Monday, 30 April 2012

Weekly Meal Plan

I thought I would take a tip from Frugal Girl who always outlines her weekly meal plan.  For me it will help me keep organised and planned.  It will also demonstrate how to eat well on a budget, I’ve been busy on the old calculator and this entire menu (breakfasts, lunch & dinners and snacks) for this week comes to a total price of £31.14, which comes to a daily cost per person of £2.22. 
Breakfasts – hubby has Weetabix, skimmed milk and Cranberry juice and I have porridge and coffee
Lunch – Hubby has couscous salad (I will share this recipe on Sunday when I make the next batch), 2 bananas, 2 apples each day.  I have soup, wholemeal bread
Monday – Lasagne*& Salad
Tuesday – Lasagne* & Salad
Wednesday – Chicken and Veg soup* and wholemeal bread
Thursday – scrambled egg on toast
Friday – Chilli Con Carne* and Rice
Saturday –  Pizza (Homemade naturally I will share my recipe on Saturday)
Sunday – Plate meat pie and veg (again homemade)

*All from the homemade ready meal collection from the freezer

In a bid to understand and manage the day to day spending I have set up a new page “spending diary” which I will be updating daily and can be found on the left hand side or via this link

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cooking & Cards

I write this in an exhaustive state, my day started a little after 8am and I have just stopped at 7pm, its been a busy but highly productive one.  All household chores are done, I can finally see the bottom of the ironing basket, a rarity I must say and I have had a mammoth batch cooking session. 
The freezer was looking a little empty so I thought I would stock it up for May.  These are my mid week homemade ready meals, not only a life saver as they are low cost, healthy and scrummy; they just require warming through (and at most cooking some pasta/rice or fresh veggies), but they also stop the expensive picking up something quick on the way home from work which is often the ruination of my healthy eating plan and also my budget.
So in this session I made (for two people)
  • 2 Lasagne's (enough for 4 meals)
  • Bolognese (left over from making the lasagne's but enough for one meal)
  • Sausage & Bean Hotpot (enough for 3 meals)
  • Pea & Ham Soup (enough for 2 meals)
  • Vegetarian Curry (enough for 4 meals)
  • Chilli Con Carne (we had one for tea but I have enough for 2 more meals) 

So that’s 16 evening meals sorted, as we always have a toast night midweek, that’s pretty much all our workday teas done for May – hard work but phew it will be worth it.
A good friend of ours just got a new job, so I knocked up a card this afternoon to post tomorrow.  All made from recycled cards. 

Going to make a brew and have a bit of r&r in readiness for the morning commute Cxx

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Thank You Frugal Queen

Now my mother always says about me that if it wasn’t for the bad luck I’d have no luck at all, I would lose in a one horse race – such is my lot in life (lol).  So I was absolutely gob smacked and delighted to win Froogs giveaway.  I received the postmans card on Thursday to say I had a parcel at the sorting office waiting for me and today was the first day I could go to collect it.  A lovely gift of a vintage sewing box that is just so sweet, couple with bits and bobs that are lovely.  So thank you froogs, it will be truly cherished J

Friday, 27 April 2012

Homemade Takeaway

Well after what seemed like a week and a half, hubby fancied a takeaway and a bottle of wine, well his favourite is Indian and remembering back a night like this would cost in the region of £35 easy.  However I decided I could provide a takeaway night at home for a fraction.  I dug around the freezer this morning and pulled out a portion of veggie curry and a portion of keema curry, I boiled some plain rice and warmed through a couple of naan breads.  It was an absolute feast (the photo doesnt look too appetising but boy did it taste good), coupled with a half price bottle of Chardonnay, my homemade Friday night takeaway cost (including the wine) a reasonable £6.74, a fab way to start the weekend. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fallen off the Frugal Wagon

I feel I need to make an act of contrition, April has been out of control, I feel lost financially and I need to regain the control that since January has been in total grip. 
It’s all my own fault, April has been like all the diets that I have ever been on, I just have one minor blip and I throw in the towel – oh I’ve eaten a cream cake, well that’s it I’ve ruined it, I will just stuff my face and be damned.  My frugal journey however will not be tossed to one side so easily, yep I’ve fallen but I am determined to get back on, draw a very firm line underneath it and start May as I mean to carry on. 
So where did it all go wrong?  Well April has been an expensive month but what started the catalyst was our week holiday to Durham with friends.  This should be a relative cheap week as we take it in turns to cook so we only ended up cooking 2 meals however this with drink cost a total of £170 (for 8 people), that is horrific for essentially a home cooked meal.   I have issues, I feel I have to show off, be the generous host and as I wasn’t in my kitchen and didn’t have the time and the ready ingredients to bake and cook as I would, I instead bought and boy did I buy.  
That being said I should have just accepted that and counterbalanced it by being extra frugal at home, but no this blip took hold, I failed to plan for the rest of the month and I have shopped as I used to do in the bad old days.  I essentially lost control and I have spent in excess of £640 this month in food and drink alone, this coupled with darling nephew’s birthday and confirmation and spending too much on him (as well as the catering) plus hubbys car insurance, and indulging hubby in buying him some new holiday clothes, the costs have well and truly spiraled and we have spent over £1000 this month on non-essential spends plus additional money (ie. Car insurance) in essential spends crickey o’reilly!   
I just didn’t know how to handle the curve balls, falling out of the routine with all its extra expenditure/ financial pressures........ sorry that’s a cop out I did know how to handle it, it’s just that I chose not to handle it how I should and my in for a penny in for a pound old self reared its ugly head.   I spent unconsciously and its only now as I tot everything up that the true extent of my failings has become a reality. 
Right now all that is off my chest, I feel as though I have cleansed my soul.  I am going to spend the rest of this evening planning May within an inch of its life, menus, batch cooking, spends etc. 
Before I can ever realise financial freedom I have to have complete financial control and I’m grabbing it back with both and very firm hands.


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I won’t give up the day job

Crickey what a day!  Whilst I love cooking, the pressure of creating nephew’s birthday cake to be judged by a rather pernickety sister and a cousin who is a professional cake maker (had I known she had been invited prior to my agreeing to make said cake I would have run a million miles) had me in near tears this morning as everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.  I bake week after week, always a pleasurable experience and always scrummy, but this was a saga and a half.  Well here it is in all its tragic glory, vanilla sponge, filled with chocolate cream and covered in chocolate butter icing with the very sad iced name on top … I’m going for a lie down in a dark room Cx

Monday, 23 April 2012

Birthday Baking

It is my beloved nephew’s 9th birthday tomorrow and my sister has asked me to make his birthday cake, Yikes!  It started just as that but I am also making sausage rolls and stuffed baked potatoes as well, so I’ve booked the day off tomorrow to ensure all is freshly baked and arrives for his family birthday tea after school at 4pm.
I have to say I am feeling the pressure of baking the cake, I love baking and my sponge cakes (thanks to Mary Berry recipes) always seem to come out light and scrummy, but I am by no means a cake decorator and my sister has been quite specific in what she wants, simply icing his name and age.  Please don’t laugh too hard at my first practise attempt – I’m scared (lol). 

He has asked for a vanilla sponge with chocolate cream filling and icing.  The cake and sausage rolls will be baked tomorrow.
Tonight I have made the stuffed potatoes which has become somewhat my signature dish and is requested whenever we have Jacob joins soirees, very simple to make and oh so delish.  Not so much a recipe, more of a compiling.
  • Bake your potatoes in the normal way
  • Once cooled, scoop out the potato leaving a rim of a couple of millmetres so it creates a sturdy case.
  • Mash the potato with butter , season and stir in grated cheese and spring onions.

  • Fill back into the potato case, sprinkle some cheese on and when I get to my sisters tomorrow I will pop them in the oven to bake again for about 20 minutes so they are warmed through and the cheese on top is golden brown. Ummm  

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Simple Things

Today has been a simply stunning day, the weather is glorious, a slight nip in the air but not a cloud in the sky with the sun beating down.  Just the simple pleasures in life seem to sparkle that little bit more.
The washing drying on the line

A walk with hubby and our gorgeous doggie

Half price chocolate as little treat for me and hubby yummm

Very simple pleasures I know but a very chilled and happy Sunday, a perfect way to prepare for the week ahead

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Give Peas a Chance!

Yeah sorry about that ;) ….  Today has been a cold, wet and miserable day; my last day of leave (back to work tomorrow, it wont be any surprise that I haven’t missed the daily commute one little bit) and I had an urge for some homemade soup, so I plumped for a favourite of pea and ham.  I had half a bag (500g) of petit pois, I bought these accidentally instead of garden peas, my darling hubby is a bit of a pea snob (or just plain fussy lol) and only likes garden peas!!! So I thought it would be a great way to use these up. There are various different ways of making pea and ham soup and I’m sure you have your own favourite recipe, this is mine:
4 hearty portions
2 onions chopped and sweated in olive oil and butter for a couple of minutes
Add a litre of chicken stock (2 stock cubes) and a bay leaf, put a lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Take out your peas from the freezer and allow to thaw a little.
Put the peas straight into a blender, take out the bay leaf and add all the stock and chopped up ham (I just had value range wafer thin) blitz, finish with 3 tbsps of half fat crème fraiche, seasoning and some more chopped ham.
**By not cooking the peas you have a lush green and really pea flavour soup and it’s oh so delish
This pan is 4 portions, which will be tomorrow night’s tea

This was my portion for lunch today with some fresh bread ummmm    

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A little bit crafty

I am in no way gifted in the arts; I have a relatively creative mind but sadly no actual creative skill.  I stand in awe of people like Frugal Queen with her quilt making and Mean Queen and her bag making, both incredibly talented.  I don’t let the fact I lack creative talent stop me though (perish the thought) and offer my own meager contribution as I dabble in card making.  I love to both send and receive cards; particularly an unexpected card from a friend I think is one of the nicest things to come home to J 
You can buy cheap cards for pennies, in home bargains for example you can pick up a card for 29p however they are on very cheap card (nearly paper) and whilst serve a purpose I prefer to send quality cards, however these don’t come cheap and you can end up spending anything from £1 - £3.
Without counting Christmas, I send in the region of 70 cards a year (birthdays, anniversary, thank you, note cards, get well soon, sympathy, thinking of you etc.).  If I were to buy these cards they would cost me anything from £70 - £210 per year – ouch!  However all my cards cost just 5p (£3.50 per year), ah much better. 
I manage to keep the cost this low as about 2 years ago I bought 500 high quality blank cards (in assorted colours) and envelopes for £10 on eBay, so 5p each, and the embellishments come for free.  I recycle all the cards I receive, cutting out any lettering, pictures etc. that I can use in another card, my mum also gives me all the cards she and my dad receive so again a bumper supply of cards to recycle.  I have two birthdays coming up, one for my nephew, to create this card I simply recycled a Happy Birthday postcard I received last year and stuck this onto a yellow card (how simple is that) 5p for a high quality, bright card. 

It’s also my Dad’s birthday soon and to create his card I cut out the DAD lettering from his father’s day card from my sister last year (I checked the price she paid for this card on-line and it was £2.95) I’ve added some blue ribbon down the side and e voila a card for my dad for 5p. 

Whilst I really shouldn’t mention the C word in April, I will be starting to make my Christmas cards this weekend (I will make 4 - 5 cards each weekend to ensure I have the 100 I need in time for the festive season, whilst each card costs a mere 5p, they take time, effort and come with my love.  Cx 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Where's the loyalty?

Whilst I am a relative novice in my new found frugal ways, I have to say there has always been one area that I have tried to excel .... I never automatically renew anything, I have absolutely no customer loyalty, always determined to beat any quote. Most insurance companies these days are quite canny, forcing you on automatic renewals done so under the altruistic guise that they are making life easier for you, so you don't have to go to the hassle of doing anything and you will be insured, my cynical self convinced they rely upon the complacency of many to do just that "nothing" and they are assured repeat custom. Hubby's car insurance is due and his renewal quote has come in for a little over £487, whilst we manage the insurance on line, to cancel this auto renewal required a telephone call ( to try and persuade me to remain, obviously I would have done if they met my new quote, they couldn't and I didn't). I have just renewed his insurance with a new company for £303. About an hour of my time, by using comparison site plus trawling a few I know who are not on comparison websites, added to that 5 minutes of a telephone call to cancel said auto renew, I have made a saving of £184, I would say the time was well spent. Cx

Thursday, 12 April 2012

I'm back ..... and busy baking

Well I hope you all had a lovely Easter, most of mine was spent in Durham in a holiday cottage with hubby and friends.   Back to reality now, as tomorrow I’m back to work, truly a Friday the 13th ;) 
On returning this morning I looked in the fridge to see if I could be inspired.  All that was in there  (beside the usual eggs, onions, and a few very sad looking carrots) was a pack of smoked bacon, 8 cumberland sausages and a block of half price cheese.  Well I could make us a fry up for tea, with cheese butties for lunches, however as we spent more than budgeted on the holiday, decided I needed to make these morsels stretch a tad further , sooo

The bacon, onions, chopped tomatoes from the storecupboard, with herbs and chilli was whipped up into a batch of amatriciana sauce.  I portioned these out into single portions (as opposed to my normal portion for two) as its always handy to pull out of the freezer on the evenings that hubby is late at work and we don’t eat together.
I made some shortcrust pastry (very simply 650g plain flour, 250g baking fat, water)  and with that I made a cheese and onion quiche (using just a quarter of that whopping block); sausage, carrot and onion pastys and a sausage, carrot and onion and gravy pie. 

From an initially uninspiring choice where I may have stretched two meals from, with some work and a bit of imagination I have made 4 hearty pasties which will be two lunches for us; enough pasta sauces for two dinners; quiche which will be another 2 lunches (very hearty lunches) and a pie which will be a hearty supper.  So I make that at least 7 meals for the price of 2, not bad going

Monday, 2 April 2012

What a weekend

Well that flew in a whirlwind, where did it go? A busy weekend of gardening, cleaning, cooking, baking. I spent two days making the ultimate beef and ale pie, hubby says it was absolutely worth it I'm not too sure - I mean it did taste delish and there was/is 6 hearty portions but it was an awful lot of work. Whilst I had the oven on I made a huge pasty with the left over pastry and a filling of onions, potato, carrot, turkey breast, seasoning and herbs. Lunch for hubby for two days. I also managed to get another load of washing on the new line the 6th and as such the retractable washing line has paid for itself every one now is profit, although with snow forecast for the next 48 hours it maybe a wee while for the next load.

Just a note this is my first entry via my I-pad ( i am testing out the blogger app) which was a far too generous gift from my best friend, I was and still am completely overwhelmed