Not quite Meal planning

So I haven’t meal planned for several weeks now.  There have been lots of reasons why, from the simple I can’t be bothered to not having the time and energy.  I also have lacked the motivation.  I’ve been struggling a little to cope since one of my twin boys broke his leg, so I made my life simpler by cancelling things, postponing others and not putting pressure on myself to do everything.  What I can tell you about this break from planning is that we have not starved, we actually haven’t completely blown the budget but we have been buying more than we should.  While this is ok once in a while it is not a long term solution.

Thankfully my prior meal planning and bulk cooking has more than paid off, allowing me to have this ‘time off,’ while still having meals available for hubby to take to work every night, and even a few things for me.  Our freezer was literally that full a couple of months ago that we plugged back in our mini bar freezer (so we essentially had three freezers full of stuff!).  It has meant that my husband has had loads to choose from, the boys have had a range of lunches, dinners and snacks (I make mini quiches, scrolls, as well as muffins in bulk and freeze them all) and I haven’t really had to worry about it.  I’ve probably had pasta Bolognese what feels like a week straight (in reality it was like 3 nights in a row and then every second night for a few more days) but it was easy, filling and satisfying.  I’ve also had a bit of take away, toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner and who knows what else!

So now that we’ve been on holiday and I’m feeling better I have to really get back to planning, cooking and restocking!  The boys have almost nothing left so they are definitely my first priority, hubby still has quite a lot left, and I’m in desperate need of more Bolognese sauce.  I have been using a lot from my pantry, but there is still quite a few odds and ends left and I still have a lot of meat (we did do a meat shop a couple of weeks ago) so I’m hoping to get through the next week without a trip to the supermarket.  I stocked up on bread and milk Thursday night so really there is no reason to go (it doesn’t mean I wont).  So although this week I don’t have an actual meal plan as I have no idea what I will make for myself, I do have a plan on the other bits and pieces I plan to make, which is as follows.

* Muffins – a savoury version or two, I’m thinking a corn one (tinned), a pumpkin one (still got some pumpkins we were given) and if I can find the time also a tomato one (tinned)

* Muffins – sweet version, probably an apple one (lots of tins of apple still) and maybe banana (got some going brown)

* Quiches – mini version for the boys (we have stacks of eggs and I will just add in whatever else I can find)

* Savoury scrolls – I’ve got a little salad that is looking sad which is perfect for these and I’ll add a little ham

Hopefully that will clear a little more space in my cupboard, so that when I head back to SPC in the next few weeks and come back with another car load full I will have a space to put it all!  And it will refill the boys very bare looking space in the freezer, as well as fulfilling my need to do some baking.  In another week or two I may get back into the swing of meal planning, but personally I am in no rush and might instead look at changing my strict planning to a more relaxed version of bulk cooking.

I also managed to make a pumpkin and ham frittata yesterday, which is pictured below.  Don’t ask me how it tastes (I don’t like pumpkin or eggs! lol), I’m waiting on hubby to have some for lunch for the verdict.

frittata1

Reusing tins

So following on from my post on reusing items from around your house, here is a short list of how you can reuse those tin cans, rather than just throwing them into the recycling bin.

* Tins (particularly formula tins, as they have a lid) make great money boxes.  Simply cut a coin slot and start saving.  If its for something special decorate the outside of the tin so you know what you’re saving for and aren’t tempted to ‘borrow’ from the tin.

* Tins make great planters for seedlings.  Just drill one or more holes in the bottom (depending on the size of the tin) for drainage, fill with soil and plant your seedlings.  For an attractive display attach 3 to a plank of wood and plant some herbs.  Perfect for just outside your back or side door.

* Paint a tin can white and attach some white lace for an attractive vase for flowers.

* Use tin cans around the house for storage – paint them or cover them in paper to match your décor, and use them to hold your kitchen utensils, pens, or toothbrushes.

* I have also been told you can make tin cans into DIY candles.

* Below is a great idea for a DIY Tin Can Lantern from Apartment Therapy, you can view the directions here.

tincan7_erinboyle

Looks great for outdoor entertaining!

Meal planning

So last week was such and up and down week with one of the boys having a broken leg and being out of action and me trying to contain his twin from destroying my whole house.  All while nursing my own shoulder, which still hurts.  I probably haven’t done myself even favours carrying the boys around the house but as parents we do tend to just grin and bear it a lot of the time for the sake of our kids.

A few days ago we headed out to the shops to stock up on some fresh fruit and veg, not to mention bread and milk, and I’ll also stocked up on some cheap cuts of meat to put in the slow cooker.  Hubby is on a shift change for part of this week so it’s really going to mess with the boys usual routine, but we will see how we go.

Monday – Chicken burritos

Tuesday – Salt and pepper squid (the calamari has been in my freezer for so long)

Wednesday – Spaghetti Bolognese (sauce made in bulk a while ago and frozen)

Thursday – Chicken souvlaki (home made)

Friday – Take away (pizza?)

Saturday – Fettucini Carbonara (sauce made in bulk a while ago and frozen)

Sunday – Chicken and tomato risotto

I’m still on the kick to use up the bits from my pantry which is why I stocked up on some cheap cuts of meat this week (all those meal base type packets are going to be used if it kills me!).  So far I have made beef and mushroom ragout in the slow cooker, and a mild chicken curry (using the very cheap drumsticks) also in the slow cooker.  I made big batches (we’re talking 12 portions) that have all been divided up and frozen.  I also defrosted part of my old batch of beef ragout and made meat pies with it for lunch for hubby, he tried one tonight and is very impressed!  Tomorrow I’m hoping to get a beef stew thing on, as well as a chicken, bacon and potato bake.  I’m very glad to be using up lots from my pantry, as I can finally see my stocks going down, which makes more room for other things – seriously don’t ask what other things, stuff just seems to accumulate and appear from no where!!

Recipe – Bacon and Egg Pies

So we have a huge accumulation of eggs at the moment so I went on the hunt for recipes to use them up.  But we are also on an extremely tight budget this week meaning I could only use what we already had.  I made some orange curd and meringues and have a frittata in mind, but a friend suggested I make some bacon and egg pies.  I found a few recipes but nothing really worked with what I had, so I put together a few bits and pieces and came up with this.  It has been a hit with both hubby and the boys, and with only a few ingredients is quite simple to put together.

Ingredients –

* 2 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed

* 300g bacon, thinly sliced

* 1 cup sour cream

* 1 brown onion, diced

* 8 eggs

* 1 cup shredded cheese

Directions –

* Preheat oven to 180°C.

* Lightly grease a Texas muffin pan and/or a regular muffin pan.

* If using a texas muffin pan cut pastry sheets into quarters, for a regular muffin pan you need to cut them into 9.

* Gently ease a square of pastry into each muffin pan.

* Cook bacon and onion in a small frying pan over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until light golden.

* Place three-quarters of bacon into base of each pastry shell.

* Whisk sour cream and eggs until well-combined.

* Spoon mixture over bacon.

* Top with remaining bacon, onion mixture.

* Sprinkle some cheese onto each one.

* Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is cooked.

* Allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

 

Notes –

* You can substitute the bacon for ham is that’s what you have.

* The above mixture made 6 texas style muffin sized ones and 9 regular muffin sized ones.  The larger ones are great as a lunch on the run, while the others are perfect for snacks.

* Add in some fresh herbs if you have them on hand to give it some extra flavour, and add in your salt and pepper with your egg mix.

* Serve with tomato relish – yum yum!

* You could also throw in any other left over vegetables to this mix (I generally make “leftover” scrolls with all my odds and ends).

Buying second hand

buying secondhand

I’m a bit advocator for saving money and one of the best ways I’ve managed to do this over the years is to buy second hand. There are lots of items you could and should buy second hand if you are on a tight budget.

Ebay is great for second hand items, but there are plenty of local options too, such as Vinnies and The Salvation Army stores, as well as markets. I’ve bought items at all of these places and never had any problems. Social media has also made buying and selling second hand even easier with local buy, swap, sell pages popping up all over the place and don’t forget Gumtree.

So what could you buy second hand?

* Women’s clothing – you can often pick up items with the tags still on that someone else has purcahsed but didn’t quite fit properly for a bargain price!! Designer dresses are often available that the seller has only worn once for a special event that could be your bargain purchase for your next event.

* Babies clothes – seriously they grow out of clothes so fast and they go through so many changes of clothes some days that it can really add up if you have to buy everything new. I’ve bought bulk lots of clothes off ebay for an absolute bargain, I’ve got other clothes from our local salvos that still had the original tags for only a couple of dollars.

* Furniture – Although there are many cheap type furniture stores these days you can’t always find what you want for a decent price, particulary when it comes to baby furniture. The cost of a cot, change table, drawers, etc, etc can really add up quickly!! Search ebay or check out a seconds store.

* Toys – There are so many toys available second hand, a ridiculous amount!! This includes everything from rattles, bouncers, bikes, through to cubby houses and everything in between. The only things I would recommend not buying is anything that is broken. Any toy that you do buy should be throughly washed to ensure it is safe for your baby.

* Electrical appliances – Although you can get some great items second hand you need to always be cautious with buying anything electrical second hand. Do not buy any electrical item that is damaged, always ask if it is in working order and make sure you read the description and look at the photos carefully. Always check out seconds stores and major stores often have a slightly damaged section or store.

There is so much more you can buy but that is a basic start and will save you lots of money if you are on a budget.

Look out for my guide on how to buy (and sell) on ebay coming soon.

Meal planning

The last couple of days have been really quiet for us. We are trying to take it easy as one of the boys had an accident and the other hasn’t been feeling 100%. It’s been nice to have the extra time to just sit and cuddle with my babies, but it means nothing is getting done around the house, and it’s looking more and more like a bomb site by the minute.

It’s also a really tight money week for us, so I’m trying to use up the bits and pieces we’ve got and make the most of it.  We are reasonably stocked up on the staples so I was able to make a few things over the weekend for snacks and treats for everyone.  The freezer has thankfully got enough meals to get my husband through the week at work and I’ll just be throwing together this and that for myself.  Last week we had no plan and I can honestly say I have no idea what I ate all week but I know there was some take out involved!!

So this week is really not going to be anything interesting food wise.  Our freezer is quite stocked with bits and pieces for the boys, so I always know that there will be enough food to put on their plates, which is all I really worry about.  But for me, who knows!!

Monday – Steak with vegetables

Tuesday – Marinated chicken with rice

Wednesday – Massaman beef curry (made in bulk weeks ago)

Thursday – Tomato and chicken risotto

Friday – Lamb shanks (hubby’s day off and they have been sitting in the freezer for a while now)

Saturday – Frozen fish and chips

Sunday – Out to dinner

I do need to head to the shops as we are out of milk, but I think I will send hubby so I don’t get the urge to buy anything else!!

Reusing household items

So having children can be extremely expensive.  I can tell you that having twins has certainly made me much more aware of what we are spending, and since we would still like to have more children (no twins has not put me off) I am always looking for ways to reuse and stretch what we have.  So I quite often look at items around our home and think what could I use that for, or tell me husband to save this or that.  It does drive him mad but I swear everything will be used in time!

reuse

There’s lots of household items that can be used in crafts for various activities.  So if you have babies, toddlers or even pre-school kids this list will give you an idea of where to start.

* The screw top lids off food pouches (baby food, yoghurt)

* Milk bottles (the whole thing or just the lid)

* Formula tins

* Tin cans (preferably the ones with the ring pull as they don’t leave sharp edges)

* Boxes (Cereal, etc)

* Egg cartons

* Yoghurt containers

* Fresh fruit containers (you know the plastic ones like strawberries come in)

* Spice jars

* Jars (from baby food jars to pasta sauce jars)

* Bubble wrap (if you ever get anything posted to you)

* Junk mail

* Wrapping paper

* Magazines

* Toilet roll inserts (along with anything else that comes on a roll – paper towel, glad wrap, etc.)

Look out over the coming weeks on some ideas on how you can use some of these items in crafts to entertain your little ones.  The kids are entertained and it hasn’t cost you anything.  Win win!!  You can even use many of these items yourself around your home.