Sunday, 16 November 2014

Loving my Multi-Fryer

I cooked sausages and bacon in my multi-fryer last night and they came out great. I had a whole 600g pack of bacon (about 16 rashers) and 8 pork sausages. They took longer than expected but then I realised I should have had the heat a bit higher, plus I opened it every few minutes to turn the bacon, or to take out the cooked rashers and replace with raw ones. I did also try cooking fried onions in the base under the racks containing the meat, but with all the fat dripping down on them they only softened and didn't brown so I drained all the fat off them and finished them off in a frying pan. Because they were almost cooked already, they only took a couple of minutes extra on the hob to brown nicely.

Tonight I'm making macaroni cheese that will mostly be done by my usual method, but I'm going to try and brown the top of it in the fryer.

I have to say I'm pretty impressed with this machine and can see me using it for all sorts of things that I would normally do on my cooker top or in the oven. Of course, it won't cook everything and you can't cook things that require a lot of liquid, so I will still be making good use of my slow cooker and soup maker for soups and stews, and using the microwave for really fast cooking. I can see me using the multi-fryer in conjunction with these other methods, such as cooking baked potatoes in the microwave and then crisping them in the fryer and, like the macaroni cheese, finishing things off in the fryer instead of heating up the whole oven just to brown the top. It will be a bit of a learning curve getting used to timings and heat settings etc (especially as my main oven is gas, not electric) but so far I'm enjoying playing with my new toy.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

I have fallen

Confession time. I have blown that tight budget I was talking about a few days ago.  

With everything being so strange and out of sync with my normal routine with my MIL passing and all the funeral arrangements and trying to coordinate accomodation and travel arrangements etc. for my 5 grown kids and their partners from Dover and Basingstoke to Bridgend for the funeral next Wednesday, I've been rather out of sorts for the past couple of days and fell into the trap of feeling I needed a treat to perk me up...so I succumbed and bought one of these.


It cost £69.99 from Aldi, half the usual price of similar ones by Tefal or Phillips (although Argos have a Tefal one for around £94 at the moment) and a more versatile machine, I think.  With only 4 of us to cook for now it's 1kg capacity is just the right size, although it can cook larger quantities using the wire racks and extension ring.

I have wanted something similar for a while so I can cook things like real chips and fried chicken but with virtually no fat. Usually we have oven chips but they really are not the same as fried ones, and with this machine I won't need to heat the whole oven just to cook a few chips and some chicken grills. In theory I can cook a whole roast chicken in it with the roast veggies underneath and I will be testing that at some later date. 

Last night I just tried chips. I made proper ones with real potatoes, soaked them and rinsed and dried them a few times, and added just 1 tablespoon of oil to the fryer. They took 10 minutes longer than the suggested time but then I had made them quite thick. They didn't go as golden as I expected but they were paler, more like chip shop chips and very tasty. They were certainly more like real chips than oven chips are, and only took about the same length of time to cook. I think I might buy frozen 'fry' chips next time and try those. With the high price of potatoes, buying frozen chips, already peeled and prepared for me, is possibly even more economical than using fresh spuds and certainly more time-saving.

Today I'm going to be trying bacon, sausages and fried onions in the machine. I'm hoping to put the bacon on the top wire rack, the sausages on the lower rack and the onions in the base with the stirring paddle to keep them moving. We'll see how that goes and I'll report back. If this is a success then I'll be able to make a whole host of meals using just this machine, my slowcooker, microwave and soup maker, without ever having to turn on my main oven. There are even recipes in the book to make cakes in this machine, and I might give it a try.

We'll be away most of next week, back down in Wales. The funeral is on Wednesday afternoon, but DH and I will travel down on Tuesday and will probably stay until the end of the week. He's been marvellous sorting everything out, feeling it was his responsibility as an only child to deal with all the arrangements, but I want to try and get him to relax over this weekend as he's been running around all over the place since Monday. He says everyone he's had to deal with has been amazingly helpful and understanding but its obviously been a stressful time and he needs a rest. He's taking all next week off work but might have to take it as unpaid leave...thank goodness for those rainy day savings so we can ride out a reduction in next month's salary.

I think that's all I have for now. I'll report back on the successes (and failures) with my new toy.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Quick Update

Just to let you good people know that my mother-in-law passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning. 

DH had driven down there yesterday so was able to be there with her at the end. I did feel a bit guilty for not being with him but said he was glad to have those last few hours alone with his mum even though she probably didn't know he was there. 

And today I was glad I stayed behind as, although my children are all adults, some were very upset to lose their nan and needed their mum. Apart from DD1 who is in Basingstoke, and who I've spoken to several times on the phone today,  they all came home early from work and we got together for a drink and lunch in Weatherspoons in Dover. It was a lovely family time despite the sad occasion. We exchanged reminiscences of their nanny and I am so proud of my lovely kids that they are all there to support each other when necessary. DH is getting the same support from his cousins in Wales who have taken him out for a meal, and because they have also known his mum since they were children he could share memories with them from a time before I came into his life. 

I'm not sure when the funeral will be but DH is hoping to get everything arranged over the next few days and then come home at the weekend and we will all go down again for the actual service. 

So, tonight I'm remembering a stubborn old lady who, despite suffering for years with angina, chest infections, uterine cancer in her seventies and various other health issues, refused to give in until this, her 94th year. If I drank gin (her favourite tipple) I'd raise a glass and say Cheers Vie, wherever you may be tonight!


Friday, 7 November 2014

Hi! I'm still here!

Hello, everyone, long time, no see.

Sorry for the prolonged break; I'm not abandoning this blog, there's just been a lot of family stuff going on lately, some good some bad. We've both been pretty stressed out plus DH had another bout of bronchitis and I'm recovering from yet another monster migraine. 

The main bad news is DH's mum is really not well again. She's back in hospital, this time with pneumonia, and it's not looking good. He spent nearly a whole week in Wales over half term spending the majority of his time at the care home with her, but had to come home eventually for work. He feels really guilty at the moment that he can't be down there with her, and that so much emphasis is on his cousin and her husband (who are being absolute angels) to visit her and take in anything she needs...and to keep him updated on her condition as the hospital isn't very forthcoming with information when he phones. 

Of course, if she takes a serious turn for the worse we'll be in the car and off down there in a shot, and he has warned the school where he works that that might be necessary. At nearly 94 she really hasn't had much quality of life the past few months; her mind is now going whereas up to a short while ago she was bright as a button, and she constantly has one infection (either chest or urinary tract) after another, plus she's now had 3 falls, including breaking her wrist. It's very hard on DH as he's an only child so has no one but his cousin to share the burden of worry and care with, and she and her husband are already looking after her mother who has Alzheimers. Given the fact that he's in a stressful job too, and has to travel 2 hours a day to and from his current school, I'm keeping an eye on him and hoping he doesn't have another breakdown like he did 4 years ago.

We've also had car trouble which hasn't helped with the stress. DH's school is difficult to get to on public transport so he relies on our old VW Polo to get him to and from. It did pass the MOT at the beginning of last month, but started playing up after that. We've now forked out for a full service and - touch wood - it seems to be running a lot more smoothly. 

Hopefully the car will play nice this weekend because we're off to Basingstoke to visit DD1. Her wife is with the army band and is currently in Germany so we're going to keep DD1 company for a couple of days, driving down early tomorrow morning and back late on Sunday. It will give us a chance to catch up with DD and to see their new house since they recently moved from army accomdation near Winchester. DH can keep in touch with whatever's happening with his mum and we're taking spare clothes in case we have to dash to Wales and stay for a while, and Basingstoke is closer to Bridgend anyway.

Having had so much to pay out for on the car, plus other unexpected expenses (including going to Basingstoke) this month I'm really belt-tightening. I did have money put by for the car but have had to dip into other savings and I want to replace them, not keep spending, so my budget for the next two weeks until DH gets paid again on the 25th (not including the cost of travelling to Basingstoke and one lunch out with DD1) is £50 a week housekeeping, £60 a week for DH's petrol for work, and £25 for his dental treatment. That's £245 plus I'll allow a £15 float for the 3 extra days over the 2 weeks. £115 housekeeping for 17 days isn't a lot for 4 people (3 of them men) plus 2 greedy cats, when I've already run down my freezer during October, but I've made a menu plan of sorts (which went to pot this week with me in bed for 2 days with a migraine) and it's definitely do-able, as long as we don't get any more nasty surprises! 

Good news on the money front, I've taken out a new deal with Scottish Power online until 2017 which freezes the price of my gas and electric. It means I pay a little more now per KWH or whatever they call it, but with prices continuing to rise I'm hoping to reap the benefits of freezing it later on. Plus, because we had built up a lot of credit by paying by direct debit, my monthly payments have been reduced by about £25. My water charges have also reduced by a few pounds since DD3 and BF moved out.

Sorry is this sounds all doom and gloom, not a lot ot shout about at the moment, but we are really looking forward to our mini break this weekend and hoping we get enough dry weather to take stroll by the Basingstoke canal.

You notice I haven't mentioned the dreaded 'C' word. I haven't even started on my Christmas prepartions beyond saving £50 in Morrisons stamps for food and my sealed savings tins which I'll open on 30th of this month. We're going to DD3 and BF's for Xmas dinner, anyway, and she's so excited to be hosting her first family Christmas. We're hoping everyone will manage to be there and we haven't all been together since June.

After taking time out to write this mammoth post I'd better get on and catch up with all the things I haven't done while I was ill. Sorry again for the doom and gloom and I hope all is more cheerful in your neck of the woods despite the weather.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Repost - Frugal Queen: How much should a family of five spend on food a week?

Please click on the link below for sound advice as always from Frugal Queen. 

I'm sure a lot of people would think some of the suggestions given are too extreme but if you really need to cut back on spending then you have to get organised and make some drastic changes and there's no use moaning about it. 

Let's face it, mostly we're extremely lucky in this country to have enough to eat and a safe place to live without all the extras we feel we deserve. There are millions worldwide who'd love to have the apparent luxury of even our most frugal lifestyles but for them no matter how hard they work they just about survive day to day and that coffee treat at Starbucks is definitely not on their list of things they can't do without. 

Sorry if that comes across as preachy. 

 Frugal Queen: How much should a family of five spend on food a week?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Weigh In, Fry Up and Rice Pudding

Well, I gained 1/2 lb this week, but that's okay since I was 1/2 under my target last week. It was the cake that did it. We were given 2 lots of cake last week and I'm afraid I over-indulged, plus I succuumbed to a couple of those cheese rolls I made and also the flapjack...and one of the Naan breads and...So, actually I was lucky to get away with just 1/2 lb.

Determined to be good and stick to my eating plan for most of this week, but still needing a tasty, filling treat, I've made some slow cooker rice pudding inspired by Frugal Queen. 



I used the quantities in FQ's recipe (http://www.frugalqueen.co.uk/2014/10/sticky-toffee-apple-rice-pudding.html) but used skimmed milk and substituted half the brown sugar with sweetner. As we like our rice pudding chilled rather than hot I decanted it into a bowl and then divided it into snack pots (those empty yogurt cartons I use for many of my desserts). It made 6 pots plus a small amount in another pot. I won't be adding apple sauce to it as I like mine plain and DH prefers jam on his.

Dinner tonight was a health-ish fry up. Grilled bacon (£2 for 600g from FarmFoods) and sausages (99p a pack of 8 from Aldi), eggs cooked in Frylight, baked beans (Aldi - 24p a can) and oven chips (Aldi - 89p for 1.5kg). DH and the boys will also have fried onions with theirs. Everything for dinner and for the rice pud came from my stores.


My dinner without fried onions 

DH's dinner with fried onions (he'd already tucked into it before I got a chance to take a picture).

Thank goodness the weather was better today, chilly and overcast but dry all day so I managed quite a nice walk into town to my SW meeting, and back again via the supermarkets where I succumbed to some more shopping, spending a total of £9.96 on this lot plus a few extras.

 Chorizo rings reduced from £2 to £1 (sell by date 22 Dec 2014)

Yogurts 2 packs for £2 in Morrisons

Cheese - 350g pack for £2 in Asda

500g for £1.62 in Morrisons

I also bought 2 packs of Savers baby wipes at 46p a pack from Morrisons (we use them in the loo...'nough said!), 5 pack of Gala apples for 84p from Asda, and 2 packs of aspirins at 29p a pack from Boots. In addition 60p in change was added to one of my sealed tins.

I was really pleased with the Extra Mature Cheddar; I always buy a nice strong cheese and use less of it but still get a lot of flavour. I'll make the granola go a long way, having a little with yogurt and fruit for breakfast or for desserts. And I was thrilled to find my favourite chorizo for 1/2 price with a long use by date. I add a small amount of chorizo to soups, stews, macaroni cheese, savoury rice and all sorts of things to give them that extra injection of flavour.

Has anyone else discovered a good deal today?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Quiet Day In

Not much to report today. I've had a day in, partly because the weather has been absolutely foul and partly because I have an upset stomach. At least staying in means I haven't spent anything, my second no spend day this month. It's a sad state of affairs, though, that my willpower is so bad I can only manage not to spend when I don't go out.

In my inifinite wisdom I decided to strip all the throws off the sofas and wash them along with the cushions covers. I've been meaning to wash them for a couple of weeks as they get coated in cat hairs, but every time I was going to do them it was either raining or I had other laundry that needed attention first. Despite today's awful weather I decided they'd waited long enough, so I currently have damp washing hanging over the bannisters and doors. I refuse to put the heating on to help dry them out over the radiators, which means it could be a day or two before they can be put back on the sofas. At least I've finally got them done.

Dinner tonight was once again made with what I had in stock. A root vegetable crumble using carrots, swedes and parnips I bought yellow-stickered a while ago and chopped up to go in the freezer, plus an onion and a sachet of pasta bake mix (from AF) that I adapted  to make a creamy sauce. The crumble topping was simply white and wholemeal flour combined, Willow buttery spread and some grated cheese.  It was served with peas and sweetcorn. I only had a tiny portion of the filling as my stomach is still griping.

Tomorrow is my Slimming World weigh in. Thank goodness we are forecast sunshine so I won't get soaked on the way there, although its going to be colder. 

That's all I have for today. Hopefully my wayward digestive system will have settled down by tomorrow.