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 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.