Tuesday, 31 January 2012

'Swiss' Steak Slow-cooker Recipe - Yummy and Inexpensive!

I stumbled upon this recipe while watching the Paula Deen show about four years ago. Usually I'm not keen on her cooking because of the high-fat content (which has caused her a lot of grief lately with her Diabetes announcment). This looked so simple and delicious I had to try it myself, with a few modifications. I don't have the original recipe anymore - just my version, which we all love in this house!

I start with 320grams of beef frying steaks which I got at Sainsbury's marked down to £3.50. I take each steak and pound it thin with my meat mallet (or meat tenderiser hammer). I beat it to look like a Swiss steak which costs just a little more and makes the meat go further. The onions I buy for 6 for 75p at Morrisons, the bell pepper (green pepper) I bought for 60p. The diced tomatoes, and I use two tins, instead of one to stretch the meal further, cost 2 for £1. The rest I had in my larder. The whole meal cost around £5.35. And it made dinner for us all for one night as well as two packed lunches for Eddie.

I have served it over rice, potato jackets, couscous and grits (an American thing and oh, so good).

Here is the recipe. If you try it, please let me know.


320g frying steaks
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
All-purpose flour for dusting
1/3 cup Vegetable oil
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1 medium bell pepper, cut into strips

Cut steak into serving-size pieces. Season to taste with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Dust meat with flour. In heavy skillet, brown both sides of meat in vegetable oil. Transfer to slow cooker. Set cooker on high. Combine garlic, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper and 1 can full of water. Pour over steak and simmer for 1 hour until bubbling nicely. If you keep the cooker on high - it will be ready within 2 hours. If you turn it to slow it will be ready in 4. The trick is to cook and cook and cook. The meat will be nice and tender.

Here's the beef frying up. Yummy!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Easy Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

In my quest for frugality, I have had to stop buying things ready made. One thing I have fallen in love with here in Britain is the marvellous Yorkshire Pudding! A friend turned me onto Aunt Bessies which are fantastic but I can't afford to keep buying things like this when I can just make them myself.

Every Sunday I made a roast or a slow-cooked meal. Right now in my slow cooker is a divine 'Swiss' Steak stew bubbling away. Recipe tomorrow - it's marvellous and SO easy and cheap. But I digress, most times I make a roast beef or chicken. I've been trying out recipes for Yorkshire puddings and in December came across the simpliest, foolproof recipe.

The best part is you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen now! They cost next to nothing to make and go far. I freeze them and reheat them and they still taste great.

As you can see above, I make them in muffin tins. The first few attempts I put in far too much mixture and they blew up to massive sizes, colliding with each other and creating a wild looking, unearthly sculpture. But, boy, did they taste great. I've since learned that 1/3 full is more than plenty to create the ideal Yorkshire Pudding.

I use vegetable oil instead of lard or beef drippings/fat. This can make upwards of 18 puddings if you spread it out.

These turned out amazing the first try - even though they were sky-high and bizarre looking! Now they come out beautifully and are far better than Aunt Bessies. Any restaurant could serve them (if I may say so myself!)

Here is the recipe. Give it a whirl and if you do, please let me know how you made out.


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Depends on size of tin used.


  • 4 large, fresh eggs, measured in a jug
  • Equal quantity of milk to eggs
  • Equal quantity of all purpose/plain flour to eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp lard, beef dripping or vegetable oil


Serves 6
  • Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible, however, do not exceed 450F/230C or the fat may burn.
  • Pour the eggs and milk into a large mixing bowl and add the pinch of salt. Whisk thoroughly with an electric hand beater or hand whisk. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  • Gradually sieve the same volume of flour (as the eggs) into the milk and egg mixture, again using an electric hand beater or hand-whisk to create a lump free batter resembling thick cream, if there are any lumps pass the batter through a fine sieve.
  • Leave the batter to rest in the kitchen for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer if possible - up to several hours.
  • Place a pea-sized piece of lard, dripping or ½tsp vegetable oil into your 12-hole muffin tin and heat in the oven until the fat is smoking. Give the batter another good whisk adding 2 tbsps of cold water and fill a third of each section of the tin with batter and return quickly to the oven.
  • Leave to cook until golden brown approx 20 minutes. Repeat the last step again until all the batter is used up.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Making it work

First, thank you to everyone who has posted and emailed with tips. I've found them SO valuable. This is so much more overwhelming that I first imagined. Poring over circulars, looking on line, etc. has been daunting. One thing is clear - I need more direction. Another thing is clear - I won't buy full retail price ever again. No way!

Perhaps I am over thinking it. but  here's what I've managed:

I started digging around in Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons for the 3 for a tenner deals and bought enough meat for three weeks with £36! I planned out my meals for the three weeks using the meat I bought which included beef, mince, chicken, bacon, sausages, pork chops and two whole chickens. I have Claire from The Little Pom to thank for that! I still have to check out Approved Foods. My meal plan will be posted later this week.

I went to Martin Lewis's site and have been studying the best ways to cut back and save. Thank you Never Too Old!

My slow cooker has been dusted off and I used it to make a delish beef stew the other day. So many thanks to Green Flag (who's blog is fantastic and shockingly has the same background as mine! Lookin' good Green Flag!)

Unfortunately, Lidl and Aldi are too far away from me and we do not have a car. But when we do rent a car again I'm going to check them out post haste. So thanks for Keshling and Twiggy.

I've been really busy, busy with my life lately, school, PTA, and I'm working to try and get a job here in the UK - part time, perhaps write a few articles, etc. If I can. Every little, as Tesco says.

I truly appreciate all the help and promise to get this blog up and running properly.

But just to record my progress: at £50 a week for the past two weeks I have managed to only spend £35 week one, $42 week two and I have already bought all the basics for week 3 (meat, pasta, veg, diapers, wipes, TP, etc.) If I keep this up by the end of January - month 1 in our conquest I will have saved £35. If I do it - we will not spend it on frivolities or a 'splurge'. It will go into savings to be used in case of an emergency.

So far - so good! And I still don't even feel like I know what I'm doing.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The 2012 Frugal Challenge Begins!

And so we begin. My husband, Eddie, is paid on the 15th of each month. This makes things harder, I feel. We MUST be frugal or we'll run out of money by the 10th and have to eat pasta night and day if I don't get this right.

After bugging Eddie for the budget - what I can spend after ALL the bills: Carol's afterschool activities (ballet, swimming and afterschool fun club), Al's nanny, the rent, household bills (water, electric, TV/internet, heat, TV license, council tax), money to pay the credit card down and the other little incidentals (Oyster cards, etc.) it doesn't leave a lot of money for anything else. We've budgeted

£50 a week for groceries is what I'm going to try and do. This must include all meat, milk, diapers, wipes, snacks, eggs, cereal, bread, etc. for four people a week. We have been spending around $90 a week since we moved here. That means all sweets, fancy coffee, crisps, giant cuts of high choice meats (farewell rack of lamb and big steaks) and all the little things I have been splurging on have got to go.

I'm seriously impressed with a few bloggers. Look at what A Want Not A Need found! Astounding! All that for seriously reduced prices.   Also, Frugal Wife in Fife did a nice round up of the rising costs of Value products. I've seen some other bargain hunters and I'm absolutely determined to find roasts marked down from £10 to £2. I won't rest until I do.

How I plan to achieve this until I am savvy enough to 'wing' it, is planning. My meal plans don't always include meat and if they do - they include less expensive cuts with more inventive cooking. Since my month runs from the 15th instead of the 1st. I'm gearing up for my first plan. Wish me luck.

I would seriously love to hear how people manage to find bargains here. I belong to all the saving clubs at the different stores. I gather all the vouchers from Sainsburies and Tesco as well. Not sure what to do with all my points/savings yet. I have so much to learn I feel completely overwhelmed. Any help or thoughts is VERY appreciated.

Stay tuned for my struggles and successes (or failures).