Chicken Dinner for Under a Pound

I’ve spoken before about Morrison’s supermarket and some of the ways they can help when trying to live on a tight budget. However, last week I discovered another.

I popped in to our local Morrison’s at 8:30pm, a half hour before closing time, for a loaf of bread. I got the loaf and then headed round store to see what special offers they had going that week. As I got to the cooked meats section, I noticed the lady behind the counter bagging up cooked chicken pieces, however there were no customers in sight. I hesitated to see where the chicken pieces were going and eventually she priced them at 99p and placed them on the top of the counter. When she had bagged up all the remaining chicken from the hot plates (amounting to about 7 or 8 bags) there was a storewide announcement across the Tannoy system inviting customers to pick up a bagful of cooked chicken for 99p. I grabbed a bag and headed off home. The bag had seven chicken pieces (drumsticks and thighs).

At the time, I thought this might be a one-off opportunity and I had just gotten lucky. However, I have been back on a few occasions since and this seems to happen regularly. Sometimes, remaining fresh made bread is also sold off for a pittance. A great way to pick up a cheap dinner!

Easy money-saving tips

There are many small ways to cut back on your spending. Here are a few examples:

1. The times are hectic. You are running here, there, everywhere. But all this running around really hurts your fuel budget. Organise your daily routines so that you minimise your driving. Not only will it save you money on fuel consumption, it will save your sanity. If you need to do shopping, make a list so that you will not forget and have to make an extra trip later.

2. Turning off the lights in rooms that are not in use will cut down on the electricity bill. Similarly, turn off your TV or electronics equipment, rather than putting them on stand-by. Use energy-efficient light bulbs – these have now become cheap items.

3. Lower your heater. You should not freeze, but you do not need your house to be a sauna in the winter. Most people can tolerate an ambient room temperature that is a little cool and wear a jumper for added warmth.

4. Cut out the unnecessary junk from your shopping list. Only buy what you need and will use without wasting. Cut out extra junk food for snacking. Buy healthy foods that can be used for dinner as well as snacks. Consider quitting smoking – that alone saves money each week.

5. Avoid going into fast food restaurants. Not only is it unhealthy, it is excessive spending. Plan your meals so that you will not resort to McDonald’s.

6. Save water. You can save water in various ways, many of which are common sense and already in practice:

a. Shower instead of bathing. Unless you stand in the shower for hours on end or you use a power shower, you would save on water consumption.

b. Install a water-efficient cistern for your toilet so that you are not flushing away excessive water.

c. If you buy a clothes or dishwasher, choose a water-efficient model and only wash when you have a full load.

d. If washing by hand, fill a sink with soapy water to wash and a sink with clean water to rinse. Do not leave the tap running.

e. Similarly, do not peel and clean vegetables under running water. Either fill the sink up, or peel, then rinse after.

f. Do not leave the tap running when brushing teeth. Use a cup.

g. If you wash your car at home, use a bucket and sponge rather than a hose pipe.

h. Fix any leaking pipes and check your pipes regularly for leakages.

i. Insulate your pipes so that they stay warm and will not crack.

j. Lastly, consider getting a water meter. You may be paying too much if you are charged an unmeasured rate. A water meter allows you to pay based on what you use and not on the rateable value of your home.

Finding good value in dining out

When dining out, it is always advisable to find best quality and quantity for the money. With the recession, we find that dining out is a luxury that we cannot afford too frequently. However, there are circumstances beyond our control when we are on the road and have not packed enough food for the day. Or, at other times, when we intend to be out and cannot pack dinner.
One such occasion occurred not too long ago when we decided to attend a pantomime in Eastbourne. We planned to find a small café for a quick dinner before the performance. However, once we arrived, it was difficult to find any place to eat. We opted for an Italian restaurant near the theatre because the kids wanted pizza. As it turned out, it was a good choice. The restaurant was Pomodoro e Mozzarella. Not only was the food and very reasonably priced, the servings were large. The kids each had a pizza and it was not a personal size you might get at the local pizza take-out. It was as large as a dinner plate. I was afraid the kids could not finish (they normally don‘t), but they were very hungry and the food was good, so most of it was consumed. Our dinners were in good portions as well and we were quite stuffed. We had each chosen a three-course meal as a Christmas special. Our total bill was only 30 GBP. It was a very good price to pay for filling our stomachs.

This restaurant definitely deserves a recommendation for quality, quantity and price. It was also family-friendly. The Pomodoro e Mozzarella Pizzeria ristorante can be found at 23/24 Cornfield Terrace in Eastbourne. You can also visit them at www.pomodoro-e-mozzarella.co.uk.

 

Avoid waste – use your freezer wisely

Did you know that you can freeze almost anything and keep it fresh? It is one way that you can save food from rotting. Which in turn, cuts down on waste and you won’t feel guilty.
If you find a good deal on bread and want to buy several loaves, make sure you leave one out and freeze the rest. Thaw the loaf about a day before using it. Did you know you could do the same with cookies? Bananas can be frozen and this prevents them from over-ripening. The skin may turn black, but the fruit is fresh. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. Just imagine not having to cook dinner for one evening.

Buying frozen vegetables can often be cheaper than fresh. And they often taste fresher than the tinned. They can be thawed under running cold water and used as fresh.

Meat and fish are often found frozen. Though we buy frozen fish in large packs, I have yet to find a way to cook them so that they taste like fresh. But I still enjoy them. When we buy fresh fish and meat and do not think that we will use them in the next day or two, we will freeze them. This makes them last much longer.

Though many are in the habit of shopping on a frequent basis to get fresh foods, we have found that we do not have enough time on our hands to do this. We usually shop once a week for everything we need that week. We have learned to use our freezer to keep things still fresh at the end of the week.

Ham and Pasta Salad with Mango Chutney

Inspired by the various pasta salads which we dined on during our journey before we became “settled”, this is an easy and versatile salad.  Because the ingredients are fairly cheap, we find that we have this salad frequently for lunch.  As with any recipe, you can adapt your own tastes by substituting the ingredients. 

Specifically, we used a bag (500g) of pasta twists, two tins of chopped ham and pork, a jar of mango chutney, almost half a bottle of salad cream (the 400g bottle), some carrots and celery, and a jar of pickled onions.  I am not a chef, just a mother, so I when I create my own dishes, I tend to measure to taste.  I also prefer to make big batches, so that we have extra helpings for leftovers on another day.

Directions:  Boil the pasta as directed.  Slice the tinned chopped ham into thin strips.  Grate about a cupful of carrots and chop up a couple stalks of celery.  Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add more salad cream if desired or required.  You want to make sure you cover all the pasta, otherwise, it may be quite stodgy.  Enjoy.

This recipe makes about 4 servings.  These are “our” servings, not the recommended servings.  If you measure based upon the amount the grocery stores sell as a serving, it would probably be about 8 servings.  If you were to buy 8 servings of pasta at the stores, it would cost you anywhere between 8-10 GBP.  But the ingredients above (pasta – 39p, ham – 45p each, chutney – 89p, pickled onion – 86p, salad cream – 45p, carrots – 25p, celery – 50p) add up to less than 5 GBP.  Prices are based on our regular shopping at Morrison’s.

Thrifty grocery shopping

It is unfortunate that when it comes to saving money on grocery, we sometimes have to sacrifice goodness. This is one reason why people’s health declines during times of recession. However, in order to survive financially, it is something one must do sometimes. On the other hand, there are ways to circumvent the negative effects of eating less than healthy diets, but it does require diligence and hard work (e.g., exercise). Recession teaches us a lot about thrift, and everyday we are learning new ways of being thrifty.
Buying cheaper alternatives when it comes to meat means that you will get fatter cuts of meat. If this is the best you can do, you should remove as much visible fat before cooking and always drain the fat after the meat is cooked to avoid a high intake of fat and cholesterol. Similarly, canned meats may be full of sodium and other preservatives. To my surprise, Morrison’s carries their own brand and a few lesser known brands, some of which are low in fat and/or sodium, and are quite inexpensive.  Jamie Oliver can say what he may about cheap sausages, but we cannot afford to pay 10GBP for 20 sausages.  We buy the 1GBP pack, which lasts us a week, and probably contains the worst parts of pork and chicken, but we like it.  There does not appear to be much fat that comes off when we cook it, either.
Buying in bulk makes good financial sense. This is especially true when there is a special and no buyer limits. Morrison’s often have ‘buy one get one free’ offers, or even larger bulks. The same product may be on offer several times a year, with a different offer each time. These items should be purchased when there is a special. If they are nonperishable, you should stock up well until the next special. It may sometimes mean that you will have to rearrange your dinner menus to incorporate the specials.

Although it is difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk, it is best to buy them when they are on special. This is usually the case when said fruits and vegetables are in season, which makes it reasonable to eat healthy and cheap at once. If fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to obtain, frozen or tinned fruits and vegetables are available. They may not be as healthy, but they are a cheaper and non-perishable alternative.

These are only a few ways to save money when shopping for groceries. We have managed to follow some of these ways in order to feed a family of four on around 50 GBP a week. Hopefully, in future blogs we can include some recipes that are simple and use cheap ingredients.

Morrison’s, a new way to save

Having been an ardent Walmart shopper, we have found it very difficult to find a single entity in the UK that fulfilled all our needs as our local Walmart did in the US. Although we have found multiple shops that together form a good substitute, the amount of driving to each of these shops individually reduces the amount of discount that each provides. Nevertheless, any amount of savings is worth it.

I had never heard of Morrison’s until one day I had a discussion with my mother-in-law about the various grocery stores, and how I no longer see any Safeways. She told me the story of how Morrison’s took over. Oddly enough, a few days later, we were driving through Crowborough and found a Morrison’s petrol garage (gas station ,for us Yanks). We had not noticed it before. Also, we did not realize that the grocery store was behind it. We did not discover that until some time later, when we were shopping in the town and I needed to find a toilet. I saw the signs for Morrison’s, went up a flight of stairs and found myself on another level, at the Morrison’s car park.

We didn’t start shopping Morrison’s right away. At the time, we still shopped mostly at Lidl’s. However, one day we needed something that Lidl’s did not carry, so we went over to Morrison’s. It was an eye-opener because we found some things that were cheaper than Lidl’s. Shortly after, we did some price and taste comparisons. It turned out that Morrison’s generic brand, namely Morrison’s Value, was cheaper on many items, especially canned goods. In addition, we did not sacrifice on taste. Soon, we were discovering values on many other items, including some frozen goods, like sausages.

Although Morrison’s has been invaluable, we have found that prices vary quite a bit from time to time between the several places we shop. Therefore, we need to keep an eye out for specials everywhere we go. We still cannot rely on one place to give us the best prices all the time.