kidney bean stew with rice

Thurs 12  – I’m out; not sure what Dave’ll do yet

Fri 13 – homemade pizzas & salad

Sat 14 – homemade fish fingers and chips with veg

Spending Update (£96.19 / £225)

Fruit & veg £10.47
Baby leaf salad £1
Pak choi 200g £1
Smartprice mushrooms 650g £1.37
Loose bananas x4 44p
Smartprice apples 5pk 90p
White potatoes 5kg £3.49
Garlic 4pk £1
Ginger 300g 67p
Swede 60p

Dairy & eggs £2.90
Mozzarella 83p
Creme fraiche £1.10
Meadow park whole milk 2ltr 97p

Meat & fish £17.30
Frozen haddock fillets 400g £2
Beef topside joint 3.5kg £14.30
Pepperoni 120g £1

Bread £1
Naan bread 2pk £1

General £14.13
Smartprice tinned pineapple 33p
Carte noire instant coffee 150g £4
Granulated sugar 1kg 88p
Smartprice tinned tomatoes x4 £1.24
Smartprice passata x2 68p
Smartprice ketchup 28p
Smartprice bran flakes 92p
Cola 4pk x2 £4
Mango chutney £1.10
Coconut milk 70p

Household £9.02
Dried cat food 950g £1.32
Floor cleaner £1.20
Dettol antibacterial spray x2 £2
Smartprice dish brush x1 £4.50

Couch to 5K

Like healthy eating, exercise can be one of the things cut when a person’s on a budget. It feels like a luxury, or maybe the budget’s just a bit of an excuse – a way to justify not getting fit. Either way, it’s true that fancy exercise gear and gym memberships can cost a lot. To my mind, if you have a bit of spare cash, they’re worth the investment, too. Your health is important and I don’t think anybody needs convincing that regular exercise is a massive part of that.  I’m a member of my local council gyms and also spend money going wall climbing most weeks, and it’s not something I want to give up even though I’m trying to save money.

Exercise machines (284617740)

Exercise machines (284617740) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you really don’t have the budget to join the gym or head along to an exercise class, running is a great way to get fit at low cost, get out in the fresh air and enjoy some of your local scenery.  All you really need is a pair of trainers (which I’m guessing most people already own) and some kind of vaguely exercise appropriate wear (shorts, vest tops, leggings, maybe a zip up hoodie or similar – you don’t need to spend a lot when you’re starting out).

I’ve just finished the Couch to 5K plan, which aims to get beginners running for 30 minutes three times a week within nine weeks, and I totally loved it.  As well as the gear listed above, you’ll need something to play the podcasts on (I downloaded the ones from the NHS website for free) plus earphones. You can just use your normal iPod or phone or any generic mp3 player really.

English: 3G iPod with included dock, earphones...

English: 3G iPod with included dock, earphones, and beltclip carrying case. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It took me ten weeks to finish the plan because I had a couple of weeks where I could only run twice, and to my amazement, it totally worked. I can’t run 5K yet because despite the name the programme focuses on time, not distance, but I know I’ll end up getting there eventually. The programme is set up for total beginners and for the first few weeks, you run for short bursts mixed in with walking intervals to help you recover. In week one, I found it difficult to run for 60 seconds at a time – I could never have imagined that only 5 weeks later I’d be running a whole 20 minutes without stopping and even (shock horror) enjoying it!

So if you want to try getting fit for less, why not try out Couch to 5K?

PS This is not a sponsored post and I haven’t been paid anything to write it; I’m just so happy that I can now run that I wanted to let other people know about the programme 🙂

Mealplan and Spending Update 02/12

How can it be December already?  Just how??  Thankfully I’ve done most of my Christmas shopping but I’m still finding life pretty busy and hectic at the moment – I suppose wedding planning does that to you.  I’m still trying to keep meals simple because of this, but I’m looking forward to the chicken stew and the enchiladas, both of which are new recipes.

As far as the budget goes, I’ve upped it in December to to allow for Christmas treats (and because Dave’s mum will come to stay for a few days, so we’ll want to make some nice family meals), so I’ll try and stick under £225 until the 25th, when the new budget will start.


Sun 1  – beef & mushroom pie with roasted veg and red cabbage

Mon 2 –  tomato & mascapone pasta with salad

Tues 3 – Dave working/I’m visiting my mum

Wed 4 – vegetable curry

Thurs 5 – South African chicken & peanut stew with rice

Fri 6 – griddled salmon with sweet potato chips and veg

Sat 7 – black bean enchiladas

Spending (£41.37 / £225)

Fruit & veg £5.56
Sweet potatoes 1kg £1
Bananas x6 61p
Smartprice peppers 5pk £1.58
Smartprice mushrooms 650g £1.37
Baby leaf salad £1

Meat & fish £8.52
Frozen salmon fillets 4pk £3
Diced beef 600g £5.52

Dairy & eggs £4.89
Whole milk 4pints £1
Asda Best for Baking x2 £1
Mascarpone 250g £1.50
Free range eggs 6pk £1.39

General £13.38
Cola 4pk £2.15
Smartprice porridge oats 1kg 80p
Cornflakes 750g £1.74
Smartprice mayo 40p
Branston pickle £1
Smartprice passata 34p
Smartprice chopped tomatoes 31p
Princes tuna in brine 3pk x2 £4
Cream crackers 40p
Smartprice mandarins 24p
Discos salt & vinegar 6pk x2 £2

Household £9.02
Smartprice cat litter x2 £3.10
Morrisons savers cat litter £1.57
Alberto Balsam hair gel £1
Smartprice toothbrushes 4pk 35p
Original Source orange & ginger shower gel x2 £2
Radox bath salts £1