Category Archives: Blog posts

Here’s where I’ll post all my day to day musings and findings on eating local and organic on a budget.

The Roast Dinner and leftovers….

There’s nothing more frugal than cooking the way our parents used to, by roasting a chicken on Sunday, eating it with jacket potatoes and salad on a Tuesday, turn the brown meat into a curry on a Wednesday, then boil the bones for a delicious soup on Thursday.

Leftover veg from a roast dinnerAs I’ve been experimenting over the last 3 months with ways to save money on food – and I’ve discovered that our parents (and grandparents) really did know best. No part of the chicken was wasted. Portion size of meat may have been less, but this usually meant that more vegetables were eaten – which research has shown to be healthier in the long run.

With Easter approaching, there’s some fantastic deals on local meat. I bought a joint of local Top Side beef for just £7.99 a kilo at Q Gardens (which would be £13 a kilo in Tesco’s). Local Butchers have got in this seasons lamb, and there’s always the humble free-range chicken.

One of my favourite use-everything-up recipes at the moment is my leftover roast dinner soup. It’s simply some extra roasted roots that I’ve cooked on the Sunday (usually parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and potatoes), blended with stock made from the bones and giblets of the chicken. I add in some roasted garlic and rosemary to jazz it up a bit and serve it with some homemade foccacia – it’s delicious and hearty.

Chicken curryIf you’re after a simple frugal curry recipe, check this one out. The base is made from blended onions, tinned tomatoes and creamed coconut.

You can add in a couple of handfuls of cooked chickpeas to bulk it out if you’re short on meat. Simply serve with rice.

Q Gardens Steventon Oxfordshire

Q Gardens signMy daughter Melissa’s at home with me on Tuesday’s, we like to get out and about and do some market research for the blog.

I stumbled across Q Gardens in Steventon just south of Abingdon, Oxfordshire. I took a fancy to the name as I’m a huge fan of Kew Garden’s in London where I used to work in a little health food store for a few years.

Q Gardens Farm Shop specialises in seasonal produce that has been grown, reared or made as locally as possible –  including fruit from their own orchards (notably yummy cherries) and meat from their own farm just a couple of miles away from the shop.

Oxfordshire Icecream from Q GardensThey also stock bread, dairy products, a wide range of local beers and wines. They have a huge display of locally milled flour, cakes and biscuits, honey and preserves.  But the crowning glory was the refrigerator full of home made ice cream – I couldn’t resist a sample of the raspberry sorbet. The fruit in the ice cream is grown on the farm too!

I splashed out on a joint of Top Side Beef for Easter Weekend. It was only £7.99 a kg, and is large enough to supply at least two meals for our family. The equivalent joint is £13 a kg in Tesco’s. An absolute bargain.

We’ll be back in the Summer to sample the strawberries and famous cherries! Can’t wait!

Here are the shop details –

Q Garden local flour selectionHow to find Q Gardens
Milton Hill, Steventon, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX13 6AB
01235 820988 

On the A4130 just a few hundred metres from the Milton Interchange of the A34. At the roundabout take the Wantage exit, go through both sets of traffic lights and we are the cream building on your right hand side.


Top 10 tips on feeding your family for £100 a month

We’ve been feeding the family for just £100 a month for the past three months. As you may guess, we’ve learned a lot about penny pinching, saving on food waste and budget buys.

Here’s my TOP 10 TIPS of feeding a family for £100 a month

Love your leftovers1) Love your leftovers
When I cook a family meal I purposefully make extra so there’s enough for lunch the next day. It saves at least a fiver, which would normally be spent on work canteen food. Plus it’s often healthier too.

2)  Boil your bones
There’s nothing nicer than soup made from real stock. If you think that making your own stock is a faff then think again. All you need to do is put the bones in a litre of water with salt and pepper and boil for a few hours. If you’ve got some, chuck in a few discarded carrot peelings, onion and garlic skins, cabbage heads or celery leaves – they add some additional flavour and goodness.

Pegtop farm mince beef3) Get your veggies local
I’ve always been a fan of getting my veggies delivered to the door and used the more popular nationwide box delivery schemes. However, since shopping local I’ve discovered that many farms nearby also deliver, and that these are often cheaper and have to travel shorter distances to my door – good for me, good for the planet.

4) Go find your nearest farm
The healthiest and tastiest eggs are from chickens that roam free. You can tell a good egg by its thick hard shell and bright vibrant orange yolk (brittle pale eggs are not good). I’ve also found local free range eggs to be cheaper than supermarket free range – and the quality is really quite different.

Budget chocolate beetroot fairy cakes5) Make friends with your freezer
I never fully understood the value of my freezer until I started feeding the family on a budget. But now I freeze leftovers for when I can’t be bothered to cook. Also if a food’s about to reach it’s sell by date I’ll freeze it until needed – it has saved us a fortune.

6) Learn to make do
When you have to make do with what you’ve got, you learn to improvise. This process can be fun and often results in something quite interesting. I found that beetroot juice makes fantastic pink icing, and that roasted pumpkin is a fantastically  moist substitute for butter in a chocolate cake.

7) Re-use and recycle
There’s nothing more frustrating than a child that refuses a meal – what a waste! I found I could feed my daughter’s leftover porridge back to her later in the day when I turned into oatmeal and raisin biscuits. Leftover rice makes awesome rice pudding too! Waste not want not.

cauliflower pizza 28) Re-think the contents of the food waste bin
If you look carefully, you’re throwing away edible stuff. I made gluten free pizza crust out of broccoli stems. Cauliflower cheese soup, from the discarded leaves of a cauliflower. Potato skin crisps from potato peelings, and a food waste soup from vegetable odds and ends.

9) Buy in bulk
There’s certain staple foods that we eat again and again. For us it’s rice, porridge oats and potatoes – look out for deals on bulk buys. It can save you a fortune – like this 25kg sack of potatoes from Rectory Farm.

Westmill Organics Veggie box10) Get a bargain
If you want to visit Farmer’s Markets – go at the end of the day when everyone’s clearing up. At this time there’s always a bargain to be had. Like a large Savoy cabbage or Spaghetti Squash for just £1. Where does the leftover fruit and veg from the markets go? Find out!!! I found a Monday Shop that sells just that for donation only – they don’t want to throw it away.

11) Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty
I know I said just 10 top tips, but I couldn’t resist this last one. There are cultivation projects around the country that need volunteers to work the land. This could mean an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon. It’s worth finding out about, because you get to take some of the harvest home as payment. You don’t have the commitment of an allotment, yet is an fun afternoon out and an enjoyable way to educate children about where your food comes from.

Any more tips from you – please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Who said #Oxford’s Covered Market’s expensive?

Oxford covered market 15 farm eggsI had  a lovely email from a reader a few weeks ago that told me where to get some fantastic Farm Eggs in Oxford’s very own covered market. I was surprised I have to say, as I hadn’t ventured there believing that I would not find any deals. I was wrong.

Yesterday I ventured to John Lindsay’s butchers at the back of the Covered Market and found 15 Fresh Farm eggs for only £2.10! That’s 14p an egg. Amazing. I couldn’t resist. I also spoke to Stuart the butcher who said the eggs came from Crowmarsh Farm in Wallingford. The butchers also supply local meat at very reasonable prices. Needless to say, I’ll be visiting more often!

Local honey cures hay fever

Local oxfordshire honeyI love honey. It’s not been part of our budget cooking yet because it can be expensive. However, if you suffer from hayfever, local honey can be cheap way to prevent the onset of this annoying allergic condition.

Bee-keepers generally advocate that local honey is the best tool to fight hay fever because it contains the pollen from the local flowers which might have caused allergic reaction to the sufferers. You need to make sure the honey is raw, as heating damages the vital properties in the honey.

How to take honey for hay fever

If you begin by taking 1 spoonful a day 8 weeks before the hay fever season begins, this may reduce your need for expensive anti-histamines (which are usually around £4 for a pack of 12).

An even better remedy would be to make a cup of fresh but cooled cup of Nettle tea  by steeping fresh nettles in boiling water for a few minutes. Then add a tsp of honey to sweeten. This medicinal tea can be drunk up to 3 times a day.

Where to find local honey?

I’ve bought it Rectory Farm shop, Millets Farm, Pegtop Farm in Woodeaton (Islip honey) and also the The Market Garden at Eynsham. But I’m sure there are many other places too.

Eggshells make bioavailable Calicum

Okay, so if you’ve been reading my blog regularly you’ll know that I’ve become slightly obsessed with the contents of my food waste bin. But if you’re reading this for the first time you’ll probably think I’m going mad.

Organic farm egg shells make calciumBefore attempting to feed the family for just £100 a month using local produce I now realise that I was extremely wasteful of food. It wasn’t intentional, I just didn’t understand how I could make delicious meals out of food that was destined for the bin. Having discovered that potato peelings make great crisps, that vegetables skins and chicken bones make a delicious soup and that orange and lemon peel contributes to the zing-iest cake I’ve ever made, I was staring at the shells of our locally sourced farm eggs and thinking how wasteful to chuck them, when I had a brainwave!

The composition of eggshells is remarkably similar to our bones and teeth.

Crushed eggshells make bioavailable calcium supplementEggshells contain 27 essential micro-nutrients, as well as an abundance of calcium. Milk and dairy have long been promoted as high calcium foods, but the calcium in them isn’t bio-available which means our bodies can’t access it easily. The calcium from egg shells is 90% absorbable by our bones. That’s even more readily available to the body than many expensive supplements. Plus eggshells contain other important minerals for bone health including magnesium and phosphorus that dairy products don’t contain. So if you’re dairy free or lactose intolerant or just wishing to boost your calcium intake, I totally recommend you try this.

To make calcium from eggshells;

Calcium supplement made from eggshellsSimply immerse the empty shells in boiling water for about 5 minutes to kill any bugs. Let them sit over night to dry out. If needed you can put them in medium temperature oven for a few minutes until they are brittle. Now grind the shells in a coffee grinder or just use a pestle and mortar. Store in an air tight jar. You only need to take 1/4 tsp a day which can be mixed into porridge or a smoothie or simply taken with water.

Only organic eggs should be used as other eggs may contain trace antibiotics and other chemicals used in conventional methods of raising chickens. As a rule of thumb, the harder the eggshells the better the quality and mineral rich. Battery chicken eggs will be much more brittle.

This is the reason I love #Oxford!

Honesty box eggsWhen you’re driving along a country road. The sun is beaming and it’s a crisp and cold almost Spring day. At the corner of the road is a sign with Free Range Farm eggs for sale. You pull up and there they are, probably laid that morning, half a dozen beautiful eggs, still with the fluff on ready and waiting to be bought for only £1.

Not only than but there’s no one in site to take the money. Just an honesty box at the side. I love the community spirit and trust of the people in Oxford. It makes me proud and happy to live here.

These eggs were found on route from Islip to Headington. I’m sure there’ll be more around it you keep your eyes peeled!

Summary of week 4 feeding a family on a £100 pcm

This week, our final week, we’ve been trying to clamp tightly down on our budget.

We got our veggie and fruit box from North Aston Organics again, but I’m going to see if I can book a different box from a different location each week as they have all been fantastic, and I want to support them all.

Kale alooWe visited the Monday Shop and bought some beautiful Kale and coriander for donation only which we made Kale aloo with. I also indulged in some Cornfield bakery Rye Sourdough bread – this ancient method of baking with natural yeasts is much easier on the digestion and I’m a huge fan. We’ve been missing bread this month but I’m planning on getting into some baking of my own!

Pumpkin almond choclate cakeWe made hummus out of sprouted chickpeas and enjoyed it on the bread, and I baked some chocolate pumpkin brownies using the roasted pumpkin instead of butter as we had run out! The results were delicious and moist – a wonderfully successful experiment.

We’re getting a bit bored of home made peanut butter so I’m planning some almond butter next month.

If you’re interested in seeing what we’ve been eating all week, here’s our complete menu and budget breakdown. We eat porridge (I bought bulk oats in the first week but we’re now running low) with peanut butter and sugar for weekday breakfasts. At weekends we eat eggs of some kind either with bubble and squeak or in pancakes. Lunch is provided by either dinner leftovers, soup or hummus and bread. The pumpkin brownies and fruit have been fulfilling our sweet tooth this week too, and we’ve even eaten out of the food waste bin when we made potato peeling crisps!

potato skin crisps and spicy tomato sauceSunday
Bubble & Squeak with poached eggs and beans
Roast chicken, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cabbage.
Chicken Curry & Rice
Cabbage anchovy spaghetti
Kale aloo & rice
Alder's butchers on cowley roadThursday
Carrot soup & rye sourdough bread with hummus
Children over for tea – sausages, rice & peas
Pumpkin Risotto – for myself & Alex
Bubble and squeak with eggs and beans
Nettle pesto pasta (using our kale pesto recipe but with Nettles from Shotover)

Here’s the breakdown for the week

1 small chicken = £4
Dried chickpeas = 28p
Tinned tomatoes = 34p
Creamed coconut = 50p
8 eggs = £1.60
Veggie & fruit box = £14.50
Chocolate = 30p
Kale & coriander = £1
Rye bread = £3
Almonds = 40p
Baked beans x 2 = 50p
Rice = 80p
Spaghetti = 35p
Sugar = 40p
Cheese = 75p
Lemon = 25p
Anchovies = 50p
Sausages = £1
Frozen peas = 10p
Olive oil, garlic, chilli, spices = 30p

Total for week 4 = £30.62

Total spend for 1 month = £124.22

Paid for but still to use = £8.20
Leeks, beetroot, mushrooms and a few carrots = £4
Dried Yellow Split peas = £1.50
Dried Chickpeas = £1.50
Rice Wraps = £1.20

Final adjustment = £116.02 total spend!

January has been a long month, and I don’t think we’ve done too badly for our first attempt. In truth I really didn’t think that we’d make it, so I’m pleasantly surprised that we’re not far off. As logged, we’ve still got some leeks, beetroot, mushrooms and a few carrots from our veggie box to eat this week, as well as a huge amount of dried chickpeas, yellow split peas and rice wraps left over too!

Now I’m getting more efficient I’m sure we’ll manage to eat within budget the following month. We could have gone vegan this week to cut back the budget further and I really shouldn’t have boughMeadowshare at Wolvercotet the bread, but it was so temping and we were feeling deprived. I vow to make my own next month.

What have I learned from this month?

I’ll never buy Supermarket meat again. From now on I’ll be making my own nut butters, and hummus and I will value every fruit and vegetable that comes into the house. By keeping our stocks low, we’ve managed to reduce our food waste and our recycling bins contents too. Better for our purse, our health and the planet!

Thank you to everyone that has followed our journey and supported us, and also to all the wonderful people we have met along the way. I feel totally inspired by you all to continue, and hope to discover even more amazing local Oxfordshire produce in February.

If you haven’t heard us talking on BBC Radio Oxford this week please have a listen, and do please feel free to contact me or leave comments with local deals and frugal recipes, I love hearing from you –

Monday Shop and Kale Aloo Recipe

Sarah at Monday ShopI was at the Monday Shop, on Monday funnily, where you can pick up surplus organic vegetables that have been on market stalls or veg vans around Oxford over the weekend. The shop runs by donation only, to help reduce food waste in Oxford. It’s a clever way of getting slightly tired looking vegetables to people that want buy organic and create healthy meals on a budget.

I couldn’t wait to get down and see what was on offer. The shop runs every Monday from upstairs at the Cowley Road Community Centre from 4-8pm. Cornflower Bakery in Wheatley and Sesi also showcase their products.

Kale from monday shopI arrived at around 6.15pm to many friendly faces. Thank you to everyone that welcomed me.

I was surprised to see that the vegetables were anything but tired looking. North Aston Organics had contributed some beautiful fresh herbs and there was an abundance of leafy green kale from the Cultivate Veg Van, as well as carrots, potatoes, parsnips and beetroot.

I picked up a bunch of fresh coriander and some of the kale and pondered over what I could do for dinner. I had some leftover chicken curry in the freezer from the other week and an idea popped into my head for Saag aloo – but using kale instead of spinach. So there it became Kale Aloo with fresh coriander.

Here’s the recipe;
Kale aloo1 bunch of kale
4 large potatoes
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp creamed coconut
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 small chilli
Salt and pepper

Scrub and chop the potatoes into small pieces and then boil until soft. Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a small onion for 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, garam masala, chopped chilli and turmeric and fry for another 2 minutes until you smell the aroma of the spices. In the meantime, remove the very tough bits from the kale and slice finely before adding to the potatoes. Finally, add 1 cup of water, the tomato purée and creamed coconut. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until everything has infused together. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve alone with rice or as an accompaniment to other curries. Simple yet delicious!

How much does it cost?

It’s difficult to say how much this dish costs to make. But I would say you can buy all the vegetables for about £1 and the spices, tomato purée and creamed coconut come to about 50p. So £1.50 for 4 people.