Monday, 31 March 2014

Extreme food waste.

Food waste makes me sad, I hate it!!  I am really proud that we waste very little food in our house, due to our mutual dislike of waste but also because we have no desire to waste money.  Of course having chickens in the garden really help with those table scraps, that you always get with having young children.
 According to the Love Food Hate Waste website:
"Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten."

This is  a subject that has had lots of media coverage of late,  there have been many tools set up to help people use up their left overs and oddments at home.
But what about businesses?   I would have thought that hospitality venues, would be keen to monitor their food waste as after all food waste equals a loss in profits.

"Research from WRAP in 2009 found UK hotels, pubs, restaurants and quick service restaurants disposed of 600,000 tonnes of food waste."
Last week I witness some of this extreme waste for myself.  My hubby started a new position as the Executive Head Chef of a local hotel, knowing that he was extremely busy I offered my services for a few hours.  I was asked to organise the dry store, as I am pretty good at organising and tidying.   So I organised all the shelves for the dry products, then I went on to the fruit and veg.  During this time I threw away two loaves of bread (but I did ask if I could take these for the chicken ha ha) and a couple of lemons.  Hubby asked me to clean and sort the fridges, first the salad fridge that was cleaned with no dramas. I then moved onto the meat and dairy fridge, it was like a graveyard.  I was threw away a whole box of smoked haddock fillets, buckets of duck legs and breasts,  a box of fillet steaks plus countless buckets of oddments, beef cubed up of casseroling, bones for stock, sauces and more.  This detritus had cost the hotel about £400, and someone had not had the sense to use it up.  All the time that I was sorting this out I could not help thinking , that this would have fed my family of five for more than three weeks.  I disgusted me to bin it all, but what can you do when its all rotten?  I tried to think of a way to remedy this situation, but I know that Hubby is much more organised and will not allow his kitchen to get into such a state.  But I have also struck a deal so that hubby brings home bits for our chickens, in return for some eggs for work.  Win win.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Cheese and Potato Bake

Last week a friend sent me a link to a recipe that had become a favourite with her family, she had taken the idea from Netmums.  I have found Netmums a good source of  frugal recipes, but I found that I could tweak them to be a bit more to our taste and budget.  This dish calls for leftover roast chicken, but I think that any bits that you have in the fridge will work just as well. I used a few bacon lardons and a leek from the garden.  I have not given amounts for the recipe, as that will depend on how many you are feeding, and what you have available.
- Potatoes.
- Cheese sauce.
- Cheese.
- whatever left overs you have in the fridge (bacon, chicken, mushrooms, onion, leeks, sweet corn  etc.).
-Layer a ovenproof dish with thinly sliced potato.
-Lightly fry some chopped onion, mushrooms and bacon lardons  or whatever takes your fancy. Mix  together with the cooked left over chicken, if you have it.
-Spread this mixture over the potato slices and top with a layer of cheese sauce. Then a layer it up like a lasagne.  Finishing off on top with a layer of grated cheese.
-Pop in oven (180 C/Gas 4) for about an hour, but check that the potato is cooked. 
This is nice eaten with leafy salad, but again that depends on your budget.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we all did, this is now set to regular appearance on our meal planner.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Frugal February.

For the last couple of weeks I have been racking my brains as to how we can save more money around the house.  I have read so many ideas on websites and blogs, but I thought I'd share some of the things that we are already doing in the hope that something may help someone else.

1) Second hand clothing for kids and myself. We are really lucky that we get given lots of hand me down clothes for DD2 and DS.

2) Meal planning and cook from scratch. I try to cook the amount needed to avoid leftovers.

3) Grow as much veggies and fruit as possible.  Preserve gluts of this food by making jam, chutney or freezing. If all else fails feed it to the chooks.

4) Swap/barter for things. I recently swapped homemade jam for some bookcases for my sons bedroom.  But my favourite swap ever was eggs for Eco tampons. That one never fails to raise a smile from others.

5) Looking in skips. Some of the raised beds in my garden as made with wood from a skip, same goes for my garden table.  In the past I have picked up a table lamp from an expensive High Street retailer, complete with a £55.00 price label.
6)This is one that everyone is talking about at this time of year, but keep the central heating turned  down as low as you can cope with.  We have cavity wall and loft insulation, which help a bit.
7) Saving water.  Last year our water company were offering free water saving devices to all of their customers.  I jumped at the chance, and they were fitted for free to. These included tap aerator inserts, aerating shower heads and water saving bags that go in the toilet cisterns (we already had these).  We also only run the dish washer and washing when they are full. Sorry to gross anyone out, but we stick to the old rhythm of "if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down".  We try to only shower, but sometimes as we all know only a bath will do. We also have a water butt in the garden.  Last month we received our water bill, and our water usage is the same amount as the average two person household.  I was thrilled with that, clue smiley face.
8) Save electric. We don't own  a tumble dryer, many of my friends can not fathom this at all.  Instead I line dry, or hang over the banister or clothes horse.
I would love to hear anyone else's money saving tips.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

New Chookies.

Last summer my five hens decided that they were no longer going to lay eggs for us, but since then we have sadly lost two of the oldest ladies.
So when a Mum at school offered us four more hens, I jumped at the change. My youngest and I went to see the birds on Friday, and WOW they were a bunch of beautiful ladies.  We were over the moon, and bought the birds home to live in our back garden. Sadly my photos are not brilliant, and one lady was a little camera shy.

In the top photo we have a Speckedly and a  White Star.  We have another Speckedly, who's feathers are super soft.  She is a real character, and recently visited our girls school were she was a big hit.  Hopefully our new Speckedly will be as fantastic. We lost our old White Star, they are fantastic layers of pure white eggs.
The bottom photo is a Cream Legbar,  this pretty girl should lay me some blue eggs.  I have wanted one of this breed for a long long time.  My Light Sussex girl managed to escape the camera, but she is equally as lovely as the other three. 
I think that chickens make the most fantastic pet, they can become really tame and give cuddles.  They eat all of the scraps that you have, and bits from the veg garden that you are not going to eat. You can use all of the old bedding and poop to fertilise your vegetable beds.  When I last worked it out their  layers pellets cost less than £1 a week.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sowing the seeds of ......................

Today I have dusted off the tin that I keep all of my vegetable seeds in, and attempted to work out what we will be growing this year. This is always such a great time for me, I am filled with excitement and hope for the forth coming growing season   I always want  to try and grow as much as possible, so that we have amazing fresh food and save money at the same time.  I love the summer days when everything for dinner comes from the garden, these are normally omelettes and salad or ratatouille.

Hubby and I went a little crazy at the end of last summer at our local garden centres sale, and bought lots of packets of seeds for 50p each. Last year I also started saving our own vegetable seeds, (we had lots of success the year before saving flower seeds) I saved seeds from runner beans, broad beans and sugar snap peas. Its a really simple process of leaving the pods to dry out,  then removing the seeds, and storing them in paper envelops in a dry place.  Today I managed to sort out the seeds that we will not use, as we now do not have our allotment and I have donated some to my girls primary school for use in their allotment.  The school have the most amazing allotment, it is situated on an island just a stones throw from the school.  They have a shed, raised beds, mature fruit trees and a big grassy area that they use for forest school.   I am hoping to go and help the children with their planting, I always find helping them to be extremely rewarding and so much fun.

Next month I will sew my tomato plant seeds indoors, and try to get an early start on the plants.  As last year we were really late in starting to  pick tomatoes, but they did carried on through until October.  I will also start the peas off early, as my kids can never get enough of them.  Last year I managed two plantings of peas, but the third and fourth failed thanks to help from my chickens and some dodgy germination.  Peas rarely make it into the house here, the kids pick them for snacks whilst playing.  This is also true for the strawberries, sugar snaps and my middle child has a thing about red currants. 

A while ago now I was asked what sort of gardener I am, I answered that I am a survivalist gardener.  Its a miracle if any of my plants survive the" help" that I receive from my cats, chickens and children :-).

Friday, 17 January 2014

Cheese and Onion soup

A friend of mine was talking about an amazing soup that she has recently made, it had become a firm favourite with her family.  Once I found out that it was really cheap to make, I asked her for the recipe. I am always interested in frugal recipe, that help me to keep to the food shopping budget. I made this Cheese and Onion soup and WOW, I love it!!!


  • 2 chopped Onions (you can use red or white, I have even used Welsh Onions from my garden)
  • 3 pints of chicken stock
  • A handful of Grated cheese
  • Seasoning

  1. Chop the onions, and fry them gently in the butter.
  2. Once the onions are soft, add the chicken stock. 
  3. Add the grated cheese, stir until melted.
  4. Blitz with your stick blender.
  5. Season to taste.
All amounts are approximant, as I keep tasting as I go when I make it.
A slight variation that another friend came up with, was to make the soup without the cheese. Then make cheese on toast, once the soup is in the bowl float the cheese and toast on top.  I have to admit that I love this version too, and it makes my lunch a bit more filling.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Breakfast ideas.

We very rarely buy or eat any processed food, and choosing instead make most things from scratch. But breakfast gave me lots of cause for thought, as my children love cereal.  As most other Mums I am in a rush in the mornings,as my girls go to a school eleven miles from our home. So cereals on a school morning were fast and convenient.
I tried to choose healthy option cereals, but my kids always wanted the type that are marketed at them.  Either those or the very expensive diet version of cereals that contain  the freeze dried fruit, if I bought that type I could easily spend £8.00 a week just on cereal. It wasn't just the cost that I was concerned about I was also the amount of sugar, preservatives and general junk that they were consuming.  After eating cereals the children were never full for very long, and would want snacks before lunch.
So in August of last year I stopped buying cereals, with the hope that by the time that the kids went back to school in September I would be up to speed.  We have experimented with lots of different recipes and ideas. I made breakfast muffins that contained different seeds and dried fruit, I thought these were yummy but my middle child acted like I was trying to poison her. The fantastic thing was that these frozen and de-frosted beautifully, making them a brilliant back up.  The standard mid week breakfasts are now yoghurt, fresh fruit, wholemeal toast with homemade jam and porridge. When I have more time we made crumpets, American style pancakes, and cinnamon buns.  When Mr Sunflower Gal is home he likes a bacon sandwich, poached eggs, or the occasional full English for brunch. 
As I said at the start of this post we made most things from scratch,  however I do like bargain. When I see English Muffins, broche, croissants or pain au chocolate reduced  I do buy them for a treat, who could resist a Broche loaf for 19p?? Yummy toasted with some homemade jam. Below are homemade Cinnamon buns, shout if anyone would like the recipe.