Budget Meal Plan No.2

It is another budget meal plan week for me. I have really been putting my thinking cap on and trying to use up everything from my larder. Luckily for me I have over the last couple of months always put my leftovers in the freezer, and now I’m reaping the rewards as I have several meals this week already prepared! Here is my meal plan this week:

  1. Jacket Potatoes & Beef Hash (plus salad)- from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Recipes.
  2. Pasta Carbonara (plus salad) – from Sainsbury’s Feed Your Family recipes.
  3. Homemade Minestrone Soup (with hot cheesy bread rolls) – using tomatoes grown in my garden.
  4. The Ultimate Fishcakes (with green bean and roasted tomatoes)- a recipe I have devised for Supper Club* and need to practise.
  5. Stir Fry – using my own favourite recipes.
  6. Sausage & Mash (plus veg).
  7. Turkey Normandy (plus veg) – a recipe for Supper Club* that needs practising.

Lunchtime Ideas:

I find it really helpful to try and plan some lunch/snack ideas as well as my main meal plan. This way I do not end up having to pop out for extras and can make sure I’m not eating the same thing each day – which for me would mean I’d be eating an awful lot of cheese sandwiches! Boring, plus all that saturated fat is not so great for the figure. Here are my ideas:

  1. Scrambled Eggs on toast
  2. Ham sandwiches with crudites
  3. Soup
  4. Cheese on toast with fruit and yogurt
  5. Quesadillas
  6. Soup
  7. Omelettes

*My next Supper Club (as featured in the Sunday Mirror) is on the 17th of September. I have one table left, it can fit a variety of sizes so email if you are interested: victoria@ilovemealplans.com
I serve a 2 course meal with tea and coffee for £15, read about my last Supper Club here.

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Total Greek Yogurt & My Daddy Cooks

Last Sunday we were invited to Potters Field, right at the foot of Tower Bridge, for an event hosted by Total Greek Yogurt. Blogger, food writer & radio presenter Nick Coffer of My Daddy Cooks was demonstrating with his 4 year old son, Archie, how many ways you can use Total Greek yogurt in your cooking. I’m proud to say that I was invited by My Daddy Cooks himself and my 3 year old George was pleased to meet Archie, who he has seen cooking in Nick’s online blog videos.

During the afternoon we were treated to lots of yummy food. Each recipe demonstrated by Nick was followed by large platters for us to taste and then there was a picnic laid on for us to enjoy. Best of all there were cooking stations set up for us to try out the recipes ourselves, I love to get stuck in and I love to cook – it was the perfect day out for me.

The picnic was accompanied by music, face painting for the kids and my son enjoyed meeting the huge cow and zebra characters that are part of the Total Greek yogurt brand. A big thank you to Total Greek yogurt from my whole family for the take home pack which was filled full of delicious yogurt, we’ve really enjoyed it – how can it be so thick and creamy, yet still 0% fat? I’d love to know the answer to that!

I’ve included one of the recipes we were shown that I thought was so quick, but very, very yummy. In fact look out for more Total Greek yogurt recipes on here soon as I loved all of the ideas I was shown.

Peanut Butter & Yoghurt Dip

You will need:

  • 3 tbsp TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • A sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • A drizzle of honey
  • Slices of fresh fruit to serve (apples, bananas – even pears)

What to do:

1. Mix the yoghurt, the peanut butter and the honey together in a bowl.
2. Top with the ground cinnamon and serve it with the fruit slices to dip.

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Budget Meal Plan

After my holidays I had to plan a week of very cheap meals. My budget had been blown on holiday and I had to make some savings!

Here is my budget meal plan:

  1. Stir fry noodles with veg, peanuts and egg
  2. Tomato chorizo pasta
  3. Jacket potatoes and cheese with lots of salad
  4. Fish Fingers, veg and potato wedges
  5. Bacon risotto
  6. Homemade pizza
  7. Frittata

I spent about £30 to get us through the week and made cheese or ham sandwiches for lunches , scrambled eggs and soup. Of course, I have a well stocked store cupboard, which I fill up whenever I see something I use on special offer.

My Top Tip – make sure budget recipes are still very tasty by adding plenty of dried or fresh herbs (growing fresh herbs in pots is the cheapest way to use them in cooking).

Do you have any great budget recipes?

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My Holidays

Oh my goodness, how long is it since I last blogged! I’ve been enjoying an extended holiday season in Southwold and North Norfolk.  I should have got blogging last week, but my son made friends with a gang of kids at the Norfolk cottage, while there was no looting – he is only 3, he did go to bed later than ususal and gave me little time to relax in the evening. I’ve got myself together now we’re back at home and here are some of holiday food highlights.

First of all a big thank you to Gill at Cupcakes To Your Door, who asked me to test the delivery of her cakes. Basically, this involved me being sent cakes, photographing them for Gill and yes, eating them! It’s a hard life! While we were away in Southwold Gill sent us a delivery of cakes and it was a happy coincidence that they arrived on my birthday – no forward planning at all! The photographs were taken on the beach, where we opened the parcel and enjoyed our cakes with a cup of tea from the harbour kiosk. Gill made my George some special Teddy Bear cakes, thanks so much!

We took our Campervan with us on holiday and this meant plenty of opportunities to stop for a picnic and a fresh cup of tea. Everyday my Dad went out to buy fresh sandwich ingredients and I packed up the van so that while we were out I could make the sandwiches. It became my mobile kitchen. We found it easier than trying to get the sandwiches made as well as packing everything for the day ahead – I had a lot to organise already with my son only just out of nappies – lots of spare clothes to pack!

While in Norfolk we made a trip to Cookies Crab Shop. I wrote about them last year and you can read that blog here. They smoke their own fish and you can eat in their tiny restaurant or take away a platter which we call ‘A Smoked Fish Tea’. It is the healthiest take away I’ve ever eaten.

Another highlight was visiting Hindringham Hall for the first time. Its moated gardens are open every Wednesday from April to October.

The Lady of the house has opened a tiny tea shop in an out building and provides her beautiful collection of china to be used. We were enchanted by the mismatched selection we used and even my 3 year old son appreciated the crockery.

Finally, a regular place for us to visit is the Stiffkey Stores, which is, of course, in Stiffkey. It is run by a young couple and we first found this gem 2009 when our baby boy was only 11 weeks old. The shop is unique, crammed full of unusual and very pretty gifts, as well as serving tea and cake.  I tried their Peanut Butter Blondie, I never used to eat peanut butter but thanks to Sainsbury’s for asking me to try their Feed Your Family Meal Plan, which included peanut butter and toast for breakfast, I now love it. I will definitely be researching this delicious ‘blondie’ and trying to make my own version soon.

You can take a look inside the shop by visiting their facebook page and checking out their photos.

Do you have any holiday food highlights?

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Brioche Sandwich Making

This week I had to make a lot of sandwiches for a funeral; sadly my husband’s Granny passed away. I was pleased to be given this job and got up at 6am on the day to make sure everything was fresh. Whenever I make sandwiches for a function I try to vary things and use crusty rolls, croissants or bagels rather than just a loaf of bread.

As one of my choices this time I used some brioche and filled them with ham and cheese. It was really easy to do and I heard a lot of people commenting on how they like brioche as they helped themselves to the buffet. I though I’d share this idea, as not only is it an easy, tasty addition to any buffet, but using brioche for sandwiches can make a tasty midday snack or a packed lunch a bit more interesting.

The recipe is too basic to write fully. I used good quality ham, thinly sliced, and mature grated cheddar, plus mayonnaise instead of butter as I find it keeps the sandwich moist. Although I love to shop locally, and support local shops, I haven’t seen brioche in my local bakery, so I have to admit I bought these from Tesco; 8 rolls for around £1.80.

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Money Saving Tips – Guest Post

I was delighted to have an email from a reader sharing their own ideas. A big thank you to Caroline Wilson for her top money saving tips:

Caroline writes:

“I have cut my online shop from £70 a week to about £30 a week and still I have a freezer overflowing and a full cupboard. Here are my tips:

Firstly, I have just cottoned on to how supermarkets are using packaging sizes (eg this is only £1) or special offers such as ‘2 for 1’ to trick us into spending more on food.

For example, two packs of cheese, the one that costs less appears to be good value – but check the price per kilo and you find you are really paying more. Cereals for example – a huge box looks better value than a small box – but the smaller box may be heavier and better value per kilo – filling you up better.

I have been through my online grocery shopping site and made a pre-written list of all foods that are good value by weight – using this information I then designed a healthy, varied, two week menu plan using these foods.

Secondly, buying online is worth the delivery charge because you are not tempted away from your list or by packaging. You can also decide what to put back if you have gone over your budget.

My weekly menu could include:

1.     Omelette,

2.     Nut roast,

3.     Fresh mackerel and veg,

4.     Homemade pizza,

5.     Pasta with mince, peppers, etc spicy beans and couscous,

6.     Homemade soup,

7.     Stir fry.

Thirdly, another key to money saving has been to switch to mainly frozen vegetables, peas, sweetcorn, peppers rather than fresh.

Fourthly, I remember that most things freeze – so if something in your fridge is unlikely to be used – such as celery or mushrooms or any leftovers – freeze them before they go off. They may change texture slightly but can be used in soups and stews without anyone noticing. I even freeze things like olives from a jar or even tomato puree or left over wine – if you can’t use it stick it in a plastic tub or bag and freeze it.

I really can’t believe how much can be saved.”

Thanks so much to Caroline. I love Guest Bloggers! Email me if you’d like to contribute.


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Jimmy’s Farm

We finally found time to take our boy to visit Jimmy’s Farm. We made a stop off on our way to our family holiday in Southwold, Suffolk. This is the third time we’ve visited but was George’s first trip and we knew he was going to love it, but when we got there we were overwhelmed by the changes, so many new facilities that we ended up staying all afternoon!

When Jimmy’s Farm was first on television back around 2005 we loved the series and have followed Jim’s television work ever since. His last series on food production around the world was fascinating. At the farm we enjoyed seeing a lot of the ideas they had been talking about the TV series coming into action. In particular I was interested to see that Guinea Pig Island which Jimmy kept talking about had finally appeared in the form of Guinea Pig Village. There was lots to do – we enjoyed the Chicken Safari, which meant getting in the chicken coup and we had a look inside their houses to see some freshly laid eggs.

Then inside the Butterfly House it was wonderfully warm and full of colourful flowers, we didn’t have time for a walk in the woodland but made sure we got to see the two day old baby pigs.

In the restaurant we had tea, while George played in the kids only tent.

Then we bought our dinner in the farm shop. We had the best steak we’ve ever tasted! That was worth a trip on its own. We all enjoyed this day out, it had the right balance keeping kids and adults entertained.

If you would like to visit Jimmy’s Farm it is in Suffolk, near Ipswich all the details are on their website. If you live locally you maybe interested to read about a local farm shop I visit.

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Peperonata

I’ve mentioned before that for Christmas my husband bought me a great new cook book called ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ by Darina Allen of the internationally acclaimed Irish cookery school Ballymaloe. Reading the book last weekend found a fantastic, simple recipe that can be used to accompany many dishes, it is Peperonata. I’ve heard of this recipe before but I’ve never made it myself, but now it certainly deserves a place on my blog as it is quick, healthy and easy to make.

All you have to do is slice an onion, lots of peppers and add some tomatoes. Leave the food alone to simmer for half an hour and you have a delicious sauce which can be used with pasta, for chicken or fish and as the topping for a pizza. My son loved the sauce, he ate it all and once again I had filled him full of vegetables without any protest! Hurrah!

Here’s the recipe:

Serves 4 as sauce for pasta:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 green peppers
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes*
  • salt, ground pepper and sugar
  • handful of basil leaves

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and onion, stir for a few minutes until softened.
  2. Add the sliced peppers to the pan, stir and place on a lid (if your saucepan does not have a lid use a plate).
  3. Place the tomatoes* in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and then peel away their skins, slice the tomatoes and add to the pan.
  4. Add some salt, pepper and approx 1-2 tsp of sugar, plus the basil leaves.
  5. Cook uncovered until vegetables are soft, approx 20-30 minutes on a low heat.

*Alternatively use a tin of chopped tomatoes.

I served my sauce with pasta and a little grated cheese, it really was delicious and later in the week I will use it to top a homemade pizza, I can’t wait!

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Breakfast Rolls

My husband loves to have toast for breakfast at the weekends, but I’m not a fan of mass produced bread. There has been a lot of bad press lately about supermarket bread and if you are interested I’ve found a site that explains why modern bread production is letting us down. I’ve started making breakfast rolls, which are very quick to make. They are essentially soda bread, where I use baking powder instead of yeast. Leaving out yeast allows you to make bread without leaving it to prove, without the yeast it also becomes a child friendly recipe; I wouldn’t want my 2 year old putting raw yeast in his mouth, yuck!

If you make these rolls fresh you can serve them straight from the oven and watch the butter melt onto the bread. Yummy!

Here’s the recipe:

Makes 6-8 small rolls.

Ingredients:

  • 500g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 5g salt
  • 300ml buttermilk or half plain yogurt, half milk mixed together

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 170°c
  2. Sift flour into a large bowl with baking powder and salt.
  3. Make a well in the centre of flour and pour in buttermilk or yogurt mixture.
  4. Mix together using a wooden spoon, it should gradually become a dough, add a little more flour if the dough is very sticky, or a little more milk if it has not come together as a dough.
  5. Flour a clean surface, and your hands, then empty the dough onto the surface and gently kneed until smooth.
  6. Break pieces of dough off and roll to form small bread rolls.
  7. Place on a lightly greased baking tray and place in oven for approx 10-15 mins, check the rolls, they should be firm on the outside but still soft in the middle.
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Lemon & Five Spice Chicken

This week I cooked my Lemon & Five Spice Chicken. It is such a tasty recipe and a fantastic way to get kids to eat a lot of vegetables in one sitting. I’m publishing this recipe again as I have had the chance to take a photo to accompany it. In this picture I served the meal with brown rice to add even more nutritional value. I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Cornflour
  • 2 tsp Five Spice
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 4 sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 Spring Onion, sliced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, sliced
  • 1 Pepper, sliced
  • 2 Carrots, sliced
  • 50g Green Beans
  • 100g Peas
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 400 ml liquid (chicken stock, wine, water or a combination of these)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey

Method:
1. Pour cornflour, five spice and ginger into a large bowl, add the chicken and stir until coated.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan, add the chicken and keep it moving until coloured.
3. Put all the sliced vegetables in with the chicken and stir for a few minutes.
4. Add all of the liquid ingredients and stir again. Place a lid on the frying pan (or a plate).
5. Turn the heat to lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.
Serving suggestions:

Rice or noodles, top with fresh coriander.

5 A Day Addition:

This meal is already full of tasty veg, but if you want more, try broccoli florets or baby sweetcorn.

Ways to Speed up this Meal

– Substitute the chicken for cooked prawns as they take only moments to cook. This means you can miss out the whole of step 1 and 2, just heat oil in a pan and then add the spices along with the vegetables. You can add the prawns to the pan a few minutes before serving.
– I buy frozen tiger prawns from Iceland (the supermarket). They are not expensive and are surprisingly juicy.
– Opt to serve with rice noodles they normally take around 3 minutes to cook, now that’s fast food!

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