Back to Basics and Thursday Night Tea

basic 2Today it is time to get back to basics. We started this project to save ourselves money. We started this project to see if it was possible. Somewhere along the way we started to care hugely about trying to support our local economy. In trying to do so we got a huge sense of being in a community. We learnt that local shopping matters for so many and on so very many levels.

Just the other day Lizzie and Becksie were shopping in a local shop when a fellow customer said to the lovely shop keeper that that shop was literally keeping her elderly parents alive. The conversation was a beautiful exchange and a) made Becksie’s eyes well up and b) with a bump and a start made her realise a new how our local shop keepers are providing a lifeline service for many on many levels. What if we don’t use them and by the time we are old the lifeline has gone? The human contact given by local shops really is part of the life blood of communities. As usual we add a sentence or so about the fact that we recognise that supermarkets also offer this contact to many and that they do great things (don’t worry we’re not about to announce a trip to Tesco). But…….. We still believe the smaller guys to be where the real magic happens.

basic 3We have found a real sense of delight in being known to our market and shop keeper friends that often just reminds us that life is good. When at the market the other day the fruit and veg guy came over and said ‘blood oranges over there I know you like them’ Becksie’s heart swelled as that (although a tiny thing) made her feel valued.

Feeling like the person selling you your food gives a stuff about it is really important – to them its not just a commodity, a disposal thing, each item is of great importance! And they know all to well that food is a privilege and not just a commodity.

Sorry to get a bit deep but we’ve really been reminded of the importance of this lately. The added bonus is that we are still saving money. We have got slacker with our weekly shop posts but we needed a rest from this feature’s regularity and it felt like we’d run out of things to say. But……we are still saving money and yes we still think this is a great thing to do. We guess we also ran out of steam to answer the same emails / comments which said ‘you don’t seem to buy enough food’ ‘how can this be cheaper’ ‘it’s not cheaper for me’.

This weeks shop £47.88

This weeks shop £47.88

We guess compared to many we don’t buy much but live below the line proved a little can go a very long way. A chicken can feed us for many a meal. We buy what we need and delight in making it stretch. Delight in being creative and really caring about each and every mouthful. We see food no longer as our right but as a privilege for which we are grateful every day. Knowing those who sell it to us feel the same is worth the odd price rise and made up for in the savings to be had in our new way of shopping.

Ironically our new way of shopping is extremely old fashioned and we conclude those who have gone before us are older and wiser.

As you know we been trying to get a feel for the impact of our year without supermarkets. Every time we get ready to post the results another reply comes in – its unbelievable to see the results and without repeating ourselves we’d like to put another call out to fill in this form if your shopping has changed as a consequence of reading our journey. Then we will reveal how much of an impact this has had.

We’d also like (whilst we are mid rant / slightly gushy post) to say another huge thank you for reading what we write and getting in touch (even the you don’t buy enough food emailers hehe) it means a lot. We also promise to get organised and document a ‘how we use a week’s shopping post’. We know people request this a lot but we always forget to do it until midweek and then having a young family (washing, cleaning etc) get in the way.

basic 1Talking of eeking out a chicken, tonight’s Thursday night tea was leftover chicken, leek and ham pie, homemade chips and Vegetables (with loads of gravy). The pie was made from Sunday’s leftover roast for Tuesday night’s tea (we were joined by Gannie and Poppa) and so technically tonight’s tea was leftover leftovers! basic 6

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Thursday Night Tea Number 2

As promised a light and fluffy food based post! And……. as it’s Thursday night that means only one thing. Its time for our mini series called (as the title may suggest) Thursday Night Tea!

But first a spot of housekeeping – may we present this weeks shopping!thursday night tea 2 (6)

Thursday Night Tea 2 (5)

For some reason (trying to eat frozen summer vegetable gluts) we feel as though we haven’t done a really good shop for a while so perhaps next week we shall, along with a pantry and freezer audit. ROCK AND ROLL!  A total spend of £23. 85 at the lovely Faringdon market, butcher and baker and in Wantage today.

So Tuesday night saw us have Mammar and Da over for a roast chicken dinner. Wednesday night we had a leftover Chicken lasagne (fry onions, leeks, celery in a bit of the chicken jelly, add mustard, wine and a few other bits and pieces from the ingredients cupboard, layer with lasagne sheets and a homemade white sauce). Tonight……. Left over mild sort of chicken curry and rice. This is a Da CLASSIC and was always a childhood favorite of Becksie’s. It’s a great quick practical dinner that Becksie has made her own version of. It’s good but Da’s is still better. We hope Lizzie will make this for her children in the future.

Thursday Night Tea 2 (1)

Get the rice on – (2 cups of water for ever cup of rice – boil until dry, turn off the heat cover with a lid and leave for five minutes – perfect).

Chop an onion into rings and a clove of garlic. Fry gently until they start to soften. Add a couple of teaspoons of gram masala and some turmeric for fun. Add any chopped veg you have to hand, a chopped apple and a handful of sultana type affairs. Add a generous glug of water and simmer.Thursday Night Tea 2 (2)

Season – probably add more gram masala. Add some cream, yogurt or milk and serve with rice.

Thursday Night Tea 2 (4)

Very nice, economical and healthy.

Thursday Night Tea Part One

This weeks shop part 1 - £9.40

This week’s shop part 1 – £9.40

This weeks shopping part 2 (£11.07)

This week’s shopping part 2 (£11.07)

It seems a long time since we blogged any recipes (well things other than cake that is) and this is something we simple must rectify. So welcome to a little mini series……. we’ve called it Thursday night tea. That’s right, for a while every Thursday (or as many as possible) we thought we’d challenge ourselves to a) blog what we have for tea b) the meals (of course) must be cooked from scratch c) must be thrifty yet tasty. The purpose of this is two fold, firstly its to ensure we keep up with our mission to eat well for less and secondly its to pass on a few tasty recipes we hope you chaps can use on a normal Thursday night – or for that matter any day of the week.thursday night 1 (2)

So brace yourself for an exciting journey of tasty thrifty supermarket free Thursday Night Tea recipes!

And as if by magic it’s Thursday which can mean only one thing….

Thursday Night Tea Part One:

So tonight we had bacon, onion and leek mashed potato pie with carrot, cauliflower and spinach served with a cheese sauce.

thursday night 1As its a week night this recipe is extremely simply. Boil enough potatoes (we did three large potatoes to feed the three of us plus Mammar). Whilst they are boiling fry garlic, bacon, onion and leek in a little oil until soft. Add mustard, a dash of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Add a sprinkling of grated cheese and stir.  thursday night 1 (1)

Put this mixture in an oven proof dish. Turn the boiled potatoes into mash and top the bacon mixture. Add a sprinkling of grated cheese and bake in a hot oven (200c) for about 25 mins until golden brown. thursday night 1 (3)

Steam the vegetables whilst the main dish is baking.

Make the cheese sauce by melting a good knob of butter adding 2 tablespoons of flour. This will make a paste, keep stirring and add cup and a half of milk and a generous handful of grated cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and smooth. Add a few twists of pepper and serve.

Shopping and some cakes for Da

Today saw our first shop of 2014. We headed off to Faringdon Farmers market despite the wind and to quote Lizzie ‘orrabul raaain’! We were delighted with our shop (if a tad self conscious as we were being filmed for ITV Meridian news – you can watch the piece here) and between the small (but perfectly formed) market and deli got most of what we needed.  So here it is, shopping trip 1 of 2014,  a total spend so far of £40.80. We need more fruit and vegetables but the fruit and veg man wasn’t in attendance so Ian will be deployed on a lunch time mission tomorrow at the market in Oxford with £9.20 at his disposal.

Somehow after Christmas it feels quite nice to get back to normal and this certainly applies to our shopping, we did a huge shop before Christmas and did buy a few bits before this shop but what with going away we haven’t needed more. The last few days we have been on leftover patrol eating a mix of things that needed eating up plus bits from the freezer so this seems like a fresh start.

shopping 1 (2)

You may spy a bag of bright orange delight in the picture – this is in fact trout roe. An awesome seasonal delight (for only £2 a bag) that we are very excited to try. Guess what it was even sold to us with a few recipe suggestions, one of which is something Becksie loves. It is also something she hasn’t had for over a year now since supermarket days – that’s right folks taramasalata! Keep posted for the recipe to follow very soon.

Now as you may remember we have a deal with Da that he gives us free vegetables from his garden in exchange for cake. This is a good deal but it seems we have not been doing enough on our side of the bargain. Last night on the phone Da casually mentioned the fact that for some time now he hasn’t received any cake. This meant only one thing………. it was time for Lizzie to put on her baking apron and get on it!shopping 1 (3)

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

shopping 1 (4)Assemble:

100 grams butter

100 grams caster sugar

2 eggs

25ml strong coffee

100 grams self raising flour

35 grams of crushed walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180c

shopping 1 (5)In a bowl cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.

Add the eggs on at a time then mix in the flour, coffee and walnuts.

Divide into cup cases and bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden and a skewer comes our clean.

Allow to cool.

Taste test

Taste test

Whilst they are cooling make the icing by combining about 60 grams of butter and 1200 grams of icing sugar. Add a dash of coffee and a dash of baileys (do this a few drips at a time as you need the icing to stay stiff). Chill.

Decorated by Lizzie

Decorated by Lizzie

Then……. you guessed it, ice and decorate the cakes and…….. give to Da!

14th December

14 (1

So today has been a very busy day. Now we start with a confession………… today for the first time in over a year we went over our £50 food budget! 14 (7We did a HUGE shop! In fairness it was for three good reasons. Firstly it is Christmas and we are doing a few bits of entertaining over the coming weeks. 14 (8

Part one of this weeks shop - Highworth market / butcher

Part one of this weeks shop – Highworth market / butcher

Secondly we only spent £4.50 on food last week and all week we have been working hard eating weird meals in order to eat up all of our bits and pieces so this shop was a start again type shop. Thirdly we got a few good deals in the butcher and have portioned our meat buys up and are also doing some batch cooking. So our big shop weighed in at £70 but we did get 3 HUGE bits of cheese and as our year has technically ended we aren’t subject to our rules anymore. That said we have a feeling we won’t need much for about 3 weeks. Anyway enough of confessions of non-supermarket shoppers.

14 (2This morning started with a trip to see Father Christmas at the library – Lizzie (and Becksie and Ian) had a great time. Lizzie was delighted with her new book that Father Christmas gave her. 14 (4We went to the lovely Rookery for a spot of lunch, and of course a babyccino for Lizzie and sat and read Lizzie’s new book. It was lovely and very nice to chill out as a little family.

Santa Lizzie

Santa Lizzie

14 (6We then popped off to Millets to get our freezer shopping (don’t panic this shop is included in the £70).

Reduced cream #icecream making

Reduced cream #icecream making

Then on to meet friends at soft play. Then it was finally time for our advent activity which was to buy and decorate the Christmas tree. Ta da!

14 (11

14 (12

14 (13Now our kindness for the day was to donate some money to a good cause. Now this was a hard choice as there are tons of deserving causes out there but we have gone for the Children’s Food Trust. As you may have gathered the food that Lizzie eats is extremely important to Ian and Becksie. We have tried really hard to give her the most nutritious food we can, we know she does eat cake, biscuits and choc choc but where possible these are homemade and are part of a balanced diet. We are ‘if you don’t eat your vegetables you can’t have any pudding’ kind of parents. We also try to include Lizzie in her food decisions for example offering the chance to select her own piece of fruit from the bowl or whether she has peanut butter or marmite on her toast. As a consequence she enjoys a varied selection of foods and seems to be getting a basic grasp of where food comes from. She is also included in food preparation and loves cooking. Unfortunately not all children are as fortunate when it comes to food. The Children’s Food Trust sets out to ‘protect every child’s right to eat better’. Its vision being  ‘That all children have the balanced diet, cooking skills and food education they need for good health and to reach their potential’. This is something we feel strongly about. On Friday Becksie saw something that left her opened mouthed – a small person heading to school with a HUGE bar of chocolate as his breakfast – this made Becksie so sad and so we hope that by donating some money to this charity children like this small chap might get help to take up their right to good food. If you are interested in seeing more about this charity you can click here.

Now today whilst being a good day also holds a little bit of sadness as it would have been Becksie’s nana’s 89th birthday. As you know Becksie misses her dearly – so Happy Birthday Nana 🙂  nana 3