Monday 29 August 2016

More meal prep

Yesterday I spent some time prepping my evening meals for this week as I'm just so tired when I get home from work.  I cooked extra rice and broccoli on Saturday night so I had leftovers.  I defrosted and cooked 4 chicken breasts, roasted some Mediterranean veggies, soaked and cooked some black beans, cooked a large turkey thigh in the slow cooker and made a big pot of mashed potatoes.  I also baked a GF loaf.  Then I divided it all up in different combinations into my containers.

I ended up with 6 balanced meals for me and a portion of chicken and a portion of mashed potatoes for my eldest son.  I kept one out for tonight (mashed potatoes/blackbeans/chicken) and froze the rest.  This week's meals all sorted!

Link to containers here 

Sunday 28 August 2016

First week back at school

I'm exhausted!!  I have 28 challenging wee monsters with a lot of needs.  Luckily I have a support assistant with me most of the day (which is fantastic) but I'm not used to having another adult in the room with me.  So that's presenting a few challenges as well!

I spent the last week of my holiday trying to arrange the room into a lovely learning environment.  It's a tight squeeze but one week in and I think it's going to work. You can't tell from the pics but I have the school garden including the polytunnel just outside my room and I have the only classroom with an outside door.  So there will be lots of opportunities for outdoor learning.

This is my desk area at the end of the day!!

The meal prep I did a few weeks ago has proved to be a big success.  Coming home exhausted from work meant I already had a nutritious meal waiting for me.  So far everything has reheated well.  Last Sunday I made a big batch of turkey meatloaf using 1.5kg of turkey breast mince I got reduced.  I made some little burger patties and meatloaf muffins as well as the usual loaf.  I've still got lots in the freezer.

They reheat very quickly in the microwave!

Back door before shot

On Monday night my joiner phoned to say the doors I had ordered had arrived and could he could come and fit them the next day ie the first day of school for the kids!!  He's a very busy guy as he's so good so of course I said yes even though I wasn't ready for him.

But what a difference they make!   

Side entrance door, seen from the street (before)

And here it is after

I'm not a huge fan of the white uPVC look but they now match the windows.  They're energy efficient and have better security locks.  I'm also thinking ahead about when it comes to sell this house so making it buyer friendly too is important.  I decided to have a very plain look of half glass and I chose brushed chrome handles as I'm replacing the many colours of handles/switches etc with brushed chrome throughout the house.  There's still some plastering to be done as removing all the disabled entrance stuff from the previous owner has left big holes but it already looks heaps better.

While he was here, the joiner also finally put a door on my integrated dishwasher and made me 4 new cupboard doors for my utility room.  They just need to be painted white now.  DIY and decorating is a very slow process but I'm learning to be patient (ish) ;-)

I had a day off yesterday from thinking about/doing school work but I have to spend some time today prepping work for next week.  Every day last week I was in school from 8am to 5pm and also did a few more hours at home too. I know I can't keep this pace up but for the first term in a new place it's kinda essential to hit the ground running and make a good impression.  I think I'm going to be happy in this school :-)

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Portion Control

This was tonight's tea.  This morning I got a large chicken (free by using my M&S vouchers but normally £6).  I had roast chicken with some of my potatoes and broccoli.  And very nice it was too BUT it was a much smaller portion than I would normally serve.

Just out of interest I've been researching what is considered a serving of cooked lean meat for an average person.  It's just 70g.  SEVENTY grams!!!  That's not even a whole chicken breast.  It's just those 2 wee bits in my bowl above.  I would normally have at least double that and OH would have triple (but he trains hard and needs more quality protein than the average person)

I shredded it and added sweetcorn, pineapple, a little mayonnaise and a sprinkling of garam masala.  It looks a better serving size now!  A potato serving is 2 egg sized potatoes.  I chopped them up too ;-) And most vegetables have no limit on serving size.

So, my 1.8kg chicken should have cost £6 and it yielded 764g of meat.  That's 10 servings, each costing 60p.  (I'm always interested when I see bloggers costing their meals!)  The bones are currently in the slow cooker making stock for soup. I'll get about 6 servings of soup for just the cost of a few veggies, some rice and one portion of the chicken.  So 9 dinners and 6 lunches from one chicken.  In frugal terms it makes sense to stick to serving sizes as you get more value for money. 

I had already been looking at recommended portion sizes before today.  Last night I had some tofu.

It was £1.40 for 349g.  The recommended portion size for tofu is 120g so 3 portions from this pack @ 47p per portion.  Although I kept tasting and testing it so actually ate about half in the end!

I pressed it, dried it, sliced it and marinated it in Tamari.

I coated it in cornflour and fried it until golden.  The smaller pieces were crispier and tasted better.

I added them to my usual stir fry (at the end since they're already cooked) and drizzled sweet chilli sauce over it all.  Very nice indeed!

So portion control will save me money and keep me healthy.  Not exactly rocket science but sometimes I need to look at it differently to make healthy frugal changes.

Monday 15 August 2016

Polytunnel update

My 3 tomato plants are the biggest success in the polytunnel so far although they were my second lot of plants after the first lot died.  These are a beefsteak variety.

The plum variety are prolific.  I wish all 3 plants were these kind!  

Sadly I've lost 2 pumpkins so far.  One had rot and the other had fallen off.  One vine was completely covered in dead and yellowing leaves so I took it out.

My remaining vine still has several wee ones.  All the advice seems to be remove all but one.  But which one will I choose?

 This is the biggest one, about the size of a cherry tomato

The courgettes on the right have been decimated by slugs and have suffered from powdery mildew and the Autumn squash on the left just haven't fruited.

My peppers are just starting to flower.  I suspect they're too late now to fruit.  Not sure why they've been slow as they were planted months ago.

I emptied my potato bags.  I only had 2, just to see how they got on.  The Sarpo Miro bag above produced just 400g of small potatoes.

The King Edwards bag produced 740g.  So just a couple of meals worth of tatties from both bags!

To be honest I'm rather disappointed with my home grown produce this year.  Apart from the tomatoes I've not had better results using the polytunnel over the raised beds.  I think there are a few reasons.

1.  I used growbags.  I wanted to get growing quickly and they seemed like an quick, easy option.
2.  Although I did put down a weed suppressant fabric, there were gaps around the edges where the slugs and snails got in.
3.  It was really hot in early June and everything shot up too quickly.  I lost a lot of salad crops (3 types of lettuce, spinach and radishes) as they bolted almost overnight
4.  I went away on holiday for 2 weeks and left The Teenager in charge of watering and opening it up daily.  He really did his best but I suspect erratic under/over watering didn't suit the squashes
5.  I probably planted the wrong things! Too close together!!

My raised beds at the front of the house (south facing) have managed to produce a bit more but the soil needs to be nourished so yields have been low.  It's also been a very wet July so again the slugs and snails have been dining rather well.

So, what now?  Definitely need to enrich the soil in my raised beds.  Not sure how yet, all suggestions welcome.  And I'm working on a plan to put a U shaped raised bed in the polytunnel.

More reading and research is on the cards!  I'm learning just as much from my failures as well as the successes :-)

Friday 12 August 2016

This week's round up

It's been a busy week!  As you can see my hair is now a short bob and blonde.  Definitely a luxury but I felt with a new job I needed a new look.  It's taking a bit of getting used to but I think I like it.  I can still do my purple toner on it ;-)

We had a big family dinner for OH's daughter's 20th birthday.  I made a chicken lasagne where I used my white sauce to make the chicken sauce bit.

I layered it up with GF lasagne sheets and a home made tomato sauce (with a ton of 'hidden' veggies in it for the veggie phobes) 

Then topped off with grated goats cheese to make a totally delicious and gluten/dairy free lasagne.  No one noticed the difference!!

I've been successfully defrosting and heating the meals I made for the freezer.  Yeay!!

I finished upcycling the hook rack and painted the radiator purple (looks darker in this pic) and am pleased with result.  I've ordered a wee shoe rack to fit in the space between the radiator and the corner.  Just the woodwork now to finish off.

I picked a handful of peas.  TBH I've not had much success with them at all but I'll do an update on my poor vegetable crops this weekend.

I scored some reduced goats milk today with another 3 days before the use by date.  I'm planning to make some yoghurt and soft cheese with it.

I bought some lovely goats milk yogurt with live cultures as my starter so I'm hopeful it'll work the same way I used to make cows milk yogurt.

I also attended the funeral of my colleague's husband.  It was a humanist service and a fitting celebration of a genuinely good man.  It makes you stop to appreciate everything and reminds me to enjoy life to the fullest every day.

Friday 5 August 2016

Meal prep 2

When I was tidying/decluttering my study I discovered some M&S reward vouchers in my mail pile.  I think they were from around Christmas.  I wasn't well then so probably 'filed' them for later.  They were worth £15. So yesterday I 'spent' them on a chicken, 1.5kg of minced beef and 2 lamb leg steaks.  All yellow stickered so I got £21 worth of meat for £14.34. I made bolagnais sauce and taco mince with the beef.  They're all portioned up and in the freezer already.

I used my new containers for the taco style meal, slightly undercooking the rice ;-) Not all the lids sat flush on the containers but perfectly ok for freezing.  I noticed some of the feedback on Amazon said they leaked when taken to work.  Obviously you need a tupperware type container if you want leakproof transportation but since these are evening meals for me it wasn't an issue.

This one wasn't frozen (I'm not sure freezing GF pasta will work) so will be testing the reheating tonight.

I cooked the chicken in my slowcooker and then made soup with the resulting stock and some of the smaller 'pickings' from the carcass.  It'll go into my plastic mugs to freeze today.  I chopped up the chicken to make chicken lasagne tomorrow for a special family dinner.

So I got 11 individual meals from the minced beef, 2 from the lamb (I'm making a wee lamb stew today), 6 generous lunch servings of chicken and rice soup and I'll feed 6 people from the chicken.  All free just from using my M&S credit card reward vouchers.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Meal prep

Last night's tea was venision burgers (yep reduced and in my freezer!) turned into meatballs, served with a quick chunky tomato sauce (carton of chopped tomatoes, onion, carrot, garlic and a squeeze of ketchup) and GF pasta.  2 burgers made 16 mini meatballs. One portion for tea and the other meatball with sauce portion went in the freezer.

Part of trying to be more organised before going back to school involves me trying to prepare meals to put in the freezer for me (and No1 son).  Saving money and having healthy food already prepared is a no brainer.  I've been watching a few meal prep videos on Youtube lately for inspiration.  These guys have a series of meal ideas and suggestions on how to store them.  Don't be put off by the macros talk, that's just info for those who need it.  There are 11 videos full of good suggestions plus they've got loads of other ones including one pot meals and snacky stuff.

Tonight's meal was a kinda tandoori chicken thing.  I very nearly picked up a jar of tandoori sauce paste in the supermarket.  It was £2.  I looked at the ingredients and thought 'I've got most of them in the cupboard at home!'  Saved myself £2!! I mixed 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, ginger and paprika into a couple of big dollops of yoghurt (sheep's yoghurt actually, very creamy) with some garlic paste and a wee squirt of honey.  It wasn't 'red' enough so I added another tsp of paprika.  I marinated 3 large chicken breasts (chopped into chunks) in the mixture and left them in the fridge all day while I painted yet another coat of white emulsion on my utility room walls.  I baked them in a very hot oven for 25 mins.

 I served it with coconut rice (recipe here), mango chutney and broccoli.  YUM!!!

But then I put the second portion (a la Youtube chefs) into one of my new freezer containers :-) 

I popped the lid on and then it went into the freezer.  I suspect the rice might be mushy on reheating but worth the time (and money) saved to have a meal ready.

ETA I got the containers from here  They do 1 and 2 compartment versions as well.  I also got an invite with them to join their free VIP club which gives you more meal ideas.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

A different spag bol

I'm steadily working my way through my freezer.  I really fancied a spaghetti bolagnais for tea last night but had no minced beef.  But I did have 4 very nice beefburgers (yellow stickered of course).  And this fancy carton of chopped tomatoes was a freebie that my eldest son got in a delivery.  I didn't realise until I opened it that it had other veggies in it.  Bonus!!

I defrosted the burgers then mashed them up a bit, it's just minced beef any way.  Then made the meat sauce in my usual way adding red split lentils and grated carrot. I didn't need to add anything else as the tomatoes already had seasoning.  (I usually add Worcester sauce, mixed herbs and ketchup)

It was rather nice with my GF spaghetti.  Tasted different from my usual sauce but in a good way. I got 4 portions so there are now 3 in the freezer, 1 more for me and 2 for eldest son.  He had his annual assessment for the DWP yesterday so fingers crossed he doesn't lose any more money.

Since I turned 50 I've been making a better effort to look after myself but kept forgetting to regularly take my daily multivitamin tablet.  This morning I finally worked out how to remember to take it. Keep some in my coffee jar!!  I only drink coffee in the morning so will take one out when I make my first cup and have it with my breakfast.  Feeling rather pleased with myself!!