Autumnal eating

My apologies. My commitment to daily postings was hindered by working hours and the fact my local library is closed on a Thursday. That’s the downside to free internet, you are at the mercy of those who provide it for you.

The challenge officially ended on Wednesday, with me withdrawing extra money in order to visit the greengrocers. The lack of fresh produce was too daunting to bear. However, I am still on strict economising lines as I still have a week to go until pay day. The freezer and cupboards are still my primary sources of meals/ingredients. Nothing is wasted.

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For example, I had a big Bramley apple that had been sitting pretty for at least a week. I also had a couple of Pink Ladies that were slowly but surely turning an unappetising shade of brown. But luckily, this was only on their skin. Both types of apples were peeled, diced and thrown in a pot with some brown sugar, mixed spice and a little water. The rescue mission was a success.

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There is only one sensible thing to do with stewed apple in November, and that is to make a crumble. I made the crumble mixture in the morning, put it into a jar, put said jar into the fridge and went off to work. There was a big part of me that felt hugely smug to come home to an apple crumble in the making. All I had to do was sprinkle the crumble mix on top and pop it in the oven. Considering I had already prepped my veg and was having leftover savoury mince from the freezer for dinner, it was a speedy meal. Truly, it’s easy once you know how and can spare a few minutes in the morning to get things ready. All I had to do when I came home from my shift was to turn the oven on. And make packet custard of course. Crumble without custard is treason, I’m sure.

PS Another meal out of leftovers; old bread, a cold sausage, rocket, carrot curls, cucumber with the seeds scooped out, all drizzled with mustard and garlic oil dressing. A perfect lunchbox.

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Frugal Fridays #21

Out of all possible meal scenarios of one day (elevenses, brunch, supper and midnight snack included), afternoon tea is my favourite. Not only is it an opportunity for cake-based delights and gallons of tea, it’s a chance to use all the delicate and beautiful china I’ve been hoarding collecting. It’s actually quite a thrifty meal, especially if you adhere to the following tips.

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Make your own sandwiches with whatever is in the fridge. Shop-bought sandwiches are never up to scratch. Plus, it seems counter-productive to specifically buy ingredients when you already have a selection in the house. The magic comes with how you cut them. I did fingers of cheese and pickle, triangles of raspberry jam and trimmed my cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches with a cutter. The two different breads I used were bought from the reduced section, not that my guest needs to know that!

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Make your own biscuits. Yes, my home made gingerbread does look quite rustic, but I was complimented on the flavour. I know scones are more traditional, but you can knock up biscuits with minimal ingredients, thus decreasing the cost. I also quite like the different texture biscuits bring to the table.

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If you do buy your cakes, try to get ones on offer. I ran out of time to bake my own, and I’m not entirely confident with gluten-free cake anyway. Luckily, these finger cakes were two packs for £3. Standard cakes are much cheap, and once you add a little garnish (like my raspberries), who would know the difference?!

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Afternoon tea is an indulgence, gosh yes, and by no means a necessity. But it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in the company of a good friend.

The cupboard of dreams

Since moving into my own home and having increased access to more storage space, I have come to highly appreciate the usefulness of a well-equipped store cupboard. Very little actual money has been spent this week. Any new products I have acquired have been from various points and vouchers. The majority of my meals are being concocted from what I’ve already got.

For example, breakfasts have consisted of reduced GF bagels lurking in the freezer, or berry porridge made with milk bought on points.

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Lunches have been made up of the range of loaves and rolls I’ve frozen earlier in the month. Add a bit of cheese and salad, a piece of fruit and a lunchbox has been made. For my sister’s visit, I only had to purchase an aubergine and a courgette to make this delicious ratatouille dish for us to share. The addition of the GF cous cous was perfection.

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When the days before payday are creeping by, I’ve learnt it’s important to focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have. I have no more peppers in stock, or tins of kidney beans. But I’ve still managed to make a hearty chilli, using bargain mince from a recent shopping trip, no peppers but a fat onion and no kidney beans, but a couple of tablespoons of red lentils. Thanks to the slow cooker, this humble meal should taste exceptional by this evening.

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Necessity is the mother of invention. When my purse is fuller once more, I shall have to replenish my beloved store cupboard, so that next month, I’ll still be eating well right up to the end of the month.

Points and patchwork

Thank you all so much for your kind comments I received on my last post. They truly warmed my heart and feel proud of my achievements. I hope you don’t think of me as bold for saying so, but I am quite pleased with myself.

I have been employing my full arsenal of thrifty tactics this past week. Due to once-in-a-lifetime celebrations occurring this week, more money has been spent on extravagances than everyday items. I have no regrets. Sometime you must simply seize the moment and enjoy it for all its worth.

Nevertheless, I have been saving and making shortcuts where I can in order to save pennies. The main areas ripe for cutting back were (as always) my energy usage and my food bill. Luckily, I’ve not had to use much energy for cooking this week, as I was enjoying the leftovers from our Graduation banquet. I’ve made the most of every scrap of food, and had some truly delicious meals.

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I have also received post from Mr Sainsbury’s this week, gifting me with bonus points vouchers. I know Sue from Our New Life in the Country was recently discussing the highs and lows of using supermarket vouchers. For me, I was yet to do my weekly shop and as the vouchers were for store cupboard staples (i.e. not junk), I deemed them acceptable to use. Plus, I only collect points from Sainsbury’s, not a variety of stores. By collecting as many points as I can during the good times, I have a safety net for when actual money is sparse.

In other Nectar points news, my incentive from Expedia came through a couple of days ago. I entered my Nectar card number at the checkout when we booked our holiday for Lisbon, and I’ve received 2000 points, the equivalent of £10. This, combined with the points earned from vouchers, means I have £12.50 on my card. This will make a notable difference to my food shopping as I count down the days until pay day.

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I’ve been putting my make-do-and-mend spirit into action too this week, using some of my holiday time productively. I’ve made up three cosy cushions to brighten up my neglected sofa. The wicker creation came with the flat, but is dreadfully hard to sit on. The improvements I’ve made are certainly more to my taste. I had to pay £9.10 for the large cushions inserts, but the rest all came from my stash. My next project is to refurbish an old coffee table – for pennies of course. Good luck with all of your thrifty ventures this week.

All the leaves are brown

All of a sudden, it seems to be, it has gone dark and cold and wet. I’ve braved the elements too many times this week that I dare not count. I don’t think I’ve been properly dry since last Monday. But the one good things that raises out of the foul weather is the accompanying food.

Salads and strawberries are all very well when the sun is shining. But there is something intrinsically more enjoyable about the warming dishes that come along with the cooler months. Take soup for example. So simple, so cheap, so delicious.

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The vegetables were chopped and boiled with the homemade stock I was saving. Then I added a little spice and seasoning, although, in honesty, it could have done with a bit more. Practice makes perfect and I will know for next time. The whole dish was blitzed and a silky, thick soup was created. It was filling and nutritious, what more could one ask for when the rain is pouring.

I have my eye on making a hearty beef stew next. But first, graduation.

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It’s easy to see where I get my thrifty habits from. My mum is an artist when it comes to budgets, coupons, saving for special occasions and the like. She passed on the baton of bargain hunting on to me and my sister and we have both benefited from this knowledge through the years. She was a wealth of advice when I first went to University and was in control of my own expenditure for the first time. We shared a lovely day together yesterday, and she brought supplies.

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Gluten free products are expensive, so when Mum spotted this little lot reduced at her local Waitrose in Wells, she snapped it up! Many of the boxes of biscuits cost five times the price of what she paid. Best of all, they’re all still in date, with most of the products having a “best before” (whatever that means) of 2015. Whilst in Southampton, we bought things for lunch and she left a bag of salad and a few slices of good deli ham for me to enjoy at a later date.

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It just shows that you don’t have to spend a fortune to show your children you care. I truly appreciate the thoughtfulness that connected the gluten free gifts to me. Thank you Mum!

 

In other news, a new rationing period begins on Monday. Through my calculations on my spreadsheet, I managed an average weekly spend of £19.54 for the five weeks in August. That is bang on for my target of £20 a week, although I did start to slip nearer the end when contraband foodstuffs were providing me with quick, cheap energy. But now the cupboards are well stocked, I should be able to keep this month’s grocery bill to a minimum. I’m sure there will be a post in the near future about the details of the rationing plan that I personally follow, just in case anyone was interested.

I hope you all have a joyous weekend.

Urban foraging

“Bye for now,” said a housemate recently. “See you soon.” No one knew how soon that would be, but the next thing he said was music to my ears.

“Help yourself to any thing I’ve left.”

His generosity, and that of other housemates who are indifferent to meal planning, resulted in my practically free lunch yesterday. Potatoes, a sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms were combined with my items from my own stores (leftover broccoli, a small piece of onion, gravy powder and a little cooking fat) to make a hearty bowl of goodness. This meal can’t have cost me more than 50p.

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I can’t abide waste, and the vegetables would have been left to go mouldy if I hadn’t used them accordingly. Waste averted and a lovely meal enjoyed.

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Pay day graciously arrives tomorrow and I am completely looking forward to it. I spent my last few pennies on a reduced loaf of bread this morning, but there is still pleasure to be found without costing a coin. I went for a wander this morning to pick up a stack of books from the library, including more WW2 material. I got stuck into these accompanied by a free Waitrose coffee, courtesy of my loyalty card.

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Simple pleasures don’t cost the earth, but I will feel more at ease when my bank balance looks healthier. Roll on Thursday!

Ready, steady, cook!

My work load has increased for this week, a fact that I am grateful for. More working hours means more money earned and that, my friends, can only be a good thing.

But I needed to be prepared for the chaotic nature of this week, so it was to the kitchen for most of the day yesterday. I needed to stock the goody tin and fill the freezer and spend some time preparing food. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels cooking is good for the soul. Let me share the things I made that are good for the stomach!

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Firstly, I had to decide what to do with all of the odds and ends I had left in the fridge; the last of a pack of chicken thighs, half a butternut squash and someone else’s mushrooms that needed eating up. Add an onion, an apple and a fair amount of seasoning, and I had this delicious concoction bubbling in the slow cooker.

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I can’t actually share if the recipe was successful or not, as I’m eating the first portion tonight with piles of mashed potato. It certainly smelt appetizing last night.

Onto the baking section of today’s programme. From recent reading and research into rationing, I discovered oatmeal wasn’t rationed and the prices were controlled to make it a readily available product. So I spent 95p on a bag and got baking. I used 100g of oatmeal to 150g of porridge oats to make this batch of honey flapjacks, and they were very successful. They seemed to hold together much better than my first attempt. A winning recipe.

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I also had my first attempt at Scotch Shortbread, an “economical” recipe from a Marguerite Pattern book. Success! My previous exploration into g-f shortbread had been a miserable affair, but this was a delight. It only made a small quantity, but there would be no harm in doubling up if the fats ration allowed.

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During my shopping expedition yesterday morning, I of course spent a long time in the greengrocers. My best buy was three aubergine for 50p, all because of a couple of bruised bits. I soon chopped those off and set to work on a curry.

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Veggie curry doesn’t really create images of 1940s Britain, but I still had curry paste leftover from pre-rations so I made a big batch yesterday. In the mix is aubergine, onion, tomatoes, red pepper and red lentils. Even thought the jar of paste is gone, I still have plenty of spices in stock, so there will certainly be more curries in my kitchen.

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For dinner, I had the final chicken thigh with roasted butternut squash and sweet potato. I have no picture to share, because after an afternoon surrounded by food, I was ravenous! 

 

 

Fuel for the day

Monday is shopping day. It’s the day I trawl around several different shops in order to get the best prices for my weekly rations. I love it. Shopping is a wonderful hobby, it never feels like a chore to me. From my unscientific research, it seems to be that males do not like taking them time perusing a shop and its wares. It’s more of an in-out-get-out-as-fast-as-you-can sort of job. But me and a girlfriend spent an hour this morning hopping from one store to the next and it was glorious.

But as today was shopping day, I woke up this morning with a dilemma. No apples for muesli, no bananas for porridge, I can’t make toast in this kitchen and I certainly wasn’t going to use an egg for just one meal. I had been browsing Carolyn’s famous blog and decided to try out her recipe for Eggless Pancakes. They were divine.

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As mine were made with g-f flour, they were not light and fluffy, but I do think the addition of a little bicarbonate of soda did help. They were quick to make, cheap, using few ingredients and tasted delicious drizzled with honey and served alongside a strong cup of tea.

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It can be hard making supplies last the week, but when you get to the end of the week and there’s still goodies for breakfast, you know you’re doing ok.

Doing it right

Today I went shopping and it was glorious. The purse strings were able to be loosened a little this morning and I had wonderful time meandering around the local charity shops. I also popped into a couple of other high street shops in search of presents in lieu of an ample amount of birthdays in the pipeline. I can’t show pictures, just in case a birthday girl catches a glimpse, but let’s just say I’m very pleased with my purchases. I did pick up one item for myself.

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There is a talk of visiting this fine country in the future and what better way to begin my research than with a book about its famous food. I’m hoping it will tell me more about the varying regions and some origins of the classics.

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I was also lucky enough to find reduced bread in Waitrose. I’m only buying my bread reduced now, I can’t honestly afford it full price and as long as you’re patient, you’ll normally come up with the goods. I’ve visited Waitrose three times this week in search of reduced bread, and today was my lucky day. A loaf of seeded bread and four seeded rolls for the same price as one branded loaf. That’s shopping done right.

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I had a pleasant time this afternoon playing on my 3DS and baking flapjack. I tried a new recipe, using honey instead of golden syrup. It made a large dent in my rations, my jar of honey and box of oats still has to last me the month. But it did yield a good amount of golden bars. The sweet ration is running low, as you can imagine, so I need to bake to make sure I don’t polish off the eclairs!

I’m learning lessons whilst on this ration plan, and I’m going to make adaptations next month. I do think I’m going to stick with it though – my grocery bill is low, I feel healthier and I waste nothing. Not that I wasted much before, but I was guilty of having crisps for dinner or sweets for lunch on more than one occasion. My eating habits are better and I feel better because of it. Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.