Wednesday 31 January 2024

My Final Shopping for January - Week Five


I really didn't need much this week, mostly frozen peas and bread, but as Alan was going to Aldi and I hadn't been in there this year, I went with him.  I wanted to have a look at all the vegan offerings that they had brought in for Veganuary, and that a lot of people on social media were raving about.

I spent a grand total of £4.06.

And as for the vegan offerings ...

... with my current UPF mindset and knowing all the food that I have in the house I wasn't even slightly tempted.

A nice cheap weeks shopping for me then!!

Of course I'm not saying that I'll never buy anything of this sort again, but I am going to be very selective about which of them I eat and how often.  For this week the knowledge that my shopping contains only one UPF item is good enough for me.

My total spend for January was £85.21, with £14.79 being carried forward into an emergency fund.

Sue xx

Monday 29 January 2024

It's a Journey


The last few days I have been thinking a lot about ultra processed foods (UPF).

It's something ... no it's everything ... to do with the new book that I am currently reading.  It's refreshing my mind in a more layman's way than Chris Van Tulleken's book, which I loved but which was very detailed and in parts harder to digest.

This is my latest reading material.

As you can see from the top photo over Christmas my little 'snack drawers' got a bit out of hand with extras and 'tasty treats', which I am no longer thinking of as tasty treats. So ... in breaks from reading my book I am slowly but surely working my way through my snack drawers and reading labels a lot more carefully than I obviously did in December during my willy-nilly throw it in the supermarket trolley excursions.

I think that's it's pretty obvious from the top photo that the type of things that were left in my snack stash were virtually all nibbles that I fancied to have with wine over the Christmas period, and as I am no longer drinking alcohol they actually hold little temptation to me now.

Once everything was out on the worktop I split the contents into two camps, those things that I would eat and those that I would give away.   These are the keepers, all relatively healthy and with minimal ingredients.

 I have to admit to eating a couple of the Cornish Wafers and then deciding that although the ingredients weren't bad, I just didn't enjoy them.  Sadly because of me opening them I couldn't donate the rest of the pack so they were crumbled up and put on the bird table for the birds over the course of two days.

These things were all UPF that I decided would never be bought again and some of which have already been dropped off at the Foodbank trolley in Booths.  Oh, except for the crisps which I ate and then read the label of ... I won't be buying these again.  They are good compared to some flavoured crisps, but I think I can find better.

After cleaning out my little drawer unit and it's baskets I put everything back temporarily and at last had a basket left over.  

So I popped my potatoes into it, this was the plan for this drawer unit when I first bought it a couple of years ago.  As long as I have a quick turnaround with my potatoes they should be fine in here.

Once I have offered the rest of the snacks that I no longer want to Alan and taken any items he doesn't want to the Foodbank trolley, I will have another freed up basket, already for refilling with healthier foods.

And now it's a new week and time to start on the main food cupboard, but there's no rush it's a journey.  😀

Sue xx

Saturday 27 January 2024

Shopping in Two Places

I didn't need much shopping, indeed I could no doubt have done without altogether really, but the weather was cold, I had just walked the dogs and I had a freebie to pick up from Booths ... so it had to be done.  😉

First I called to Sainsbury's as I had a couple of things to pick up for Alan, so I made good use of my Nectar deals, but from both shops I mostly bought just what I needed.  Some oddments of fruit and veg and a few other things.  I also bought some treats, the covered almonds, the two little dessert pots (gosh these are so good) and when I saw the chunky fish fingers in Sainsbury's I knew what would be for my lunch when I got home.

I couldn't resist the Spring Rolls, they will make a nice tea one night along with a bit of a stir fry, and most importantly ...

... I remembered to pick up my freebie.

My total spend from both shops for this week was £20.90.

The Booths card is a good one for freebies every couple of weeks, alongside having money off when you buy a breakfast roll and drink in the café ... something Alan likes to do regularly ... and a free slice of cake for your birthday if you buy a coffee.  Of course you also get money off deals on various groceries, 10% off all newspapers and 5% cashback on certain products that saves up over the course of a couple of months and which you can then redeem in vouchers off your shopping.

As with lots of other loyalty cards if it's something that suits your style of shopping I think it's worth having.

Which supermarket loyalty cards do you prefer or make the most use of?

Sue xx

Friday 26 January 2024

Romance, stillness and silence.

Art - Sarah Lynne

'Winter is magical.

It's closing the door and looking at the cold world from inside.

From Home.

And the house looks even more beautiful.

Warm and fragrant with freshly baked desserts.

It is romance, stillness and silence.

Pure poetry.'

Capanna del Silenzio

Thursday 25 January 2024

Food Review - Viv Era,Spinach Fillet


I bought this pack of Viv Era Spinach Fillets last week and had one at a time with a meal over a couple of days.  

What can I say about them ... well they are very tasty, very rich tasting as you would expect something made from spinach and cheese to be, and very satisfying.  They also cook in just eight minutes in the air fryer.

I kept it simple and both times served them just like this, although the first time I had a big dollop of mayonnaise as well ... everything is good with mayo in my opinion. 😁 

I won't be buying them regularly, but it's nice to know that they are good, and if I was looking for a tasty addition to a plate I would have no qualms in picking them up again. 

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 January 2024

October, October ...

The wind is whistling outside rattling the letterbox and the wheelie bin lids, the sun is shining through the glass living room doors and highlighting the dust on the tiled floor, but all I can think about is putting on the kettle and settling down to finish my current book.

It's good.

I'm reading October, October by Katya Balen, it's not my usual sort of read at all and it took me a few pages to get into the mind-space of a child with so much imagination, but it brought back wonderful memories of my own imaginative childhood.  When the grown-ups don't really understand you, you learn to rely on your own thoughts so much more.  Visiting worlds where grown-ups have no say and the world is there for you to grasp for yourself.

The chores will wait, and as the sun sets later the dust will be invisible again and there's no need to fret.  Tomorrow will be another day ... and who know maybe it will bring another book.  📚

What are YOU reading at the moment?

Sue xx

Sunday 21 January 2024

Virtually Free Food - Compost Heap Jelly


The three lemons we bought the other day were split up one for Alan and two for me, hence there being only two in the photo.  Then yesterday I sliced my two into thin slices to go into the freezer ready for my first drink of the morning for the next couple of weeks.  I also squeezed the little ends into a glass of water to go alongside my easy peeler, just a tasty little snack while I was on the computer.  

Then with so much citrus on my mind I decided to get the two bags of rinds, cores and bits of lemon out of the freezer and start the process of making a batch of Compost Heap Jelly.  As you can see it only just fitted into my largest pan, but once it had all thawed and cooked up a bit the lid did eventually come down and sit neatly on the pan. 😀

I left the pan puttering away on a low temperature for about two hours and then turned off the hob and left the pan sat there to gradually cool down over the next couple of hours.  Then all the lovely citrussy mush was left to strain slowly through a jelly-bag balanced over my large mixing bowl.  

The next morning I had just over a litre of lovely citrus and apple juice all ready for jelly making.  For this amount of liquid I used 750g sugar and I also added the last quarter of a jar of pure lemon juice out of the fridge, it was way past it's date and needed using up.  We do like a nice tart tasting jelly or marmalade so this seemed like a great idea.

This was all brought to, and then held at, a roaring boil for ten minutes, before testing for the set and then pouring into sterilised hot jam jars.

So just about an hour from start to finish this was the results.

Three and a bit jars for me, and two for Alan who had given me back two jam jars and lent me his large soup pan as mine wasn't big enough for the roaring boil you need for jam and jelly making.

Not a bad hours work, including all the washing up.

The red and white lids are all new, the green one is an old one as I didn't want to waste a brand new lid on that much jelly, and the other was one with a safety seal centre so that I could hear the 'pop' when the jars had successfully sealed ... which they did in a matter of minutes as they began to cool down.

If you fancy having a go yourself I will share this link again.  Pam Corbin, the real expert when it comes to all things preserves, making her Compost Heap Jelly ... and explaining it all so much better than I ever could.

Sue xx

Friday 19 January 2024

'The Best Moments in Reading ... '


'The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you.  

Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead.  And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.'  

Painting:  Harold Harvey   (1874-1941)
Words:  Alan Bennett

I love it when that happens, don't you?

Sue xx

Wednesday 17 January 2024

I Can Resist Anything But Temptation ...

'I can resist anything but temptation' is part of a quote from Oscar Wilde ... and it summed me up so well on Sunday.

On Friday morning I had watched 'Those Vegan Guys' on YouTube and was entranced by the sheer amount of vegan and plant-based foods available at Tesco this month.  Of course as we were going to be in Wales for a whistle stop visit for the weekend, I decided that on our way home I would nip to our 'old local' Tesco and have a look for myself.

Big mistake!! That was another £22.46 spent in the blink of an eye.

Alan got some shopping for himself too, and as the 'easy peelers' were on offer at £2 for one bag or £2.50 for two bags and Alan only wanted one I decided I would pick some up and have the 50p bag.  😁

Oops, I missed these off the main photo, although the price was added to the total.

One of the garlic breads, the pizza and the cauliflower burgers have gone into the freezer and added to the inventory.  Gosh I've barely started trying to empty it and I'm already refilling it.  I need to get myself organised and stop giving in to temptation.

Although I was good before we set off for Wales, and when Alan said he wanted to stop off at Aldi on the way and buy a couple of prepared salad bowls to eat with something from the freezer there for our tea, I said I would make us a tubful to take with us instead.  Ten minutes of washing and chopping and I had saved us £2.78.

It was only a small money-saving win, but a win nevertheless.  😀

Sue xx

Monday 15 January 2024

The Freezer Inventory ... and the Furry Gang


I got back with the shopping the other day and decided that while I was in a 'foody mood' I would finally get around to doing a freezer inventory.  

I had been meaning to do it right at the start of the year, but the freezer was so packed full of extra things pushed in there after Christmas that it was simply off-putting.  Now that the drawers could actually be pulled out without too much of a struggle it seemed a good time to do it.

As usual there was more than I thought ... and it was nice to see a few old friends.  😄

It didn't take me long to do, and straight away I could see that menu planning from it over the next couple of weeks will bring it all down to a much more sensible and organisable level.  I want to be able to have a drawer for vegetables, a drawer for meal components and another drawer with a loaf of bread and any miscellaneous items in.

Writing this weeks menu out was a doddle with my inventory next to me, the little red asterisks are the items from the freezer, so now I know exactly what I will be having each evening ... and exactly where I can find it.

And the furry gang slept through it all.

Sue xx

Saturday 13 January 2024

Less Shopping


I've started this year purposefully doing a lot less shopping.  

Although I'm not doing a Challenge as such I am being mindful about what I spend on food this year and have given myself a budget to try and keep inside of.  Each month a couple of days after payday I am drawing out £100 in cash and having that in my purse to pay for my shopping each week, it's oh to easy to spend more when all you flash at the checkout is a credit or debit card.

This year cash is king.  ♔

The top photo shows what I bought last week, it was all I needed to make a meal I planned for us both last weekend, and to keep me in eggs for the rest of the month. 

 I spent a total of £9.05.

And this is what I have just bought for this week.

I stocked up on the toilet rolls as they were on offer with £3.30 off each pack.  I've found that although these are a bit more expensive than some others they work out better value for me overall.  I tend to go through one roll a week so that should see me through for at least three months.  It will be interesting to check back here next time I need to purchase some and see exactly how long they have lasted me..

This week I have spent £28.74, so I am already under budget which is good.  I have decided that any money over from my monthly £100 will be tipped into my little drawer and used as and when it is needed when my stores of food start to run low ... or if I come across another good offer like the toilet rolls and have already spent that weeks cash.

It's starting to look a bit like a Challenge ... old habits die hard!!

Sue xx

Friday 12 January 2024

A Week's Worth of Breakfasts


I don't know about anyone else but I sometimes find breakfast the hardest meal to decide on.  I rarely add it to any week's meal planner as I just never know what I am going to fancy an hour or so after I wake up.  Is it going to be a hot thing or a cold thing, a cereal thing or a savoury thing ... I just don't know until I wake up and have my first couple of drinks.

I always start the day with a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and then move swiftly on to a mug of coffee, only then can I ponder the food that I am fancying.

So I thought I would photograph an entire weeks breakfasts and see for myself how random my choices were.

The first day was the tomatoes and onion on toast shown on the top photo, which started off like this, with the tomatoes and onion sautéed gently until they were deliciously soft and then poured over some hummus spread toast.

Messy to look at, delicious to eat, and very satisfying.

The next day was just plain and simple porridge, not additions other than a level teaspoon of soft brown sugar.

The following day I fancied something quite substantial so I scrambled one egg in the microwave and cooked a couple of Linda McCartney Lincolnshire sausages.  With a dollop of the tomato sauce this was lovely.

The next day and the frying pan was back out.  Once again it was red onion and two more tomatoes that needed using up, with a light sprinkle of garlic and onion granules to add some extra flavour.

This time I spread my toast with some of the Basil Pesto that I had opened in the fridge.

A very tasty and very garlicky breakfast.  😃

The following day I was back to porridge, this time cooked with some frozen banana pieces and a dash of cinnamon powder.  There's no photo of the finished bowl of porridge, it was early ... I forgot!!

The next day I decided on some scrambled eggs, cooked this time in a pan on the hob with lots of the Naturli spread and lots of pepper and salt.

For the final day of the week there's no photo of my actual breakfast as we were staying at Beck Hall, the first totally plant-based hotel in England.  

We chose from their beautiful breakfast menu. My choice was scrambled tofu with beans, sausage, hash browns and grilled tomato, and Alan had just beans, sausage and mushrooms as he was still full from the three course meal we had eaten the night before.  With copious refills of our coffee cups it was just what we needed before we headed for home after a lovely night away for Alan's birthday.

So that's what a week of breakfasts for me looks like.

What is your favourite breakfast, do you eat the same thing everyday or do you chop and change like me?

Sue xx

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Nothing Goes to Waste


At the moment I am still working my way through the contents of the fridge, especially the fruit and vegetables drawers in a bid to make sure that nothing goes to waste. The excess of mince pies etc in the cupboard and the things in the freezer from Christmas will be much happier to wait their turn while I eat up all the fresh stuff.

 I had gotten one of my peppers out to add to a salad sandwich for my lunch and I realised they were just starting to go a smidge wrinkly, so as soon as I had eaten my lovely salad butty I started making some Mediterranean veggies to go into the oven.

I just added the rest of the pack of peppers, a whole onion and a leftover half onion and a tub of cherry tomatoes.  A courgette would have made a nice addition and a touch of green to the tray, but I had eaten the only one I had a couple of days earlier.

After a quick chopping session and a sprinkle of onion granules, garlic granules, mixed herbs, garlicky salt and olive oil they were ready for the now warmed up oven.

After ten minutes cooking I added a few dollops of basil pesto and cooked the tray for another fifteen minutes.

I had a bowlful for my tea with fusilli pasta, and although I had it on my mind that I was going to be turning half of the mix into a smooth sauce and freeze it, as there was a only a bit of pasta left in the jar I decided at the last minute to cook it all up and add the lot to the vegetables.  Two more meals of this for me this week then ... which is not a problem, it was delicious.

It's always nice to refill the pasta jar with something different for next time.  All the little broken pieces of the tagliatelle were saved in a little jar and will be tipped into the next pot of soup I make.  

Waste not want not.

Sue xx

Monday 8 January 2024

Books - Healthy Made Simple by Ella Mills


I finished reading my Madeleine Olivia book, Make It Vegan with just half an hour to spare before the postman knocked on my door with my Waterstones delivery.  

I had pre-ordered this when it was first mentioned last year, I knew that I had to complete my Deliciously Ella collection.  ALL her books are so good and this promises to be perhaps the best and easiest of them all to use. 

The promise of the book is that all the recipes:  

 Take less than 30 minutes to make

- Contain 10 ingredients or fewer

- Have no more than 5 steps

- Be healthy and packed with goodness

- Be delicious and flavourful

Obviously once I have read it from cover to cover I am going to have to try it out aren't I. 😀 

It's currently on offer at £16.99 at Waterstones and Amazon.

If you already have it let me know what you think.

Sue xx

Saturday 6 January 2024

Food Review - Wicked Kitchen and Plants


I bought a pack of the Wicked Kitchen Spinach and Wild Garlic Ravioli from Tesco last time we were in Wales.  It was a bit of a splurge at £3 for a pack so it was definintely a treat, it did made me think how easily and how much more cheaply I could make this myself, as lots of this sort of products do. But of course the question is would I ever have the time and patience to bother?

 It was delicious and something I might buy again, but I guess on reflection it would be cheaper and perhaps fresher to make the sauce myself and just serve it with pasta.

There were 14 pieces of ravioli in the pack so I had half of them one night and then the other half a couple of days later.  I kept it really simple,  just using a good drizzle of my 'Plants' Oak Smoked Tomato Ketchup ... which in itself seemed a bit of a splurge at the time, but it's lasting me ages as the taste is so blissfully rich and balanced that you don't need much of it at all ... under the ravioli and a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

It was one of those meals where each mouthful is a delight and worth savouring, and that long after eating it you don't want to eat or drink anything else to mask that lovely flavour in your mouth.

No dessert for me that night then, for which my waistline was extremely grateful in the post Christmas period.

Have you tried any 'new to you' products recently?

Sue xx

Friday 5 January 2024

About the Food ...


I've mostly written about books up to now and obviously the premise of this blog is good food and good books, so it's time to delve into food and this time I decided to show what I tend to eat in a day when I'm using things up, not following recipes and being a bit lazy.  After Christmas aren't we all?

No two days are the same in my home if I make an effort.  I have absolutely no problem in eating the same meal over and over again, and if I have a pack of one of my many favourite items in the fridge or freezer I will quite happily just chomp my way through them all.  Garlic Kyivs, fish fingers, a jar of delicious bought pesto are just some of the things that spring to mind that can lead me off my meal plan and be eaten meal after meal until they are all gone.

There's nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but a balanced diet is most definintely preferable for healthy eating sake.

Todays photos are just one days meals from last week.  

Unusually for me I fancied cereal for breakfast that day so I cracked open some almond milk and had some, then I had to make a real effort to use the rest of the milk up, so it was a couple more days of cereal and then I used what was left in sauces and cooking.  I tend to only use around one carton of milk in a month.  If I don't have any almond milk in I make up some oat milk for any recipe that calls for milk.

My lunch on this particular day was a 'use it up' sandwich, using the last of the Quorn 'chicken free' slices and the last of the Christmas stuffing, along with a tomato for freshness.  I added some hummus to the sandwich at the last minute and used less mayonnaise.

My evening meal was simple, just a bread-crumbed plaice fillet, boiled potatoes and some peas from the freezer with a drizzle of mayo, I LOVE mayonnaise!!

Now this post shows just a random days foods, one where I had my camera to hand and was eating through things in the fridge.  Some days I make much more of an effort and most days I try to tick through as many of the items on my Daily Dozen chart as I can.

This one actually pinged up again in my emails yesterday, so I can share the link with you if you would like to print it off for yourself.  I find it really handy to keep me on track,. particularly on the weeks where I don't eat any fish or eggs.

Perhaps for all my newer readers I should clarify what I eat.  

I don't actually label myself anymore but if I had to have a label at the moment I guess it would be 'dairy-free pescatarian'.  But I have weeks on end when I touch no fish and no eggs, so then that would make me fully, but temporarily plant based/vegan, and to be honest I feel healthier when I eat this way so I am finding myself swinging back to the 'green side'. 💚

  And with my two newest books both being vegan I see mostly vegan meals on my menu plan going forward.

Any questions just ask away in the comments, but remember your 'good food' may not be my 'good food' ... and if you don't tell me off I won't tell you off either.  😊  

Sue xx