Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Five breakfasts for 76p: Breakfast on a budget for #BreakfastWeek

A week of breakfasts for just 76p!

Last week (20-26 Jan) was Farmhouse Breakfast Week - an annual celebration championing the importance of breakfast and encouraging the nation to Shake Up Their Wake Up!

Folks across the country tweeted pictures of their breakfast and I decided to join in #BreakfastWatch by not only tweeting pics of my brekkie, but also (in true Domestic Goddessing on a Shoestring style) trying to make my breakfast as cheap as possible! Here's what I had...

Monday - Fresh pineapple chunks reduced from £1.40 to 14p!
Tuesday - Scotch pancakes and jam, two of a pack of six reduced to 19p so approx 10p with the jam.
Wednesday - Muffin with butter, one of a pack of four reduced from 92p to 29p so approx 8p for one with the butter.
Thursday - Muffin with half a chopped banana and golden syrup for approx 25p.
Friday - Innocent smoothie reduced from £1.26 to 19p.

So a grand total of 76p for a whole working week's worth of breakfasts! 

After such a cheap week of breakfasting Monday to Friday (and the realisation I didn't have any cut-price bread left in my freezer!) a full-price bagel and scrambled eggs made an appearance on Saturday. You either love it or hate it, but I add a touch of my Marmite to my bread when I have scrambled eggs - it makes all the difference!

To celebrate the end of #BreakfastWeek in style, I headed out for brunch with Mr Kate and my god-daughter Jemima (and her mum and dad!) on Sunday morning to Buddies Diner in Kingsthorpe, Northampton. A perfect start to the day filling up on breakfast and spending time with loved ones.

Jemima eyes up her mum's brekkie!

A huge plate of breakfast later (that really kept me going for the rest of the day!) and #BreakfastWeek was over - here's to next year as I'm already missing tweeting pics of my brekkie every day!

More info on the campaign at: www.shakeupyourwakeup.com 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Restaurant review: La Dolce Vita, Northampton

La Dolce Vita, Abington Street, Northampton

Another Groupon cheap meal out on Friday night!

This time it was the turn of La Dolce Vita in Abington Street, Northampton. I'd been to the restaurant before in one of its previous incarnations as Joe's Diner but not since it has been taken over by new owners and is now offering Italian fare as La Dolce Vita. So when the Groupon deal of two courses for two people and a glass of wine each for £22 came up it was time to try them out.

The restaurant is tucked away at the top of Abington Street through an archway and into a courtyard which would make a lovely place to dine in the summer.

I plumped for calamari to start and Mr Kate went for mussels cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with chorizo.

We were very surprised at how quickly the starters arrived - no more than five minutes. I sometimes worry when food arrives too quickly but there was no need to in this case - the meal was off to a good start. The presentation was simple yet effective - I was particularly impressed with the mini fryer the calamari arrived in. 

The good news is both dishes tasted as good as they looked. Mr Kate was a particularly happy boy as the spicy tomato chorizo sauce was quite delicious (so good he made me try a bit!).

Next up for Mr Kate was caramelised duck breast with a honey and raspberry sauce. Once again we were very surprised by the speed in which the mains were served - we had barely had our starter plates taken away when the mains arrived. The duck was a touch over-cooked for Mr Kate's liking but he was very impressed at the quality of the meat and the flavour of the sauce.

On the down side, the dish came with a portion of carrots and parsnips - unfortunately not as much love had gone into preparing the veg as the main. The veg appeared to be microwaved and pretty insipid looking. The menu stated the duck came with 'chef's choice' of veg, but the chosen veg did not complement the dish in the slightest - a serving of crisp green beans would have been a much stronger choice.

I was in the mood for some good old comfort food so went for rigatoni con salsiccia picante - in other words, large pasta tubes with spicy sausage and tomato sauce!

The sauce was warm and comforting - just what I was after on a cold winter's night - and I soon wolfed down the lot. The portion was certainly very generous too.

Dessert wasn't included in the deal, but I fancied a little something to round off the meal so went for a palate-cleansing lemon tart (and two spoons!).

Once again it arrived within no more than 2-3 minutes of ordering and was a good end to a thoroughly decent meal.

Whilst fast service is always better than waiting for hours on end, our three courses were complete in 50 minutes - a little too quick for our liking. We would have preferred a good 10 minutes between each course rather than the quick-fire service so we could enjoy the ambience and each other's witty repartee! Great timing if you were hoping for a quick lunch-hour service though!

It feels wrong grumbling about quick service - don't get me wrong the opposite is far worse - it's just we were in and out within an hour and home far earlier from our night out than expected. The experience was just a tad too rushed for a relaxed evening out.

All the staff were perfectly pleasant and very eager to please but perhaps a little too eager at times - we had three different people come and ask how our main meal was for us. Better than not asking at all but a little over-bearing in all honesty.

The price for our two courses, had we not had our £22 Groupon voucher, would have been £36.60 and around another £7 or £8 or so for the two glasses of wine that was included. So £22 for a meal that should have cost around £45 - not a bad deal at all!

The prices should have been:

Calamari - £5.95
Mussels - £5.95
Duck - £15.95
Pasta - £8.75

All in all, a very pleasant evening and we would return if another Groupon deal was around but felt that some of the meals were a tad over-priced if we were paying full price. A good place to stop for a thoroughly decent spot of lunch as a break during a shopping spree in Northampton town centre!

Cranberry and cinnamon muffins on the cheap

Cranberry and cinnamon muffins

I'm not the world's greatest cake-baker - home-cooked family meals are more my thing - however the snowy weather last weekend got me in a cake-baking kind of mood. Is there anything better than a long walk in the snow followed by some cake-baking to warm up?!

However, I hadn't pre-planned what I was going to bake and had no intention of going out into the cold again - it was time to rummage through the cupboards and see what I could find... A bag of dried cranberries later and cranberry muffins were the order of the day.

I found this Nigella recipe at: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/CHRISTMAS-MORNING-MUFFINS-5239

Alas I didn't have all of the ingredients so tailored it make it work with my cupboard stocks! Nigella's recipe called for the zest and juice of clementines or satsumas but I replaced this with some Jif lemon juice instead! Here's my version of the recipe:


250g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
125ml semi-skimmed milk
75ml sunflower oil
1 egg
170g dried cranberries
3 teaspoons cinnamon sugar for the topping

1) Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark six.
2) Line a muffin tin with cake cases.
3) Measure the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, caster sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl and combine.
4) Add 2-3 tablespoons of the bottled lemon juice to a measuring jug and pour in the milk until it comes up to the 200ml mark.
5) Add the oil and egg and lightly beat until just combined.
6) Pour the liquid into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir until everything is more or less combined. Nigella says a lumpy batter makes for a better muffin!
7) Fold in the cranberries and spoon the mixture into the cake cases.
8) Sprinkle the sugar over the top (Nigella used demerara but I didn't have any in so used some cinnamon sugar instead).
9) Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.
10) Try desperately to wait for them to cool down before devouring. I failed at this step...!

Buns in the oven!

The cakes were delicious and for a novice cake-baker I was quite pleased with myself! I did over-cook them by a minute or two, so they were a little too brown on top, but they were delicious all the same and nice and moist inside.

I'd certainly make these again and might even plan ahead next time and get the proper ingredients in! On this occasion though it was a good cheap way of baking cakes and using up ingredients languishing in the back of the cupboards!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

£14.84 worth of food for £4.15!

£14.84 worth of food for £4.15!

Was gutted on the way home from the parentals tonight to find that my spiritual home, Waitrose, closes at 8pm on a Saturday instead of the usual 9pm. Bad times.

But never fear, I went next door to ASDA and found a very helpful young worker marking food down on the #SOS shelf! Picked up some pots of fresh soup only for him to say that he was about to reduce them further if I'd like them! Why yes, thank you kind sir! £1.97 down to 42p - I'll take two for the freezer! And I'll take that fresh bakery pizza off your hands too if that's going down again? £2.50 down to 79p? Bargain!

Also got some reduced bagels and rolls - thank heavens as, shock horror, I didn't actually have any reduced bread left in my freezer this morning! A sorry state of affairs!

Also popped by the small Tesco and Co-op I pass on my journey home and was delighted to get some noodles reduced from £1 to 10p - I'm thinking chilli chicken noodle salad with those.

Oh and couldn't resist the reduced Walkers Sensations crisps down from £2.25 to 60p - a great reduction. But then I spotted some of those deliciously retro Salt & Shake crisps down from 60p to 15p. Haven't had those for years! Naughty but nice but hoping for some more veg in my next shelf-raid!

Friday, 25 January 2013

This is not just any old shelf-raid - it's an M&S shelf-raid!

M&S shelf-raiding!

Waitrose last night, M&S tonight - always nice to have a quality shelf-raid now and then!

Smoked salmon for £1.50, carrot salad for 80p, pasta salad for 80p, hummus and carrots for 80p and some weekend naughtiness with egg custard tarts and blueberry muffins both 80p each. Blueberry muffins are a particular favourite of my mum's so I'll be taking those with me when I go to visit her on her sickbed tomorrow!

£12.29 worth of Waitrose food for £2.37!

£12.29 worth of Waitrose food for £2.37!

I do love shopping in Waitrose - nice wide aisles, smiling staff, unusual ingredients and, as last night proved, excellent end of the day reductions!

I popped in on the way back from visiting the invalid (see the last grapes blog!) about 45 minutes before closing time and scored this great haul of bargains.

- Five Innocent smoothies reduced from £1.26 to 19p each
- Thai fragrant rice reduced from £1.89 to 49p
- Baby parsnips reduced from £1.69 to 29p
- A bag of limes reduced from £1.29 to 25p
- A pack of Jalapeno chillies reduced from £1.12 to 39p

£12.29 worth of food for just £2.37!

I'm not usually one for pre-packed rice (seriously, how difficult is it to boil some up?) but, as it was reduced and I was having a late dinner after visiting the patient, it saved time to quickly  heat it up with a portion of home-made chilli from the freezer. Speedy, cheap dinner - done.

And smoothie for today's breakfast also sorted - making an effort to have breakfast every day this week as part of national Breakfast Week. More info on the campaign at: www.shakeupyourwakeup.com or why not tweet your breakfast pics using #BreakfastWeek - I have been tweeting my cut-price breakfasts @cutpricekate. If you're not already following me on Twitter you can find me at: https://twitter.com/CutPriceKate

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Cut-price grapes for the invalid!

Oh deary me, not a good day for the parentals - off out for a walk in the snow and mother fell over... fracturing several bones in her arm and shoulder! OUCH!

The good news is that Mr Kate found some reduced grapes for the invalid. It certainly raised a smile with the patient when she realised that not only had Mr Kate bought her grapes, they were heavily discounted ones at that! There's no removing the reduced stickers in our family - we keep them on with pride!

£2.63 reduced to 69p. Good work Mr Kate!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

£28.60 worth of food for £7.52!

£17.62 worth of food for £3.15!

I had a sneaky feeling that the snow might mean that the #SOS shelf would be filled with cut-price delights tonight... and I was right! Clearly everyone has kept indoors today! I picked up this little lot, complete with a bouquet of flowers, for just £3.15 - it should have cost £17.62!

The flowers were reduced from £4 to 40p, steak and ale pie from £3.89 to 85p, two packs of ham down from £2.89 to 75p, houmous down from £1.05 to 11p, chicken pasta salad down from £1.05 to 11p and fresh pineapple chunks down from £1.40 to 14p.

£10.98 worth of food for £4.37!
Oh and Mr Kate also stopped off at Sainsbury's on the way home from the gym today and scored this haul! Turkey breast steaks down from £4.50 to £2.04, fishcakes down from £3.49 to £1.34 and crispbakes down from £2.99 to 99p. £10.98 worth of food for £4.37! Good work Mr Kate! 

The freezer is well and truly stocked now if we do get snowed in! Fingers crossed it doesn't come to that!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

£1 tandoori lamb hotpot recipe

£1 tandoori lamb hotpot

A cut-price triumph tonight with this experimental tandoori lamb hotpot that came in at around £1 to serve both me and Mr Kate.

Today was very much a 'use whatever is in the fridge/freezer day' to save trudging out in the snow to the shops. So it was time to get experimenting with some cut-price ingredients to make something using these tandoori lamb kebabs from the freezer - an incredible find in Morrisons reduced from £3.79 down to just 25p. Meat doesn't get much cheaper than that!

With some reduced carrots and potatoes languishing in my veg rack, a warming spicy hot-pot was in order by taking the meat off the kebab sticks and breaking it up into chunks.

Here's how to make it:

1) Peel a few carrots and dice them.
2) Dice an onion.
3) Soften the carrots and onion in a frying pan with a glug of oil.
4) As the carrots and onions are cooking over a low heat, peel and finely slice a few potatoes.
5) Take the kebabs off the sticks and break up into chunks.
6) Add the meat to the carrots and onions to brown.
7) Add a couple of spoons of curry paste to the mixture, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a handful of frozen peas.
8) After a good stir, transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and top with the potato slices.
9) Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
10) Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of coriander to garnish.

We shared a naan bread to mop up the spicy juices from this - another cut-price classic from the freezer reduced from 84p to 17p for two!

Perfect for a cold winter's night and as cheap as chips!

P.S. Think this one is so cheap it's definitely worthy of an entry in to the #creditcrunchmunch Twitter challenge from fellow food bloggers @FussFreeHelen and @FabFoodForAll.

Check out their blogs at: http://www.fabfood4all.co.uk/credit-crunch-munch/

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Restaurant review: Top tapas on the cheap at Les Olives, Northampton

Les Olives in Sheep Street, Northampton

At the end of a week when I've been scrimping and saving and trying to eat for £1 or less every lunchtime, I thought a treat was on the cards to celebrate having a Friday off work. But, never fear, I'm not undoing all the money-saving work - I had a Groupon voucher at hand to eat out on the cheap!

I check Groupon every day and snap up the deals whenever I see one for a local eaterie. And when I spotted this deal for Les Olives, one of my favourite restaurants in Northampton, I was reaching for the buy button quicker than you could say 'make mine a tortilla'!

Les Olives is in Sheep Street - not the most salubrious of locations but don't let appearances deceive you. As soon as you step into the restaurant you'd be forgiven for forgetting you're in down-town Northampton. Close your eyes and the music and aroma of the tapas transport you to far sunnier climes!

The restaurant has recently expanded to include a small, but perfectly formed, tapas bar. The main restaurant upstairs is still there but now only open for evenings and weekends with weekday lunch now served in the tapas bar.

The Groupon deal we had was for four tapas to share between two and a churros pastry each for just £16. And the good news is that the restaurant certainly doesn't scrimp on portion sizes just because you have a special offer voucher - something I've always wondered about. The portion sizes are just the same as when we have been full-price paying customers.

We had four delicious portions of tapas between us which was the perfect amount for lunchtime:

L-R: Swordfish, duck
- The goujons of pan-fried swordfish with tomatoes, garlic, corriander and olive oil are a favourite for us and I don't think a trip to Les Olives would be complete without this dish.

- The goujons of duck breast marinated in mint, chilli, olive oil with red plums, redcurrants and honey was a new dish we tried. I'm not a huge fan of duck in general (unless it's of the Chinese crispy variety!) but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish. The flavours worked very well together, even for someone like me who also isn't a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes! My opinion was changed (much to Mr Kate's delight who loves a fruity/savoury combo) and I'd have this dish again.

L-R: Artichoke, fishcakes

- The smoked haddock fishcakes with spring onions, coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice, were comfort food at its best. Zingy yet comforting, I could eat these by the lorry-load.

- Finally, the real revelation of the meal for me was the char-grilled artichoke hearts with green beans, roasted tomatoes, caramelised red onions, potoato and harissa. I've only eaten artichokes once or twice before and not really 'got them'. I do now! A delicious smoky flavour to them and the harissa added an extra tasty kick.

In summary - delish.

But there was more to come...

Churros and chocolate sauce
...the meal was topped off with a portion of churros each (a Spanish variation on a doughnut), served with a rich chocolate sauce. The perfect sweet antidote to the savoury tapas. And the good news is the service was very good too. It was a quiet Friday lunchtime and the waitress was attentive, welcoming and cheerful. You can't ask for much more.

Our meal should have cost around £32 but with the Groupon voucher was a mere £16. If you haven't already got the Groupon bug, it really is a great way to enjoy a meal out, and discover a new restaurant, without it costing the earth.

The food at Les Olives is always top notch. Fresh and packed with flavour, it puts chain tapas restaurants to shame. Les Olives is currently number two of my favourite Northampton restaurants - I'll reveal who is at number one another time!

Les Olives, Sheep Street, Northampton, www.lesolives.co.uk

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

£1 lunch challenge - day three!

12.5p for these tasty spring rolls!

A cracking #SOS reduction for today's £1 lunch challenge - a selection of mini spring rolls from Morrisons reduced from £4 to just 25p! More than a 90% reduction - one of the best ever bargains I've found! I'm not a great fan of pre-packed ready meals but this was a bargain too good to miss out on!

Before and after - £4 to 25p!

Half a pack for my lunch today (with a little sweet chilli sauce for dipping) so my lunch cost an amazing 12.5p! I've been having a lot of soup this week so a bit of crunch for my lunch made a nice change!

Oh and I've lost another pound too - five pounds down since Jan 1st! Hurrah!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

£1 lunch challenge - day two!

Spicy carrot and celery soup

Day two of the £1 lunch challenge and another healthy and cheap lunch completed! Made this spicy carrot and celery soup last night with some cut-price veg. Here's how I made it:

1) Chop an onion, small bag of carrots, a few sticks of celery, a couple of cloves of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of ginger and a fresh chilli.
2) Soften for 5 minutes or so in a big pan with a glug of olive oil.
3) Add some vegetable or chicken stock, enough to cover all of the veg, and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4) Add salt and black pepper to taste.
5) Serve with fresh coriander leaves sprinkled on top.

This cost me next to nothing to make as I used a bag of carrots reduced from 68p to 14p and half a pack of celery reduced from £1 to 45p. With the other ingredients added in the soup cost approximately £1 to make. And that £1 resulted in five generous portions of the soup - 20p per portion!

So today's lunch was a portion of soup (20p), a Warburtons roll (less than 6p as part of a pack of six reduced from £1.30 to 34p), and another pack of reduced edamame beans (59p). A grand total of 85p.

Oh and as well as saving pounds I'm also losing them - four pounds lost since New Year's Day. Hurrah!

Monday, 7 January 2013

£1 lunch challenge - day one!

Soup and roll for 32.5p!

Day one of my eat lunch for £1 or less has arrived! Today's was cheap and healthy - the best possible combo. Another pot of reduced soup from the freezer - potato and leek reduced from £1.50 to 25p. Enough for two people so 12.5p per portion coupled with a reduced roll out of the freezer for 20p. Much cheaper than the work canteen, that's for sure!

I also had a healthy side of my favourite edamame beans reduced from £2 to 59p. Several days out of date but still absolutely fine and dandy. Good job as I have another pot for tomorrow's lunch!

So a grand total of 91.5p for soup, roll and edamame beans. And more than a few of the five a day veg portions done. Job done for Monday!

As a side note, it's been a pretty cheap day all round actually as breakfast was two crumpets reduced from 85p to 19p for a pack of six - so just over 6p for breakfast!

Mr Kate also made a chicken curry for tonight's dinner using some free-range #SOS chicken breasts reduced from £4.65 to £2.79 and various cut-price veg we had floating about. At about £2 per portion for the curry it really has been a bumper day in the cut-price stakes - my food for today comes in just under £3 at £2.98!

Who said eating well costs?! Not if you look out for the reduced stickers! Cut-price home-made soup simmering on the hob for tomorrow's lunch coming up next!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The £1 lunch challenge!

Carrot and coriander soup - £1.50 down to 25p

Happy New Year all! Any resolutions? Mine are pretty simple seeing as I've put on half a stone over Christmas...

Eat less lard + move more = Wear considerably smaller knickers


And of course my continuing quest to eat as cheaply as possible is part of that!

Also part of my resolution will be to ensure I take a packed lunch to work - if I don't plan my meals I end up eating rubbish from the canteen and chips and beans (one of the safer options in the canteen) won't help with the smaller knickers mission.

I went back to work on Monday (day off today thankfully) and my challenge to myself (and you, dear reader, should you so desire!) is to eat for less than a pound every lunchtime. The cheaper the better!

Monday was easy - I had some reduced carrot and coriander soup in the freezer down from £1.50 to 25p! Bargainous and guilt-free. Enough in the pot to feed both me and Mr Kate so at 12.5p each for the soup and 3p for a roll (pack of six reduced from 89p to 18p) the grand total of Monday's lunch was 15.5p!

Think I'll struggle to get lunch much cheaper than that but I'll certainly have fun trying! I'll have to start the challenge on Monday though as the next few days of lunches are totally free - leftover turkey and stuffing sandwiches from the Christmas dinner my mum belatedly cooked for us today.

If you give the £1 lunch a try do let me know how you get on and post a pic of any particularly tasty morsels - I'm on Twitter @cutpricekate and Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/DomesticGoddessingOnAShoestring