Money. It can be the root of all evils…and it can be the root of diet demons too!
The issue of money crops up in our house on a regular basis. Giving up a well paid job to focus on this weight loss has meant a lot of belt-tightening. We have given up Sky TV, much to the disgust of my other half – it’s actually easier than you think to do this…especially with a Netflix subscription…and lots of other things that we used to enjoy. The fact that I am no longer gorging on McDonalds and Just Eat delights helps…but I bitch at him for smoking, and he bitches at me for spending too much money on fresh fruit and chicken!
The food shopping bill is a source of tension. I admit to spending an average of £500 a month – for two of us. I speak to people who spend that on a family of six, and when my other half questioned his friends on Facebook, they were all spending a hell of a lot less than we were too. We don’t shop in Waitrose or M&S…we shop in Asda, which is fairly budget conscious, and make the odd trip to Aldi for some of their stuff too. We don’t eat from the ‘Extra Special’ range…we are okay with ‘Smart Price’ and regularly buy the basics range of fruit and veggies and store cupboard basics with which to create our meals from.
So where are we going wrong?
This month we set ourselves a budget of £10 per day to see if we could do it…and we aren’t doing badly. I haven’t suffered in terms of a lack of variety, which was something I was worried about. If I get bored then my mind starts to seek out new foods…and, historically, they generally haven’t been of the healthy variety. My biggest issue tends to be getting in the superfree food – as I find that this is what costs us the money. If I could eat beans on toast and not worry about the fresh fruit and veggies, then I might be okay.
I am not particularly fussy, but I would rather choose fresh raspberries over an apple…so I think this is where the issues arise. Also, my portion sizes when it comes to this superfree food can be skewed a little. I always think that I need to load my plate with it – not only due to the Slimming World ‘rules’ – but to get my 5-a-day, so it was interesting to see both of these posters as I think they give a nice portion guide…
The new Slimming World recipe book, ‘Family Feasts’, has some great recipes in it that I am going to try. There are 52 recipes in it, all of which will feed a family of four for under £6…not the 52 though, just 1 recipe! I cannot wait to try the cauliflower dhansak and Moroccan tagine – and there is a gorgeous looking beef keema and paprika pork dish too.
I was flicking through the first few pages, and spotted some tips and hints for losing weight on a budget, and it reminded me of a blog post that I wrote earlier in the year…for those of you that didn’t see it, I will give you some of tips I discovered…
First of all, investing in a slow cooker and a food flask will save you money in the long run…my reasons for saying this will become clear! Secondly, once you’ve stocked your cupboard with herbs, spices and stock cubes, it is quite cheap to rustle up a tasty meal with your supplies. I find that shopping locally, in Asian supermarkets, means I can buy bigger bags of herbs and spices which work out a lot cheaper than buying in larger supermarkets. Food soon becomes bland and repetitive unless you use herbs and spices to change the flavour – you can have an Italian flavoured veggie bolognese, a fiery Mexican chilli, and a Moroccan dish, with the same basic ingredients – but changing the flavours of the herbs and spices used means that you keep your diet interesting and your taste buds satisfied!
Another money and time saving tip, is to put a portion of whatever you are having for dinner aside before you serve up. You can then freeze it for another day…and I promise that you won’t miss the extra bit you’ve portioned off!
In terms of saving money on your weekly shop, make some sensible swaps. Just as you would choose wisely if you were eating out, choose wisely when you are shopping. Swap branded foods for basic foods – rice, pasta, baked beans, milk, cereals. Slimming World actually tells us in the Food Optimising book that you can swap any branded cereal for the supermarkets own brand – so porridge oats, bran flakes, wheetabix…all much cheaper if you buy the ‘Smartprice’ versions! Fruit is also cheaper if you buy the basics range – a bag of apples in Asda ranges from £1.35 to £2.50, but a Smartprice bag is only £0.84 and a bag of Smartprice pears is only £0.90…two of your five a day for a week for less than £2.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are fantastic value for money – yes, the basics ranges are great too. Just check that you are buying the stuff without added sugar and oils…easy to spot on the labels. Frozen fruit and vegetables can actually be more healthful than their supposedly fresh counterparts. This is due to the fact that they tend to be picked and frozen at the point of ripeness when they are packed full of nutrients, whereas imported fruits and veggies have often been picked under-ripe, travelled thousands of miles, and stored in warehouses before finally hitting our shelves – not exactly fresh and nutrient dense! Plus, every Tom, Dick and Harry has been handling your fresh veggies – urgh! Chose frozen vs fresh and you’ll not only save money there, but you could save money by stopping those costly vitamin and mineral supplements that most of us don’t need – but that I still take! You can buy frozen spinach, peppers, mushrooms, stir fry mixes, cherries, berries and all sorts of wonderful stuff…not just broccoli and cauliflower!
Something that I do regularly is bulking out my dishes with lentils. I only started doing this partway through last year, as I knew that lentils were a great way of adding protein and fibre in a cost effective way. Nutritious and low in calories, a small handful goes a long way. Lentils are great for thickening up soups and stews too and a 2kg bag costs £3.50 at Asda…even cheaper if you shop at an Asian supermarket…and a bag that size will last a while! I have also started using pearl barley, and the packets of dried pulses that can be used in soups and stews.
I have recently noticed that if I keep my mushrooms fairly chunky when I chop them, they create the illusion of meat due to their texture when cooked. Given that they are a great deal cheaper than meat, I use them regularly to bulk out bolognese, risottos, stir-fries and curries. In fact I don’t think there has been a day that I haven’t eaten them!
Frozen chicken chunks from Asda are also a bit of a bargain. They are pre-cooked, so can be defrosted and used in salads, or just thrown into curries and my favourite chicken noodle soup! It goes a lot further than a pack of fresh chicken breast does and costs about £2.50 for a decent sized bag that would easily do a meal for four people. I used this chicken tonight in my Thai curry and it tasted delicious.
Eggs are another favourite of mine – with omelettes and scrambled eggs being a regular part of my week. They are free on all plans with Slimming World, and since health professionals have admitted that there is no evidence that they increase cholesterol, you can enjoy them! My sister rustles up a mean Spanish omelette using sliced tinned potatoes, onions, mushrooms, mixed peppers and a HE of cheese on the top; serve it with salad – it really does taste lovely! It’s also great eaten cold for lunch the following day too.
Stocking up when the supermarkets have offers on is another money saving idea. Asda always seems to have offers on items such as low fat Supernoodles, savoury rice, cous cous, mugshots, yogurts etc. Just check that they are syn free or low syn, and stock up your cupboards. I do not like to advocate the use of pre-packaged foods – as I like the fact that Slimming World promotes the use of fresh food and cooked from scratch meals. But let’s face it, there are always times when we need a quick meal or when we just need a snack to keep us on track…and cupboard staples like this are essential. You can even freeze yogurts if you do stock up, and enjoy a frozen treat to ensure that the use-by date is not compromised! Obviously looking out for the yellow sticky ‘whoops’ labels will also bag you a bargain…cook something with the items that evening and freeze it if you can’t use it immediately.
That slow cooker I mentioned can be used to cook cheaper cuts of meat. The longer cooking times means that tougher cuts of meat will soften up and taste fantastic. Stewing beef, mutton, and even goat, all taste wonderful in stews and curries – add some lentils, mushrooms and frozen veggies, along with some of those herbs and spices, and you’ve got a filling, cheap and tasty meal for you and your family to enjoy.
Shopping at places that you don’t normally shop at is what the budget conscious and savvy shopper does. Venturing outside of Asda, or Tesco, can reap rewards! Poundland for example have Dorset Cereals muesli, Go Ahead bars and Quaker porridge oats in stock this week…and anyone who eats muesli knows that Dorset Cereal is not a cheap brand. Aldi also do something called ‘Super 6′ – six fruits or veg for 49p…this weeks offer includes cherry tomatoes, grapes, carrots, broccoli, onions, and a savoy cabbage – fantastic! Their bacon and cooked meats are fantastic too; I’m quite fussy about my meat (oi – less of those rude thoughts!) and won’t eat fatty or tough stuff! They do a range called ‘Specially Selected’ which is their premium brand, yet it still comes in cheaper than most of the own-brand supermarket items and they have some lovely stuff. The cheese is great too; a low fat soft cheese (75g as a HEA) is only 49p a tub, and they also do low fat mature cheddar and low fat cheese slices – marvellous stuff!
I also have some meal suggestions that are a little more budget conscious…these often appear at the end of the month in our house…but are pretty tasty at any time really…
Mushy pea curry – sounds rank, tastes wonderful!
Moroccan chickpea stew.
Jacket potato with various fillings – I like chickpea dhal, cheese and beans, tuna and sweetcorn with mayo etc.
Pasta is so versatile, just add any veg you have along with some passatta, herbs and chilli for a lovely veggie dish, and add some of those chicken pieces I mentioned and turn it into a pasta bake for the following night!
Chilli is another good meal that can be bulked out with veggies, beans and lentils. A large packet of extra lean mince – usually on three for £10 – can make at about six portions if it is bulked out. You can have it with rice, syn free chips, or jacket potatoes!
Omelettes – I’ve already mentioned. but they are a great source of protein, cheap and filling. Have them fried, scrambled, poached or boiled and you can enjoy them at any mealtime.
Casseroles, stews and soups done in the slow cooker – cheap cuts of meat cooked long and slow with mash are warm and filling.
Stuffed butternut squash, stuffed peppers, stuffed marrow – a great way of supplementing your five a day and you can use a packet of savoury rice for a quick and easy meal.
Pasta’n’Sauce with added veggies – bake in the oven with a HEA of cheese on top!
Right then – that is my budget blog complete. I am actually looking forward to the winter now…to get the slow cooker out and start cooking some lovely stews. Asda stop making some of their ready prepared soup mix packs – which are great for budget eaters as you just need one pack, some stock, and you will have enough to feed the family or for you to have for lunch each day – but when the weather gets colder, they start making them again…roll on the frosty weather!
The usuals today have been a little slower than normal as I have woken up with man-flu and feel incredibly sorry for myself Haha – I will get over it soon. I think that I had been running on adrenaline for a few weeks, and now that I have a few days to relax, I have just let myself relax too much and picked up a bug – have you ever noticed that this happens when you go on holiday?! Plus, my other half decided to do his burglar routine last night – which involves him sneaking downstairs for a ciggie whilst I am asleep…yet making noise which wakes me up…and I think he is asleep next to me, and grab the big candlestick besides the bed, waiting to brain whoever walks through the bedroom door! So that happened at 1am. Then at 4am my dog started making a weird coughing noise, so we woke up and sorted her out…I was a bit worried as my Dads dog was PTS yesterday for a chest complaint…so I wanted to make sure my little madam was okay. And then the postman decided to grace us with his presence at 7am…so it wasn’t a great night – with three loo trips for me in-between those nocturnal activities! Today has been fairly sedate as a result – a trip to the horses and Asda, an afternoon of mooching and tidying up for me…and trying to sort out Christmas – who is going to see who on which day…at this point in time, non of us know where we are going, I have peed my Dad and my sister off trying to sort it out…so it might just be my other half and I going solo this year. We have a gorgeous carvery place near us which has an awesome Boxing Day menu…with smoked meats, which I adore, and they will even make me separate veggies without butter so that I can stick to my plan. But it seems that my Dad has arranged to see his girlfriends family that day, and that my brother in law wants to go somewhere else…so who knows. I do love Christmas with my family…but a cottage in the Highlands gets more and more appealing each year! So that has been it really today. I am planning a night of Jack Bauer if I can prise my other half away from the football.
Breakfast: 0% Total Greek yogurt, fig, banana, blueberries, and raspberries.
A lovely food day! Brekkie was delicious – it feels ‘good’ to eat stuff like that…lovely fruit and yogurt. Lunch was a mammoth omelette with onion, spinach, mushroom, tomato and lean bacon all topped with cheese and stuck on top of toast. Dinner was lush – I do love curry. The green Thai paste is 1 syn per tbsp – so I use this, with a bit of stock, add some chicken, onion, courgette, mushrooms, green pepper, green beans and spinach…and when that’s all cooked, remove it from the heat, stir a syn free coconut yogurt through it…and it’s done. My snacks were a big feast of loveliness, enjoyed whilst watching Jack Bauer!
Exercise: Some squats and some kitchen cleaning…cleaning counts when you are normally a lazy arse and get your other half to do it, right?!
Thank you for reading – I hope that your weekend is going wonderfully,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx