A Strong Coffee

Monday, 18 June 2018

Meal Planning Monday: Week One of Spending Less.

This month I have set myself a challenge to reduce our monthly food bill. I wrote about the steps I am going to take and I am keen to see how much I can save. We seem to be spending money all over the place at the moment and we need to save in somewhere and our food shop seems the best place to start. If you follow my blog, you will know that I have been meal planning for some time. I have been using it to organise myself since starting work. I haven't really cared about how much we are spending. Well not until now! Last month it turned out that we spent a whopping £565 on our food shop for 5. (There may have been a few bottles of wine in there as they were on special offer!)

This week thanks to a trip to Lidl and a careful survey of the cupboards meant that we spent £78 and still have lots that will feed us this week. So what will be on this weeks plan?

Monday: Pork meatballs

Tuesday: Ham, egg and chips

Wednesday: Chili jacket potatoes

Thursday: Butternut squash and halloumi salad

butternut squash and halloumi salad

Friday: Smokey pork and black bean tacos.

Saturday: Some kind of BBQ. We are working with Stokes Sauces and I am excited to try them out as their packaging makes the sauces look and sound delicious.

Sunday: I am not sure yet, but maybe some Salmon as the older two love it.

So in the coming week I will be making sure that we don't overspend on unnecessary food, have as little waste as possible and probably go to Lidl to save some more! Do you have any tips for me?

linked to  The Organised Life Project and Katykicker

Sunday, 17 June 2018

10 Ways To Reduce Your Food Shopping Bill

I am a woman on a mission this week, and that mission is to reduce our weekly food bill. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, we probably spend too much. Whilst I meal plan, there are often other things jumping into the basket which we probably don't need. These luxury's will disappear for a few weeks. Secondly, we could do with saving some money. We have just booked to visit family in Madrid for a long weekend in the summer holidays. The flights were much more than we were expecting and we haven't even sorted accommodation or food and travel when we are there. If we can save some money on the food shopping it will really help. Lastly, I have a little more time to cook. Since starting back at work I have often opted for the easy option rather than the cheapest. I have been really busy and exhausted. Now that year 11 are finishing their exams the pressure is off a little and I am bringing less work home. More time for cooking!

So how am I going to reduce my shopping bill?

1. Take a note of what is in the cupboards and freezer already and plan to use it.

I am a sucker for a special offer and like to stock up. A little look through the cupboard and there was a whopping 12 cans of tinned tomatoes. We had some new potatoes that needed to be used so I swopped pizza day from this weeks meal plan to new potato frittata. We had some ham that needed using so this was swopped for the pancetta and then standard cheddar instead of goats cheese.

2. Make a point of visiting Lidl and stocking up.

This week I was really disappointed with my Tesco delivery. Whilst my shopping comes from a massive store, because I ordered my shopping to be delivered at 9am, they pick the produce at 4am. This meant that loads of the food I had ordered wasn't available. I therefore popped to Lidl to pick up some meat and couldn't believe the savings. Chorizo was £1.39 unlike the standard price in Tesco of £2.50 That is a big difference. Add similar savings up over a number of items and it is a no brainer. I think I will stock up on some meat items and see how this makes a difference to our overall bill.

3. Add more vegetables.

Like it or not the best way to reduce costs is to eat less meat and to substitute it for vegetables. It has the added bonus of being good for you - just need to convince my boys on that one.

4. Cut down on the brands.

I am not a massive brand person, but if it is on the special offer list on Tesco I am often tempted into the brands. My boys have got used to reaching into the freezer and pulling out a Magnum on a hot day. There is nothing wrong with an ice pop, so they will be needing to get used to these. Again, I often buy brands like Muller when they are on special. However, these are still expensive, so regular yoghurts will be on the menu too.

5. Don't take the easy option, go for good value.

Here I am talking about buying pre prepared food. Life is hetic and the supermarkets are keen to sell us items at an inflated price if it makes our life easier. Most jars of tomato sauce can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost and without the hidden sugar. Grated cheese is convinient, but you pay for that. I will be looking into how I can save those pennies here and there by adding slightly more time into my cooking.

6. Batch cooking.

Back in November I was the queen of batch cooking. I bought some extra pyrex dishes to use in the freezer and made massive meals that could be frozen. Then January came and it all went to pot. Time to sort that out again.

7. Use frozen vegetables.

It is so much cheaper than buying fresh and they don't go off, so I need to make sure I have big bags of vegetables in the freezer.

8. Don't have too many snacks for the kids.

My boys will happily raid the snack cupboard and then not eat their dinner. I will munch on their snacks when my husband is away. I shouldn't do this and neither should they. So less snacks it is.

9. Take our own snacks and drinks to the park.

Most days after school the boys are in the park with their friends. There is a cafe here and it is very tempting to treat myself to a coffee, or the boys to an ice cream. This gets expensive so taking snacks with me is the way forward.

10. Buy in bulk - within reason!

Usually, it is cheaper to buy in bulk. If you have the storage and it is on offer then it is worth taking advantage of this.

So here are my tips, and now to see how it pans out. Last month we spent a whopping £565.00 We did do some entertaining, but even so, that is quite steep for a family of 5. I think the best way for me to see if this works, is to see how much I can save within the next month. So far with my trip to Lidl and a Tesco shop, we are at £78 for the week and it should last well this week too. So I will update you in a month on how much or little) we have managed to save. Do you have any more tips?

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If you are looking to find ways of saving money on your food bill then check out my 10 ways to reduce your food shopping bill

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Bringing Colouring To Life With Mardles

My boys enjoy crafts, but there is definitely a trend for craft sets to be focused more at girls than boys. This is why I was keen to review the Mardles dicovAR range. For a start, the space theme appeals to my boys and secondly, by downloading the app you can bring the artwork to life. This particularly appealed to my 10 year wold who would probably not have been at all interested if we had just been sent a standard colouring book.

Mardles discovAR

We were sent the galatic quest coloring book which retails at £7.99. I was at first a bit disappointed that the designs were repeated, but this actually makes it really helpful if you have more than one child as there is no need to argue over which design to choose.

using mardles app

Once the sheets have been coloured, you can download the Mardles discovAR app and then bring your creation to life. Just scan the picture as directed in the app and your space shuttle will start to orbit! You can also put it into a VR mode and it will fly through space. (If you have been to Legoland recently, it is a bit like their Lego Reef  but using your colouring in.)

bringing colouring to life

It is pretty cool and a good way of getting older children to do something crafty.

We were also sent some Mardles Top Speed stickers. My boys were less interested in these, probably because they were more interested in their drawings. They do the same thing, in that you point your ipad at them and then they come to life. You can fly a plane around the room. I actually think that they would prefer some of the cute animals as stickers. However, if you have a slightly younger child, they may be more interested in these.

Mardles stickers

Overall, I am impressed by the sets that Mardles sent us to review. Personally, we preferred the coloring books as my boys  enjoyed seeing their own designs coming to life. It is certainly something I would consider buying for a child who enjoys crafts.

Family Fever

Monday, 11 June 2018

Meal Planning Monday

This week saw us have a BBQ on Saturday with friends. So yes we are the reason it rained at 6 o'clock! My rather clever friend made me a unicorn cake which I was over the moon with. She hadn't even realised that I am obsessed with unicorns! Obviously she doesn't follow me on Pinterest!

This week, I have two problems. One: I am totally fed up with cooking. Two: My husband is in Denmark for a couple of nights so I really can't get out of cooking! Monday see's us being together for 20 years. I am not sure which one of us deserves a medal the most. Either way we are celebrating with steak and chips, and I know my elder two will be happy with this choice.

Monday: Steak and chips

Tuesday: Lasagne

Wednesday: Pizza and beans

Thursday: Fajitas

Friday: Garlic pork.

Saturday: Big man is at a party so something out of the freezer for the rest of us I think.

Sunday: We are planning on going to Chessington for the morning, so picnic lunch and probably pasta for tea.

linked to  The Organised Life Project and Katykicker

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Banana And Chocolate Chip Muffins

When we visited Bangkok over Easter, we visited Starbucks everday for breakfast and enjoyed a banana and chocolate chip muffin. I know, not the most Thai like breakfasts, but it meant I got good coffee and was a fraction of the cost of the hotel buffet.

Banana And Chocolate Chip Muffins

Since coming home I have been wanting to make some for ages, so finally got round to it this half term. The results were good, but it has reminded me that making a batch of 12, for a family of 5, means that they don't last long!

The recipe is easy and you can play around with the types of sugar depending what you have in the cupboards.

banana and chocolate chip muffins

Banana And Chocolate Chip Muffins

For the cake
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 50g od dark brown soft sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 bananas
  • 75g milk chocolate chips
  1. Pre heat the oven to 180C
  2. Mash the ripe bananas with a fork.
  3. Add the sugar, butter, flour, eggs and bananas to a food mixer and mix together.
  4. Stir through the chocolate chips.
  5. Take a 12 hole muffin tin and place in 12 large cupcake cases or muffin wrappers.
  6. Divide the cake mixture between the cases - it will be around 2 dessert spoons each.
  7. Bake until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy!
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easy to make banana and chocolate chip muffins using self raising flour

Monday, 4 June 2018

Meal Planning Monday

I can't quite believe we are half way through the year and only on the last half term before summer. How has that happened? Last week was half term which seemed quite short thanks to the bank holiday Monday. Little man spent most of my Birthday getting checked out at A and E after he had a rash covering his body which we believe is from his coming off his penicillin for an ear infection. Luckily it has gone down a lot now and hopefully he will be back to normal soon.

Meals this week are going to be simple. I am busy trying to decorate the spare room as well as look after the boys and work at the same time and it is pretty exhausting. Thank Tesco for their online delivery service! I bought in quite a lot of food over half term as the boys eat huge amounts so we need to eat up bits here and there.

Monday: Chicken, corn on the cob and wedges
Tuesday: Sauasages and mash with peas
Wednesday: Pepperoni Pizza and salad
Thursday: Scampi and chips
Friday: Is usually curry day but might be changed to quick and easy filled pasta day for this week.
Saturday: We have friends coming over for a BBQ so watch out for the rain!
Sunday: Can't think that far ahead yet - maybe lasagne

I also have a lot of ripe bananas so will be making some banana muffins - check out the recipe on Wednesday!

banana and chocolate chip muffins

linked to  The Organised Life Project and Katykicker

Saturday, 26 May 2018

New Rubik's Games For Half Term Fun

We are big fans of Rubik's in this house. Big man is surgically attached to his 3x3 cube and is currently teaching me how to solve it. I was therefore exited to be offered 2 brand new games to review this half term: Rubik's Battle and Rubik's Flip.

Rubik's Battle is a card game. It claims to be a quick thinking brain teasing challenge that the whole family can enjoy.It is recommended for 2-6 players aged 7 and up. The rules take a bit of getting your head round. The cards are square and have squares on like the face of a 3x3 cube. They are green, white, orange, yellow, red and blue. The cards are dealt out and each player flips over their top card to reveal a pattern. If there are two patterns the same then the first player to shout "Rubik's Battle" collects all of the other players cards and that player is out of the game. The next two rules are slightly harder!

Rubik's flip

1. You can shout out a colour that is on your card but not on anyone elses. They would then collect all the cards in play.

2. You can shout out a colour that is not on your card but is on everyone elses. For example the bottom player in the picture above would shout blue.

If no player can call a colour you flip another card and all cards are collect on the next go.

We found that the fewer people playing, the easier the game is. The age rating is fair as my 6 year old struggled with understanding the rules. However, with a bit of practice he will be fine. We like to take a card game with us when we go on holiday, so this will be a good addition to our collection and is something different to the usual snap, uno and top trumps.

Rubik's Flip is a two player game, again aimed at age 7+ and would also make a good travel game as it comes in it's own small case. Again, once you have got your head around the rules, is a good little game. The objective of the game if to get 3 in a row in a locked position. (So that no pieces next to it can be flipped.) Each player has to flip a tile of the opponents before they can place their own tile. It is easy to make simple mistakes, allowing your opponent to win the game. One false move from me and big man (red) won this game!

Rubik's Flip

Both games are good for anyone that likes puzzles. I can see us playing Rubik's battle as a family, whilst Rubik's flip will be a game for me to enjoy playing with big man. Well maybe not if he keeps winning!

What Rubik's puzzles do you enjoy?

Family Fever