Five tinned foods that punch above their weight

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I’ve been nosying around my winter survival cupboard today to see what needs topping up, and I am about to make a big trip to the cash and carry to stock up on tins. Interestingly enough, a lot of tinned foods have more vitamins in them than fresh food that things that have been lying around your kitchen for a week or so.  Here are some great additions to a store cupboard that I will be bringing home later.

Tinned tomatoes – these come in different forms but particularly useful are the ones with garlic and herbs already in the mix. Passata in large jars can go onto home made pizza bases with a big of grated cheese and some salami for a Saturday treat.

Pulses – try different kinds such as lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, butter beans, mixed spicy beans and canneloni beans. Great with mince, in salads, to bulk out a bolognaise or shepherd’s pie, or to make an instant vegetarian chili.

Stone fruits – cherries, plums and mirabelles make great crumbles and pies, can be served with cream or yoghurt for a quick dessert, and can even be added to smoothies or put on top of muesli.

Exotic fruits – pineapple, lychees, mangos are all wonderful to have around, and give you the makings of a very sophisticated winter fruit salad, but look for tins which state they are in their own juices rather than in syrup.

Fish – Sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and even shrimps are all great for sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish pie, salads and little toasts to have as a nibble with a glass of wine.

Image: xedos4 /


Ten things that should always be in your kitchen

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Here are the top ten items you should make sure you always have in your kitchen, to produce easy lunches or suppers in super-quick time.

1. Eggs

2. Bacon or ham

3. Onions

4. Parmesan

5. Potatoes

6. Cream

7. Butter

8. Pasta or noodles

9.  Bread

10. Milk

Here are some dishes you can concoct in emergencies from these ingredients:

1+2+6+7 – Scrambled eggs and ham

2+3+5+7 – Fried potatoes with bacon

1+2+7+8 – Pasta with ham

1+2+6+8 – Spaghetti carbonara

1+2+9 – Fried egg and bacon sandwich

1+2+6 – Omelette

1+7+9+10+cinammon/sugar/Nutella/honey – French toast

4+5+6 – Potato gratin

1+10+flour+sugar – Pancakes


For more inspiration, check out this blog as well, which has wonderful quiches and a great one-pot carbonara recipe:

Shopping list – Week 2

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This list should work out a bit cheaper than last week’s as there’s not quite so much stocking up of basics to be done.


3 lbs/1.5kg lean minced beef

12 best quality sausages

1 lb/500g turkey stir fry strips

4 frozen rainbow trout, sardines or mackerel

1lb/500g cubed lamb

A whole chicken

4 oz/100g cooked ham

4 oz/100g cooked beef


8 oz/200g fresh berries (if not too expensive) or frozen


3 courgettes or a marrow

6oz/150g broccoli

6 onions

2lbs/1kg Bramley cooking apples or rhubarb

6 eating apples

6 bananas

4 oz/100g grapes

Kiwi fruit

Red pepper

Green pepper

4 oz/100g sugar snap peas or mangetouts

4 oz/100g baby sweetcorn

Romaine lettuce


8 oz/200g vine tomatoes

1lb/500g carrots


2 loaves sliced bread


2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tin kidney beans

Tomato puree

Chocolate chip biscuits

2 lbs/1 kg porridge oats

Stir fry sauce

3 litre cartons value apple juice

3 litre cartons value orange juice

Salad dressing

Chocolate sauce or Mars bar (to be melted to make sauce)


Milk (daily consumption plus 2-3 pints for custard and rice pudding)

Cheese slices for sandwiches

1 lb/500g vegetable spread

12 eggs

5 fl oz/125 ml single cream

5 fl oz/125ml whipping cream

1 pint/500g low fat natural yoghurt

Garlic bread


White toilet rolls

White kitchen rolls





Image: Catherine Hadler /

Shopping list – Week 1 (stock up shop)

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  • 4 chicken portions
  • 4 pork chops or pork steaks
  • 1 lb/500g lean minced beef
  • 4 lean cut steaks or frying steaks
  • Lamb joint
  • 4 oz/ 100g cooked ham
  • 4 oz/100g cooked beef
  • 2 packets stuffed fresh pasta



  • 2 lbs/1kg new potatoes
  • 5 lbs/2.5kg potatoes
  • 2 lbs/1kg carrots
  • 8 oz/250g fresh berries (if price is OK) or frozen
  • 8 oz/250g fresh strawberries (if in season)
  • Romaine lettuce or similar lettuce
  • 1 lb/500g apples
  • 6 bananas
  • 1 melon (if price is OK)
  • 4 oz/100g grapes
  • 1 lb/500g pears (at least 4)
  • 8 oz/250g broccoli
  • 1 head garlic
  • Small stem fresh ginger
  • Bunch spring onions


  • 2 loaves sliced bread
  • Pasta sauce
  • Tinned chopped tomatoes
  • Tinned kidney beans
  • Flan glaze (see recipe for Fruit Torte)
  • Empty sponge flan base
  • Green’s Quick Jel jelly
  • Blueberry jam
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Salad dressing
  • Mint sauce
  • Honey
  • Jam
  • Rice
  • 2 lbs/1 kg porridge oats
  • Cream crackers or oatcakes
  • 1lb/500g short-grain pudding rice
  • 3 lbs/1.5kg plain flour
  • 3 lbs/1.5kg self-raising flour
  • 1 tin cocoa
  • 3 litre cartons value orange juice
  • 3 litre cartons value apple juice
  • Teabags
  • Instant coffee
  • Cafetiere or filter coffee
  • Chocolate chip biscuits
  • Bottle soy sauce



  • Milk (daily consumption plus 1-2 pints for rice pudding)
  • 1 lb/500g vegetable spread
  • ½ lb/500g unsalted butter
  • 1 packet fresh grated parmesan
  • 1 pint/500ml low fat natural yoghurt
  • ½ pt/250ml whipping cream
  • 4 oz/100g Brie
  • 4 oz/100g Red Leicester cheese
  • Cheese slices for sandwiches
  • 12 eggs
  • Garlic bread or baguette

Image: Suat Eman /

Dinners for the home – Week 1

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Here are some incredibly straightforward meals that will please most omnivore families at minimal costs. No fancy names, no fiddly ingredients, no exhortations to spend time arranging food in dainty piles on large white plates, just traditional family fodder and nothing else. Look in the accompanying posts for the more unusual main course and dessert recipes, otherwise everything else should be freely available via an internet search or by rummaging in your cookbooks.


Baked chicken portions with boiled new potatoes and carrots

Rice pudding


Fresh stuffed pasta with tomato and basil sauce, grated cheese and mixed salad

Fruit salad and ice cream


Fish stew and baguette

Microwaved chocolate cake


Baked pork chops and mashed potato and green beans

Cheese, biscuits and grapes


Mince and vegetables with rice

Yoghurt with blueberry jam and elderflower cordial


Steaks and baked potatoes and mixed salad

Poached pears and yoghurt or cream


Roast lamb with roast potatoes, mint sauce, peas, carrots and broccoli

Fruit tart and whipped cream


Three steps to financial order

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Everyone is good at spotting bargains, whether it’s the infamous BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) or three for two offers, or clothes in the sale. What people are less good at is working out their cash flow and establishing what they might need over the course of a year, planning accordingly.

It goes without saying that buying things for cash, handing over used readies in the process, gives the best sense of what things are actually costing. It can also be sufficiently painful psychologically to ensure that your spending is limited. However there are times when using a debit or credit card is very useful, for example to take advantage of free guarantees or to keep a better record of when something was bought, in case it goes wrong. The way around this is to set yourself a regular sum for housekeeping expenses, and then try to stick to it. If you keep a cash book that is updated once a week, listing all purchases and expenses, you will get a clear idea of what money you have coming in and what is going out, which will help you keep on top of your finances and reduce the likelihood of frightening credit card bills in the future.

In this new age of austerity, you also need to put some money by in case of emergency. Many financial advisors would suggest that three months’ net salary is a useful goal to aim for. However for many people in the present financial climate, the emphasis needs to be on paying off debts rather than saving money, and a savings goal such as this is an impossible dream. Here is a three-step plan to financial organisation (with acknowledgement to my husband, who has been designated Head of Finance in our household while I am Head of Procurement – we found that having joint Heads of Finance just didn’t work).



  • Pay off your debts in order, with the ones accruing the most interest being paid off first.
  • Consider getting a second job such as babysitting, bar work, or taking in a lodger to speed this process up.
  • Avoid consolidation loans without taking independent financial advice, as these may end up proving to be more expensive than you think, and also encourage you to carry on spending at the unsustainable rate you were before, when instead you should be calming your spending down.
  • If you are having trouble meeting the minimum monthly payments on your credit cards and other bills, seek professional help or visit the Citizens Advice Bureau immediately, as this is very serious (not to mention worrying).
  • Double check you are on the cheapest possible deals for gas, electricity and water, and pay by direct debit to get a discount if possible.



  • Put a certain sum of money aside to cover things like: unexpected illness and dental treatment where the NHS doesn’t cover you, temporary loss of employment or late pay cheques, home repairs, Christmas and birthdays, holidays and day trips, school uniforms, replacing the car.
  • Make sure you always pay any necessary taxes on time, to avoid heavy fines.
  • Investigate life insurance policies and savings plans, with professional advice.
  • Investigate pension options and make arrangements for retirement accordingly.



When you find you have spare funds, put aside a sum for investment – this should include high, medium and low risk options. The proportion of medium to high risk investments you hold in percentage terms should be 100 less your age, therefore if you are 35, 65% of your money should be in medium to high risk investments, and 35% in low risk investments. For further advice, consult the myriad of financial books on the market, or see an independent financial advisor.

Image: Rob Wiltshire /

It’s spring! Here comes the nettle soup

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NettlesBy popular request, here are two nettle soup recipes for you to make the most of all those lovely vitamins and minerals in the tops of the nettles. Just make sure you are wearing gloves and only remove the young, fresh shoots from the top of each plant, and avoid collecting them from areas that are too near traffic or where they might have been sprayed with pesticides.

Thin soup

1 lb nettle tops or enough freshly picked ones to fill your largest saucepan, pressed down a bit

Tbsp olive oil

Chopped onion

1 pint chicken stock

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Dash of creme fraiche

Chop the nettle tops roughly and saute them with the onion, allowing the mixture to sweat in the pan a little. Then pour over the chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock if you prefer). Cook until the leaves and onion are really soft and then puree the soup in a blender and season with salt and pepper as desired. Add nutmeg to taste. Serve with a cheeky little dash of creme fraiche.

Thick soup

1/2 lb nettle tops

1 lb floury potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes

Chopped onion

2 oz butter

1 1/2 pints chicken or vegetable stock

4 tbsp double cream

Chop the nettle tops roughly and saute them with the onion, allowing the mixture to sweat in the pan a little as in the previous recipe. Then pour over the chicken stock (again, you can also use vegetable stock if you prefer). Cook until the leaves and onion are really soft and add the potato. Cook until the potato is soft enough to mash into the soup. Strain the soup to remove lumps (a French mouli-legumes is best for this, but if you don’t have one, just strain it through a colander. Don’t use a blender or food processor as it will get gelatinous). Finally stir in the cream and season to taste. Good served with bacon bits sprinkled on top, if you have any.