Spinach Pesto And Avocado Pasta – 37p each

This pasta was so delicious and creamy, super simple and really cheap. It works out at 37p a serving for the four of us. The prices are based on Tesco, because that is where we do most of our shopping but this recipe could work out even cheaper if you bought in bulk from elsewhere and/or used reduced items.

 

Ingredients

Pesto – makes about 5tbsp

  • 50g sunflower seeds – 37p (£1.10 150g)
  • 200g spinach – £1.00 (we actually bought our spinach reduced for 63p, but it is normally £1)
  • 2 x cloves garlic – 6p (30p bulb)
  • 2 x tbsp olive oil – 11p (£3.60 1Ltr)

Pasta

  • 300g spaghetti – 12p (20p 500g)
  • 2 x frozen avocado halves (defrosted) – 56p (£2.50 for approx. 9 halves)
  • salt + pepper – 2p

 

 

Throw all the ingredients into the blender and mix until nice and chunky. Chunky is good for this because we will thin it down later with the pasta water.

 

 

This makes about 5tbsp but we only need half for this pasta.

 

 

Next cook the pasta according to the instructions and save some of the cooking water. Then mix the pesto and the avocado into the pasta and some of the cooking water to get a silky sauce.

 

 

Voila! It’s done! We ate ours with baby toms (reduced) and homemade garlic flatbread (recipe to come) but thats because we are greedy. You could definitely eat the pasta on it’s own and be completely satisfied!

This more of a template rather than a recipe and subbing some of the ingredients for what you have on hand, find on offer or reduced will result in a different dish each time. The spinach could be substituted for any leafy green, as could the sunflower seeds for any nut. Nutritional yeast or ‘vegan parmesan’ would be amazing sprinkled on the top, we would normally have done this but we had run out and I was feeling too lazy to go to the shop. This would also have raised the price by about 5p, depending how much we used.

 

 

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5 Frugal Ways To Beat The Blues

I really struggle with January. The low light levels, short days and cold weather really get to me every year. I get tired easily, cranky and impatient and this year with our self-imposed strict budget I feel even more rubbish. Lack of motivation and enthusiasm means at times all I want to do is grab a bottle of wine, order a take-away and wallow in self-pity on the sofa because the goal of saving so much money seems impossible.

So far I have resisted the urge to throw in the frugal towel and buy a quick happiness fix. These are the things that I’ve been trying to do to lift my mood without spending any extra money.

1. Eat more avocados.

I love avocados and immediately feel nourished after eating one but they can be a bit pricy and to be honest I haven’t had a ‘good’ avo from a UK supermarket for a while. They are either mushy and tasteless or woody and tasteless. Not good. However recently I have been buying these frozen avocado’s from Tesco.

They cost £2.50 and you get about 9 in a pack so just under 28p each which I don’t think is bad when you consider they won’t go over ripe and you are getting a consistent product. I wouldn’t eat these as I would a fresh avocado, they go mushy when they are defrosted, but they are absolutely brilliant for adding to smoothies, guacamole and mushed up as a dressing for salad. You really can’t tell the difference.

2. Walk more

I am the biggest fan of walking and drag everyone out most weekends for a long old ramble. Going for a walk is the best way to get the kids out of the house, burn off extra energy and engage with nature. It also (like any other exercise) produces pain killing, mood-boosting endorphins……and the best bit? It’s 100% free!

3. Increasing my B12

B12 is necessary for pysocological well-being and a deficiency can cause poor brain function, memory loss, low moods and in extreme cases severe depression. B12 is only found naturally in animal derived products and as I eat a vegan diet I have to be careful to make sure I eat enough fortified foods, such as almond milk, soy yogurt and every vegans favourite…..nutritional yeast (my kids call them cheesy sprinkles). When ever I feel my moods swinging low I try to up my B12 intake just in case. That means putting cheesy sprinkles on anything and everything and stocking up on Alpro yogurt, which conveniently have been on offer in Tesco this week!

4. Eat chocolate

Everyone says it but it’s true. Dark chocolate contains a number of chemicals that work to make us happy: theobromine produces a chemical ‘high’ similar to that we get from caffeine, phenylethylalanine combines with dopamine in the brain to produce an antidepressant effect and tryptophan is used by the brain to make serotonin, which in turn is responsible for maintaining mood balance. Brilliant. A little bit of chocolate can go a long way to improving moods.

5. Sleep more.

A lack of sleep can cause depression, and likewise depression can cause bad sleeping patterns. I have suffered with inconsistent sleep patterns for years and it really does affect my moods dramatically. Recently I have been using the bedtime app on my phone to try and help me get the 8 hours I need.

 

It tells me (with a little lullaby) at quarter past 10 that it’s time to get ready for bed and wakes me up very gently with birdsong in the morning. An app probably isn’t necessary for everyone but I have found it a really useful tool and have noticed my moods improving when I have been able to achieve a good 8 hours.

What things would you recommend to try to beat the January blues?

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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!

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How To Save Money On Food Shopping

When saving 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. Over the years I have found a few ways to cut back on our food shopping and today I’m going to share them with you.

  • Always make a meal plan. This is rule number 1 and the first thing every money saving expert will tell you. I always make a meal plan at the beginning of the week according to what we have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. However I allow a bit of flexibility in that plan. For instance I make a list of 7 meals that we can make but don’t allocate days to them, that way we can decide what we want to eat that day according to moods, time constraints and hunger levels. I also build meals around one staple ingredient but don’t specify the other things that will bulk it out. An example weekly list of meals for us will be something like this: stir fry, risotto, pasta, jacket potato+salad, soup, veggie bean wraps and casserole. I generally don’t follow recipes but use them as templates. For example I know I need to get noodles for stir fry, rice for risotto etc. but instead of specifying what vegetables I’m buying I allocate a number of pounds. That way I can see what is on offer or reduced and work with that.
  • Check the prices on mysupermarket.com. This is a tad time consuming but completely worth it. I save on average  £3 a week by comparing prices between supermarkets and taking advantages of offers. £3 doesn’t seem like a lot but thats £12 a month, which is £144 a year. This is the equivalent of 5 weeks shopping for us!
  • Put the prices you have checked next to the items on your list. That way if they don’t have that specific item you can substitute for a similar priced item and make adjustments as you go.
  • Make your list in groups according to how the shop is laid out. Bakery products, tins, frozen etc. It makes it quicker to get round the shop and less time for you to fall into the traps the supermarkets set. We know their tricks and we will not fall for them!
  • Everyone tells you not to go shopping when you are hungry. Add hungover to that list!
  • Know the quietest times to shop. Usually this is weekdays between 8.30 and 9.30 (school run time so not that convenient) lunch times and after 7 at night. When the shop is quieter it’s less stressful and you have more time to think about what you are putting in your trolley rather then making spur of the moment decisions.
  • Get to know where the reduced sections are and the best times to visit them. For us it’s after 6 on a Tuesday evening. This is where we load up on reduced fruit and veg, but only within the constraints of our meal plan budget. For example I might have allocated £1 to veg for a stir fry but if I only spend 39p the rest I can put toward things to go in the freezer. This also applies to bread and tinned/packet stuff.
  • Take something to distract the kids. I usually make them their own list of stuff to find, or give them 50p to each pick a treat (Reuben has been known to pick brussels sprouts for his treat). Tesco’s have recently brought out a free fruit scheme, which is a brilliant idea and keeps the kids so happy. If I’m quick I can get round the whole shop while they are munching away on an apple or peeling an orange. Far less stressful (see above).
  • Cut out meat and dairy products. Or if you really don’t want to do that at least cut back. We eat a vegan diet, which is one of the reasons our food budget is so low. The average weekly spend on food in the UK is about £60. Ours is between £20 and £25 for two adults, two children and four rabbits. This includes non-food items such as cleaning products and toilet roll. Obviously there are a lot of good reasons to be vegan, saving money on shopping is just one of them ……… and yes we are perfectly healthy!
  • Grow some of your own fruit, veg and herbs at home. I know this isn’t practical for everyone, but it can be easier then you think it is and definitely more fun! I plan to write a post soon about how to get started growing your own regardless of space, time, budget and experience, so watch this space!

So there you have it. A few ways we put money back in our pocket, rather than the supermarket’s. What money saving tips would you add to this list?

 

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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!

 

 

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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 😀.

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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, the boys clubs, special occasions etc.

 

  • 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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