The Best Value Store Cupboard Staples For Cooking On A Budget

I was going to call this post ‘The Best Value Foods For Vegans On A Budget’ but really it’s a list for anyone, regardless of dietary choices.

This list is based on the fibre, protein content and cost per the serving size suggestion. I don’t over worry about the nutritional content of food as I know if we eat a healthy, varied diet and so are probably getting everything we need. However I am interested in getting the most bang for my buck and as protein and fibre are thought to be the two things most responsible for filling you up this is what I’m concentrating on here.

This is based on prices at Tesco at the moment as the is where we do the bulk of our shopping.

 

  • Popcorn 19p per 50g

A brilliant snack that has 6.9g of protein and 7.6g of fibre per serving size. I usually sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, sugar or nutritional yeast for a cheesy tang and the boys think I’m a wonderful mummy giving them a naughty treat. They have no idea I’m filling them up with good stuff.

  • Baked Beans 12p per 210g

We have beans on toast once a week when we have to chow down quick to get to karate class. With 7.8g of protein and 9.2g of fibre per serving.

  • Turtle Beans 28p per 80g

Also called black beans they are usually used in Mexican dishes. We have only just started cooking with these but with 6.5g of protein and 4.2g of fibre I think we will be using them a lot more.

  • Chickpeas 18p per 80g

Chickpeas on everything I say. We love chickpeas A LOT, in every form: hummus, falafel, chicken look-a-likee burgers, roasted as a snack, in pasta, in curries…..Reubs has even been known to help himself to them straight out of the fridge.  6.7g of protein and 3.4g of fibre per serving.

  • Green Lentils 18p per 80g

We generally use green lentils as a replacement in any recipe that calls for mince. Protein 7.0g fibre 3.0g per serving.

  • Oats 4p per 50g

It’s porridge for brekkie nearly every day because it’s cheap fills us up properly until lunchtime. The boys like dried fruit, jam or cacao in theirs. I like a dollop of peanut butter for an added protein hit…..and peanut butter on everything! Protein 5.5g, fibre 4.3g per serving.

  • Black Eyed Beans 18p per 80g

As with turtle beans, black eyed beans are great for Mexican foods. Throwing them in chilli with other beans and green lentils is our favourite way to use them. We generally cook a chilli in bulk then have burritos and load up jacket potatoes with the extra. Protein 7g and fibre 2.8g per serving.

  • Quinoa 39p per 50g

With 6.5g of protein and 1.4g of fibre per serving everybody knows quinoa is king in the vegan world. It took me a good long time to enjoy eating it because I thought it was soggy and metallic and generally NOT very nice. I couldn’t see what everyone was raving about. Turns out though I was cooking it wrong. Instead of following the back of packet I used this method then bingo. Converted.

  • Red Lentils 14p per 80g

Great for curries, dhal and filling out rooty soups. Protein 6.1g and fibre 1.5g per serving.

  • Brown Rice 11p per 75g

Who knows whether white or brown rice is better health wise? There seems to be arguments on both sides of the fence but while brown is more expensive then it’s white counterpart, I like it’s nutty flavour and think it’s much more filling.  Protein 5.2g and fibre 1.4g per serving.

  • Peanut Butter 2p per 15g

As I said before peanut butter on everything! Protein 3.6g and fibre 1.3g per serving.

  • Barley 9p per 80g

There’s something about barley that is super comforting to me. It’s chewy and nutty and super filling…….and there really is nothing better then a bowl of hearty broth or stew when you are feeling a bit down. It’s also a great alternative to rice in risotto as it’s cheaper and you don’t have to worry so much about over cooking/ ruining dinner. Protein 1.8g and fibre 3g per serving.

We try to have as many of these in the cupboard as possible to use as vehicles for whatever veggies are the cheapest or reduced at the time. Obviously adding as many fruits or veggies to these ups the fibre and nutrition content enormously.

What would you add to the list?

 

 

 

Continue Reading

5 Frugal Things

This week has been a good one. I have been going for a run almost every day and walking every eve with the kids after school so I feel energised, motivated…….and really really hungry due to my increased energy output. So this weeks frugal 5 is a little bit food oriented.

1. Doing some shopping the other day I noticed that all the hummus had that days date on, so I asked a nearby assistant if they were going to be reduced at some point and she laughed and did it there and then. The only sticker she had was a 25p one so bargain central! I got 75p off, just for asking. I got two, which lasted about two days. At that point I kicked myself for not getting more but we live and learn don’t we? I’m so proud of myself though, I never thought I would be brave enough to ask that sort of thing but now I know that if you don’t ask you don’t get. I will definitely by asking more from now on.

2. I cooked a whole bag of chickpeas at once to save time and energy. We have been using them up throughout the week. I used most of them in a double batch of my ‘can’t tell the difference chickpea burgers’ the boys love them and thought they were actually the Quorn chicken burgers for a while. The rest went in chickpea, kale and nut balls, two different batches of hummus (we LOVE hummus) and Reubs just helping himself to them from the fridge!

3. I got 4 broccoli heads for the reduced price of £1.20. This has made a batch of creamy broccoli soup for 4 people, a pesto and broccoli barley risotto, been the side for a seitan steak and chips one night and used in a stir fry. Bargain.

4. I’v been using the lemon rinds leftover from cooking in my tea this week. My favourite tea at the moment is a lemon and ginger (£1 for 40 bags at Aldi), which I then add a dash of turmeric and a pinch of black pepper to. This combo is a brilliant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory swell as many other health benefits. Adding the leftover lemons adds an additional bit of Vit C to the mix. It didn’t stop there though, I then added the rind that I’d used in my tea in my mop bucket to make the house smell fresh as a daisy.

5. The one non-food frugal thing this week is Tom cycling to work everyday. I do feel slightly bad for him cycling in this weather but he doesn’t seem to mind. Between you and me he’s been pretty happy about it (must be the endorphins) and it not only means less diesel used, we also save on water usage because he showers at work. Win, win, win!

Happy frugalling!

Continue Reading

The ‘Don’t Make A Meal Plan’ Challenge

When starting to save money one of the areas that is the most flexible is the food budget. Unlike rent, council tax and insurance payments we can control what food we buy and how much we spend on it. Everyone always says that to save money on food shopping you should make a meal plan and list and ALWAYS stick to that list. It’s what my nan did, my mum did and basically what everyone advises to do. I get why this is good advice, if you do one big shop a week with no clear idea of what you want you impulse buy, more often then not forget what you went for in the first place and have to go back again to get it, becoming vulnerable a second time to the traps the supermarkets have set to make us spend more……and probably spending more.

However I’ve come to think there may be a flaw in this advice, maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me. I have always tried to stick to the plan of only going shopping once a week (definitely not whilst hungry) with a comprehensive meal plan in mind and a list. Yet we have always gone over our shopping budget. For a variety of reasons:

  • I love a bargain (doesn’t everyone). If I see something reduced I think ‘YES, I’ll get that’ but instead of subbing for something already in the trolly, I buy it aswell.
  • I see a half price offer, or BOGOF on something that we use regularly then it’s ‘YES what a bargain, that will come in handy’ but again it wasn’t on the list and so straight away I’m over budget.
  • OR and this is the biggie and most common problem, what if I change my mind about what I want to eat later in the week. Often we eat according to moods: comfort foods on ‘crappy’ days, salads on ‘I’m not hungry’ days (not that that really happens here), fast food on ‘I just want to veg in front of the T.V.’ days. So how am I to know what mood we will be in on a Thursday on Monday? Who knows!

So I am going to do something different for a while. Something completely off book. I am not going to plan meals or write shopping lists any more (or at least for a while). There will still be a budget for food but I will take it out as cash at the beginning of the month and ONLY use that. No cards allowed and when the cash runs out it runs out. Obviously there are staples that we buy every week, a lot of almond milk, bread etc., but I won’t be doing a ‘shop’ on a designated day. If we run out of something vital or if the fridge is empty I’ll go to the shop and see what they have reduced or on offer and I will cook with that.

It will give me a chance to improvise and use up the odds and ends in cupboards, the fridge and the freezer. It might even make us be more creative in the kitchen…….and it might (hopefully) save us some money! Well that’s the plan anyway.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

Continue Reading

Our Little Plot

In our house we eat a LOT. With two growing boys and a husband with a seemingly empty stomach one of the biggest areas of spending for us is our food budget. I try to pack as much fruit, veg and general good stuff into the boys diet as possible and sometimes this can really add up. One way for us to save on food shopping would be to grow more of our own. The problem is, along with approximately 90,000 other people in the UK, we are on an allotment waiting list and have been for the last 5 years.  We try to grow as much as we can in our garden but as we rent our house and we are limited to what we can achieve. It’s not impossible (we have a lot of containers) it’s just not ideal.

I have longed for more space to grow my own for as long as I can remember. So last year I was lucky to become involved with a community growing scheme just down the road from where we live. A house had burned down and the owner didn’t know what to do with the land it stood on. He didn’t want to sell it for sentimental reasons but didn’t know what else to do with it. After a good couple of years of it standing neglected and overgrown he decided to donate it to the community to set up a growing group. His rent is an apple pie a year from the trees that grow on the land. Very generous I think you will agree!

The committee decided what elements to include in the garden: a vegetable growing area, sensory planting area, undercover space for demos etc., an section for the local bee group to plant up and practical things such as water collection and composting. It was really important that the garden be accessible to all those in the community, young, elderly and the disabled. Taking into account everyone’s input, this is the plan I produced.

 

This is what the site looks like a year ago, compared with today. It’s a vast improvement!

Pretty amazing no? The process of getting the site secure and ready for growing has been a long one and there’s still a fair bit of work to do but we are super proud of what has been achieved and have received really positive feedback from everyone who walks by.

Obviously the really exciting bit for me is the veggie growing area. It is divided up between different families and we have a little 2m square plot and are soon to take on another strip in the spring. The boys decided what they wanted to plant and they drew up some very imaginative and exotic plans. Unfortunately I had to explain that oranges won’t grow in this country and sunflowers weren’t the best bet for planting in September so in the end we settled on radishes (because Peter Rabbit loves radishes obvs), carrots, pak choi, giant mustard and kale.

The real beauty of this scheme though is the sharing of produce. Anybody is welcome to help themselves to anything that is grown in the garden, we all have an understanding and nobody takes advantage, it’s really lovely.

Growing your own produce is brilliant for so many reasons: it tastes better then shop bought – FACT, it keeps your food bill a bit lower, outside is best….and free, learning about soil, the water cycle and where food comes from is great for kids and makes them appreciate the food more, gardening is good for the soul……and loads of other reasons that I can’t quite think of right now.

So if you don’t have a great deal of space at home and an allotment space isn’t looking likely anytime soon find a community growing group. This site is great for finding groups around the country, the RHS is a great resource and though sadly Landshare.org is no more, there might be a local group you can find through Facebook or similar!

 

 

Continue Reading

5 Frugal Things

This week probably wasn’t the best one to start our saving challenge on. It began with New Years Eve and a party at our friends house, another friends birthday and the boys needing new P.E. kits. We bought vegan wine and snacks to take to the party just in case there wasn’t anything we could have, along with a plant as a gift and another bottle of wine for our friend. The boys kits ended up costing a LOT more then last time and Noah also needed new pumps. All of which meant we spent more then I would have liked. Anyhoo we didn’t go over budget and actually ended up saving on somethings thanks to this frugal 5.

1. On Monday we went to the cinema to see Rogue One. Tickets are £5 each on a Monday and luckily Father Christmas, knowing what Star Wars fans the boys are, brought them a cinema voucher for £20 😉 so that was handy. Not wanting to spend an extortionate amount on snacks we popped our own corn, which I put in individual paper bags, divied up some leftover Christmas sweets and took bottles of squash. Happy days.

 

2. Early on in the week we ran out of hand wash so I made some and it works! I had some liquid Castile soap hanging around from a couple of years ago mixed it with water at a ratio of about 1:3 (I measured by eye) and a few drops of lemon and tea tree essential oil. It smells wonderful and in an old Neal’s Yard bottle looks pretty fancy too.

3. This week also marked my first attempt at making bread. Tom is the baker in our house and makes wonderful bread but it usually takes a long time (perfection you know) and as he works long shifts it’s not practical for him to make it on a regular basis. However I discovered this amazing AMAZING no knead bread. It also takes a long time (18 hours) but absolutely no work. Mix it, leave it, bake it.  The recipe I followed is here. It might not look great but it tastes like a good sourdough and I have made a few this week, including one with poppy and sunflower seeds in.

4. I cut my own hair………but I don’t want to talk about it and I definitely didn’t take pictures.

5. Every day after school this week we have been going for a walk. I think it’s nice for the boys to stretch their legs and as it means we get home that little bit later they haven’t been watching any T.V. in the evenings at all, which is brilliant as we are trying to cut down on our electricity bill. I hope we can keep this up throughout the year, especially as it starts to get lighter.

I think we have done really well this week. Lets hope we can keep it up 😀.

Continue Reading

2017 Goals

 

My main goal for 2017 is to become debt free. In the interests of transparency that is just below the £8000 mark. It makes me want to cry seeing that figure but it needs to be done. I have had my head buried in the sand for far too long and that is why we are in this financial black hole.

I also have a dream of being able to put £5000 into savings……this may be a stretch but it’s worth a go.

So putting aside £13,000 this year. How are we going to achieve these crazy aims?

  • STICK TO BUDGET. I’ve been drawing up a budget every month for years but really never stuck to it. I always had a little ‘extra’ put aside for treats and things….and most of the time we went over budget on that too. This year there is no ‘extra’. I have also changed the way we budget for savings, it was always what we had left after bills, food and extras. This year I’m taking out a fixed £500 a month for savings before I budget for food. This means most weeks our food budget will be around the £25 mark. For 2 adults, 2 growing boys and 4 rabbits this is going to be tricky but I’m confident.

 

  • Live on Tom’s income only. I am going to ignore the money I make this year and put every penny into savings. To hit our target I have to make £600 profit a month. This doesn’t sound that much but as I have just started my business 6 months ago I only have a handful of clients and as a gardener/designer my work is very much seasonal. I’m going to work harder then ever to drum up new business, especially the design side….and finally master this social media thing 😬.

 

  • Sell, sell, sell. Our house is full of STUFF. When we moved into our house 4 years ago we had a drawer for all the crap we had accumulated which we called the ‘drawer of doom’. As well as the drawer we now have a ‘cupboard of doom’, a ‘room of doom’ and a ‘garage of doom’ that includes 2  sofas, a dinning room table, an exercise bike and a cross trainer. We do not need these things. They have to go.

 

  • Be more organised. By this I mean look at the month ahead and plan for school and karate payments, birthday parties and anything else that might crop up to cost money. In the past I have been a bit rubbish about remembering these things which ultimately results in last minute presents being bought without sourcing the cheapest options and going over budget for school related things.

 

Im going into 2017 feeling confident and motivated. Its a challenge but I’ve come to realise that I love a challenge. I am competitive so if I treat money saving like a game I know I will win.

By being totally transparent this blog is going to help me keep track of our spending, see where we are going wrong and how we can do better. It will be hard but we CAN do this………I think.

Oh my days wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading