Sunday, 17 September 2017

Spuds I like

Today I've been out at North Willingham, a village about five miles outside Market Rasen which is itself no metropolis but it counts as a town in these parts  as it has a population of almost 4000.  We have small towns, small supermarkets in these parts but sometimes there are wayside stalls when someone wants to sell their surplus stuff.

As I was on my way home I saw this box outside a cottage.  It is brilliant!  Someone has created a slope on the top of an old plastic box and attached a plastic bread tray with a hinge fixing.  Inside they have screwed a cash box firmly to one wall and the spuds are in plastic bags ready to be taken. 

The potatoes are Marfona which is a good bet for boiling, roasting and baking - a useful all rounder.  The sign says "10lbs for £1" which is a bargain.  When I got home I weighed and checked them,  I had got 11lbs for my £1.  Spuds with butter, spuds with cheese, spuds with beans.  Yummy!

I still have £16.76 in the kitty.  

Friday, 15 September 2017

Spending!

What to spend my precious £19.56 on, that is the question.  A special treat?  Cream buns, maybe, or a couple of juicy chops?


Sorry, nothing so risque.  My indulgence - apples!  I've been given quite a lot of apples recently but they have all been cookers so I splashed out £1.80.



I love Braeburn apples.  I often have one (or two) for breakfast with some peanut butter, a combination I have discovered only recently.   I'm not a cereal girl.  I like variety in my breakfasts as much as I like variety in other meals.  I've got a cunning gadget which makes slicing them beautifully a total doddle.



£17.76 remains.  As do fifteen days.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Have a cuppa

Despite having spent most of my working life in Christian ministry I have never been a "More tea, Vicar".  I loathe the stuff.  I used to tell my parishioners that I drink my coffee naked, which is not a pretty thought until you realise that it's the coffee which is naked i.e. black, no sugar.

Anyway, I digress.  Tea.  I never drink it but I am an Englishwoman so it's always in the house.  Except when I forget to buy any.  Because I need so little I don't buy any until just before I run out and then I buy a small pack of teabags.  This is a dangerous policy as sometimes I do run out and I find inability to offer tea to a guest to be embarrassing.

However, most hotels have a hospitality tray in the bedrooms and there are always teabags and sachets of instant coffee.  I therefore remove a few teabags each time I am away from home and keep these for "emergencies".

Yesterday I used the last regular teabag for a friend.  This is now an emergency as I don't want to spend any of my precious £19.56 on something I don't like.  So I searched out these.  Saved!


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Reviewing things

This eat-down of food stocks was well overdue and, I can promise you, it is no hardship.  I'm using it as an opportunity to try new recipes using odd things in my stores but I'm also enjoying meals that I have cooked and frozen over the past few weeks and months which has meant that I have not been cooking every day.

My fridge is the neatest and tidiest that it has been in months and my bank account is feeling happy. 

One thing which I have noticed over the past few years is that I have been getting better at organising the shopping once I get home.  At one time I would come home, put stuff in the fridge/freezer/cupboard without too much care and then flop down with a coffee/coke/gin depending how shattering the shopping expedition had been.  These days I spend at least as much time putting shopping away as I spend preparing to go shopping.  Vegetables are removed from poly bags (or the bags pierced in several places), cheese is grated and frozen, meat is split into usable packs etc before the drink is poured by which time I have definitely earned a gin.  Maybe this portioning is more important for me as I live alone, but unpacking groceries carefully seems to get very little mention in advice for canny shoppers. 

I haven't been shopping again yet - the coffee purchase from Amazon has been my total expenditure so far,

This virtue will be the death of me.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Fifties Fast Food

When I was a child, back in the 1950s, fast food just hadn't been heard of.  Mother's idea of a convenience food was a ready made loaf of bread.  Everything I ate at home was cooked from scratch at home.  Mother baked bread, cakes, biscuits and pastries. We ate seasonal vegetables often grown by my Father.  Mother made copious quantities of jam so that hunger could be satisfied with thick slices of bread covered with jam.

Mother didn't go out to work but she worked very hard at home.  Open fires created a fair amount of dirt, children coming in from playing brought in more, and a husband who worked on the steelworks did his bit too, even though he was a "white collar worker".  Cooking, baking, mending, gardening, and looking after a family all took time and shopping had to be done almost daily in homes where there was no fridge.

The busiest day of the week was Monday.  On Monday every self-respecting housewife did her washing.  We had an electric washing machine and mangle and when I was about eight Mother acquired a spin drier, quite a feather in her cap!  But even with those "labour saving devices" washday was hard work.  There were no easy-care fabrics, tumble driers were still in the future and if the weather wasn't kind laundry had to be dried indoors which meant an endless rotation of clothes horses so everything got its time near the fire.  And don't get me started on the joys of ironing!

All this meant that meals on a Monday had to be easy so well organised housewives planned ahead and made sure that there were leftovers from Sunday dinner.  (I'm a northerner, the midday meal was always called dinner.)  In our house that meant that on Monday we had either cold meat and fried potatoes, pancakes and gravy, or bubble and squeak.

So yesterday I had bubble and squeak.  I'd cooked some extra cabbage yesterday when I made stuffed cabbage so I fried a few bacon lardons and mixed mashed potato (from the freezer), cabbage and bacon and made patties and fried them.  Scrummy!




Monday, 11 September 2017

I've spent some money!


Well, you know how it is!  The offer was too good to resist.  Amazon had six bags of my favourite coffee for £10.44.  The same thing from Tesco would cost £18 and that's on special anyway!  It would normally cost £3.59 for just one bag at Tesco so I was buying it only very occasionally.  I've recently been buying an acceptable coffee for about £2.20 a bag from Lidl so six bags there would have been £13.20 and I like this sort better.


I would need coffee in the next week or so anyway.  I get through a bag a week so even though this is "hoarding" in one sense, I am convincing myself that it is sensible shopping.  I have now reduced my available budget to £19.56 so maybe by the end of the month I may regret it.  We shall see.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Further in to the Savoy

That savoy cabbage isn't going to beat me!  I decided today that a little more would get used in some stuffed cabbage, a dish I'd never made.

Googling came up with quite a few recipes and they all had a lot of ingredients - and I mean a lot.  I decided to make it up as I go along.

So I sweated a finely diced small onion in some olive oil, added a little garlic, parsley. cumin and cayenne and when the onions were soft I added some frozen minced lamb.  I like frozen mince,  It's the same fat content as fresh mince, it's cheaper and as it's a free-flow product there is no waste.  I covered the pan and left it to cook slowly.  After about ten minutes I added some cooked rice and again left it to meditate.  


Meanwhile I took several large cabbage leaves and removed the bottom part of the central rib.  I boiled the leaves for about five minutes then removed them from the pan to drain.  Then I heaped each one with the mince mixture, folded them over tightly and put them in a dish,  I covered the whole lot with a tin of chopped tomatoes.


I cooked the whole lot at 170C for about an hour.  I left it uncovered as it looked very moist

It was delish and it's a one dish meal with protein, carb and veg all in the one dish.

I still haven't spent any money!


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday night indulgence

It's hard to remember that many everyday foods today were luxuries in my childhood.  Pineapples were exotic and hardly known as a fresh fruit, chicken was definitely a treat and prawns were a once a year indulgence of a few ounces still with their shells on and eaten during the annual trip to the seaside.

My how things have changed!  Pineapple is available at a very reasonable price all year round and chicken is one of the cheapest meats.  And prawns, ah prawns are always in my freezer.

So tonight a few prawns came out of my freezer and got combined with rice, peas, sweetcorn and egg and I had a delicious egg fried rice.


And I still haven't spent any money on groceries this month

Friday, 8 September 2017

Energy

Each year in the autumn I review my energy bills and each year I change tariff and usually change supplier as well.  I usually go for a "fix" i.e. my gas and electricity will be supplied at the same price all year no matter what the market price of fuel does.

Usually I sign up with one of the Big Six energy companies (British Gas, nPower, EDF, EOn, Scottish Power and SSE).  No matter which company you sign up with it's the same gas and electricity, it's just the billing which differs.  I always have on-line billing and pay by monthly Direct Debit as both these factors help in getting a good deal.  The market is now diversifying with lots of smaller companies entering the fray and last year I signed up with G B Energy who offered me a very attractive tariff.

Sadly it proved to be too good a deal and at the end of last year G B Energy went bust.  However, the regulator, Ofgem, stepped in which felt a bit scary but the instruction from Ofgem was, "Don't panic.  Sit tight.  You're not going to be cut off"  With a few days I was transferred to Co-op Energy and kept on the same tariff.  Ofgem and the energy industry often come in for a lot of criticism, including from me, but I was very impressed on that occasion.

That tariff is coming to an end in a couple of weeks so I had to go looking for a new one.  This time I have gone with a collective switch through the Money Saving Expert Cheap Energy Club.  Obviously I will be paying more than my last year tariff but I've got the best deal I could find.  

Sorry this post isn't in my usual light-hearted tone but I've still spent nowt on nosh and yesterday's menu was especially unexciting.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Season of mellow fruitfulness

For various reasons I haven't grown vegetables this year.  However, I still get homegrown vegetables.  Just not grown at my home.

I'm not feeling 100% at the moment (eye problems) and yesterday was a very lazy day food-wise.  I had apples and peanut butter for breakfast, and cheese sandwich for lunch.  I have to leave an hour between taking medication and consuming food and it's left me in a not-too-bothered-about-what-I-eat sort of mood but my dear friend from along the road rang and offered me home-grown lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.  I found a few bits and pieces to add to that so my evening meal was rather more tempting.  

Today I think I need to spend.  Apples.  Unless, of course, I can find someone with apples to give away!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Food to match the plate

I hate opening the fridge and hearing the contents sniggering at me.  That's what the savoy cabbage was doing, I swear.  There it sat, mocking me.  "Why did you buy me?  What are you going to do with me?  Can I just sit here looking gorgeous?"

Well let me tell you, no cabbage is going to get the better of me.  I'm going to munch that brassica down to the last leaf.

The first six leaves have gone and very nice they were too.  Not got a clue if this dish has a proper name but here you go.
Meal to match the plate!

Put pasta on to cook in boiling water.

Meanwhile fry bacon lardons gently in olive oil until cooked but not crisp.  Shred a few leaves of savoy and when the pasta is cooked and draining, add the cabbage to the bacon to wilt it a little but keep it crunchy.  Stir in the cooked pasta and maybe a tablespoon of cream.  Consume.  Not bad.

I buy packs of cooking bacon and cut it into lardons before I freeze it in packs of approx 100 grams so this recipe was really a quick assembly job.  And I've still spent nothing.



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Souper!

I had rather a busy day yesterday and all I fancied was a bowl of soup.  Something made me look in the tinned goods cupboard rather than the freezer which was odd as I'm pretty sure I have soups in there.  (Yes, I know I need a new freezer inventory and once I have eaten some of the stuff in there I shall make one.  For the moment it's freezer diving.  OK?)

Anyway, there on the shelves was a tin of Lobster Bisque.  Yup, not your average can of mushroom or mixed veg but a rather expensive can which I have absolutely no memory of buying,  In fact I'm even wondering if it came in a hamper when I won a raffle.  

And it's "best by" date was June 2015.  Well, "best by" means "best by" in my book and this was not on the way to the bin any time soon.  When I opened it it looked fine and smelt fine.  And it tasted fine.  Very nice in fact, with a bread roll from the freezer.

And mentioning bread from the freezer, I've made another loaf to put in there.  Maybe that's why the freezer still bulges.

But my purse isn't getting any thinner either,

Monday, 4 September 2017

Sausages

I found a packet of sausages in the freezer whilst I was digging.  I'm rather partial to a sausage so I cooked them.  I had two with beans for breakfast (that was a treat!), two went into a Toad and Tadpoles (hover for the link) and the others will make a sausage casserole.  

Bonus nosh was that I went to a church which was serving cake.  Carrot cake.  With cream cheese topping.  It would have been rude to refuse.  And I'm never rude.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Still no spending

Three days is hardly dramatic for no spending I know, but I'm writing the blog to help me remember what I did when as well as making me, in some measure, accountable.

Yesterday there was plenty of the tomato and courgette soup left so that was lunch sorted.

Eating down sounds as though it could be very boring but I've got some Stilton in the freezer so a portion of that with some celery made my other meal.  No complaints there, I can promise!


Saturday, 2 September 2017

Rescued

Once again I've been scrabbling in the fridge.  The most perishable food is there so it has to be the first area to be checked.

Living in a rural area I'm sometimes offered gifts of tomatoes at this time of the year and you won't be surprised that I never say no.  I turn some into sauces (for the freezer) and some into chutney but the rest are for eating raw or for cooking.   Very occasionally one or two get left for a little longer than is good for them and that had happened this week.  Two tomatoes were looking very sorry for themselves so I found a few friends for them: an onion, a courgette and some stock and voila!  delicious tomato and courgette soup.  Served with a chunk of home-made bread and it's a feast for a king.


Friday, 1 September 2017

Let the eat down begin

In a spirit of great enthusiasm I started September yesterday!

I decided to tackle the lentils first. I had a few salady bits and pieces  which needed eating up and I thought I could combine the two.

First I cooked the lentils.  I'd noticed when I was looking for lentil recipes that some lists of ingredients include dried lentils and some prefer cooked (or tinned) ones so I decided to cook 200 grams dried lentils and then weigh them again once cooked and drained.  The result was 498 grams of cooked lentils.  I now have the information to convert any quantity either way.  Cunning, I feel.  And now I've written it on this blog I have information I won't forget.  Doubly cunning.

I then peeled and deseeded a cucumber and chopped it, halved the cherry tomatoes and a couple of tomatoes which my neighbour grew, the tail end of a root of celery and a red onion and combine the lot in a bowl with some of the cooked lentils.  I made a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing including a little garlic and poured that over.

Not the most exciting recipe I've ever made but it made a tasty lunch.  And it was a no spend day.