Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day 2

Breakfast was our usual of 3 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 slices toast and strawberry jam split equally between the two of us. 

                                      This breakfast costs £0.46 total, or £0.23 each!

Dinner tonight is scheduled to be chilli with beans and garlic bread. We had some apples that were on the verge of going bad, so I also made stewed apples along with an eggless sponge cake with glaze. I just wanted to experiment with the sponge cake, but if it tastes as good as it smells and looks, it’s definitely a keeper recipe!

The garlic bread is a frozen baguette that we had left over from earlier, but here are the recipes for everything else:

Chilli with beans - £2.25 for 8 servings (£0.28 per serving) 
Stewed apples - £0.44 for 4 servings (£0.11 per serving) - I forgot to take a photo of the apples!
Eggless sponge cake with a simple glaze - £1.47 for 6 servings (£0.25 per serving)

Eggless sponge cake with a simple glaze

 (original recipe here)

1 ½ cup (200g) plain flour
1 cup (250 ml) plain yoghurt – room temperature (I used strawberry because that’s what I had)
¾ cup (165g) granulated sugar
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup (125 ml)  oil (I used olive oil)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Cream sugar and yoghurt until sugar completely dissolves. Add baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Set aside for up to 5 minutes, or until you can see bubbles appearing. Add the vanilla extract and the oil and mix well. Slowly add the flour in instalments and blend well with wet ingredients. Beat well with a whisk until creamy and thick. Preheat oven to 400F/200C/gas mark 6. Grease a cake tin or loaf tin with just enough oil to coat, and then pour the batter into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, and then lower the heat to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 and cook for an additional 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Simple glaze

1 cup (140g) icing (powdered or confectioners) sugar
1 tbsp milk or juice

Whisk the milk/juice into the sugar until all of the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Place your cake on a cooling rack with a plate (or pan, etc) underneath to catch the drips of glaze. Slowly pour the glaze over the cake and allow cake to cool completely.

Cake with glaze
Cake slice with strawberries and sweet cream

Stewed apples

3-4 apples
30g dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Juice from one orange or one clementine
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Roughly dice the apples, leaving the skin on (or off if you prefer). Dump everything into a small slow cooker and add enough water to cover the bottom 1/3 of the apples. Cook on high for 1-2 hours, or until apple pieces are soft all the way through. 

Serves 4-6

Chilli with beans

½ pound (225g) frozen beef and pork mince
1 can (400g) peeled plum tomatoes with juice
1 sliced red onion
2 diced carrots (they were on the verge of going bad, so I added them)
1 tsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves minced)
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
400 g dry beans (I used half cannellini and half black beans)

Sort and rinse your beans, then soak them overnight. In the morning, rinse beans and discard soak water. Add beans to a slow cooker and add enough water to cover them plus about 5 cm (2 inches) above them. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. Once the beans are tender, drain and move to a bowl.

After your slow cooker has cooled (if you skip the cooling, you may end up with a cracked slow cooker bowl!), dump in all of the other ingredients, but leave the beans out for now. Cook on high for 1-2 hours, or until meat is done and flavours have blended.

Gently stir in your beans and keep slow cooker on low (or warm) until dinnertime.

Serves 8-10

Beans in the slow cooker
Chilli with cheese and garlic bread

Toad in the hole

Toad in the hole

450g/1 pound pork sausages (I used 6 sausages total, or 300g sausages split between two batches)

For the batter:
100g/4 oz plain flour
1.25 ml/ 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
300 ml/ 1/2 pint milk, or milk and water (I used 150 ml milk and 150 ml water)

Make the batter:
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and add the beaten egg. Stir in half of the milk (or all of the milk if using milk and water), gradually working in the flour.

Beat vigorously until the mixture is smooth and bubbly, then stir in the rest of the milk (or the water). Pour the batter into a jug and set aside.

Set the oven at 220C / 425F / gas 7. Arrange the sausages in a shallow 1.1 litre / 2 pint circular dish (I do not have one of these, so I use a rectangular baking dish). Stand the dish on a baking sheet and cook the sausages for 15 minutes (I cooked my sausages for 20 minutes since they were frozen).

Pour the batter over the sausages and bake for 40-45 minutes more until golden brown and well risen.

Notes: The sausages I used did not have much fat in them, therefore the yorkshire pudding stuck! Next time I will be greasing my pan with a bit of olive oil or shortening (or even lard/beef drippings) depending on what I have at hand. This is a wonderful comfort food dinner.

Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of my £50 per month challenge!

I made a list from my menu for the week and purchased what we needed, along with a handful of things for the following weeks. I did splurge and buy a loaf of bread for 50 pence in addition to what was on my list.

Here is what I purchased:
2 cans tuna flakes (170g each): £0.50 each - £1.00
Milk (4 pints): £0.98
Shortening (Cookeen brand - 250g): £0.69
Frozen mixed vegetables (1kg): £0.75
Frozen sausages (20 count, 1kg): £1.00
Plain flour (1.5kg): £0.52
Spaghetti (500g): £0.24
Pasta spirals (500g): £0.30
Ground black pepper (25g): £0.18
2 cans peeled plum tomatoes (400g each): £0.31 each - £0.62
Loaf of bread (20 slices, 800g): £0.50

Total spent: £6.78

The store I visited was out of frozen mushrooms, therefore I still need to purchase these somewhere, or find fresh ones at a comparable price per kg.

Dinner last night was scheduled to be toad-in-the-hole with cheesy garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I ended up making two batches of the yorkshire pudding recipe. One pan (with four sausages) was for dinner, then I made 6 small yorkshire puddings as well as a half size pan (with two sausages) for lunch today. I used instant mashed potatoes (because that's what was in the pantry) along with approximately 30g of extra mature cheddar and some garlic granules for the mash. The broccoli was steamed from frozen and was pretty good.

Recipe(s) used for this meal:
Toad-in-the-hole recipe from "The best of Mrs Beeton's Easy Everyday Cooking"

Price breakdown of dinner last night and lunch today:
6 sausages: £0.30
2 batches yorkshire pudding: £0.40
1 OXO cube: £0.10
1/2 bag instant mashed potatoes: £0.33
1/4 kg frozen broccoli: £0.20
30g cheese: £0.14

Total for two meals: £1.47 (that's 4 servings, so £0.37 per serving)

Four weeks of menus

Week One

Monday: Toad in the hole with cheesy garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli
Ingredients needed: flour, milk, 4-6 sausages, 1 egg, instant potatoes, cheese, garlic granules and frozen broccoli

Tuesday: Chilli with garlic bread
Ingredients needed: frozen minced beef and pork, canned tomatoes, beans (from dry), frozen garlic bread, spices and herbs

Wednesday: Salmon patties with spirals and cheese and steamed mixed vegetables
Ingredients needed: flour, canned salmon, 1 egg, pasta, cheese, milk, butter, frozen mixed vegetables, mustard powder and paprika

Thursday: Chicken and dumplings with mixed vegetables
Ingredients needed: chicken, flour, shortening and frozen mixed vegetables

Friday: Chicken pot pie
Ingredients needed: chicken, flour, butter, milk, lemon juice, frozen mixed vegetables and garlic granules

Saturday: Chicken “Marsala”
Ingredients needed: chicken, mushrooms, flour, white wine, butter, spaghetti and olive oil

Sunday: leftovers day

Week Two

Monday: Spam and cheese sandwiches on homemade bread with a salad
Ingredients needed: spam, cheese, flour, yeast, lettuce and salad dressing (optional)

Tuesday: Tuna helper with broccoli and green peas
Ingredients needed: canned tuna, milk, frozen mushrooms, frozen broccoli, onion, canned green peas, pasta, parsley and flour

Wednesday: Chicken curry with rice and onion bhajis
Ingredients needed: chicken, curry paste (or curry sauce), peppers, onion, flour, rice, mushrooms and (if using curry paste) coconut milk

Thursday: Philly cheesesteak soup with homemade bread
Ingredients needed: frozen beef strips, milk, butter, onion, frozen peppers, cheese, frozen mushrooms, flour and yeast

Friday: Homemade pizza
Ingredients needed: flour, yeast, canned tomatoes, cheese and toppings (leftovers)

Saturday: Spaghetti with meat sauce with homemade garlic sticks
Ingredients needed: spaghetti, frozen mince beef and pork, tomatoes, herbs, flour, garlic granules and yeast

Sunday: Beans on cheese on toast
Ingredients needed: baked beans, cheese, flour, yeast

Week Three

Monday: Chicken stir-fry with egg fried rice
Ingredients needed: chicken, frozen peppers, frozen mushrooms, onion, frozen mixed vegetables, 1 egg and rice

Tuesday: Hamburger helper with tomatoes
Ingredients needed: pasta, frozen minced beef and pork, tomatoes, spices and herbs

Wednesday: Beef stew with homemade bread
Ingredients needed: frozen beef strips, frozen mixed vegetables, potatoes, flour and yeast

Thursday: Chicken and rice casserole with steamed broccoli
Ingredients needed: brown rice, milk, flour, onion, mushrooms, chicken and frozen broccoli

Friday: Minestrone soup with homemade bread
Ingredients needed: beans (from dry), tomatoes, frozen corn, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen minced beef and pork, flour and yeast

Saturday: creamy beef and pasta
Ingredients needed: frozen beef strips, butter, milk, onion, cream cheese, pasta

Sunday: Salsa chicken and black bean soup
Ingredients needed: Chicken, black beans (from dry), frozen mushrooms, frozen corn, salsa, soured cream and cheese

Week four

Monday: Burritos with rice
Ingredients needed: frozen minced beef and pork, tortillas, soured cream, brown rice, spices and herbs

Tuesday: Fajitas with rice and beans
Ingredients needed: chicken, frozen peppers, onions, frozen mushrooms, rice, beans (from dry), tortillas, spices and herbs

Wednesday: Spaghetti chicken Carbonara
Ingredients needed: chicken, bacon, single cream, butter, eggs, shallots and spaghetti

Thursday: Chilli lime chicken with corn and steamed broccoli
Ingredients needed: chicken, lime juice, chilli powder, frozen corn, frozen broccoli

Friday: Burgers and homemade potato wedges with homemade buns
Ingredients needed: frozen minced beef and pork, potatoes, olive oil, flour yeast, spices and herbs

Saturday: Ratatouille
Ingredients needed: frozen Mediterranean mixed vegetables, tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, spices and herbs

Sunday: Sausage and lentil stew
Ingredients needed: lentils, sausages, carrots, tomatoes, spinach

Background and tips

Important things:
Grocery lists
Having extra if possible
Having help
Comfort food

My plan: Shop once per month for essentials (spices, flour, yeast, tinned goods, oil, butter, etc.) and shop once or twice per week for fresh goods (fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, eggs, etc.). Feed two people (plus guests occasionally) three healthy meals per day.

I cannot stress the importance of creating and having menus enough. In my mind, if you do not know what you want to cook or eat, how will you know what to buy at the store? Not having menus leads to compulsion buys, which must be avoided at nearly all costs. I say nearly because if I see something like fresh strawberries or meat at a ridiculously low price, I will buy some. Start off one week at a time for menus. Keep the meals that you and your family enjoy, remove the ones you don’t like. After a while, you will see that many meals get repeated (here it’s pizza every Friday night). These menus not only provide you with an easy way to make a grocery list, it also provides stability in your family and reduces stress on whoever is cooking. The decision on what to have for dinner (and subsequently lunch the next day) has already been made. If you have children (or a husband) there will be no “what’s for dinner???” questions, since posting the menu where everyone can see it will pre-empt them!

From those menus, you can plan your grocery lists. If you do not know where things are in your local store (or at your local farmers market, butchers, fish mongers, etc), take a bit of time to learn the layout of the store. You don’t need to know the exact location of each individual item, just the areas where they should be. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help finding something, or if you notice something’s best by date is today, don’t be afraid to ask for a mark down! Most stores do not mind marking down things that are going out of date that day. They would rather sell it at a reduced price than be forced to throw it out! Once you learn where things are at your local store, you can arrange your list based on the location of the items on it. For example, all fresh fruits and vegetables are together, all dairy is together, all flour and spices are together, etc. This will shave time off of your grocery shops, leaving you more time for other things. If you find an item that you absolutely cannot say no to (say, a roast at less than half price for example), go ahead and get it, just remember that your menus are flexible when needed and remember to adjust your list accordingly.

I will start baking bread again to save a bit on that. I’ve also cut down on the number of pieces of bacon and the number of eggs that we eat for breakfast every morning already.

Note: we do eat meat and I have certain food allergies (barley, almonds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts). I provide my menus and grocery lists as a guide, feel free to change anything you’d like. And please, do not send me hate mail due to some of the things we eat. If you don’t like something or are against eating something, then DON’T eat it!

Always have some sort of quick and easy comfort food on hand. There will be days that you will not feel like cooking, or you will need some of that comfort food. Don’t go overboard on it, you don’t want to be eating chips every night, but one meal with chips during the week or on the weekend is a nice special treat.

If you don’t know how to cook, start out slow and simple. Get comfortable with your cook top, grill, oven and microwave to start. Try to find someone who can teach you. If your family can’t help you learn how to cook, or if you’re some distance away from them, there are older people in your community that would probably love to share time with you and teach you to cook. Sometimes people forget about the older population and their wisdom! Some communities or churches may offer free (or low priced) cooking classes. Read recipes online, watch online cooking videos, and do research. If your style of cooking is different from someone else’s, don’t worry about it. So long as the food is cooked safely and you like it, it doesn’t matter about anyone else.

If you have a busy day, say, a child has practice or a recital one day of the week, schedule your meals around that. Always have a quick and easy go-to meal on your list that your family enjoys.

If you have a farmers market in your area, utilise its assets! Not only can you usually buy fresher food at a better price than the super markets, you know that usually more money is going straight to the farmers instead of suppliers, marketers, etc. that stand between the farmer and supermarket. Also, if you’ve never had one of the foods that they are offering, ask to try a small piece. They will usually say yes. Just be polite but honest about what you think. I’ve never had currents or gooseberries before, but they are in season here at the moment, and the next time I’m out shopping, I’ll be making sure to ask someone at my local farmers market for a taste. If I don’t try a food, I will not know if I will like it or not. The more ingredients you try and like, the more recipes will become available to you to play with.

Once you’re comfortable cooking with recipes, feel free to play around a bit with them. One word of advice though, when baking or making jam/jelly, stick to the recipe.

Don’t try to go cold turkey on things that your family is accustomed to having. If your family is accustomed to having soda, cut back on it to start with instead of stopping completely.