Chicken and Vegetable Soup.

This is my all time greatest soup recipe and even better is is costs so little and taste great.
This is a real, whatever you have knocking about in the fridge kind of recipe and its wonderful if you’re feeling a bit run down or have flu.

You’ll need the following basics.

  • Chicken on the bone.
  • Onion
  • Herbs
  • Garlic

Chicken on the bone, it doesn’t have to be a lot of chicken, I usually use a couple of carcase after the butcher has removed the legs and fillets.

Put the chicken in to a large pan and cover with cold water, add a roughly chopped onion, a handful of peppercorns, a whole head of garlic (you dont have to peel it) and a lot of herbs, whatever you’ve got but I’d avoid mint.

Bring this to the boil and skim off any froth off the top, then simmer for a couple of hours. It will fill your home with the comforting smells of soup.
Drain the lot, reserving the water, do NOT throw it away! Leave the chicken to cool, the stock you’ve made will be why your soup is so delicious.

gently fry an onion until soft and add a load of vegetables cubed into bite size pieces, use any of the following. I often pick up a “soup mix” from the reduced section of the supermarket, so its all nicely chopped for me.

  • Leeks
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Parsnip
  • Sweet potato
  • Swede or Turnip
  • Kale
  • Sweetcorn
  • Fennel
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Bell Pepper
  • Chilli Peppers

Really anything in the fridge will do.

I then add a ridiculous amount of garlic finely minced, a whole couple of heads, you really don’t have to. It really kicks the crap out of a cold or flu.

If you want, you can roast a few heads of garlic and add them. Really YUMMY.

Once its fried for a few mins add your lovely stock and a big handful of herbs, fresh parsley or if you are Moroccan like me, coriander !
Add a handful of barley (don’t be tempted to add more than a handful as it really expands and you’ll end up with barley stew, trust me !).
Bring this to the boil and then simmer for about an hour to cook the barley throughly.

You can add all kinds to this soup,noodles, beans or mini pasta shapes, a handful of rice or cous cous. I add cumin and paprika, but you can add whatever you like. As long as you have the basic chicken stock and seasoning you can make this however you like. Its yummy without all the vegetables as a very nourishing broth. Bone broth has so many benefits. Serve with crisp bread or rolls, bread or just eat as it is. Any left overs can be frozen or used as the base for a stew or chicken pie.



Corned Beef Pasties.

I tried these earlier this week when the weather was pretty awful and I really didn’t want to go food shopping, they went down a treat and even though I made enough for supper and lunch the next day there were none left for lunch !

Here’s the very frugal recipe.

1 Can of Corned Beef.

A medium brown onion.

3 medium potatoes peeled and cubed.

seasoning, I used lots of black pepper.

Pack of puff pastry, you can use short crust, or make it yourself.

Oven Temp 160, low oven.

First you’ll need to get the potatoes boiling and when they are almost cooked drain then and leave them to cool for a bit.
grate the onion and fry in a spoon of oil, I find grating it means there are no pieces of onion to freak out my onion phobic son!
Cube the corned beef and add to the onion in the pan, fry gently for a few mins, add pepper and any herbs you want to use.
Next fold mix in the cooled potatoes and then set aside the pan.
Roll your pastry on a floured table, I managed to get 14 small pasties out of 1 block of puff pastry. If you want them larger you’ll get less obviously.
Cut the rolled out pastry into squares and place a table spoon of mixture into each one and fold and seal. How you seal and fold is up to you, I used a fork and folded into half circles. You could also make this as one large pie, using the pastry on top of the filling in a pie dish or plate.
You can seal with egg wash and brush it over the top for a nice golden finish, my son has an egg allergy so I didn’t bother with this bit, I brushed a bit of milk on top.

I baked them until brown which was about 25 mins and left them to cool. Eat with baked beans on a rainy afternoon for the ultimate in comfort food experience!

Ideas To Boost Your Income.

We all need more cash, theres a recession you know !
Heres a few ways to get out of the red.

Ebay, de-clutter and earn some cash.

Successful Blogging, generates advertising space and if you review you might get sent freebees.

Selling books on amazon, start with the ones on your self you don’t need but add to your sales by looking for books in charity shops, TKMax, bookstores and car boot sales, rare books make money, no one wants your dog eared copy of Pride and Prejudice ( or mine for that matter) but we once sold a copy of a Zelda guide for a nice lot of cash.

Gumtree, sell all kinds of things and services here.

Face painting, its a demanded skill, buy some and get practising on yourself and the kids !

Henna body art, as before get practising! especially popular in Muslim areas the night before Eid, I have a friend who set up a table in East London on Eid night a few years ago and made over £250 in a few hours of manic hennaring (is that a word?). Weddings, fetes and pregnant mama belly art, lots of ideas.

Learn to code on Tree House and make templates, logos and banners to earn extra pounds. Invest in yourself.

Use whatever you are good at, life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or however the saying goes) you’re a great gardener/make up artist/cleaner/tutor/ artist. Get busy and make yourself a few quid using your expertise.

Train as a Doula, a doula is a professional birth partner, there are courses available across the world and even online, read as much as you can on the subject and get to as many births as possible. A London doula can make up on average £700 a birth. It takes dedication and patience but its the most amazing job.

Book Keeping and Accounts, the tax deadline is creeping up on us, I’ve been helping my husband do his accounts for years and believe me I’d LOVE to be able to pay someone to do it for us !

Write, everyone is at it these days and the new technology means we can self publish on Kindle and Nook and other platforms for free.

Right I’m off to write a book whilst covering a birth, practising henna on myself and face painting my kids 😛

Change How You Shop and be Happier !!

Shopping on a tight budget can be depressing and repetitive, unless you make changes.We’ve had many weeks when we’ve had to feed ourselves for £10 each, there are 6 of us, 4 adults and 2 children. We try and see this as a challenge rather than something negative.

1, Stop shopping at the BIG supermarket that you’ve shopped in for years. We were regular customers in Tesco for over a decade. We stopped and started shopping in a discount German store Lidl and the local butchers and grocery stores for fresh fruit and vegetables. Lidl stocks a wide range of organic fresh foods and has a different theme every week, this is good fun, we’ve took advantage of this and had complete Italian weeks when every main meal has been Italian as thats what week it was in Lidl !!

2, Make a meal plan every week and STICK TO IT !!Unless theres something cool on offer when you get to the store !

3, Look out for the discounted items, my husband confessed yesterday that when he shops he scans every aisle for the yellow reduced stickers rather than browsing ! Visit the reduced sections of the store before getting whats on your list, be prepared to alter your meal plan depending on whats available.

4, Eat whats in season, not only is this good for your body its cheaper and helps the environment so that you are not eating fresh green beans grown in Zambia for dinner in November when you could have bought frozen ones grown a few miles away. I confess we had stir fry the other night and when I checked where the sugar snap peas had come from I was disappointed to find they’d been flown in from Chile! They were delicious but we usually try and eat local grown, seasonal food. This sounds very middle class but really its not, we buy greens and potatoes from a local store that are grown on a farm which is walking distance away. We get fresh produce from our family with gardens and allotments. We try and buy British Milk and butter and cheeses.

5, Eat Organic, yes its possible on a low income. We swopped and buy only organic milk, 4 litres cost £3 for two bottles, which will last us for a few days, its worth the extra 50%, the milk taste amazing.

6, Eat 2 vegetarian main meals a week and 1 with oily fish, this helps a lot. try new recipes. The best vegetarian recipes are intended to be meat free rather than the ones that replace meat in a traditional recipe, e.g no one I know who is in their right mind likes a lentil Bolognese, use those lentils to make a tasty daal or soup.

7, The “ooo” factor, we look for new products that when we get home we’ll pack it away and say “oo thats going to be nice” The thing we bought this week was a hot chocolate from Lidl that is made from chocolate chips, it only cost £1.99 and man it was amazing !!

8, Cook from scratch, if you cant cook basic foods then you’ll never be able to survive on a low income and be healthy, if you cant cook then learn, start by learning to make a basic tomato sauce which you can use to make soup or pasta, lasagne, tuna pasta bake and lots more. Check youtube for simple recipes.

9, Go to the market,not the farmers market, I’m talking old school weekly parish market or the modern equivalent! I know we are all short of time but if you take time to shop around rather than doing all of it in one big store you’ll find your money goes further.

10, Buy in bulk online, we rarely do online shopping anymore. I got fed up of late or absent deliveries, green bananas and battered boxes. However if theres a very good deal I’ll order a bulk load to last a few months, e.g a 10kg sack of rice on special at Asda or 10l of apple cider vinegar from Amazon.

Being Happy.

Happy, whats being happy?
Being happy is being Grateful.

Think about it, the most content people are the most appreciative. They are not ungrateful, no matter how little they have. The most miserable of humans are those who take their blessings for granted and are always picking faults in their loved ones or their belongings. Longing for things they don’t have, these people will truly never be happy because they will never have enough. It seems the more we have the more we want, we all know the anecdotes about the poor children who play contentedly with whatever they can find and fashion into toys while our own kids demand the latest games consoles, but the same goes for us adults. We lose things and people we love, do we take the time to think of what we have before its taken away?

I’m sometimes the most ungrateful wretch on this earth so don’t think I’m preaching, I’m mostly talking to myself, reminding myself, least I sit and feel sorry for myself and count the things I don’t have instead of looking around at the amazing amount of richness of my life.

The secret to happiness is to always appreciate the blessings you have. This makes it easier to weather the hard times, and times do get very hard. Life is one test after another, how we deal with these is the real measure of character.

“So which of the favours of your Lord would you deny?”
Surah Rahman.

Family Holiday for under £500.

As promised heres my how to holiday for under £500 post.
First things first, holidays are usually what we cut out first when we are in debt or on a low income thinking of them as a luxury we can live without. I disagree, if we work year in year out and never take a break we’ll burn out, our health suffers and our productivity slows. A holiday is very necessary. The more stressful your work life the more vital a holiday is.

We’ve managed to do three family breaks for under 500 quid, the first time we did this I assumed I got really lucky with my deals, however since then I’ve done it again twice !
I’m not talking about a 5 star holiday, I talking making memories for your children and giving yourself time to reboot, relax and unwind.

Top 10 Holiday Booking Tips.

1, Book well in advance, I start looking at holidays about 9 months before I plan to go. Or look for last minute deals.

2, Be prepared to book in the cheaper months, we usually go the first or second week of September, we home educate so school term times are not relevant to us, however we went away this year the first week in September when the schools hadn’t gone back yet.

3, We usually book through Haven Holidays they have a great system where you can pay monthly on direct debit.
We’ve tried the “holidays for £10pp” deal in the tabloid papers and went away to Butlin’s however we spent quite a bit extra up grading and paying for activity passes which were not included in the price advertised.

4, Go self catering. Take a coffee pot and some good coffee, do a trip to the supermarket at the beginning of the holiday to stock up on rolls for lunches and cereal for breakfasts.

5, Book extra activities in advance and save yourselves cash.

6, Set a daily budget for your holiday, there will be a few days when you’ll spend very little leaving a nice amount for a blow out last night!

7, Get discounts, if you are travelling by train like us the buy a “family and friends” rail card, or use the offers holiday companies have with ferry crossings and coach travel.

8, Check out the area you are visiting before you go, often reading reviews online will help you find hidden gems, tiny fresh crab cafes or offers you might have missed other wise.

9, Plan everyday, don’t just wake up and drift through the day, know what you ll be doing, keep it flexible especially if you are in the UK, eg, One day will be a beach /exploring day, depending on the weather.

10, Do something adult friendly everyday, holidays are about the kids but they are also about us adults too, theres nothing worst than coming back feeling drained, having spent a week chasing kids away from the deep end, stopping the toddler falling into the rockpools or pushing a pushchair laden with coats, lunch and spare shoes up steep hills all day. Our favourite thing (now that there are teenagers in our house) is to leave the kids to get breakfast themselves and go for a dawn walk on the beach together.

This year we booked through Havenhttp:// and had Mon – Fri at their Kiln Park in a self catering caravan for 3 adults and 3 children for £220,(including 6 activity tickets which the kids used for archery and shooting)
I added a towel bale for £10 hire for the week,
we did a load of laundry which cost us £10 in the on site launderette.
travel was £120 by train booked through
We spent approx £100 on food while away.
We bought buckets and spades too £10.

Total £470

Sunday Morning with the Teens.

Heres something I wrote last year which is just as relevant this year !!

Sunday mornings are made for lie ins, good coffee, bad T.V and yummy food. I love taking it easy on a Sunday Mornings, like the song.

My teens feel differently, neither of them have seen the light of a Sunday morning for weeks. Today I woke and after days of feeling like death warmed up I felt ok (thanks to master tonic recipe here) we went for a quick walk to buy milk and the paper and back for coffee and home made scones we’d made the night before. Idiliac Sunday morning. Until at 12.30 pm when the kitchen was in chaos as we tried to get the meat into the slow cooker with the vegetables and chopping onions was making me blind with tears, at this moment teen 2 came down looking very happy with himself and dived for the scones, only to be stopped in his tracks with …

“Breakfast is over, its lunch time now, while I’m trying to get lunch on you need to get out of the kitchen” causing a sulk and stomp back to his bed. Now with some input from the teens (we offered to turn off the internet at midnight, “wont make a difference” was the response) we’ve decided to take away their x box lead and laptop every night at midnight in an attempt to get them to go to sleep before 2 am. Dont for a minute think to jugde us on this, we’ve advised, we’ve set alarms, we’ve nudged and called and shook and shouted and they will not get up ! teen 1 missed a day of work yesterday because he didn’t haul himself out of bed in time to get to work, all week we’d been taking turns to wake him, like taking turns to poke a hibernating bear its not pleasant but on friday we decided not to do it anymore a man of nearly 18 needs to learn to wake himself and more importantly to turn off the laptop and go to sleep before 3 am, he forgets his late night tweets give him away!

Of course we’ve all been there, I know their body clocks work differently to mine, I dont mind going to sleep to the sound of one creeping down stairs and re heating left overs or the other on X Box live giggling with his mates at midnight once in a while but every day is a bit much I worry about their mental health, is it healthy to put games at the top of your list of priorities?