Cosy days – Weekly Meal Plan – October 5th

I’m getting a little bit obsessed with meal plans and what other people are doing with theirs. I’m even watching YouTube videos showing what people ate in a week for ideas and inspiration. This is all building up to our 2021 challenge of spending as little as possible on groceries and other expenses to allow us to overpay the mortgage. It’s really exciting for me (please don’t roll your eyes 😉 ). We’ve been saving hard through 2020 to have a pot of money to call on for necessities, as we still have projects on the smallholding which feed in to longer term savings. I’ll post those over on Our Smallholding Adventure blog that we run. Do join us there if you haven’t already, we would love your company.

I’ve enjoyed making apple sauce from our own cooking apples in the slow cooker. It’s lovely to be able to put them in and walk away. I’ve dusted these with sugar and lemon juice and put them on for a couple of hours on low. The result is lovely and freezes very well. I tried some warmed with cold Greek Yoghurt and it was delish. Maybe served over porridge, rice pudding or as a side to our home reared pork….yum!

Here’s the meal plan I have put together for this coming week.

Monday:  Instant Pot honey and mustard chicken thighs, brown rice and green vegetables

Tuesday:  Taco bar with salad and extra rice left over from Monday.

Wednesday:  Rich beef and prunes casserole

Thursday:  Roast chicken, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

Friday: Fajitas – chicken

Saturday:  LO chicken and vegetable pie, mash and vegetable garden veg

Sunday:  Home reared roast pork, garden vegetables and Yorkshire puddings

Breakfasts:  Oat based (porridge, pancakes, cold oats), egg based (dippy, scrambled or omelette) or cereal

SOTW: Harvest Gold soup, Thick Pea and Ham

Snacks:  Flapjacks, hard boiled eggs

Please do let me know if you try any of these recipes or meal ideas, or if you would like to know more on how I manage my meals and planning.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Shopping for the month’s groceries and stretching chicken.

At the weekend I went to my local Aldi and spent £138.65 on groceries for the coming month. Before I went, I sat down and wrote out 31 main meals along with what I would need to purchase to make those meals based on what I had in the pantry and freezers. I am pretty confident I have at least 85% of the items we need for all 31 meals. The grocery haul also needs to accommodate for breakfast and lunches – so that’s another 62 (* 4 people, so 248!!) meals. That’s a lot of washing up.

I have stuck to meals I know we like with the odd new one thrown in there to trial such as honey and mustard chicken thighs and sesame orange chicken. I’d really like to get in to monthly meal planning and shopping, with maybe 1 top up shop half way through the month. I think I will be able to do that based on how it’s going so far.

Another tip I have for meal planning, especially for longer durations, is to pop a few roasts on there, specifically chicken for us. We are lucky enough to have very large, home raised chickens which I will roast whole and serve as a roast dinner, then take the remaining meat off and serve as second meal. This could be curry, stir fry, coronation chicken and so on. We usually get a bit of cold meat for salads in there too. Finally after I’ve taken the meat off the bones I will make a stock from the left over carcass and use that in soups, pastas or to cook rice and so on. We get at least 3 main meals for the 4 of us from 1 bird and I think this is a really economical way of stretching your budget and food.

Something else I do is put a few old favourites on there, so for us it is fajitas, lasagne or cottage pie. Of these old favourites I can batch cook and freeze some of them, so anything beef mince based is easy to cook ahead. I make them in foil containers so if needs be, they go from the freezer to the Aga roasting oven with no complaints, because we all have days where we forgot to take them out of the freezer.

Finally one more success I have had it to make ahead the kids’ packed lunches and freeze them. Yes, really. I made 30 ham brioche buns, 5 jam brioche and put them in separate bags (which get reused) along with their cheese sticks (which freeze great) and a slice of cake.

If you are interested in more detail around any of these topics, just let me know via a comment, I’d love to share more content like this with people who are interested, can share ideas themselves, or would learn anything.

Take care, Tracy x

Elderberry Winter Tonic recipe

In my neck of the woods, September and October are the months to be picking elderberries. Sometimes it’s earlier, others it’s later but there is an abundance right now and I’ve been out foraging and thoroughly enjoying myself.

A great point to note is that elderberries freeze very well and even better, once they are frozen they pop off the stalks very easily as when they are fresh you run the risk of squashing them on removal and getting very purple fingers 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ripe elderberries
  • 1 generous chunk fresh ginger (at least 1 inch by 1 inch)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 cups water

Optional extras: a few cloves

Instructions

This recipe is very forgiving, you can use more or less of any of the ingredients to your own tastes, just remember everything you are adding has its natural benefits.

Measure all ingredients into a stainless steel pan. If you use enamel or ceramic coated you risk staining it, as I found out in previous years!

Bring the pan to a simmer and leave for an hour or so. As I say, it’s very forgiving! You can reduce the liquid if preferred as some people prefer a more syrup like texture. I didn’t bother as we drink this as a “shot” at least twice a day. When you’re feeling something coming on, sniffles, head cold or generally run down, take it every couple of hours.

September’s almost over – Weekly Meal Plan – September 28th, 2020

Well the children are well and truly back to school (how long for is anyone’s guess) and we have taken the time we need to get going again. I have been meal planning even though I haven’t had them on here, but you can find them in my Facebook group if you’d like to join. I’d love to have you there.

We have had a busy old weekend here on the smallholding and I have been so grateful to have food in the freezer as I have relied on it today at least! I have felt like I am coming down with something so earlier today I went foraging for elderberries to make a winter tonic to ward off the sniffles. I don’t think it will qualify as a vaccine though 😉

I have actually written a meal plan for 31 days and went to Aldi on Saturday (yesterday) to get 80/90% of what we will need for the month and it came to £138. I’ve a post coming on it shortly.

Monday: Beef and butter bean stew with mash and green beans

Tuesday: Freezer surprise (what will be will be! Close your eyes and get something out)

Wednesday: Soup and pudding night (see below)

Thursday: Beef and prune stew, roasted sweet potatoes and peas

Friday: Home made pizza

Saturday: Lasagne, chips and salad

Sunday: Corned beef and potato pie served with lots of veg

SOTW (soup of the week): Cheesy broccoli

***New*** Pudding of the week: Seasonal apple and bramble crumble

Snacks: Fruit, peppers, hard boiled eggs, chocolate cake

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Bank Holiday fun – Weekly Meal Plan – August 31st, 2020

Well that week went quickly. We’ve have a mix of busy and quiet times here on our smallholding. Our little family has been fortunate enough to have a few day trips out, one of which was to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

I made a delicious rice pudding in the slow cooker as the weather hasn’t been too favourable again and it’s nice to have something sweet to eat hot as a treat. I’m going to freeze what’s not used to enjoy another day. (I’m not helping myself use up my freezer contents here am I?).

Our delightful veg box is yet again supplementing our home grown produce, freezer and pantry meaning this week I won’t have to spend much at all to put some yummy meals on the table.

I’m going to put breakfast choices at the bottom of the post this week and see how that works. Also I am changing Sunday (today) from a Roast Dinner to chicken & cabbage soup followed by the slow cooker rice pudding. I’ll serve the soup with homemade crusty bread too, yum. We will be having a ‘soup and pudding’ themed night most weeks now, at least fortnightly. It’s a good way of keeping costs down and varying meals I find. Plus if you have a sweet craving and you’re the chef then you can pop in what you fancy 😉

PL stands for packed lunches as we have 1 adult and 1 child on packed lunches this week and 1 of each working from home too 🙂

Bank Holiday Monday:

PL/L: Tuna Salad/Scrambled eggs and/or beans on toast.

D: Cottage pie (left over mince from Saturday’s lasagne) served with a side dish of cabbage, bacon & onions.

Tuesday:

PL/L: Ham brioche, yoghurt, banana, treat/big ham salad

D: (Frugal) Jacket potato bar (selection of toppings chilli con carne, tuna, cheese, beans)

Wednesday:

PL/L: mini homemade steak pie, yoghurt, fruit, treat/rice and pepper salad with ham

D: Chorizo & cabbage stew

Thursday:

PL/L: Ham brioche, yoghurt, banana (kids)/chunky vegetable frittata slices (courgette, tomato, cheese?)

D: Haddock risotto served with lots of greens

Friday:

PL/L: Tuna wrap, hummus, yoghurt, banana

D: Roasted hoisin duck pancakes with shredded cucumber, spring onions etc.

Saturday:

B: Pancakes / French bread

L: SOTW, cheese scones or homemade bread

D: Fake-away banquet – tandoori chicken pieces, naan fingers, onion bahjis, basmati rice, mint yoghurt & mango sauce

Sunday:

Brunch: Dippy eggs and soldiers

D: Roast chicken dinner, yorkshire puddings & garden veg

Breakfasts choices for all: Porridge, dippy eggs, smoothies, oaty pancakes, cereal, toast, omelette.

SOTW (soup of the week): Warming lentil & Carrot and Parsnip

Snacks: Fruit, hummus and peppers, hard boiled eggs

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

September’s challenge (challenging?)

We have our last Bank Holiday for a while just around the corner and that always signals a shift in seasons, cooking and kitchen tasks for me. More stews and soups and the start of squash season. We have had a good amount of courgettes so far and they will continue to come for a while yet hopefully. There’s plenty coming in from the garden, yum.

I actually have courgette fritters in the oven (trying healthier version so baking opposed to frying) as I type. New recipe, so we’ll see how it goes.

What is this nonsense I hear you ask? September’s challenge is to come under grocery budget of £100 for the month (4 weeks from starting to make it easy for me). This doesn’t include milk as we have doorstep delivery to support a local business and we know we could get it cheaper from Aldi but that is a personal choice. Milk would cost us apx £3.30 for 12 pint semi skimmed. To be honest, this shouldn’t be too hard as we have a lot in but September is also a month of change. The kids are returning to school after months of lockdown, I’m working from home and juggling their 2 different schools etc so I’d like to make it as stress free as possible, meaning I must stay on top of my kitchen tasks.

The first week’s meal plan was fairly simple as I didn’t have lots of thinking time when writing it. I quickly popped in to Aldi and spent just under £15. Combined with the £11 for the weekly veg box taking this week’s total to £26. For those who don’t know, I get a veg box every Saturday from a local greengrocer, which supplements our veg that we grow in the garden and sometimes gives me veg to use that I wouldn’t normally buy. It also supports another local business which is great. Here’s this weeks veg box which was delivered this morning and I am in the process of coming up with what we will be having this week. Doesn’t it look a-ma-zing?!

Veg box from a local supplier 🙂

With £74 left and a week of packed lunches for 2 (soon to be 3) people, I need to get my thinking cap on and come up with frugal meals from the freezer, pantry and garden. I have to clear a space in my freezer for an impending meat order so I think I’ll soon have to go ‘shopping’ in there to see what treats we can have. Also from Monday I am officially back down to 1200 calories a day though my meals will cater for more than this as I won’t be subjecting my family to that too 🙂

Thanks for reading, I’m off to have a look in the freezer and think about this week’s meals. Take care, Tracy.

A new challenge – Weekly Meal Plan – August 24th, 2020

Last week I mentioned that it felt more Autumn that Summer like, well it feels down right Winterish today. That’s ok though, our spirits aren’t dampened as we are off work for the week, yay!

That said, our holiday weeks can be a little spontaneous food wise, so this wouldn’t be the best week to start a new challenge and start monitoring my calories again would it? Nope! Yet here I am laying down a low spend challenge for the next 4 weeks and getting back to calorie counting. Just as well I had this delicious quiche before thinking too much about calories. Oh and bean sprouts came in this week’s veg box….now to figure what to do with them as I don’t fancy stir fry again yet? Did you know you can freeze them? I think I might have to.

I’ll share more detail on my challenge in my next post so I can get right in to the meal plan here which is what you’re here for, right? 🙂

Holiday week plan so far – I’m trying to stick to a maximum of 1600 calories a day, which is a lot when trying to shift some pounds for me but the week after next will be down to 1200.

Monday:

B: Bowl of oats and fruit – 1/2 cup oats, 250ml almond milk, 20g raisins, 1 tsp honey – 188 cals

L: Fish and Chips – family day out (I know, day 1 and I have fish and chips!) – 800 cals

D: Golden Soup – 225 cals

Tuesday:

B: Oat pancake with 1 tbsp syrup – 179 cals

L: Minestrone soup (homemade) – 164 cals , also quiche for family and visitors

D: Slow cooker cranberry chicken stew with mash and mushy peas – xx cals

Wednesday:

B: 2 dippy eggs with 2 slices toast, buttered – 454 cals

L: Picnic – Hummus, peppers, hard boiled egg and gherkin – 218 cals

D: LO ham & pasta bake (includes peas and courgettes) – 480 cals

Thursday:

B: Porridge with 20g chocolate spread – 224 cals

L: 2 croissants with sliced ham and cheese – 307 cals

D: BBQ to celebrate 15th wedding anniversary – not counting but will be less than allowance

Friday:

B: Choose from options

L: Omelette with left overs from the veg box (peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes etc) – 200 cals

D: Curry night, naan and mint yoghurt – 700 cals

Saturday:

B: Oaty pancake with syrup – 179 cals

L: Chicken & cabbage soup – xx cals

D: Lasagne & salad – 500 cals (184 extra for 2 slices garlic bread)

Sunday:

B: Smoothie

L: Farmhouse healthier fry up

D: Roast, Yorkshire puddings and veg

Breakfasts choices for all: Porridge, dippy eggs, smoothies, oaty pancakes, cereal, toast, omelette.

Lunch ideas: SOTW, homemade quiche, salad, scrambled eggs/tinned beans & sausage on toast, savoury croissants (ham and cheese etc), tuna & sweetcorn quesadillas.

SOTW (soup of the week): Minestrone/chicken cabbage

Snacks: Fruit, hummus and peppers, hard boiled eggs, slow cooker rice pudding, slow cooker banana bread, flapjacks, Aldi treats.

As usual, I’ll post recipes and photos of how things turned out as I make the items, to allow me to post photos too.

I hope this gives you some inspiration and I’d love to hear what meals you are thinking of making this week. In time my meal plans will also include costs where possible.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Seasonal Minestrone Soup

I make this soup in my Instant Pot purely because that’s how I did it the first time and it was SO nice that I didn’t want to risk doing it any other way. It is delicious and a very hearty meal for any time of the year as you can chop and change the vegetables to match the seasons. Great for that glut of courgettes, or any other veg you’d like to substitute!

Practicing for winter cooking – any excuse!

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped (I missed this out on this one as I didn’t have any – I replaced with celery salt)
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped toms
  • 2 pints stock (I used ham stock from slow cooker gammon joint which makes all the difference)
  • 1 tin cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/4 cabbage or a bag of baby spinach
  • 100g spaghetti, broken or any other small pasta shapes

Instructions

Chop your onion and fry off in oil/low fat spray, whatever you use for 3-5 minutes either in a large pan or sauté if using an Instant Pot.

Add the chopped carrots, courgette and celery if you are using.

Pop in tomato purée and tinned tomatoes, giving it all a good stir.

Season with salt and pepper and add the stock, tinned beans and spaghetti.

Stir in the cabbage or spinach, you could add peas or beans too.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the pasta is tender or if using an Instant Pot select manual for 7-10 minutes depending on how thick your veg and pasta is.

Enjoy!

This won’t freeze well with pasta, omit until ready to eat if freezing.

Golden soup

This recipe is an adapted weight watchers one and great for Autumn. It is silky smooth and very healthy in my opinion. Add extra chilli for a little winter kick and serve with home made bread, yum.

Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 600g sweet potatoes
  • 1 butternut squash or small pumpkin
  • 100g red lentils
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • 1.2 litres stock (I use chicken as I make my own, but you could use vegetable)
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Stir fry the onions in a little oil or spray oil to soften.

Add the garlic after 4 or 5 minutes and a few tablespoons of stock and cook for 2 more minutes.

Pop in the sweet potatoes, squash (or pumpkin), lentils, chilli flakes and remaining stock and bring to the boil.

Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Simmer for 20 minutes until you can pierce the vegetables easily.

Blend using your preferred method. I use an immersion blender.

Serve with extra chilli if you like it spicy!

Enjoy!

Basic white loaf

This recipe is my go to for everyday white bread. It hasn’t failed me yet. Remember if it browns too quickly when cooking, you can cover with foil and to make the crust soft, if that is your preference, wrap it in a clean tea towel when it comes out for 10 minutes. The steam softens the loaf. Depending on what we are having I’ll go for a softer or crustier finish.

Practicing for winter cooking – any excuse!

Ingredients

  • 450g strong white bread flour 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil (I use sunflower or vegetable)
  • 300-350 ml tepid water

Instructions

Grease of flour your loaf tin or baking sheet. I use non stick paper sometimes instead.

Add flour and salt to mixing bowl (I use my stand mixer here for ease).

Add yeast

Switch on mixer with dough setting to start combining ingredients, or stir.

Add oil and half of the water.

Once combined, add the remainder of the water too 300ml. Do not let it go too wet (it’ll still work but it’s harder to handle). Every flour seems to be difference hence this on you can eyeball. It’ll still work either way so don’t panic.

Knead in a stand mixer for 5, by hand for 10 mins.

Turn on to a floured surface and cover with the bowl you’ve been mixing in.

Leave for up to an hour until double in size.

Knock back (I poke holes in it to deflate it).

Shape it and if using, move it to the bread tin to rise again or leave on a baking sheet that will go in the oven.

You can cover with a plastic bag or tea towel whilst rising.

Leave for 30-40 mins until it’s a nice size. Bake for 20 mins in moderate/hot oven.

With temperatures I have an Aga so I just bung it in hence my terminology 🙂

Enjoy!