Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/01


I know it’s been a week since I’ve posted – the wedding has taken over my life again and all I can think of are table plans, bouquets and vows!  I was also away for my hen weekend (a lovely weekend in Edinburgh organised by my amazing bridesmaids) this weekend so haven’t been cooking much and only did this week’s shopping today.

Keeping it simple again this week as Dave’s off on his stag do at the weekend and I have a work event on Friday evening then dinner out with family on Sunday.  Still mostly using things from the freezer and cupboards so shouldn’t have to buy too much for a week or so.  I have upped the budget by £20 this month to take account of the fact that it’s a five weekend month and hopefully this should be do-able.

I would have finished my January budget just under, but our oven broke unexpectedly and as our grill is also an oven, I bought some oven cleaning supplies to clean it out (it smoked if you actually used it as an oven due to not being cleaned for a really, really long time :oops:).  So I was a few pounds over instead. Dave is trying to fix the oven tonight so keep your fingers crossed for us – otherwise we’ll be stuck with the little top oven until we can get a new one, which will seriously cramp my baking style.


Sun 26 – veg chilli, cheese and rice

Mon 27 – veg & tofu Szechuan-style stirfry with noodles

Tues 28 – beef pasties with beans and homemade chips

Wed 29 – pan-fried salmon with salad, roasted veg and homemade wedges

Thurs 30 – homemade pizzas with salad

Fri 31 – Dave away and I’m at a work event

Sat 1 – veg risotto with salad

February Spending Update (£26.84 / £185)

Fruit & veg £5.54
Radishes 50p
Spring onions 75p
Four leaf salad £1.09
Peppers 4pk £1.89
Savers mushrooms 79p
Bananas x5 52p

Dairy & eggs £5.52
Savers mozzarella 55p
Morrisons spreadable butter x2 £4
Meadow park whole milk 2ltr 97p

Bread £1
White loaf £1

General £5.24
Yutaka tofu £1.04
Sharwoods egg noodles £1.00
Savers ketchup 40p
Savers tinned pineapple 25p
Savers tinned peaches 32p
Vegetable oil 1ltr £1.35
Savers bran flakes 88p

Household £9.54
Alberto balsam shampoo & conditioner x4 £3
Savers scourers 19p
Whiskas cat food pouches 12pk £3
Morrisons triple blade disposable razors 4pk £1.75
Colgate sensitive toothpaste £1.60

Mealplan and Spending Update 19/01


Busy week next week so not much of a mealplan I’m afraid – I’m going to the theatre with some friends tomorrow, so need to get fed and out quickly (before Dave even gets home, as he plays badminton on Mondays) and I’m away for the weekend for my hen party!  Really looking forward to it, though I don’t know what I’m doing – my lovely bridesmaids have organised it all as a surprise for me 😀

Confession time: I’ve lost a receipt from Friday night.  I know I bought a courgette, some living basil, creme fraiche, savers smoked salmon (verdict – don’t bother with it, it’s not thin enough and is just one thick slice instead of several thin ones), bin bags and 5kg potatoes.  I know what the overall total as I paid with my debit card so have put in the list below as ‘Morrisons shop 17/01’.


Sun 19 – out for dinner to celebrate Dave’s mum’s birthday

Mon 20 – quick dinner from the freezer: minestrone for Dave and fish pie for me

Tues 21 – trout al forno (from Save with Jamie)

Wed 22 veggie chilli with rice

Thurs 23 – beef pasties with beans

Fri 24 – I’m away; steak, chips and veg for Dave

Sat 25 – I’m away; chicken with arrabiata sauce, salad and chips for Dave

Spending Update (£163.14 / £165)

Delivery £4

Fruit & veg £4.49
Bananas x6 68p
Smartprice apples 6pk 90p
Smartprice frozen sweetcorn 1kg 98p
Tender leaf salad £1
Carrots 1kg 93p

Meat & fish £4.98
Rainbow trout fillets 2pk £3.48
RTC chipolatas 12pk £1.50

Dairy & eggs £1.99
Whole milk 4 pints £1
Savers butter 99p

Bread 99p
Part baked ciabatta rolls 4pk 99p

General £20.33
Asda cola 4pk x2 £3.30
McCoys crisps 6pk x2 £2
Mixed almonds 200g £1.50
Strong white bread flour 1.5kg 80p
Granulated sugar 1kg 88p
Smartprice baked beans 24p
Tuna in brine 4pk x2 £6
Albero Antico EV olive oil 750ml £2.50
Smartprice bran flakes 750g 88p
Savers jam 29p
Savers self-raising flour 1.5kg 45p
Caster sugar 1kg £1.49

Household £9.58
Smartprice cat litter x2 £3.10
Smartprice kitchen roll 4pk £1.38
Whiskas wet food pouches 12pk £2.50
Colgate toothpaste 100ml £1
Savers bio washing liquid £1.60

Morrisons shop 17/09 £10.29

Homemade ghee

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Well I finally got round to writing the ghee tutorial!  My laptop’s all back to normal now – in fact, better than normal, she’s been all cleaned out and had Windows 7 installed, so is running like a dream.

If you haven’t come across it before, ghee is a type of Indian clarified butter which is toasted slightly to give a more complex taste  It keeps fresh much longer than butter and many people believe that it’s healthy as it’s had most of the milk solids removed – in fact, it’s reported that it’s even suitable for those with lactose intolerance, as the lactose is removed as part of the process.

Since I had a bit of a butter surplus after making butter before New Year, I did a bit of research and found that it seemed pretty easy to make.  You can use however much butter you have to use up.  Traditionally, you should apparently use unsalted but you can use either.

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  1. Melt the butter over a low heat for a few minutes, until completely melted
  2. Continue to cook until butter has separated, with solids on the bottom and milky scum floating on the top.  This took me about 15-20 minutes
  3. Skim off as much of the top layer as you can
  4. Raise the temperature a little and cook for an other few minutes, until the solids on the bottom are a light brown (DO NOT burn or your ghee will be unusable!).  Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit
  5. Strain into a sterilised jar(s) using muslin (or kitchen roll, which is what I used!).
  6. Enjoy!  Your ghee will be liquid to start with but does solidify and can go really solid in the fridge – but you can store it at room temperature if you prefer.  You can use it in place of butter in cooking and it’s particularly good in curries 🙂

Some help with salad dressings

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I’ve not forgotten that I promised to write a post about making ghee a couple of weeks ago when I wrote my butter-making guide – the wedding has seriously taken over our lives so I just haven’t got round to it!  My laptop also had a bit of a crisis and had to go to the shop to get repaired today so I have to update on the other computer which hasn’t got my library of pictures on it.  Meaning that there won’t be any ghee tutorials tonight, but it is coming soon, and in the meantime, I thought I’d write a quick post on salad dressing instead.

This post is long-overdue as well, actually: it was inspired by a conversation with a friend when I went to her house for a (delicious) barbeque in the summer – seems so long ago!  She was hunting about for a bottle of balsamic salad dressing when I showed her how to make a simple balsamic vinaigrette instead, using ingredients she already had in.  Salad dressing was the first thing I learned to make as a child (partly because I was such a salad fiend and we used to eat it with almost every meal) and I’d forgotten that it was a thing that some people buy instead.

The best thing to do to save money on your shopping (and eat more healthily) is to buy ingredients instead of ready-made food.  So whenever I find myself popping something processed (even if it’s a basic like a jar of jam) into my trolley I ask myself if I can make it instead.  This applies just as much to salad dressing as anything else  and as it happens, the ingredients for salad dressing are reasonably cheap and versatile – you might even have them in your cupboards already.

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Basic Balsamic Dressing

My basic salad dressing that I reach for most often is (for a small 2 person side salad – increase as required) 1bsp extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1-1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar (depending how sharp or mellow you like your dressing) and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper.  Optionally you can add the end of a teaspoon of French or Dijon mustard.  You can also swap other oils for the EV olive oil – flavoured oils work very well, or some people use normal olive or even sunflower oil, though I admit I always use extra virgin.  To be honest, now I never measure salad dressing as I just do it by eye, but you might want to measure the first couple of times, until you can judge what will be a good mix.  And taste it before you pour it on your salad (by dipping a finger, teaspoon or bit of bread in) – as with all food, you’re not going to know how it tastes unless you try it out!


Citrussy dressing

If you substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, you get a lovely summery dressing that works well on loads of salads. You can use a little mustard too if you like – I like wholegrain mustard in this.  Lime juice works too for a more exotic feel.

Other vinegars

You can also substitute in your favourite vinegars for the balsamic.  Cider vinegar works well, as do fruity vinegars – I have a bramble vinegar I got as a gift which is amazing in dressings.  Red and white wine vinegar also work, though I find them a bit too sour for my taste so tend to top up with extra olive oil or even add a pinch of sugar or drop of honey to sweeten.

Garlicky dressing

As above, but finely crush half a clove of garlic (just chuck the other half in the next dish you cook that has garlic in it, or if you’re cooking for a few people just use the whole clove) and mix in with the lemon juice orvinegar and olive oil.  Don’t make this if you’re worried about your breath, as it’s got a good garlicky kick to it.

Extra ingredients

Once you have the basic dressing formula down, you can jazz it up with any extra ingredients you want.  For example, tonight I made a dressing with red wine vinegarolive oil, a little sugar and some capersfinely chopped.  Other extra ingredients you could add include lemon or lime zestfinely chopped fresh herbsa pinch of dried herbshoney or I’ve even heard of miso or soy sauce being added to salad dressings to give a savoury kick.

So what’s your favourite salad dressing?  Or do you tend to buy them?  I haven’t covered creamy/mayo dressings here as I don’t tend to eat them – do you have any tips for these?

Mealplan and Spending Update 12/01


Still seem to be doing surprisingly well on the spending front!  Will do a bigger shop next weekend and get an online delivery in to stock up before starting next month, which is going to be really busy and a five weekend month too.

Mealplan is nice and easy again this week.  The haddock is recycled from last week, since we didn’t eat it then.  Last week, Dave ended up having to work quite a lot (the sausage rolls and pizza were actually bought by him, to eat at work – well you didn’t think I’d bought them, did you 😉 ) and on the Wednesday, when he wasn’t home for dinner, I went to my mum’s instead. We pretty much stuck to the mealplan apart from that though.

Dave’s mum’s coming to stay this weekend so I thought I’d dig out the beef roasting joint in the freezer then.  I still need to get some more veg for the weekend – Morrisons was really disappointing today in that respect.  No courgettes, no cheap carrots, not much choice of salad. It’s lovely that they’ve done up the veg bit but to make room for all the displays of expensive bunched carrots and radishes with their leaves on they seem to have got rid of all the Savers range of veg – so annoying!

We’re also trialling the cat on wet food as she’s been sick quite a lot and, while the vet has ruled out anything serious, it seems to be dietary.  After a few weeks on mostly specialist food from the vets (this is really expensive I have to say!), we’ve been reintroducing normal food and she seems to be coping better with wet rather than dry, which is a change for us.  Hopefully this will solve the issue as it’s not nice for her or us for her to be sick all the time 😦 .

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Sun 12 – minestrone soup and bread

Mon 13 mince and tatties

Tues 14 black eye bean & spinach stew with crusty bread

Wed 15 sweetcorn fritters, spicy wedges and salad

Thurs 16 – haddock with a spicy tomato sauce, veg 7 chips (recycled from last week as we didn’t have it then)

Fri 17 roasted vegetable arrabiata with foccacia and salad

Sat 18 roast beef, Yorkshires, roasties, veg and gravy

Lunches – minestrone or leftover chicken casserole for me, tuna or ham sandwiches for Dave during the week and bacon rolls at the weekend

Spending Update (£106.49 / £165)

Fruit & veg £6.50
Parsnips x3 69p
Bananas x6 58p
Grapes £2
Spring greens 75p
Leafy salad 180g £1.49
Fresh sage bunch 99p

Dairy & eggs £5.83
Meadow park whole milk 2lt 97p
Whole milk 4 pints £1.39
Free range eggs 6pk 97p
Cathedral City cheddar £2.50

Meat & fish £5
Bacon 24 rashers £5

Bread £1
Pick & mix 5x rolls/bagels £1

General £5.67
Savers plain flour 45p
Savers instant custard 15p
Nescafe instant coffee 150g £2.50
Savers baked beans 24p
Savers individual orange juices 3pk 45p
McCoys crisps 6pk £1
Savers bran flakes 88p
Frozen pizza £1.50
Sausage rolls 4pk £1

Household £8.15
Whiskas wet cat food pouches 12pk x2 £6
Morrisons dry cat food £1.28
Vaseline deodorant 87p

Sausage and Tomato Pasta

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I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use up leftovers – especially for meat, which is expensive.  We had a ‘fry-up’ for dinner on New Years Day (I use the term loosely since we don’t fry very much of it) and had some leftover sausages to use up after, so I decided to experiment and throw them into some pasta – it was really good.

This is a flexible recipe that you can adapt depending on how many sausages you have left (if it’s any less than the two and a half I had, you might want to pad out with some beans or just make one portion) and what vegetables you have in (I added roasted peppers but courgettes, spinach or aubergine could all work well.

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Sausage and Tomato Pasta (serves 2)

  • 2-3 leftover cooked sausages, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Handful fresh thyme, chopped or a pinch of dried thyme (optional)
  • Pinch sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 150-200g pasta, to serve (I used spaghetti, which was lovely)

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Toss the peppers in half the oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for around 2 minutes or until cooked and slightly charred on the edges.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a pan and add the onions.  Cook for a few minutes until softened, add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes, paprika, balsamic vinegar, chopped sausages and thyme (if using).  Taste and season, adding a little sugar if needed.  Cook for around 15 minutes, or until the tomato sauce has reduced slightly, cooking the pasta meanwhile in salted water as per packet directions.

When the peppers are done, add into the sauce.  Serve on the cooked pasta, with a side salad if desired, and garnished with a little fresh thyme and parmesan if you have any.

Hot and Sour Lentil Soup

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This is the soup you want for lunch if you felt a cold coming on- it doesn’t look like much, but you can literally feel it cleanse your sinuses as you eat it, the lentils and spinach are soothing and nutritious and to top it off, I made it with homemade chicken stock too.

I’d wanted to make the pressure cooker lemony Lebanese lentil soup on the Mortgage Free in Three blog but I’m incapable of following a recipe exactly and as I was pulling ingredients out of the fridge, it occurred to me that what I really wanted was the lemony fragrance but enhanced with a really big hit of ginger and chilli (I threw some garlic in there for good measure too).  It was the right soup for what’s supposed to be the most depressing Monday of the year: bold, cheering, warm.

I made this in the pressure cooker with just 5 minutes cooking time at pressure, but you can simmer away on the hob for half an hour or so until the lentils are mushy.  Since it’s a thinner soup than I’d normally make, I wasn’t sure how many portions I’d get so I scooped out two mugfuls for a snack then froze in four tubs.  Turns out the soup is deceptively filling and I’d say there’s at least 6 portions in the recipe.

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EDIT: I decided to enter this into the Fabulous Fusion Food Challenge, run by Deena Kakaya at  On the challenge page, it says: Fusion may sound like a dirty word these days when it comes to food, but when it works…it really is a wonderful tidal wave of sensory pleasure! It is so exciting to have new flavours and tastes run around in our mouths and minds and using what we like from different parts of the world makes for an interesting plate of food. So whether its curried pasta, Mexican spiced stir fry or a pizza with samosa filling on top, they can all taste out of this world!

To fit in with the challenge, the dishes should be vegetarian.  Well, I used homemade chicken stock in my soup because I had some and it’s got that comforting feel – but it would of course be great made with any kind of veggie stock (especially if you push the boat out and make your own – homemade stock is the best!) and that would actually make it vegan as well as veggie friendly.

Hot and Sour Lentil Soup (serves 6) 19p per portion

  • 250g red lentils 50p (£3.98 for 2kg, Asda)
  • 100g frozen spinach or a couple of good handfuls fresh 13p (£1.25  for 1kg, Morrisons)
  • 2 small onions, chopped 5p (98p for 2kg, Asda)
  • 1.8 litres chicken or veg stock (I used 2 litres homemade chicken stock and it was too watery until reduced, so I’d add less next time – counting as free)
  • Large thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated 10p (30p per 100g, Asda)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 8p (£1 for 4 bulbs, Asda)
  • 2-4 dried red chillies (or use crushed flakes – start with 1-2tsp and work from there, depending on your heat tolerance), 3p
  • Juice of one lemon 26p (£1.29 for 5, Morrisons)
  • 1/2 tbsp veg oil or fat of choice, 1p (£2 for 2 litres Crisp & Dry, Asda)

In your pressure cooker or large pot, heat the oil and add the onions on a medium heat.  Cook for a few minutes, until soft, then add the dried chilli, ginger and garlic.  Stir-fry for a minute, then add the hot stock and lentils.

Put the lid on your pressure cooker, seal and bring to pressure.  Cook for five minutes then use the quick release method to open the lid (if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just simmer on the hob until the lentils are done.

Mash the lentils with a potato masher or blend slightly with a hand blender (you don’t have to but I like the texture when it’s slightly mashed).  Add the fresh or frozen spinach and cook until defrosted/wilted down.  Add the lemon juice and season well, particularly with black pepper.

Serve with bread for lunch or as a starter.

Not only is this soup healthy and cheering, but it’s also really, really cheap too!  With a couple of slices homemade bread, that’s lunch for under 30p.  Beats going out in the rain to pay £3 for a meal deal, eh?