£1 grog: How to make wine on the cheap (using fruit juice!)

The world needs more cheap booze.  Wine and beer are damn expensive. Clearly, the answer is to make your own.

I’ll come clean, to start with:  I am not a winemaker.  I am a total amateur.  BUT, you can use ingredients from the supermarket, equipment from a car-boot sale and be up and running this weekend for the same price as a bottle or two of wine from Asda… and after about 3 weeks you’ll end up with 15 bottles of the good stuff.

So how do you do it with no prior knowledge without it tasting flippin’ awful?

Like this… Continue reading

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Homemade Coffee syrup

I don’t like shopping at Sainsburys, some of their prices are ridiculous, but it happens to be the closest supermarket to my house, and if I need to pick up a couple of bits and don’t want to walk into town, I grit my teeth and go. I’ve been going more often recently, as they are the only shop that sells the Japanese ingredients I have been using.

On one of my recent trips, I noticed a few bits on the reduced section. They are usually very stingy with their reduced food, and they never reduce fresh food, which is suspicious. I did see that they had some baking goods, in particular cinnamon sugar, reduced from £2.99 to 39p.

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Ordinarily I’d whinge and moan about how I could make cinnamon sugar myself at home, but this time I bought it. I had something in mind. I had recently won a competition on Twitter and been sent a lot of coffee samples. Now, I like coffee, but I have a really sweet tooth, so when I saw this, I decided to make coffee syrup from it.

It was so quick and easy, I just added the sugar to the pan, and then used the pot to measure out the same amount of water, then I heated it on the hob until the sugar had dissolved. I then used this cut glass jug I got from a charity shop to store it in.

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Now I have delicious coffee shop grade drinks at an absolute fraction of the price. The syrup should last for quite a while, and it cost the same price as a shot of syrup at the coffee shop!

Extreme Food Planning

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Even though we are usually very careful with our money, we had a bit of a bad time with bills last month.We had an extra water bill, nearly £400 is gas and electric, car tax and I also started an online teaching assistant course. Nearly £800 all in all, is a pretty sizeable amount to pay in one month, whatever your income. As we only have one income it made things a little tight for us!

The only thing we really spend money on is our food, and it occurred to me I had been a little frivolous with our housekeeping money recently. I did the same shop every week whether we needed it or not. It’s not a massive shop, or an expensive shop, but we could do without it. I started worrying that we had no money to live on and we wouldn’t be able to buy food. I took my notebook and decided to do a full inventory of what we had, the fridge, both freezers, cupboards, pantry (read shelf) and dry food rack.

Well, we have a LOT of food. I mean A LOT!!! I seem to be a bit of food hoarder. We have soooo many packets of dried food, stock, sauce packets, loads of tins, freezers full of food. Suffice to say, once I realised I could have sushi once a week for the next 6 weeks without going to the shop, I started feeling a little less sorry for myself! We can comfortably eat for a while without doing a real shop or starving.

The whole thing made me think, we don’t waste any of this food as it can all be stored, but it’s so easy to bulk buy and shop out of habit, I can see how easy it is for people to buy so much food that they end up wasting it. I don’t want to become one of those families that throws away food because they just can’t eat it all! So, we decided to make a meal list of everything we can cook with the ingredients we have, and we have set ourselves a budget of £15 a week for bits like milk, bread, eggs, and fruit and veg. It helps that the toddler is now fully toilet trained as we are saving money on her nappies. We also gave up alcohol for lent, so this is saving us a bit too. Hopefully this will save us the money we need to get on track, and free up a bit of space in our kitchen!

Home made Lemon Cheese

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For Christmas I was given a little pot of Lemon Cheese. I love lemons and citrus flavours, but I had never tried this before. As happens so often with little jars of  lovely things, it made it’s way to the back of the cupboard, where I discovered it last week. I’ve been trying to use up the things in the cupboard, and I came across this little jar when I was looking for a some afters. I tried in on a crispbraed and it was DELICIOUS! So delicious that I consumed the jars worth in two days, and I was looking for more. Rather than going out to find some in the shops, I had a look online and found a simple recipe that tastes exactly the same, and I should think is much cheaper too!

You will need

  1. 2 lemons
  2. 1 cup of sugar
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 tablespoon of butter
  5. 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

First, juice the two lemons, and add 1 tablespoon of their rind. Combine this juice with the sugar in a saucepan, and bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the 3 eggs, and then add the hot lemon and sugar a tiny amount at a time, whisking as you go to avoid scrambling the egg. Put the whole mixture back on the heat, and whisk until it thickens. Turn the heat off and stir in the butter and vanilla. Put straight into a sterilized jar.

It’s delicious on toast or crispbread, or straight from the jar!

Tips for reducing your food bill

Everyone knows that times are getting tougher, and most people are finding ways to reduce food bills as well as many other household costs. I wanted to share this particular shopping trip with you, and tips as to how I keep our weekly to shops down to around £30.

On a Monday morning I go through the fridge and the freezer and find what meals I can make with what we have. If I need a couple of ingredients then I make my list of ‘make up’ ingredients which turns what we already have into meals. Planning is a huge part of keeping your shopping costs down, and it’s not just about planning meals necessarily, but also knowing exactly what you have so you don’t duplicate or buy things you can’t use.

I leave pretty much as soon as the shops open, ensuring that I get the pick of reduced items. They are reduced more later on in the day, but a lot of the items are gone by then. Although it isn’t practical for most, I visit certain shops for certain items. For example, I go to Morrisons for reduced meat, but Aldi for fruit and vegetables  We live in a small town with lots of supermarkets. Even though I don’t drive, I have 5 supermarkets and several discount shops within walking distance of our house.

Even though I write a list for what I need, this doesn’t mean that the list is set in stone. The key to getting a cheaper shop is to be flexible with ingredients, and to have a large recipe repertoire (or to be handy on Google). If your recipe calls for chicken and £4 for a pack, but turkey or pork is reduced, then it makes sense to substitute.

This is the best Monday morning shop I’ve had

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Almost everything you see here was reduced or on offer. This shop came to a total of £28.34, which is a steal as there are multiple packs of branded items and large cuts of meat. The wraps were reduced to 29p a packet, and the hobnob flapjacks were 12p a packet. I didn’t go out planning to buy them, but they’re things we use everyday, so it makes sense to buy in bulk at that price. The packet food actually came from the discount store BnM. I used to work in a store like this before becoming a full time mum, so I know that the food they receive is usually food from supermarkets that is short dated and they wouldn’t be able to sell in time, or a product that isn’t selling very well at full price. The food is exactly the same quality as the supermarkets, just the price is often greatly reduced.

Of course, we do spend more than we should sometimes, and it’s taken us quite sometime to get in to a shopping habit that suits our budget, but this basic routine means that we always have at least a weeks worth of meals and other staples in the house on a modest budget.

Easy, thrifty sandwich filling

Just before Christmas, my parents brought us a mass of reduced food. They have a habit of doing this, and we’re usually inundated with things we struggle to use up. In this assortment was some sandwich fillings. Now, I’m not usually one for these shop bought fillings, but I have to say they were absolutely delicious! However, I wouldn’t dream of paying full price for them! I have been experimenting ever since, and this is what I’ve come up with (not rocket science I admit): Continue reading

Brussel Sprout Surprise

It is SO much tastier than it sounds! Honest! I had a look in the fridge for something the toddler could have for lunch, and this was all I could find.

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Continue reading

Top ten tips for a thrifty kitchen

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During the weekly shop this week I was having a good think about how we save money. We don’t live on a ridiculously small budget, but I do believe our food bill is below average. I know families of three that spend £80-£100 a week on their shopping, whilst ours is usually around £40. I thought it would be nice to list the things that we do to save money on the food shop and make our food go further, and we’d love people to add their tips too. A quick warning, this is a long one! Continue reading