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 ( 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.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Spend Some, Save Some and Slimming World Apple Dessert

I've spent some money today...shock, horror! I did a top up shop, mostly at Aldi but also a couple of bits from Asda and FarmFoods.

This is what I got from Aldi. 

It came to £6.22 and, along with celery, carrots and a cabbage already in my basket, it should provide all the veg I'll need for the remainder of the week. The onions were 59p, sweet potatoes 69p, pack of 4 baking potatoes 59p, 3 peppers for 89p. In addition there's a jar of sweetner for 59p and 4 Bramley cooking apples for 89p.

The hot chocs, tin of mandarins, and jelly weren't needs but wants. There are 8 sachets of hot choc in the box for 99p; one a day for DH's evening treat and just 41 calories. I prefer to have sachets of Maxwell House Cappuccino that I get from Poundland, 8 sachets for £1 and 56 calories. The sugar free jelly is 23p a sachet and will either make a low fat apple dessert using 2 of the cooking apples, fromage frais (Asda £1 for 500g) and Quark fat free soft cheese (Asda 87p for 250g), or I'll just use it with the mandarins (44p) to make a jelly and fruit dessert. I find if I have these low fat treats available throughout the day it helps me keep off higher calorie (more expensive) treats.The other 2 apples will be stewed with a few foraged blackberries from the freezer and sweetner. I'll have some for a dessert with yogurt, and make a small crumble for DH to have with custard.

In addition to the Aldi shop I bought a pack of 4 garlic bulbs for 59p from FarmFoods (it was 89p for 4 in Aldi, so as much as I love Aldi they aren't always the cheapest). I also bought a tub of quark (87p) and 2 x 4 packs of WeightWatchers yogurts (2 packs for £2) from Asda.

My total spend was £9.66, but I should only need to buy a couple of extra bits during the rest of the week. 

My other spending confession is the £2.30 for coffee in Weatherspoons. An indulgence, but the money came from last year's sealed tin. As we still have about £20 remaining we decided to use it to treat ourselves to a coffee every now and then. We both had the refillable filter coffees at £1.15 each. Being able to have as many refills as you like up until 2pm, we each had a second cup bringing the price per cup down to 58p.

And after all that spending, the savings. Instead of buying anything else for our lunch today, I had some leftover soup and I made DH hummus to have with rice cakes we already had in the cupboard. 

I used tinned chickpeas I got ages ago from Approved Foods, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil from my cupboard and the last clove of garlic in the basket before I bought more from FF. I added a little seasalt and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. He pronounced it yummy.

And tonight's dinner of chicken stir fry will again be made from my food stocks. I saved some chicken I had cooked for yesterday's curry (£1.33 for 1/3rd pack), I have a bag of frozen stir fry veg from FarmFoods (3 bags for £2 so 66p a bag), noodles from AF (3 packs for 99p so 33p for 1) and a sachet of stir fry sauce, also from AF for just 1p. Total cost = £2.33 for 4 servings (approx 58p each).

For dessert I'm making DH a trifle using a box of Birds' trifle mix I got from AF at 2 for £1 and I'm having a raspberry sugar free jelly with frozen cherries from Aldi (300g for £1.49). All this came from my stores and the little pots that the jellies are in originally held Mullerlight greek-style yogurts.

And this is a little look at some of my stockpile.

Catering sized Branston Pickle and tomato ketchup, used to refill empty jars and bottles
My pasta mountain
The cats won't go hungry
Toothpaste, shower gel and anti-perspirant - at least we won't smell
Alcohol wipes, washing gel, more cat food etc.
Tinned beans and tomato puree

This is just some of what I have stored in my bedroom. There's loads of dried skimmed milk powder in boxes under the bed, and dried vege sausage mix, onion bhaji mix, rice, cornmeal and flour in other plastic storage boxes. There's even more on shelves and in cupboards downstairs. Not to mention what's in the freezer. I can't see us starving any time soon, can you? I don't think even Stoptober will make much of a dent in this lot.

Lastly, for anyone on the Slimming World plan or who simply wants a tasty, low fat dessert here's the recipe devised by one of our members for the apple dessert that I make most weeks. For SW members this is just 2 syns (for the jelly) and 1 B choice (for the stewed apple) for the whole recipe so you could eat the whole thing if you like and it makes a lot.

Apple Dessert

2 Cooking Apples (peeled and diced)
2 tablespoons granulated sweetner
sachet of sugar free orange jelly crystals
250g tub of Quark fat free soft cheese
250g fat free Fromage Frais

Put the diced apple into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water and cook on full power in the microwave until its a smooth pulp. While still hot, stir in the jelly crystals and the sweetner. Mix well until all is dissolved, then using a whisk mix in the quark and fromage frais until all is well combined and smooth. Pour into a single serving dish or into individual pots and put to set in the fridge. Eat and enjoy.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Homemade Take Away

We never order take away food. Okay, I'll revise that...maybe 2 or 3 times a year we'll share a bag of chips on the way home from an evening out, and DS2 gets a free pizza now and then from the place where he used to have a part time job. Otherwise, no expensive take out foods for us. 

So what to do when I fancied a curry and trimmings for tonight's dinner but needed to stick to my 'Stoptober' resolution?  I shopped at home of course, looking in the cupboards and my recipe books to see what I could come up with.

Our menu selection ended being Chicken Tikka Masala, Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry, Onion Bhajis, Garlic and Coriander Naan Bread and plain boiled rice. I had everything I needed either in the cupboards or the freezer and even made my own naan for the first time instead of popping out to the shop for some.

The Chicken Tikka was made with FarmFoods frozen chicken breasts (3 x 1 kg bags for £10 at the time I bought them, so £3.33 a bag). I saved a couple of chicken breasts for a stir fry tomorrow so I'm counting it as two-thirds of a bag for the curry for £2.22. I added a couple of sliced onions (20p) and a jar of Tikka sauce from Approved Foods (2 for £1, so 50p) . Total = £2.92 for 4 servings

The Sweet Potato curry was from the freezer and was leftovers from a previous dinner so I'm counting that as free.

The onion Bhajis were made with a thinly sliced onion (10p) and a packet of Simon Rimmer Bhaji mix (Approved Foods - 5 packets for £1, so 20p for 1), plus a little oil for frying (approx 20p) = 50p for 9 small bhajis (approx 5p each)

The Naan bread was made from a WeightWatchers recipe book using plain flour (approx 10p), 1/2 teaspoon of bicarb of soda (2p), 2 teaspoons caster sugar (5p) a tablespoon of natural yogurt (2p), milk (10p) a free range egg from Aldi (15 for £2.25, so 15p each), garlic cloves (5p),some chopped fresh coriander that was wilted and needed using up (approx 25p) and some oil and butter for brushing (10p) = 84p for 6 medium sized naans or 14p each

The rice was also from Approved Foods and I can't recall exactly how much it cost so I'll allow 50p for that.

Total cost of the meal was approximately £4.74 or £1.18 each for 4 servings. A good deal cheaper than buying a take away for 4 of us. As there's a couple of naans, onion bhajis and a little curry leftover for someone's lunch tomorrow that brings down the cost per serving  even further. An added bonus is that, apart from the bhajis that were fried, it all contained less calories than a high fat take out.

I have also acquired another pair of jeans today and didn't spend a penny on them. DD2 had ordered them from the New Look website but they were a size too big for her. Instead of returning them she asked if I wanted them. I'm a size larger than her, they fit me very well and as I only have a couple of pairs of jeans I offered to pay her the £8 for them. Bless her, she said I could have them for all the cards and things I'd made for her lately. £8 would have been a bargain but a free unxepected gift was even better. I'm slowly replacing all my big clothes with better fitting ones, and the only item of clothing I could still really do with for the winter is a more sturdy pair of shoes, but I can manage without until I have next month's clothes allowance and even then I'll wait until I find a really good deal.

To finish with, in case anyone wants to make their own Naan bread, here's the Weight Watchers recipe I used.

Easy Naan (makes 6 at approx 215 calories per serving)

125ml (4 fl oz) semi skimmed milk
1 egg (beaten)
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon low fat plain yogurt
300g (10.5 ounces) Plain Flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
2-3 garlic cloves (crushed)
12 g (1/2 ounce) finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon low fat margerine (melted for brushing)

Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220 C/fan oven 200. Spray a baking tray with low fat cooking spray or brush with a little oil and put in the oven to heat up. In a jug mix together the egg, milk, yogurt and sugar. Set aside. 

In a large bowl mix together the plain flour, salt, bicarb, onion seeds and garlic. Pour the milk mixture into the flour and stir quickly to combine the ingredients into a soft dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Press each piece of the dough into the chopped coriander and then roll out to approx 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Remove the tray from the oven, transfer the dough to the tray, brush with the melted margerine and bake for 8-10 minutes until risen and golden. Serve warm.

I omitted the onion seeds because I didn't have any, and I incorporated the coriander directly into the dough. I also only put the greased tray into the oven a couple of minutes before baking instead of right at the beginning so that the oil wouldn't smoke or burn. They turned out really well, quite soft and not that different from shop bought.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Stoptober - Getting Organised and Spending Less

I'm pleased to announce that I've finally managed a week where I've come in well under my budget of £70. I even had a no spend day on Wednesday, but that was more because the weather was foul and I didn't venture out rather than my good intentions...but it still counts, right?

My week starts on a Saturday, finishing on Friday and today I had over £13 left in my purse. From this I put some small change into the charity box that we empty and donate to our local Age UK shop at Christmas, and 95p in silver was divided between my 2 sealed savings tins. That left me with £12. Will I be splashing out with this vast unspent sum? No. I have stashed it away in a zipped wallet folder and it will be saved along with anything I also manage to not spend in the coming weeks of this month and it will be used to stock up on things I run out of during this use it up month.

I am trying to be good and organised, writing down all my spends and keeping a running total of what money is left at the end of each day. In addition, when DH got paid at the end of last month I put by money for absolutely every eventuality. I have 2 large plastic wallet folders and in each of those are smaller zipped wallets. 

Each month I will take out a specific amount of money and divide it up to account for birthdays, health costs (dentist, prescriptions, optician etc.), petrol and monthly car costs (mainly for DH to get to work), clothes (only £20 a month for 2 of us as neither of us needs much), housekeeping etc. etc. I have tried doing this by having various bank accounts that I can access online but it's just not the same as having the actual cash and seeing it dwindle every time I spend on something. 

I'm especially pleased with my savings this week as I had a day out with DD2 in Canterbury on Saturday, and yesterday I borrowed DS1's bus pass to go to Deal. I did spend £10 on a coat from Debenhams. I suppose I cheated a bit as the coat was actually £30 reduced by 50% from £60, but the kids had gifted me with £20 for reaching my target weight. The remaining £10 was from the Clothes wallet, so the money didn't come from the housekeeping budget. I'm happy with my bargain and don't feel guilty about that £10 spend as I really needed a new coat since last year's one was a size 20 and I'm now a 12. With the weather taking a turn for the worse this week I bought it just in time. I also bought DD2 some boots for her birthday, but once again the money had been accounted for in the appropriate Birthdays wallet.

So far my wallet system is working well. For instance, our MOT is due this week and because I had money assigned for car maintenance we can pay in cash and don't have to take it from the bank savings account I have for car insurance, road tax, breakdown cover etc.

That all sounds a bit long winded and I'm sure as time goes by I'll refine my system and change the amounts I set aside in each category, but so far it seems to be successful.

In the spirit of using up rather than spending, for our weekly soup and sandwich night I made cheese and onion rolls this morning instead of buying DH's favourite ones from Morrisons. I made the onion dough in the breadmaker, made 12 rolls, proved them on top of the boiler (turned on briefly to heat the water; we have not had the central heating on yet, thank goodness), and then topped them with grated cheese and baked them for 15-20 minutes.

I did spend on some pate for DH, but only 69p, and the boys will have some luncheon meat from the fridge that needs to be eaten today. I'll just have the soup and maybe one plain roll as I've been a bit of a pig this week. The soup is spiced butternut squash and sweet potato, courtesy of my soupmaker. That soupmaker is turning out to be one of the best pressies and most used pieces of kitchen equipment that I've ever had (coming in second to my slowcooker).

How is everyone else's Stoptober going? Any unexpected spends threatening your resolve? Or are you doing amazingly well and haven't spent a bean yet? I'd love to know.