Lockdown part 3….Week 15

This week has felt like what I imagine the new normal may be the foreseeable future. My youngest daughter returned to her childminder for the first time since the last lockdown started and my eldest daughter had her first day at pre-school. I cannot remember the last time I had to put my alarm on which was a shock to the system as we have enjoyed relaxing mornings, eating breakfast in pyjamas, instead I was running around like a headless chicken getting the girls up, dressed and fed before putting them in the car at 8am. Thank goodness it was light and sunny! I didn’t know how my eldest would be on her first day as she has spent the last 6 months with me and her sister and before starting preschool she went to the same childminder as her sister, but she took hold of her teachers’ hand and went straight in. I spent the day wondering how she was and if she was ok but when I went to collect her in the afternoon, she had a smile on her face and her teacher said it’s like she has always been there. I was very proud and a little choked at how well she had coped and adapted, it made me realise that children can be more resilient than adults!

This week parents of pre-schoolers in England were waiting to hear what Primary School their children had gained a place at and although I was resigned to accepting whichever school this maybe I was starting to get fidgety in anticipation of the news. I had my hopes on a small village school rather than my local school which is very big but as it wasn’t in my catchment area, I didn’t get my hopes up. When I woke up on Friday morning, I checked my emails and saw the notification and was so happy and relieved to see she had been offered her first choice! I still can’t believe that my youngest daughter will be starting school in September!

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Whilst both girls were in childcare, I used the opportunity to go to a clothes shop with my Mum for the first time since lockdown and felt reassured that they were limiting numbers in store, so it felt safe and pleasant to look around. I certainly wouldn’t have been queuing to get in and can’t even imagine how crowded it must have been in the likes of Primark! I haven’t really missed going into shops as it kind of feels like the new normal to not be able to do so many things. The highlight of the trip was when a woman asked us if we would mind watching her new-born baby whilst she took her daughter on the escalator as her daughter hadn’t been on one for so long and found it exciting. Her baby boy was fast asleep and looked so peaceful and content, I stood and looked at him with a sparkle in my eye, I could feel myself getting broody, but I soon snapped myself out of it! It was lovely that the woman felt able to ask us and trust us even though it was only for a couple of minutes.

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I finally managed to hand in my case study (2 weeks early) for my counselling course and have been working my way through my last assignment of the year which is due in 10 days’ time. At times I’ve felt like spitting the dummy out but know it must be done. The final hurdle before finishing the first year of the course is doing a 10-minute presentation to the rest of the group and anyone who knows me knows I don’t like talking to groups of people or attention being on me so this will be a challenge for me especially as we must talk about ourselves.

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I have been sticking to my Noom plan and I am 2 weeks in…let’s see how I get on this week.

I caught a bit of Jamie Oliver’s, Keep Cooking Family Favourites and found myself rolling my eyes when he kept telling viewers to add a ‘kiss’ of oil…please! If I were cooking with my children and told them to add a ‘kiss’ of oil they’d look at me as if I’d lost the plot!! Now I’m all for exposing children to new foods but when he was making the aubergine salad, I kept thinking that my girls would look at me as if to say what’s that and why are there flowers in it, his son didn’t look too impressed when he was trying it either!

Budget friendly cooking

I know there are lots of recipes out there for cooking on a budget but when I did a bit of research, I struggled to find many child friendly/family friendly recipes particularly for young children. I also found it interesting how much these so called ‘budget’ meals are with Asda and Jamie Oliver’s website sharing meals averaging at £2 per serving. £2+ is also the average cost of the Joe Wicks recipes I should be following. That would mean that it would cost me £18 per day plus snacks which is £126 per week or £504 per month! There is no way that is affordable for me and no doubt many other families.

So, my issue with other priced recipes claiming to be so much per portion is that you can’t go and buy just what you need for them e.g., 10g parmesan cheese, 30g coconut flour, 40g yogurt, 1tbsp cream etc. Meaning that it will cost you more to buy all the ingredients for a recipe.

Then, if recipes require any fresh ingredients and they don’t all get used in that recipe they will need using before they go off.

My bug bare is that these recipes don’t take that into account or the fact that if you don’t already have cupboards full of herbs and spices etc that it soon adds up.

Here are a few budget friendly family friendly meals that are favourites in our household: –

Chicken casserole (In an ideal world I would only buy local, free range organic chicken)

Asda Butchers Selection Chicken Thighs – 1.1kg £2.15 (use half which equals £1.07), Asda Chicken Casserole Mix £0.21, Asda Growers Selection Red Onions – 2 onions approx. £0.08, Asda Growers Selection Carrots – 3 carrots approx. £0.15 Total = £2.59

This fills my slow cooker and feeds me and 2 small children for 2 nights. Which works out at £0.43p per portion.

I sometimes add dumplings (Asda Dumpling Mix – £0.70) or stuffing (Asda Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix £0.32). If I add either of these then the casserole will feed 2 adults and 2 small children for 2 nights.

With dumplings it works out at £0.41p per potion for 8 servings or £0.55p per portion for 6 servings.

With stuffing it works out at £0.36p per portion for 8 servings or £0.49p per portion for 6 servings.

So, with the chicken casserole the rest of the chicken thighs can be frozen individually or a few together if you don’t intend to use them within a couple of days.

Carrots will keep for a few days and if you don’t think you are going to use them, they can be cooked and frozen, however carrots are so versatile they can easy be used up.

The same with onions except onions tend to last quite a while and are used in most recipes but again they can be chopped up and frozen.

So, no waste, healthy and budget friendly.

I have also been known to add mushrooms or small potatoes to the hotpot equally other root vegetables could be added if in season.

Some of the best dishes I have cooked have been those that have been thrown together with whatever I have in the fridge.

One of the most budget friendly and versatile ingredients is pasta. (I tend to use wholewheat pasta). Practically anything can be added to pasta to create a meal. Some ideas include: –

Tomato sauce (either homemade or shop bought) – I tend to add vegetables as well which can be fresh, tinned, or frozen. You could add cheese, soya pieces, meat, fish etc.

If you use a shop bought sauce and don’t use it all they will keep in the fridge for a few days and can either be used again with pasta or could be added to another dish to make bolognaise or a stew etc. Another option would be to batch cook, tub, and freeze portions for future use.

One of my favourite sauces for pasta is creamy garlic mushroom, this can be made cheaply by using cream cheese mixed with either a clove of garlic or a squeeze of garlic puree, seasoning and some chopped mushrooms. A generous portion of Asda wholewheat pasta (approx. 60g) works out at around 4p, ¼ of a tub of Asda cream cheese 16p, a clove of garlic 3p and ¼ of a tub of white button mushrooms 13p. Therefore, in total it’s around 36p per portion. (I would make a few portions and either put it in the fridge or tub up and put it in the freezer).

I’ve recently started making home made garlic bread (which could be served with any pasta dish), mainly because I can make it dairy free but it’s also cheap and cheerful. You can use baguettes, pitta breads, naan breads, pizza bases etc and then I melt some dairy free butter with a squeeze of garlic puree and pour it on the bread before putting in the over. If I’m feeling indulgent, I also put on some dairy free cheese. Any left-over bread can easily be frozen. 1/2 a small baguette 18p, garlic puree 8p and 25g of butter 15p, which comes to 41p per portion – but this is quite a generous portion.

Obviously if you can find offers or reduced food then these may be even cheaper. It’s always worth being open to using different ingredients even when following a recipe. Just because you don’t have every single ingredient for a recipe doesn’t mean you can’t make it or that it won’t be tasty. Instead, it will have your own unique twist and could end up becoming a family favourite! (That reminds me of the posts I saw on social media when people posted about Jamie Oliver telling people to substitute ingredients for whatever they had in their cupboards!!