Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Reducing my carbon footprint and increasing my savings!

I really truly believe sometimes that the world has gone mad. Myself included. I can see it is madness and yet I am still sucked into it. We work long hours and put our children in childcare all day to buy things we don't need. We then work even harder to buy a bigger house to house the things we don't want or need. It is now clutter. We complain that our houses are too small when really we have too much 'stuff'. We complain that we don't have enough money for essentials, yet our idea of essential has MASSIVELY changed from that of our Grandmothers. There are millions of exceptions to this rule but generally we have lost the ability to fend for ourselves and have become reliant on the supermarket giants to feed us, sometimes clothe us and to provide the things we need for every occasion (Christmas decorations, school costumes for book day and plays and all the other things we could do alone). Things that before they started producing them we were happy making ourselves.

I often think it might be easier, mentally and financially to learn a few lessons from our Grandparents. I think if my Nan was giving me advice it would be along these lines:

  1. Eat less and don't treat every meal like a 'banquet'
  2. Eat locally produced, in season food- it's cheaper and tastes better
  3. Don't do a massive shop every week- buy only what you need
  4. Make more food from scratch- learn to cook
  5. Mend rather than throw broken items away
  6. If you cannot pay cash, do not have it- with the exception of a mortgage
  7. Have occasional treats and bring children up to understand treats are occasional
  8. Make the most of free resources, from foraging fruit and veg to using the library
  9. Save.
The older generation didn't seem to be on a never ending crusade for bigger houses, better cars, more disposable income and constant material trappings. Perhaps they were, perhaps we are just better at it? I don't know. I think the tide is beginning to turn, people are less able and less willing to play the spending game. 

I am fed up of spending more time away from my family to strive towards the things I do not need, which will fill my life with junk and give me more to stress me out. I refuse to keep feeding my money into the big giants. And so we as a family have made a pledge *drum roll please*
  • We are going to shop local. Not the local Supermarket (with the exception of the co-operative supermarket in our small town) but the local fruit shop, delicatessen, butchers and farm shop.
  • I am going to keep a chart on my kitchen wall of what fruits and vegetables are in season and plan meals around these ingredients. This chart is not conclusive but it is a good enough start for me: http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-to-eat-now/calendar/
  • I am not going to over buy. When I do a 'big shop' I tend to buy everything  I need for every occasion sometimes. I am going to make a conscious effort to only buy what we need to buy, when we need to buy it.
  • I am going to take advantage of reduced foods, using them to freeze or batch cook and freeze etc depending what it is.
  • I will be taking advantage of offers in my local shops to stock up on goods we use regularly for example when they are on offer. 
There are a few reasons for this, supporting my local economy and buying local are important to me. I am conscious of the air miles food travel to reach our plates and I would like to minimize my part in that. This is the one change I am making for 10:10 (you can read all about this wonderful initiative here: http://www.1010global.org/uk) Also, although some produce is more expensive, for the most part I think the local fruit and veg shop and butchers are cheaper and better quality than my local supermarket. The biggest issue for me is my overspending in supermarkets as they tend to have everything under one roof I find my shopping bill often creeps up.

This is a fairly easy challenge for me as I live in a small Country Town that has all of these amenities within walking distance. We moved here about eight months ago from the South Wales Valleys that did not have the amenities I would have required to do this. In which case my challenge would have altered to only buying locally produced, seasonal fruit and veg.

I have enjoyed reading so many inspiring blogs filled with peoples personal challenges and missions. I am naturally very nosy and love to see how other people live! One of my very favourite the blog Make Do and Mend Year. Jen and her family have pledged to buy nothing new (except some strict exceptions) for a year. It was in fact this post: http://mymakedoandmendyear.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/1010/ that inspired me to put my vague idea of only shopping locally into practice. 

So, I am going to raise a glass (of locally produced Apple Juice at this time of year!) to shopping locally, reducing air miles and reducing the opportunity the big supermarket giants have to brain wash me.

I will let you know how I get on...

Monday, 7 October 2013

The 'Old School' way of checking if food is still fresh

A huge part of being frugal for us is aiming to reduce food waste wherever possible. This means developing a good understanding of how long food is edible for and how to tell if it has perished. For the most part I don't use the dates on the packs for this as I prefer a common sense approach.

Firstly, I always keep in mind the difference between:

Best Before (the product is safe to eat but its flavour or appearance may be past its best) 
Sell By/Display Until (this is just the date the shop needs to sell the product by and has no relevance for the customer- it will be accompanied by a Best Before or Use By usually) 
Use By (a product may be unsuitable for consumption after this date and it is recommended for food safety reasons that you do not eat it)

This helps me make educated choices about whether the food is safe to eat. Although, and I am not saying this is the right choice for everyone, I do not always adhere to the Use By date. I know, I am a rebel. I know, we may all get poisoned. But I am a great believer in common sense. It helped my Granny and her Granny before her and it will help me. The most reliable way to tell if your food is safe for consumption is to smell it. Most foods will smell 'funky' or different to their usual smell when they are 'on the turn'. To make this work I always smell my freshly prepared and cooled food before storage- therefore I know how a dish should smell. The second best way is having a good old look at it. There are often physical signs that food is past its best, whether it be developing a 'film', separating, growing mould etc. Again, common sense. And thirdly I have a probe in my kitchen (cost approx £5 on Amazon a few years ago) and I use this to ensure that any meat dishes or dishes I am unsure of are probed to reach 85 degrees within 15 seconds after they have been reheated. To my mind, storing and cooking food properly massively reduces any risk of poisoning far more than obsessing over Best Before dates.


Keep a box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odours, remove the top layer occasionally.

Put leafy green salad and veg in plastic bags (they often come in these) as they provide enough moisture to keep them fresh and healthy longer

Mushrooms hate plastic! Always buy them in a paper bag if you can but remove all plastic packaging as soon as you can. Store them in an open (ideally cardboard) container in the crisper compartment.

Keep tomatoes in a cool to room temperature place but not in direct sunlight. They don't need to be in the fridge. Store them upside down.

Always wrap cut onions in cling film as they absorb odours and bacteria otherwise. On the other hand, half a cut onion (unwrapped) in the fridge is excellent to get rid of any fridge whiffs- just don't eat it afterwards!

Never store onions and potatoes together as they reduce each others shelf life. Both should be stored in a cool, dry place ideally.

Apples, bananas and tomatoes should be stored separately from other fruit and veggies as they produce a lot of ethylene which is harmless and odourless but will reduce lifespan of veg it is stored with.

You can store cheese in the freezer for approx six months. I find this handy at Christmas time when all the Christmas cheeses are reduced a few days later. I usually cut down into smaller portions of approx 28g as I find this is easier than trying to cut the cheese when frozen. I must admit I have only done this with cheddar and parmesan though and wouldn't think it would work for softer cheese.

Milk is fine frozen and I usually have a bottle in the freezer. I will sometimes freeze it near its 'Use By' date if I don't think we are going to use it.

It is perfectly possible to freeze meat. However I think 'freezer burn' tends to be a problem and the meat loses its colour and taste. If I am freezing leftovers from Sunday Dinner I always put them in a plastic tub, portioned into individuals, and pour gravy over to fill the tub. This means I can defrost the whole box and have real home made gravy and meat for mid week dinners. And, it doesn't taste like frozen meat! If I am short on home made gravy I will water it down slightly as I feel it always thickens on freezing anyways.

How I check my food for freshness:

Eggs: Drop the egg in a bowl of cool water. If it tilts or floats it is not safe to eat. If it sinks and stays still it is still fresh. Also, to check for freshness hold the egg to a strong light and look for an airbubble at the rounded end. The smaller the bubble the fresher the egg.
Store: A chef friend of mine recommends keeping your eggs in the fridge but removing half an hour before using. I personally store mine of the kitchen counter in all but the hottest weather. We use a lot of eggs so they don't stick around long usually.

Butter: The butter will smell rancid if it is. It will have a cheesy or fishy and downright unappealing smell to it. Also, the outer layer will turn a darker yellow. It is very easy to tell when butter has turned.
Store: I struggle with this one as I like the butter soft enough to spread so the fridge is out. Then if it is kept in the cupboard it becomes mushy very quickly. I still go with the cupboard as, again, we use a lot of butter but I know I shouldn't. That said, all of us eat it and none of us have ever been ill from it!

Lettuce: This will turn brown and take on a 'slushy' and slimy finish when it is past its best. To prevent this look for lettuce stalks that are white/light green with no signs of brown as these are fresher. Always cut the lettuce with a plastic knife as stainless steel causes the lettuce to turn brown.
Store: I always prepare (wash and thoroughly dry) the lettuce as soon as I buy it. Drying it thoroughly is crucial. I then wrap it in large white cotton tea towel, store in an old ice cream tub and keep in the salad crisper. This keeps it fresh for 5 days.

Do you have any tips you can add?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Quick pizza dough recipe- pizza ready in half an hour!

This is the quickest and easiest dough recipe ever. And, as an added bonus, it tastes damn good! You can have this pizza on the table, including making the dough in under half an hour. It is a simple and tasty crowd pleaser!


375g plain flour
1 heaped dessert spoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 7g sachet of fast action yeast
2 tablespoons oil of your choice
225ml warm water


  • Put the flour in a large bowl- as you can see I used cheap flour and it worked fine

  • Add all caster sugar and salt

  • Sprinkle in fast action yeast

  • Add oil and warm water and mix it all up with a large spoon

  • Until it starts to come together. Add more flour if too sloppy or more oil if the mixture won't come together

  • Then knead on a floured surface until the dough forms a neat ball

And that is it! It is now ready to use. If you have time you can pop it in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for an hour or two. Then when it has doubled 'knock it back' (which just means give it a quick knead) and you are set. But, I have done it both ways and even without the rising this dough tastes wonderful so please don't be afraid to use it straight away.

Topping the pizza

I use a combination of tomato puree and tomato ketchup usually. Although I have used BBQ sauce, passata with herbs and a garlic butter. The choice is yours!

I make this pizza on those occasions when I have a random few bits and bobs in the fridge to use up. 3 mushrooms, half an onion, a tin of tuna and one tomato won't make a meal but it will make a pizza! Use anything and everything you have. I recently experimented with sun dried tomato, spinach and cheese (as that's what I had left over) I added the tomato base and dolloped pesto on top before popping in the oven. 

Cook on GM 5/190 C for about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven and the toppings you choose.

This is the finished products from the above amount of dough. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A gorgeous sponge cake for any (and every) occasion

I will admit this cake is not frugal in the typical sense. It doesn't contain any leftover veg peelings that taste wonderful with a sprinkling of brown sugar or anything uber thrifty like that. However, it costs approx £5 (plus store cupboard ingredients) and makes a fab birthday/thank you/I Love You etc present. And really, where can you buy a beautiful present that is guaranteed to be appreciated for under a fiver? Exactly. Every time I have presented anyone with this cake it has been a success. It is rustically pretty to look at and the taste is, I kid you not, perfect.

Without further ado here is the recipe:

The sponge cake is a standard recipe, very easy and perfectly easy to cook. I used to be scared of the humble sponge in case it didn't rise but since using the food processor to make it I never have any problems!


225g/8oz butter or any spread suitable for baking
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
225g/8oz self raising flour


1 standard pot of double cream
1 large bar of white chocolate
1 small punnet of blueberries
1 small punnet of raspberries


  1. Add sifted self raising flour, caster sugar, butter and vanilla essence (if using) to processor. 
  2. Add eggs and whizz until blended.
  3. Pre grease two equal size round cake tins and preheat oven to 180C/350F/GM4
  4. Split the mixture equally between the two tins and pop on a shelf two thirds of the way up the oven.
  5. Bake for 20-25 mins or until a wooden skewer in centre of cake comes out clean (crumbs are ok, a liquid consistency on the skewer is not)
  6. Pull the two cakes out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  7. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely
For the filling:

  1. Whip the cream until stiff. This can sometimes take a while, it is a quicker process if the cream is as cold as possible so if needs be pop back in the fridge.
  2. Spread all cream on top of the first cake- don't worry about making it too neat!
  3. Add half of the blueberries and half of the raspberries evenly on top of the cake
  4. Melt the white chocolate.
  5. Stack the second sponge cake on top of the cream and fruit
  6. Pour the white chocolate over the top. Don't worry if it drips down the sides, in fact I ensure it does!
  7. Decorate the top with the remaining fruit. I stack them in the middle and then sprinkle a few around. You can do it this way or arrange more neatly. Anything goes!
I will make a promise on this one that you will receive soooo many compliments and 'Wow, you must be a great cook' comments. The sweetness of the white chocolate works so well with the berries and cream. It's not an overly sweet cake, it is an overly perfect cake.

And a preview of the finished product:

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Foraging for free food!

This year we have decided that we would try foraging. This involves us picking whatever fruit, nut or edible delight that is in season at that time. I think the decision was largely due to our move to the countryside which just inspires you to get out and get down and dirty with nature. This is less about trying to eat for free, you never would to be honest, and more about fun filled (and free) family days out that bring us all a little closer to nature. OK, the 8am Sunday morning walk me and Miss Frugal took in late September to pick blackberries to go with our donated apples (from our neighbours tree) didn't end well. Neither did the crumble I made actually. Mr Frugal declared he only likes blackberries in squash as they taste different (they would as they are blackcurrants I suppose!) and Miss Frugal refused to even give it a try. So, not always successful.

The nut picking in early September was all set to be a success. We had a fun filled Saturday searching the forest for hazelnuts and came home with a huge carrier bag of them. Obviously we are aware that these nuts feed many of the forests animals so only took a couple from each tree rather than stripping it. I spread the nuts out on newspaper and put them in the cupboard under the stairs inside a large old drawer. Excellent, we are foraging baby! Except that when I checked them last week I could see most of the nuts had holes in them and there were some very large maggots in the bottom of the drawer. Eeeewww. Just eeewww. A quick debugging and google later and I found that if you pop the nuts in a bowl of lukewarm water the ones that sink are good and the ones that float are rotten/not edible. I am unsure what we are going to do with the 20 or so hazelnuts that we managed to save. I don't think the Christmas nut roast with hand picked hazelnuts is going to be quite as large (or indeed hand picked!) as planned. The photo below shows all that is left of our 'stash' 

So, I think we can safely say we have not got off to the most successful start! However, Autumn is upon us. This brings new goodies to forage- CHESTNUTS! And so last weekend we went in search of new loot. I had once again asked Google who reliably told me that if the spiky, green shell has fallen to the floor the chestnuts are ready to be picked. Not so it turns out. They were still very small and very white. Oh well, give it a few weeks and I am sure we will have some success!
If you would like to have a go at foraging chestnuts I found this page really helpful: http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Sweet-Chestnuts.htm
If you have any tips I would be more than grateful for them- please post below! 

This link takes you to a guide about about more unusual foods to forage: http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/food_and_drink/815671/top_10_foods_to_forage.html

And whilst this is a guide to foraging in September I think Nature will forgive us being out by a day or two. But if you want to make use of it you need to start soon! http://www.countryfile.com/countryside/top-10-foods-forage-september

Despite our lack of success this year it has been fun, it has been free and it has definitely been an education for all three of us. We have spent many free days out that have been enjoyed by all. It really does bring out the hunter-gatherer in you! Next year we will approach this with a little more organisation and common sense (we will also check we like the food we forage shall we Mr Frugal?) 

The surviving nuts:

Monday, 8 July 2013

A quick and easy pasta dish- perfect for summer picnics!

I love love love this recipe. It's a bit of a cheek to even call it a recipe, it is the simplest but tastiest pasta dish in the world. The secret ingredient? Sun dried tomatoes. These little bad boys, in a jar of oil (£1.35 in asda but available everywhere) are my new Top Ingredient. I have never really used much of them before but honestly, they are worth trying in this simple dish. Tossing the al dente pasta in the flavoured oil with a few fresh ingredients (from the herb garden darling!) is guaranteed to make me feel more luxurious than frugal. And Mr Frugal and Miss Frugal agree. So, winner, winner. Pasta dinner!

Sundried tomatoe and basil pasta
Serves 4

500g dried pasta eg fusili
1 small jar of Sundried tomatoes
1 large onion
1 big handful of parsley
As much basil as you have/can handle
Any other ingredients you fancy such as sweetcorn, mushrooms, olives etc.

1. Cook the pasta until al dente
2. In a frying pan fry chopped Sundried tomatoes, onions and other ingredients you may choose (not herbs) using the oil from Sundried tomatoes.
3. Add pasta and toss about until all pasta coated in oil.
4. Add basil and parsley and cook until slightly wilted. Season well with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with salad/garlic bread/meat or leave to cool and eat in packed lunches.

As with all things I make this recipe is just my starting point. I add whatever I have although always the tomatoes. I estimate this costs:
Tomatoes: £1.35 (asda)
Pasta: 50p (asda)
Onion: 40p (average cost)
Herbs: Free

So, £2.25 and it is plenty for 2 evening meals and 2 lunches (so 4 meals altogether) So 56p a meal, bargain when you consider the taste!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Bread (of heaven)

Have you noticed how much the price of a loaf of bread has increased lately?! Especially if, like most, it is one of those items you rely on the "corner shop" for midweek. A quick scan in mine shows you cannot buy a decent loaf for under £1.30. Sure, they have that value bread that is of questionable quality, very rubbery and all together quite "yuck" that I will admit we have resorted to on occasion. But we have worked out that it costs under 40p to make a high quality loaf with no hidden nasties, no additives/flavourings/preservatives. And it makes your house smell like a home. Convinced? Give it a go!

So what's the alternative? As always, the cheaper option is DIY. I was always put off making bread as I thought it was something you could only do with considerable skill and/or a bread maker. Happily not so. Below is my super easy bread recipe but Google throw up a million variations and I'm sure with a little practise they would all be lovely!

White Bread

500g strong white bread flour (extra for dusting)
7g sachet of yeast
2tsp salt
300ml hand hot water
3 dessert spoons olive/sunflower oil


Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl
Make a well in the centre of mix
Add oil and water in well
Mix thoroughly until a non sticky dough forms. (If sticky add a little more flour)
Knead well on floured surface for 10mins (very therapeutic actually!!)
When smooth pop back in bowl, cover with tea towel and leave in warm place for 1 hour-until dough doubles
Remove from bowl and 'knock back' by kneading for 1-2 mins
Shape dough into whatever shape you prefer (remember to cut a cross in top of loaf) or transfer to loaf tin (score a line down the centre of loaf)
Leave to rise for 1 hour in warm place
Preheat oven to 220c or GM 7 and put loaf in centre of oven for 25-30 mins
To check if cooked tap the base of loaf- if it sounds hollow it is cooked.

TIP- Add a roasting tray with a cup of cold water to base of oven to create a shinier more crusty crust.

TIP- Use oil instead of flour when kneading the dough- this will result in softer bread. I haven't tried this one!

If my Mama ever set foot outside that kitchen, I'd say "Hey Woman, get back in there and make me a pie!"

Now more than ever it is important to have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to creating our family meals. We are still all very much feeling the pinch at the moment. Many workers have lost jobs or had hours cut as companies attempt to stay afloat. Add this to the increased cost of living with petrol and utility costs seemingly creeping up by the day. Then when (if) we have managed to pay the bills we still have to eat. And lets be honest, in the modern world, war style food just doesn't cut it. We are so used to treats and banquet meals in and out with huge portions and choices of side orders that we feel positively cheated if we have to eat jacket potatoes every night of the week!

So, as always, I have tried to find a few little tricks to keep meal times fun, family occasions where the food is plentiful, mainly healthy and definitely frugal. I know not everyone likes to spend every evening in the kitchen preparing meals and trying to do wonders with a wilted lettuce but sometimes, if we want to be getting anywhere near a balanced diet on a budget, it has to be done.

If I only have enough money for a few store cupboard essentials I will make sure I always have a good stock of:

  • Flour- Self Raising, Plain and Bread flour.
  • Salt- cooking/table salt
  • Olive Oil- although other oils can usually be substituted 
  • A large tub of cooking butter (whatever is on offer)
  • A few blocks of solid fat eg stork, lard etc
  • Sugar- as many varieties as possible but always Caster and Granulated
  • Sachets of fast acting Yeast

Keeping these ingredients alone means that I can use leftover meat, vegetables and salad stuff to create the next meal on a super scrimping budget. I make:
  • Bread
  • Naan Bread
  • Tortilla Wraps
  • Pizza Bases
  • Pastry
This is just a small selection and I am constantly adding new ones to this. Do you have any recipes you can share? I will be posting my own favourite recipes over the next few days but Google is packed full of ideas- BBC Good Food is well frequented website in the Edwards household!

So, the next time you have a few past their best tomatoes, a can of sweetcorn and a small lump of cheese left in the house to feed you all consider making a pizza or calzone. With a few tricks up our sleeve we can provide nice meals at low prices!

In the meantime check out my home made bread, it costs approx 30p a loaf. Cheaper, healthier and one heck of a lot tastier than any of the budget breads out there. Can you afford not to?

Monday, 21 January 2013

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it...

When I was a (mature!) student I used to work in Nandos restaurant. As a people watcher I found the job endlessly fascinating and was always particularly interested in the difference between the way that Europeans eat compared to the Brits. I wondered then, as now, if the reason for the growing obesity rates in the UK has more to do with our approach to food than what we eat?

I used to watch Italian and Spanish families and groups coming in for dinner. They would usually come in a group. There would be starters ordered to share, with bottles of wine and big jugs of water. The whole group chatting with each other- including the children in their conversations. Then the main course, always whole chicken platters, large salads, a plate of rolls, garlic bread and a bowl of rice/chips. Plenty of food, not all of it healthy either. But enjoyed, at a slower pace, sips of wine, chatter, a bite of chicken, a little more salad. This feast would last over an hour, sometimes over two hours. The children would eat everything with little fuss. Salad included. Then dessert, not usually the decadent huge desserts we served but the little pastries designed to go with coffee. Ice cream for the minis. Double expresso for Dad. There was never a children's colouring pack (you know, the free ones designed to keep children quiet during the 'family' meal).

Then the Brits, usually in smaller groups. Everyone would order a separate plated meal, no sharing! Perhaps wine or lagers, usually fizzy soft drinks which as they are refillable often took a beating from the kids :-) The children would colour in, bored sometimes, the adults chat amongst themselves- all eagerly awaiting their food. When food arrived it would be eaten quickly with no ceremony or saviour. The kiddies would eat their plain chicken and chips with ketchup. No salad offered or eaten as they don't like salad. Plates cleared quickly and large desserts ordered. With full stomachs the family would bid a has try retreat home to slip into more comfy clothes.

You see the difference? I concluded that making more of a ceremony of food actually meant people are less, ate a wider variety of foods, drunk more water and in all made more of an occasion of eating out. So since then, I always try to serve some meals in bowls or sharing platters at the table with a mix of healthy and not so healthy. We take our time, open a bottle of wine, have water on the table-it fills you up too, chat as a family, chill and eat SLOWLY. Those dinners are always our favourite, regardless of what we have eaten. Interestingly we also eat less because the focus isn't on clearing the plate. Perhaps if us Brits addressed the culture of the way we eat rather than what we eat we might be a little leaner and closer. Make family dinners just that, family time.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A practical Christmas gift from Mr Frugal- herb planters!

I know it could be considered up there with getting an iron from your better (?!) half for Christmas but when the Mr asked what I wanted for Christmas I replied "A cute herb planter!" He excelled himself and got me two :-)

I used to grow herbs a few years ago, long enough ago to forget how I made them grow rapidly but not so long that I've forgotten the joy of feeling like a domestic goddess at the smell of herbs filling my kitchen and adding fresh flavour to my cuisine!

Herbs are great, once you plant them they just keep on growing with very little effort (and I am a woman that has killed EVERY houseplant I have ever owned!) The seeds are cheap, you can put them in any old planter you like and you are away! Within a few weeks you will start to see the green sprouts that indicate you are actually a green fingered wonder and from there progress is fairly rapid! I am most definitely not a following the instructions kind of person, I popped them all in the planter and now I am hoping for the best! I am sure this would have been the approach I took last time and they grew (and grew, and grew!)

I use herbs daily, they are anti-oxidants, contain vitamins and are essentially natures medicine and as if this is not enough all of them are great flavour enhancers that allows you to reduce the amount of salt in your cooking- that has to be a great benefit in itself right? Dried herbs are fine but with herbs fresh is ALWAYS best. Just ask Jamie O! I will be posting lots of herb rich recipes over the next few weeks. So, if you do one super woman activity this January make it planting some herbs. Free food and good for you!

I will be experimenting with growing my own veg at some point in the near future. As we are due a house move this is not that point. Any food that you can get free of charge is always a welcome addition to a frugal and healthy kitchen I am sure you will agree.

I will admit photography is not my forte, looking at my pics you will see what I mean about my haphazard approach to planting! It was actually a fun way to spend a rainy day with Miss Frugal- and as she helped to plant them I am hoping she will have a little more interest in eating them!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A thrifty little breakfast

Pancakes, who doesn't love them?! Are they just for Pancake Day? Hellllll no! These little bad boys are an ideal weekend breakfast to have up your sleeve when your out of bread/have guests or just feel like a sugar high first thing! I am not trying to teach my Grandmother to suck eggs on this one- I promise! But prior to the last few months I thought pancakes were something you made out of a mix. I was shocked how simple and "store cupboard" they are. Sometimes as a Frugal Goddess it is about having these little tips up your sleeve, a few fail safe ideas for each meal that you can pull out again and again. For me, it's also about being able to have fun with food, feed my family interesting and variable diets- even if money is tight. There's never a pancake left and Mr Frugal and Miss Frugal have declared this the best start to the weekend!

So, here's my simple pimple recipe.

110g/4oz plain flour
2 eggs
200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
50g/2oz butter
Pinch of salt


1, Sift flour (hold sieve high to air flour) into a bowl, add salt.
2, Make a well in the middle and break the eggs into it.
3, Whisk it all up- get all the flour in, even the bits around the side.
4, Gradually add milk and water mixture, keep whisking- don't worry any lumps will disappear.
5, Whisk until smooth- should have consistency of single cream.
6, Heat a little of the butter in your non stick frying pan. The butter should be really hot so heat on high then turn down to medium heat before adding batter.
7, Ladle in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. This should take under a minute to cook. Flip pancake over (using a spatula if your not confident with the wrist action!) and cook for a few seconds on other side.
8, Stack on a plate as they are ready and serve.
9, Serve with anything, left over fruit, honey, butter, sugar, Lemon juice, chocolate sauce- you get the idea :)

TIP: I use a smaller frying pan to make it look like more pancakes as I find it is sometimes mind over matter!

TIP: If you are feeling pedantic place the pancakes between sheets of grease proof paper as they are ready. Keep them in a pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water to keep warm until they are all ready.

I hope this becomes a favourite little breakfast with you and your clan. What budget friendly breakfast do you pull out of the bag for those lazy weekend mornings?

Ps, Please ignore the very poor quality of my photos- they were taken before I decided to start blogging and are literally snaps. I will start taking some photos of meals being made and then more of me attempting to serve them in a style that would make Mr Oliver proud! And yes, the amount of honey Miss Frugal used was anything but frugal...Unfortunately, she is not so concerned with budget but very concerned with sugar!

More honey? Why the devil not...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Freezer essentials in the Edwards house

My little list of freezer essentials and bits that are just as good frozen

I must admit it; I am the worlds biggest fan of Farmfoods (and with my blog being born this evening we can all agree they do not sponsor me, so this is from the heart!) I am all for ethical, fair trade and organic but essentially when I have a £20 budget to feed my family for the week (and yes, that happens at the end of most months) Tesco, Asda and even Aldi just would not cut it. Besides, as a busy working family we do find that when we do a 'normal' supermarket shop we end up with mainly fresh food and a busier than usual week resulting in waste. When we buy frozen the food seems to go on and on and on. If you haven't already, please try it for just one week- you will be surprised. I have ALWAYS wanted a chest freezer but don't have anywhere to put it. With one of those babies I would be in batch cooking/stock piling heaven!

Without further ado, here is a list of our 'freezer favourites':

Frozen Peas - Are there any other kind?!
Frozen sweetcorn - Much cheaper than canned and we really cannot tell the difference. Works out half the price though and absolutely ideal last minute stirfrys/tuna and sweetcorn jacket potatoes etc.
Steak mince - Only from Farmfoods, nicer than fresh for all mince in sauce recipes (spag bol, chilli etc) but not so good for burgers as not as firm as fresh. Handy to have in the freezer.
Cubed Steak Chunks - THE nicest beef chunks we have tried, that included Waitrose - honestly. Fab. I will be posting a few beef recipes as soon as I buy beef (so I can add pictures)
Chicken breasts - Great value, they do shrink a little but the meat is always lovely. So versatile too- definately essential.
Quorn Mince - Even if you are not a veggie this is a cheap way to bulk steak mince out and fussy men and children will not notice :)
Frozen peppers - Ideal, last forever and always useful - As I post more recipes you will notice how often I use these!
Puff pastry - ideal to keep a block of this in the freezer to make a pie out of leftover mince/chicken etc. Farmfoods do two packets of these for £1 and I have never made a pie and had leftovers!
Frozen veg - Yes, fresh is better, but not when it is mouldy. I try to use veg in all recipes or as a side with all meals. Keeping a few bags of different veg in the freezer makes this so easy. Plus the freshness is sealed in so you will get a lot more nutrients from frozen veg than past its best fresh!
Milk - I always take advantage of offers and keep a spare in the freezer, running out of milk will cost £10 in the corner shop by the time you pick up all the 'bargains'. Having it in the freezer is a big save and convenient.
Bread - Ditto bread, I always take advantages of offers here and keep a loaf in the freezer. You can pop it in the toaster from frozen too.

Most items can be frozen, check packaging and if your not sure Google it - someone will have tried. I have gotten into the habit of scanning my fridge (on times it has food in it!) and if I have anything that will go out of date before it can be used I freeze it if possible. If this is not possible I try to use it in a recipe that is freezable. Once you start trying to cut the cost of your food bill you will find that waste REALLY annoys you and you become very creative at avoiding it!

What are your freezer essentials? Please share!

Kate x

Easy Peasy French Onion Soup

This is a lovely winter warmer recipe - cheap, quick, filling and has that air of domestic goddess about it. I came across it a few years ago and it has become a favourite to prepare prior to a Sunday walk to serve with cheesy garlic bread on our return. Of course, Miss Frugal- the very fussy 8 year old- has declared war on onions so I keep a tin of tomato soup in the cupboard for this very occasion! This should serve four, I find it only serves 2/3 but I have been called greedy before so I would take a 'suck it and see' approach.


1kg Brown onions - basic/value ones are fine
Red wine, small glass - optional but tasty
2 x stock pots/cubes
Drizzle of oil (to cook onions)
Rosemary and Thyme
Squeeze of garlic puree


1, Peel the onions and cut them into medium rings
2, Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan
3, Cook the onions on a medium-high heat until caramel coloured and sticky
4, Add garlic puree and herbs and a tiny dash more oil (if needed)
5, Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until flavours absorbed and onions are browned
6, Add wine and cook for 5 minutes until wine has reduced
7, Add 2 x stock pots/cubes diluted in 300ml boiling water
8, Simmer soup for a further 10-15 minutes
9, Taste, serve, enjoy.

TIP: Do not use red onions, you will end up with grey soup!

TIP: Fresh garlic can be used but I find the garlic puree so much easier, stays fresh longer and doesn't leave little lumps of garlic through the soup.

Ps, I will be putting my homemade garlic spread recipe on here- great on left over uncut bread/part baked rolls/any bread you have with this soup.

If this recipe is in any way unclear please let me know- I can adapt it. I need all the feedback I can get for these baby steps :)

Tortilla wraps, cheap n easy- ideal for these snowy days when you cannot buy bread for love nor money!

I must admit to being a cheat. A complete, unashamed cheat. I was going to make these tortilla wraps and pop them on the blog with some decent pics. I really was. But it is still snowy and very very cold and I have run out of flour. Worse I have run out of the energy to go to the shop to get more. Plus, I have a loaf of bread in the freezer so I have convinced myself that it would not be frugal to make them anyway. But, at some point this week I will make them- and put lots of pictures up. In the meantime I am using a google image for illustration. They really are simple to make, wonderful warm and fab for packed lunches.


250g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon butter (although I have used oil in the absence of butter and they have been just as nice)
100ml warm water


1, mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
2, add butter and mix with fingers until the mixture is the consistency of breadcrumbs
3, add water until dough forms a ball. If it is still too dry add more water drop by drop. The dough should be wet enough to form into a ball but not so wet that it doesn't hold shape.
4, knead the dough for 3 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Put dough back in bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 15minutes.
5, separate into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a circular shape. The circles won't be perfect- use a plate or cutter if you need them spot on.
6, heat a non stick pan- no oil- and add the uncooked tortilla. Cook on first side for a minute or two until brown bubbles form, flip and repeat on other side.

Serve with literally anything, left over chicken and salad, chilli com carne, cheese and shredded chicken, curry, etc. I have popped them in packed lunch with chunks of cheese and baby tomatoes and cucumber slices as a finger food lunch. One word of warning, these break easier than shop bought, it might just be because I do not knead enough or I'm missing something. This isn't an issue for us, more an observation.

I live by the motto that cooking doesn't need to be all about fancy recipes. Having a few little tricks up your sleeve to feed the family is resourceful, important, frugal, rewarding and always necessary. I aim to become more self sufficient in 2013 so next on the agenda is making my own bread!

A little introduction

Hello there!

If you are reading this you have some how stumbled across my own little corner of the internet- well done and thank you! Over the next few weeks I will be adding my family favourite recipes and any frugal tips I have. These are obviously based on my personal experience and opinion and are in no way conclusive :)
Anyways, as the blog is brand new tonight I will start by running through a little list of handy store cupboard items that I find are a god send for making cheap, last minute meals. This may be pointing out the obvious, or it may be more about personal taste but I do find with these bits and bobs in the cupboard and freezer I am able to get by on very tight weeks and keep us all fed.

  • Herbs and spices- I try to get into the habit of picking a new pot or jar of something up every week- a simple bag of frozen chicken breasts can be reinvented a million times over with a well stocked selection of flavours! If you use a lot of a certain spice I advise using Indian/Chinese shops or the worldwide aisles in the major supermarkets- often they will have much larger packets for much cheaper prices.
  • Tinned tomatoes and passata. The base of many a good meal and an absolute staple for the cupboard.
  • Mayflower medium curry sauce, powdered. Available in Farmfoods (Frozen food specialist and all around life saver for food budgets) I know this is available in other places but is very reasonable from Farmfoods. It is a plastic container with curry powder in and it lasts forever. If you like Chinese chip shop curry you will love it- I will blog my chicken curry and egg fried rice recipe soon. Cheaper, healthier, very quick and I PROMISE just as nice as your local take away.
  • Pasta, all types, cheap and filling- stock up :)
  • Stock pots. I.am.in.love.with.these.little.guys - I always pick a few packs when they are on offer as I tend to use them a few times a week.
  • Bulk bags of flour and self raising flour. Seriously, you would not believe how easy pancakes, naan breads, tortilla wraps, batter etc are to knock together and how few ingredients you need!
  • Tinned tuna- ideal for the weeks when fresh shopping has taken a slide. They keep for years, are a family favourite and go with everything from Jacket pots to pasta to sandwiches. Well worth looking out for the BOGOF offers.
  • Olive oil. There are always offers on this in the big supermarkets and Aldi do a huge bottle for a very reasonable price. I don't use this as our main form of oil but I do find a little of this drizzled on salads or used for dipping bread can give a cheap meal a touch of luxury.
  • Tinned mushrooms. Are they any good for breakfasts? Hell NO. Are they good in a slow cooked dish? Hell Yes. Beats frozen, I always use fresh where possible but like to have a few tins of these there for emergency mushroom situations!
  • Cous cous, cheap and uber versatile. It can be anything from plain to spicy- get experimenting with those herbs and spices! Best bit? Cooked in 5 mins!
  • Garlic Puree- I use a lot of garlic, this does not go off, leave little lumps, need chopping finely etc. Besides its cheap. I buy the Sharwoods tube but I am sure all puree is created equal :)
  • A packet of pizza dough, well under a £1 in Supermarkets and you only need to add water and oil to make a fab pizza base. Great fun spinning it around like a master chef with the kids! Great way to use up left over meat, veg, sauces and odd bits of cheese. Fantastic way to get the veggies into the kids- put them on first and then the cheese ;) 60p plus leftovers and you have a feast for 2-4. Add salad and potato wedges to bulk it out- or just make two!!
I will add to this list as I go along and will also add my freezer favourites and best fridge buys too.