Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Cheaper than chips: 30-4-13

B  Porridge with a sliced banana (the banana was free - yay)

L  Tomato soup (home made for 24p!), bread and butter, flapjack (see below) - and it kept me going all afternoon through some stressful afternoon stuff too.

D  More butter bean crumble because what I used made two portions which can't be bad.  Today I am adding some bacon (Morrison's cooking bacon, very cheap!) so I guess it is butter bean and bacon crumble - doesn't that sounds scrummy?  And carrots (free!).  No, I haven't been scrabbling in Morrison's bins, honest!

Coffees: mostly at school so  - guess what - free!!!

The total today is a slightly incredible 90p - but that does include stuff from  my weekly allowance, which is counted separately, plus some free things too.

Re the flapjacks:
it may seem a bit odd having something like that when I'm seeking to pay as little as possible.  However, I'm also aiming for this to be sustainable, the ingredients for my flapjack recipe, which I posted in here a short while ago) are not terribly expensive and I cut the baked results into 24 titchy little bits, one of which costs just 4p.  I reckon three of them makes the equivalent of a flapjack bought in a packet in the shops which still makes them pretty good value - and I know what's gone into them!
Oh, and oats are healthy - right?

What is my weekly allowance?
Well, at present it is just bread and butter - the bread I make with my Saturday baking and half of a value pack of butter, for the week ahead.  Both are lasting out well and should continue into next week, especially as I will be having a weekend off frugality for family reasons.  In fact, the amount I have factored in for this week should also last through the remains of next week too.  Can't complain, can I, especially as it is jolly tasty bread.  No particular comments on the butter, especially as I love Brittany butter with salt crystals!

Last Saturday I bought some nice, strong cheddar cheese.  Now cheese is dear - 10p for 10g, it seems.  Have you seen 10g of cheese?  It's basically a lick and a promise, believe me!
Given that, the pack I bought would be going mouldy before I used it all up so I've just finely grated what's left (most of it) and frozen it.  That way I can use what I need, when I need it, without worries.  And the label giving the weight and cost is on the container lid.
I guess I will do the same with the value 'cooking bacon' (what else does one do with bacon, I ask myself?) if it gets close to its use-by date.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Cheaper than chips: 29-4-13

OK, here we go.
B:  two boiled eggs, two (very small because it's a home made loaf and I used small tins) slices of toast and butter (both from weekly allowance)
L:  Left over salad from yesterday, banana (free)
D:  Butter bean crumble and broccoli, banana (free)
Coffee x 1 (getting better - or maybe I just drank more at school.

Total spent:  £1.17  Getting better!

p.s. the butter bean crumble was absolutely delicious.  I'm very glad the recipe makes enough for two portions.

pps.  Ooops, I've just realised I am going out on Thursday and will undoubtedly spend more than a week's food money on the one meal.  Ah well, that's life.

Recipe: Butter bean crumble

Just made this, haven't eaten yet (it's for this evening), but the bits I've tasted are nice.  The costing is a bit of a cheat as the three tomatoes were a 'handout' so didn't cost me anything and the butter was taken from my weekly allowance so has already been costed in.  Still, that's real life.  Whatever the cost, this is a nice recipe and easy too, with lots of vegetables in it.  I've copied and pasted from a word document, hence the 'odd' layout.  If I remember, I will add a photo this evening

Ingredients to make two individual portions
plain flour

salt and mixed herbs


onion, chopped
yellow pepper, chopped
chestnut mushroom, chopped
medium tomatoes, chopped
olive oil
can of value chopped tomatoes
of 100g of butterbeans, weighed raw, soaked and cooked

salt, pepper, herbs, stock cube paste


Each portion

The bottom
Heat the olive oil in a small to medium frying pan or saucepan.
Add the oil and sauté until softening, stirring from time to time.
Add the yellow pepper and mushroom and sauté a short while longer.
Add the chopped tomatoes and ditto
Add the half can of chopped tomatoes, butter beans, salt, pepper, sugar and stock paste to taste and stir well.

The top
Rub the butter into the plain flour until it resembles breadcrumbs
Add salt, herbs and the oats and mix well
If you’re feeling flush, you could add some finely grated cheese at this point.

Divide the butter bean mixture between two ovenproof dishes, sprinkle over the topping and bake at about 180C for around 25 to 30 mins until the top is brown and cooked.
Eat with vegetables.

I can see myself using crumble topping a lot - it is cheap and tasty!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cheaper than chips: 28-04-13

B:   Porridge with a spoonful of home made jam    
L:   Cheg and salad
      stewed apple and plums    
D:   celery soup, half a roll with butter, flapjack  

Coffees  (black, weak, no milk or sugar)
Tea (no sugar

Total:  £1.64
Lunch was more than it should be because I had guests - I'd have spent less otherwise.  I blame the cheese!  Seriously . . .

Some of what I spend is down as a weekly 'allowance', such as the bread I made on Saturday, the weighed out butter, etc.  I'm counting that as already spent and will appear in the end of week reckoning.

And I'm starting to realise this isn't like calories.  Generally, once I have worked out a recipe, that's it, done for ever.  Not so in these days of rapidly increasing prices.  I think labels are in order here so that once I have worked out what 10g of something costs, it's there for the lifetime of that product.  Could be quite important for things like pulses, rice, flour, etc.
Blimey - it's complicated!!!

Just realised - coffee at school is free, as is playtime fruit!  Yay!  Not-so-small mercies!

Recipe: cheg

I love cheg.  It's a great way to use up eggs and it's so tasty.  Not terribly unhealthy either and quite frugal.

Not the best photo in the world, I know, and scruffily arranged too!  Ooops

Ingredients to make enough for one
2 hard boiled eggs
20g strong cheddar cheese, finely grated
about 10 to 15 g mayo
pinch of salt
Other seasonings as wanted - I like sweet paprika, shopped chives (from the garden) or grain/dijon mustard

Carefully cut the cold hard boiled eggs in half and scoop out the yolk into a small bowl.  Mash roughly with a fork.
Add most of the grated cheese and a pinch of salt (not much because of the cheese) and stir in.
Add the mayo (light mayo is fine for this or, sometimes, I like to use salad cream for a different flavour)
Mix together very well, then spoon back into the egg white halves and arrange on your plate.
Sprinkle over the rest of the grated cheese, chives or another garnish and maybe grate over some black pepper.

Serve with a simple mixed salad and perhaps some coleslaw.

Cheaper than chips: warning - long, rambly entry!

After having a very careful think about things, I have decided to bring all my waffling about 'eating on a pound a day' over here.  After all, it is very food related so this is much the better place.  As I need something to identify entries on this theme, I've decided that 'cheaper than chips' is nice and catchy and says what it is, given the price tag on a bag of chips from the chippy nowadays!


My brain is full of stuff right now but I will try to give it some coherence.  Here we go . . .

1.  I will try to spend no more than £1.50 a day on food.  I'm aiming for £1.25; that's my target.  If it goes well, I may lower this, it all depends.  I'd like to do the £1.00 thing but I don't think it is possible.  Reading blogs about it, people were foraging in supermarket bins, getting extra money by entertaining in the street (in one case reading Dickens, would you believe?) and generally spending quite a lot of time on getting around the small amount of dosh they had.  To be quite honest, not only do I not have the time for that, the thought of being seen rummaging in Morrison's bins by parents of my children turns me cold with horror.  As for busking - can you imagine it?  I can . . . < shudder >

2.  While I will head over to the 'reduced' corners for a look, I will not buy stuff just because it *is* reduced.  It has to fit into the wider scheme of things.  Ready meals are as out as they ever were!  I will take advantage of BOGOFs and the like if, and only if, they fit into this wider scheme (whatever it may look like as it evolves) and if they can be used or preserved without waste.  For example, I would buy going over lemons cheaply and make a couple of pots of lemon curd, one of which I could barter for half a dozen eggs from a friend and another to have on my breakfast toast.  Eggs make great meals!  I might buy three for a tenner on mince, for example, because I know that I can concoct some very good and frugal meals with that much meat.  My freezer is always my best friend!
It helps to be able to buy when things are reduced.  Some people don't necessarily have that option.  For me, to some extend, it is a mathematical exercise - figures in a book, as my dad often says.  It's a luxury that I don't really appreciate enough.

3.  I'm doing an awful lot of weighing and calculating at the moment.  The online calculator is my New Best Friend!  I've discovered My Supermarket although it's a shame they don't give Morrison's prices.

4.  The point of this is to eat better (and I truly believe I will) while spending just a fraction of what I usually pay for food.  That's going to mean more or less cooking from scratch.  I am lucky in that I do a lot of that already.  We - all of us - are lucky because there's a lot of information out there on the Internet.  No excuses for not knowing what and how nowadays.  Love my kitchen scales too!

5.  I have cupboards and a freezer full to bursting with stuff, mostly stuff that will enable me to make meals.  Dried fruit, pulses (loadsa pulses), spices, herbs, etc.  I will use them.  It makes no sense to have these supplies and go out to buy more.  So today I have 100g of dried butter beans soaking.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find the cost of dried butter beans online.  I've made an educated guess and will try to remember to look next time I am in Morrison's.  This applies to the dried peas, the yellow split peas, the lentils . . . oh, you get the idea, I'm sure.  Generally, store cupboard pricing will have to be a best fit thing.

6.   I am umming and ahing about maybe a fortnightly trip to Aldi or Lidl (or both) to stock up on cans.  Chopped tomatoes, for example, which I use a lot,  and so on.  I have to balance savings with fuel costs and time.

7.  I know it's self indulgent but I need some sort of accountability so will be posting about successes  failures, discoveries, etc, in this blog.  While I obviously hope my readers will like reading it all, I'm really doing it for me.  I'll keep posting the recipes too but not under the cheaper than chips heading.  And there are times when I will eat out (especially if someone else is paying) or otherwise splash out a bit - and I will say when.

8.  And last of all - I need to find my organised hat!  from now on there's no popping over to Morrison's for a sarnie and a bag of crisps because I have forgotten to pack my lunch.  That would take two day's food money (shocking when you think of it like that, isn't it?).  I need to know what dinner will be in the morning so that I can make any necessary preparations.

So - what are the advantages
Obviously, spending less money.  I will be making a donation to a hunger charity, seeing as I'm not doing the sponsored thing.
Hopefully a reduction in food waste.
Healthier eating (I may plant vegetables in among my flowers this year) and a healthier me.
Using up some of the store cupboard supplies of which there are far too many for just one person.
There are more but that will do!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Simple celery soup, adapted for Thermione

At school on Tuesday we did an investigation into what happens to the water when plants drink and we used celery ribs.  Because I wanted to use the ribs with leaves, the outer ribs were cut off and I brought home.  Today I found a recipe for celery soup on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/celerysoup_85016

I adapted it for Thermione and it was very tasty.  Not a thick soup but it has a lovely fresh celery flavour with not a lot else going on to complicate it - which was just what I wanted.  It has made enough for two portions, not huge but quite enough for me.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
one smallish onion, peeled and halved
150g celery - outer ribs have more flavour - cut into chunks
Put all of the above into the tmx and zizz for about 10 seconds on 6.
Saute on 100 for 5 minutes, speed 4

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
300g water
1 tsp vegetable stock paste (or other stock)
Add the chopped potato, the water and the stock paste and cook on 100, 12 minutes, speed 2

Check that the potato is cooked. If it isn't, give it a little longer.

Blend for around 10 seconds, speed 7 to 8.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  I didn't add any more because the stock paste is salty enough
I like very smooth soups so I pushed it through a fine sieve and discarded what remained in the sieve.

Because I made it early morning, I let it cool.  At lunch time, I added about 100 mls semi skimmed milk and heated it to just under boiling, stirring from time to time.  If eating it straight away, after sieving  return it to the thermomix, add the milk and reheat to 90 at around speed 2 or 3, I should think.  If I had had the inner ribs, I'd have finely chopped some leaves and sprinkled them over to garnish but I didn't so I couldn't!

Costing it out is complicated.  I've calculated the following based on Sainsbury's proces today but it's very rough
Celery 30p
Garlic 2p
Onion 3p
Potato - around 10p
Veg stock paste: also absolutely no idea but again not much as it was home made and the original ingredients weren't all that much.  Say 3p
Milk:  5p
So that makes it around 27p a portion.  Not bad at all.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cream of tomato soup: a Thermomix recipe

I've just made this for lunch.  Although I haven't copied any other recipe, I can't imagine it is 'original' in the sense of not having been done like this before.  There must be a fairly finite way to create cream of tomato soup!
I used a can of chopped tomatoes but it would be much tastier using fresh, summer tomatoes, especially if picked straight from the plant.
If made the usual way, in a saucepan, it's the same schedule apart from grinding the lentils first.

It's really tasty!  Photos later, if I remember.

Home made cream of tomato soup
 (makes enough for two)

a can of chopped tomatoes with herbs (400g)
a drizzle of olive oil
a grinding of black pepper
pour the tomatoes into a small roasting dish, drizzle over with olive oil and grind over some black pepper: place in a hot oven to roast until the edges are just starting to blacken but not burn.  It takes about 15 to 20 mins

While the tomatoes are roasting . . .

10g red lentils
Pulse the lentils until they have reduced to a flour consistency.  Remove from the bowl and reserve

half a smallish onion, peeled and halved
1 small garlic clove, peeled
quarter of a red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
10g butter
Place in bowl and chop into fine bits.  Scrape down the sides.
Saute at 100, 4 mins, speed 1

quarter to half tsp balsamic vinegar (according to your own taste)
quarter tsp sugar
pinch salt (be careful as the stock paste is very salty – I added this pinch right at the end after tasting)
1 tsp vegetable stock paste (or use an alternative and add salt as required)
1 tbsp tomato puree
300 ml water (three Tmx cups worth)
Add the above (see note about salt), the roasted tomatoes and the ground lentils to the bowl.
Cook on 100, 20 mins, speed 1.  Allow to cool slightly before pureeing
Puree at 8 to 10 for about 30 seconds or until very smooth* (I held the cup on gently with a folded towel to avoid splashes as the mixture is very hot)
Check seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
If eating immediately, bring back to almost 100 and add some double cream before serving.

If eating later, re-heat in a saucepan, adding the cream at the last minute before serving.

* I like my soups very smooth so I then pushed the lot through a fine sieve.  There wasn't a lot left in the sieve afterwards to discard but it does make a noticeable difference to the texture.  

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Red cabbage coleslaw

I made this to go with a lasagne and mixed salad last night and it was rather tasty so I thought I'd share.  No photo, I'm afraid so this will have to do.
Found on Google at http://marksvegplot.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/pickled-red-cabbage.html
An interesting looking gardening blog.
red cabbage, finely shredded
carrot, peeled, quartered longways and then finely sliced
some sweetened dried cranberries (the extra sweetness goes so well with the red cabbage - some sliced apple would also go well, I think)
mayonnaise (I used some out of a jar but home made would be much nicer)
(amounts are to personal taste)

Bung the lot in a bowl and mix well!

I'm definitely making that again!

Small wholemeal bloomers

I thought I'd try the same recipe with wholemeal flour as I use with white flour.  I love home made wholemeal but have a bit of a block about the hand made variety.  In my breadmaker  wholemeal comes out beautifully - light and risen with a great texture.  When I have attempted to make it from scratch myself the results have been good enough to build a house with.

However, I have been encouraged by the success of the Hollywood bloomer and decided I'd have a go with wholemeal and more or less the same recipe.  In fact, I added a touch (really, just a pinch) more yeast and a little more water, just because of past experience.

The initial rising was quicker (not quick - that's not the idea at all) and I used this technique to shape the dough, having divided it into two first.  Click on the link and start the video clip.  Neat, isn't it?  Speedy and simple.

And here's the results.  I'm pleased with these.

Lovely texture - and it tasted rather good too!
I have wasted some time today costing out these loaves.  At a rough (very, very rough) estimate, the white bloomer made with white flour costs me around 44p plus the cost of baking while the wholemeal is around 71p.  The difference is partly because I had a really big bag of Allinson's strong white which is much better value than the smaller bag of Allinson's wholemeal.  I costed sachets of yeast whereas I use a packet of Dove yeast which is a lot cheaper.  If I used supermarkets own flour I reckon it would be less than that.

So each of these little loaves is around 35p.  Mind you, my maths isn't brilliant and I will cost it all out properly after a visit to Morrison's, using current prices.  But what I do know it that this really lovely bread is great value!

By the way, the ingredients are:
500g strong flour plus more for flouring before baking
A good tsp salt
a 7g sachet dried yeast (plus another pinch if making wholemeal)
30g oil plus a bit more for kneading and oiling the bowl
300g water (320 for wholemeal) plus a bit more if the dough needs it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

'Best ever chicken balti'

I found this in a magazine several years ago now.  I thought it looked pretty good so I tried it and it was absolutely scrummy.  Since then I have made it again and again and it's still a favourite.  So easy to make and packed with flavour, I made it last week when N came over on Friday, and she had seconds!

Best Ever Chicken Balti. Photo by Stardustannie

The recipe is here, on Food.com, so I won't reproduce it in full.  |Please do pop over and take a look.

I haven't changed anything much over the years, just a few things.  I start by gently saute-ing some finely chopped onion in butter before frying out the curry sauce.  Also, I have added other veg at times - red or yellow pepper goes nicely, as does strips of baby corn, quartered lengthways.  I think it would also be nice made with lean lamb, turkey or steak.

I have also seen a suggestion that you use coconut milk rather than cream at the end.  That sounds nice.  I have used yoghurt instead and, providing you are careful not to over-boil, it works well.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Victoria sponge the thermomix way

I wasn't really expecting much from this but I was pleasantly surprised.  Here is Mary Berry's recipe married with the Thermione technique.

Preheat oven to 170 (180 for non fan)
Prepare 2 cake tins by greasing around and placing circle of parchment in the base of each tin.
4 free range eggs
Put the eggs into the bowl and beat at 5/few seconds

225g caster sugar
225 fat (soft butter, baking spread or the equivalent)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Add the sugar, the fat and the vanilla.  Mix 40 secs/speed 7
Add the butterfly.  Whisk 3 mins/speed 4
Remove butterfly

225g SR flour
2 tsp baking powder
Mix at speed 3-4 in pulses of about 3 seconds until all is combined.
Scrape down the sides and mix once more.  The mixture should be of a dropping consistency

Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 25 - 30 mins mins.  

Remove from the oven and let them cool in the trays for about 5 mins, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
Fill/ice when cold.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Flapjacks the thermomix way

I made these on Sunday, knowing that grandson was staying for a few days.  I can't say they've been decimated - that would imply just one in ten had been eaten.  No, they're about half down and I reckon the rest will disappear today.

I have an old Good Housekeeping recipe book that in an absolute treasure.  This recipe reminds me a bit of a recipe in there and at some point I will adapt that one.  This particular recipe I found on the BBC Good Food site here.  The ingredients are more or less the same but the method has changed.

Golden syrup flapjacks

Preheat oven to 200C (fan 190)
Prepare baking tray (see hint below)

125g Butter
125g Brown Sugar
2-3 tbsps Golden Syrup (depends how gooey you want it – I used 3 proper 15ml measures)
A squeeze of lemon juice
A pinch of salt
Place the butter, sugar, lemon juice, salt and syrup in the bowl and heat to 100/speed 2/5 mins or until all melted, liquid and gooey.  Keep checking and be careful – it will be HOT!

Not quite ready at this point but you get the general idea.

250g Porridge Oats
Weigh in the oats and reverse mix on 1-2 until fully mixed.  It doesn't take very long.  And I forgot to take any more photos, sorry.  I'm really bad at remembering to take photos!

Tip the mixture into a greased baking tray, spread out with a wet palate knife so that the mixture is evenly distributed and goes right into the corners (the water stops the gooey oats from sticking to the knife) and bake for about 20 mins until golden.
While the mixture is still warm, cut into squares, rectangles or even triangles if you want to live dangerously(!).  A few minutes later remove from the tray (by lifting the lot out using the parchment lining if used - see hint below),. break into single flapjacks if necessary and and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Keep in a container with a good tight lid - the flavour develops over the next few days and they truly are delicious.

Hint.  Instead of greasing the baking tin, I use some kitchen parchment, scrunched up under the cold tap until it is very pliable, shake off the excess moisture and roughly mould the parchment to the inside of the tin.  Once the mixture is in, the parchment stays in place and lifting the flapjacks out afterwards is a doddle.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Lamb steaks with a rich, spicy plum sauce

Well, I tried a number of recipes yesterday and they all worked so it's a question of which one first.

This was really delicious although I guess I cheated by using leftovers from the Autumnal Spiced Plums recipe I shared a week ago.  Given that, the rest was easy and I thought the results worked well, especially if you likes sweet/spicy/savoury, which I do.

From now on, whenever I make the Autumnal Spiced Plum dessert, I will be having lamb soon afterwards.

Lamb on a rich spicy plum sauce

a small lump of butter
2 shallots, peeled and very finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, ground to a paste with a little sea salt
A little grating of fresh ginger
A splash of red wine vinegar
A drizzle of olive oil
*Leftovers from the Autumnal spiced plums.  I guess about 300mls-worth judging by what was in the pot.

2 lamb leg steaks

a couple of small sprigs of rosemary

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onions and sauté them very gently, covered, for about ten minutes or so, until they are very soft, stirring occasionally.
Turn up the heat, remove the cover and add the garlic and ginger.  Stir and fry for about 1 minute or so to cook out the garlic and ginger.
Add the plums and squish down with a wooden spoon.
Add the red wine vinegar (not too much, just a splash), bring to a simmer and allow the mix to bubble for a minute or so.  Be careful it doesn't catch.
Pour the sauce into a small roasting dish.  Place the lamb steaks on top and lay a small sprig of rosemary on each steak.  

Next time I will cut off the fat before cooking and just lay it over the meat while it is in the oven, removing it (obviously) before serving.  the fat gives a lovely flavour but doesn't cook for long enough or in the right way to make it crispy.

Give the steaks a grating of pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil and cover the dish with foil
Bake in a moderate-ish oven (around 160C) until the lamb steaks are cooked and tender - I like lamb cooked through, not pink.  Remove the foil, take off the rosemary, give the sauce a stir, turn up the heat and place the uncovered dish in the oven for a short time to brown off the lamb a little bit (but not to dry it out) and to thicken the sauce a bit.

Serve with mash or rice and assorted veg.  I just had rice and it worked really well.  Filling too

*If you don’t have leftovers, try the following:  Amounts are really down to common sense and personal taste
Halve and stone some plums and place in a saucepan with some honey, some maple syrup and some water.  Add one star anise and a small bit of cinnamon stick.  Add a splash or balsamic vinegar, bring the lot to a simmer, cover and cook until the plums are soft.  Remove the spices before using.  it won't be quite the same but it should work.