Week four of the Frugal Food Series over with Jenn at Frugal Upstate already.
This is a great recipe, it's about the only that survived my OAMC days. Plus you get to use up any leftovers you have handy from last week, now isn't that handy.
Beef and Bean Burritos.
1lb dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked to packed instructions. I like white beans but whatever you have handy.
1 cup chopped onion
3 tbls oil
About 8-10 cloves of garlic or 4-5 tbls of the ready minced. More or less depending on taste.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1lb minced beef.
2 tbls Tomato Puree (Concentrate).
Chillies to taste. I use about four fresh green chillies, use tinned or pickled if you have them handy.
Grated Cheese. About 2 or so cups. Cheddar is good but whatever you have to hand.
About 12-15 flour or corn tortillas (depending on how much you fill them).
You will need a deep pan or skillet for this.
Brown the beef with half the garlic, salt and pepper.
Remove from pan and cook onions with the remaining garlic and oil.
Add the beans to onion and garlic mix, heat through for a few minuted and then mash with the back of a spoon until reasonably smooth.
Add beef, tomato and chillies and cook for a further few minutes
Warm Tortillas and place about four or five tbls of beef/bean mix in centre along with two tbls cheese and roll up tucking in the ends of the tortilla.
Place over a medium heat in a dry skillet to toast each side and serve with salad or dips.
These can be made in advance and when at the stage of rolling up, allow them to cool once rolled, wrap in cling film, freeze individually on a baking sheet and them put them all in a zip lock bag. They can be defrosted and heated in the microwave and then just toast in the skillet as usual.
This is another simple, quick and more importantly, cheap recipe for the Frugal Food Series over with Jenn at Frugal Upstate.
I've been making this for a while and usually use it as a side along with Aloo Gobi and some marinaded grilled chicken. I normally make it in summer and freeze in zip lock bags to nuke when we're barbecuing the chicken, but we haven't had much "summer" here yet.
About 6oz/200g of your favourite lentils (I've also used spilt yellow peas in a pinch, bit chunkier but still lovely)
Chillies (now this is a personal one, it shouldn't bee too hot, but everyone has their own idea of too hot. I use about three fresh green chillies, four or five if I'm using pickled)
1 tsp turmeric
1 large onion
1 crushed clove or garlic, or to taste.
4oz/400g tinned tomatoes chopped (or whole and chopped in the tin)
Vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of a pan or skillet with about 1-2mm oil.
1/2 mustard seeds
1/2 cumin seeds
5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp crushed dried chilli
Add first six ingredients to a heavy bottomed pot and cook until lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes for lentils and a bit longer for split peas)
Once lentils are tender mash until almost smooth, leave a few chunky bits for texture.
Add tin of tomatoes to lentils stir and cover while you deal with spices.
Cover the bottom of a pan or skillet with oil and add all remaining ingredients, fry until garlic turns brown and add entire contents of pan, oil and all to the lentils.
Salt to taste if necessary.
Stir and serve.
Seriously how easy is that. I make double and freeze it, if you do this bear in mind that the onion, garlic and chillies all intensify after being frozen for some reason, so you may want to leave these ingredients as originally listed above, if your plan is to freeze it. It can then be defrosted and heating in the microwave for about two minutes, or from frozen for an extra minute or two. If doing it from frozen, I give it to minutes in the microwave and then smush it around in the bag a bit and give it another two minutes.
For more great bean, pulse and lentil recipes head over to the Frugal Food Series.
I went grocery shopping at the weekend, I didn't want to but I really needed to get a few basics. My mum was just back from two weeks abroad and had to stock up as well, so we went together to take advantage of any offers. Boy did she get a surprise. My mum is a very habitual shopper and she's quite brand loyal, so there we were in middle of the shop with my mum dropping her usual brands in the trolley and me price checking, fishing her selection back out again and replacing it with something cheaper. Even with me doing this her bill was £30 more than it was three weeks ago and she'd bought less this time around.
We were convinced it was wrong, yes prices are increasing but surely not by that much, we must have been overcharged, something rung in twice. Right. Wrong.
I'd been double checking prices on my own shopping and catching things in my mum's but I hadn't realised just how much fruit and vegetables were in there, not to mention deli meats for my father and brother's lunches through the week. I couldn't believe the prices. £3.49 for 2.5kg of potatoes. This is Ireland, we should be given those for free. Well maybe not, but they should at least be cheaper than this. They were local potatoes as well so petrol prices has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Does anyone else get the sneaking suspicion some shops are just "sticking the arm in" raising prices across the board because everyone understands the current financial climate, we understand we have to pay more .... for everything. Maybe, maybe not.
You'll have to excuse me, my head is perhaps still reeling from he realisation that plain flour was 800% more expensive than it is in Lidl. It must be organic. Nope. Fairtrade then, someone has to be benefiting from it. Sorry, no again.
So it's time once again, deep breath my friends, and pull that belt in .... one .... more .... loop. *much sweating and gasping for air, ooh and I'm light-headed again*
I'll be posting over the next few weeks about the things I'm doing to save money here. If anyone has any ideas or links to their older posts I'd love to here from you.
Beans have always been a great way to cut the food costs down to a bare minimum, as long as you have some beans at home you can easily rustle up a good meal for the family. You can also save a lot more money by buying things which go well with beans when you see them on sale, smoked sausage is good as is pork of any variety. A lot of people tend to think beans are a lot of hard work for very little pay off. I disagree. Most of the recipes I use at home involve long cooking periods but generally very little input on my part, the crockpot really comes into its own when using beans.
Some of the best recipes using beans are the simplest and a few of my favourites are:
Boston Baked Beans
These are outstanding. They are at least 100 times better than those tins of baked beans, the ones in the runny "tomato" sauce, you know the ones I'm talking about. I love these when they're maybe a little overdone and some of the smaller ones start to break down in the sauce ans make it really thick. The basic recipe I follow is;
1/2 to 1 cup Bacon - lardons, rashers, even leftover ham works, basically whatever you have or whatever is cheap.
1 1/2 to 2 cups diced Onion - again white or brown skinned onions, whichever's handiest.
1 1//2 cups of dried white beans either soaked over night and cooked according to packet instructions or the quick method of placing dried beans in cold water, bringing to rolling boil for ten minutes covered, turn off heat and leave beans covered in hot liquid until cool plus about an extra two hours. Remember never salt beans until they are fully cooked.
Garlic to taste two or three cloves is usually about right, about a tablespoon of ready minced.
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup black treacle (molasses)
1/3 cup golden syrup
2 tbls Worcestershire sauce
2 tbls English mustard
3 tbls tomato paste (concentrate)
salt and pepper to taste
Basically, in a large ovenproof pot brown the bacon (if using ham you may want to add a little oil), remove bacon from pan and saute onions and garlic in the bacon fat over a low heat for about five minutes until tender, being careful to keep the garlic moving so as not to burn, seriously if it burns, chuck it and start again, add bacon back into pan along with beans and stir gentle to coat beans add all other ingredients and cover with enough water to come about an inch above the surface of the beans, cover and bake in the oven one of two ways. Either pre-heat the over to 180C (350F) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the beans are tender or, like I do, put beans in oven and then turn the oven on to it's highest temperature, once the over is heated give the beans about ten minutes and then turn the over back off again. You have to heat the oven anyway, there might as well be something in there cooking.
I normally cook my beans this way because I'll make them first thing in the morning without a specific meal in mind, they can then be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave. I also make a double batch of these and freeze in zip lock bags for later. This takes away the temptation to buy tins of beans. I've cooked these from frozen in the microwave and I've never had any problems with them but that one's probably going to be a personal choice.
Smoked Sausage and Red Lentil Soup
I am blessed with a daughter who loves lentils. Happy days.
About 2 cups of diced smoked sausage again if you only have a cup, that's fine, chuck in some ham or chicken, whatever's on the go and needs used.
2/3 cup diced onion
1 tbl oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely or minced
1 1/2 tsp paprika smoked or regular
A pinch of chili flakes use your judgement heat, if you like food hot, throw a load in there, if it's for the kids, leave it out.
1 cup of split red lentils
a chicken or vegetable stock cube
a can of chopped tomatoes undrained (or whole and chop em in the can with a knife)
About three cups of water
Saute onion and garlic in oil for a few minutes, add smoked sausage, chili and paprika and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes, crumble in stock cube and add tomatoes and water. Bring to a rolling boil and add lentils, continue boiling for two minutes and then reduce to a simmer for a further 20 minutes until lentils are tender and soup is thickened, use less water if you prefer this to be more of a stew or to make it easier for little ones to eat by themselves.
Pea and Ham Soup
Remember that ham bone, tucked in the back of the freezer you knew you'd use for something. Yep. Well go get it.
One ham bone
2 cups of chopped onions
1 tbl oil
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 stock cube (chicken or vegetable)
1 lb washed spilt peas
about 5 or 6 cups of water
Saute onion and garlic in oil over a low heat for about five minutes, add bay leaf and crumble in stock cube, add ham bone, split peas and water and bring to a boil. reduce temperature and simmer gently for at least an hour until peas are tender, then remove bone. Allow to cool and then process or blend until smooth.
If I can't be bothered to look at a pot sitting on the stove, I'll put this in the over at about 150c for an hour, I've also done the sauteing inside and then brought the whole pot outside and plonked in on top of the barbecue while I'm cooking other things and just leave it there to sit until the coals die. It's worked overtime so far and saves me cooking in the house.
For great recipes using beans, head over to visit Jenn's Frugal Food Series at Frugal Upstate
A friend suggested I try selling the things I normally bake and give away. I wasn't entirely sure about this but decided I would give it a try, what harm could it do.
After calling around a few different places I've decided to set up a table at the car boot sale which takes place at Movilla Abbey Church the first Saturday of every month.
I'll admit the prospect of baking all that food is a bit daunting, obviously I thought nothing could really be done in advance and would all have to be baked the two nights before the sale. I'll be doing some lemon iced gingerbread cake and a lemon polenta cake which are always better a day or two after baking so I knew I could bake these during the week before the sale.
I had thought about baking some cookies to sell as well, but thought that these would be a little time consuming and maybe not worth the bother. That was until reading Rebekah's WFMW on ready-bake cookies. I made up small batches of about six cookies worth in peanut butter, choc chip and oat/raisin last night and froze them. I'll be baking these at the weekend to check the texture and then hopefully making up huge batches of ready to bake cookies. Brilliant. This really has saved me a lot of hassle and it's also covered one of the "small" things to bake for the sale which I was getting a bit stuck on. I had welsh cheesecakes and that was about it.
So I ready now, it'll be a challenge but I'm looking forward to it and can't wait now. I'll be there Sat 5 July with my wee table all set up and hoping for the best.
Plus this way toots can help me a little, she's getting really good at weighing things out, so this way she can spend even more time with mummy.
Wish me luck
Well its another humpday.
Its a very quick tip this week on what works for me. If you ever have cans or tins of food (beans, soups etc) that have maybe been on the shelf for a while and you just know everything has settled to the bottom of the can. Rather than opening the can and then trying to scrape all the contents out, because you know in your haste your going to grab a teaspoon for this job. Best case scenario you wind up with a hand covered in sauce and worst case scenario a hand that has been cut to ribbons on the sharp edge of the can.
Instead, and you can have a bit of fun with this, shake the living daylights out of the can before opening it, get out all your aggression on that poor tin, it doesn't have any feelings you go for it.
Post arrive looking like the postman's been practising for tryouts, did it pour 5 minutes after you'd hung out the washing, late for every appointment....all.....day....long.
You go to town on that wee tin, show it who's boss and I can guarantee all but the most die hard, the most determined wee bean will slide right out of that tin when you open it.
If nothing else, it'll save you from taking a bad day out on someone or something that really matters to you.
The house payment itself isn't the problem, its a stretch don't get me wrong, but we could manage it...just.
Now with the prices of almost everything here increasing, heating gas and electricity were the latest prices hikes by 40%, it's just gotten to be too much and rather than risk debt, we've decided to sell up and rent instead for a few years. It breaks my heart getting off the property ladder when I fought so hard to get on and when I think of my husband who will be 4o this year I wonder if we'll ever get back on again. I also worry that I'll have nothing to pass on to my daughter, but most of all, I'll just miss my house.
I've decided to start putting a few posts on here showing my home and the silly little things I've done to it to make it mine in the hope that at least, when the time comes, I'll have more than memories to take with me.
This house was a complete shell when we bought it, it had been lived in but unloved by its previous owner and had been very badly treated along the way. This is basically the only reason we could buy the house in an area we otherwise couldn't have afforded. It really is beautiful here and a stones throw from a very good school which puts me right in the catchment area. I'd hoped to hang on to the house long enough to get toots into the school before we move but I don't think the pennies will stretch that far. So it looks like I'll be doing the three day camp out with all the other mommies vying for a place at the school.
All of my good memories are tied up in this house, everything so far about my life that I want to remember. I was married in this house, I brought my daughter home to this house and I can see my handy work everywhere. I'm a completely different person here too. I can completely be myself and relax. When I'm here I'm home and there just isn't anywhere else in the world I can think of where I feel this happy.
So this is all just really in explanation to anyone that pops along for a visit and sees a slightly random post of me extolling the virtues of my lovely garden or the plant on my bathroom windowsill that I love so much (I'm useless with indoor plants, the never make it). The plant that stuck by me through some pretty rough times and makes me smile just to look at.
These posts will be as much for me as anyone else and I'd love anyone who visits just to leave a wee comment, just to say you stopped by.
Days 2 and 3
Yesterday I cleared out both utensil drawers and finally threw out a whisk which falls to pieces if you so much as look at it and some metal kabob skewers which are perfectly round and therefore useless for everything. Food just spins like it's having it's own mini disco on them. Must remember to replace them with some flat ones when I see them on sale.
Today I cleared out my beside cabinet while getting ready for work and put two books into the box for charity and threw out some old (read ancient) makeup and an empty moisturiser pot which I was hanging on to to remind me to replace, but as I've had it so long now I'm not even sure they still make it, the pot went in the bin. Besides, I've moved it out of the way so many times now to get at something else in there the label is forever burned on my brain. If I see it again I'll know it.
I also moved all of tootsies hair accessories into a pretty little tin I had and set it on her dresser in her room, she always insists on wearing the same three clips any way so these are really just spares in case anything happens to the ones she likes, although I will probably have to coax her out of the foetal position if anything did happen to them. I guard those clips with my life, anything for peace and quiet eh.
Now tuna in Northern Ireland is a bit middle of the road. Some own brand tuna is very inexpensive but the quality can be awful, mostly a watery shredded mess awaits you inside the can. The name brands like John West and Princes are a lot better quality but you will pay for this, around £1.00 for 200g. This is a fair bit more expensive than say whiting or mackerel which are still dirt cheap.
However tuna will carry you a bit further in flavour, with plain white fish a dish needs to be packed with stuff so that you would even be aware of it's presence. You can get away with a lot less tuna because the flavour carries through everything making it at least seem as though there is more fish in the dish.
I don't often use tuna for anything apart from salads and sandwiches which have already been covered by Jenn. One other recipe I have used and more so to use up leftover potatoes rather than tuna are fishcakes.
These don't follow a recipe as such. I usually take a can of tuna (200 - 400g) and whatever potatoes are left over and mix together with a little egg, spring onion, salt and pepper to taste. I then roll them into balls and flatten slightly into fat disks, dip into a little beaten egg then breadcrumbs and shallow fry on each side for a few minutes until breadcrumbs are browned. They're very quick to make because everything it already cooked and ready to go, and if I'm honest I'm more inclined to make these if I have leftover champ which already has the spring onions, salt pepper, butter and milk in there. If I use champ I usually don't need the egg to bind everything together.
I've also made a mini version of these, making them into one inch balls before flattening and serving with a selection of dips and salsa.
You can add whatever herbs or spices to these that your family happens to like and I'd love to hear about any other variations on this that you try.
For more great tuna recipes head on over to Jenn at Frugal Upstate for the Frugal Food Series.
Clutter, clutter everywhere, I've got no place to think.
Since doing a bit of reading up on the subject and registering on Geocaching.com we've been having a ball.
This is such an inexpensive way to entertain the family provided, like us, there are at least a few caches quite close to you. There are roughly 10 within about a mile of our home increasing by about ten for each mile further out we travel. Some of the caches are even within walking distance and are in parks which we would visit regularly. This is great when petrol prices are so expensive at the minute, we're trying to cut back on driving as much as possible, but a mile or two each way is fine.
The first cache was great, it's at a pond we would visit every week in the summer to feed ducks and Toots was just bowled over that she found a little box of toys under a tree which she sits beside almost every week for her picnic and had never known it was there. I tried to tell her that fairies had left it there for kids to find and swap toys, but as I've mentioned before she's more intelligent than me. She played along but I think she was a bit dubious, maybe I just didn't "sell it".
We've been to a few more since then and she's enjoyed each one just as much as the first, plus it's been a great way to recycle all those little toys nana keeps bringing by. She'll play with them for a little while but there's no real staying power in a small plastic toy, we've also swapped in some small rolls of boys stickers which came in a huge bumper box as a present at Christmas.
So far I think we couldn't definitely get an entire summer out of this without toots getting bored. I've counted the caches which are easy enough to get to with a 3 year old and there are over 50, within a 4 or 5 mile drive. There are more than this close to us but the terrain is a little more challenging, maybe next year.
I'm still getting used to how everything works and so far Himself is the tech side of everything (when is he not). We've actually found a few parks and walks near us which I wouldn't' have know about otherwise without the coords, so rest assured I will be posting about all our days out and adventures with this.
You'll find this works best with supermarket bread because you can kind of mash the edges together to hold the filling inside. You can use your own homemade good bread however you may need to work a little harder to get the edges to hold together, I would definitely recommend removing the crusts if you're using good bread
Eggy Grilled Cheese
Two slices of white bread
Cheese, whichever takes your fancy or you happen to have on hand. Mozzarella works as does good cheddar or some good swiss cheese.
One egg beaten and seasoned.
Sliced cheese and arrange on one slice of bread leaving about a centimetre or two of uncovered bread around the edge (you can remove the crusts if you prefer. If I do this I toss them in a bag in the freezer until I have enough for something that needs breadcrumbs.
Place the second slice of bread on top of the first and squeeze and press the edges together until they hold. If it's supermarket (plastic) bread they will.
With the beaten egg poured onto a plate or wide bottomed bowl quickly dip each side of the bread into the egg and then place in a non stick pan or lightly oiled skillet over a medium heat.
Check after about two minutes to see if the egg has set on the bottom, for a deeper colour lift the bread and place a small knob of butter underneath and leave for a further minute to help brown the bread.
Turn the bread and repeat for other side.
WARNING... LEAVE TO COOL FOR AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES BEFORE EATING. IT'S DECEPTIVE, IT'LL FEEL MUCH COOLER ON THE OUTSIDE WHILE THE INSIDE IS STILL MOLTEN LAVA.
This is excellent on it's own or with some good tomato (marinara) sauce to dip into for that "pizza on the fly" taste.
For more great frugal recipes with eggs head over to Jenn at Frugal Upstate for the Frugal Food Series.
4 eggs - beaten and seasoned to taste
approx 1 cup of cooked cubed potato (about 1cm cubes)
approx 1 cup of sliced onion
Heat oil in a non-stick shallow pan
Gently cook onion in oil for about ten minutes taking care not to allow only the slightest colour on the onions.
Add potatoes and cook for a further five minutes until heated through and just starting to colour at the edges.
Making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed in the pan, add beaten eggs to the pan and allow to cook on a low heat until the eggs set on the bottom and should start to set around the edges of the pan.
Place pan under a medium grill until the top of the frittata sets .
Don't let this recipe limit you. I have added all types of leftovers to this basic recipe with great results. Just always bear in mind that if you have a huge heaping pan of leftovers add enough egg to bind the ingredients together. You should be able to slice the frittata like a cake into wedges.
A frittata can be eaten at any time of the day. I have served fit or breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's also lovely cooked and left to cool and either eaten as a snack or with a salad and some good bread.
For more eggy ideas to feed your family head over to the Frugal Food Series at Frugal Upstate. Don't forget to check out some of Jenn's other invaluable posts while your there.
Ok a few things about me, my family and my life.
I'm 27. I forget this fact constantly and have trouble not thinking of myself as a teenager. I am assured I will grow out of this phase eventually.
I work full time in a law firm as a secretary. I always enjoyed my job but I've slowly come to realise that I am better at home. Everything I do for my family is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately the workplace in Northern Ireland is very much based on running staff down. Keeping the 99 things done well to yourself while telling everyone willing to listen about the one thing done wrong. This wasn't always the case a job used to be for life.
I prefer being at home. Don't get me wrong I'm all for the Women's Movement however I believe this to be the right to a personal choice. Given that choice I would be stay at home mom. Unfortunately this can't be the case for a few years yet.
I promised when I had my beautiful baby girl that it would not change me. It did, almost instantly and I'm not one bit sorry or apologetic about that. Toots recently turned three. She is infinitely more intelligent than me, she can talk circles around me and teaches me small lessons everyday. My daughter has a wonderful outlook on life and I love that she teaches me to look at things a little differently. I get much more enjoyment out of life now. She's perfect and I am whole heartedly convinced that she is very important, not just to me but to the world at large. I am sure that I'm not the only person to think this way about her children but I am truly convinced of it. Therefore I have to do everything to make sure she is happy and content. Lets get one thing straight from the outset. I don't think that she needs to be coming down with toys and designer clothes to be truly happy in fact quite the opposite. She gets very ratty when surrounded by too many things.
My husband, lets call him Himself, is lovely, most of the time, but then everyone has a bad day and I don't think of it as a fault in him. He is extremely supportive of me and everything I do. He also spends almost every spare waking moment with our daughter and I love him for that. I can pretty much guarantee that if toots has a bad dream Himself is the first out of bed to comfort her and he's yet to complain about a lost night's sleep.
As I've mentioned before I still find it hard not to think of myself as a teenager. I don't know everything and I'm only learning now what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to be. This means that new things get tried and tested in our house almost everyday, as I've said my husband never complains about this he just takes it in his stride. I've tried every method of cooking so that we can sit down as a family within 20 minutes of getting home, OAMC, crockpot, nukey cooking you name it I've had a go.
I think that's possibly enough for one night. Til another time.