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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Almost Pension Day

How has my £100 food budget spend gone this month, well I think I'm going to make it by the skin of my teeth.  Having visitors for 4 days certainly saw my larder supplies dwindle especially the milk.  I have approximately 1 pint of milk left in the 6pt bottle for the rest of today,  tomorrow and Thursday morning.  I suspect I might have a 1p overspend because I will probably walk to Lidl and buy a Long-life skimmed milk to get me through to my supermarket spend at Sainsbury's.  I have 48p left in the kitty and the milk is 49p but I did have 8p to spare last month. 

Had I not had a guest  for dinner on three evenings I probably would have got through with some money left over but after asking what they fancied for tea I ended up spending £1.75 on pies! In addition,  I really need to plan for half terms etc because the grandchildren have also eaten into my budget.  I will definitely invest in more milk, cereal and crisps for when they stay.  

Yesterday I made two ingredient flat breads. 200g of SR Flour, 200g low fat Greek Yogurt. I let the mixture rest for half an hour and divided he  mix into 4 before rolling them out and cooking them on my George Foreman hot plate.  I prepared the topping ready for pizza at tea time. 

Again I made some biscuits while the oven was on.

Last week I bought a swede for 10p and a very large cauliflower from Home Bargains for 89p it was much bigger than the ones on offer in Lidl.  I stripped all the leaves and stalk and cut them up ready to go into a soup.  With all this talk on Blog-land to do with Rationing I'm trying not to waste anything. I only had one carrot left so I wasn't going to waste any part of it by peeling it I simply scrubbed the outside  and split it between the vegetable soup and mixed veg for our dinner tonight. The garden provided two skinny leeks for the soup and I added some chopped swede and a small potato.  Lots of spices, seasoning and stock were added, this will provide lunch for a couple of days.   I blanched the rest of the cauliflower ready to add to meals this week. I've kept the water for gravy or soup later in the week.  I have to admit, I'm twitching because I really hate not having the milk or eggs, I'm down to the last two.  But I am determined to keep to £100.  I have got 3 ready prepared meals from the freezer, cottage pie for tonight, bonfire stew for tomorrow and chicken supreme for Thursday. I have  6 more ready meals to use up then I will start batch cooking to replace them.

We've had some lovely weather in Essex and it really makes me feel like spring is on its way but yesterday and today has been dull and raining, the sky is clearing now thank goodness.  Back soon.  Tx

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Using the Mysupermarket App

Sainsbury's recently sent me a whole bunch of money off coupons. 

Now I don't have a Sainsbury's in the town where I live but both my daughters have one near their homes. I personally find Sainsbury's one of the dearer supermarkets so when they offer you a coupon that gives you £8 off £40 (£32) you have to work out if that really is a saving. Could I buy the same list of items in Lidl or Aldi or indeed another supermarket cheaper than £32? Well one way of finding this out is to use the app Mysupermarket.

Mysupermarket is a price comparison website.  It looks at the price of groceries in most leading supermarkets in the UK and lets you know who is the cheapest.  I find it invaluable when I am buying expensive items like coffee.  For example: Decafe Nescafe 200g is £4 in Sainsbury's  & Tesco but in Asda it is £5.98 and in Morrison's £6.03. Big differences!

I know some people can't get on with it but I don't do massive shops with lots of items and I do appreciate that the app does have its faults.  The swap facility is inaccurate in many cases. For example if I want to buy 5% fat mince beef, it will automatically offer me a cheaper alternative to swap to but that mince is 12% fat so it isn't always a like for like swap. It does allow you to look through all the offers by department which means you can hunt out that 340g pack of salmon fillets that is on offer for  £2.50 etc because you know it is there. 

I anticipate using the coupon above on pension day 22nd February which luckily coincides with hubbies ophthalmic appointment Colchester hospital. I have been preparing a list in anticipation. However, the list cannot be finalised until next Monday 19th just in case there are items unavailable, price rises or reductions due to offers starting. At the moment the list I have prepared for Sainsbury's  is the cheapest, so it is worth me using the coupon. Not only is it the cheapest by £5.92 I will also get a further £8 off that £40.26. I still have time to tweak it further to see if I can get even more savings. You can print  list and take it to the shop with you but I tend to just use the list on my phone now. 

This time I have been offered the 4 swaps above: Mince 5% for 12% fat as mentioned earlier. The milk powder swap is crazy.......they have asked if I want condensed milk instead! I know there are cheaper alternatives to Bouillon but I love this vegetable stock especially in risotto's and soup. As for the coffee, I only buy branded coffee, Nescafe or Kenco. Apologies for the photos taken of the computer screen. So to conclude, Mysupermarket is a useful tool that allows you to make informed decisions on purchases. It takes a lot of the leg work out of finding the best prices. Do you use it? Bye for now Tx

Monday, 12 February 2018

The week ahead

The weather forecast looks horrid, I've had a  quick look at the local one for my part of Essex and it doesn't look too bad.  But I won't hold my breath as things can change quite quickly when it comes to the weather in the UK.  The newspaper says its going to be so cold that it could interfere with telephone signals, I know we have problems with our broadband slowing when the weather is bad.   Of course its the start of half term and we will be doing our child minding duties 3 days this week. Hubbies brother is also coming to visit from Wales so we will be out and about with them. 

Yesterday hubby and I got up and went for a lovely walk in the brilliant sunshine before heading home to finish preparations for a family lunch.  Both daughters and their families  came round and we made a huge turkey stew, serving it with Yorkshire puddings, mash and greens. There is enough left for our tea today.  Our younger daughter has recently been on a short city break and we had a lovely catch up and saw all the photos.  

Hubby and I went to Colchester and Clacton on Saturday, we were meant to go Friday but hubby didn't feel too good after he came back from the dentist.  I did a little bit of shopping while we were out and about.  I picked up 10 eggs in Home Bargains for 49p instead of 89p because there was 9 eggs and not 10. Good job I noticed the eggs had rung up at full price on the receipt or it wouldn't have been much of a bargain.  Their white potatoes were an excellent price at 59p for 2kg so I snapped up 2 bags.  Hubby picked up some small food containers to store his previously weighed porridge oats and sultanas in.  Since going on his Diabetic course recently he has been given a second test machine for keytones. Despite having been an insulin dependant diabetic 38 years he has completely changed the way he is dealing with it.  All his food is weighed out now and he has to work out the value before injecting one of his insulins. He has two types. He's always worked out the carbohydrate value before but this is far more in depth now. Note to self do not take him shopping as he then put a fruit loaf in my basket I know it was only a £1 but I'm trying to steer him away from hydrogenated fats. I don't think he'll be buying it again as he said it wasn't very nice. I always have a tub of Hot Mayflower Curry Sauce  in the cupboard.  It is a curry powder that makes a curry sauce similar to the Chinese takeaway one you can buy but at  99p its a great alternative without leaving the house. B&M Total spend £4.45.

I popped into Farmsfoods and went straight to the fridge to pick up 4 packs of Irish butter for £1 each.  Admittedly the packs are only 227g and not the normal 250g but it is nevertheless great value.

Next came Lidl were I only wanted one of the weekend offers and some more sultanas for hubby. The luxury fruit muesli was 99p instead of £1.69 and although its not a cereal we eat a great deal of I thought it would make some luxury flapjacks.   Money spent £10.33 (B&M £4.45, Farmfoods £4, Lidl £1.88) Monthly spend £94.50 which means I have £5.50 left in the kitty and 9 days till pension day.  I only need milk and bread so I don't anticipate any problems but I do have a safety net as I received my £2.50 voucher from Tesco on Friday.

Meals for the rest of the week:
Monday: Turkey Stew, mash and greens.
Tuesday: Turkey fried rice, curry sauce.
Wednesday: Roast beef and all the trimmings.
Thursday: Egg chips and beans.
Friday: Fish pie  & vegetables(Ready made in the freezer).
Saturday: Bolognaise (Ready made in the freezer).

I hope the weather is kind to you over the next few days, I can't wait for the weather to get better so that I can start sowing seeds. I've always despised February as a month and I used to take 2 weeks off in February when I worked to avoid the freezing cold night shifts. I'm so glad I don't have to face that anymore. Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 9 February 2018

Odds and Sods

Well my hotpot mince turned out great, despite not having a crunchy topping as it would have had if it had been cooked in the oven, it was nevertheless delicious.  I used my ready prepared mince that hadn't been thickened and placed it in the bottom of the slow cooker before placing the thinly sliced potatoes on the top.  I cooked it on high for an hour and 2 further hours on low, checking that the potatoes were cooked.  I will definitely be  cooking it this way again.

I went to Asda yesterday and spent  £10.37 I checked the Price Guarantee thingy and printed out a 25p coupon to use next time.  I managed to pick up a yellow sticker  Turkey leg which will make a lovely stew for Sunday when the family come round. 
Hubby wants to go to a particular shop this afternoon and its right next to a large Asda.  So I'm hoping to do a bit of wombling while he is busy trying to spend his Christmas voucher. I called in Boots for some hairspray and using  my Advantage Points I got 2 large cans of hairspray and some shampoo for nothing.
As well as crafting I've been spending the odd hour here and there jig-sawing! Here is our second completed Wasjig.

You can see the difference from the picture on the box compared to the finished item. The overall scene is the same but the characters have moved  etc. We will start number 3 next week, they are great fun and I would highly recommend them for getting your brain working! Have a wonderful weekend, stay warm. By for now. Tx

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Its turned Cold

Brrr its feeling very chilly and we had a really thick frost this morning but the sun eventually put paid to it and my line of washing dried beautifully. The Essex coast saw a dusting of snow in the early hours on Monday and Wednesday morning but it didn't last long thanks to the sunshine we've had.  I've been keeping myself  busy crafting and keeping the budget on track.  I always spend a lot in the first two weeks of the month then reduce it in the later weeks. I did a  shop in Asda last Thursday(1st Feb)spending £20.07 (total to date £73.80),  I picked up some Yellow Sticker 5% Pork mince 500g for £2.26.  I used two thirds of the pack to make a large batch of bolognaise which I split into two. One portion was left as Bolognaise and the other became lasagne. The cheese sauce topping was made using the last of the chive cottage cheese, hence the greenish hue, butter, flour  and some grated cheese. The remaining pork mince  was put into the freezer for another day. I also got 2 avocado's that had been reduced to £1.01.  I used them separately, one was mashed up on wholemeal toast with poached eggs and black pudding.  The second was made into a salad, served with a small fillet of salmon, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. 

I've used some soup from the freezer and made some leek and potato soup with weekly offer leeks from the garden. I took advantage of the Lidl weekend deal, buying toilet rolls  & sausages. (4 rolls Aloe Vera for 89p instead of £1.49), (bratwurst sausages £1.19 instead of £1.99).  The spicy sausages are lovely and great for the occasional treat, one half of the pack ended up in Mondays stir-fry, the rest were frozen for another day.  I picked up a large swede, as usual when buying an item that's priced each I grabbed the biggest there. I also bought 6 pts milk and cheap eggs.  I normally pay for free range but the shelves were empty except for boxes containing broken eggs. Hubby popped across the road to Morrison's while I went to have a quick look in B & M. He bought some bananas and white bread reduced, this has gone straight in the freezer for when we have Fish finger sandwiches.......yum!

Conscious of utilising the oven while the lasagne cooked  I made some oat biscuits which are very nice and a healthier version to shop bought. Another batch of coleslaw was made using white cabbage and spinach. The last of the grapes were sliced and frozen ready to be put into jelly later this week rather than be wasted.  The fruit bowl has more than enough fruit in it at present.  

There is something about crafting when its cold or miserable outside that makes it more rewarding.  I'm annoyed with myself as I seem to have mislaid the Christmas toppers I cut out from the cards we received.  I don't know where I've put them but hopefully they'll come to light soon, so I ended up making some birthday cards. I  made a birthday card and Mother's day card for hubbies mum while I had everything out, as mothers day normally falls a week after her birthday. 

I love using the natural coloured cards, these were on offer in Wilkinson's last year and a good quality for £1.75 for 12. I have 13 days till pension day and £26.20 left, I'll be popping to Asda shortly for a few bits that I'm hoping will take me through to Thursday next week. I really want to use up some of the home-made  ready meals in the freezer over the next few days to make more space.  I can then crack on and use more of larger portions of meat I have in the freezer.  It seems to be a bit of a battle of making space to fill it up again. Do you have this struggle? Take care and stay warm. Bye for now Tx. 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Digging, shopping and menus

Hello and welcome 3 new followers, I'm not good at working out exactly who you are but I can see I'm in your circles!

I've been pencilling in a rough menu each week in my journal obviously basing it on what I have in. Yesterday morning I did some batch cooking but first came the batch chopping.  I'd planned to make vegetable soup, savoury mince, fish cakes, stir fry and coleslaw. I find I might as well chop 3 onions as to chop one. Eventually I had one pot of sliced/diced veg for soup, one bowl of sliced veg for stir fry, one bowl of shredded veg for coleslaw and another bowl of sliced/diced veg for the mince. I peeled some potatoes, cooked and cooled them ready to add to a large fillet of cooked salmon left over from Christmas.
Salmon, diced onion, curry and spices
The soup was blitzed and split into smaller portions.  I didn't thicken the savoury mince because I'm going to put a portion of it into the slow cooker and top with very thin slices of potatoes and cook it as a hotpot.  I'm not sure how it will come out but I'll show you when I've done it later in the week.  

Last night we had the stir fry using half a pack of the Bratwurst sausages I bought on the weekend offer (£1.19 instead of £1.99)they are delicious and not very fatty.  Carrots, onions,  garlic, celery, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and egg noodles formed the basis of the stir fry. When we have a low carb meal like this I normally make a dessert.  So I made a mug cake and served it with some custard.
Jelly, custard, 2 pots of mince
1 for the freezer

I made more custard than needed to add to the grape jelly trifles I'd made.  The coleslaw was put into a container and it will be served with the salmon fishcakes  and sweetcorn today. Tomorrow I will get some turkey stew out of the freezer for Thursday. I need to use some more of the ready meals from the freezer to make more room.  

I'll do a budget post later in the week but I'm within budget at the moment.  Today the sun is making the odd appearance and I got stuck into digging  over the vegetable beds and getting that manure spread so that the frost can break  down.  The soil is quite wet unlike last year when we had a very dry winter.  We will have to get outside  and do some repair to the netted covers when the weather gets warmer, the gales have really taken their toll on them.  

Hubby went to see his mother Sunday and he dropped me in Colchester town so that I could have a coffee with a friend who I cancelled on when I was ill.  We had a little walk around the shops after and I went into Wilko and bought 2 bags of seed potatoes. I then went into Poundland next door and bought an onion set I wished I bought the potatoes in there as you got 8 per pack instead of the Wilko's 5.

While working in the garden I noticed the blackcurrant bush is springing into life. The rhubarb is still tucked away as soon as I see any signs of life I want to move it as I think hubby planted the fig tree too close and it suffered last year.  

Mother in law bought us a tub of Rowntree sweets, pastilles, gums and jellies of some sort. The pot is divided into three and I'm reluctant to put it in the recycling but unsure what to use it for. Its not a solid rigid plastic but its relatively sturdy. Thinking cap on.  Back soon. Tx 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Ready, Steady.........Bake!

We have brilliant sunshine on the Essex coast this morning but the temperatures have plummeted and the wind is quite strong.  I'm off to the market shortly but the stalls have dwindled since Christmas which is such a shame. 

Not only is my 2018 challenge to not spend more than a £100 per month on food, it is also to eat more healthily. This includes introducing more meat free days and  to reduce our consumption of processed foods as much as possible.  Bacon, sausage and black pudding  will be a once a month treat and foods containing hydrogenated fats (liquid oils that have been solidified to help with processing) will be avoided as much as possible.  Lots of snacky foods, biscuits, pastry and cakes contain these and it is thought that they are harmful so I'm going 'natural but less'. 

Hydrogenated fats are liquid fats that have been solidified to use in cooking. Hydrogenated fats are difficult for the body to "grab onto" and metabolize, and can neither be incorporated into cell structures nor excreted in the normal fashion. Thus, hydrogenated or "trans-" fats tend to remain "stuck" in blood circulation, becoming oxidized and most importantly, contributing significantly to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and possibly also cancer.

I'm trying to cut down on snacking especially crisps instead I'll be making popcorn with real butter but less of it and just add plenty of seasoning. I'll be making my own cakes and  biscuits using butter but eating less of them.

With this in mind at the start of last week (23rd) I  had a big baking session and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made mince pies, apple pies, cheese scones and biscuits. The mince meat had some apple added to make slightly healthier and lower in sugar. 12 were put into the freezer unbaked. I ran out of pastry so some of the remaining 9 mince pies ended up as mincemeat crumbles like the apple crumble pies. The bottom was pastry and the top crumble! A mixture of 8 pies were then frozen.  

Some out of date Apricot Wensleydale bought off the market before Christmas 3 for £1 was turned into cheese scones, baked and half frozen. 

I also had some out of date  (Sept 2107) desiccated coconut that I turned into an old favourite from school Home Economics, the 1970 issue Bero Book MELTING MOMENTS.  They are so yummy and store well for 3 weeks. 

While the oven was on I made some simple fish cakes using the mackerel fillet I had left, cold mash potato, a little horseradish, curry powder, and 2oz finely chopped onion. Everything was blended together and made into small patties for baking. A quick batch of coleslaw put together, salad chopped and a smidgen  of our lovely sweet chilli jam made for a delicious nutritious meal.

Do you remember the Bero Book? What is your favourite thing from it? They sell for between £10-£20 (circa 1970) on the internet but you can see lots of the recipes online.  What's not to like when it comes to tea and biscuits. Stay warm, we are in for some cold weather. Brrrrrrrr. 
Bye for now. Tx