New Year’s Mealplan

Soooooo, a New Year’s resolution: blog more! I’ve done plenty of exciting cooking and thrifty mealplanning since I last blogged, but have just struggled to get the time to post. I miss blogging though so I’m determined to make more time for it.

Like everyone else, I’ve been eating pretty randomly for the last couple of weeks – I’ve been lucky enough to be off work throughout Christmas and New Year so it’s been a mix of celebration meals and constant grazing. I have cooked the odd blog-worthy meal though. I got a meat grinder/pasta maker from Dave for my Christmas so got that out on Hogmanay to make my own fusilli 🙂

I’m really looking forward to getting back into regular meals, meal planning and generally healthy foods, so I was excited to come up with the first mealplan of 2015.

My focus this week was on using up what we already had and getting plenty of veg in. We’ve got loads in the freezer (everything with FF after it) so shouldn’t need a big shop to do the following:

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Like my new kitchen chalkboard? It was a Christmas present. If you can’t read the photo, the mealplan is:

Sun 4 – out for lunch so just lentil soup (FF) for dinner if we’re hungry later
Mon 5 – glazed ham, roasted veg and mash with mustard sauce
Tues 6 – veggie chilli (FF) and rice
Wed 7 – spinach gnocchi with ham and tomato sauce
Thurs 8 – lasagne (FF) and salad
Fri 9 – veg-filled mac & cheese bake
Sat 10 – chickpea curry and rice

For breakfasts the plan is:

For me – porridge with apple or banana, or a banana chocolate milkshake
For Dave – cereal or toast
At the weekend – I think I’ll make pancakes one day for brunch, and maybe some home cooked baked beans if I have time the other day

For lunches:

Me – lentil soup (FF) or veg chilli (FF) with veg sticks
Dave – homemade beef pasties (FF) or ham sandwiches

Instead of listing my spending in my Sunday posts like before, I’ve created a page where I can keep all the spending for the month together – I haven’t been shopping yet, but you can find it here and I’ll update it every time I get more food.

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Christmas mincemeat

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So many of you’ll have read the title and started to freak out. Relax. I KNOW it’s not even close to Christmas yet. I’m not saying you need to run out and make the mincemeat right now. But if you’re like me and find that as soon as the weather starts to get crisp and cold, and you dig out your winter boots, you start getting a craving to make lovely Christmas food, this is for you (I haven’t eaten any yet though: it really is too early for that!).

If you’re also like me in that you’re making homemade gifts, this works really nicely in a hamper. I’ll try and share this year’s recipes early enough that you have time to follow along. Because nothing’s more annoying than finding a perfect recipe for homemade chutney or limoncello two weeks before Christmas, then finding out it needs to age for six to be edible 😉

Christmas mincemeat

I’m not going to share the recipe here, because I pretty much used Frugal Queen’s recipe exactly – which is an expertly frugalised version of a Delia classic. Literally the only change I make is that the suet I can get hold of comes in 200g packs, not 250g, so I just use that. It always works fine and keeps just as long (I didn’t make any last year because I had enough from the previous year). And suet’s just fat, so no harm done by reducing it a smidge, eh? I also use veggie suet rather than beef, but you can make your own call on that one.

Like Froogs, I refuse to go out and buy a bottle of brandy just to use six tablespoons in this recipe, but I’ve used both gin and vodka before and can report success with both, so just dig out whatever strong booze needs used up.

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It’s so easy to make mincemeat – I literally just bung all the ingredients in the oven and slow cook – so if you get a moment this autumn I recommend checking out the recipe. You can give the mincemeat as gifts or use it to make mince pies. My favourite way to make mince pies is to use puff pastry squares and fold over to make pinwheels – I’ll have to blog these later on in the year 😉

Have you started making anything for Christmas yet? What’s your favourite festive treat?

Lentil pate

140927-lentil-pate-cover-photo-1000x639Once again I’ve struggled to update lately – I really need to get some kind of routine back in because I’m really missing updating this blog!

Don’t worry though, I’ve still been saving money, keeping grocery costs low and cooking as much as I can from scratch. This month I’ve split my grocery budget into separate amounts for food and toiletries so I can better track what’s going where, but I’ll do a proper round-up at the end of the month and set a target on here for October too.

I’m really looking forward to sharing some new recipes on here. Since I started my new job three months ago, I’ve gotten into a slightly different cooking and meal routine. This is partly because I’ve been exercising a lot more and trying to eat really healthily, and it means I’ve been really experimenting, especially with lunch and breakfast foods. These new recipes aren’t always the cheapest though (I don’t eat soup as much now and given my usual soup recipe was about 12p a portion I can’t get salad anywhere near as cheap!) so my next challenge is to ‘frugalise’ some of these new recipes up a bit more 🙂

Today I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for a vegetarian lentil pate, perfect for an easy lunch with crackers or pitta bread, or even used as a sandwich spread. You could also serve it for a vegetarian starter or (as I did today) as part of a mezze platter for a main course. We had it along with hummous, garlic mayo, pittas, a bulghar wheat salad and roasted veg – SO tasty.

The recipe was kindly shared on the MSE forums by another user a few years ago, though I’ve very slightly adapted it below. It doesn’t look the prettiest but it’s tasty and incredibly cheap – mostly because it has no expensive ingredients in it. However, to get it so cheap I’ve been really embracing buying in bulk lately – the 2kg bag of red lentils for £2 is the one I actually have and I bought a similar 4kg bag of onions from Morrisons a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t want to invest in giant bags of these of these it’ll still be fairly cheap though.

Lentil pate (makes 4-6 lunch portions at 7-11p per portion)

  • 150g red lentils 15p (TRS, £2 for 2kg)
  • 1 pint water, just boiled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 4p (Asda, £2.89 for 1ltr)
  • 2 medium onions, about 250g, finely chopped or grated 11p (£1.67 for 4 kilos)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed 6p (90p for 4 bulbs)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried mixed herbs (you can either use a generic mixed herbs or mix in whichever dried herbs you like – I used some mixed herbs then added extra basil, oregano and thyme) 5p (Smartprice, 25p for 18g)

Add the red lentils and water to a large saucepan, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to the lowest setting and put the lid on the pan. Leave to cook for around 12-15 minutes, checking on it and stirring occasionally: you’ll need to take it off the heat when it starts catching on the bottom, but you want most of the liquid to have gone. Stir well with a wooden spoon to mash slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently for several minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or two. Remove from the heat and add to the lentils, along with the dried herbs.

At this point, you’ll need to season quite well with salt and pepper – lentils can be really bland unless you salt them well, so I used about half a teaspoon here. Leave to cool and serve with crackers, pittas or toast.

Variations – try swapping the mixed herbs for curry powder or other spices. Or use different lentils or beans, though they’ll be a little more expensive. The original recipe also suggested adding a spoonful of vinegar at the end to season, which I think would be la nice touch but I totally forgot about when I made mine.

Prices checked using Asda online delivery service.

Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

photo (54)I had this milkshake for breakfast at 7.45 this morning and, no joke, I was full enough to last until I had my lunch just after 1pm. Not bad for a liquid breakfast. And despite the fact that it sounds like a dessert, this shake isn’t actually too bad for you. You can always half the quantities if you just want it as a snack. I also find milkshakes handy because if I’m running late I can chuck them in my water bottle and drink them on the bus 🙂

The oats help fill you up and thicken the milkshake, but you can’t taste them. They do add a slightly different texture than an all fruit smoothie, but I liked it – use an extra banana if you’d prefer to skip it. Oats do contain lots of fibre and slowly release their energy, preventing blood sugar spikes, plus they add a little extra protein to the shake compared with using another banana.

Cocoa powder gives the shake a nice chocolately flavour and you can vary the amount – I used two tablespoons but if you don’t want it to be quite so intensely chocolatey, one or one and a half might work better. My one complaint would be that the nut flavour is quite subtly, so up this to two tablespoons if you like.

The shake benefits from a tiny bit of forward prep the night before, but nothing too time-consuming. Just think how organised you’ll feel the next day having your breakfast part-prepped 😉

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Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

30g porridge oats
1/2 pint milk (I used whole, but you can use whatever you like, including non-dairy milks if you prefer)
1 banana
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp nut butter (I used homemade cashew & peanut butter, but normally peanut butter works too)

The night before:

Peel and cut your banana into chunks. Chuck in a food bag or tub and put in the freezer. Add your oats to your milk in another tub and stick in the fridge overnight.

The next morning:

Put the oaty milk into your blender and whizz briefly until the oats are blended in. Add the other ingredients and blend until well mixed. You may want to add the cocoa powder a spoonful at a time, to taste.

Mealplan and Spending Update 27/07

It’s Commonwealth Games time here in Glasgow! Have been really enjoying the buzz the last few days and we have tickets to three events next week, so can’t wait for that 🙂

After a weekend where I barely saw the inside of my flat – including tickets to a performance of a Shakespeare play in the Botanic gardens, a night out, a visit to my parents and going to a strongwoman competition to support a friend who was competing – it’s a miracle I actually got any kind of mealplan done, but I even managed to order a delivery from Asda too! There was much divergence from the mealplan last week by the way due to some last minute plan changes, so some of the meals in this week’s are recycled. Hopefully we get around to actually eating them this week 😉

Mealplan

Sun 27 – chicken & vegetable curry with rice

Mon 28 – breaded fish, chips and veg

Tues 29 – chickpea and pepper stew with bulgur wheat

Wed 30 – some kind of pasta

Thurs 31 – veggie chilli with rice

Fri 1 – pork and apple burgers with coleslaw

Sat 2 – not planned yet in case we end up going out, but probably some kind of chicken dish if not

Spending Update (£69.03 / £175)

delivery £5.50

fruit & veg £14.61
smartprice carrots 2kg £1.18
white cabbage 1.4kg 80p
maris piper potatoes 2.5kg £2
smartprice lemons 500g 85p
bananas x6 70p
cherry tomatoes 525g £1.20
celery 50p
smartprice peppers 700g £1.50
frozen spinach 1kg £1.39
smartprice frozen sweetcorn 1kg 99p
strawberries 700g £2.50
florette salad leaves £1

meat & fish £8.69
free range whole chicken 1.75kg £8.69

dairy & eggs £2
greek yoghurt £1
whole milk 4 pints £1

general £24.41
cola 2ltr 4pk x3 £4.95
cola 250ml 12pk x2 £4.80
black peppercorns 200g £2.38
smartprice mayonnaise 40p
veg stock cubes 40p
beef stock cubes 40p
coarse grain mustard 48p
smartprice tinned tomatoes x4 £1.24
granulated sugar 2kg £1.55
smartprice spaghetti 20p
smartprice penne pasta 29p
udon noodles £1.20
roasted red peppers $1.40
cashew nuts 200g £1.72
mccoys crisps 6pk x2 £2
bulgur wheat £1.08

household £12.15
smartprice cat litter x3 £4.65
triple velvet toilet roll 16pk £5
bin bags 30pk £2.50
antibacterial spray £1
smartprice kitchen roll 4pk £1.39

Lentil, sweet potato and coconut soup

I had some really tasty soup for lunch today out of a batch I made and froze last week, and belatedly thought that it’d make a good recipe to share, so here it is. It was far too hot for soup today really – I sat outside, which is why the pictures are so bright – but I enjoyed it anyway 🙂

It’s got a lovely sweet, earthy, coconutty flavour plus a nice level of heat from the curry powder, without being too spicy. Interestingly, since I’ve been trying to have my lunchtime soup without bread I’ve paid a lot more attention to seasoning the soup and can really tell the difference. I think you can rely on buttered bread to ‘carry’ an underseasoned soup a bit so I was being a bit lazy about tasting and seasoning before packing it up and freezing.

I’ve always said that soup’s the best way to get in a healthy lunch as cheap as possible and this one’s only 38p per portion when you split the batch into five (if you’re the hungry sort you may want to have bigger portions or have some bread with it too, but it’ll still be pretty cheap).

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Lentil, sweet potato and coconut soup (serves 5 for lunch at 38p per portion)NutritionLabel

  • 1/2 tbsp cooking fat (free* – I used homemade lard, vegetable oil is fine too)
  • 2 small onions, peeled and chopped 10p, (Asda smartprice £1.06 for 2kg)
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 50p (Asda £1 per kilo)
  • 2 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras) 4p (Rajah Madras curry powder 61p per 100g in Asda)
  • 150g red lentils 27p (East End, £3.50 per 2kg in Asda)
  • stock to well cover (free* as I used homemade ham stock but vegetable or chicken stock is fine too)
  • 1 can coconut milk 95p (Rajah brand, Asda)

Heat the fat or oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onions. Gently fry for several minutes until starting to colour, then add the sweet potatoes, curry powder, lentils and enough ham or vegetable stock to well cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are mushy and the sweet potato is cooked through.

Remove from the heat, blitz with a hand blender (or use a jug blender, but let it cool a bit first) and add the coconut milk. Reheat gently, taste and season as required.

Makes five lunch portions at 38p per portion. *If you use Asda own-brand vegetable oil it’ll add less than a penny to the overall price and Asda own-brand stock cubes are 40p for 12 or 6p to use two in your soup.

Credit Crunch Munch

I’m entering this into Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake, but set up by Helen over Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla over at Fab Food 4 All.

Mealplan 20/07

Back from a lovely but brief weekend away in Argyll, where, after staying with Dave’s mum on Friday night, we attended a wedding on the beach – in fact standing barefoot in the sea in the pouring rain – a really unique and lovely day 🙂

I’ve not been keeping an exact record of spends this month – though looking at my bank statements shows that we have been more or less in budget – so I’ll not bother adding up the spending updates until next month’s budget comes in. Here’s this week’s mealplan and what I bought though:

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Mealplan

Sun 20 – macaroni cheese with broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes
Mon 21 – sweet potato, onion and cheese frittata with salad
Tues 22 – breaded cod, homemade chips, peas and broccoli
Wed 23 – turkey meatballs with a tomato sauce, rice and veg
Thurs 24 – chicken and spaghetti in a puttanesca sauce
Fri 25 – pork and apple burgers with corn on the cob and salad
Sat 26 – chickpea and cauliflower curry with rice

What I bought (£28.74)

I spent £27.74 in Morrisons today and a further £1 in my local Tesco garage (because I didn’t realise I was out of pasta when I did the shopping and didn’t really want mac and cheese made with spaghetti).

Fruit & veg £9.84
Courgettes x3 50p
Savers frozen peas 900g 89p
Frozen broad beans 500g £1
Cauliflower 99p
Broccoli 49p
Salad tomatoes x6 50p
Cucumber 49p
Frozen summer fruit £2
Peaches x4 50p
Savers apples x7 89p
Bananas x5 60p
Salad leaves 99p

Meat & fish £5
Minced pork 1.05kg £5

Dairy & eggs £5.34
Cheddar 350g x2 £3.50
Meadow park whole milk 2ltr 84p
Free range eggs x6 £1

Bread 25p
RTC white pittas 25p

General £6.79
Basmati rice 1kg £1.49
Pasta 500g £1
Tuna in brine x4 £3.49
Oatcakes 81p

Household £1.52
Savers washing up cloths 3pk 45p
Savers washing up liquid 34p
Savers food bags 73p