Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Joys of Chorizo Sausage and Meal Planning

Five days in to the pay period and things are positive so far! We were away at the weekend and I got up yesterday morning to find we had no milk, no bread, no cheese, no cereal, no fruit and no vegetables.. Eben didn't mind though as he happily ate his oatcakes, sultanas, dried apricots and baby flapjack bar while I shopped in Asda for the first installment of fortnightly food. I started diligently totting up the prices as I went round but trying to entertain, and/or pick up Eben's toys/food as he drops them on the floor, and having an increasingly heavy trolley made it difficult to be persistent. That may be why I spent £80 rather than the £60 I was planning to spend.. I was getting more and more hungry and my eyebrow (sinus) headache returned for the fifth day so my budget-sticking-to abilities were slowly being sapped out of me! However, in hindsight, £60 wasn't realistic given all the things that I needed. My friend, who inspired my change to fortnightly rather than monthly shopping, said the first one would be the hardest. I have to get my head around only buying stuff that will run out in these two weeks rather than buying everything that will run out in the month which is what I am used to. I now have £60 left for the latter two weeks and £10 per week for my fresh things so I believe that is doable!

So before I do my shopping I have to do a meal plan and I've kept saying I will blog about how I go about doing this so here goes:

To do my meal plan I basically take an A4 sheet of note paper and split it into seven columns labelled Monday through Sunday and I have four rows below the days (adjust this to more or less depending on how many weeks your pay period covers). I put the date in the corner of each box and write in any plans that affect meals, such as going away, out for dinner, friends over for dinner etc. I then put in my recurring meals so once a week we have pasta and pesto because I need a quick turn around from Si getting home from work and then us going out. Friday and Saturday nights I like to have easy stuff like jacket potatoes/pizza/fish fingers etc and they're meals I always think are suited to weekends, TV dinners I guess! I like to do something homemade on a Monday that preferably lasts more than one day or can be frozen such as a stew or a pie of some kind. I make sure we have a fish meal once a week which is usually something like fish cakes/fish pie/jackets and tuna mayo and then another night I will make something with whatever was in the 50p bargain box at the greengrocers so this week it was peppers so I'm going to make a tomato and pepper pasta sauce that we can have with pasta or rice. Here is an example of my meal plan for the next fortnight:

Monday 19th - Lentil Stew
Tuesday 20th - Pasta & Pesto
Wednesday 21st - Jackets & Lentil Stew
Thursday 22nd - DATE NIGHT - out for dinner!!!
Friday 23rd - Rice & Veg Sauce
Saturday 24th - (friends over for lunch - Caramelised Onion Tart, Salad) Jackets & Tuna Mayo for tea
Sunday 25th - Roast without the Roast, Cheese on Toast for tea
Monday 26th - Chorizo Stew
Tuesday 27th - Pasta & Pesto
Wednesday 28th - (friend over) - Homemade Pizza
Thursday 29th - Fish Cakes
Friday 30th - Chorizo Stew with Sweet Potato Jackets
Saturday 1st - (at a wedding - making brownies, need ingredients) Cheese on toast for tea
Sunday 2nd - Omelette & Wedges, Soup & Bread for tea

I write my meal plan as a guide, sometimes if I've not had time to make something I'll swap say the fish fingers and make the homemade meal another time. Sometimes it will depend on what they have at the Greengrocers too. I try and cook seasonally as its meant to be cheaper but I generally stick to the standard veg and purchase exotic things only if they are in the bargain box! If we are going to invite people over once my meal plan is already in place or I need to cook an extra meal for someone then I would do the meal that's meant to last for two days as the meal with guests and do another pasta meal or something store cupboardy to replace the missing portions! Chorizo is one ingredient I buy every month as its one of those things that can spruce up something usually boring so is good if you want to spontaneously invite people over but the cupboards are looking a bit bare!

I hope that is useful. The main reason I started meal planning was so I could do a bigger shop and plan around our budget rather than getting bits here and there and finding that we'd spent way more than we could afford and then have to eat beans for a week! I find it a really helpful tool.

Next week I think I will blog about date nights on a budget. I am so excited as one of our friends gave Si the offer of a babysit, and some money for his birthday specifying we spend it on a meal out! We are going to 'Dabbawal' which is a new Indian street food restaurant - http://www.dabbawal.com/ is their website. I'll let you know if it is any good!

After banging on about how great chorizo is, here is my recipe for chorizo stew. It's really quick and gluten free..
Sprinkle some fresh coriander over the top to highlight the vibrant colours!
If you can afford it, get the raw cooking chorizo as it is much tastier but the ready to eat sausage is perfect for a tight budget.
Peel the chop the sweet potato, the skin sometimes tastes bitter and you dont want that in your lovely stew!
These cheap ingredients really bulk it out to make it go much further.
I love that this stew has at least four of your five-a-day - chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potato and apricots!
Chorizo & Chickpea Stew (serves 6-8)
225g chorizo, cut in to fairly thick slices
2 tins chickpeas, drained
2 tins chopped or plum tomatoes
2 medium size sweet potato, scrubbed and diced into big chunks
good glug of any of the following: cider, white wine, sherry, red wine, marsala, orange juice..
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 handful dried apricots, halved

  1. Heat a big casserole type pan/pot. 
  2. Add the chorizo and when the oils have started to run out add the 'good glug' ingredient and let it boil for about a minute. 
  3. Now add your cinnamon stick, bay leaves, sweet potato, chickpeas and tinned tomatoes. 
  4. Fill one of the empty tomato cans with water and add to the pan. Bring to the boil. 
  5. When the sweet potato is tender (after about 15-20mins) add the apricots and season to taste. 
  6. It's ready when the apricots have just heated through. Serve with crusty bread, rice or polenta.

Tip: if you don't put the sweet potato in the stew, bake them in the oven instead and serve with the stew, this is yummy!

This is one of the most quick and delicious recipes I know! I think I had better go as Eben may have put a whole plum in his mouth..

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