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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Quickest Cheese Bread Ever


My 13yo made this bread by herself and it really is super quick to whip up should you have unexpected guests for lunch or just want to have something tasty to take on a picnic or to the park.  It would also make a great accompaniment to BBQ fare.  Don't panic if you don't have buttermilk, just add 1 Tblsp/15ml lemon juice to 300ml milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Likewise should you not have chives then finely chop 3 spring onions, green and white parts, and use that instead.  You could also use fresh oregano or thyme instead. 

Quickest Cheese Bread Ever

375g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g grated cheddar, plus extra for topping
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped (or use 3 spring onions)
310ml buttermilk or natural yoghurt
1 free range egg

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.  In a large bowl combine the self-raising flour, baking powder, grated cheddar and finely chopped fresh chives.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a jug with a little freshly ground pepper if you want.  Mix until smooth. 

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk and egg mixture then gently mix until a dough starts to come together.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a little until just smooth, not too much or your bread will be heavy.  Shape into a circular mound.  Put the dough onto a lined baking tray.  Flatten the mound slightly and using a sharp knife score the bread about ¾ of the way through into 8 wedges. Sprinkle with a little extra grated cheese.  

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through, it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Set aside to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to eat or cool completely before packing into a picnic basket.



Raspberry Slice



I had some frozen raspberries lurking in the freezer and needed to use them up to make room for the enormous amounts of red and black currants we picked at out allotment.  I decided to make a quick and tasty slice to have for afternoon tea.

The slice went down very well with my family and a friend who popped around for a cuppa.  You could use other frozen berries to vary the flavour.  I would use frozen rather than fresh berries as they hold their shape a lot better during mixing and baking.

Raspberry Slice

150g unsalted butter, softened
275g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour
160ml buttermilk or natural yoghurt
300g frozen raspberries

Oaty topping
2 Tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
40g rolled oats

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a swiss roll tin/traybake tin with baking paper, allowing an overhang of baking paper on the long sides.  This makes it much easier to remove the slice from the tin.

Using a hand held electric mixer or stand mixer beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together for around 5 minutes until the mixture is very pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs a little at a time whilst the beaters are running.  Allow each addition of egg to beat in well before adding more.  Stir in the flour and buttermilk in 2 batches.  Mix until you have a smooth batter.  Gently fold the berries into the cake batter so they don’t break up  too much.  Dollop the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the top. 

Make topping by combining the sugar, cinnamon and oats in a bowl then sprinkle over the slice. Press the topping into the slice very lightly.  Bake in your preheated oven for 50 - 55 minutes.  The top should be lovely and golden and a skewer inserted into centre will come out clean.

Once the slice is cooked, cool it in the tray for 15 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before serving.


Monday, 29 July 2013

Grana Padano Week at L'Anima



I was delighted to attend a Masterclass followed by a delicious dinner at L'Anima in London to celebrate Grana Padano Week.  My daughters and I have attended previous Grana Padano events, such as this one in associated with Slow Food UK.

However, this event was strictly for grownups.  We were welcomed to the restaurant on a scorching hot July afternoon and squeezed into the kitchen for a Masterclass with Davide Oldani of Michelin starred Restaurant D’O in Milan and Francesco Mazzei of L’Anima in London.  

We donned our aprons and squeezed into the restaurant kitchen to watch the chefs demonstrate a couple of dishes that would be appearing on our special menu to celebrate Grana Padano Week.  We were joined by Italian TV who were filming the chefs and us.




I was asked by Davide to plate up his heavenly dish after watching him.  No pressure! I nervously plated up the dish copying what I had seen him do moments earlier and it didn't look too bad compared to his one.


Davide's plated up gnocchi on the left and mine is on the right. 
Francesco demonstrated a scallop dish with N’duja, Grana Padano Riserva & crispy peppers and sage leaves.




We were then lead back out to the main restaurant to have some appetisers before our delicious dinner.  The appetisers were divine and it took all my considerable willpower not to eat too many.


These deliciously light cheese balls were AMAZING! Very moreish and packed with flavour

Delicate Choux Buns filled with Grana Padano mousse and caramelised red onions, heaven in a mouthful.

Light, crispy pastry filled with Grana Padano and spinach, delicious!
Soon it was time for our dinner and I had a fab time eating excellent food and chatting with bloggers who I hadn't met before.  I was seated next to Amy from She Cooks, She Eats who was lovely.  






I had the best dinner I've had for a long time and it was great seeing Francesco and meeting Davide.  Both chefs are incredibly passionate about Italian regional cuisine, brilliant at what they do, and showed off the versatility of Grana Padano very well with the delicious dishes we were served.


Many thanks to L'Anima and Grana Padano for a fabulous time!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Our Meal Plan for this week £48 - Summer School Holidays Week 2

It is the second full week of Summer School Holidays here in the UK and we're settling in to a more relaxed pace and routine.  To stop us running out of food from our weekly shop after 3 days I'm making sure we have 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, no random raiding the fridge moments.  There is a tendency for everyone to eat more in the holidays but in order to stick to our budget and not grow around the middle too much we'll be sticking to normal mealtimes as much as possible.

Breakfasts will be homemade muesli with milk/yoghurt or wholemeal toast and spread with a piece of fruit for afters.  

My 3 daughters are at a holiday club this week from 10am - 2pm and they will be served lunch there so I don't need to worry about that, hurrah! Hubby and I will have dinner leftovers for lunch as usual and there will of course be baking for snacks and in case friends pop in for a cuppa.  Check out my Tummy Fillers for the Summer Holidays for ideas.

Weekend Lunches are easy this week too.  We're having lunch with friends on Saturday, I'll be taking enough pudding for 10 and salads sourced from our allotment.  Sunday will be Lunch Bread Cases which are easy to whip up after Church.

Dinners will be low faff, except for Sunday when we are having a roast in honour of a very special guest.  My Mum is coming!!! It's 2 years since she last visited and we are hugely excited, even counting the days and hours until she arrives here after a long journey from NZ.  We just cannot wait!

As usual I compared the cost of my shopping using My Supermarket.  The cheapest, as usual, was Asda at £48.26.  The same items purchased from Sainsbury's would've cost £56.53 and from Tesco £60.72.  Interestingly my items would've cost £62.81 from Ocado, only £2.09 more expensive than Tesco.  

Dinners

Giant Sausage Rolls with salad - Monday and Wednesday

Egg Fried Rice - Tuesday

Mixed Bean Burgers with Potato Wedges - Thursday

Allotment Picnic Slice - Friday

Family Size Vegetarian Calzone - Saturday

Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables and Yorkshire Puddings - Sunday

Shopping List

Packets and Cereals   
1x        Jordans Natural Muesli (1Kg)                                                      £2.68  
1x        ASDA Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)               80p      
1x        ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                      £1.26  
1x        ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg)                              45p      
1x        Jus Rol Puff Pastry Block (500g)                                                £1.00  
1x        ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)                                   40p      
1x        Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)             65p      

Frozen 
 1x        ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                               75p      

Tins, Jars and Cooking 
 2x        ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                            62p      
1x        ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g)                                48p      
1x        ASDA Mexican Style Bean Mix in Water (400g)                       62p      

Dairy and Eggs  
 1x        ASDA Soured Cream (150ml)                                                    60p      
4x        ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                   £4.00  
3x        Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6)                               £3.00  

Fruit and Vegetables  
 1x        ASDA Salad Tomatoes (750g)                                                  £1.50  
12x     ASDA Bananas (Approx 170g)                                                  £1.39  
10x     ASDA Carrots (Approx 110g)                                                   88p      
1x        ASDA Butternut Squash (Approx 850g)                                   72.3p  
2x        ASDA Sweet Potatoes (Approx 460g)                                     £1.18  
2x        ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                           £1.00  
2x        ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose                                       £1.00
1x        ASDA Celery                                                                            50p 
1x        ASDA Baking Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                £2.48  
1x        ASDA Garlic Loose                                                                  25p      
1x        ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)                                            £1.58  
1x        ASDA Courgettes (3)                                                                £1.00  
1x        ASDA Spring Onions                                                                50p 
1x        ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                                   98p      
2x        ASDA Plums (500g)                                                                 £2.00  
1x        ASDA Mandarins (650g)                                                          £1.25  
3x        ASDA Cripps Apples (550g)                                                    £3.00  

Meat, Fish and Poultry  
1x        ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g)          £2.98 
17        ASDA Butcher's Selection Free Range Whole Chicken by Weight (100g)  £6.77                          
Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 27th July 2013.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

Don't forget to check out other Meal Plans in the linky on At Home With Mrs M.



Over the Summer Holidays I will keep publishing my Meal Plan but will be spending most of my time with my family, my Mum is only here for a month.  Blog posts will be less frequent than usual during this time, I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Have a fab Summer Holiday everyone!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Feeding Kids Frugally During the Holidays



As I previously mentioned, my 3 daughters may look like delicate flowers but they almost eat as much as the All Black front row.  It is a constant challenge trying to keep them fed well over the holidays without breaking the bank.  Here are my tips for keeping hungry tums satisfied these holidays.

Are they really hungry or just bored?  My girls whinge they are hungry if they are bored, keep the kids entertained and try to stick to 3 main meals and 2 snack times each day.  Make a packed lunch even if you are staying at home to cut down on portion sizes and keep fridge raiders at bay.

Make sure kids and adults are properly hydrated.  Sometimes our brains trick us into thinking we are hungry when in fact we are thirsty.  I always keep a large jug of water in the fridge so my girls can help themselves.  In the hot weather it is really easy to dehydrate, particularly if out and about, so make sure cool drinks are at hand - preferably not sugar laden fizzy drinks. Taking a bottle of water is much cheaper than buying bottled water when on outings.

Ice lollies are cheap and fun to make.  You can make ice lollies out of pureed fruit, fruit juices, yoghurt, custard or diluted cordials.  Ice lolly moulds can be purchased cheaply, from as little as £1.  Using ice cube trays to make flavoured ice cubes is a great way to perk up drinks in the summer too.  

Fritters are your friend.  Fritters can be savoury or sweet and can be whipped up in next to no time.  Use wholemeal flour if you want more fibre and/or want to keep hunger pangs at bay a little longer.  My 13yo can make a batch of fritters by herself, a useful skill to have.  It means she can cook the fritters whilst I help the younger two prepare the accompanying salads and salsa.  Our favourite savoury fritters are courgette or sweetcorn and chive, you could add some chopped ham or cooked bacon too of you like.  I've blogged a recipe for Whatever Fritters or use "The 1 technique" which is 1 free range egg, 1 cup of self raising flour, 1 cup of milk and 1 tin of sweetcorn.  You can use a coffee mug as a measure if you don't have measuring cups.  If you are using courgette don't forget to grate them then squeeze as much moisture out of them as possible before using them in fritters.

Sweetcorn and chive fritters made by my 13yo, accompaniments prepared by 10yo and 6yo
Bread is easier to make than you think.  One of my daughters favourite lunches is bread they have made themselves.  It feeds them cheaply and keeps them amused for a while too.  You can flavour bread too, adding herbs, cheese and vegetables or add fruit for a sweet version.  You can check out some of my bread recipe here.



Scones are versatile, quick, cheap and easy to make.  Once you've mastered baking scones you can whip up a quick snack or lunch in no time.  Scones can be sweet or savoury and can also be made into Versatile Savoury Swirls which are great in packed lunches or on picnics.  



Muffins or Muffin Tin Snacks are easy and a good portion size for kids.  Bread cases are versatile and quick to make, use what ingredients you have available.  Mini quiches, fritatas and savoury muffins are fab for packed lunches and picnics.  Sweet muffins are a welcome treat for afternoon tea too.

Fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive.  Keep an eye out for cheap fruit and vegetables in the reduced section supermarkets, at greengrocers or visit a Pick You Own Berries farm.  We grow our own salad greens and berries in our small back garden which cuts costs and keeps the kids amused hunting for ripe berries and weeding the garden.  We're lucky enough to have access to 1.5 allotments so our growing has gone into overdrive and we can easily spend a couple of hours at the allotments weeding, watering and harvesting.  

What are your top tips for feeding kids well but cheaply in the holidays?

Tesco Christmas In July

** This is a Sponsored Post **

Whilst July is a busy month for me as a Mum of 3 with school productions, end of term events and summer holiday preparations it's also a busy month for retailers who showcase their Christmas ranges at Press Shows throughout the month of July.  For Brits it is rather odd to have Christmas in Summer, however as an expat New Zealander it is perfectly normal and offers me a little taste of the sunny Christmases I miss.  I attended the Tesco Christmas in July event and was delighted with the extensive product range and pop-up restaurant which served tempting festive treats.


Along with festive food to suit all tastes and budgets there are also festive decorations and gift ranges.


After sampling some delicious food and drink, making a wish list from the large range of gifts available and having a very enjoyable time, I can attest that Tesco is ready for Christmas and I am sure there will be more delights to come in the few months as we farewell Summer and head towards the festive season.

** This is a Sponsored Post **

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Great British Budget Menu - Meals for £1 or less per serving

There was in interesting programme on the BBC a couple of weeks ago called The Great British BudgetMenu.  The programme explored food poverty by showing how 3 different households experienced it.  One man was retired and lived on his state pension in sheltered accommodation, another household was a working single mum on minimum wage and her pre-teenage daughter and the final household was a family of two parents both had jobs but high fixed expenses and little left to spend on food once bills had been paid.  All of them were feeding themselves and their children for approximately £2 each a day or less in the case of the retired gentleman.

A celebrity chef lived with each household for three days to see how they live/eat and then attempted to shop as the household would using their budget.  None of the chefs were able to stick to the budget of the household they lived in.  None of them!

It was clear that the supermarket was not a usual haunt for any of the chefs, neither was comparing prices or shopping with such a small budget.  Watching James Martin struggling to find the clearance section in the supermarket was hilarious and entertaining viewing, as was watching Angela Hartnett calculating the price of chickens and exclaiming the last time she had to do that much maths was during her A levels.  Richard Corrigan was gobsmacked that if customers don’t have enough money they have to put food back when shopping at the supermarket.  The challenges that all three chefs were shocked and frustrated by are experienced by many people every time they shop for food.  It is much easier to shop on a strict budget for a family than it is for one or two people.  If you have £15 to last the week buying small portions can be more expensive than larger ones where bulk offers may apply.

A £50 weekly food budget equates to £1.79 per person, per day for a 4 person household.  This amount is less than is allocated to those housed in Her Majesty's Prisons and only slightly more than what is spent on the daily meals for the majority of NHS patients.  Eating well whilst restricted to this amount is possible.  I’ve compiled Meal Plans for my family of 5 that total £50.  What we struggled with was strict portion control and my children found it difficult not being able to have fruit and snacks whenever they felt like some.  Our usual Meal Plan total of between £60 - £65 works out at about £1.80 per person per day, for our 5 person household, if I spend £63.  We eat well and are not deprived of nutritious food, I shop at a supermarket taking advantage of special offers, and I know how to create and cook tasty meals.

That is the issue, lack of cooking skills and the ability to create inexpensive and healthy meals.  I was taught how to budget by my Mum, and I have taught my 3 children.  I taught myself to cook healthily on a tight budget when I left home at 17 and had to manage on a student budget, it was a good life lesson which is helping us now we have 3 children and an equally tight budget.

It is difficult for households on low incomes, our household is one of them, the constant penny pinching is frustrating and exhausting at times.  I can totally understand why a meal of chicken nuggets and chips is more appealing than slaving over a hob for half an hour.  You can purchase 42 chicken nuggets and 1.5kg of budget oven chips for £4, enough to feed a family of 4 dinner twice.  It is low faff food, only £2 per meal, but it is also low on nutrients.  That should be a sometimes meal not a standard daily diet.  It would be difficult to compete with the price and convenience of that meal, however it is possible to create a low faff healthier option for around the same price.

There needs to be much more education and resources available to families who are struggling with the cost of food and how to prepare healthy low cost meals.  Having more offers on fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in supermarkets would help as would cookery classes in schools and communities.  Food Banks do a fabulous job but are becoming a necessity for some families instead of an emergency option.  Part of the problem is that working households can find themselves in poverty due to low wages.  Not all employers pay a “Living Wage” and high rents consume a significant portion of income.  Regardless of the circumstances that lead to food poverty, households in that position need help to feed themselves decent meals.

I’ve created several meals which cost under £1 per serving and are easy to prepare.  You could also check out our Super Scrimping Meal Plan or our LiveBelow The Line Meal Plan for more frugal meal ideas.

Lemony Courgette Spaghetti

500g spaghetti
1 tsp olive oil
3 courgettes, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the instructions on the packet.  Heat a little oil in a pan, add the grated courgette and garlic, cook whilst stirring for for 3 minutes until the courgette and garlic soften.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and ricotta.  Stir to combine.  Drain the pasta then stir through the creamy courgette mixture.  Serve immediately.

Total Cost:                                                                     £3.52
1x     ASDA Ricotta (250g)                                           £1.00
1x     ASDA Lemons Loose                                         27p
1x     ASDA Garlic Loose                                              25p
1x     ASDA Courgettes (3)                                           £1.00
1x     Cook Italian Wholewheat Spaghetti (500g)    £1.00

If you used budget spaghetti costing 19p instead of wholewheat spaghetti the meal costs £2.96


Quesadillas

10 tortillas, plain or wholemeal
1 tin chilli beans
4 spring onion, thinly sliced
150g cheddar cheese, grated
Cooked mixed vegetables, to serve

Lay a tortilla on a board, spread with some chilli beans then sprinkle over some sliced spring onion and grated cheese.  Put another tortilla over the top, like a sandwich.  Heat up a frying pan over a medium heat, transfer the prepared tortilla sandwich to the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes, carefully flip it over and cook for a further couple of minutes on the other side.  Repeat until all the tortillas and filling have been used and cooked.  Serve with cooked mixed vegetables.


Total Cost:                                                                     £3.73
1x     ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)     75p
1x     ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g)    48p
1x     ASDA Mexican Plain Flour Tortillas (10)         £1.00
1x     ASDA Spring Onions                                          50p
1x     Ilchester Applewood Cheddar(162g)                £1.00


Salmon Fishcakes

750g potatoes, cut into chunks
418g tin wild salmon, drained
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 medium free range egg, beaten
1 Tblsp plain flour

Boil the potatoes for 10-12 mins or until tender, drain then mash well.  Stir in the drained tin of salmon, spring onions, and enough of the egg to bring the mixture together but not be too runny.  Divide into 10 – 12 portions then shape into rounds.  Dust with some flour then shallow-fry in batches for a couple of minutes on each side.  The fishcakes should be golden. Serve with cooked mixed vegetables.

Total Cost:                                                                     £3.98
1x     ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g)          £2.17
1x     ASDA Baking Potatoes (4)                                 £1.15
1x     ASDA Spring Onions                                          50p
1x     Free Range Medium British Egg                      16p or £1.00 for 6


Vegetable Fritters

2 free range eggs
125ml milk
150g self raising flour
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
326g tin sweetcorn, drained
2 carrots, grated
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Handful of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives, alternatively 2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Put the eggs and milk into a large mixing bowl and whisk until completely combined.  Sift the flour into egg mixture, whisking to form a smooth mixture without lumps.  Add the chickpeas, grated carrot and herbs.  Mix well.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and grease with a little oil or butter.  Put spoonfuls of batter into the frying pan, enough to make 3 or 4 fritters each batch, however many will fit easily into your frying pan.  Cook for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until golden. Repeat until all the batter has been used. Serve the fritters warm.

Total Cost:                                                                     £3.87
1x     ASDA Spring Onions                                          50p
2x     Free Range Medium British Eggs                    32p or £1.00 for 6
1x     ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g)                32p
1x     ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                   62p
1x     ASDA Milk Skimmed 1 Pint (568ml)                49p
1x     ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 45p
2x     ASDA Carrots                                                       17p
1x     ASDA Whole Cucumber                                    50p
1x     ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose                50p


Spaghetti Bolognese

500g beef mince
2 onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, finely diced or grated
3 sticks celery, finely sliced/diced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (optional)

Heat a small glug of oil in a frying-pan over a medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic until soft and transparent.  Turn up the heat a bit then add the beef mince, breaking it up as it cooks. 

Add the tins of chopped tomatoes, and finely diced and sliced vegetables.  Give everything a good stir and then let the sauce simmer for at least 20 - 30 minutes.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, you can cook some pasta to accompany it in a large pan of salted boiling water, according to instructions on the pasta packaging.

Serve the Bolognese sauce over the drained cooked pasta with some cooked mixed vegetables if you have any.  If you want to freeze any leftover Bolognese sauce for later, make sure that you only freeze the sauce and not the pasta.  You can defrost the sauce overnight in the fridge and reheat it thoroughly whilst cooking the pasta, or defrost the sauce in the microwave. 

Total Cost:                                                                     £3.96
1x     Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (500g)     £2.00
2x     Carrots (Approx 110g)                                         17p
2x     Red Onions (Approx 130g)                                23p
1x     Celery                                                                     50p
1x     ASDA Garlic Loose                                              25p
1x     Smartprice Spaghetti (500g)                              19p
2x     Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)            62p


Vegetable and Lentil Curry with Rice

1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp Balti curry paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
410g can green lentils, drained
500g frozen mixed vegetables
400g cooked rice, to serve with the curry

Heat a little oil in a deep sided frying pan or large saucepan.  Fry the onion until soft, add the garlic and fry for another minute.  Stir in curry paste and gently fry for 1 minute, stirring all the time so it doesn’t burn.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, half a tomato can of water, lentils and mixed vegetables, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 mins. Serve with cooked rice.


Total Cost:                                                                     £3.47
1x     ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)     75p
1x     ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)       40p
1x     ASDA Green Lentils in Water (400g)               64p
1x     Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)            31p
1x     Sharwood's Balti Paste (290g)                          £1.00
1x     ASDA Red Onions (Approx 130g)                    11p
1x     ASDA Garlic Loose                                              25p


Butternut Squash Risotto

1 butternut squash, about 1kg , deseeded and peeled then cut into chunks
3 Tblsp oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
250g risotto rice
Approximately 1 litre of vegetable stock

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
Put the chunks of butternut squash on a lined baking tray and and rub with 2 Tblsp of oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the squash starts to turn light-golden at the edges. 

Whilst the butternut squash is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a deep frying pan and add the onion. Cook the onion over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it softens. Add the rice and mix it in with the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.

Bring the stock to the boil and then gradually add it to the risotto one coffee mug at a time.  Stir the risotto well each time you add stock.  Wait until one addition of stock has been absorbed before you add more.  Adding the stock slowly and stirring well will help to make a thick, almost creamy risotto.  When the rice is tender the risotto is done.  Stir the cooked butternut squash into the risotto and season to taste then serve.

Total Cost:                                                                     £2.97
1x     ASDA Arborio Risotto Rice (500g)                    £1.10
1x     ASDA Red Onions (Approx 130g)                    11.7p
1x     ASDA Butternut Squash (Approx 850g)          72.3p
1x     ASDA Garlic Loose                                              25p

1x     ASDA Vegetable Stock Cubes (12x10g)         78p


Now it's your turn!

We tend to buy fresh fruit and frozen vegetables because some fresh vegetables are too expensive for our budget.  We grow as much as we can in our small back garden and are fortunate enough to share an allotment and be looking after the school one.  I always look in the reduced section of the supermarket for reduced fruit, vegetable and meat bargains - about an hour before closing time is when they reduce the prices the most.  How do you feed your family on a strict budget?  What are your tips, tricks and hints for making your money go further when feeding your household? 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Our Meal Plan this week - a recycled plan £60

I didn't blog a meal plan last week, the weekend went far too quickly, was far too hot, and we watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon so I ran out of time. *hangs head in shame* We did follow a Meal Plan, I just didn't share it with you all.  My humblest apologies.

This weekend the weather has been extremely hot, over 30 degrees C both days, and the week ahead is going to be very hot too.  When the weather is very warm we all get tired and cross and energy is sapped by the stifling humidity.   There's also our allotment and back garden watering to fit in as well which is another reason that dinners need to be low faff and sometimes portable.

Our dinners this week will be from this Meal Plan, low faff and easy to fit in around everything else.  I'm not in London at all this week, I turned down 3 events to spend the week here, and am working the usual two nights.  There are several school events to fit in and an evening meeting too.  

My 3 daughters will be having school dinners and my husband and I will be having leftover dinner for our lunch.  I shall blog any baked treats I manage to rustle up without melting in our hot kitchen.

I watched The Great British Budget Menu on iplayer as I didn't catch it on the night it was broadcast.  I will be devising some low cost Meal Plans costing £1 per person per day, £1.50 per person per day and £2 per person per day.  I will blog these along with a rant about the programme.  Keep an eye on my blog later this week for that post.

Don't forget to check out other Meal Plans on the At Home With Mrs M linkly.


Allotment Update 14/07 - Heatwaves are NOT fun!

The weather has been HOT!  I've been either watering very early in the morning, around 7am, or after the school run.  Failing that I usually traipse to the allotment in the evening, after 7pm once the kids are in bed.  Sometimes my daughters join me for the evening watering session, particularly my 13yo who sometimes needs a quiet chat without her younger sisters being nosey.  Occasionally my husband will do the watering whilst I sort out the housework, either way fitting it in with other chores sometimes proves challenging for me.  


Our greens are growing well and I pick fresh salad leaves for dinner most nights when I'm not working.  Other crops are enjoying the hot weather and most of our plantings are having growth spurts.  It is a challenge to stop the salad leaves from bolting in the heatwave.  Watering is hard work as no hosepipes are allowed so watering cans are filled at the troughs and carried back to the allotment to water our plants.  My 3 daughters have smaller watering cans that suit there age and ability, whereas my husband and I have big 10 litre capacity ones that I lug about two at a time.


The school allotment has been strimmed by the partner of a staff member so looks much tidier and is less of a jungle to battle when we do the watering and weeding.  The debris from strimming that has landed on the beds will provide a little mulch for the beds.  We've netted several beds to stop the birds from eating our greens and over winter Brassicas before we do.


The allotments are on quite a large site and it is very quiet and peaceful, great for letting the mind wander whilst toiling away.  My husband, who is renowned for his dislike of gardening, has been really enjoying it much more than he ever thought he would.  He even suggested it would be a good idea to ask the school if we could have a couple of chickens on the school allotment.  I almost did a flip in shock!  It would of course involve sourcing a coop, some chickens, some feed and looking after the chooks.  Perhaps further thought is required before we act on that idea!

What are you growing? Are you finding it difficult to garden in the heat?  

Fruity Chocolate Loaf


I baked this loaf to take along to the allotment so we could rest and refuel with a treat after watering and weeding this morning.  It is full of fruit, contains wholemeal flour and only a little sugar so is perfect for morning/afternoon tea or even a brunch treat.  Yet another delicious way to use up over-ripe bananas that may be languishing in the fruit howl due to the warm weather.  You could use whatever fruit you have to use up instead of berries.  I've used chopped apples and pears in the past as well as chopped plums or cherries.  

Fruity Chocolate Loaf

3 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup/250ml)
110g sugar
120g plain yogurt or soured cream
60ml/4 Tblsp oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range egg
110g plain flour
110g plain wholemeal flour
30g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa powder
80g good quality dark chocolate chips
150g berries or other chopped fruit (I used blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan.  Grease and line a 9x5 inch loaf tin a liner or non-stick baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the mashed bananas, sugar, yogurt or soured cream, oil, vanilla and egg.  Beat well until completely combined.

Add the flours, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and cocoa.  Stir until everything just combined and there are no traces of dry flour in the mixture.  Fold through the chocolate chips and berries.  Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



This recipe fits in well with Alphabakes this month, the monthly blog challenged created and hosted alternately by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.  The letter is F and my Fruity Chocolate Loaf fits the theme.  Caroline is hosting Alphabakes this month.  



My Fruity Chocolate Loaf also fits in with Tea Time Treats, created and hosted alternately by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked where we are challenged to bake using fresh fruit this month.



I'm also submitting this recipe to Breakast Club created by Fuss Free Flavours as it would make a decadent choice for brunch or breakfast on the go and the theme is Continental Breakfasts.  A Kick At The Pantry Door is hosting this month.