As we lead up to Christmas everyone is trying to save money where they can and also keep the weight off in order to be able to properly indulge over the Christmas period.
I have founds some great ways to do both.
My first discovery was buttermilk it is a great alternative to yogurt, is cheaper and much easier to cook with. I have started to use it in my smoothies using all that luscious fruit I picked and froze during the summer months. It is a great way to start the day and full of vitamins to fight off those nasty colds everyone seems to be catching at the moment
Buttermilk also makes a great salad dressing and can be used as a main ingredient for sauces. Here are some I found online and use regularly
(The pasta sauce recipe is particularly easy and cheap to make)
Oats are another cheap and great way to feel fuller for longer. A bowl of porridge in the morning with a spot of honey (a natural antibiotic) will help keep that cholesterol down and stop you from snacking mid-morning keeping that waist trim and pockets fuller!!!
Also remember the packet of root vegetables you can buy for a £1 from most supermarkets that I mentioned in a previous blog
Well this is another great way to save pounds and also get rid of a few extra kilos before Christmas
By chopping up and roasting these vegetables in olive oil they make a great alternative to roast or mashed potatoes. They’re full of nutrients, you can roast everything in one dish and save on the washing up as well.
As always spinach is cheap, easy to cook and full of iron making it a great accompaniment to most meals!
Each week I am buying a little something towards Christmas whether it be a special offer on chocolates, or some cheese I know will mature nicely ready for the big day. This helps me spread the cost so December doesn't hit my bank balance quite so hard.
I have already made and frozen my 'Repton Pudding' an alternative to Christmas pudding.
I used to travel to Switzerland a lot for work and I loved my Bircher Muesli. It gave me the energy to kick start my day as well as keeping me fuller for longer. What I didn’t realise was how easy and cheap it is to make. The ingredients can be varied depending on your taste and there are very healthy options if you want to keep the calories down.
To serve 4-6 people you will need:
I started preparing for Christmas early the year my eldest was born. We knew there was going to be complications and as her due date was the 18th December I realised as early as September that I needed to get myself organised, especially when told that from November onwards I could be admitted into hospital. In those days there was no online shopping, so that tells you how long ago it was. Preparing early was a revelation in the amount of money I saved. So between now and Christmas I will be sharing with you some lessons I have learnt over the years.
For the last few weeks I have been saving glass jars for homemade Jams and Relishes. These are a great Christmas gift for friends and family as well teachers and neighbours. If these are the perfect gift for the Duchess of Cambridge to give to the Queen, I don’t see how anyone can complain.
Homemade relish: Relishes are simple too! There are some fantastic recipes on the internet but the main ingredients are onions, sultanas, apples, vinegar and brown sugar. Today I made some with some blueberries which needed using up and the other ingredients mentioned.
Tip: If the relish isn’t sweet enough add some more sugar, if it becomes too dry add some more vinegar, if it is too runny add some more mixed spice. Relish is all about personal taste so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Mulled wine sachets: I quite often put together hampers for Christmas, within which I include homemade mulled wine sachets. I use netting bought from haberdashery shops such as Dunhelms, using remnants they sell off at a reduced prices. Cut it into squares, add some crushed cinnamon sticks, crushed nutmeg and some dried cloves.
Tied with some pretty ribbon they are easy to make and so much cheaper than anything you can buy but taste as good if not better!!!
When I am working in London which is at least three times a week, I have a two hour commute each way, which altogether takes up 4 hours of my day. So the last thing I feel like doing when I get home is a load of cooking and washing up. Nor do I want to be buying convenience food that is expensive and will blow my weekly budget. The only option I have is to create my own convenience food so I get some work life balance.
I will also add the cooked vegetables and meat to couscous, pulses and grains and with some chilli sauce it also makes a hot nourishing meal on a cold winters evening.
These little packets of goodness can also be added to pasta and sauces to make quick and nutritious meals.
Click here for some more great meals in minutes from the BBC Good Food website:
Alternatively take a look at my A-Z of recipes for some more quick, easy and cheap meal ideas.
How many of us buy a loaf of bread as part of our weekly shop to only throw part of it away at the end of the week? I had a friend who lived with his sister and he used to threaten to throw the whole loaf away as soon as she unpacked the shopping because chances were it would still be in the bread bin mouldy when she bought the next one the following week.
Over the years I have come up with all sorts of ways to use leftover bread rather wasting it or giving most of it to the birds. There are some recipes as old as time where you can use old bread, for example Queens Pudding and Bread and Butter Pudding. However there are only so many times you can keep making these recipes without getting bored, so I have tried to be a bit more adventurous whilst sticking to a budget
As a working mum I know that when you get home in the evening you just want to pop something in the oven or microwave whilst you sort out the kids, change into something more comfortable and then sit down and relax. So it's understandable that many people turn to ready made convenience food, I mean it's easy enough to shove a pizza in the oven with some garlic bread.
Yes, cooking some healthier options does cross your mind every now and again. Perhaps some fish or meat instead? But then you have to start thinking about a side to go with it and before you know it, cooking becomes a complicated part of the day. Well fear not, here are some really quick, easy and most importantly cheap sides to go along with your weekday evening meal.
A friend popped round this week with a late birthday present, as well as other goodies, she bought me a selection of marmalades. As much as I like marmalade on toast there are so many other uses for it. If you fancy duck a L’Orange, marmalade makes a quick and easy orange sauce. Alternatively as I do, replace the duck with chicken breast, spread some marmalade on it, then cover it in tin foil and cook as you normally would, only the result is a really nice chicken in orange sauce.
Stir fry vegetables and noodles with marmalade: Last night I prepared enough stir fry vegetables and noodles for two then, on a medium heat I melted a desert spoon of coconut oil, added a couple of finely chopped chillies, a teaspoon of grated ginger and a teaspoon of garlic, added my stir fry vegetables and noodles, then once the vegetables began to soften I added a dessert spoon of soy sauce and heaped dessert spoon of marmalade. It tasted delicious as good as any meal I have bought in an Asian restaurant and cost a fraction of the price
Tip: As I didn’t have any fresh chillies I took some out of the freezer, I often do the same with ginger and garlic if it needs using up I pop it in the freezer rather than throwing it away. It always comes in useful when you need it the most and saves me a drive to my local supermarket.
Bread and butter pudding with marmalade: For those people who like bread and butter pudding but don’t like raisins or sultanas you can use marmalade instead. It is great with a sprinkling of cinnamon and or nutmeg.
I also add it to my Repton pudding a recipe I’ll be sharing with you later in the year as an alternative to Christmas pudding
Click here for 60 amazing ways to use marmalade and none of them involve toast.
Another colleague told me his wife freezes herbs mixed with butter or olive oil and also freezes homemade stock this way. I too make up garlic butter mixed with parsley, or butter mixed with capers to add to any fresh fish I am cooking. In the past I have made pasta sauce and frozen it in ice cube trays as when my youngest was little, he was crazy for pasta but only ate small amounts. This is very similar to the way you freeze baby food which I also did.
Pesto: I also make homemade pesto which can go brown in the fridge when exposed to the air so I pop it into ice cube trays and freeze it. Again, pesto is one of those foods where you don't always need a lot of it in one serving. It's great added to chicken breasts before covering them in tin foil and popping them in the oven.
Buying in bulk is always cheaper so when I am making a Thai curry I prepare extra chillies, onions, lemon grass, ginger and garlic mixed with either olive oil or coconut oil pop it in the freezer in ice cube trays knowing it will save me a lot of time and money the next time I make a Thai curry.
Click here for more ideas on how to use ice cube trays.
To save space in the freezer, once frozen empty the cubes into plastic bags.