Category Archives: Growing Fruit & Veggies

Big Budget Challenge – Weeks III & IV

As it was the half term school holidays last week, which began with a mini break to Sherwood Forest followed by Lil’ L’s 8th birthday, I didn’t get round to posting an update for Laura’s Big Budget Challenge.  Many apologies Laura!  To make up for this, I’ll give a rundown of my ‘money saves’ over the past two weeks vis-a-vis my 5 budget rules

1. Avoid waste. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to avoid throwing away any food over the past two weeks 🙂  There was a close call with a bag of spinach that was starting to look sorry for itself, but Laura’s post on Monday inspired me to make a spinach, butternut squash and chickpea curry.  I even roasted the squash seeds (for the first time ever) and we had them with the hemp burger and roasted squash dinner on Monday.  No seeds will ever get thrown away again… they’re so nice lightly roasted! 🙂

2. Shop around for cheapest deals. I’m planning to do another big online grocery shop tomorrow and I’ll definitely be using www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  It saved me quite a few pounds on my last big grocery shop and I’m intrigued to see what I can save this time round 🙂

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’ve been eating lots of home-grown apples (still not sick of them 😉 ).  We’ve also had some very generous donations of home-grown produce from friends and family, including these amazing courgettes/zucchinis.

As well as using the zucchini in lots of savoury dishes (roasted veg & pasta; lasagna; fajitas), I made some wicked date and zucchini brownies last week, which I pictured in yesterday’s post.  (I’ll be writing up the recipe and posting it very soon).

All the donated produce has been used up now, so I’ve turned my attention to some rather unusual home-grown produce… dandelion leaves and nettles.  I didn’t intentionally grow these, but as they’re growing so beautifully in my garden, it’ll be fun to see whether I can turn them into something tasty 😉

4. Go foraging! Whilst cycling round Sherwood Forest last week, I couldn’t resist a quick pause to collect sweet chestnuts.   

The cases are so prickly!  I used my feet to squeeze the nuts out of the shells, while M adopted a more hands-on approach.

 

I didn’t have a bag with me, so I crammed as many as I could into the back pocket of my cycling jacket.

You won’t believe how many I actually managed to cram into that pocket!

I absolutely adore roasted chestnuts!  They really remind me of childhood Christmas Eves when my Dad would roast chestnuts, sprinkle them with salt and tip them on a newspaper.  We’d then sit on the living room floor and tuck in!

Today, I decided to use some of the nuts to make a sweet chestnut casserole with herby dumplings.

The dumplings were flavoured with fresh rosemary from the garden.  This is one of the few edible plants that the slugs and snails actually leave alone!  It’s a really easy herb to grow and seems to look after itself.  Our plant has been here the whole time we’ve lived in Bath (11 years now) and it hasn’t need any attention at all. (That’s SO my sort of plant 😉 )

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. We used our Tesco vouchers again on Lil’ L’s birthday, saving us £21 on the entry fee into a sea aquarium.  I’m glad we didn’t pay real money for this trip as the aquarium was awful (in my opinion).  The image of the sea-headed turtle pounding up and down its tiny tank is still haunting me 😦

So that’s my big budget challenge update for weeks III and IV!  Have you had any great money saves in the last month?  If so, I’d love to hear them! 

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The Big Budget Challenge – Week II

I’m  now in my second week of ‘The Big Budget Challenge’ hosted by the lovely Laura @ Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish.  I did okay in Week I, but Week 2 has been even better 🙂 

Here’s a run down of my top ‘money saves’ this week:

1. Avoid waste. No food thrown away this week!  

See these sad-looking bananas….

I turned them into this:

It’s banana cinnamon ‘ice cream’.  It’s so creamy that you would think it was proper ice cream!  To make it, I simply cut the bananas into slices, froze them, then whizzed them in the blender on the ice setting until they were all chopped up.  I then transferred them to a bowl, added a dash of nondairy milk, lashings of cinnamon and a tablespoon of ground linseed.  I then pulsed them using a hand blender until they went white and creamy.  The bananas were so ripe that I didn’t need to add any sweetener.  Lil’ L loves this dessert and it makes a nice change from apples 😉

2. Shop around for cheapest deals.  I finally got round to trying out www.mysupermarket.co.uk that a friend recommended way back in the summer.  I was really impressed with it.  It’s so simple to use.  At a click of a button, it allows you to import your online shopping basket from your usual provider (mine’s Tesco). You can then easily edit the basket, deleting items you no longer need and adding new items. 

Then, it does something really useful…

  • It shows you how you can save money by swapping to cheaper items. If you agree with their ‘Swap & Save’ suggestions, you just click to swap.  I saved £6.36 by swapping some items.
  • It then compares the cost of your basket at four supermarkets.  If your shop would be cheaper elsewhere, you just click to swap.  I did a big grocery shop (83 items) and the total was £139 at Tesco.  In Asda, the same shop would have cost me £155; Sainsbury’s £166; and Ocado (Waitrose) a wopping £177. I’ve always done my big grocery shops at Tesco, so it was great to discover that it is actually the cheapest supermarket for me. 🙂 
     
    It’s interesting because the cheapest supermarket very much depends on the types of groceries you buy.  For my friend, Sainsbury’s came out £30 cheaper than Tesco!  Lately, I’ve been disorganised with my grocery shopping and have ended up buying bits and pieces on a weekly basis from the Waitrose in Bath.  By getting more organised and ordering a fortnightly Tesco home delivery, I should save a small fortune! 🙂 

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’re eating tons of apples and there’s still hundreds left!  After watching Monty Don’s episode on how to ‘over winter’ apples, I challenged M to make me a storage contraption using old scraps from the garage.  He rose to the challenge and made a great storage system…..

… but it took him the whole of Sunday.  He’s now banned me from watching Gardners’ World as he’s fed up with landing Monty Don’s ‘Jobs for the Weekend’. 😉

4. Go foraging!  No foraging this week as I’m still working out what to do with all the nuts we found last week

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. HUGE savings here! Last Friday, me and my good friend J went to London to meet up with our gorgeous friends N and H for lunch.  I converted my Tesco vouchers into tokens for redspottedhankie.com and managed to get both our travel tickets for FREE!  A total saving of £66!  This meant we had more cash to spend on gorgeous eats and drinks 🙂 

So, lots of savings this week.  Good thing too because next week is going to be v. v. expensive 😉 

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The Big Budget Challenge – week I

With lots of fairly large expenses looming over the next 3 months, last Friday I decided to join ‘The Big Budget Challenge’ hosted by the lovely Laura @ Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish.  We set our own budgeting rules (mine are here) and, for the next 2 months, we’ll post a weekly progress update on how we’re doing on our budgeting adventure. 

It’s my first week into the challenge and I’ve been filled with enthusiasm about finding ways to cut our household food-related costs.  Here’s a summary of what I managed to achieve in the past week:

1. Avoid Waste.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve used up all fruits and veggies before they went brown, turned to liquid or grew fur. 😉  I also rummaged around in the kitchen cupboards and used up anything that was past its sell-by date, including 2 packs of ground almonds:

I was in foodie heaven when I saw these almonds on special offer. Please don't look at the BB date! They were fine, honest!

With these almonds, I made some vegan cocoa fudge (featured in yesterday’s post) and 4 fruit puddings made with home-grown apples, foraged blackberries, and an oaty-almond topping.  They were totally delish… although Lil’ L freaked at the purple coloured apple and said the dessert wasn’t attractive enough to eat! The cheek of it!

The idea was to freeze 3 puddings and eat 1 this week.  Instead, 1 found its way into the freezer, and 3 got eaten in less than a week!  Aren’t we a greedy bunch?

2. Shop around for the cheapest deals. I haven’t done an internet shop this week, so I’ll try www.mysupermarket.co.uk for price comparisons next week.

3. Make use of home-grown foods. On Saturday, we picked apples off our cooking apple tree.  M and Lil’ L had loads of fun, with M balanced up the tree throwing apples down to Lil’ L.  The idea was to carefully catch them and place them in the box, so we can overwinter them.  Unfortunately, most got dropped, some bounced off his head, and the picked apples definitely got mixed in with the windfalls!  I’m not holding out much hope for the overwintering now. 😦

We filled up 3 boxes and there’s still hundreds of apples up the tree.  If anyone that lives near me would like some apples, please give me a shout as we have way too many for a family of 3.

 So far, I’ve made all the puddings mentioned above, plus lots of apple sauce, which I’ve been using to make apple cinnamon breakfast pancakes. 

I normally buy at least one bag of organic apples a week and a couple of jars of organic apple sauce per month, so this little harvest is going to save us a fair fortune!

4. Go Foraging! I couldn’t wait to go foraging, so straight after school last Friday, Lil’ L and I put on our wellies and went to see what we could find.  Just a short distance from our house, we found a small strip of land literally covered with cob nuts!  We gathered them up, brought them home and weighed them.  In total, we had 2 kilos’ worth of nuts!  In Waitrose, cob nuts are currently selling for £3.99 a kilo!

Fortunately, I know someone who absolutely loves cracking nuts. 😉

So far, I’ve used the nuts to make veggie burgers.  This weekend I’m going to try roasting them with a little sea salt.  Again, if anyone living near me would like some cob nuts please let me know as we have way too many.

Last weekend, we also combined a bike ride along the Bath-Bristol cycle route with a foraging trip to gather blackberries.  We managed to gather 3 containers’ worth.  Some went in the puddings, the rest I stewed.  I adore stewed blackberries and ate 2 bowlfuls today.  I should be zinging with nutrients now! 🙂

5. Make use of vouchers and deals.  This is where we made a huge saving.  In preparation for our Friday night out, I exchanged some Tesco vouchers for reward tokens and we went to Pizza Express.  We asked for the £10 for 2 course menu (in our local P.E. you don’t get this menu unless you ask for it!) and Lil’ L had the children’s menu.  For drinks we had tap water (P.E. must hate people like us 😉 ).  The bill came to £27, which was paid for in tokens… thus FREE!  Normally we spend £35-£40 on a night out, so a bargain all round!

Outside of my 5 rules, we also came up with another way to save significant amounts of money… by parking 10 mins out of the city centre and walking in.  This week, we’ve needed to go into the city twice by car (normally we cycle).  By parking a little out of the centre, we saved £10 in parking charges!  I also enjoyed walking through parts of Bath that I never normally visit.  I especially enjoyed stomping through the crunchy leaves. 🙂

That big leaf in the middle just had to come to come home with me 🙂

It’s amazing how many ways you can save money with a little bit of thought.  I’m going to pop over to Laura’s now and see how everyone else is doing on The Big Budget Challenge.

What’s your favourite money-saving tip?  I’d love to hear it! 

 

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WIAW – I’ll bring the Korma :)

Happy Wednesday everybody!  Hope it’s been a good one for you!

My Wednesday started much slower than I would have hoped.  It’s been so dark  in the mornings this week that I’m struggling to get out of bed.  While I’ve significantly reduced my coffee drinking in order to kick my caffeine addiction, this was definitely one of the those mornings where I needed to smell the coffee in order to even open my eyes. 😉

I was way too sleepy to take a photo of my coffee, so this one is courtesy of Savit Keawtavee

The coffee was quickly gulped down while I made Lil’ L’s breakfast, got dressed and literally sprinted to school.  This is the third morning on the trot that we’ve only just made it to school before the bell stops ringing.  I MUST do better tomorrow. 😦  

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that Wednesday is the day that I join the ‘What I Ate Wednesday’ party hosted by the lovely Jenn @ Peas and Crayons. Not only do I use this event as a way to take stock of my own eating habits, but it’s also a great way to draw inspiration from all the wonderful eats that are on display at the WIAW party. 

I’m really late joining the party today.  Tardiness has been the theme of my day (my mum would say it’s the theme of my life. 😉 ).  Sorry everyone, I promise I’ll try and do better! 

So, here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast
The dark, wet morning definitely called for a warm breakfast.  I opted for a huge bowl of porridge, with chopped goji berries, pecan nuts, and ground flaxseed sprinkled on top, and a drizzling of Sweet Freedom Natural Syrup.

Rather than my usual Flahavans oats, I thought I’d try some of Lil’ L’s Ready Brek.  When I was young I loved eating Ready Brek.  I SO wanted to be the kid on the advert that glows on the way to school.  🙂  On the box, it says it’s ‘Great for Kids’ and, for me, this holds true.  It was way too smooth and creamy for me.  Plus I didn’t feel anywhere near as good as I normally do after breakfast.  I guess some things are best left in your childhood. 😉 

Lunch
I had my lunch back to front today.  The bread hadn’t finished baking by the time I had to dash to school for my meditation class, so I ate my pudding first.  I started with an apple off the tiny tree that grows out of the rockery in our back garden… this apple right here:

This was followed by a piece of cocoa fudge that I made yesterday.  This fudge is SO filling that you only need one little piece to fill you up!

This is my first attempt at making fudge and I packed it with goodness (ground almonds, tahini, raw cocoa powder, hempseed oil, fruit sweetener, and a goji berry on top).  I made up the recipe, using Shazzie’s ‘Little Fudge Cakes’ from her ‘Naked Chocolate’ book and Dr Fuhrmann’s ‘Vanilla Carob Fudge’ for inspiration.  Lil’ L loved it and gave it 5 stars but, for me, the tahini flavour was too over powering.  I’ll try again and post the recipe when I’m 100% happy with it.

When I got back from school, I had a slice of warm home-made bread with Natex low-salt yeast extract slathered on top (for a B12 boost).  (It was delish but I’m afraid there’s no photo; I woofed it down at soon as I got home! 🙂 )

Dinner
Tonight’s dinner was the left-over veggie korma from Monday.  It’s the first time I’ve made korma for Lil’ L and he absolutely loved it!  I basically used a bunch of veggies that I found in the bottom of the fridge.  It turns out that the combination of veggies works really well (IMO), so I’ll definitely use the combo again. 

In the pan went: onions, garlic, korma paste, cumin, red pepper, green pepper, courgette (zucchini) (thanks Ellie!), green beans (thanks Mum!), spinach, carrot, sweet potato, long life extra firm tofu (quorn or TVP would work equally work fine, or even cashews and almonds), some vegetable stock and a sachet of Patak’s coconut cream

While the veggies gently simmered, I boiled some rice.  I’d normally use brown basmati, but I found some old white rice in the pantry that needed using up.  When the veggies were ready, I roughly whizzed them with the hand blender, so that they blended together and made the sauce creamier.  I didn’t blend them to a smooth paste as we like a bit of texture, but I guess a fully blended curry would be great for kids that aren’t keen on veggies.

The korma was totally lush!  I’ve eaten it 3 times this week (twice with rice and once in a tortilla wrap) and I’m still not sick of it!   This dinner is going to be a regular feature in our house from now on. 🙂

Dessert was an apple pudding with an oaty-almond topping.  To save time, I made two puddings and will freeze one for next week.  The apples are home-grown. 🙂  

Right, that’s my eats done.  I’m off to Jenn’s party to see what you’re all eating.  Happy WIAW everyone!

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Plumdiddlyumptious!

We picked our last bounty of plums last week from our little plum tree.

We’ve been enjoying lots of delicious plum crumbles over the last month but, as the last batch were so ripe and weren’t going last more than a day or two, I decided to simply stew them.  I absolutely adore stewed plums!  I could easily eat them morning, noon and night… although that probably wouldn’t be a wise move. 😉  

To stew them, I simply cut them up (leaving the skins on), added them to a saucepan with a little water (about 1/4 cup) and let them gently simmer for 10 minutes.  After this time, I mixed in a little Sweet Freedom fruit sweetener.

As we had such a huge batch of stewed plums, I decided to freeze a few portions, and refrigerate the rest for desserts and smoothie juices.  We made this gorgeous fruit puree, by blending the stewed plums along with some stewed blackberries.  (We foraged the blackberries during a bike ride along the Bristol & Bath Railway Path).  I sieved the puree to remove the pips, then used the puree to make fruity desserts and smoothies.  

To make fruity yoghurt, I simply mixed some of the plum and blackberry puree into a bowl of natural soya yoghurt.  The first time he tried it, Lil’ L polished off the bowl and then exclaimed “this is plumdiddlyumptious!” 🙂  This week, he’s been taking little pots of the yoghurt in his lunchbox to school (great way to get some more fruit into him. 😉 )

To make the smoothie, I simply whizzed the plum & blackberry puree in a blender along with a handful of ice cubes.  It was absolutely delicious!  I felt like I was zinging with vitamins after downing a glass of this. 😉

Well, the plums are coming to an end… but the apple tree is laden with ripe fruit.  Time to get creative again!

I’d love to know what your favourite plum recipe has been this year.

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Plums galore!

For the past 11 years, our little plum tree has given us nothing more than a handful of small, bitter plums… but all has changed this summer!  This year, the boughs are literally creaking and breaking under the weight of hundreds of gorgeous, big, juicy plums!  I don’t know why it’s decided that this is the year to provide for us (perhaps it enjoyed the hot, dry spell we had earlier in the year?) but whatever the reason, I’m extremely thankful and determined not to waste a single plum. 

I’ve eaten so many fresh plums and bowls of stewed plums this week that I’m going to start to look like one soon. 😉 

Lil’ L has never been a big fan of fruit but he was at least willing to try a slice of plum…  and he actually liked it!  To engage him more in the joys of plum eating, I decided to involve him in the baking of a plum crumble.  To make it exciting and memorable for him, for the first time ever I let him use a knife and gave him the job of cutting up 25 plums. ( I thought the handling of all those plums might help with his fruit issues. 😉 )  It seems to have done the trick as he was full of enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to try the crumble. 

We ate a large bowlful as soon as it came out of the oven and the verdict…. “mmmmmmm, delicious”.  Success!  Another fruit to add to his small, but growing list of ‘likes’. 🙂 

Our nutrition-packed, dairy-free crumble recipe can be found here.

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Hard work (and play) in the orchard followed by scrambled tofu on toast

Last Friday, armed with a pair of hand shears and secateurs, Lil’ L and I started to clear a large area of brambles and nettles in the orchard that had actually grown taller than us!  By lunchtime, we were starving and so we decided to make one of our all-time favourite lunches… scrambled tofu on toast.  This lunch is quick to make, super tasty, healthy and very filling (so great after a big workout!)

As the weather was so nice, we sat outside for our lunch.  As you can see, Lil’ L was ravenous…

He’d finished his lunch before I even started mine!

 

Here’s the recipe for scrambled tofu on toast.

Lunch was followed by more hard toil in the orchard.  This carried on for the whole weekend, but we were really pleased with the results.  We’ve revealed a large area at the bottom of the orchard that we’ve never ventured into before because it was so overgrown. 

This is the bottom left-hand area of the orchard that we cleared.

We’re now planning to plant bluebells and other woodland plants, and install a rope swing on the oak tree.

This is the bottom right-hand corner of the orchard that we cleared.

I’ve actually grown biceps this weekend with all the chopping I’ve been doing with blunt shears.  It was hard work, but loads of funs and very rewarding. 🙂

While we were chopping weeds, M was progressing with Plan B for the veggie patch.  Plan A failed miserably as the butternut squashes started to get munched as soon as we removed the cloches.  (Plan A involved placing coffee grounds and clippings of rosemary around the plants.  I’d read on the web that slugs and snails don’t like coffee or rosemary… but ours’ weren’t put off in the slightest and just slimed right over them 😦  )  One night, in the pouring rain, I dug the squashes up, took them back up to the house, and planted them back in pots.  I don’t think they would have survived another night with the slugs! 

Onto Plan B… this involved 1) tidying up the area around the veggie patch and removing stinging nettles, logs and anything else slugs and snails enjoy living in, 2) covering the area around the raised beds in shingle with brambles on top (to stop the cats pooing in it), 3) sticking copper tape along the top of the raised beds, and 4) placing stakes and wire with pieces of shiny metal tape around the entire veggie patch to deter cats and birds.

The first night, we left one tiny area of shingle without a bramble on it… and the cat pooed on it!!! Unbelievable!!!  The next day, step 4 (the wiring) was put in place and this seems to have deterred the cat.  At some point this week, I will try planting the squashes again and see what happens. 

Meanwhile, the plum tree is doing extremely well.  In fact, it had far too many plums on it this year and a few boughs snapped. 😦  The slugs are enjoying eating them though, so maybe the ‘plum fest’ will encourage them to forget about the veggie patch. 😉

We’ve also got hundreds of apples growing in the large apple tree.  They should be ripe in a few weeks and I can’t wait to start making apple crumbles, eve’s puddings, apple cake and apple pies.  Yum!

Lil' L's shot of the apple tree

The courgette (zucchini) plant is doing much better now… largely thanks to a resident ladybird, plus I’m bringing it into the back porch every night to stop it getting munched by woodlice.

In return for our tender loving care, the plant has rewarded us with some beautiful flowers…. and it looks like 2 baby courgettes have started to grow.  Yay!!  Let’s hope they manage to make it to full size.  That’ll be a first for us! 

How’s everyone else getting on with their veggie growing?  Have you reaped any bounty yet?

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