Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Entertaining the kids... for free (almost)!

At the weekend we took advantage of ScotRail's "Kids Go Free" offer and took the train into the City of Edinburgh.  This in itself was a real treat for the children - they loved going over the Forth Rail Bridge and we had such a beautiful, sunny day they could see for miles! 

We went to visit the National Museum of Scotland - free entry for us all.  What a great day out!  Loads of things to see and so many interactive displays for the children (and grown-ups!) to get involved with.

The animals on display were breathtaking.
An impressive display charting the changes in mobile telephony - remember these?!
We took our own snacks and drinks with us, so the total cost for the day out?  Two adult return train tickets - £10.60.  Money well spent and a great day out was had by all!

Sunday's activity was local, accessed on foot (or scooter, in some cases!) and free, too!  We took the kids to the local park to let them run around and let off steam.  It was pretty chilly, but dry and sunny - can't say fairer than that for a January day!

All we needed to take with us were pocket tissues for those runny noses!

Two happy, tired out children - and two happy parents!

How do you entertain the kids for free?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Monday, 30 January 2012

Sultana loaf cake...

I made sultana loaf cake this morning and thought I'd share my take on this recipe that I originally obtained from a Delia Smith baking book.  This cake is so easy to make; it tastes delicious and it freezes really well too.  Oh, and it's fat-free!

Soak 8oz of sultanas overnight in 175ml of cold tea.  The next morning add 8oz self-raising flour, 6oz demerara sugar, a pinch of salt and a large beaten egg, then give it all a really good mix (adding a wee drop milk if necessary).  Add the mixture to a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake at 170C for an hour.  Leave to cool completely and cut into slices as required.

I prefer this without any butter spread on it - but each to their own!  I also like to freeze some slices for packed lunches - a homemade, filling mid-morning snack at work along with a cup of tea!

Today I used dark brown soft sugar as I didn't have enough demerara - worked just as well!  I also used Glutafin Select Gluten-Free White Mix in place of the self-raising flour.

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Micro blogging... via Twitter!

I've signed up with Twitter in order to micro-blog on the go.  You'll find me @FrugalWife if you fancy joining in...

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Roast chicken... stretched as far as it will go!

We like to have roast chicken in our house from time to time, and true to my frugal ways, I like to stretch a chicken as far as I can to make as many meals as possible!

I usually pick up a chicken from Aldi for £2.75 unless I manage to grab a yellow-sticker bargain on my travels.

On the first night, we'll have roast chicken for tea - usually with a whole load of potatoes and vegetables on the side, and homemade (gluten-free) yorkshire puddings when I have the inclination!  This will be for two adults and two children.

The following night, we usually have chicken curry of some description, with rice.  If I have any reduced mushrooms, I throw them in with the curry to make it go further.  Failing that, I'll cube and parboil some potato then add to the chicken curry.  Makes it go loads further!  Again, this will be for two adults and two children.  Depending on what else I'm up to that day, if I'm not busy I'll make homemade naan bread to go with this - so filling and really makes the meal go further.  Any leftover curry is frozen for future use.

The remaining chicken (yes, there's still some left!) is frozen in food bags for toppings for homemade pizza.

As for the bones, I boil the carcass (usually on the first night after roasting) along with the reserved cooking water from the veg from that night's tea and any carrot peelings if we've had them, as well as the skin and the juices from the roasting tin.

After about 3 hours I sieve the liquid and leave in the fridge to cool.  The following morning I skim off the fat and portion up all the lovely chicken stock for the freezer.  Usually I add this to soups, but occasionally I use it for chicken casseroles etc in the slow cooker.

So, one chicken, three family meals, and the basis for a tasty soup too!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Re-vamping some furniture...

We have a lovely wooden children's table and chairs set from Ikea.  We've had this for about 4 years and during this time it has served us well and has been used for eating meals at, sitting to create works of art, making play-doh masterpieces - as well as forming the basis for numerous gang-huts and dens. 

The poor wee table and chairs set was starting to look a little tired and battered with crayon, pen and goodness knows what else stained on the surface.  The set was really inexpensive - I bought it in the Ikea sale for £14.99 - but still, I figured with a bit of TLC it would come back good as new.

I gave the wood a really good wash and then sanded the table and chairs down by hand with a fine sandpaper, which removed almost all marks and stains on the wood. 

Then I stained the set using a walnut shade of woodstain, to match the rest of my living room furtniture.  Here's the finished result!

Good as new - in fact, better, as the set originally came as untreated wood.  So for the cost of a tin of woodstain and a bit of time and effort, we now have a lovely children's table and chairs set in our living room which also matches perfectly with everything else!

How do you "make do and mend" in your house?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Monday, 23 January 2012

Banana Loaf Cake...

I love stocking up the freezer with banana loaf cake.  It freezes really well; I make up a loaf, cut it up into slices, then wrap each slice individually and freeze.  They can then be added to packed lunches and are defrosted by lunchtime - whilst keeping the rest of the lunch cool in the process!

I picked up 1.5kg of sorry-looking bananas in Tesco, yellow-stickered to 36p.

This cake couldn't be simpler to make.  All the ingredients are added to a bowl and mixed with an electric hand mixer.

Here's the recipe I use:

7oz plain flour (I use gluten-free - but you don't have to!)
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb of soda
Pinch of salt
4oz butter
8oz sugar
2 beaten eggas
3 ripe bananas mashed up with a fork
Milk as required to make a smooth consistency

Simply add everything to a big bowl and mix together, adding milk if needed - just depends how moist your bananas are.  No need to mix until completely smooth - some lumpy bits of banana are preferable!  Pour the mix into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for about an hour at 170C.

Once cooled I cut the cake into slices and try to get in the freezer as soon as possible.  Warning - this cake is very moreish and hard to resist - leave it in a container or cake tin and it's likely to disappear fast!

Tasty, filling and homemade for pennies - doesn't get much better than this.  A good way to use up over-ripe bananas lurking around - the blacker they are, the better this cake tastes!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Stretching meals and portion control...

Supermarkets try to fool people into thinking they need more food than they do.  Here's a specific example - Tesco gammon joint, 800g, serves...wait for it...3!

In our house, 800g of meat will certainly stretch much further than 3 servings!

I bought these gammon joints because they were on offer - 2 for £6.  Normally they cost £4.18 each.

The first night (Saturday) we had gammon sliced with potatoes and vegetables, for two adults and two children.

Root mash, fried onions, broccoli and sliced gammon
On the Sunday we had homemade pizza with mozerella, gammon and peppers served with oven chips - again for two adults and two children.

Monday night we had pasta with gammon in a homemade tomato sauce with peppers, onions and grated carrot (2 adults and one child).

So we stretched the gammon joint to last for three evening meals.  Of course, you don't have to have to stretch over three consecutive nights - once cooked the gammon can be frozen in slices, cubes, chunks - whatever you plan on using it for.  I tend to buy the smoked variety rather than the unsmoked as I feel it has more flavour and you can therefore get away with using less.

How do you make your meals stretch a bit further?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cutting down the household bills...

Firstly a big hello to all my new followers who've added me recently - thanks for joining in and sharing your comments and tips! 

In preparation for my upcoming maternity leave, we've been looking at ways to cut back the household bills.  Recently we've changed phone and broadband supplier, home insurance provider and gas and electric supplier.  The latest cutback was saying goodbye to Sky TV.

We nearly cancelled this six months ago; but when I called to cancel, they offered me half-price for 6 months (£10.25 a month) so we kept it on a bit longer.  Now we know we're expecting a baby, we're at the stage of saving every penny and cutting back where we possibly can - and Sky TV is an unnecessary luxury I'm sure we can manage without.  The kids will miss the children's shows - but they'll soon forget and re-discover playing outside as the weather improves and spring comes round again.

Have you been re-evaluating your family outgoings?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Bargain shopping!

I was lucky last week and picked up a few gift sets in the Boots 75% off sale.  Sanctuary Gift Sets from £10 each to £2.50 each; The White Collection set from £8 to £2; perfume mini selection set from £19 to £4.75.  That's Mothers' Day and a couple of upcoming birthdays taken care of!

I was in need of some new bras (thanks to my pregnancy boobs!) so I picked up a set of two that was reduced to half price in the Debenhams sale - just £9 for two.  Happy with that!

Have you picked up any bargains recently?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Friday, 20 January 2012

Garlic bread to bulk out family meals...

I always take advantage of reduced prices on baguettes and turn them into garlic bread for storing in the freezer.  Then I can get away with smaller portions at dinner time as the family meal is supplemented with bread on the side for next to no cost.

The other night I picked up two long baguettes reduced to 1p each in Tesco.  I prepared some homemade garlic butter with spread, dried parsley and crushed garlic.

Then I sandwiched the bread slices back together with the garlic butter.

I wrap them in tinfoil and freeze in portions of 8-9 slices each.  Then when I'm making dinner the garlic bread gets popped in the oven (straight from frozen) alongside what's cooking.

Cheap, filling and tasty - these two 1p baguettes made up 4 garlic breads for the freezer (and my daughter ate a huge chunk straight up while I was going through this process!).

Do you pad out your meals with bread on the side?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Yellow sticker bargains...

The other night I happened to be in the right place at exactly the right time - yellow sticker bargains galore in Tesco!

I would never normally dream of buying cakes; I always make my own.  These bakery muffins sell for a whopping 70p... each!  On this occasion I could make an exception - reduced to just 1p each!

A real bargain indeed was the two loaves of Genius gluten-free bread I picked up for 2p each.  Normally these sell for £2.99 a loaf!  I popped these straight in the freezer, so for next to nothing I can have tasty gluten-free toast every day for a couple of weeks!

There were plenty more reduced goodies but as we only have a small under-counter freezer and no room for a chest freezer, I have to practice strict freezer management!  A freezer full of bakery products wouldn't do us much good in the long run - no matter how much of a bargain they were at the time!

So we picked up a loaf of bread (5p), a croissant (1p), a blueberry muffin (1p), a chocolate muffin (1p), two Genius gluten-free loaves (2p each), two baguettes (1p each) and a pack of custard filled donuts (1p).  Total spent = 15p!!!!  Delighted - two bags of shopping to take home, literally for pennies.

We were en route home too, so no extra petrol spent.

Have you had any lucky reduced finds lately?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

In the frugal kitchen this week...

I spent a day cooking up some stocks for the freezer.  Some individual gluten-free lasagnes are great for an easy prepared meal after work when I can't be bothered cooking.

A cheap and tasty favourite in our house is chilli con carne.  I bulk out the mince with kidney beans, baked beans, grated carrot, tinned tomatoes, red peppers and onions.  I can get 400g of mince to stretch to do four dinners for the family (each container has enough chilli for two adults and two children) so along with some cheap white rice and some value tortilla chips makes for a hearty, tasty meal during these chilly winter months!

A failsafe lunch in our house is soup of any description - this week's effort was carrot and lentil.  Costs pennies to make but is tasty and filling.  Brilliant for having on standby in the freezer for feeding the family at the weekend.  We like garlic bread with ours - I pick up baguettes when they're yellow-stickered and freeze them already sliced and prepared with garlic butter ready for popping into the oven straight from the freezer.  I make gluten-free ones for myself!

What are your family's favourite frugal meals?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Not spending a single penny in the work canteen!

Recently I've slipped into a bad habit with work lunches.  Not out of laziness; more the morning sickness that I suffered from at the beginning of my pregnancy, which meant I just couldn't face any food in the morning and then by lunchtime I really needed a hot meal.  Anyway... I've got into the habit of buying a baked potato and filling every day in the canteen at work.  At £1.90 a time, this rate of spending will amount to £429.40 over a working year!  Just like that!  Well, I work hard enough at my work without giving some of my hard earned cash back over to them, so this year's resolution is to not spend a single penny in the work canteen again!

So far, so good - thanks to a bag of potatoes picked up in Tesco's reduced section, yellow-stickered to 27p.

I baked all the potatoes in the oven, allowed them to cool and wrapped them individually in foil before freezing. 

Then each night before work I pull a potato out of the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight to defrost.  I reheat the potato in the microwave in my office and eat my lunch there - avoiding the canteen altogether.  So far I've enjoyed cheese, coleslaw and tomato as my filling of choice - but tomorrow I fancy beans for a change!

Have you made any resolutions to cut back your spending this year?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Monday, 9 January 2012

The rising cost of "Value" products...

The price of "Value" products seems to be fluctuating a lot recently.  As an example, Tesco Value tuna chunks are showing as 66p today - last week they were 75p, and before Christmas they were 56p a tin.  Tesco Value rice 1kg was 65p last week and this week it's back down to 40p.  Tesco Value kidney beans are up from 19p a tin to 25p tin....  And so on, and so on.  So much for "The Big Price Drop" - Tesco are at it, again!

I started off completing an online Tesco order last week and was so disgusted in these fluctuating prices (do Tesco think it's customers won't notice?!) that I shut the laptop down and headed out in my car to Aldi instead, armed with a list and determined to beat the supermarkets at their own game.

I managed to get what I was after in Aldi (with some slight variations to my meal plans) and in addition I took advantage of the "Super 6" promotion to stock up of vegetables.  I spent just over £35, which I felt was very reasonable and more than covered a week's worth of meals with stocks for the freezer.

I still wanted a couple of things from Tesco so I popped in to get yoghurts and Babybel (both half price) and whilst passing the "reduced" section I picked up a bag of potatoes yellow stickered from £1.35 to 27p.  Result!

Have you found yourself sticking to a shopping routine out of habit, or are you exploring other supermarket options and shopping around to cut costs?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Sorting out my kitchen cupboards...

I am a hoarder of storage tubs.  I really can't help myself - I feel obliged to keep every single margarine and ice cream tub I've ever used.  I can't bring myself to throw them away, convinced that they will have a use at some point.  My "tubs" cupboard had got into such a state, crammed with recycled tubs, that yesterday I decided to have a good organisation of my cupboards.

I started with my "baking" cupboard first (which had also reached a messy state) and I decanted all my ingredients into tubs, clearly labelled for future reference.  I've lots of ingredients at the ready now for when I feel like a spot of baking.

Super-organised baking ingredients

All neat and tidy for my next Delia-inspired moment

Now my "tubs" cupboard has been re-organised and re-stacked and I feel much more in control again! 

Isn't it funny how an organised kitchen with neat, tidy cupboards makes you feel more in control of life in general?  Or is that just me...?!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Preparing for Christmas.... 2012!

This Christmas was rather disappointing for me in that I was hopelessly disorganised - very unlike me!  I put it down to the morning sickness that plagued me in the early weeks of my pregnancy - this really threw me off track and I felt like I was forever chasing my tail after that! 

Now I'm looking to Christmas 2012 and determined to be much more organised.  As well as having a new baby by next Christmas, my income will be reduced to statutory maternity pay whilst I'm on maternity leave.  As such, I'm planning to have everything bought and organised well in advance of the festive season next year.

So far, so good....

I picked up cards and wrap today in the sales - 10 rolls of wrapping paper for £1, and M&S cards reduced to 50p.  The wrapping paper will be stashed up the loft until needed next year.  The cards have been safely tucked away in my "Christmas Cards" box - this has all my cards and my card list ready, and rather than going up the loft, I'll store this in the cupboard under the stairs so I can make a start writing cards in November.  I also picked out my "special" cards and money wallets which were half price in the Card Factory.

I've also bought the first of my Christmas presents for next year - three Baylis & Harding gift sets, half price in the Debenhams sale.  These will be lovely for my sisters-in-law and at half price they were very good value indeed.  These will be tucked away in the airing cupboard until next Christmas.

Have you taken advantage of the sales to stock up for next Christmas?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife