Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Starting the budget

We'd been away for the beginning of March so couldn't really shop to a budget too well although I tried to keep it reigned in as much as possible.  We're back now and yesterday I did my first shop with my budget of a measly £40!

Well actually it was a bit less since I spent some money in Tesco on our return home and felt I needed to include it in the totals.

It took a little bit of meal planning, a lot of list writing and a few rewrites, but I got there.

Our meal list was mostly vegetarian with a few added bits of meat leftover from a roast dinner (Mothers day!)  Here's the plan:

Bean Casserole (with added leftover pork)
Lentil lasagne
Kidney bean burgers with sweet potato wedges
salmon fishcakes and wedges
Roast chicken sunday dinner
Saturday night curry - chickpea and cauliflower curry
Chicken fajita wraps

I was one short with my needed meals and since I found some lamb reduced in the shop I decided to make a nice Irish Stew with added soda bread today for St Patricks day.

Amazingly I came in on budget, I only popped to the shops again today to get some pearl barley that I forgot to pick up for the stew.  A good store cupboard ingredient in any case!

I'm loving being back home with my cupboards of good food!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Tools for budget clean eating in the UK - Hot Deals UK

When on a tight budget it's really important to keep on top of the available deals.  This is especially so if you have a few different shops in your area that you could potentially get food from.

Hot UK Deals is a website I'm fairly familiar with, especially at Christmas time when I'm trying to get some great deals on gifts.  I generally forget about it the rest of the year though!  I remembered recently that it also has a groceries section and people often post about good food deals going on.

Not everything that will be posted will be relevant to a clean eating lifestyle of course.  The majority of deals in supermarkets are for brands of course, but it's worth checking out.  I've been looking at the site this week and noticed a deal for organic tinned chopped tomatoes from Asda.  Looks like they're rebranding and selling off their stock at 34p a tin.  Normally the cheapest organic tomatoes I can find are 80p a tin.  So when my husband was off to Asda this week I asked him to look out for some and he managed to get 8 tins at that price!

So a few tips on how to use the site:

  • Check in daily and see what the hot deals are.  This is when people have rated that a deal is worth checking out!

  • It's often worth checking through the 'new' tab as well.  Sometimes people will post something that doesn't get made 'hot' but it might still be a good deal for you.

  • If you're going to a certain supermarket then do a search for it and see if it will bring anything up.

  • Don't forget to search places like Poundland, B&M, Home Bargains, Farmfoods and Poundstretcher if you have one near.  They often have food in and may well have something 'clean'.

  • Try to stay focussed and not be seduced by offers of chocolate on cheap!!  Easier said than done!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Clean Convenience foods - soup

There is inevitably going to be some times when I'm going round the supermarket looking for a quick meal.  It happened in the past and it will happen again.  I can hope that I will always be able to rustle up a nutritious meal from the stuff in my cupboards, but I know that even if I could, there are days when I am just being lazy!

In the past we often had soup as a lazy tea.  With nice crusty bread - nom nom nom!  We all like the tomato and basil pots you can get in the fridge sections of the supermarket, but unfortunately, like lots of tomato convenience foods, it contains sugar.

However when I was in Morrisons the other day I came across a fresh carrot and butternut squash  soup from New Covent Garden in the reduced section.  I needed something for my lunch and thought it would probably be not too bad in the scheme of things.  In fact, when I looked at the ingredients - they were all clean!

Since I know there will be lazy days to be had it's just good to know what options are out there.  Not all the New Covent Garden soups are clean, but on checking their website a good few of them are.  I'll be keeping an eye out for some more and maybe stashing one or two in a freezer for those lazy days!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey

My husband says this to me all the time.  He means, take it easy, go slow and you'll get what you're after.  Well I think so anyway!

And at the moment I need to remember this.  Changing our eating habits to better ones takes some time, especially since we have older kids and even more so because of our budget.

I would absolutely love to be able to switch completely to organic produce, get local organic meat bred nearby, get the milk that I know is on the other side of the city and shop exclusively in Waitrose just buying in trendy, healthy food.  In a way I think having a bigger budget would make things so much easier.

But then I wonder if that might not be the case.  Perhaps being on a tighter budget means that we'll think more about what we're buying, we'll go down the 'real' food route of buying dried beans and food from the green grocers rather than being seduced by all the new companies selling 'clean' food.  After all, it's still convenience foods, just slightly better for you.

So I'd been feeling a bit down and a bit like I want everything now, to change over straight away and I know it's probably not achievable.  I need to do it slowly.  Once I get ourselves in to a good routine of meals we like and food we'll buy then I can start to stockpile and have a good store cupboard.  Once I have that then perhaps I'll have a bit more spare in the budget to bring in organic dairy and meats.  Then I can look to other foods.

And of course our measly budget won't be forever.  Will it?  Lol!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Recipe for Not Quite Lava soup

When my kids were much younger they were introduced to a Shrek inspired cookbook and in it was lava soup.  We tried it out at a friends house and it went down so well it became a staple of ours.  I loved the fact they would eat soup and the array of vegetables that went in it!

Over the years I've added bits to the soup and changed it slightly by adding lentils so it's not quite the same but a bit more filling.  Still has that red look of lava to it though!


1 onion
2 carrots
1 or 2 peppers (I like to use red, yellow or orange)
A good handful of red lentils
A tin of tomatoes (chopped or plum, doesn't matter!)
about 500ml of water
salt and pepper
1 tsp of dried basil

Roughly chop all veg that needs it and throw in a pan with the tomatoes, lentils, water and seasoning.  Give a good mix and bring to the boil.  Once boiled, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 mins until the lentils are all cooked and mushy.

You can eat it as it is, but we always blend it up with a hand blender.  Check for if it needs any more seasoning and ENJOY!

The soup can also be made with stock - homemade is best!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Good habits

Forming some good habits seem to be key with any new lifestyle and this one is no exception.  Checking nutritional info and just generally heading towards the non processed food rather than the convenience items is a biggy.  

I want to also form a good habit with blogging and I at least want to post every day of March.  I may miss a couple when I'm travelling, but I hope and am aiming not to!

Which is why this post is short and sweet, I almost forgot to blog today.  I had been reading a fab book called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  I think it had been recommended on a clean eating blog I came across a while back and I just started reading it.  I know, no excuse not to blog though!  Maybe I'll do a proper review of the book once I'm finished it.

Anyway today's food - 

Breakfast - porridge and honey

Lunch - leftover chilli and rice with steamed kale

Dinner - home made soup (recipe tomorrow!) and some bread with some yoghurt and grapes for dessert

Snacks - Banana, some dried pineapple (from Urban Fruit - was so yummy!) and 2 oatcakes.

Thoughts - I felt much better with some green veg today!  We walked to the shops to get some and it was worth the 5 mile walk!  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

This budget just got real!

We've always had pretty low shopping budget when my mind has been on the pennies (and it often is).  When we decided to change our eating habits and 'eat clean' then I was intrigued as to how budget a lifestyle like this could be.

I'd originally considered a £60 per week budget.  In times gone by this would have been a luxurious amount after I'd stocked up on basic brand spaghetti and rice!  No more though.  I've spent the last month wondering if this will be enough and came to the conclusion that I think we could eat well but it would require some definite thought, planning and shopping around.  Wouldn't be easy though!


and here's the big spanner in the works.  My husband has just this past week had some bad news regarding his work.  He may not have a job soon and he's on reduced hours.  All of a sudden £60 a week feels way too much.

So for a little while at least I'm aiming to bring this down even further.  I'd love to keep to £40 a week for the foreseeable future and see how we're doing.

With this tight a budget I can see a couple of things happening:

  • definitely no organic or free range dairy and meat products.  I'd like to eventually get to a stage of having them, but for now, until I find my feet in this budget it may have to not be a part of our diet.
  • We'll only be able to build stores very slowly.  Unfortunately I don't have huge store cupboards full of ingredients since we have been travelling for six months and are just setting up a home again.
  • Some preservatives might creep in, for example in tinned tomatoes the non organic seem to have citric acid added (I have no idea if this is ok at the moment) and perhaps in some dried fruit. 
  • Variety might take a back seat.  

One good thing recently is that I've been stocking up very slowly with only 'clean' items.  So there's not a huge amount to use that isn't ideal.  We do have some white pasta around so until that's gone we'll just use half white half wholemeal.  It means there's no waste, but we're still on the right track.  While on a very tight budget wasting food seems daft.

My mum also gave me some huge bags of dried beans the other day too so although I wasn't planning to use dried beans I will be now!  

So today's adventures in clean eating went something like this:

Breakfast: Porridge and honey

Lunch: 2 bonfire eggs on toast with cherry tomatoes

Dinner:  Chilli with brown rice (made at same time as bolognese)

Snacks:  Banana, apple and some oatcakes

Thoughts: Again we're limited for the first couple of weeks in March since we're in the countryside with no big shops nearby.  I'm feeling like I could definitely do with some more veg or salad though so we're planning a big walk to the shops tomorrow and I'll see what I can get.  Hopefully some carrots and maybe spring greens?