Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rubber Chicken

We don't often have a traditional roast dinner on Sunday, but today was an exception.

When The Sun carried Morrisons vouchers for £5 off a £10 spend on fresh meat a few weeks back I bought 2 copies of the paper and got £20 worth of meat for £10, plus the 80p cost of the papers. I bought items from their 3 for £10 range and got 3 whole chickens, a tray of 25 beef meatballs, 450gm beef mince and 450g diced beef. This made each item just £1.80 (inc cost of each newspaper). We had the meatballs between 4 of us with homemade sauce and pasta earlier this week, and today I roasted one of the chickens. The other 2 will be kept in the freezer for Christmas, or more likely the New Year since we are probably going to DD3 and BF's for Xmas dinner. 

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of our meal but this is what we had:-

Chicken - £1.80
Savers Yorkshire puds (45p a pack - we had 2/3rds pack at 30p)
1 kg potatoes (2.5 kg bag for 99p in Morrisons - so approx 40p)
2/3 bag Frozen country style veg (99p for the bag from Aldi, so 66p)
Parsnips from freezer (not sure of price but I got them reduced so allow 20p)
Pkt Vege sausage meat plus a pkt stuffing mix (both Approved Foods @ 5 packs for £1 - so 40p for the 2 packs) 
Gravy made with granules (approx 10p)

Total cost of whole meal = £3.86p

This served 4 of us for today's dinner, and the leftover chicken will make a stir fry for tomorrow (Monday) and a stew with plenty of veg added on Wednesday. There vegetarian sausage mix and the stuffing mix were combined and made enough stuffing to go in the chicken, plus I also baked a loaf tin full along with the roast. This stuffing 'meatloaf' will be sliced and served with onion gravy, mashed potato, sweetcorn and carrots on Tuesday. 

I will probably need to add about £3 worth of veg, noodles etc. to make these 3 extra meals, meaning I will have made 4 meals for 4 people (16 servings) for around £7, averaging  around 43p per serving. There won't be much chicken meat in either the stir fry or the stew, but then the idea of a rubber chicken is to make a little to go a long way.

Other meals this week will be homemade tuna fishcakes (using extra mash made for the meal on Tuesday plus a tin of AF tuna) with oven chips and peas, and a vege chilli made with odds and end of veg from the fridge and from my veg basket and served with rice from AF. Each of these meals will cost approx 40p per serving.

In addition to cooking, I have defrosted my big chest freezer this morning while it was manageable rather than my usual trick of waiting until it's so choked up with frost I have to hack the equivalent of a couple of icebergs off the sides of it. As I sorted through everything and put it away, I took an inventory and now I'm on a mission this month to use up what I have in stock rather than keep buying more...even if I do see a good offer. I've also started on itemising my other stockpiles of tinned and dried goods that are scattered around the house. It's a long time until next pay day and with DH starting his new job and using much more petrol I will have to be very careful with money until we sort out exactly how much more his travel will cost.

By the way, I haven't wasted those 2 newspapers even though I wouldn't squander my time reading them; they're being used to wrap up cat litter and vegetable peelings. 

As there are no dinner pics to post, here is a holiday snap instead.

Which hairy Scot is my husband and which the Highland Coo?
Even I had trouble telling the difference, so no prizes for guessing.

Before I go, I discovered a site today with this mum's challenge to cut her spending for her family of 4 to just £20 a week for a month. You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the first blog posts - 
Although she's doing a pretty good job, she admits she can't wait for the challenge to end. Hopefully some of the leesons she's learned will remain with her and she'll still save money, but unlike many people she's lucky she doesn't have to do this week after week, month after month and year after year. Lucky that she also had enough money at the start of the challenge to stock up in advance. My heart goes out to those who have to manage like this day in day out.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Cupcakes Galore

I spent 3 hours in the kitchen this morning baking and icing 3 different types of cupcakes for a get together DD2 and her fiance are having tonight for his family. 

As I'm supposed to be making cupcakes for their wedding next May, I tried out a couple of new recipes as well as my usual tried and tested American recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting. 

I used recipes for chocolate cakes using cocoa, and strawberry milkshake cakes using Nesquick, from the Hummingbird Bakery book. I'm not very impressed with the results actually as they all sank slightly in the middle whereas my vanilla ones were fine. The book used a funny way of combining the ingredients which I didn't care for, but I followed the recipe for this first attempt. I'm sure they will all get eaten as her fiance has lots of young nieces and nephews, and I've kept a few back for DH and my boys and they will eat almost anything. I had enough tastings whilst doing the frosting and I pinched a couple of chocolate buttons from the pack too, so I don't feel the need to have a whole cupcake. 

I will give the recipes another go, but think next time I might mix them as I usually do the vanilla ones. Decorating the cakes for the actual wedding will be done by fiance's mother as I'm not much cop at that kind of thing. Cake decoration is her hobby, and she's excellent at it even though she's only been doing it for a few months since she retired.

I'm off to deliver the cakes in a moment and then have a relaxing afternoon. I'm all achy after standing in the kitchen for so long, so I think the syringe driver bags will have to wait another day or so to be finished off.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Giving Something Back

I'm still here folks. Hope you are all well. 

Sorry for my absence; I've just had such trouble getting motivated to do anything for the past couple of months so my poor blog has been sadly neglected. Even crafting has been too much trouble; I just couldn't force myself to get off the sofa. In fact, some days getting out of bed in the mornings didn't seem worthwhile either.

One bright point has been our anniversary trip to Scotland which was a truly special week. We absolutely loved Oban and the Islands and had pretty good weather all things considered. The hotel was the usual Shearings cheap and cheerful, but had wonderful views of the Isle of Mull and we had trips included to Mull and Iona, and also Loch Lomond and the Isle of Seil. I loved Seil and would happily live there. I have some gorgeous photos but won't bore you with dozens of holiday snaps...well, maybe just a few at a later date.

A particularly low point was the 8 hours we spent absolutely terrified when we thought our youngest son had gone missing and might even have been the person killed on the railway line near Ashford a couple fo weeks ago. Fortunately it was case of an uncharged mobile phone making it impossible to contact him, a disagreement with his girlfriend, and drowning his sorrows in the pub. Thank goodness for his amazing friends and for Facebook which his mates used to contact each other and put out an alert to track him down, which they did eventually. It was also amazing how his sisters and brother rallied around, and their being so upset shows that they really love their little brother. There were lots of tears all round, not least from DS2 when he realised how much worry he'd caused everyone. We were just thankful to have him home safe and well, but really feel for the relatives of anyone who genuinely goes missing. I never want to relive the terror again.

Other lows include DH having bronchitis, and his 93 year old mum having a fall and breaking her left wrist...and she's left handed.  Being sick, DH had to wait until the antibiotics kicked in and he was not only well enough to travel to Wales, but was also unlikely to give his germs to any of the residents of MIL's nursing home. He did eventually get to see her for a few days and she's now doing quite well, but is starting to really look quite frail.

So, things have been quite eventful, and also this week DH started his new job teaching Maths at a secondary school where he did supply teaching last year. It's quite a lot more money than at the college and he will get the full school holidays off which he didn't get there, but unfortunately it is an hour's drive each way so he's been pretty tired this week getting used to the travelling. I'll be keeping a close eye on him as there's no way I want him having another breakdown. I'd much rather we scrape by on a supply teaching salary than have him working himself to death for more money.

Although my low mood is still hanging around, I'm having a few more good days than bad lately and I have a new project that has lifted my spirits and given me a purpose to get off my backside and do some sewing.

This is a syringe driver.

And these are handmade syringe driver bags.

The above bags were made by other people but the one below was made by me this afternoon using the pattern and fabric kit sent to me by a wonderful lady called Julie who co-ordinates this site -

The bags are super easy to make. This was my first attempt and took under an hour to complete using the precut fabric from Julie. I have already got 4 more cut out from my own fabric stash and ready to finish off tomorrow. The bags I make will go to the Pilgrim's Hospice at Margate which is where my mum, Maureen Beniston, was cared for until her death in July 2005. Although I have donated money to the hospice in the past and also funded a brick in a path in their garden with mum's name engraved on it, I am absolutely thrilled that I have found a way of using my crafting to help them out and giving something back for the care they gave mum. 

I will also be making tote bags for patients' personal effects, and I have offered to make other things such as cards or knitted items for them to use or sell to raise funds. I am waiting to hear if they will take me up on that offer.

Apart from all that, I am still trying to be frugal but not always succeeding and I'm cooking for 4 again with DS2 back home and probably living with us for the rest of this academic year. I'm also still trying to lose the last few lbs to get to my target weight but have been taking off and putting back on the same 1/2 lb for the past 6 weeks. At least I'm maintaining and not gaining. I have now notched up a 4 1/2 stone loss with about 5lbs to go to target, and I was voted Woman of the Year at my slimming club...although the vote was only between 2 of us as you had to have lost over 4 stone to be eligible!

I think that's all for now. Now I'm feeling a bit better I will try and update more regularly, at least a couple of times a week, and I'll start reading other people's blogs and commenting again which I haven't done much of lately. 

Goodnight everyone.