Homemade vegetable pakoras are amazing :)

It’s been a long time since my last blog post. As unusual work and a very busy life have got in the way of writing but thankfully not in the way of cooking🙂 Over the past few months we have in fact been eating out less and have been cooking more things than ever from fresh ingredients. We have also been busy in the garden sowing plants and seeds that will provide us with lots of fruit and vegetables in the months to come.

A couple of days ago a colleague who is from an Indian background made some vegetable pakoras which she kindly brought into work. They were really good and she was happy to share tips on how to make them. My husband and I love Indian food and quite often order a takeaway which usually costs us around £20. As we are always looking for ways to reduce our spending further then I decided to make a start on trying to recreate authentic Indian meals. I’m lucky that despite living in a semi rural area there are numerous excellent Asian supermarkets within easy driving distance so I have no problem in obtaining fresh, authentic, ingredients which often cost a fraction of what they cost in the supermarkets. 

So this afternoon I made a start by making a huge batch of pakoras. I based my recipe on the tips that my colleague had given me but changed some of the ingredients to use up what I had in the fridge and store cupboards. I have to say I was absolutely amazed at how easy they were to make and how fabulous they taste. I’m sure they must be healthy too as they are packed full of fresh veg and healthy herbs and spices🙂. 

Add all that to the fact that it cost less than 50p to make a batch of 20 (and they were huge) then they definitely have to be a deemed a real success!


100g gram flour

2tsps baking powder

1 medium onion

3 medium potatoes

2 large tomatoes 

1 tsp of salt

2 tsp of garam masala

1 tsp of turmeric

1 large green chilli

1 small piece ginger

Fresh coriander

2 tsp of dried fenugreek leaves

1 tsp of cumin seeds

½ tsp of red chilli powder

Grate onions and potatoes (I used my spiraliser) and place in a large bowl. Chop tomatoes and coriander and add to potatoes and onions. Grate the fresh ginger and finely chop the green chilli and add to bowl. Sprinkle on all of the spices and the baking powder and mix thoroughly to ensure that all the veg is coated. Add the gram flour and mix again. Add cold water a little at a time and stir to form a thick batter around the veg.

Heat about a cm of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and carefully add a large spoonful of the mixture. Add further spoonfuls but don’t overcrowd the pan. Allow to fry for about a minute then flip over. Cook for a further 2 mins then remove and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

New Year, New Start……here’s hoping 2016 will be a good one!

Well it’s been a while since I managed a blog post. To be honest work has just got in the way!! 

One of my many New Years resolutions is to regain my work life balance and to spend more time doing the things I enjoy. Good food as always,  will no doubt play a huge part in our lives in 2016 but I need to get back to eating healthily and to lose some weight. It’s been too easy over the past few months to rely on processed foods, takeaways, meals out instead of the home cooked food that we love. I’m determined that to change that in the New Year and I’m really looking forward to a healthier lifestyle again. We also want to save as much as we can this year so my aim will be to prove that fine fresh food doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.

Today I made a start by making yellow split pea curry for dinner which I served with a portion of brown basmati rice. All the ingredients were from my store cupboards or left overs in the fridge so it really was an economical dish to make. It was also incredibly tasty and was a welcome change from the rich food we’ve been eating over the festive season. Best of all it was low calorie and healthy.

Yellow Split Pea Curry


250g yellow split peas – cost 13p

2 large onions – cost 15p

4 large tomatoes – cost 48p

3 cloves garlic – cost 10p

2 inch piece ginger – cost 10p

Cinnamon stick – cost 5p

Red chilli – cost 5p (use more if you want it hot)

1tsp turmeric – cost 5p

1 tsp cumin – cost 5p

3tbs vegetable oil – cost 5p

Fresh coriander – cost 5p (reduced item at supermarket on Christmas Eve – still perfectly fine!)

250g brown basmati rice – cost 45p

Place split peas in a pan with cinnamon stick, tumeric, 2 thin slices of the ginger and half of the chilli (left whole). Cover with water and simmer for 40mins or until split peas are tender (but not mushy)

Peel rest of the ginger and chop the ginger and garlic finely. (I cheated and threw them in small blender with the vegetable oil)

Chop onions and chilli finely (I did mine in food processor) and sauté with veg oil, garlic and ginger until soft. Add cumin and fry for a further 30 seconds.

Chop tomatoes finely (again I used blender) and add to onion and spice mixture in pan. Add split peas and 200ml water and simmer for 10 mins to allow flavours to infuse. 

Chop large bunch fresh coriander and add to split peas just before serving.

Serve with boiled brown basmati rice

Total cost £1.71 

We shared it between three of us and it provided a really filling evening meal.

Cost per portion = 57p

Really pleased with my start to the New Year🙂

Happy New Year to everyone x

Rice pudding at just 10p a portion

In an attempt to get back on track with preparing and eating frugal, fine, fresh food I decided a few days ago to invest in an Instant Pot multi cooker. I have to admit I’ve been lusting after one for a while, so when my daughter said she wanted a slow cooker I used it as an excuse to give her mine and to treat myself to the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot can sauté, steam and slow cook as well as being an electric pressure cooker. 

After reading the instruction booklets from beginning to end I was all set to make my first dish. Since I had picked up a litre of milk at the supermarket that was reduced to 59p I decided to have a go at a homemade rice pudding. The recipe I used was so simple it was hard to describe it as a recipe and the result was fantastic. Using the rice setting on the Instant Pot I had creamy, yummy rice pudding in less than 20 mins. The ingredients for my recipe could be used to make rice pudding in a pan on a cooker but it would require stirring regularly to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Rice Pudding


100g short grain rice – cost 22p

1 litre milk – cost 59p

75g sugar – cost 5p

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg – 1p

Place all ingredients in Instant Pot cooker, stir and cook using rice setting. 

Total cost = 85p Made 8 portions

It’s been a while …… now back for a new start

When I started this blog many moons ago I planned on using it as a diary to record the fine, healthy foods that I could prepare working to a really tight budget. I really enjoyed looking for new recipes and designing my own, using cheaper ingredients but without compromising on quality. Unfortunately ‘life’, and in particular a really demanding job, has just got in the way. 

Several things have happened however over the past few weeks that has made me re-evaluate things and I’m determined now to regain a better balance again. Over the past few months we’ve bought far too much convenience foods and eaten far too many takeaways. It has become a bad habit that I really want to stop. Not only is our bank balance looking severely depleted but both myself and my husband have put on weight and are feeling pretty unhealthy. I know from experience that cooking fine healthy foods doesn’t have to be time consuming, it just needs a bit of planning so that when times are busy there is homecooked ‘convenience’ available that can be ready in the same time as ordering a takeaway. It’s just about getting back into the ‘good’ habits that I used to use and enjoy all the time.

So here we go, it’s been a while, but I’m now back for a new start🙂

Feeding 2 Adults For Less Than £5 per day

Have decided to set myself a new challenge this week which involves feeding myself and my hubby for less than £5 per day for the two of us. Starting from tomorrow I’m going to record everything that we eat and how much it costs. My only rule is that what we eat is healthy and of good quality. As always my aim is to live cheaply without compromising on taste. 

If anyone out there would like to join me then it will be great to have you along.

I’m going to tweet about my experience using #feed2adultsfor£5aday challenge at @frugalfreshfood

Saving money and losing weight

The last few weeks have once again been really busy, both at work and socially, so once again I’ve just not had time to write any blog posts. Last week we had a few days away in a hotel with my elderly parents which was really nice. They live over an hours drive away so I don’t sadly get to spend much time with them so it was lovely to share some quality time. It was also my daughters birthday last weekend so we took her, our son (who travelled back from Uni for the occasion) and some other family members out for a meal which we all really enjoyed. This has meant that we have spent quite a lot of money over the past few weeks but it has definitely been money well spent🙂

My focus for the last few days has therefore been to get back to eating healthily and frugally to enable me to save money and to lose some weight. I’ve also been looking at ways to make extra bits of money each day to try and boost my savings.

Since going back to work on Tuesday I have stuck to my meal plans which I achieved by planning and batch cooking. Not only has this meant that I’ve eaten really healthily but I’ve also made some really good savings along the way. It’s amazing how far a 500g pack of lean mince beef will stretch, or what leftover vegetables lurking in the fridge will make with just a bit of careful planning!!🙂

We did our shopping at Lidl on Monday and did seem to get a lot for the £29.38 that we spent. Included in this was a 500g pack of very lean mince steak  for £2.59. I could have saved more by buying their ordinary mince but that contained double the amount of calories because of the higher fat content. As my overall aims is to feed us frugally and healthily without compromising on taste or flavour I felt that it was better to pay that bit more for the leaner product.

I used the pack of mince to make a batch of chilli and a slow cooker hotpot. By padding both out with vegetables and dried beans and pulses this one pack of mince made two of our evening meals (for two of us) plus two packed lunches for myself. Apart from the meat I didn’t have to buy any other ingredients for these meals as everything else I already had in the cupboards or fridge. I had at some point bought a bag of ancho chilli powder which I had never used before so I decided to try it in the chilli. It is much sweeter than ordinary chilli powder with an incredible smokey taste. The result was an extremely flavoursome chilli which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
Chilli Con Carne


250g lean mince                    £1.30

1 large onion                              16p

2 cans plum tomatoes          62p

2 tbsp tomato purée              15p

3 sticks celery                            22p

1 red pepper                               45p

3 cloves garlic                             6p

1 large carrot                              5p

2 cans kidney beans                46p

1 tbsp vegetable oil                 5p

2 tsp ancho chillipower         5p

Chop onions, celery, red pepper and carrot.  Gently fry onion, carrot and celery in vegetable oil for 5 mins. Finely chop garlic and add to pan with the red pepper. Continue to fry gently for 2 minutes more. Add chilli powder and mince beef and stir to combine. Fry for a further minute. Add tomatoes and tomato purée and simmer for 20 mins. Rinse kidney beans and add to pan. Simmer for a further 2 mins

Total cost = £3.57  This made 4 portions. Cost per portion = 89p

With the other half of the pack of mince I made a beef hotpot in the slow cooker. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo.

Beef Hotpot

250g lean mince beef                                   £1.30        

1 large onion                                                        16p          

1 large potato                                                      10p

3 sticks celery                                                      22p

3 large carrots                                                     15p

250g dried soup mix (beans & barley)   55p

1 beef stock cube                                           15p

Chop all veg. Dissolve stock cube in 1 litre water. Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high for 1 hr then reduce to low and cook for a further 6 hours.

Total cost = £2.63  This made 3 portions. Cost per portion = 88p

The hotpot was absolutely delicious, with a lovely sticky texture as a result of the pearl barley. It was just what I needed for dinner after a long day at work.

Both dishes were extremely healthy, packed full of vegetables and relatively low in calories. The hotpot was around 400kcal a portion whilst the chilli was a mere 267kcal which was amazing for such a tasty, filling meal.

I also made a batch of lemon and blueberry oat muffins which were a real hit with both of us. They had the most wonderful texture and the taste was excellent. The recipe was one that I found through a link on MyFitnessPal app  http://www.dailyunadventuresincooking.com/recipe/blueberry-lemon-and-maple-oatmeal-muffins/

We stored the muffins in an airtight box and they kept really well for 5 days. At a cost of just 25p each and with a calorie count of 193kcal they make a really yummy, cheap, healthy breakfast.

The largest savings both financially and in terms of calories this week though have come from a huge batch of leek and potato soup that I made.

The soup took literally minutes to put together as I just threw a chopped onion (16p), 3 chopped leeks (65p), 500g chopped potato (37p),  3 large chopped carrots (15p),  2 stock cubes (30p) and water into a pan and simmered gently for 30mins. I then added salt and pepper and blended the soup in my vitamix blender. The result was a really delicious, healthy soup that cost just 40p per extremely large portion and contained only 197kcal.                                                                                                                                                                                  By taking soup to work each day for lunch I have saved myself over 4 days a whopping £26.40 based on my previous average spend for a bought lunch at work. In addition this week I have lost 2lb in weight in just 5 days which I am extremely happy with.

All in all I’m now feeling extremely motivated again and looking forward to planning my budget and meals for the coming week.

Here’s hoping all my fellow bloggers and tweeters have had a good week too?🙂

Oven Baked Bacon and Leek Risotto

One of our all time favourite meals is risotto. I make various different variations but one of the best has to be bacon and leek. We had this for dinner last night.
Traditionally I made risotto in a pan on the stove top. This involved adding stock slowly, letting each bit soak into the rice before adding more and stirring regularly. This meant that it was a time consuming and on occasions it burnt if I became distracted by something else.
Some time ago I came across a recipe that baked the risotto in the oven. I must admit I was sceptical that it would achieve the creamy finish that we like so much but I decided to give it a go. I was amazed at the result. The risotto was just as creamy as ever and tasted fantastic. Best bit was that it took literally 5 mins to put together and was then just left to bake in the oven. In less than half an hour we had a truly delicious, nutritious meal that was relatively cheap to make. The recipe should serve four but they would be rather small portions. That’s fine if served with some homemade bread and salad but instead as we were both really hungry we just polished the lot off between us.

Oven Baked Bacon & Leek Risotto


1 tbsp olive oil
200g bacon lardons
2 leeks, halved and sliced
and finely sliced
250g risotto rice
700ml vegetable stock
175g frozen peas
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Tip oil into an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the bacon and fry for 2 mins. Add the leeks and cook until soft, but not coloured, for about 4-5 mins. Tip in rice and cook for
1 min more. Pour over stock. Cover and place in oven for 20 mins, stirring halfway.
When rice is just tender and all liquid is absorbed, remove from oven and stir in peas. Place back in oven for 2 mins more. Remove and stir in cheese.

Bacon lardons £1.28
Leeks 80p
Rice 55p
Cheese 20p
Peas 19p
Rest of ingredients 10p

Total cost = £3.12
If serving 4 = 78p per portion

Even though we managed a double portion each this still didn’t break the bank at £1.56 each. Much, much cheaper than eating out in a restaurant which is was we would have done previously

Week 2 of Seed Sowing

Following on from my last weeks post I am really pleased to update that many of the seeds that I sowed have already sprouted!!🙂 Some are looking a little leggy because of the short light days but I’m hoping that if I pot them on deeply then they will be fine. I believe that the part of the stem that is buried grows extra roots!!
Up to now only 2 of the 4 cucumbers seeds have germinated which is a little disappointing as the seed was expensive but there’s still time for them to put in an appearance.




I have now taken the trays of tomatoes and cucumber out of the heated propagator to try and stop them becoming even more leggy. They’re now just on the windowsill in a heated room.
I have replaced them in the propagator with :-
25 Mixed Aubergine (Mr Fothergills – cost 95p)
15 Razzamatatazz Hot Peppers (Mr Fothergills – cost 69p)
10 Topepo Rosso Sweet Pepper (Mr Fothergills – cost 70p)
10 Minimix Sweet Pepper (Mr Fothergills – cost – 49p)
10 Rokita Hot Pepper (Mr Fothergills cost – 63p)
1 small tray Cumin seeds (Unwins cost – 30p)

Total cost of seeds sown today = £3.76

There was enough compost left from last week so no cost for that this time.

Total spend on veg growing this year = £11.76 + £3.76 = £15.52

I did use some homegrown coriander in my curry last night which would have cost me 70p if I’d had to buy it from supermarket.

Total spent = £15.52
Total saved = £0.70
Overall balance for 2015 = £14.82 debit

Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Curry

After another manically busy week I’ve had a lazy day today, catching up on sleep, catching up by phone with our wonderful daughter and my elderly mum and cooking a few meals to keep us going over the next busy week.

Our daughter moved out a couple of years ago to share a house with friends. At the tender age of 21 she is a fantastic cook and she enjoys nothing better than home cooked fresh, healthy food. She is living however on a very tight budget so she is always looking for healthy recipes that won’t break the bank. When we were chatting on the phone today she mentioned how much she missed the vegetable curries that I make. As we are going to see her tomorrow I decided to make a batch of curry this evening which I will split into portions for her to put in her freezer.
The beauty of vegetable curries are that they can be made with whatever vegetable you have available. With the addition of dried beans or pulses and spices they are very much a store cupboard meal.
Since I have a couple of butternut squash that I picked up cheaply from a supermarket a few weeks ago I decided to go for a butternut squash and red lentil curry, cooked in the slow cooker.

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Curry


1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can chopped tomatoes
6 cups water
2 cups red lentils
1 medium butternut squash, diced
chopped fresh coriander

Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and saute for 5 mins until deep golden brown.Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add another tbs of vegetable oil and the tomato paste. Saute for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste is caramelized and browned.
Add the ground cumin, garam masala, turmeric powder, chilli pepper, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and bay leaves and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the can of chopped tomato and stir to combine.
Transfer the mixture to slow cooker. Add the lentils, butternut squash, 6 cups water and remaining salt. Stir to combine and cook on high for 3-4hrs.
Add chopped fresh coriander to serve

Onion 16p
Butternut Squash 99p
Can of chopped tomatoes 31p
Lentils 50p
Coriander free (growing in pot on windowsill)
Rest of ingredients 25p

Total cost = £2.21
Recipe made 8 portions. Cost per portion = 27p

Not only is this curry cheap but it is also incredibly healthy. There really is no excuse not to eat well on a strict budget?!!

We had a portion each for a late ‘TV’ dinner, accompanied by popadoms. The total cost for two of us was 60p which is a far cry from the £15 that we could have so easily spent on an Indian Takeaway.

Enjoying Packed Lunches

Over the past week I have made a real effort to take a packed lunch to work every day. Not only is this saving me money but I’m also eating healthier. It does take a bit of organising and forward thinking but once the planning is done it really does take just a couple of minutes to put a packed lunch together. Even on my most frantically busy days I should be no excuse to not take something with me.

Today we have had a really good food day, full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Breakfast was two clementines that were really sweet and juicy, lunch a chicken salad and then this evening we had a homemade Aubergine Parmigiana for dinner.

The chicken salad for lunch was made with a chicken breast that I saved from a small chicken that we had for dinner last night. In days gone by, before we were trying to be frugal, we would have probably eaten most of the chicken between us for one meal and then thrown away the carcass with lots of meat still left on it. The thought of this now horrifies me. These days we usually make three different meals for two of us out of a really small chicken and we never feel that we have not had enough.


To make my lunch I simply took a handful of rocket, about 20 black olives from a huge jar that I bought for from an Asian supermarket and half a dozen sweet chillies. Not only was it healthy but it was also delicious. I honestly couldn’t have bought anything that I’d enjoyed more for the vast array of deli’s that are close to where I work.
If I don’t take lunch with me then I generally spend around £7.50 on a sandwich or a salad and a fancy coffee, so taking my own is saving me a small fortune. The salad that I took today cost me just £2 and as I didn’t go out I didn’t buy the coffee either. I therefore saved a massive £5.50 on a single meal.

The Aubergine Parmigiana that we had for dinner was made using a recipe that I have documented in a previous blog http://bit.ly/1tA6U0H

It is definitely one of our favourite meals and is incredibly easy to make. It can also be made in advance which is a huge bonus on a busy work day.
At just £1.87 a portion it is also pretty economical for such a healthy, flavoursome meal.

Cost of food today for two of us :-
4 Clementines = 75p
70g bag of rocket = £1
Black olives = 50p
Sweet chillies = 50p
Chicken breast = £2
Aubergine Parmigiana = £3.74

Total = £8.49 or £4.24 each

Whilst this hasn’t been a particularly cheap day for food it has still cost only 99p more for a full days food for two of us than what I would have previously spent on lunch for myself alone!!

Best bit is though is that in addition to saving money I have also stuck to my healthy eating plan. I have eaten a total of 9 different types of fruit and vegetables including clementines, rocket, olives, sweet chillies, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, aubergine & basil.

Over the coming few weeks I’m going to be on the look out for more ideas for yummy packed lunches so if you can recommend anything then please let me know

Eat healthy, lose weight and enjoy food!

I love good food but need to lose weight. Going to combine the two for a healthier me!

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