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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Delicious Hot Cross Buns - thrifty and tasty!


I decided to try out yet another variation of my Hot Cross Bun recipe as I wanted a rich and flavoursome bun packed with fruit which was inexpensive and easy to make.  Basically I wanted a Hot Cross Bun that would give the supermarket premium brand buns a run for their money but cost much less than posh store bought buns.  These buns cost £1.47 for ingredients to bake a dozen, energy costs to bake them would of course be extra.  Asda and Sainsbury's sell their premium Hot Cross Buns for £1.35 per 4 pack, Tesco Finest are on offer for £1.20 (was £1.70) for a 4 pack and Waitrose Richly Fruited Hot Cross Buns are £1.59 for a 4 pack.

This means that the cost of baking this batch of 12 Hot Cross Buns is about the same as buying only 4 buns from a supermarket premium range.  You don't have to be a master baker to make them either, just make sure the milk isn't hotter than 38C and that you knead the dough well until it is springy and elastic. That's all there is to it! You don't need a stand mixer, you can make them by hand.  Kids love kneading and shaping the dough, great for keeping them amused in the holidays.

You could add some peeled and finely chopped eating apple for extra fruit content or use a mixture of sultanas and dried apricots for a slightly different flavour.  My kids aren't fans of mixed peel so I normally leave it out and add some orange or lemon zest instead.

Delicious Hot Cross Buns

180ml milk, lukewarm 10p
4 tsp instant dry yeast 20p
75g sugar 6p
3 medium free range eggs 48p
125ml vegetable oil 15p
560g plain flour 18p
finely grated zest of an orange (optional)
3/4 tsp salt 1p
1 tsp mixed spice 1p
160g sultanas or raisins 18p

If you're using a stand mixer: Measure all of the dough ingredients, except the dried fruit, into the bowl of your mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix the dough on a low speed until it comes together, then increase the speed a little.  Knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  

If making by hand: Measure the ingredients, except for the dried fruit, into a large bowl.  Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead  until smooth and elastic.  Don't be tempted to add too much flour to the work surface or it will dry the dough out too much.  

Once your dough is smooth and elastic, knead through the dried fruit, either in the mixer or by hand.  Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave for rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute to knock the dough back.  Divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces, ours weighed about 100g each.  Shape each piece into a ball and put onto a lined baking tray, leave a little space between them as they will be left to rise again.  Cover the baking tray with greased cling film and leave the buns to rise for another 45 minutes.

3 Tblsp plain flour 1p
2 Tblsp cold water

Mix together the flour and water until a smooth paste forms then transfer to a piping bag, If you don't have a piping bag don't worry, just use a plastic sandwich bag and snip a small piece off one corner.  Pipe crosses on the buns.

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Uncover the buns and pipe on the crosses.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are are cooked through and a dark caramel colour on top.  Quickly make the glaze whilst the buns are still hot from the oven.

110g sugar 9p
50ml water

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat.  Heat gently, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved and a thin syrup has formed.  Brush this mixture over the buns, until it has all been used. Let the buns cool completely so the glaze can set.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Our Meal Plan for this week, school holidays edition - £70

It is the second week of the School Holidays and after being forced to rest last week I am back on form this week but not rushing about as much as I usually do.  You could be forgiven for thinking we are feeding an army this week but my 3 daughters eat like ravenous All Blacks and they will have friends over a few times which means extra mouths to feed.  I'm also taking the opportunity to replenish supplies after our kids almost ate us out of house and home last week.

Breakfast will be porridge this week to fuel our holiday fun and keep the kids fuller for longer. The wraps and bread/rolls for lunches will be homemade to keep the kids occupied and save money. Snacks will be fruit with homemade yoghurt in the morning and a small baked treat, popcorn or Scroggin in the afternoon. I have deliberately kept dinners low faff as I am almost always exhausted by dinner time and am still suffering from 24/7 morning sickness despite being in my second trimester.  

We'll be visiting the allotment to do some light weeding and planting, I have been banned from any heavy digging.  We'll also be harvesting chard, spinach and salad greens to have with our lunch and dinner.

Lentil and Mince Bolognese – Monday with pasta and Tuesday with baked potatoes

500g minced beef
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 peppers, deseeded and finely diced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 x 400g tins lentils, drained
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil

Heat a little in a frying-pan and sauté the onion, garlic and peppers together until softened. Add the minced beef and brown well, breaking up the mince as it browns.

Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, lentils, and dried herbs. Stir well to combine and let simmer for at least 20 – 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta according to pack instructions. Serve over the pasta with steamed greens or vegetables on the side.

Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot - Wednesday and Thursday (using 12 sausages)

Meatball Minestrone - Friday

12 meatballs
1 onion, finely diced
2 peppers, deseeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock
400g tin cannellini beans, drained
400g tin kidney beans, drained
1 cup dried pasta
1 tsp dried basil
200g spinach leaves

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, peppers and garlic over a low heat until softened. Add the carrots, celery, and frankly any other veggies you have on hand that may need using up. Make sure all the vegetables are cut the same size so they cook evenly.

Cook the vegetables over a moderate heat until the carrots start to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and stock then bring everything to a gentle simmer. Add cannellinni beans, kidney beans and pasta then simmer gently for at least 20 minutes or until the pasta has softened.

Fry meatballs in a little olive oil until lightly browned all over. When the pasta has softened, add the meatballs and spinach. Simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes then serve.

Fish Pilaf - Saturday

Spaghetti and Meatballs - Sunday


We'll have crudites along with Savoury Scone Swirls or falafel and salad wraps for lunches. One day this week we'll have baked potatoes with baked beans and cheese, probably mini frittatas (using ingredients on hand) at some point during the week and I might make some rice pudding using the leftover rice too.


There will of course be lots of baking to keep my 3 daughters both busy and fed. I've supplies to make fruit scones, flapjacks, muffins/cupcakes and cookies. We'll be using cereals to bake with (cornflakes and rice crispies) and wholemeal flour which should also help quell hunger pangs.

Shopping List

40 items: £70.36

Packets & Cereals
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Cornflakes (750g)                                   £1.74
1x   Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                                £2.18
1x   ASDA Smartprice Crispy Rice Cereal (440g)                              77p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Fusilli Twists (500g)                                50p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g)                                           20p
1x   ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                    80p
1x   ASDA Basmati White Rice (1Kg)                                               £1.78
1x   Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g)                                                  64p
1x   ASDA Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)            65p
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                          £1.28
1x   Whitworths Granulated Sugar (1Kg)                                           88p

Tins, Jars & Cooking
1x   ASDA Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce (4x410g)                          £1.24
3x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                            93p
1x   ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g)                                     50p
2x   ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                                             £1.00
1x   ASDA Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)                                  40p
1x   ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g)                     48p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Bolognese Pasta Sauce (735g)               £1.36
2x   ASDA Chosen by You Green Lentils (400g)                               £1.24

2x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                                £1.54
1x   ASDA Whitefish Fillets (500g)                                                   £2.00

Dairy & Eggs
5x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                       £5.00
1x   Stork (1Kg)                                                                              £2.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g)                        45p
1x   ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15)                               £2.00
2x   ASDA 30% Less Fat Mature Light British Cheese (450g)             £5.00

Fruit & Vegetables
1x   ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g)                                             84p
12   ASDA Bananas by Weight (170g)                                              £1.39
2x   ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                  £3.00
3x   ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                            £1.50
1x   ASDA Celery                                                                            80p
2x   ASDA Garlic Loose                                                                  60p
2x   ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)                                             £3.14
1x   ASDA Spring Onions                                                                50p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                                      98p
2x   ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg)                                                              £1.50
2x   ASDA Apples (1.2Kg)                                                               £4.00
2x   ASDA Chosen by Kids Easy Peasy Peelers (500g)                    £2.00

Meat, Fish & Poultry
2x   ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g)             £5.00
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Meatballs (730g)                       £4.00
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Lean Beef Mince (580g)                    £4.50
Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 12 April 2014.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

As usual I compared the cost of our shopping using My Supermarket.  Had I shopped elsewhere our groceries would've cost £69.75 from Aldi, £72.52 from Sainsbury's, £74.84 from Tesco and £82.07 from Morrisons.

Don't forget to check out the other Meal Plans in the linky over on 
At Home With Mrs M.