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Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Luxury, Low Faff, Busy Family, Weekly Meal Plan £70

This meal plan is for those weeks when things are manic, families with little time to prepare meals, or just when you need a bit of convenience.  The meals are tasty and low faff to make, there are some slow cooker ones too.

I've included pancakes for a weekend treat, homemade muesli bars which are super easy to make, a carrot cake for lunchboxes or elevenses and rice pudding for lunchboxes or puddings.

Breakfast, with the exception of weekend pancakes, is cereal and milk.  I have included the cost of store bought bread, chutney and one jar of pasta sauce - all in the name of convenience.  Lunches on this Meal Plan are leftovers or sandwiches with vege sticks and a couple of pieces of fruit. Sandwich fillings are cheese and chutney, tuna and mayo, or ham salad. 

This Meal Plan assumes that you have the following items in your store cupboard: fresh and/or dried herbs, spices, stock cubes, salt and pepper, oil, pasta, sugar, vanilla extract, jam or honey/golden syrup and any drinks you might like.  Everything else is on the shopping list.

Sunday Afternoon - Slow Cooker Vege Stew (Monday’s Dinner)

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pepper, diced

1 Tblsp oil

2 tsp cumin

2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

500ml tomato passata

2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms

1 large carrot, peeled and finely sliced

1 small sweet potato, cut into small dice

2 tsp dried oregano

250ml red wine

500ml vegetable stock

Soften the onions, pepper and garlic in a little oil then stir in the cumin and cook for about a minute until fragrant. Put in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients. Stir well. Cook on low for 3 hours. Season to taste before serving with crusty bread.

Tuesday – Rice and Vege Slice

1 cup cooked white or brown rice

2 onions, finely sliced

Handful of mushrooms, finely sliced

1 Tblsp olive oil

300g spinach
6 large eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to season

2 large tomatoes, sliced

1 cup grated cheese

Preheat your oven to 180ÂșC. Lightly oil a large baking/casserole dish or line it with non-stick baking paper. If you haven’t cooked the rice, then cook following the instructions on the packet.

Cook onions and mushrooms in the oil until softened. Steam fresh spinach on high in a microwave for 2 minutes, squeeze out as much moisture as you can then chop finely.
Combine all half the cheese, all the vegetables and rice with the beaten egg, except the sliced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into the prepared dish and flatten the top. Put the tomato slices on the top and then sprinkle with the leftover grated cheese.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until set in the middle and lightly browned. Serve with chutney/relish and steamed mixed vegetables or salad.

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Meatballs

500g beef mince

½ cup uncooked long-grain rice

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, oregano, marjoram, etc.)

1 large onion, finely diced

1 pepper, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

1 stick celery, finely sliced/diced

500g homemade or store bought pasta sauce

375 ml beef stock or water

Turn the slow cooker on to low to preheat whilst you chop all the vegetables.

In a bowl, mix together the mince, rice and fresh herbs with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and set aside for a few minutes.

Put the onion, pepper, carrot and celery Into the slow cooker. Mix together the cook-homemade pasta sauce and beef stock then pour into the slow cooker. Stir to mix thoroughly with the vegetables.

Put the meatballs on top of the sauce in the slow cooker and then cover with the lid. Cook on low for 6–7 hours or on high for 3–4 hours. Serve with mash/pasta/baked potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables.

Thursday - Quick Weeknight Vegetable Curry

Cooked rice, to serve

1 Tblsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

300g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1 inch dice

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced (same as the pumpkin)

400g can chopped tomatoes

400g can lentils, drained

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Soften the onion and pepper in the oil and then add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes. Add the cumin and turmeric, cook them for about a minute or until they are fragrant. Add the pumpkin, potatoes and chopped tomatoes to the pan and mix everything together well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes then add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pumpkin and potato are cooked. Serve with rice.

Friday - Slow Cooker Beef Casserole

750g casserole beef

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 peppers, diced

2 Tbsp plain flour

2 Tbsp tomato paste

250ml beef stock

400g tin diced tomatoes

1 Tbsp dried oregano

400g can cannellini beans, well drained

Cut beef into 2.5cm-3cm pieces and season the beef with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in a frying pan over a high heat and transfer to a slow cooker.

Put the onion, garlic and pepper in the slow cooker as well. Stir the flour, tomato paste and beef stock together to make a smooth paste and pour over the beef. Add the tin of tomatoes and oregano then cover.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-5 hours. Add the cannellini beans, stir to mix through and then heat for another 20 minutes or so before serving.

Saturday - Quesadillas

8 tortillas, wholemeal wraps or burritos

1 tin whole kernel corn

1 tin chilli beans

1 cup grated cheese

2 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 spring onion, white and green parts chopped

A couple of large handfuls of grated cheese

Preheat a non-stick frying pan or sandwich press. Top four of the tortillas with the chilli beans, drained sweetcorn, chopped tomatoes, spring onion and grated cheese.

Cover with remaining tortillas to make a tortilla sandwiches.

Spray frying pan with a little oil. Cook tortillas one at a time in frying pan. Cook on one side for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn and cook the other side for another 2 or 3 minutes, or until the fillings are hot and the cheese has melted. Repeat with the other three tortillas. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve with salad.

Sunday - Chicken Casserole

8 chicken pieces

2 onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

4 carrots, cut into chunks

2 celery sticks, sliced

375ml water

1 chicken stock cube

1 teaspoon mixed herbs (1 Tblsp chopped fresh rosemary)

1-2 Tblsp cornflour to thicken, dissolved in 50ml water

Put the vegetables and chicken pieces into a casserole dish. Pour over the chicken stock. Sprinkle over the herbs. Cover and bake in the oven at 180°C for 1 ½ hours until the chicken is cooked. If it is necessary, thicken the casserole by using the cornflour dissolved in water. Serve with mash and steamed greens.

Weekend Lunches

Fish Cakes

1 can tuna or salmon in spring water, drained

3 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp lemon juice

1 spring onion, white and green parts very finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tblsp oil

Mix together all the ingredients except the oil. Spread a little flour on a board, tip the mixture out, shape into a rectangle and cut into eight pieces. Shape each piece into round, flat patties. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Brown the fishcakes on both sides and serve with a salad or steamed mixed vegetables.

Our Favourite Homemade Pizza Dough


My kids love making their own pizzas and we can vary the toppings according to taste, and what we have available. This dough takes no time at all to whip up in a mixer, or get the kids to knead it for you. You can use leftovers to make calzone with the dough, just roll out as if you are making pizza, put the filling on one side then fold over and crimp closed. Perfect for a Friday night dinner or weekend lunch, great if you have friends over after school too.

1 cup plain flour plus extra for kneading

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1 sachet dried yeast

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

about 2/3 cup lukewarm water

Place flours in a large bowl with yeast, salt and dried herbs. Make a well in the centre. Use a bread and butter knife or wooden spoon to mix in just enough water to bind the mixture and form a dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes to form a smooth (not sticky) ball of dough. Use a little extra flour if you need to.

Spray a bowl and cling film with a little oil spray. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with the cling film. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 30 minutes while you prepare the toppings.

We use a variety of toppings depending on what is available. Favourites in our house include: pepper, mushroom, and courgette with a tomato paste base.

Check the dough has risen – when a finger is gently pressed into the dough it will spring back a little bit.

Once the dough has risen, use your fist to punch down the dough gently. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it's smooth.

Prepare the dough for your favourite toppings. Roll the dough out to make 1 large pizza, or 4 smaller pizzas.

Snacks and Treats

Pikelets/Pancakes

300g self raising flour, or plain flour with 4 tsp baking powder added

2 eggs

50g sugar

375ml milk

Mix all the ingredients together well and then cook ladlefuls of mixture in a greased frying pan over a moderate heat. Serve with chopped bananas and drizzle with golden syrup, spread with jam or brushed with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar.

Homemade Muesli Bars

1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

500g muesli or 250g rolled oats, 200g mixed seeds, 50g chopped almonds

100g sultanas or dried apricots

Preheat your oven to 130C/Gas Mark 1/2 and lightly oil a large baking tin. Mine measures 23cm x 33cm x 4cm.

Mix the dry ingredients and fruit together until well combined. Warm the condensed milk in a pan then mix with all the other ingredients and use a spatula to make sure everything is well coated.

Press the mixture into the tin and level the surface. The mixture is really sticky so you might want to wet your hands or lightly oil them so that you don't end up a sticky mess.

Bake the muesli bars for 1 hour then set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.

Carrot Cake

2 eggs

125ml oil

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups grated carrot

1 tsp grated lemon zest

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup white flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm cake tin or line it with non-stick baking paper.

Beat eggs, oil and brown sugar until thick and smooth. Add the cinnamon, lemon zest and grated carrot. Mix well to combine. Add the sifted flour, baking powder and baking soda and gently but thoroughly mix once again until combined.

Pour mixture into the cake tin. Bake at 180°C for 40 - 45 minutes, or until the centre is firm and a skewer inserted in to the centre comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes in the tin. Cool on a cake rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Rice Pudding (Lunchbox treat or pudding)

600ml whole milk

65g long grain white rice

pinch of salt

50g white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice with a pinch of salt. Place saucepan over a fairly high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender. This usually takes about 25 minutes. Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

When the rice is tender (al dente) take the saucepan off the heat and sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Mix well to combine. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, this should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sultanas if you are using them. Spoon the pudding into a bowl to cool and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To make this into more of a Mullerice type treat add some jam or golden syrup to swirl through the rice pudding. You could also add dried apricots or dates instead of sultanas if you have some in your store cupboard.

Shopping List

I once again used My Supermarket to find the cheapest place to purchase all the groceries needed for this Meal Plan.  The cost of all 46 items from Asda on 01/01/12 was £69.96 which was £14.91 cheaper than the same shop at Sainsburys and £15.28 cheaper than the same shop from Tesco.

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Swiss Style Muesli (1Kg) 98p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Plain Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.59

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x Dolmio Bolognese Sauce - Original (500g) £1.00
1x Napolina Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice (4x400g) £2.00
1x ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g) 64p
1x ASDA Chilli Beans (290g) 68p
1x ASDA Sweetcorn (326g) 43p
2x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 39p
1x ASDA Green Lentils in Water (400g) 47p
1x ASDA Passata (500g) 38p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
1x ASDA Extra Special Caramelised Onion Chutney (320g) £1.00 was £1.33
1x ASDA Extra Special Ploughmans Plum Chutney (280g) £1.00
1x The Reel Fish Co Pole and Line Tuna Chunks in Spring Water (3x185g) £4.29

Frozen
2x ASDA Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.00

Dairy and Eggs
4x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Free Range Large Eggs (12) £2.70 2 FOR £4.00
1x Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk (397g) £1.00
2x ASDA English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 was £2.48

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
1x ASDA Extra Juicy Oranges (10) £1.97
10 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) 10p
10 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) 6.8p
3x ASDA Lemons Loose 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.35
7 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 7.6p
1x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.25 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 19.9p
5 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 9.7p
2 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 11.1p
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber 80p
2x ASDA Round Lettuce 57p
1x ASDA Celery 83p
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 22p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.48
1x ASDA Spring Onions 70p
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.37
1x ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg) £1.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
5 ASDA Deli Carved Ham by Weight (100g) 75p
1x ASDA British Beef Mince (500g) £2.40
1x ASDA Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg) £3.89 any 2 FOR £7.00
1x ASDA Diced Casserole Beef (804g) £5.50 was £6.36

Bakery
1x ASDA Mexican Wholewheat Tortillas (8) 82p
5x Kingsmill Tasty Wholemeal Little Big Loaf (470g) 50p was 75p


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