Friday, 10 July 2015

So much for good intentions

I know I said I was going to make do with the food I had in the freezer, fridge and cupboards but...

It's Tesco's fault. 

Now, I don't often shop at Tesco since I find them quite expensive and our store is outside the town so needs a special trip to get there. But...they sent me an email with a code for £12 off a £60 online shop. I also had a £1.50 clubcard voucher. A £13.50 saving was too much of a temptation, especially as I did need to stock up on toilet paper, disinfectant and cat food. To make up the £60 I also bought frozen meat (pork chops, minced beef and pork, and white fish fillets) and various vegetables, plus some other store cupboard bits, and I took advantage of some multi buy offers. By booking a 4 hour time slot I got free delivery.  The value of my total shop after offers was £61.92 and with the coupon codes I paid £47.82.

Secondly, as I had already fallen down on my good intentions, I decided to complete stocking the freezer and use a £2.50 off a £25 shop voucher for Farm Foods. There I bought Princes corned beef (2 tins for £3), John West tuna chunks in brine (12 tins for £7 ie. 3 packs x 4 tins), 4 frozen beef products for £10 (2 x diced beef, 1 x minced steak and 1 x 6 large beef burgers), 2 x 500g frozen mixed peppers for 89p each, 2 x 500g frozen sliced mushrooms for 89p each, 1 x 500g frozen sliced onions and 1 x frozen mixed stew vegetables at 69p each.

Yes, my good intentions did go by the wayside, but in the long run I will have saved money instead of wasting that £12 voucher and I now have a pretty well-stocked freezer again, enough loo rolls, disinfectant, loo cleaner etc. for the next 3 months and enough food for my 2 cats for a month. 

And today I bagged some more bargains; yellow-stickered items in Asda and Morrisons. I bought 2 bags of diced onions for 24p each, 2 bags of mixed diced swede and carrot for 25p each, 2 bags of sliced carrots for 25p each and some lovely juicy fresh raspberries for 99p. 
The diced veg gets chucked in the freezer and is perfect for use in my soup maker, taking out all that work of finely chopping mountains of veg. 

As well as food stuff I snapped up theses gorgeous roses reduced to £1.49. 

Not having a garden I've started to enjoy having a few flowers in the house and often manage to get reduced priced bunches really cheaply. I only paid 9p for a previous bunch of chrysanths and carnations. 

DD2 is coming to dinner tonight as her new husband has a late shift at work and she's bringing the wedding pics round for her dad to view (I've already seen them once). I've made veggie sausage 'meatballs' done in some of the tomato sauce from the freezer that I made in my slow cooker a couple of weeks ago. The 2 packs of dried sausage mix I used are from Approved Foods and 2 years out of date but still fine and cost only 20p a sachet. I bought mountains of it at the time but only have 4 packs left and will be sorry when it's all gone. Served with 20p Everyday Value spaghetti from Tesco this will make a cheap, tasty dinner for 5 of us. Dessert is chocolate Cornettos, £1 for a 4 pack from Farm Foods.

The weather should be lovely over the weekend so DH and I are planning on having a day out tomorrow, leaving the car at home. Using his weekly bus pass and buying a £6.20 explorer ticket for me we can go all the way down to Hastings if we want, but think we might settle for Rye. On Sunday there's a summer fayre in the village of River just outside Dover and since there's a dog show as part of it that's where we'll probably be on Sunday afternoon.

Well, that's about all from me. Hope you're having a good day and enjoy your weekend whatever your plans.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Today's Bargains/Christmas in July

I hadn't done my usual charity shop search for over a week so decided today I'd do the rounds and I came up trumps.

I got this pair of three-quarter length cotton trousers in the Barnados shop for £1.99.

 They're C&A, a great fit and will go on holiday with me at the end of the month (in the hope of some nice weather). Barnados are one of the cheaper charity shops in town with most of their clothes and nik naks priced at £1.99 and their books at 4 for £1.99. There is a Scope £1 shop but there's not usually much worthwhile in there.

In the YMCA shop I got this Slimming World recipe book for £1.49. 

Although I don't follow the Slimming World plan to the letter any more I do still use it as the basis for my everyday eating and the book has some good ideas for fast, healthy meals.

By far my best bargain wasn't even from a charity shop but from W H Smith. They were selling off the remains of last year's Christmas cards (no doubt clearing the shelves to stock this year's cards which seem to be in the shops in August nowadays). I bagged this lot for 10p a pack, normal price £3.99, paying 40p for 40 good quality card. 

I generally make my own cards for family and friends but there's always a need for a few shop bought ones, and DH and the boys also like to send a few to friends and work colleagues each year so these will not go to waste. 

And to finish with, and just because the picture was in the same file as my bargain purchases, here's one of Halo chilling out in the hallway, the coolest place in the house. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Birthday Cake Extermination

It was DS1's birthday today. I was up at 6.30 making his cake before doing 3 loads of laundry and hanging it out on the line. It's been a lovely hot, sunny day so it was all bone dry when I bought it in about 5pm. 

With the cake baked and cooling, I nipped round to Aldi for a couple of bits and then to the post office, before going into town with DS1, DS2 and DD2 to have birthday drinks (tea for me and DD and and J2Os for the boys) and the boys also had a slice of cake each. 

Back home the cake was iced and decorated using chocolate buttons and some of the daleks that I'd used on the cupcakes. The cake was a choc chip marble traybake recipe from an old Mary Berry book that I adapted to make a ring cake, the middle of the cake filled with milk and white chocolate buttons. I didn't have a cake frill so made one using folded tin foil.

I buy my choc buttons from Aldi at 33p for a 70g packet. It's delicious chocolate and a fraction of the price of Cadbury's.

Dinner tonight at the birthday boy's request was burgers, chips and salad...and very nice too.And then we cut into the cake and here you can see the end result after we'd all had a big certainly looks like the daleks exterminated part of it. 

I also sorted through the lovely bouquet DH bought me for my birthday. Most of the flowers were past saving but I did manage to make up this little bunch from those that weren't falling apart. 
The jug looks like it was made to hold my pretty pink roses and peonies. It was my grandmother's, part of a graduated set of 3. They are all chipped like crazy and one has the handle off, but then they are nearly 100 years old, and they still look lovely with a few flowers in.

Tomorrow is my slimming club and I'm quite prepared for a gain this week with all the cake and stuff I've eaten. It was totally worth it though.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Update on the State of My Freezer

My freezer is a little less empty today thanks to DD3's BF who went to the cash and carry in Folkestone this morning, saw a great deal on fresh chicken drumsticks and bought some for me. The original price for 2kg of drumsticks was £5.99 but they were on BOGOF giving me 4kg of lovely, meaty drumsticks for under £6, or approx £1.50 per kg. So I now have 4 bags each containing 8 drumsticks (2 drummers per person) and 1 bag of 6. The 6 will probably be cooked and stripped of the meat to be used in a pie or stew.

In other news, we had a lovely meal out at the local Brewer's Fayre. It was a bit more expensive than Wetherspoons but we've yet to have a bad meal there. It served as joint celebration for DS1's birthday tomorrow and for DS2 finishing university. I'm still doing burgers and chips and making a birthday cake tomorrow, and as DS1 has the day off work we'll probably meet up with DD2 (who has Mondays off work) and DS2 and go into town for coffee during the day. I'd already made him cupcakes to share with his friends last week (and had to sample a couple myself of course). I bought some Dalek cupcake wraps reduced to 50p in Lakeland in Canterbury a few weeks ago, and as comic book/sci fi freaks they were perfect for him and his friends.

With all the eating out, birthday cake tomorrow and cupcakes, I'm sure to have gained weight this week but luckily I was below my target last week so hopefully it won't be too bad. It's now 9 months since I reached my target and so far I haven't exceeded the 3lb above/3lb below target range in either direction. This is the longest I have ever maintained my weight, but the potential for pigginess is always there and requires constant vigilance. The better mobility alone is worth it though, I would hate to gain it all back again so I always eat extra-healthily for a few days after a small gain. 

I hope you've all had a lovely weekend and are ready for the week ahead. Love, Helen x

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Not Wasting A Scrap

My freezer is just about empty of raw meat at the moment. In fact right now, apart from some veg, fruit, bread and milk, it only contains 3 packs (each containing 16 rashers) of smoked back bacon that's on offer at £2 a pack in Morrisons, and a pack of 20 beef meatballs I bought yellow stickered in Asda. I have deliberatly run it down with the intention of stocking up at Farm Foods and using one of their discount vouchers that come through the door about once a month. The vouchers are usually for £2.50 off a £25 shop, £5 off £50 and £10 off £100. I usually only spend about £25 but think I might need to stretch it to £50 this time to really fill my meat bag in the freezer. 

I might not have much actual meat in the freezer but I do have several pre-prepared meals that I made while using up the contents. 

There are 2 small and 1 large meatloaves that I made using 2 x 450g packs of minced beef and 2 x 525g packs of minced pork all mixed together with 2 packs of prepared sage and onion stuffing mix, a couple of chopped onions, seasoning and 2 beaten eggs. The small meatloaves will serve myself, DH and my 2 grown sons for 2 meals, and the large one will be saved for when we have the other kids over for dinner.

I also made a huge pot of Hoppin' John in the slow cooker (blackeye peas that I had already cooked and frozen, tinned tomatoes, smoked sausage from the fridge and rice). We had some for dinner the night I made it and the remainder has been frozen to make 2 more dinners. As an accompaniement I made 2 big trays of chilli cheese cornbread, and again froze enough for at least 2 more meals.  

At the same time I also made 2 cheese and lentil bakes, one eaten, the other frozen, and in my second slow cooker a huge pot of tomato pasta sauce (enough to make at least 3 meals for 4 people).

This week there was cream galore yellow-stickered in Morrisons. I resisted temptation until it was reduced right down to 9p a pot then bought 2 pots. I also bought a pack of grated Low Low Cheese (reduced fat cheese that actually melts properly) for 75p. Pastry making is not one of my strengths so using a pack of Aldi chilled shortcrust pastry (99p), 4 rashers from a bacon pack (50p), a couple of chopped onions (20p), and 4 Aldi large Free range eggs (89p for 6, so about 60p for 4) plus salt and black pepper, I made one large and one smaller quiches. We've had the large one tonight between 4, there's a slice left for someone's lunch tomorrow, and the smaller quiche is frozen for another time. 

And this is where the Not Wasting A Scrap comes in, because there was a tiny ball of pastry trimmings left over after making the quiches. I thought of making a jam turnover with it but then remembered there was a small bowl containing leftover lamb mince and lentils in the fridge. Tipped into an individual pie dish, topped with the thinly rolled out pastry and baked at the same time as the quiches it made a lovely little pie. DS1 had the pie for dinner when he got in from work last night and said it was delicious.There was also a little of the cream/eggs/cheese mix left from filling the pastry cases so I baked it in a muffin tin and ate the crustless mini quiches with salad for my lunch.

With the weather lovely and sunny at the moment we're getting out more, sometimes taking an evening walk too, and with the ready made dishes in the freezer it means I don't have to stress about what to have for dinner or cook during the hot afternoons. 

In fact, after a heavy spending month with the wedding, several birthdays and other expenses, I'm considering trying to eke out what I do have for as long as possible. We're going for a week's holiday with Shearing Coaches to Whitby at the end of July (last minute deal £259 each for 8 days/7 nights half board including all coach travel from Dover and several outings), and I would like to spend as little as possible until then. I think we'll be eating a lot of that bacon in things like macaroni cheese, bacon roly poly etc. And I also have some packets of lentil curry (courtesy of Approved Foods), dried vegetarian sausage mix, tinned beans, tuna etc. It will be interesting to see just how far I can make all that stretch. 

The exception to this frugality is lunch out at Wetherspoons tomorrow to celebrate DS1's birthday which is on Monday. This is the card I've made him.

The figure of Batman is layered to make it stand out which you can see better in the second picture. I hope he likes it.

I think that's it for now. Anyone else using up what they have in and/or cooking for the freezer. I'd be interested to hear ideas for freezer meals. Enjoy your weekend everyone. Love, Helen xx


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Happy Father's Day...and Happy Birthday To Me!

We're having the quiet, relaxed weekend we wanted, and have received some lovely pressies from the kids. 

We came downstairs this morning to find our youngest son had put up decorations and printed off amusing posters for us.

We had cards and pressies sent from our oldest daughter in Basingstoke. Love my bag and DH got money.

We met up with DD2 and her new husband and DS2 for coffee, and were given more pressies (Amazon vouchers and a Dorothy Perkins voucher for me) and now we're chilling out watching TV before our pizza and chips dinner, followed by raspberry and chocolate slice (bought, not made...I wasn't going to cook today).

It's been a lovely laid back weekend with thanks to all my lovely kids for our cards and pressies. 

And a very Happy Fathers' Day to all dads out there.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Early Birthday Surprise

As well as being Father's Day tomorrow it's also my 58th birthday. Neither DH or I are really going to celebrate. Since the hen night in mid-May one or both of us has had an event on every single weekend, so instead it's very much our usual Sunday routine with pressies and cards thrown in to the, then out for coffee and then back home for a lazy afternoon and evening. DS1 and DD3 are both working, DD1 lives in Basingstoke now but has already sent cards and pressies to be opened on the day, DD2 will probably pop round for an hour and tell us all about the honeymoon, and DS2 might meet us for that coffee in town. Dinner will be frozen pizza, spicy potato wedges and maybe cake or or an ice cream dessert. A decidely low key event, but just what we both want after such a hectic month.

We might not be celebrating, but DH surprised me on Friday by turning up at the front door after work with a huge bouquet of pink roses. Totally unexpected and such a lovely gesture. He can still be such a soppy sod at times. He gave them to me on Friday as he had arranged to have them made up by the floristry department at the college where he works, and he somehow got them home on the bus without them getting squashed. I think the floristry students did an amazing job; they are so pretty.

I'm sure we'll have a belated birthday/Father's Day celebratory lunch out at some time in the future but for now we're happy to kick back and not have to be anywhere at any specific time for once.

So, an early Happy Father's Day to all dads out there.