the last few days have been rather maniac. I got extremely lucky at the supermarket on thursday evening: picked up three whole free range chickens from tescos, all reduced by half (saving me around £6 to £8).. just one drawback.. they all had to be cooked that day. And of course i never do anything by halves: i put two in the oven together when i got home, cooked them (useful note when catering for more than 4: two smallish chickens will fit in that roasting tin..), then left them to cool while the other one cooked – and that one we had for our dinner, along with roast potatoes and the last of the kale. Yum. very very yum.

Then on friday before i went to the dentist i stripped the chickens of what meat was left (two intact ones, one … with bits of meat left from dinner) and crammed the bones and skin into two pressure cookers. The meat went into the freezer, divided by type (brown/white), then i poured water over the bones, added onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns, brought them to the boil, and simmered for 2 hours (not under pressure i hasten to add!). the stock was drained from the bones, the bones were thrown in the rubbish (once cool) and the stock was left to gel overnight – when a litre at a time was poured into bags nestling inside empty tubs of yoghurt, which were put in the freezer (when frozen, i’ll remove the pots and stack the bags) and the remainder poured into icecube bags (the idea being that when a casserole or somesuch needs some oomph, i can chuck a stock icecube in for some extra flavour).

the dentist appointment was postponed, to tuesday evening (my suggestion – they were running late and i was the last patient, and i’d rather have my dentist like me, yanno) so instead of doing the planned takeout (me on drugs + kitchen = disaster, so we do takeout the night i go to the dentist), we postponed the takeout to tuesday, and i went to the asian fruit and veg store* for veg for Thai Green Curry. Thai green veg curry is a fairly low cost meal – the most expensive part is the coconut milk, but i stock up when Aldi has it in store for around 40p a can, so that’s not too bad. After that its just the vegetables and rice. Yum.

Saturday was caturday (i.e. pizza) so no moneysaving there, but today.. ahhhh. This morning’s breakfast was caturday breakfast (postponed from yesterday) – Michiel had bacon and egg butties, i had one bacon and egg buttie, and one sausage and egg buttie. the sausages were tescos own, 2 packets for £2.50 (the other one’s in the freezer) and although i only had 2 sausages for breakfast, i cooked all of them: the remainder will be for monday night’s dinner, sausage and baked bean casserole (basically chopped sausage, baked beans, grated cheese, fried onions in an oven dish, topped with mashed potato and cooked till the potato goes brown ontop, served with caramelised onions.. yum).

I picked up a bag of apples reduced at Aldi for 49pence, 8 royal gala apples, to make apple pie with. A good fat bramley apple added to it meant a lot of apple for my pie, so i made that this afternoon. In fact, i ended up with too much apple – 2 whole ones left over, and a bag of apple mix in the freezer for another time. Having said that though, the resulting pie was absolutely gorgeous, i’m going to make this particular mix again. Use about 6 royal gala apples to 1 large bramley, chop into small chunks, dredge some lemon juice over (to stop it going brown) and stir well, then sprinkle over some plain flour – about a tablespoon or so – some sugar – couple tablespoons – and some cinnamon – a couple teaspoons (can you tell i don’t measure much?) and stir well.

Once my pie was made i had quite a lot of pastry left over. I’d made it to Michiel’s specifications – a lattice open top, rather than a closed pie, which is how i’ve always made it in the past (apparently this is how his mom does it and he prefers it) so with the leftovers i made some apple pie raviolis, which i think were even better than the pie. some cinnamon and demerara sugar sprinkled over the top of both made them both .. complete. (oh and i put cinnamon in the pastry too. i like cinnamon.)

I also made bread (which is very frugal), and then i turned to dinner.

Inspired by Jamie O’s cook a feed a family for a fiver (*rolls her eyes*).. well…. actually.. more like, inspired by Michiel dribbling and drooling every time THAT advert comes on i thought i would have a shot at meatballs. I’ve never made them before, so i looked up the recipe as a starting point, then got to work.

I had some reduced fat minced beef, but not really enough, so i got some sausage meat i had lurking in the freezer. It was reduced when i got it down to 47p for a 500g pack. The minced beef was mixed with some finely chopped onion, a little bit of breadcrumbs and some mixed herbs, then formed into balls. The sausage meat was mixed with a lot more breadcrumbs (since it’s wetter to begin with), some leftover Paxo sage and onion stuffing from Thursday’s roast chicken, more dried sage, and some flour to help it bind together, and formed into balls. Both were fried off, and put to the side.

I made a basic tomato sauce using the rest of the onion, 4 cloves of garlic (I’m sorry, Mr Oliver, but one clove of garlic between 4 people is just ridiculous.. we like our garlic!) a good handful of mushrooms, some chopped french beans and a jar of black olives, and a couple cans of chopped plum tomatoes. While not the finest tomato sauce i’ve ever made (by this time it was 10.30pm and we were both absolutely STARVING, driven to distraction by the smells coming off the cooking meatballs and this led me to make some shortcuts) and the meatballs could’ve done with being a bit smaller (i.e. bitesize) … it was pretty good. I’ll be doing it again (with spaghetti this time, i forgot i didn’t have any spaghetti, so i had to do it with pasta shells). Better than Mr Oliver’s recipe, i bet. (*whispers* and it cost a darn sight less than a fiver, i can tell you).

And Finally.. in other news, it was someone’s birthday today, a very special cousin of mine turned 17 today. If you’re reading this, happy birthday, sweetie, i hope its one of many very special days for you 🙂 I sent a card to her, which in time honoured fashion, i made myself, and of course i enclose a photo below… its not very clear but its basically a skeletonised leaf, on a “flower” made of pressed deep red rose petals. I just hope she likes it (and that it arrives in one piece).

As you can see, much of eating frugally is about seeing what you have, using it up before it goes off (like that bit of leftover stuffing, for example, or the breadcrumbs, which came from the end of a loaf, and it was all wonky.. it would have been so easy to chuck both of those in the bin), and planning ahead. It may seem contradictory, but it does work. sort of. for me, anyway. LOL. and i’m pleased with today’s efforts, if not a little (okay a lot) tired.

Tomorrow: we’ve been having trouble with the lights in the living room. They blow their bulbs every week or so, which is ridiculous (and we’re spending a fortune on lightbulbs). We also can’t put in the new eco bulbs with these shades, as they’re uplighters and the eco bulbs just won’t fit. I’ve got new lamp shades that probably will fit eco bulbs, but i’m not about to buy the (initially more expensive) eco bulbs when the normal bulbs are blowing as much as they are. So an electrician is coming out from the housing to have a look at the system and see if they can work out why this is happening. I’m also hoping to get some more work done in the garden: while i don’t mind the local children helping, there are times when they can be more hindrance than help, so i’m hoping to get the majority of what i need to get done, done before they come home from school. If i do, then .. of course i’ll post pictures!!

*bit of good news about this store: when they set up they did so in an old pub without planning permission, then applied for retrospective planning permission for the shop and a new cafe (although the cafe doesn’t yet exist). Objections were heard from local residents who were afraid that it would increase noise and traffic levels (the store is on a main arterial A road into Manchester, for crying out loud!), that there would be hygeine problems including an increase in vermin.. yeah. right. we all know what’s really behind their objections: the fact that the store is run by an asian family and caters to those who wish to cook asian, caribbean or polish food. i found it extremely distasteful and i’m so glad the judge saw sense and awarded them the planning permission the family sought.