Apr 192015

We have just about eaten to the bottom of our freezer.  All the stuff we normally leave for “just in case” has been consumed over this holiday in some very random meals :-)

Now its the night before school goes back and I need to get organised with some cheap and fast meals for the freezer to feed the big one who likes a hot lunch and is happy to carry a food flask.

It’s such a thought after a busy day at work – today I have learned how to make big posters and banners using an industrial vinyl cutting machine and then how to cut and fit decals on the new vehicle we have hired for transporting canvass teams.  One thing is for sure, no two days have ever been the same.

But ……………. Urgh!!! what to do that is cheap and nutritious and best of all FAST!!  So this morning I threw some handfuls of beans into cold water to soak with the plan of being able to make up some meals from my storecupboard staples whenever I got home.


That turned out to be a little later than I wanted (always the way) so tonights magic was effected by the use of not one but two pressure cookers…… although if you can spot the red pot at the back you will see I have tucked and end of brisket into the thermal cooker for gentle overnight cooking too.

Starting with the kidney beans of course which need to be hard boiled for ten minutes before replacing the water and cooking in fresh unsalted water.  There is a toxin that give  you a pretty upset tummy that is rendered safe by a brisk boil so I always do just to be safe.


The beans are then cooked in the pressure cooker at high  pressure for various timings according to the bean.

I usually use THIS chart to work out the timings – all my beans are presoaked which cuts down the times.  I also use the “Quick release” method when in a hurry with beans … which means that once the timings are reached I lift the whole pressure cooker into the sink and turn the cold tap on so that it runs over the lid.

It cools the pot quickly and releases the pressure without great gusts of steam and drama.


I then lift the lid off the pot, salt the beans and tip the whole thing into a bowl to begin to cool.  I always salt the beans after cooking as salt toughens the skins and you can cook up some serious bullets in a pressure cooker if the salt is added too early.

Allowing the beans to slowly cool down to room temperature in the cooking liquor means that they take on a little of the salt and the skins stay intact.  If you cool cooked beans by draining them and exposing them to the air then the skins are likely to break and peel back a little like the skins on new potatoes do. It doesn’t affect the taste of course … but the beans look nicer if they are intact. Yeah I know – but I am fussy like that!


So this was my haul of various beans  – from the top I have haricot, chick peas, kidney beans, pinto beans and butter beans…. all cooling nicely.


The haricot and butterbeans will head straight to the fridge for use in salads for my lunches this week – the other I need to make some vats of big  boy favourites.


See how the skins stay in one piece … big bowls of healthy and cheap beans courtesy of the trusty pressure cooker.

The red kidney and the pinto beans were turned into a quick chilli thanks to a pack of mince from the freezer, a couple of onions and carton of passata.


The chick peas got the “Curry in a Hurry” treatment with a half bag of new potatoes and some tinned tomatoes .. making 3 litres of curry and 3 litres of chilli to cool down overnight and head for the freezer in the morning.DSCF2010I will freeze these in my silicon muffin mould in individual portions – one “puck” of frozen curry or chilli and some plain rice makes a  filling meal for a growing lad…… and there will be enough here to feed my lad for two lunches a week for the whole of next term…. with everything made from stores it will be two meals a week I won’t have to budget for either.

So savings in both  time and money ….. with a bit of bulk cooking and forward planning…..  but Ooh my feet still ache LOL

Time for bed I  think – 18 days to go and things look like getting even busier … but at least tonight I made some headway in keeping my food budget on track.


Apr 132015

Today was going so well .. the usual Monday morning Admin Snowstorm (Ok that IS edited) was dealt with and I had even got a massive chunk of forward planning done and dusted.

In fact – things were gong so well that I was actually planning a day off with the boys on Wednesday …… then a very short text put that all on hold and I went straight back into “Stage Manager” mode.

We are having a visitor on Wednesday … and if I told you  that we have already had the Ex First Minister Alex Salmond, the Deputy Leader Stewart Hosie, the Finance Minister John Swinney and Chief Whip Pete Wishart … then I think  you can figure out who is visiting us :-)  In fact when she does I figure we will have completed the full set for SNP Bingo LOL


So I am pulling out all the tricks known to frugal Mama’s in order to keep my spending in check whilst the rest of my life goes crazy busy.

Funny  thing is .. the busier work gets the slower the food seems to be that I crave …..


I have used the last of my “Freezer Soup” box – a box that lives in my freezer full of finely chopped carrots, cabbage, leeks, onion and swede.  It means that I can always lay my hands on  the makings for a pot of soup in minutes in the morning.

Now of course I will have to spend a few minutes this weekend chopping some veggies and restocking this treasure chest.


So at 7am this morning I boiled the kettle for coffee and tossed a few handfuls of veggies a scoop of broth mix and a frozen packet of lamb shreds into my pot and brought to the boil for ten minutes.  I knew it could continue to sit and gently cook in my thermal cooking bag when I was out and about.


Lunchtime saw me whip back into the house and dish up a bowl of filling soup straight from the pot .. although TBH I did need to dilute it with lots of boiling water to make it more soupy and less stewy.

Scotch broth



It was good though .. and I know its much better for me than an endless supply of “something between two slices of bread”… even if I did dip a nice chunky slice of last nights in  there!!

DSCF1998And the rest is tucked up safe in the fridge to keep me firing on all cylinders whilst I deal with all the stuff that has suddenly erupted onto my “Get To Do List”.

So much for getting organised – eh?? ;-)



Apr 122015

Have I managed to fix the site – erm! Nope!!  But I have managed to get the bit where I can post sorted out so lets just live with that for a little while until I get my head around the rest.

Do you remember the 30 minute rolls we made a wee while ago?  My favourite recipe for a quick batch of “something bready” to go with dinner.

Well this weekend a Parisian Biologist shared with me his recipe for “One Hour French Country Style Bread”.  Face it – that is quite a mouthful … so its been changed to “Le Pain Montmartre” – the “Bread of Montmartre” as that is where his student digs were when he learned to make this particular loaf…. and Yes! you can make this in one hour from pulling out your bag of flour to cutting your first slice.

Continue reading »

Apr 072015

Haven’t been able to resolve the issues with the site – so I am in the process of rebuilding it again from first principles … so frustrating!!

So I think a couple of days adding and jiggling bits should see us all back on track – so I hope you are all keeping it frugal cos I have so much to share with you (and lots that I can’t share till after the 7th of May) …. but I am keeping photos so I can fill you in.

We are all hale and hearty if rather too busy and the boys are on holiday right now which is lovely if a little difficult organising with a full-time and then some job.  But this too shall pass – right?

Oh – and wee Rowan is seven tomorrow and has already had one of his birthday cakes that he shared with our friend Betty and someone you may just recognise a little :-)

Alex and Rowan Birthday Cake


And Yes I am in complete denial that my wee baby is seven – alright?? LOL

Off to work with a list of “bolt-ons” to sort in the blog when I get a minute between issues.

Wish me luck!!

Mar 122015

Apparently there has been an upgrade of the theme that is used on the blog … and now it is all over the place.

I have my head inside the manual .. but I think it may be beyond my technical abilities.

I think I may have to choose a new theme and give the blog another look.

Bear with me ………. please XX

Mar 112015

The plan is to be better at planning today … unlike yesterday when I thought “7.30 meeting I will be home by 8.30 and then I can post on the blog”

Well …. slightly longer meeting and then a big boy that needed to sit and chat when I got home – so I figured you really wouldn’t want me waking you up at half-ten :-)

But I know today is going to be a busy one … and I know I am out tonight and will be fit for nothing when I get in …. so leaving with everything in hand this morning in the hope I will feel less out of control tonight.

Including taking lunch with me so that I am not caught by the waft of Greggs as I walk past.  These days I never get as far as actually going into Greggs and buying anything (cos I end up with heartburn and TBH they are never as good as they look) … but the smell!!! .. and the abstinence … puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

So out with the packed lunch boxes.  These are my favourite at the moment.  A big box for salad, a smaller one for carbs and another for fruit and veggies. If you followed us on our “Summer of Hope Holidays” last year you would have seen these in action for all the family. DSCF1954 So – shredded romaine, cucumber and leek greens with sliced ham and hard boiled eggs (my mates chooks have started to lay again)  The red stuff is butterbeans in a garlic and thyme sauce left over from last nights dinner and a green apple with an orange for afternoon break where the guys are drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits!!


I throw my icepack on top .. not that its warm enough to muck around with my lunch at the moment but in March we can often get an unseasonally hot day amongst the stormy ones.  DSCF1957Into my “smaller” sized cool bag .. I have a bigger one that takes five boxes .. this one takes three at a pinch but it’s perfect for my lunch and icepack.


And my tea bottle from China …. you pop green tea leaves in the mesh bit in the bottom and then can brew tea all day just by topping up with hot water.DSCF1959Lunch packed and ready to go as I was brewing my coffee and making breakfast for the boys.

I know there are people who say it’s too much of a faff to pack a lunch every day – but you and I know that the few pounds spent every day on lunch from the shops adds up to a few mortgage payments every year. Also by packing lunch I never get tempted to mooch around the shops and find that additional spending starts to sneak in and catch me unawares.

In fact I have calculated that just by making packed lunches for me and the big one from “leftovers for lunch” or bulk cooking and freezing we save the equivalent of 2% of our mortgage every year…. let me pause whilst I let that sink in!!

Remember of course that these lunches still come out of our £25 per week food allowance too – so we are quids in packing lunches whatever way you look at it?

So – spill ladies … what are you having for lunch?  Does your choice support your long term goals in health, financial or otherwise.

I know its a truism .. but “Every Penny Counts”



Mar 092015

….. who ordered more winter?

Honestly if you could hear the wind howling around my house tonight you would think that I was Dorothy and we were about to take off for OZ.

Today has been Sunny, Rainy, Windy … full of sudden squalls and hailstones and fierce gales.

Still they say “If March comes in like a Lion it will go out like a lamb!” … sheesh but I hope so!!

So when we got home tonight we were chilled to the bone and soaked through …. perfect weather for soup .. so out with the pressure cooker and on with a pot of something soothing and warming as a “warm us up” before dinner. “Two Pea Soup”


This is my “souper standby” .. a soup that I can conjur up out of my store cupboard and a rummage in the freezer.  I don’t usually need to have this one on my menu plan in order to have the ingredients in …. and its most often cooked when I need to slide and extra course in when we have unexpected guests.  After all – being filled up with a big bowl of soup usually means we can stretch the main course just a little bit further.

Tonight I just made the two portions – but you can scale this up as you need to fill as many bellies as you have waiting.

DSCF1941 So for two massive bowls you will need:


  • 1 medium potato
  • Half an onion
  • 100g frozen peas (large handful)
  • 50g dried split peas (small handful)
  • 1 garlic clove, 1 cm ginger, Half chilli (or use powders from store)
  • Half teaspoon of mustard and half a teaspoon of cumin seeds.

DSCF1942 So – erm … chop up all your veggies and give the dried peas a quick swish out in some water as you boil the kettle.

DSCF1943 In a drizzle of oil soften the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic until soft.

Throw in the spices and stir around till they get toasty.DSCF1944 In with the potato, split peas and some pepper then cover the veggie with boiling water so that they have about an inch of water on top of them. Don’t add any salt at this stage as it just turns the split peas into nasty little hard bullets that will never soften.DSCF1945 Up to pressure in the  cooker for 12 minutes then release the pressure and remove the lid.

DSCF1946 Toss in the frozen peas and return to the boil before blitzing with a stick blender. the fresh pea taste is brilliant against the soothing, smooth background of potato and dried peas. It also really lifts the colour of the soup as made with dried peas only it can look a little like pond sludge (sorry I need a better metaphor but you get the idea??)DSCF1947

Now you need to taste to adjust the seasoning – you will probably need to add salt at this stage as there is not stock used in this so it will be very bland.

Then … just because I was feeling all cheffy I shredded a couple of slices of smoked ham and served with a dollop of greek yoghurt. Well – if I hadn’t you were pretty much looking at a plate of pea green soup which although it tastes totally fab is not the most exciting thing in a photo!! :-)

Although it did earn me a raised eyebrow from the big lad tonight when I plonked it down in front of him :-)  What you have to put up when your Mum is a blogger – Eh?

So what are you guys having to keep you cosy tonight?