Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Three Commandments of Savvy Shopping

Short and sweet today, If you're trying to cut down on what you spend and are trying to get things for the lowest price, you have to follow at least one of these three, everytime you shop.

1. Ebay sweep.  Even if you want brand new, search Ebay.  I've just searched for an all terrain pram and they're on there for around £6!!!! (yes! 6!)  Loads of brand new and unwrapped items are listed.  Its worth a 2 minute check on your smartphone.

2. Use quidCo or another cashback website.  You'll get paid for buying from websites you'd buy from anyway and you'll get access to fantastic deals.  I got an iPod with a new mobile phone contact some years ago.

3. Make a list.  Don't be distracted - you'll overspend.  Do a meal plan and stick to it!!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Leftover Roast Dinner Soup

This is a guest post from my friend Jillian, a fab and economical cook who is also a fan of The Lancashire Wine School where we got chatting about leftovers and this recipe landed in my inbox.

Makes around 6 portions.


50g butter

2 onions sliced

2 sticks celery – I cut them very fine as my husband doesn’t like the taste!

carrots finely diced – you can use any hard vegetable and as much as you like (I use carrots and swede)

Soft vegetables – as much as you have ie green beans, cabbage, sprouts etc

1 ltr stock or enough to cover

2 tablespoons plain flour

As much leftover cooked meat you have

Salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a large pan and gently fry the onion, celery and hard vegetables until they start to soften but not brown.

Add the flour to soak up the butter and cook for a couple of minutes – I sometimes add a little water to stop the flour sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the gravy and the stock making sure all the vegetables are covered and bring to the boil then add the soft vegetables and meat and simmer for around ten minutes or until everything is cooked.

Season and serve.

Ideal for the cold weather, what's your favourite home made soup recipe?  Please leave a link below

The Sunday Roundup

There's nothing like a Sunday morning for having a catch up on your dressing with a brew and favourite breakfast.

Here's my favourite five posts of the week from the blogs I follow. I hope you enjoy reading them too!

I Am Typecast - The (Un)Friendship Cake

A Thrifty Mum - Cleaning Made Easy

Hands On: As We Grow -Homemade lava lamp

A Thrifty Mrs -Creating a home HQ - 15 days to an organised new you

Sew Scrumptious - pillowcase dress: dress a girl around the world

What have you been reading this week?

Leave a link below and give me a heads up on your favourite blogs.

Have a fab Sunday!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Garlic Mushrooms in Rose Wine

If you like stuffed mushrooms in a sauce, as opposed to the breadcrumbed type of garlic mushroom, you'll like this dish.

Serves 4


30 closed cup mushrooms
Garlic puree
Half a bottle of White Zinfandel wine
200g slightly salted butter
1/2 a block of lactofree cheese
1 tomato
Golden breadcrumbs
Natural breadcrumbs


Melt butter and add 1 tablespoon of garlic

Add a quarter of the bottle of wine and bring to the boil.  When reduced a little add another quarter of the bottle and boil the alcohol off.

Meanwhile, Peel the mushrooms and allow 6 per person.  Put the stalks and remaining mushrooms in a bowl.

Add a quarter of the cheese block (grated) to the bowl, add the tomato and 1 tsp of garlic puree.  Blend with a stick blender.  Add natural breadcrumbs to get a good consistency for stuffing.

Fill each mushroom with the filling and top with golden breadcrumbs and the remainder of the grated cheese

Turn the sauce off and add 1 tsp of natural breadcrumbs.  Taste and add more garlic if required.

Pour the sauce around, not over, each serving of mushrooms.  Fill each dish to about hallway up the sides of the mushrooms.

Cover with foil and cook for about 20 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Make a Living from Car Booting

If you frequent car boot sales regularly, you will notice the same stall holders week after week.  Surely no one can have that much stuff to get shut of?

No, they can't.  They are professional car booters making a living from setting second hand goods.

Get to the boot sale when the pitch opens and you'll find the stall holders checking out the competition.  They will scoop up under priced items from the one off stall holders that are there clearing their unwanted goods, reprice the item and make a profit selling it on their own stall.

Make a living from car boot sales

Pack up all your unwanted items the night before so you are ready to go first thing in the morning.

Prepare your car boot kit.  Get a large tupperware box and put in: 

3 sheets of stickers (for prices)
2 thick felt tips
Roll of bin liners
Carrier bags for customers
Paper to make signs

Get your clothes out ready to throw on in the morning.  If you have thermals, put them on (unless there's a heatwave), it's probably going to be a bit nippy at 6am

Get your flask out ready near the kettle and make some sandwiches for breakfast.  There will be stalls that sell delicious bacon butties and tepid brews, bit you're there to make money, not spend it!!!

After you have set up, scout the other stalls and buy up what you can sell and what will make a profit.  The latter is crucial.  You are taking home the difference between what you pay and what you sell it for.  Don't get carried away, you can easily create an financial loss here!

Shout out to passers by.  Entice then to your stall.

When you get a looker, engage with them, talk them round to buying.  Ask why they like the item, convince them that they need it.  Haggle, do discounts for multiple items, make that sale before they leave.

If time is ticking on, put up your All Offers Considered sign.  You don't really want to pack it up and take it home do you?

Scout the other stalls again for reduced bargains that you can sell next time.

Good Luck!!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Stretch Your Shopping

Now you have drawn up your household budget (you have, haven't you?), you well have an allocated amount for your weekly shop.

This will be one of your biggest outgoings and I have found a way to reduce this annual amount by £840 per year!

What could you do with that money? Would it party for Christmas? How many mortgage payments is that?

So what's the secret? How do I do it?

By not shopping every 7 days but by stretching what we have to last another day.  So I shop every 8 days, meaning I do 45 shops each year rather than 52.  On a shipping budget of £120 per week, that saves me £840 per year.

It's worth noting that I don't shop for 8 days - I shop for 7 then on the last day we either eat from the freezer, cupboards or leftovers.  I have, during times of extreme laziness, I mean busyness, stretched this out to 10 days.

So get creative with your leftovers and stores.  Leave a link to your recipes below!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 28th January 2013

Well it's that tone of year when something has to be done about the tight clothes.  We turns not to start a diet at the very beginning of January so we've a better chance of sticking to it.

This week, The Hairy Dieters book is getting a hammering.  I've made several dishes from this before and they've ask been well received by both the kids and ourselves.  Most recipes are vegetable packed so great for children.

So this is the plan...

Monday - Hairy Dieters Shepherds Pie

Tuesday - Hairy Dieters Thai Green Curry with Pad Thai

Wednesday - Rogan josh Chicken and saag aloo

Thursday - hairy dieters Cassoulet

Friday - Chicken Dinner

Saturday - garlic mushrooms

Sunday - Shepherds Burritos

There's loads more meal plans over at At Home With Mrs M

Have a fab week!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

5 Secrets of Rich Ebay Sellers

A great little money maker to boost your savings pot is Ebay.  But make sure you are not giving your potential savings away by following these strategies which are deployed by the people who make a living from Ebay.

1. A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words
Stage your item.  If its clothes it will get more bids, therefore a higher price, if its on a mannequin.  If you have a lot to sell or intend to Ebay regularly, invest in one.  Buy it off Ebay and sell it when you're done with it. If its an unwanted gift, show it with a gift box and offer to include it.

2. Offer Free Postage and Packaging
Calm down, its not really free, its added into your starting price.  Just make sure you do know how much it will be to post. Weigh it check the Royal Mail website.  Items with low or free p&p sell.  Many people are put off by high postage rates.

3. Offer Inspiration
Buyers need to be encouraged.  Think of Selfridges compared to TK Max, I know where I prefer to shop, where its all there on a plate demonstrated and looking lovely.  Describe what your item could be, a gift for..., a time saving device, the latest must have gadget, the next big thing.  You do have to be accurate in your description so don't get carried away, but go as far as you can to make the buyer think hmmm yes, I'll have that!

4. Promote Your other items. 
Make sure you put a call to action at the end of your description.  I always add...
"please message me with any questions"
"if you like this, I have other similar items and will be happy to combine postage"
and Ebay will helpfully display your other items at the bottom of the description for you.

5. Monitor and Time Your Auctions
Consider when your ideal customer will be online.  You want to create a bidding war to get the maximum value.  I time my listings to end on a Friday night, particularly in January when people can't afford to go out.  Its also a good idea to have short auctions or use Buy It Now as everyone wants everything yesterday. Then finally, monitor your auctions, if you don't have a bid 24 hours before the end, let the start price to get things going.  Ultimately the item will probably sell for more than the original starting price.

Good luck!  Let me know how you get on and leave a comment below. 

Also let me know if your selling your regifts and I'll tweet the links to your items for you

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Gallery 127 - New

Every week over at Sticky Fingers blog, photo posts are linked up, showing each bloggers interpretation of the weekly theme. 

This weeks theme is New.

Even with a new baby brother, here is a 5 year olds interpretation of the theme New.

When asked why...

"its newer than my old one.  Brothers are only new for a day, then they're 2 days OLD"

How To Do A Household Budget

I've written several posts on working out your budget and there's some fab advice and instruction on one of my favourite blogs Mortgage Free In Three

Household Budget Headache?

There's also fab advice and downloadable spreadsheets to get you organised on the Money Saving Expert Website.

If you intend to save money, for whatever reason - to get out of debt, for a holiday or rainy day (that's two different things - not a British holiday! Ha ha!) You need to be organised,know what you can afford, set goals and be committed to achieving them.

So let's find where you're at now and then we can build on that by increasing your income and saving where you can.

So your To Do List is....

1. Download a household budget spreadsheet

2. Fill it in

3. Look at where you can save money and cut outgoings.

4. Subscribe to this blog to receive the strategies I use direct to your inbox.

Its worth noting that cutting costs is not about depriving yourself or your family.  Its about not wasting money (like I identified on my Monday meal planning post) and getting value for money.

Next Wednesday, I'll be revealing the top 5 money wasters.  Subscribe and see if you're guilty!!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Leftover Roast with Revived Roast Potatoes

There's always some leftovers from a roast dinner and there's always a recipe for another meal!  It can also be made when you've loads of stuff to use up before it goes off.

This week its Pie.


Leftover meat
Cooked vegetables
Gravy (may need to make extra)
Ready rolled puff pastry
Cold roast potatoes
1 small onion


Put the meat and veg in a deep dish

Pour over the gravy, make sure there's enough to cover the leftovers

Put the pastry over the top and brush with milk, cream or an egg.

Cook until the pastry is cooked

Meanwhile, squash the cold roast potatoes a little.  Not to much, just break in half.

Heat oil in a  saute or frying pan and fry sliced onion for a few minutes until starting to brown.

Add potatoes and season.

Fry until the potatoes crisp up and the onions are soft.

Check on the pie and serve!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 21St January 2013

This week I really need to stock up the freezer again and get some batch cooking done.  Unfortunately, having a teeny tiny freezer means we have to eat a portion on the day so can end up eating mince all week.

Monday - Posh Hotdogs and potato wedges

Tuesday - spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday - Quesedillas

Thursday - Chicken and Quinoa Curry

Friday - Fish Pie

Saturday - Vegetable Chilli Tacos and rice

Sunday - Roast Beef Dinner

There's more meal plans on At Home With.Mrs M and for those who use their slow cooker there's recipes galore on Mediocre Mums blog.

And finally, here's the shopping list.

Large frankfurters
Cherry tomatoes
3 Onions
1.5kg mince
4 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tins plum tomatoes
Famiy sized Punnet of mushrooms
Garlic puree
Knorr beef stockpots
Corn tortillas
6 chicken breasts (quesedillas and curry)
Packet of old el paso quesedilla spice mix
Refried beans
Sour cream
250g quinoa (not the flaked variety)
Balti paste
2 sweet potatoes
Fish pie mix
Bay leaves
Small Aubergine
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
2 medium courgettes
200g mushrooms
2 carrots
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
200g green beans
1 tbsp garlic paste (or a clove)
500g passatta
1 400g tin red kidney beans
1 400g tin cannelloni beans
250ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp Mild chilli powder (or to your own taste)
Roast beef joint
Yorkshire puds
Taco shells

Gift Idea: Baking Jar

If you want a unique present for a little girl, put together a baking jar.  Its cheap and quick to do and ideal if you've forgotten to get a present. 

You can also make it more fabulous by getting a cheap kids apron, kitchen timer, baking tray and cookie cutters.  I go to the discount store and see what they have in.

How To Make A Cookie Mix Jar

You will need...

A 1lb glass or plastic jar/canister
Labels (you can download these

Weigh out the ingredients and add to the jar in layers.  Press them down firmly to ensure everything fits in.

Put the lid on the jar

Print off the labels, cut out  and thread onto ribbon.  You could personalise the labels.

Tie the ribbon round the lid and you're done!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 14th January 2013

Given last weeks news if how much food is wasted, I typically throw out at least half a carrier bag of untouched food from the fridge when I'm putting away my new haul of goodies.

So, I need to change.  Its a waste of money, our bins are too small and its just wasteful.

So here's my plan for this week and I will be strictly only buying what I need and using any leftover bits.

Monday - Roast beef dinner

Tuesday - Leftover Roast Dinner Pie

Wednesday -Toad in the hole with mash

Thursday - Crispy Chicken Strips, rice & peas and Dips

Friday - Steak and Chips with button mushrooms

Saturday - Quiche, beans and boiled potatoes

Sunday - Lean Fry Up

There's loads more meal plans on Mrs M's blog and if you're a slow cooker fan, check out Mediocre Mum's Slow Cooker Sunday.

What do you do with your leftovers? Have you any recipes? Leave a link below.


This weeks shopping list

Bacon -2 packs
Eggs - 12
Sausages - 2 packs
Black pudding
Button mushrooms - 2 packs
Beans - 2 tinS
Ready made quiche case
Chicken mini fillets
Natural breadcrumbs
Aromat seasoning
Roast beef joint
Goose fat

How To Make A Beeswax Candle

This is an easy activity for the kids, relatively cheap and a great way to give a personalised, handmade gift.

The wax is in the form of sheets that are rolled up.  There's no heating or melting required.

You will need:

Sheets of beeswax
Candle wick
Bits of ribbon
Glue, embellishments, anything you like!

How To Make a Candle

Lay out a length of candle wick and start rolling the wax sheet around it.

Keep rolling to form the candle.  When you reach the end, press the edge of the sheet into the rolled candle.

Decorate with ribbon or the embellishments of your choice.

If you want a fatter candle, press another sheet onto the edge when you reach the end rather than finishing the candle.

You can also cut the wax to give a fancy edge or use small cookie cutters on the very last bit to give a debossed effect.

Brilliant as a last minute gift and can be made months and months in advance.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Art of Regifting - Part Two

Following on from yesterdays post about regifting, here's my ultimate tip to ensure you are never caught out.

Hold a regifting party.

1. Label each gift in your regifting stash with a value.

2. Gather friends and more importantly, friends of friends (remember the circles rule of regifting from yesterday?) Send out a sheet explaining what a regifting party is and why its a great night in.

3. Set up an area for each person to display their regifting wares.

4.  Swap gifts of like for like value!

Now your family and friends will never know you have turned their unwanted gift into a completely new gift - saving you money! They won't recognise the gift, its a fab easy way to save.

You won't manage to shift all of your unwanted gifts so the next step to making sure you're not left with a cupboard full of stuff you don't want is the old faithful - Ebay.

More on how to make the maximum amount you can from Ebay next week, subscribe to my blog to make sure you dont miss my tips for ensuring a successful sale.

And if you fancy a regifting party, leave a comment and let's see if we can get you all together.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Quick Meal: Cod with Red Pesto


Jar of Home Made Red Pesto
4 cod fillets


Preheat oven to 190

Place cod fillets in dish and cover top with red pesto

Cover with foil and cook for 16 minutes

Remove and allow to rest for a minute

Serve with steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes

Simple eh!?! Have you read my 10 meals from a jar of red pesto post?

Filling Quinoa and Chicken Curry

Taking inspiration from the M&S Fuller Longer Ready Meal Range, I created a curry that is do filling that even I couldn't finish a bowl full.
Makes 6 servings
400g diced chicken
2 medium onions, diced
3 sweet potatoes, diced
Tin of chopped tomatoes
8 tsp Balti paste
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
200g Quinoa
Spray the wok with oil
Brown the chicken and the onion
Add the Balti paste, tin of tomatoes and quinoa and let it sizzle for a couple of minutes.
Add the sweet potato and stock and simmer for an hour or until the sweet potato goes soft.
Voila! As it contains quinoa, you don't need rice or chapatis.  I'm sure you'll find it filling.
What's your favourite one pot dish? Please leave a link below

The Art of Regifting - Part One

Regifting is the practice of sending a gift you have received but don't want to someone else. The danger is sending the unwanted gift back to the original sender.

Regifting is a massive money saver and if you simply don't have the spare cash to buy a gift, its a godsend.  If you have popular young children that are often invited to parties, you can save a fortune from regifting as duplicates often happen. 

To be a slick regifter and ensure you're not caught out, follow these simple steps.

1. Label the gift with who bought it you, when and what for (by this I mean birthday or Christmas not "because they think I'd love a floral bandana")

2. Make a list of your unwanted gift stash including a column for the gift giver and a column for who you can regift it to.

3. Make a note in your diary of when and,what you intend to regift.  I do this as I'm to forgetful to remember.

4. Wrap and label the gift ready to give!

WARNING!!  When regifting, consider your circles of friends and family. You can't regift to people who may open the gift in front of the original gifter in case they recognise it.

Tomorrow I'll share with you the ultimate regifting top to ensure you are never caught out and also how you can make money from your pile of unwanted gifts.

Don't miss it - subscribe to the blog!!

10 Meals from A jar of Red Pesto

This keeps in the fridge for a month in a jar and is a staple to have in if you want to add tastiness to your meals.It's also really cheap to make and can really be spun out.

I usually make a batch of this for my Slow Cooked Italian Roast beef and then use it up over the next couple of weeks in various ways.

The recipe for the pesto is on the Slow Cooked Italian Roast Beef Post.

So here's 10 ways I get 10 meals from this cheap to make pesto.

1. Baked Cod with Red Pesto Crust

2. Garlic Bread With Tomato

3. Baked Gnocchi

4. Bruchetta topping

5. Calzone

6. Minestrone Soup

7. Italian Style Quesidillas

8. Slow cooked Pork Casserole

9. Crispy Chicken Strips

10. Slow Cooked Italian Roast Beef

I also use the pesto to add oomph to spag Bol sauce and to spice up shepherds pie mince.

So what do you use pesto for? Please leave a comment and share your ideas

This post is linked up with Creative K Kids Tasty Tuesday

Creative K  Kids

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Slow Cooker Sunday - Italian Slow Cooked Roast Beef

If you have fussy eaters that don't like to chew, this is an ideal recipe as the meat falls apart.

You do need to make a red pesto to coat the beef though, but this takes all of 5 minutes with a hand blender.  This makes enough pesto for fish later in the week and it's fab for giving bland spag bol a boost. (or using as pizza base, or on bruchetta)


Red Pesto

1 tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove or 1 tsp of garlic paste
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil - drained

Slow Cooker Beef

2lb new or small potatoes
1 1/2 carrots per person
1 pack of green beans
1.5 litres of beef stock
1 tbsp dried italian herbs
1 onion
Goose fat for roasting potatoes


Red Pesto

1. Put all ingredients in a jug and blend to a smooth pesto with a hand blender
2. Rinse out the sun dried tomato jar and store unused pesto in jar.

Slow Cooker Beef

Peel potatoes (or just wash if you like the skins on) and cut into roast potato sized pieces.
Peel and chop the onion and carrots and put them in
Wash and cut the green beans and put them in too
Pour in 1 litre of beef stock
Cover the beef in red pesto and place on top of the vegetables
Make up the remainder of the stock and add the herbs
Pour over the beef
Cook on low for about 5 hours
Remove the potatoes carefully, place in hot goose fat in roasting tin and salt
Turn until dried and serve!

There's loads more slow cooker recipies on Mediocre Mum's Blog

Slow Cooker Sunday - Country.Chicken Stew

These quantities will fill a 6-8 portion size slow cooker.


1/2 White or sweetheart cabbage
3 sliced carrots
2 medium onions
2 large potatoes -skin on and cubed
4 chicken breasts or 8 thighs
Can condensed cream of mushroom soup
400ml chicken stock
Garden peas -frozen


Cut all the vegetables and layer in the slow cooker.

Place the chicken on top, if using breasts, cut into 4 pieces.

Pour over the soup followed by the stock and season.

Cook for 5 hours on low. 

30 minutes from the end, add the peas.

Serve with crusty bread.


There's more slow cooker inspiration at Mediocre Mums Blog.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Homemade Meat Pie

This is my boys favourite as its my aunty's recipe and they insist on it when we visit.

Its a great recipe for left over mince and is quick to prepare.  If you have any leftover Potato Hash, that can be used as a filling to make a meat and potato pie.


250g minced beef
2 oxo cubes
2 sheets ready made short crust pastry
Egg or cream to brush on pastry


Put mince in small pan and cover with water.  Stir in oxo cubes and season.

Put lid on pan and cook on low heat for about an hour.  It has to be cooked slowly so the mince is soft.

Cover a dinner plate with 1 sheet of pastry and, using a slotted spoon, fill the pastry with the mince.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 150C

Turn up the heat on the gravy, take out a spoon full or two and mix with the cornflour.  Return to the pan and cook for a few minutes until it thickens.

Pour the gravy over the meat - you won't need it all - cover with the other sheet of pastry and press the edges down.  Prick the top then brush with egg or cream.

Bake in oven for about 30 mins until browned.

Serve with boiled potatoes smothered in butter and garden peas.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Leftover Recipes: Vegetable Chilli Samosas

Ideal for the after Christmas and New year Binge!  Easy to make but you're actually eating good food rather than the processed stuff we all over indulge in.

One of my batch cooking staples is Vegetable Chilli (have you seen my 10 ways with which is actually 11?) and it can always be found in my teeny tiny freezer.  This is such an easy recipe and is great in lunchboxes too.


Defrosted Filo Pastry
Left over or defrosted small portion of Vegetable Chilli


1.  Seperate the sheets of filo pastry and cut into long rectangles (about 4-5 inches on the short side)

2. Place a spoonful of the chilli mix in the corner of the rectangle

3. Brush the edges with egg.

4. Fold over into a triangle shape and keep folding it over until you reach the end.

5. Repeat with another layer of filo pastry

6. Pinch the edges and "glue" down any loose edges with egg.

7.  Bake in the oven (if you're healthy) or deep fry (if you're authentic!)

There you go, ideal cold in a lunchbox, on a buffet, or as a starter!

And best of all extremely low cost!


After a huge break from blogging about my money saving project, I'm back.

I've not been anywhere particularly interesting, I've just been building my health and safety consultancy up to ensure I've an income whilst on maternity leave.

So in 2013, I'm determined to keep to these few resolutions...

1. Keep this blog up to date
2. Stop spending on presents and start crafting gifts
3. Save, save save
4. Exercise and eat less takeaways

What are your resolutions?  Are any of yours the same as mine? Can you help keep me in line?


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