Last weekend was a very thrifty weekend – we spent Friday night printing coupons and then going to various shops to collect our freebies (bottles of Sprite, Clover butter and some Fairy liquid) and Sunday was spent food shopping.
I really hate food shopping. Mostly because I'm aware of how much things have increased in price, but also how buying in bulk isn't always cheaper. I check everything to make sure I get the best deal, and this even spreads to going to various shops to ensure we get the best deal. Lidl were offering £5 off a £30 spend on their Facebook group, so Tony and I decided to head to King's Lynn for a day of shopping and Nando's for free thanks to Pinecone's luncheon vouchers.
Wandering around Lidl, we looked a bit crazy with calculator in hand and the shopping trolley separated. Because there were two of us, I was determined to manage 2 x £30 transactions so that we got £10 off instead of £5 off. I have to admit that in Lidl, this was hard. I'd planned on bulking out the shopping by buying 2l bottles of Pepsi, but they weren't on a good enough offer (2 for £2.50 – I refuse to pay more than £1 per bottle), so we were stuck with a shortfall. Luckily my Dad really likes the rum that Lidl sell, and one of their half price weekend offers was 100% British beef mince, down to just £1, we managed to just make it. I tried to think ahead – we really like sweets and having things to snack on, plus cheese is very cheap in Lidl, so I thought about what we would need for the entire month, and also about buying snacks so that we weren't tempted to just nip over the road for treats. It did mean that we spent more than we normally would, but it should get our weekly spend to around £10-£15 (for milk, bread, yoghurt and fruit).
After Lidl we went to Farmfoods. Now I'm undecided as to what I think about Farmfoods for food – I think their ‘anything breaded' stuff is okay – fish fingers, chicken burgers, all that rubbish, but their meat isn't the best quality – and I'm by no means a food snob. But they sell 2L bottles of Pepsi by the case – 8 for just £6.95, just 87p each. Yes, it would be cheaper to not drink Pepsi or any soft drinks, but that's not happening any time soon. After a quick stop off at Sainsbury's to get petrol (5p cheaper per litre than Tesco) and pump up my tyres (free instead of 50p at BP), we were off home.
Upon getting home with our delights, I knew I'd have to make a start. I'd been reading a lot recently on Pinterest about crock pot cooking and freezer meals. However, I'd forgotten that we'd traipsed through pretty much the whole of King's Lynn to get all of our delights – I was tired! I set myself a goal of working for just two hours and leaving Tony to do the washing up.
Before I started I had no idea what I wanted to make. I had 9 packs of mince, some chicken, lots of reduced shelf peppers (what a bargain!), large bags of potatoes and onions and lots of ideas.
Firstly I wanted to make some twice baked potatoes and baked potato soup, so I threw a tray of potatoes in the oven to bake. Next I decided that the best course of action was to start cutting up some veg – using old beef mince punnets (cleaned) to store them in. Once I had a nice selection I could make a start. I made a few bolognase sauces up by frying some onions, mince, peppers, grated carrots and mushrooms. These were easy to freeze in plastic take away containers (usually 8 for £1 at Poundland, a bit more pricey from Wilkinson's). These can be taken out of the freezer and microwaved whilst some fresh pasta is cooking for a very easy meal. They can also be turned into chilli with some chilli powder, or be used for tacos. I also boiled 5 eggs for lunches the following week at work.
Then I decided I wanted to make some meatballs. I love meatballs, and despite how cheap they are to make, I often end up buying them because I prefer the taste. But this time I was determined to make a stockpile. I use 1 1/2 packs of mince, one beaten egg, grated onion and a selection of spices, and then rolled the meatballs into shape. I then rolled them over a plate of couscous as I wasn't sure how they'd freeze after being rolled in flour. I then used the plastic containers and greaseproof paper to ensure that they didn't touch each other when freezing, to make sure they didn't turn into a mess upon defrosting. I managed to get 8 per tub.
About this time the potatoes were finished, so I divided them into twice baked potatoes and potato soup. For the twice baked potatoes I cut them in half, scooped out the potato and mashed in some grated cheese before spooning them back into the potato skins. I put the potato halves back together and wrapped them up individually in tinfoil. These will then be defrosted and baked at 180C for 15-20 mins (no tinfoil).
One of my friends had tried baked potato soup in Florida and told me how amazing it was, and ever since I'd been meaning to make it. The official recipe called for a lot of things I didn't have, or didn't want to use – for example, we now see bacon as a weekend treat, so I didn't want to waste any on a soup. So I scooped out the potato from the skins and placed in a pan on a low heat with some milk and left over cream – no measurements, I just used my eye. I then used a hand blender to get rid of the lumps and added some grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste. It thickened up so I added another glug of milk and turned off the heat. I had some for work the following day with cheesy bread from Lidl, and it was delicious! The rest of it is now in the freezer. I can only imagine how much nicer it must be with bacon on top!
I then set to work on making some burgers – but not just any burgers, some jalepeno burgers. We're big fans of spice in my house, so I added a ton of chopped jalepenos and got a bit heavy handed with the chilli powder. I also added one beaten egg, salt and pepper and grated carrot and onion to the mixture, and got to work shaping the burgers. From one 400g pack of mince I managed to get 8 burgers and froze two per plastic tub.
By this stage I was getting really tired (and cranky!) so I used the last of the chopped veggies to put one lot of chicken fajitas in the slow cooker, and one lot in the freezer. We ended up having chicken fajitas the following night, and despite adding no liquid to the slow cooker, I was disappointed to find the veggies swimming in liquid. I won't be using the slow cooker for fajitas again, but rather opt for stir frying the peppers and onions.
I then used the last of the veggies to make stir fry packs up – they didn't need blanching as they'd be stir fryed upon defrosting anyway. All the ingredients used up, I looked at the time and realised I had ten minutes left. I then bagged up the remaining mince meat, halving each pack, and sat in front of the freezer for 5 minutes rearranging items. I wiped down all the sides, piled the washing up for Tony to do later, and called it a day!
I'm loving cooking that little bit extra when we make a meal, either for lunches (I'm disappointed that my new office doesn't have a microwave) or to put in the freezer. We made pulled pork a few weeks ago, and someone tweeted a photo of pulled pork nachos, so we froze the left over pulled pork in anticipation of doing just that. If I make a slow cooker meal of chilli I'll be sure to bulk it out and then fill the slow cooker, ensuring that we have 2-4 more portions to freeze. As Tony's just hunt intensifies we know it is only a matter of time before we're both working, and to have home cooked meals available means that we're less tempted by unhealthier, or more importantly to me, more pricier options.