Friday, 28 June 2013

Frugal Friday - planning Ahead

If you're anything like me, the warmer summer weather (Yes, we have had SOME of it, be fair!) makes me crave fresh fuit, veg and salads. No bad thing as, like most people, I do like to eat healthily if I can, however, disgracefully it is far from a cheap way to eat! I shop once a week - usually on a Friday - and so that means that we only usually have bought salad stuff for the first few days of the new week before it goes past its best. As the summer goes on we hope to supplement that with some odds and ends that we have grown - we have tomatoes, nasturtiums, and some herbs coming along quite nicely now - but as things stand right now I'm doing some very careful shopping to make the best use of our budget.

One of my favourite shots from 2006...
As you know I usually shop with a list detailing exactly what I want to buy, and that's what gets bought. At this time of year though that goes a bit awry as I prefer to leave it with the bland heading of "salad stuff" and then see what's good value. For a main meal I usually supplement salads with either boiled new potatoes, or bread, and I'm afraid neither of us are terribly keen on those rather flavourless lettuces that the supermarkets sell so many of, so I usually get something like rocket, watercress or herb salad to act as the base. Usually those things can be found on special offer - at the moment I've been buying them on "2 for £1" and this offer also often includes things like radishes, or spring onions, for an extra burst of crunchy flavour. Tomatoes are a must-have for me too - although not for Mr EH - and those HAVE to be British. We grow absolutely wonderful tomatoes in this country so it's a crime that even in the height of summer the Supermarkets sell so many of those nasty little Dutch waterballs. Next time you find yourself in front of the tomato section have a sniff at a pack of British vine ripened or similar and see just how glorious they smell in comparison - the same also goes for Strawberries of course - simply not worth buying out of season, but through the June, July & August good old British Strawberries are just the smell of summer, to me! At the moment our salads are tinged with a bit of luxury as we have the Hebridean Smoked Salmon and crab meat that we brought back from holiday - otherwise though they come with a crumbly cheese, tuna, or perhaps if we've had a roast chicken for a sunday lunch some of the leftover chicken and some crispy fried bacon. A lovely and budget friendly salad can be made with some freshly boiled new potatoes tossed in a little butter and lemon juice, and a few rashers of decent cooked bacon chopped up - mix the two together and combine with your leaves, tomatoes etc. The end of a loaf of home made bread, cut into cubes and fried makes delicious croutons - just sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper over during the cooking, or infuse some garlic in the oil you're going to use to fry them.

Scotney Castle, Kent, 2006
In a bid to keep costs down elsewhere on the grocery front, I'm trying to build my meal plans around stuff we already have in. So far as possible I always do this, but sometimes I get more inventive than others! There's still masses of Lamb in the freezer at the moment of course, so that helps - another of the meals on this week's plan was lamb chops with some more of the new potatoes (I'm SO looking forward to our home-grown tatties being ready!) and the remainder of the salad. Simple but oh-so tasty! When we got the lamb the chops came handily bagged in packs of two so I just grabbed a couple of bags out the night before, left them out to defrost overnight and popped them in the fridge the next morning ready to quickly grill when we got home that night.

Seal, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire - 2007
I always keep my eyes out in the Supermarket for reduced price pots of herbs too - the kitchen windowsill currently has a thyme plant and a wonderfully fragranced Greek Basil - which were both rescued from a slow death and cost 19p each. A few days standing in a tray of fresh water and they've got a new lease of life - outside of course we also have our Parsley (a previous year's supermarket rescue!), sage, rosemary, bay and chives - all ready and waiting to add a bit of wonderful fresh flavour to meals. As for every meat-based meal we eat we have another which is effectively vegetarian (Don't tell Mr EH - I don't think he's noticed!) the herbs really come into their own.

Dusk at Leigh on Sea, Essex - 2007
As we are out of the house close on 12 hours a day for most of the working week, I usually try to make most of our planned meals something which can either be cooked ahead - stews, curries, and pies for example, or which is very quick to throw together, but equally packed with flavour. Those salads are a great example, and the chops. Other favourites like this are couscous (flavoured with North African spices and with lamb and chickpeas added), roast vegetables (butternut squash, onions, potatoes, carrots and cherry tomatoes for example) served up with pasta, and omlettes.

Which meals do you keep on standby for those particularly busy,  or particularly financially squeaky weeks?


(Yes, another post with utterly unrelated photos - this time particular favourites of mine from 2006 & 2007!)


BarnsleyHistorian said...

Our lettuce and rocket is just beginning to come through in our garden - baby leaves to add to a bag of supermarket reduced salad. My tomato plants are doing badly again ... the new house is not as well arranged for a nice south facing wall, but the green beans are nearly at the top of their wigmams now, another versatile crop, eat them as green pods or pick the rest at the end of the year and dry the beans for later. I even have some 'giant' spring onions - it was an experiment with a patch of left over spring onions from last year to see if they would grow into real onions. Some have, some have tried to go to seed, but I'm still eating the green bits anyway. We had our first half bowl of garden strawberries yesterday and there are a few more today ... I like them just as they are, the OH has them with ice cream. Yummm! Summer!

Robyn said...

I'd love to have somewhere to grow a decent number of strawberries - there are a few plants in the garden but honestly I don't know why I bother as they usually end up being a treat for the slugs! (pssst - we got our beer list today - some tasty looking dark ones on there)

Scarlet said...

Anything with pasta and veggies is always cheap and very welcome , as is any kind of soup.It's strange really isn't it, that soup and rolls that have been homemade are a completely different prospect to soup from a tin and a shop-bought roll? So much cheaper, and yet they taste so much better. Soon we'll be having courgette soup, something we haven't had since last summer and I'm really looking forward to it.

Robyn said...

I think part of it is that there is just so many ingredients in shop-bought soup, and so few in home made - it tastes cleaner somehow, and fresher. Your courgette soup sounds interesting - you'll have to blog the recipe for that!