Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Some bargain baby buys...

I've been picking up bits and pieces along the way for our baby, due in June.  Most of the big things we need (moses basket, cot, pram etc) have been gifted to us from family members passing on their items, which is a big help.  So all that we need are the smaller things, and I've been picking some up after each pay day, to spread the cost.

Recently I've been looking out for cot sheets and moses basket sheets, but I've been horrified at the prices charged for these in some of the big brand stores - i.e. £99 for a "bed set" from Mothercare, £70 for a similar set from Next.  I wouldn't spend that on a bed set for myself, let alone for a cot!  I found another website on my travels which was selling baby bedding at a fraction of the price - Kiddicare - I got a cot bed set from there for just £15, comprising fitted sheet, flat sheet, cellular blanket and fleece blanket.  I also got two fitted moses basket sheets for £8.

Drying my baby's bedding outdoors
I was delighted that the weather allowed for line drying at the weekend - so all the baby bedding has been washed, ironed and put away ready for use later in the year.  I love getting things dried outside - they smell so fresh and are much easier to iron!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lemon sponge cake...

Lemons will feature heavily in my frugal kitchen over the coming weeks after stocking up on a case of 24 Jif lemons last week - you can read my blog post here if you missed it!  Thanks for all your lemony suggestions - I'll be having a go at lots of different things!

A case of 24 Jif lemons from Approved Food
Yesterday I made a lemon sponge cake and here's how I did it...

The ingredients for lemon sponge cake
In a large bowl I measured 6oz self-raising flour (I used Glutafin white mix), 6oz sugar, 6oz margarine and a teaspoon of baking powder.  I added 3 beaten eggs and the juice of half a Jif lemon, and whizzed the lot together with an electric hand mixer.

I use Tesco's own brand baking powder as this is gluten-free, and the cheapest I've come across compared to the marketed "free from" varieties.  Let me know if you've come across a cheaper alternative!

I split the mix between two 8" round tins lined with baking parchment, then baked at 160C for 25 minutes.  My oven is a bit on the hot side so goodness knows if my 160C is that temperature in real life!!

Once cooled, I sandwiched together with lemon buttercream and lemon marmalade, then spread lemon buttercream on the top.

Lemon sponge cake
After all that hard work and effort, of course I had to have a sit down and a cup of tea - and a piece of cake, of course!

Lemon sponge cake
Tasty, gluten-free, frugal, homemade - what's not to love about homemade cake?  Perhaps the effect on the waistline - but at 23 weeks pregnant, I'm not watching my weight at the moment!!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Monday, 27 February 2012

Leek and potato soup - for pennies!

Firstly a big hello and welcome to my new followers.  Thanks for joining; I look forward to reading your comments.

Last week I picked up a sad-looking bunch of leeks at the supermarket, reduced to 25p.  Today I made a big pot of leek and potato soup and the end result was very tasty and filling!

A bunch of leeks, reduced to 25p
I chopped and rinsed the leeks then peeled and diced a few potatoes.  Normally I'd add an onion too, but I'm all out of onions - so I gave it a miss!  I melted a knob of butter in a large pot and stirred in the vegetables along with some seasoning.  After about 20 minutes "sweating" on a low heat, I dissolved two chicken stock cubes in boiling water and added to the pan.  After a further 20 minutes the soup was ready!

Some was served for lunch today, some portioned up to take to work tomorrow, and another tub added to the freezer for another day.  A big pot of soup for pennies!

Tasty and filling - leek and potato soup
Soup is definitely one of my favourite frugal lunches, especially in winter.  What's a favourite in your house?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Not frugal, not healthy - but really, really tasty!

Yesterday we had a really special treat - fish and chips!  As we are trying to maintain a frugal living, we never have takeaways and very rarely eat out.  This is in addition to the fact that I am coeliac and have to follow a strict gluten-free diet - I haven't eaten takeaway fish and chips in at least three years!  So when I read in the local paper that a fish and chip shop was hosting a special coeliac event, serving gluten-free fish suppers throughout the day, we decided to plan a road trip up the coastal route to Anstruther Fish Bar.

We're lucky in that we live in a really lovely part of Scotland and although the centre of our capital city of Edinburgh is only 40 minutes away by train, we can jump in the car and be at the beach or in the countryside in next to no time at all.  We took the coastal route to Anstruther; about an hour's drive from home through lots of pretty fishing villages and small towns along the way.

Looking out over the water at Anstruther
To keep the costs down, we took drinks with us from home and I also stocked the car with napkins and baby wipes so we could eat from the boxes in the car, rather than paying to eat in the restaurant.  We parked up overlooking the water; despite the sunshine it was far, far too cold and windy to get out of the car, so I took this photo through the windscreen!  We enjoyed watching the RNLI training in the water in front of us.

Gluten-free fish and chips
The hour-long drive and the cost was well worth it for the box of fish and chips I ate!  I didn't manage it all but took the rest home and reheated it for supper later.  That takeaway fix will keep me going for another three years!  We had a fun drive, and the kids loved the novelty of eating tea in the car using their fingers!

What treats do you allow yourself occasionally, breaking your frugal rules?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My first order with Approved Food!

Today I took delivery of my first order from Approved Food and then spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to find a home in my kitchen for all my purchases.  Most of the things I bought had either just passed their "best before" dates or still had some time to go.  An array of things, but mostly cooking ingredients, storecupboard essentials and chocolate for the kids.  The children won't mind eating chocolate santas in March - chocolate is chocolate!

I was really impressed with the service; the delivery time was quick and well communicated, the packages were securely wrapped and protected, and as I had spent over £45 I was eligible for free delivery too.  Would recommend the website, and and will be buying from them again!

Furthermore, they have a section listing specific dietary categories on their website, including "gluten free" - great for us coeliacs.  I bought some gluten-free bourbon biscuits at a fraction of the price they cost in supermarkets.

Lunchboxes and meal plans will be based around these basics I've picked up.  My husband was impressed with the bargains - although he was slightly bemused with the case of 24 lemon juices....

I'm planning lemon drizzle cake this weekend - any other lemony ideas?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Winter comfort food - apple crumble!

A while back I had some sorry-looking apples left in the bottom of my fruit bowl, so I chopped them up and stewed them, and split the cooked apples between two food bags.  I popped these in the freezer for a rainy day.

That rainy day came last week; so out with the frozen cooked apples and an apple and cinnamon crumble was whipped up in no time.

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, add demerara sugar and cinnamon.  Press the crumble mix firmly on top of the cooked apples in an oven-proof dish. 

Half an hour in the oven at 170C or so and you have delicious, warming apple crumble ready to serve!

We were running low on milk, so instead of making custard I served this with a small tin of evaporated milk instead.  Delicious!

I tend not to make that many puddings in our house, but this crumble mix could easily be made and stored in the fridge in an airtight container, on hand ready for any fruit past its best that could be added to a crumble.

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Brrr... It's cold out there!

I can't really complain about the weather we've been having of late; despite suffering at the hands of the Big Freeze much the same as the rest of the UK, we were very lucky indeed to escape the snow that blanketed the rest of the country at the weekend.  It's not very often that we escape the snow!  We've had temperatures below zero degrees though and these last few mornings my car has been encased in a block of ice on my driveway!

The following picture is the view from the top of the Forth Road Bridge, taken yesterday morning.  Not by me I hasten to add; it was posted via the Forth Road Bridge twitter updates (@forthroadbridge).  The bridge is one of two road bridges that connects Fife to Edinburgh over the Firth of Forth. 

A stunning image capturing the freezing fog we've woken up to the last couple of mornings. 

I hope you have been managing to keep cosy despite the cold snap.  For me, a good old hot water bottle works wonders!  As I type, I have a hot water bottle on my knee and another nicely heating up my side of the bed!  We're also about to tuck into chicken tikka masala - spicy food is another way to heat you up!!

Best wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Designer birthday cakes - at a fraction of the price!

My Nana's birthday cake
Hello and welcome to my new followers, thanks for joining in, I look forward to you sharing your comments and thoughts!

One of my hobbies for a long time has been cake-making and decorating - you can read a previous post on this here.  I keep saying to myself that I am going to go on a course to learn more and consider starting my own business, but real life seems to constantly get in the way!

Once I was diagnosed with coeliac disease I faced the new challenge of mastering gluten-fee baking.  It's still a work in progress - but that's half the fun - eating all the cakes!

This weekend we are celebrating my Nana's 78th birthday, so I offered to make the cake.

On this occasion I made an 8" square vanilla sponge cake with jam and buttercream filling.  Incidentally the jam I am using at the moment is Tesco Value "mixed fruit" jam - it's about 30p a jar - and it's quite good.  Obviously not quite the same as the high-end rich fruity jams, but if you're on a budget, this jam is tasty and most importantly for us, it's seed-free and no lumpy fruity bits, which we prefer.

I'm still using up leftover white fondant icing from making my wedding cake last summer, so all I needed to buy for this cake was marzipan (£1.52).  I used leftover pink fondant icing from my daughter's birthday cake that I made back in September.  The butter I used was Stork, and the flour was Glutafin white mix - under normal circumstances you'd use SR flour.

I made 2 sponges, each with 4oz of flour, butter and sugar, and 2 eggs, with vanilla essence and a splash of milk.  I whizzed everything together with the hand mixer and cooked in my oven at around 160C (fan assisted) for about 20-25 mins.

I have a cake leveller from Lakeland which I find useful for removing the domes from the cakes.  These spare cake pieces must of course be immediately tested to make sure the cake is yummy and delicious, before proceeding!

The cake was assembled and covered with marzipan, then left overnight to dry out.

This morning I added the fondant icing and the finishing touches.

I'm pleased with the result and I'm sure my Nana will be delighted with it at the party this afternoon!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife