Friday, 30 November 2012

Frugal Friday

 Store Cupboard Essentials

I tried to move these pictures to the bottom of my post, but blogger is not playing today so you get this first! These are the meals I have frozen and the way I organise my freezer. It is a fairly good size 3 drawer freezer with a smaller tray drawer at the top.

Naan breads and Breadcrumbs
3 steak pies, 1 lasagne
One spag bol, one mince base ( can be converted into anything!), one veg pack

one meal of faggots, one tub of steak gravy and some mince ( triple wrapped)
I have 3 steak pies and a lasagne, a spaghetti bolognaise and a mince dish that I can convert into whatever I choose, a portion of meatballs ( faggots), some steak gravy, a veg pack from my veg box, some frozen mince, some breadcrumbs made out of old bread and some naan bread I picked up on offer.
 Cooking in this way means I get a few easier nights a week and also means I don't get those days any more when I panic buy expensive food because I don't know what to feed my family. It is cheaper and easier. The only thing I have to be is organised to start it off. Once I am up and running with some food in the freezer it is great. So much simpler. I just cook an extra meal each time I am cooking or every now and then give an afternoon, evening or couple of hours at a weekend to stock up on a few meals. For example, if I am making a spaghetti bolognaise it is no extra effort to make an extra one and a chilli to put in the freezer. Three evenings covered! Give it a go if you haven't yet. Clear one shelf out in your freezer. I can get four meals on a shelf/drawer. Also if anyone has some good recipes that freeze well for chicken , let me know. I would really like a huge freezer so I could freeze more. I often see great bargains in the supermarket that if I had more room could pop in the freezer for a later date. It is on my wishlist for our new kitchen next year. Lets hope the budget stretches that far!! Actually I have rather a lot on my wish list. Have a look at my pinterest page on kitchens . I have been posting ideas and colours I like here!

You can make most meals from these ingredients.

This weeks Frugal Friday post is a look at my stock cupboard and the ingredients I use. Often the first thing to suffer when you are cutting costs is the quality and that is something I am very careful about.

 At the moment although I have a tiny kitchen without any surface space I do have a small walk in larder. It is great to have shelves where you can see your ingredients and can grab what you need easily and quickly. The downside is the kids also like to go in there and grab food quickly too! Those of you with hungry kids - how do you stop them clearing out the larder within minutes? I am tough and controlling about it otherwise it would all be gone within a few days. Am I being too mean? They do have plenty to eat. There is always a fresh supply of fruit and yoghurts on offer. I generally have a homemade cake and homemade bread for sandwiches and toast available and plenty of cereal. However, biscuits and other quickly consumed items are restricted and there are times when I don't allow them to eat ( pre meals and once the kitchen is cleared up at bedtime - I say the cafe is closed!)  I have a large basket that I keep high up out of reach for food they will snaffle without thought. They know to touch this will encur great consequences!

I have said before , I don't take the totally frugal route with my cooking. I tend to take the middle ground and go for a reasonably priced product that is good quality. If a supermarkets basic range has in it what I want and has proven it is a good enough quality, then thats good enough for me. I  shop at Lidl in the main as I find they have higher branded goods at lower prices. They also have a range of products that are incredibly cheap (we are talking pence here ladies), but really good quality too. All their meat is also British. I have tried and had success with their pork, mince and chicken. I had one bad result with their beef steak, although I would try again as I think it would cook well in the slow cooker. If you haven't yet got into using a slow cooker I really do recommend it, especially if you have a family to feed. Check out the selection on Pricerunner here. The only other supermarket we have within a few miles is Tescos and I will shop here about once a month to top up on items I can't get at Lidls. My beef and steak usually comes from a local farm shop as I get a good deal if I buy larger quantities. It is not completely lean, but the flavour is ten times better. I always drain any fat off after browning mince anyway. Definitely don't assume that the supermarkets will be the cheapest or best quality!

10lbs of mince for £16. Makes 5 to 6 meals.I buy 4 or 6 of these at a time.

 I know if I were to be totally frugal with my shopping there are more savings to be made, but the content of the food is important to me and my growing children. My two boys I have to budget as adults - they eat more than me so really I am feeding 4 adults and one child. 

One of the reasons I can shop less often is that I keep my larder stocked up with some basics that I can make many meals from. Often these can be snapped up when they are on offer, so cutting the budget even further. I got Seriously Strong Cheddar this time  on a buy one get 2 free offer for £4.99. These offers are not always good deals to rely on, so I always make sure I check the aisle for better prices first. The supermarkets will put what they want you to buy on view at eye level, not nescessarily what is the best deal for you. 

We buy pasta and rice in 3 and 4kg bags as they work out cheaper than buying them in smaller quantities. My husband is convinced they have priced the rice wrongly as it works out so much cheaper, so much so he got 3, 4 kg packs the last time he went. I am,needless to say, still working my way through this rice.

Family meals such as Chilli, Lasgane, Spag Bol and pasta sauces often start with the same base so it is easy to batch cook these as well as having the ingredients in . I find, as long as I have a stock of the following ingredients plus some meat and rice/spaghetti or potatoes, I can rustle up a meal. We usually have one or two mince based meals a week for their convenience and the fact that everybody wolfs them down. 

These are the items I can make so many meals from and make sure I always have:

  • Plain Flour - for thickening sauces
  • Olive Oil
  • Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Mustard Powder - for adding flavour to stews and soups
  • Liquid Condensed Beef Stock
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tomato Passata
  • Basil
  • Beef/Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • Tomato Puree
  • Chorizo Sausage - to slice into stews,soups and pasta dishs ( £1.99 at Lidls)
  • Chilli Flakes ( below)

Chilli flakes add flavour to anything

Of course I have many other things in my larder, but these I would struggle without. I tend to switch around with the stock cubes depending on what I can get at Lidls ( it changes ) and the only expensive item, but does make a difference in flavour is the Beef liquid stock, Touch and Taste. A splash of this in stews and spag bol makes a for a rich sauce - yum yum.

Planning your larder and making sure you keep it stocked with good basic ingredients to make the meals from your menu plan will help you keep your grocery budget down. I am strict with myself and do not fill my larder with items I know I will hardly ever use. They will just be a waste of our hard earned money. Supermarkets will constantly try and tempt you with offers and buy one get one free deals, but always ask before you buy....will I use this and is this really a good deal?!

What is your most vital ingredient in your larder?


  1. I wish I had a large freezer also as I think it would definitely improve the budget. I only have two large baskets which need to be cleared out this weekend. Good idea with the naan breads and breadcrumbs... will be so uesful over the coming weeks:) Have a lovely weekend Claire.
    ~Anne xx

    1. I remember growing up my mum had a huge freezer - almost industrial! I understand why now!! X

  2. My larder is very similar to yours except I hadn't thought of the mustard powder so will give that a go. I always wonder.... If I've had meat frozen raw & I defrost it & cook it, is it safe to re-freeze it? Also, how long can I keep cooked meat (say from a roast) in the fridge. I err on the side of caution (2 days) but I hate dumping it & feeling wasteful. For chicken, I just had a thought to cook a creamy chicken & mushroom sauce for vol au vents. Martina ( starving now)!

    1. I never used to ( refreeze meat that is!) but it seems that it is perfectly fine to as long as you cool it down after cooking and freeze it straight away. Cooking it kills off any bacteria so as long as it is heated through properly it should be fine. I've done it loads and we are all still fine!! I err on the side of caution with meat in the fridge too - 2 -3 days , particularly with chicken for some reason, but I usually put it in sandwiches or make a meal on Monday after a Sunday roast to finish it all off! Chicken and mayo sandwiches with a bit of old stuffing mmmmmmm - now i;m starving too!!

  3. I reckon if I've got tinned tomatoes and some onions in the cupboard, then I'll usually be able to cobble together a meal of some description. Great tips. We've cut down on meat consumption big time which saves money too.

    1. What would we do without the old tomato based products - very good for you too though!! You are right it is the meat that bumps the bill up. When my hubby is away and we can do away with the meat the food bill goes right down! Ha ha!

  4. I cook just like you, and buy 3lb of mince a week from the local butcher. I must admit I buy the sainsburys basics mixed herbs for 14p!

    1. It's the way to go with a hungry family - great price on the herbs - got mine on a offer at Lidls, but they were still much more than that!! Sainsburys herbs here I come!

  5. Great read again! We agree on so many things! I also have a three drawer freezer but would have liked to have an extra small freezer in the basement!!!

    1. You can store so much with a good freezer and it makes life so much easier doesn't it!!

  6. Please feel free to pop over and organise my freezer Claire - everytime I open it things fall out - so much so my husband is scared to go near it! It's one of those American style fridge/freezers and I don't think some are as spacious inside as would appear! I always double/treble up on all mince based dishes - it's comforting to have a few extra meals in the freezer - may as well make a huge pot! Spicy lentils/dhal also freezes really well and can be used on the side with curries and naans or with rice and meat - works well for us! Also try to buy fresh garlic, ginger, chillies + coriander + freeze - mum's done this for years and they come in really handy. Always good to have a good selection of basic storecupboard essentials as you say - I love chilli flakes! xx

    1. That made me laugh!! I am thinking of getting a fridge like that for the new kitchen , but maybe having another freezer in the garage if I can convince the old man we need both!! Mince is great - I would be lost without mince meals!! Never thought to freeze lentils and dahls - my kids like spicy food so we do make a curry at a weekend so I could double up on that and freeze too...also great hint about the garlic, ginger etc freezing. I didn't know that and often end up wasting it! Love your recipes! X

  7. You have encouraged me to get organised.
    As for my store cupbaord stpale. I always have 2 jars of pesto sauce for a quick and eays meal either with pasta on its own or on fish, chops, with chicken and pasta. The kids love it.

  8. Thanks for your follow, following you back! :)


  9. Great post! I want a fridge full of Naan!
    Found you through the hop and am your newest follower! ;-)

  10. Wow - so prepared - I aspire to be you ahah!

    Xo Jill

  11. That's a very organised freezer! I always have minced meat and chicken fillets in the freezer - endless popular dishes can then be made and lots of eggs in the fridge - the perfect standby!