Monthly Archives: July 2009

The weekend starts here

Its Friday!! Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. I juts had one of those days when stresses of the wedding seemed to catch up with me. I found out I have to go on an all day course at work next Wednesday and it doesn’t finish until 5.30. Well I had an appointment booked with the florist for 4.30 so that has now got to be changed. I couldn’t get hold of her yesterday so I sent her an email asking to change the appointment. No reply so far and I don’t want to ring her today as she will be busy getting ready for tomorrows weddings. I’ll give her a call tomorrow afternoon and see what I can do. I was also asked to go on a two night trip to London with work to meet with another department and visit a contractor. I usually enjoy these trips as I love London and they are usually a lot of fun! The timing on this one could be better but maybe I will appreciate a few days off from wedding planning!

My eats yesterday are best not talked about! Lets just say the drive-through window of a popular fast food restaurant was involved – eek! Never mind, a new day is a new start!

So this weekend I am going away. I’m off to Ashford for a weekend to stay with my mum and dad. As you may suspect, this close to the wedding there must be wedding business to attend to while we are there! And you’d be right. Tomorrow we have an appointment to get my sisters bridesmaid dress altered and my niece’s flower girl dress shortened. Hopefully these fittings will go without a hitch and the alterations will be fairly simple!

We also need to finalise the reading that my mum will be giving during our ceremony. H2Bs mum has already chosen hers and we have to get them ok’d by the Registrar at our 1 month appointment on Monday! I can’t believe its coming round so quickly!

I don’t think I’ll get a chance to blog while I am there so I’ll grab lots of pics and give you a recap post on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone!

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I beat the Kit Kat & Tuna Pasta Recipe

Today saw a momentous achievement in my journey towards a healthy relationship with food. On my desk this morning was a mint chocolate Kit Kat, a yummy little 2 finger wafer bar coated in minty chocolate. Uh-oh I thought. By 11am this morning my breakfast was a distant memory and the Kit Kat was calling my name. So I opened it. And I broke the bar into 4. And took out one quarter and wrapped the bar back up. I enjoyed the taste of the bar and savoured it but was happy to stop there. The rest of the bar sat on my desk and was enjoyed mid afternoon with a coffee.

So why was this momentous? Well usually I seem to be completely unable to stop eating something halfway through. I eat everything that I dish up on my plate. I can’t eat a bag of sweets or chocolate or fruit or seeds slowly. I chomp it all down until it is gone. And I can’t eat half a bar of chocolate. Yesterdays Jo would have eaten the whole bar and then eaten something else in the afternoon. That would be twice as much food for no more satisfaction. Yes you could argue I should have given the chocolate away and eaten a cereal bar instead but that’s not the point for me. I recognised that I could have a taste and still be satisfied. That, my friends, is progress!

Do you have any problems knowing when to stop and managing portion control?

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I tweeted earlier that I was thinking about tuna pasta for tea and Lara@Thinspired replied asking me to post the recipe if I did. Well the weather today was so cold and wet that a nice warming, comforting bowl of pasta was very appealing!

Tuna Pasta Bake

DSC00928Ingredients

Wholegrain pasta

Tinned Tuna

Pasta Sauce

Passata (not pictured)

Red Pepper

Spinach

Grated cheddar cheese

Spicy breadcrumb topping

I use this pasta sauce from Tesco when I want a quick solution.

DSC00926Yes its a kids pasta sauce (and yes that is Mickey Mouse on the jar! I like the jar size for the two of us. Take a look at the ingredients

DSC00927Nothing too scary in there!

So back to the recipe….

  1. Put the pasta on to boil.
  2. Fry the pepper in a pan with a little spray oil.
  3. When the pepper has started to soften, add the pasta sauce, passata and tuna.
  4. Simmer for a couple of minutes and stir in the spinach until it wilts.
  5. Drain the pasta and mix into the sauce.
  6. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

DSC00925

I ate mine with a couple of slices of garlic ciabatta.

DSC00923Yummy!! And even better I have leftovers for tomorrow!!

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I was recently given the chance to try out an Online Food Hygiene Certificate through Virtual College.co.uk.

Badge

I think that the course will be really interesting as I haven’t really thought about food hygiene since school! I’ll let you know how I get on. Its an online course and can be done in stages so I will try and fit it in over the next couple of weeks.

Groceries on a Budget Top Tips

In this financial climate everyone is having to tighten their belts and my household is no exception. With a wedding to pay for on top of the mortgage, increasing household bills and spiralling grocery costs it’s a hot topic for us.


About 5 years ago we were regularly spending around £85 per week in supermarkets yet still never seemed to have any food in. On top of this we would regularly eat out and get takeaways which would have taken the total way over £125 per week. And we wondered why there was nothing left in our salaries at the end of the month. At this time we were looking into buying a house and were struggling to save for a deposit. Around this time I found the Money Saving Expert website and discovered through the great forums that this could be cut.


I started by understanding where the money was going each week. How much went on ready meals, treats, basics etc. I soon discovered that the majority was junk food and impulse buys. Using the tips below I managed to get this down to £50 per week and it stayed there for a few years.


Fast forward to 2008. Wedding planning (& saving) was in full swing and I was trying to trim my outgoings in every area. I decided to try and reduce my weekly spend to £30 per week and at the same time improve my diet. As it turned out, the two went hand in hand! As I started cooking healthier meals from scratch using fresh ingredients I found I was spending less. I managed on £30 for quite a while and have only recently decided to up this to £35-£40. I did this as I think it gives me a better range of food and allows me to by better quality foods (freedom foods meat, free range eggs etc). However I know that if needed I could reduce this back down


So here are my Top Tips for shopping on a budget:

  1. Understand how much you spend at the moment. Keep your food shopping receipts for a fortnight and see how much you actually spend. How do you feel about this? How much would you like to reduce this by? It’s a good idea to aim to gradually reduce your spending rather than halving it in one week
  2. Meal Plan and use this to create a shopping list. When you get to the store stick to this list. If you don’t need anything on the cake and biscuit aisle don’t walk down it!!
  3. Don’t get sucked in by special offers. If your favourite yogurts are on 3 for 2, check that you will really eat them all within the use by date before you buy. Be careful, some offers only give you pennies off and if you end up throwing the item away it won’t seem like such a bargain.
  4. Don’t throw food away. Throwing food away is the worst thing you can do if you are trying to save money. Check the dates on everything before you buy and make sure you can use it by this date. Get creative with leftovers. Some of the best meals are made up of the leftovers in the fridge.
  5. Batch cooking. This is a great tip. Items like minced beef can be much cheaper if bought in bulk. I buy large family packs of mince and cook the whole lot up into a chilli or bolognaise and freeze the rest in individual portions. That means I can take advantage of bulk savings, not waste any food and have some handy freezer meals for when I want a quick meal.
  6. Buy ‘real food’. Everytime a process is carried out on a product it adds to the cost. So a whole lettuce is cheaper than a prepared salad bag, potatoes are cheaper that the equivalent weight of fries.

Using these tips I have been able to get on top of my spendig and keep it at a level that is comfortable for me.

What are your top tips for keeping your shopping budget down?

Surviving Monday

Am I the only one who finds Mondays so painful?? From the moment the alarm goes off until the moment I finish work I find it the hardest day of the week. Saturday feels so far away! 😦

This morning I craved a cold breakfast so settled on cereal & milk. Special K and semi skimmed (that was all they had in the canteen at work) plus a tea. This kept me surprisingly full and I lasted until 11.30 before I needed a snack. For my packed lunch I had a tuna, lettuce and sweet chilli sauce sandwich on granary. It was so tasty – I love sweet chilli sauce with anything!

The weather was surprisingly hot today and by the time I got home I was really warm. I really fancied iced tea so I made a jug as soon as I walked in the door.

Iced Tea:

DSC00906I add 4-6 teabags to a large jug of water from the kettle and allow to infuse for 6 minutes.

DSC00907Today I chose Rooibos Vanilla teabags and used 5 in the jug (the number of teabags depends on how strong you want the tea).

DSC00908Once the tea has brewed, allow the drink to cool and then refrigerate. Serve over ice for a cool, refreshing drink!

DSC00912The vanilla rooibos made a really tasty smooth, slightly sweet tea. I’m sipping this drink while I blog and it is delicious!

For dinner tonight we made an old favouite – parmesan & pancetta chicken. I had mine with leftover couscous from last night and a little of H2Bs pasta (you can’t see it in the pic but the portions of pasta and couscous are small!). On the side we had some wilted spinach.

DSC00909Wow, the flavours in this were amazing! The salty, cirspy pancetta was so delicious.

Just spent a couple of hours on wedding tasks – filling in forms and writing cheques! What fun 🙂

Long time no see!

I’ve missed blogging for the last few weeks 😦

Wedding planning is really going crazy at the moment – in 6 weeks time I will be a married woman and I can’t believe it has come around so soon. This week has been pretty stressful and I haven’t had time to do anything fun! But I  have missed blogging and reading all your blogs too so will be making the effort to find time in my day for a post 🙂

We woke up late today. I rolled out of bed at 8.45 and as H2B was still fast asleep I headed downstairs with the lap top to catch up on some blog reading. When he finally surfaced at 9.45 we had quick showers and decided to head to Darts Farm Shop for breakfast in their restaurant. Look at this amazing omelette stuffed with ham and mushrooms

DSC00898I ate the whole omelette, half the salad (I’m not too excited about eating salad as my first meal of the day!) and 1 piece of the granary bread. I was gasping for water so we shared a large bottle of this water

DSC00899Isn’t the Otter on the bottle adorable? 🙂

Then we were off to the shops and supermarket to do some chores.

By the time I got home I was in need of a pick me up so I threw together a Green Monster

DSC008971 cup soy milk, handful spinach, 6 chunks of frozen banana, 7 chunks of frozen cantaloupe and a splash of honey.

Here she is….

DSC00896This was probably the worst GM I have made to date 😦 I think I used too much melon as the cantaloupe was the main flavour. I prefer a stronger banana taste in my GMs.

This week promises some storecupboard dinners in the name of saving money and emptying cupboards. Next weekend we are going to my parents house in Kent to get my sisters bridesmaid dress altered and catch up with the family! I can’t wait, it will be great to get away! 🙂

Could it be magic?

What a whirlwind week its been! And the weekend hasn’t been much better – I can’t believe its Sunday Evening already as I sit here blogging!

The reason it has gone so fast is that we actually only had a three day week at work last week. We took Wednesday and Thursday off and went up to Wembley to see Take That in concert!! We were really excited to be seeing the band but also to visit Wembley Stadium which we haven’t been to since it was rebuilt.

We drove up on Wednesday morning. As we were making good progress on the motorway we decided to stop for a couple of hours in Reading to stretch our legs and have some refreshments.

As it was such a warm day, a Starbucks seemed like a good idea 🙂

DSC00883I had a Caramel Light Frappuccino with no cream and snacked on this little biscuit I had been carrying around in my bag!

DSC00884Sorry for the dark pic!! After this we popped into John Lewis to have a look around and stumbled upon the perfect gift for the Best Man at our wedding! After that success we jumped back in the car and headed up to Watford to check into our hotel for the night. From the hotel it was just a 25 minute train ride to Wembley. As we got out of the station we joined the massive crowds all making their way to the Stadium.

DSC00882We could see the distinctive arch from the train so knew we were close. H2B commented several times that the women far outnumbered the men and he was right! The crowds steadily grew as we waited and the atmosphere was amazing!
DSC00880

DSC00881The concert itself was amazing and really elaborate – there were circus performers all over the stage and the band even rode unicycles!!

Another shot of the arch after dark!

DSC00870We headed back to the hotel and fell into bed. We were exhausted! The following day we drove back home and had a meeting with our wedding caterer which was fun. We went through the final plans for the day and tied up some lose ends 🙂 In fact I’ve just realised the wedding is 2 months today!!

I was still feeling tired by Saturday so I decided my breakfast should be designed to boost my energy. There was only one option – a Green Monster 🙂

DSC00879This was spinach, frozen banana, soy milk, ice cubes and a touch of honey which added a really nice sweetness to the drink. Can you see the Otter on the glass? We got this pint glass from a local brewery and its a favourite! I enjoyed this so much that I repeated it this morning 🙂 I felt full of energy after this!

Lunch today was another favourite – Brie and bacon panini which I ate with some root vegetable crisps and cherry tomatoes

DSC00878How yummy does this look???

DSC00876We had a really productive day around the house today. I rearranged some of the kitchen cupboards and moved some things around so its now easier to find things – its amazing what lurks at the back of the cupboards 🙂

Dinner today was a favourite – Roast Chicken

DSC00888Served with carrots, peas, baked sweet potato and a little bit of stuffing. This was the perfect end to a great day. Now I’m catching up on blogs while watching tv.

Recipe Idea – Blue Macaroni Cheese with Spinach

A few days ago I had a real craving for some comfort food and thought instantly of macaroni cheese – a childhood favourite! But I knew I wanted to jazz it up a bit so here is what I came up with:

Blue Macaroni Cheese with spinach

DSC00886

I started with a simple white sauce (butter, flour and milk) and while this was thickening I cooked the macaroni. When the sauce was ready I stirred in some grated cheddar and leftover blue cheese. I also wilted some baby spinach and squeezed out all the liquid.

When everything was ready I mixed it all together in a pan and poured into a dish. On top I sprinkled some breadcrumbs to provide a bit of crunch and chucked in the oven for 20 minutes until the topping was crispy.

Serve with garlic bread – yummy!!