Friday, 13 September 2013

Frugal Friday...

...or, "Using it up as we go along" - as that's what we've been doing so far this month. We've also been acquiring food for free, and adding value - more of that later.

With an eye to wanting to start stockpiling a little in preparation for the colder months, we decided that this month we'd look to minimise regular food spending, and look to use up some of the stuff that we have in the larder, fridge and freezers. I commented to MrEH a few weeks ago that we seem to have 2 freezers nearly full, but that I was struggling to find ingredients to make a meal! Of course when I thought about it a bit more I realised that it was me who was lacking inspiration rather than the contents of the freezers being at fault! In the past when these sort of uninspired moments have struck we'd have used it as an excuse to have gone and grabbed a takeaway, but these days it's a case of look again, find some ingredients, and see what can be done with them! On this occasion the ingredients I found were a pack of cooked lamb mince, a pot of roast tomato sauce, and a tub of cooked chickpeas. I have NO idea what I was thinking when I got those out - in my defence it was very last thing before I went to bed, maybe I was more tired than I realised!  In the event they came together with ease - an onion - half sliced into one pan and the other half finely chopped into another. Once softened and starting to brown the chickpeas went in with the finely chopped onion along with some spices - cumin, coriander and just a touch of smoked chilli flakes - and a handful of quartered cherry tomatoes. Into the other pan went a chunkily chopped green pepper, and the minced lamb, before the tomato sauce was added with a spoonful of extra garlic. Both were lightly seasoned with salt & pepper, and the tomatoey mix also had a generous dollop of home made mango chutney added to give a fruity kick. We had some thick slices of good bread alongside, to mop up the juices - it was delicious and, best of all, quick to prepare.

Another night, and another "use it up" meal - this time I turned to the contents of the fridge to decide what we'd eat. The veg basket yielded  a red pepper and the last of the cherry tomatoes, and elsewhere in the fridge I found a lump of chorizo and the last of a squeezy bottle of pesto. Now, a word about these "squeezy bottles" - I don't like them, and where things have the choice of a regular bottle or jar, or the squeezy one, I'll opt for the traditional one every time. We had this particular one as it was bought as part of a special offer at the Good Food Show - but it's proved my point. Handily though on this occasion it was the very thing that I don't like about them, the fact that it's close to impossible to get all the product out, that proved to be its advantage. A splash of warm water and a good shake and it delivered just the right amount of creamy pesto to dress two bowls of pasta. A simple meal, using items which needed to be used up, but a very tasty one nonetheless.

On Friday morning I noticed that the last of the block of very out-of-date cheddar was beginning to get properly past its best, and as I was fresh from reading Fay's lovely This Wee Lass Eats... blog, and I wanted some form of bread-like product for my lunch, scones were the obvious answer! I can assure you that they are every bit as easy as Fay makes them sound, and every bit as delicious too!

We'll continue with this using up of things for the rest of the month - but in the meantime there has been free food to be had too - the bag full of apples we brought back from Devon were cut up and stewed. The first lot of blackberries have been gathered, some loose frozen for future use, and some mixed in with some of the apples. Some more apples stewed with Cinnamon, allspice & sultanas were turned into a pie. I found a tree with some glorious ripe plums just begging to be picked, and we have harvested some more of our home-grown potatoes too - not quite "free" those, but we are looking like getting a decent return from our small investment in seed potatoes. We'll almost certainly go back for some more blackberries, then there will crab apples, hips, haws and sloes to gather too, and maybe even some more ordinary apples. We're crossing our fingers for hazel nuts this year too - and we've already been told there are lots of walnuts on our favourite tree. We're looking forward to Jellies and chutneys, Syrups and pickles.

Our shopping is paid for by way of a £150 per month transfer from our bank account into our "Clubcard Plus" account with Tesco Bank. We can use the card for this like a regular Clubcard, to earn points on shopping, but can also use it to take money out through cashpoints which can be useful. It pays a small amount of interest on our credit balance, too. Of course anything that we manage not to spend from that £150.00 mounts up nicely too, and that goes towards our spending money for the annual Hebrides trip - there's an incentive! In answer to those who bang the drum about how much the cost of groceries has increased over the last few years, we've had the Clubcard account for over 10 years, and the Direct debit has been set at that £150 level for the entire time. we spend less now on groceries than we did when we first opened the account - prices may have gone up, but with careful shopping it's possible for your spending not to do the same. Using every scrap of what you have is just part of that.



Scarlet said...

Our shopping bill hasn't increased either, and I do wonder about people who spend almost as much in a week for 2 adults as I spend in 3 weeks for 4 adults. They don't seem to have well stocked cupboards either, so I'm not sure exactly what they're spending the money on.
I have a very large carrier bag full of apples to deal with - picked from our young trees at the allotment - so I'd better go and get on with it!

Judy Y said...

We're doing SFT's Stretch It Out September and while yes we've had to be more careful this fortnight, we are also quite pleased that we've saved 1/4 of our food budget this fortnight (and hoping to save another 1/4 for the next fortnight!). It can be done if you plan I think, or are prepared to use up what you have eg we've run out of shop bought biscuits so have just made some to get us through.

Robyn said...

Making things from scratch is often the key I think - because we both go out early for work I make healthy-ish muffins or flapjacks for our breakfasts - saves the temptation to just stop off and get something, and better for us than going without! (Anyway, MrEH doesn't agree with "going without!")
I've got a surfeit of plums after buying two punnets at Ludlow over the weekend - I can see some of those being roasted and frozen...!

Fay said...

We had a storecupboard challenge in Sept too - needed with son going to university - so we saved our food spends and used them to fill his cupboards in his new flat. Thanks for the lovely blog mention :) and those scones look cracking! x