Monday, 19 January 2015

Menu plan, the money has run out before the month edition!

January is always a tight month, but die to some unexpected bills and rather lax invoice payments is is harder than normal for us this month.  So we are trying to stretch what we have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

Monday - Toad in the hole, mash, leeks and peas

Tuesday - chicken noodle soup (made with homemade stock) and dumplings

Wednesday - Garmon, egg and chips

Thursday - Homemade pizza

Friday - Jacket potatoes with cheese and beans

Saturday - Bolognese with quorn mince from the freezer

Sunday - Roast chicken dinner


Next week will be even more of a mashup as we will be eating mainly from the freezer.  We are lucky I have a well stocked larder and we have a sack of potatoes from the father in law (who is a farmer)

Monday, 12 January 2015

Apply for a grant to replace your gas boiler!


Since Christmas is an expensive time of year anyway, so many families on low incomes are currently struggling with high heating bills and cannot heat their home affordably or effectively. There is a scheme available to help those households that meet the qualifying criteria obtain a free grant to put towards replacing old and inefficient or broken gas boilers. This could be of huge benefit in terms of energy efficiency and saving money on those all-important fuel bills. If you are a homeowner or private tenant (with permission from your landlord), on tax or pension credits or income related benefits, you could qualify.

More about the scheme 

The government ECO (energy companies obligation) scheme launched in 2013 is still providing grants to help low income households become more fuel efficient and heat their homes more affordably. There is a legal obligation placed on large energy suppliers to meet targets of improving energy efficiency in low income households. If you meet the criteria, Boiler Grants can help you through the process of applying for the grant and then put you in touch with an ECO registered company or supplier.



How it works

If you qualify, an ECO scheme approved company will survey your property making sure that everything is in order before the grant will have final approval. The new A-rated gas condensing boiler will be installed by a Gas Safe Registered and approved installer and you can look forward to lower energy bills and a warmer home. It is worth noting that even if you are eligible, you might be required to make a contribution towards the new boiler. The grant itself and the application is completely free and any contribution would be offset by the savings on your energy bill.

If you receive any of the following, you might be eligible:

·         Child Tax Credit (with an income of £15,860 or less)
·         Working Tax Credit (with an income of £15,860 or less)
·         Income Support
·         Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
·         Income-Related Employment Support Allowance


For more information or to apply, visit www.boilergrants.co.uk


Friday, 9 January 2015

Family Favorites - Slow cooker meals

Slow cooker Bolognese



One of our favorite family meals is bolognese and it is even better that I can make in in our slow cooker or crock pot.  It is perfect for Sundays when we have junior football, as I can prep it in the morning and we can come home to a warming, delicious hearty meal and even better one that leaves me with empty dishes and full tummies. 


You will need:
  • 15g Flora Buttery
  • 1 carrot , very finely chopped
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stick , optional , chopped
  • 55 g (2oz) mushrooms , cut into quarters
  • 350 g (12oz) lean beef mince
  • ground black pepper
  • 400 g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp beef stock
  • 225 g (8oz) spaghetti or pasta of choice
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
This week, we had our bolognese without the mushrooms and celery, but with added peppers.



Method:


  1. Heat the Flora Cuisine in a large non-stick frying pan and season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry the beef until it is nice and brown , before transferring to the slow cooker with  all the other ingredients and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  2. 15 minutes before serving cook spaghetti in lightly salted boiling water for 12–15 minutes, then drain.
  3. Arrange spaghetti in a deep dish, pour meat sauce over and sprinkle with grated cheese.
We always make double, as it freezes really well and is perfect for making lasagne with. 

Flora as some great recipes for using up leftovers to make family meals.

Smoky Slow cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Chilli


Chilli is also a firm family favourite in my home.  It is a great way to use up any beef that you might have left from the Sunday roast or from a large pack of mince meat that you may have left from making the spaghetti bolognese. 

You will need
  • 1 tablespoon Flora Cuisine
  • 800g braising beef, chopped into cubes
  • 1 medium sized sweet potato, diced
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped - no seeds
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped - no seeds
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika - less if your kids are not keen on the kick
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 700ml beef stock
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained
  • 1 large square of dark chocolate
Method
  1. Heat the Flora Cuisine in a large non-stick frying pan and season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry the beef until it is nice and brown on both sides, before transferring to the slow cooker, along with the diced sweet potato.
  2. Add the garlic, diced chillies, spices and oregano to the pan juices and fry for minute until fragrant (you may need to open the window, as pre-cooking the chillies will make your eyes water!) Stir in the tomato purée, tomatoes and stock then bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot sauce over the meat, then cover with a lid and cook on low for seven hours. Taste, and add more smoked paprika and spices if you feel it needs it. Stir in the kidney beans and the dark chocolate, and then cook for an hour more until the meat is very tender.
  4. Serve immediately with a nice big blob of sour cream. This also works well spooned over baked potatoes, and  freezes beautifully.


Homemade Slow Cooker Beef Stock


Stock is something that I always make on a Sunday using my slow cooker and any left overs we have from preparing Sunday dinner,  I leave it my slow cooker on low over night and it is THE best stock you will ever make.
You will need
  • Beef bones (preferably with some meat still attached to it – this will help give it a richer flavour!)
  • 1 medium sized carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium sized , diced
  • 1 rib of celery, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Dried herbs (use whichever you have to hand)
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Cold water
Method
  1. Place the leftover beef bones into the slow cooker with the chopped vegetables and the herbs.
  2. Add water to the slow cooker until it is roughly ¾ full and cover.
  3. Cook on low for 10 hours, or high for 5-6 hours.
  4. Once made, strain out and discard the vegetables and bones. You can freeze this, or use it immediately in a recipe of your choice. 

Slow cooked Sweet Potato




Did you know that you can cook potatoes and sweet potatoes in your slow cooker?  Well you can.  This will revolutionise the way you cook them, also it is so much cheaper to leave your slow cooker on than your oven all day.

You will need
  • A medium sized sweet potato
  • A tasty bit of Flora Buttery
  • Salt and pepper
  • Kitchen foil
Method
  1. If your potato is looking a bit dirty, give it a good wash and dry it well (a dry skin will crisps up better in the cooker!)
  2. Pull enough kitchen foil off the roll to wrap your potato up. The metal allows the heat to conduct better and this is what crisps the skin. Put the potato on the foil and then rub the potato with a tiny scattering of salt and some black pepper. Then wrap your potato up, ensuring that no skin is showing.
  3. Place your potato in the slow cooker, and cook without lifting the lid for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Carefully remove when ready and unwrap.
This works just as well for regular potatoes too. 


Monday, 15 December 2014

Making a gift for Christmas

MadDad doesn't always have a lot of spare time.  He works really hard and also spends time with the boys, but this year inspired by Worx he spent a couple of hours in the garden yesterday making the boys a pair of stilts.



He was sent a selection of power tools and then went out and bought some wood and rope and had some real fun for a couple of hours.

He was so impressed with the tools, that he went out and bought the drill himself and then a mini circular saw for his Dad for Christmas (Hope you are not reading this FIL)!

The MiniMads were delighted with their stilts (of sorts) and even took them round their friends, who now want MadDad to make them some!

Although MadDad is a mild mannered accountant by day he really enjoys tinkering when he isn't under pressure and these tools really made it a pleasure for him.

Why not have a look at making something yourself, there are some great how to videos.




 Disclosure: We were sent  a drill drivermini circular saw and sonicrafter to make the boys some stilts, we bought the materials and drill ourselves. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Our recipe for the perfect family holiday

Holidays, they are so different now we have kids to what they were like before we had kids! But as the boys are getting older I know that we would love to put a Mark Warner holiday to the test, especially as my boys are so active. 

Ingredients

One hard-working office professional Dad
One ever working Mum
One early rising sports man nine year old over achiever
One night-owl book loving eight year old

Method

Often we hope for a one pot cooking method where we could just throw all the ingredients and their clothing in to a plane and come out the other end perfectly cooked, but actually finding a holiday that suits us all is hard.

MadDad - hates sitting by a pool with a book, which I LOVE!
Maxi would spend all day every day either in or around water and is ultra competitive, even getting in your swimming costume first is a "thing"
Mini finds switching off at the end of the evening hard, but he likes to try to keep up with his brother.
Me - Well I like not having to do all the cooking, cleaning, organising and everything else that I am responsible for at home.  

EXPERIENCES BRING MORE HAPPINESS THAN THINGS

Since becoming a family we have all learned that we get longer lasting happiness by experiencing new things as a family and spending quality time together.  We love to challenge each other and have fun.  The boys are adventurous eaters and prefer to eat off the adult menu than go anywhere near a chicken nugget!


Just look at our before and after analysis

Before Children              With Children
LocationSouth AfricaHenley on Thames
TransportAirplaneCar with car seats and sick bags
LuggageA case and small bagA car stuffed full to the gills
AccommodationHotelTent
BreakfastLeisurely and taken at hotelCooked on a BBQ at 7am
Must havesGood books and sun creamBaby wipes, games, sun cream and clean loos
LunchPeople watching in a caféSandwiches or MacDonald’s
DinnerCandlelit evening meal with husband accompanied with wineCooked on a camping stove and washed in a communal sink accompanied with lots of wine for the adults
Typical mealSeafood with sublime winesSausages and Beans
RelaxationSpa treatment or swimming in the poolWhat!
ShoppingMarkets and local delicatessensWith children, no way just the supermarket
Most eventful happeningBring photographed with baby white Bengal tigersThe children actually sleeping though the night
Best part of the holidayBeing bought diamond earrings by MadDadThe open air and relaxed time with the family
Worst part of the holidayBeing seasick on the boat to Robben islandChild being sick all over car seat
Best day tripA visit to the wine reagionA visit to Legoland

Friday, 12 December 2014

Be rewarded whilst shopping online

I want to talk to you today about a new way to be rewarded whilst shopping online with PaidShop.com. I touched on PaidShop.com on my How to have a Thrifty Christmas post, but it deserves a post in its own right.



What is PaidShop? 

PaidShop.com isn't just a cashback site, it is much more than that.  The website features flash sales, allows you to check the latest sale items with all major UK retailers and search for voucher codes for favourite shops. 

So you can use PaidShop.com to search for voucher codes to save you money on your purchase, but you can ALSO get cashback on your purchase. 

Paidshop.com actually rewards you on a number of levels:

  1. Cashback on your purchases (you get 100% of the commission)
  2. Voucher codes saving you money on your purchases
  3. Price comparison tool to help you chose the best value option
  4. Flash Sales
  5. Rewarded for life for introductions and referrals – for every friend that joins up, you earn 5% of their cash back without even lifting a finger. PaidShop.com is unique in this as it has no expiry date which means you’ll keep earning additional cash back as long as you and your friends continue using the site

It seems too good to be true, but the fact is PaidShop.com is free, so you can try PaidShop.com out for nothing and see if it works for you.

One thing I try to do is make my money work smarter and PaidShop.com is one of those ways.  It adds very little time on to a shopping experience and if there is any way I can save money, coupled by being rewarded by making essential purchases that I would buy regardless, well that is a good thing to me. 


What ways do you make your money work smarter? 


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Do you have a mad clean before Christmas


There is something about Christmas coming that makes me want to clean up the house.  It might be all the twinkly lights, but I think that it really is something to do with people coming to visit that shames me in to it! 

Incase you get that cleaning bug too then why not take a look at my posts on cleaning your oven without chemicals, cleaning your washing machine and cleaning your tumble dryer



Thanks to Ecomovers for the fab infographic 

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