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?
Sugar is a big no no in our house. Don’t get me wrong, I have an obscene sweet tooth, but if the toddler so much as walks past the sugar bowl she becomes possessed by some sort of hideous toddler demon that is out for your soul! For a while I worried about ADD or hyperactivity, but it soon became clear that it was the sugary treats that was turning her into the very epitome of the terrible twos. Once I started to cut out pure fruit juice, chocolate, commercial ice lollies etc. we had our lovely happy daughter back. That is, until she goes to her grandparents and comes back kneed deep in marshmallows and chocolate buttons!
Of course, I don’t want her to miss out. Her diet was already slightly limited by her peanut allergy, so no sugar knocked even more items off her possible treat list. I started doing some research and found a wealth of recipes online. Unfortunately, the ones that replace chocolate recipes usual include peanut butter, so that’s a no go, but I did find one for jelly worms. She does love a gummy sweet, and she also loves worms, so I thought I’d give them a go. They were super simple and went down a storm. Now all I hear is “Can I have 1 wiggly red thing please mummy. No, two wiggly red things!”
2 packets of sugar free jelly crystals
3 packets of gelatine, or 3 leaves
1 cup of water
Soak the gelatine leaves if you’re using them. Bung all of the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until everything is dissolved. I then lined a lasagne dish with clingfilm and poured it in there. It should be a 1cm approx layer across the bottom of your container. Then out it in the fridge. It sets pretty quickly, I think it was in there for barely an hour. Then turn it out carefully and cut into strips. Hey presto, jelly worms. AND no more toddler tantrums! Bonus!
As you can probably guess, we eat a lot of Japanese food in this house. It’s healthy, easy to cook, and absolutely delicious! One of my favourite things to have in the fridge is Japanese Potato salad. It isn’t necessarily very healthy, but it is incredibly scrummy, and can also be a great way of using up bits and bobs in the fridge! This recipe isn’t strictly the ‘proper’ way of making it, it’s just a simpler way of doing it that works for us! If you don’t have Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise for this recipe, then normal is fine, but there is a recipe here for Kewpie style mayonnaise that tastes pretty much the same!
1 medium potato
2 boiled eggs
ham or cooked bacon
mayonaise (preferably Japanese if you can get it!)
Peel and boil the potato whole. It is done when you can easily push a chopstick through it. This takes longer than you think! Mash together the eggs and mayonnaise. Slice the ham or bacon up into tiny rectangles and stir through. Mash the potato and add the spring onions. You can also cook some cabbage or onion to add to the spring onions. Mix the egg mixture to the potato until it is a smooth consistency, adding more mayonnaise if you need to. Feel free to add any cooked vegetable that needs using up!
That’s it! It keeeps in the fridge for a couple of days, but chances are, it won’t last that long! You can eat it however you want. I like to eat it from the fridge, with a spoon!
I actually made this quite a while ago and I’m down to my last cupful, but I thought I would share this recipe with you as I’ll be definitely making it again. It contains borax substitute which isn’t particularly easy to get hold of. If you can pick it up from a local hardware store then that’s fantastic and it will definitely save you money. I had to get it from Amazon for around £3. This meant that the whole box (around 50 washes) cost about £5.50. That’s not as cheap as it would be if you could source borax substitute cheaply, but still cheaper than most washing powders. Not only that, but I know what is in it. My daughter and myself both have sensitive skin and allergies and have been fine with this powder, which is more than you can say for some of the big brands.
This powder is great, but you will have to use a stain remover or pre soak for tough stains. No different to commercial powders there really, but it does clean your clothes well and you don’t need to use as much. I use 2 tbs per load and it does fine. Also, you can add a scent to your powder in the drawer. Anything you like really. At the moment I’m using a strawberry diffuser oil thingy, but check that what you use won’t ruin your machine!
The recipe I use is
500g of borax substitute
750g of soda crystals
3 household soaps
3 cheap body soaps
You can use all household soap, or all normal soap. You can buy 3 bars of body soap for 50p in Sainsburys. You need to grate the soap so it is really fine. This will no doubt hurt your hands! It certainly did mine! If you find the soap pieces are a bit big then you can use a stick blender to break them up a bit. Mix the soap pieces with the other ingredients. Make sure that you are wearing gloves and that you don’t stand with your face over it, you will taste soap for days! Once it’s mixed together you can use it right away, all you need to do is give it a little shake everytime you use it to ensure it is evenly distributed. Et voilà! Home made washing powder!
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.
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.
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!
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!
I have been sucked in to the cutesy world of the Bento accessory. Though not at all necessary, I can’t help wistfully staring at Japanese imported Panda shaped rice ball makers, nori punches and tiny little sauce bottles. After putting a picture of one of Amelia’s bentos on Facebook, a friend of mine said she had a lot of accessories left over from when she used to make them for her daughter, and that I could have them. The set contained an impressive amount of stuff, egg molds, onigiri rice molds, sauce bottles, decorative grass, a nori punch and some animal picks. I also bought her some training chop sticks, so she doesn’t keep trying to steal mine!
Even with this haul, I still found myself wanting more picks, they really make a cute bento, they’re the difference between it looking like food and it looking really fun! I was trying to find some for a relatively reasonable price when I came across a tip, make your own using a comb and some buttons. I found this tutorial on Oh! Bento, A wonderful blog that features bentos that I aspire to making, with lots of tutorial and wonderful example bentos, including this tutorial http://ohbentouk.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/diy-bento-pickscupcake-toppers/ All you need to do is cut each prong off a comb, then hot glue a button, brad or badge to the top. What a genius idea! I had a rifle through the button and bead boxes and put together all of these. It literally took minutes, and they were all free!
Not only that, but the toddler helped me choose which buttons and beads we used, so she now says that she made them, it makes it all a little bit more special.
I have definitely been stepping up my Bento game recently. It has been a huge success for the toddler, it has been the best method to get her to eat her dinner hands down! She has become familiar with the concept, so she gets excited about what it might look like today, and for now I can still surprise her with the theme. Also, from my point of view I can make the food quite varied and healthy, and also give her a consistent portion size, so she isn’t overwhelmed by it. Not only that, but the food just looks so much more interesting!
They started pretty basic, some salad, quiche, Japanese potato salad. Nice, but not very exciting looking.
This was my first attempt at a scene, without any molds or cutters, she really enjoyed it and thought it was hilarious!
Then I got my hands on some egg and rice molds, picks, grass and cutters. Makes for a much nicer scene, she loved this one.
Today’s was a little simpler with sandwiches and savoury biscuits, but still really nice to look at and really enjoyed it.
It’s amazing how well this has worked, and I’m glad I’ve given it a go. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, just using a cutter for sandwiches and little cases for extras makes it exciting to look at, and improves the look of the whole meal. They’re not overly expensive, and I can completely control what goes in them, in all a great success!
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 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
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!
Sometimes you just need a little something to make it through til lunch, or perhaps a little pick up mid afternoon to see you through til tea time. My two favourite things to turn to at such times are earl grey tea and a muffin. Whilst finding recipes for our latest bento adventures, I cam across this outstanding recipe for Earl Grey Tea Muffins! My favourite things in one yummy package. At 120 calories for a standard sized muffin they are the perfect break time treat. Not only that, but they’re very cheap to make. Please check out Just Bento for this recipe and lots of amazing Japanese and non- Japanese bento recipes, but I have included the recipe here
Recipe: Earl Grey Tea Muffins
The dry ingredients:
2 cups minus 3 Tbs (230g) all purpose or cake flour (with cake flour they will be lighter, but AP flour works too)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. Sucanat (see notes) or light brown sugar or raw cane sugar or regular sugar
Pinch of salt
The wet ingredients:
2 large eggs
3 Tbs canola oil or light olive oil (or other flavorless vegetable oil)
1 tsp. or 1 teabag fine Earl Grey tea leaves. If your tea leaves are on the coarse side, grind them up a bit in a mortar and pestle, or just crumble them up by rubbing the leaves between your fingers.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 360°F. Grease or spray non-stick spray onto your muffin tins if needed.
Mix or sift together the dry ingredients.
Beat together the wet ingredients until blended.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, using a spatula. Don’t overmix. Add the tea leaves.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes for mini-muffins, 25-30 for regular size muffins, until the tops are browned and a skewer stuck through a middle muffin comes out clean. Note: these muffins will puff up quite a bit.
Take out of the muffin tins and cool on a rack
I didn’t have buttermilk, so used the milk and vinegar and they were delicious, they taste just like a cup of milky earl grey. The toddler approves of them too!