Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Cooking from scratch...a shortcut

Hi everyone,

September was an expensive month for us and sadly not enough thriftiness going on. There were also a couple of distressful events and this impacted on my blogging. I'm not going into great detail because my blog is public...I was very upset but it's sorted now.

Today my slow cooker is on, even though it's warm and sunny here again. It's a simple beef casserole, but I thought I'd share my little cheat (shortcut) when I'm short of time...

This is simply diced beef (I don't even brown it anymore), a pinch of smart price mixed herbs, a couple of dashes of Worcester sauce and a packet of this...

Casserole veg, chopped and washed ready to simply chuck in! It costs £1, but I think it's worth it. I didn't add any other veg because there is a mixture of onion, leek, carrots, swede and potatoes. 

I then make up a large jug of gravy and stir. I cook it on high for an hour then turn it down to medium for the rest of the day. An hour before we want to eat, I will make some suet dumplings and pop them on the top.

Perfect, easy and delicious! 

I like to cook from scratch, but some days I want to do other things and so the odd shortcut is fine! 

Let's face it, it takes very little time or effort to take something out of the freezer and bung it in the oven for 20mins...easy peasy, dinner is served! I am at home and I do have more time, so there's no excuse! I prepare my veg in the morning and try to get everything else ready so I can forget about it until later. I hate having to rush about later on. Today I felt like cheating :)

Does anyone else have any shortcuts to share?

I don't know if you enjoy seeing my Carboot finds, but here's some more!

I love reading and don't do it enough. I have been inspired by the amount of wartime books on offer lately at the car boot. I managed to pick all these up for £1.60.

These bits for Daisy cost £1.50 (for her Christmas stocking).

At 20p each, I was really happy, especially as one is a next winter coat! The seller even threw in a pretty dress for free as she'd seen me looking at it and put it back!

Something is only worth what you are prepared to pay for it, and I paid £1 for this dress. It's lovely and just what I was looking for. The Christmas card making kit was 20p! Brand new and although a bit tacky, it will keep Daisy amused in December. I can't grumble at spending 20p for a few hours entertainment. Daisy can personalise them as she chooses and send out her own cards at Christmas.

My final purchase was this rocker/see-saw. It's little tikes and it's pink! This was £3, but I know they are quite costly brand new. Daisy will play outside whatever the weather and loves it already. We've been looking out for garden toys like this for ages. 

I'm sensible carbooting and don't buy impulsively any more. We are hoping to do some selling very soon...wish me luck!  I hope to clear loads of the clutter that's stacked up and make some pennies to go towards Christmas. That's it for now.

Thanks for reading,

Mandy x


  1. Yes life is too short to brown meat I throw it in as is and always turns out delicious anyway.
    You managed to purchase such good bargains and those little craft kits always come in handy for entertaining children.
    Ruth - Western Australia

    1. Hi Ruth, I used to brown meat first, but I'm making shortcuts where I can! X

  2. A great start to the month, there is nothing wrong with the odd cheat, I do it too, mostly with the jars or packets of sauces, especially a curry one. There are times when its just easier than making from scratch. You have some lovely bargains for Daisy and some pretty clothes. We must have the same reading taste, I have read all but the bottom one....Im going to investigate....have a lovely day :-) x

    1. Thanks Karen, and you!
      Are those books worth a read? I love Anne Bennett, Lillian Harry and Dee Williams to name a few, but I could read the Nella Last diaries and Call the Midwife books over and over! The 40s and 50s are my favourites! Xx

    2. Definitely worth reading. Look for Annie Groves books theres a series about the Campion Family 5 books, I think you will enjoy. Also Donna Douglas, the Nightingale series, similar to Call The Midwife. xx

    3. Thanks for the recommendations Karen xx

  3. I have a shortcut for when I know I'm going to be short of time the following day. I prepare and cook double the amount of veg, the extra I put in an ovenproof bowl in the fridge. The following day I add a knob of butter to it, cover it with foil and put it in the oven to heat through, along with the chops, sausages, or whatever other easy fuss-free meat/fish we're having.

    1. Lovely idea Sooze, I will try that one. I have prepared double veg and spuds before but just left them in saucepans of water to cook the following day x

  4. Your dinner looks very tasty. Well done with the car boot bargains. The books look very interesting. Good luck with sorting and some selling of your items :)

  5. Hi Mandy,
    some good bargains there. I love wartime books and also I started to try to collect the ones about gypsy travellers, they are a lovely read.
    I too made a casserole the other day in the slow cooker, I used a bag of cubed pork which were on offer in the freezer cabinets in asda for £1 a bag so got 3. I don't eat meat but hubby is a big meat eater. I did it as a casserole with some frozen mixed veg but he only ate half so the rest I placed in an oven proof dish and covered it with mashed potato and froze it for him
    for another day. A sort of cottage pie type thing.
    I am still waiting to hear about if I have a job after this week as there is no job available for me on the shifts I am able to do. They have mentioned redundancy but as I have only been there 5 years wouldn't get much pay wise but I suppose its better than nothing, I have a meeting in the morning so wish me luck I get sorted soon.
    I have been stockpiling foods I have found on offer and currently have 4 freezers stuffed to full capacity and also a large store of dried goods so that if the worse does happen and I am unemployed for a while there will be plenty of food to see us through for quite a while.
    I will also get all my most frugal cookbooks out and start avidly re-reading them and I have a lot of frugal blogs saved to my favourites bar on the laptop which are always full of excellent money saving advice and tips, and also cheap filling meals.
    as always take care jane x

    1. So sorry to hear about your job situation Jane.

      I ended up freezing the remainder of our beef casserole and I'll put a pastry lid on when we get round to eating it.

      I have some really frugal recipes if times get tough, which I can share with you. An excellent place to go to for everything money saving, especially food wise, is the money saving expert website (Martin Lewis), I go on the old style forum and jot down loads of ideas. The people who post on there are so good at shopping for small amounts of money and stretching what you have got.
      There are recipes and meal suggestions for breakfast, lunch and tea, as well as baking, batch cooking, packed lunches, puddings's all there. You wouldn't want to live on the really low amounts for long, but the suggestions for meal plans are meant to be there for emergencies, when every penny counts.

      Let me know if you would like me to dig out my notes from when I was looking for ideas.

      I will be spending money from now until Christmas, but things will be different in January. That's when I will have a low spend month and eat what we've already got etc. I intend to keep this going as long as possible to save some pennies.

      I wish you all the luck in the world to get some shifts at work. Hopefully you'll have nothing to worry about xxx

  6. Hi Mandy, quick update on the job front is that today after the meeting they came back to me with a figure of just short of £2300 for a redundancy payment. Also I would have to cancel my shares and would get back what I have paid in so far which would be roughly £800 so that's the amount of money I would have to last until I could find another job. I think I would probably have a break if I decide to go down this route and wait until after Christmas and have a well earned rest from work (well not really a rest as I have 1001 jobs that I could do with getting sorted in the house) and this would be the ideal opportunity. Money will no doubt be tight until I found another job so any help appreciated with money saving ideas etc. I will also look at the site you mentioned.
    I still have a week or two to decide or a job within the right shift pattern may materialise within the next week or so (very doubtful) but I can keep hoping.
    I have absolutely nothing planned for this weekend as my daughter has gone away for the weekend with both my grandsons so it will be a NO SPEND weekend as we have no car so no supermarket or carboot sale for me :-)
    as always take care, jane xx