Homemade red curry soup

I was scratching around my cupboards a while ago, trying to find something to scrape together for dinner. I knew it would probably be soup. We eat a lot of soup. Ask my kids.

But soup is just one of my all-time favourite easy, healthy meals – just chuck whatever veggies you can find into a pot with some seasoning, blend together and VOILA! Easy,healthy deliciousness!

Anyway, as I was throwing things in I realised that this particular soup might turn out to be something special, so I started jotting down approximate ingredients as I went, just in case (this made me feel very clever and organised – it was a nice feeling.) It turned out I was right – it was SO DELICIOUS that I knew I had to share it with you. As I never measure anything – and as individual tastes vary – make sure you taste and edit the soup as you go to suit your own family.

Red Curry Soup

Serves about 8 (but so yummy you’ll want to allow for seconds… 😉 )

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 200g red lentils
  • 1 pint water
  • Head of garlic, roughly chopped
  • Knob of ginger (to taste), peeled and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 4 tsp mild curry powder (my very favourite is Sainsbury’s own mild version)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper are my favourite choices)

Fry the onions and curry powder in a little oil (I use a high heat-tolerance oil like palm). Add the peppers, ginger and salt, and let them cook for a minute. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, water, lentils and garlic. Allow this to simmer for about 45 mins – until the lentils are cooked.  Add the remaining ingredients, then blend together using a hand blender. Remember to do a taste test, and adjust accordingly.  Serve and enjoy!

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Nettle Soup (honestly)

My mother-in-law recently made this DELICIOUS soup. It’s cheap and high in vitamin C, and even my brother loved it. My kids begged for more, and Prince even asked to have it for dessert instead of cake. Now that has GOT to be a winner.

Turn these stingers into something great!

Turn these stingers into something great!

Spring is the perfect time to collect lovely fresh nettles. So get your gloves on, take the kids foraging and follow this simple recipe.  Enjoy!

1 carrier bag of nettle tops
4-5 large potatoes, chopped
4 large onions, chopped
2 chicken stock cubes
2 pints water
Salt & pepper to taste

Collect nettle tops (wear rubber gloves!!) – break off about the top two inches of nettles (try to find some in a good location where dogs are less likely to have weed on them (ew), and preferably away from a main road where fumes will have polluted them). Bring them home and take off the leaves, discarding the stalk. Thoroughly wash and rinse the leaves, then set aside.

Chop and fry up onions in a large pot. Add chopped potatoes and cover with water, stock cubes and salt. Bring to boil then simmer until potatoes are cooked (around 5-10 mins if potatoes are cut small). Add nettle leaves and simmer for another 5-10 mins. Blend all ingredients together and serve!

(P.S.  In my experience, it might be better not  to tell your husband it’s made from nettles until after he’s tasted it… 😉

Possibly the best cookies in the world ever

Today the kids and I baked a new recipe: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Three cookie monsters!

Three cookie monsters!

They. Were. Amazing.

I found the recipe over at Ambitious Kitchen. They are easy to make, and the ingredients are actually pretty healthy. We used half molasses sugar and half demerara sugar, both unrefined (and therefore healthy… right?) The recipe calls for regular peanut butter, which I happened to have in my cupboard. We used it this time, but next time I will be using my usual wholenut version, which again is healthy. From the comments I read below the recipe this might require extra oats, but that is never a problem!

The baking process didn’t quite turn out as I had expected, but then I’m used to that. Happens every time I try to bake without my Mom. (On a side note, can we start an online petition for her to move back to the UK to help me bake?) The batter was really soft, and despite adding extra oats to try and firm it up, I still couldn’t really make the “dough balls” the recipe called for – ours were more like melting blobs.

Our cookie dough blobs - pre-cooking.

What the looked like before they went in the oven.

Also, when cooked they looked more like failed bread rolls than choc-chip cookies.

What they looked like after they came out the oven.

BUT. They tasted amazing, so who cares what they look like. And now that I’ve got your mouth watering, you can find the recipe (along with pictures of what they are supposed to look like) here. Go and enjoy!

Favourite bean recipes

After writing yesterday about the wonderful use of beans instead of meat, I have had some requests to share my favourite bean recipes with you. Since I very rarely work from a recipe, the measurements below are all approximated guesses rather than an exact science! If something looks too much or too little as you’re putting it in, go ahead and adjust it. My cooking is usually a trial and error process 😉

I heard once on Masterchef that beans take a long time to soak up flavour, so I tend to cook them gently and slowly making sure to add flavouring into the cooking water. I also find allowing them to sit a while even after cooking helps them to take on more flavour, and as they don’t lose heat quickly this is not a problem. However, the ultimate key to making tasty food, in my opinion, is to TASTE it. I usually do a taste test close to the end when I think it’s about ready. I then add extra flavouring or ingredients depending on what my palate says is needed.  My favourite ingredients for adding flavour to a dull dish are extra herbs, lemon or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, molasses and ketchup.

So here are three of my favourite bean dishes: hummus, curry and chilli.  Enjoy!

Tasty Garlic Lemon Hummus

Chickpeas are so versatile. I’ve used them in everything from curries to cookies! Probably my favourite thing to do with them, though, is make a lovely strong garlic and lemon hummus. I’ve shared this recipe with you before, so I won’t repeat it here. However, as a note I have omitted the peanut butter from this recipe.  It makes it slightly thinner, but I think gives it an even nicer flavour. It does reduce the protein content, though, so you might want to keep it in for that reason.

Here is my delicious garlic lemon hummus recipe.

Easy Chickpea & Lentil Curry

Serves about 8 (could be doubled by cooking and serving with some wholegrain rice or quinoa)

  • 4 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic (about 10-15 cloves), chopped
  • 4 potatoes, cut into fairly small cubes
  • 1 apple, diced OR 1 cup raisins
  • 200g dried lentils
  • 200g dried chickpeas
  • 200g frozen peas
  • Small chunk of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • Dash of lime/lemon juice
  • Curry powder to taste (my favourite is Sainsbury’s own mild curry powder)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (Himalayan pink salt or organic sea salt are my favourite healthy salt options)
  • Stock cube (optional)
  • Water
  • Desiccated coconut to top

Soak chickpeas overnight. Next day, add more water and stock cube or salt to chickpeas, then boil and simmer for about 30 mins. In another large pot fry onions & curry powder (I like to fry in coconut oil, as it has a high heat resistance and adds a lovely flavour to curries). Add tomatoes, potatoes, apple/raisins, lentils, peas, lime/lemon juice, ginger, coriander, salt, pepper and half the garlic. Add chickpeas in their water, and enough extra water to cover. Bring to boil, then simmer just long enough for lentils and potatoes to cook through. If there is too much excess water at the end, take the lid off and simmer for longer to reduce. Add the rest of the garlic and serve sprinkled with coconut!

Mild Mixed Bean Chilli

Serves about 6 (could be doubled by cooking and serving with some wholegrain rice, cornbread or wrapped in tortilla wraps).

  • 1 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic (about 10-15 cloves), chopped
  • 500 kg mixed dried beans (I always include at a good portion of kidney bean in this. Other bean I tend to use are aduki, cannelini and mung.)
  • 100g frozen veg (sweetcorn is nicest, but I use whatever I have in the freezer)
  • Mild chilli powder to taste (if you are a spice lover you can, of course, substitute this for hot chilli powder)
  • 1/4 cup your favourite relish (tomato and chilli works very well)
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tbsp molasses (unrefined blackstrap is the best)
  • Dash of lemon/lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight. Next day, add more water, salt and some chilli powder, then bring to boil and simmer for about 30 mins. Separately, fry onions in more chilli powder.  Drain about half the water out of the bean pot, then add onions and all the other ingredients.  Simmer for about another 30 mins, then serve!

Have you got any good bean recipes? I’d love to hear them!

Ten ways to save money around the home

As a single-income family, frugal living is essential for us.

Here are ten ways I have learnt to keep costs down:

  • Dump the dryer!  It is widely known that tumble dryers eat up energy, and thus, money. I’ve been tumble dryer-free for about two years now, and it really is easy.  In good weather I hang the clothes outside, and in bad weather I make use of radiators, clothes drying racks, backs of chairs, stair banisters, and just about anything else I find to ‘hang’ on.  [EDIT: Please note that drying clothes indoors can contribute to damp and mold. We usually keep our windows open at least a crack all year round and this has not been a problem for us. However, mold is very damaging to health so use this tip at your own discretion.]
  • Learn to love white vinegar!  At just 9p/100 ml this wonder-product is a real bargain, and is much used in our house.  It’s a mould-killer, fabric softener, dishwasher rinse-aid, pesticide remover, and general all-purpose cleaner.

    My mother-in-law taught me the delight of a washing line full of clothes, blowing in the sunshiny breeze!

    My mother-in-law taught me the delight of a washing line full of clothes, blowing in the sunshiny breeze!

  • Drink water!  I’ve mentioned this in a previous budget post, but it really is a big one. Drinking water is cheap, healthy, and mess-free. It is very rare I spend money on any other drink (milk excepted), which frees up my grocery budget for more organic fruit and veg – yum! I also try to stick to a ‘drink water if you feel hungry between snack & meal times’ policy. Some days I’m better at this than others, but when we do it saves money on grazing our way through snacks, as well as being another healthy choice.
  • Eat your beans!  Organic beans are about half the price of organic beef. This is one of the reasons I rarely buy meat.  Instead I stock up on dried organic beans and lentils at our local ‘Taj the Grocerer’.  It has taken me years to get into the swing of remembering to soak the beans in advance, but I’m finally getting there.
  • Turn off lights!  My children know this is a bit of an obsession with me. I did some research on the idea that leaving a light on is more energy efficient than turning it off and on again, and found it is not really the case. Lights these days take only a small amount extra energy to switch on, so unless you are planning to return to the room in less than five minutes, then the best thing to do is turn it off. So we do.

    My little stash of beans - yum scrum!

    My little stash of beans – yum scrum!

  • Go eco!  This is not as simple as I would wish it to be, but overall we do find it saves money. When we returned to the UK from Canada we decided to invest in a hybrid car. The initial cost of this was more than other options, but we worked out the long-term costs and with reduced fuel bills and no car tax it works out better in the end. We are also blessed to have bought a house with solar panels and a solar water heater, so we carefully wait for the sun to come  out before putting on the dishwasher or washing machine, making the most of free electricity when it’s available. Even if you don’t have solar panels you might be able to switch to an energy tariff which gives you cheaper rates at night, and run your big appliances while you sleep! Buying eco-rated appliances and setting them on their most economical cycles is also helpful.
  • Don’t overcook!  This is not something I’ve measured in terms of savings, but is rather a common sense idea I had. Basically, the more I cook, the more gas/electricity I’m using. So I try to make quick-cooking meal choices. This is not always easy, and does not always happen. But I do try to be aware of the energy cost of the food we’re eating. Practically this means choices such as sandwiches more often that toast, pre-heating the oven for the bare minimum time, not over-cooking food (e.g. soups, curries, pasta), but turning them off as soon as they’re done.
  • Dress warm and keep moving! I really don’t like being cold. But instead of simply cranking up the heating we dress up in layers each day, and keep a chest full of snuggly blankets within easy reach. We also keep a basket of fresh slippers and socks to offer guests, so they don’t feel cold either. I also find that if I’m feeling cold, a little housework usually gets me warmed up rather efficiently 😉  For the kids, a quick game of ‘Simon Says’ involving lots of jumping, getting up and down and running on the spot warms them up fast, too.

    Blanket are so snuggly - and so are Princesses!

    Blanket are so snuggly – and so are Princesses!

  • Freecycle!  We are Freecycle lovers. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to do a quick bit of Googling to find out what it is, where your closest groups are, and how to sign up. We’ve been blessed with such a variety of Freecycle offering, from shower units to our lovely new bunny rabbits!
  • Say “no” to TV!  Saving money is just one of the reasons we choose not having a TV package at our house. Apart from saving money on the package itself, we also save on the TV licence. With online access to BBC iPlayer via the Wii (and ITV and Channel 4 via the laptop when we want to), we still get to watch many great programs on our TV screen, with the FANTASTIC added benefit of no adverts. Do you need any more convincing?! [Note: if you watch TV via the internet please check the laws regarding licences in your own area. In our case we never watch live programs as these require a licence, so we stick to catch-up only.]

Vege-table

Here’s a tidbit of info about me: I love vegetables! And I love it when my dinner table is a vege-table.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Being a homemaker, I delight in cooking tasty, healthy food for my family, especially when I can do this on a budget. Vegetables are great in summer and winter, and I enjoy soups and salads all year round. Everyone knows they’re full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s not always easy to find yummy, easy recipes to incorporate them into your diet. So – here are two of my FAVOURITE vegetable recipes, which can be easily added to your repertoire of delicious vegetable meals.

I hope you enjoy using them to turn your table into a vege-table too 🙂

~

Super Quick and Easy Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion
6-8 Cloves of garlic
4 tins chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh rosemary (or about 2 tbsp dried)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop onion and garlic. Fry onions in a large pot. Add salt, pepper and chopped tomatoes, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 10-15 mins. Turn off heat. Wash and finely chop rosemary. Add garlic and rosemary to pot. Blend with a hand blender. Serve and enjoy!

~

My Granny’s Best Fish Salad

INGREDIENTS:
Large tin salmon or other fish
Canned beans (optional)
1 small onion (red is sweeter, though I personally prefer white)
3-4 small/medium potatoes
Various salad vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, cucumber, apple, etc.)
Mayonnaise and natural yoghurt
Vinegar (red wine is my favourite)
Olive oil
Piri-piri sauce or shake (optional for extra heat!)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop potatoes into large bite-size chunks and boil (or cook whole and chop afterwards). Meanwhile, dice or slice the onion and put into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and add two or three tablespoons of vinegar. Next, chop and add your vegetables except tomatoes (and tinned beans, if using) to the bowl. Add the tinned fish, drained, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (in total) of mayonnaise and yoghurt, (also add your piri-piri if using). Mix this all together. Now add the potatoes and tomatoes, sprinkle again with salt, and with pepper, and pour over about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix again. Lastly, cut up leafy vegetables (fresh spinach and rocket is a favourite here) and add to the bowl. Don’t mix them in until ready to serve, then toss and serve.

Homemade garlic hummus

My first experiences of hummus were not good ones. Pasty, dry chick peas blended up. Yuck! However, my stance on this dip/spread changed when my mother-in-law introduced me to garlic hummus a few years ago. Suddenly it took on a whole new – and much nicer – flavour! Since then I have grown to love it, and find it to be a great condiment to keep in the fridge and snack on with some raw vegetables or spread on homemade wholemeal bread.

I don’t think I have ever actually bought hummus from the shops; I prefer to make my own at home. This is partly for health reasons, because I first started making it when I lived in Canada, where all the hummus I could find had genetically modified ingredients. It is also partly just because I enjoy creating it to taste exactly the way I like it!

My first attempts at homemade hummus were made following a recipe I found in a Google search. Over the years I have changed and tweaked this to suit my own taste. For those interested, here is the recipe I now use:

Homemade lemon and garlic hummus

Ready to make homemade hummus.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (I use freshly ground)
  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed virgin olive oil
  • 4 – 5 large organic garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I use the juice of one fresh organic lemon and then top up with bottled lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tsp Nando’s garlic peri-peri sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (wholenut gives the nicest flavour)
  • 1 tin organic chick peas

Method:

  1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, peri-peri sauce and peanut butter into a blender (or a bowl/cup if you are using a hand blender).
  2. Peel and crush the garlic cloves using the flat side of a knife blade. Add them to your blender.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Drain about half the water from your chick peas. Add the rest of the water and the chick peas to your blender.
  5. Blend again until well mixed in.
  6. Pour the mixture into a Tupperware tub with a lid and refrigerate for about at least hour.
  7. Enjoy!

The finished hummus, ready to eat with some fresh vegetables.

Following this recipe will give you a very strong garlic hummus, so feel free to play around with the quantities and make it to your own personal taste. I always test a bit on my finger after mixing in the chick peas to see if I need to add more of any ingredient (note: the hummus tends to taste stronger after sitting in the fridge for a while, so do be careful). Fresh lemons add the nicest flavour, but can be a bit time consuming and expensive to squeeze, so I tend to use a mixture of fresh and bottled juice. Also, you can also use tahini instead of peanut butter, but I usually don’t have that in the house.  Another option is to make it without either of those.  I have done this and it still works, it just ends up a bit thinner.

Homemade hummus is a healthy and cheap choice. Because it is fresh, it’s free from preservatives, artificial flavours and other additives. I find it to work out about the same price as shop-bought hummus, though maybe slightly more expensive than non-organic varieties. Look around for deals on the ingredients to save money. I have found organic chick peas cheapest in Asda, although I suspect that buying dry and soaking your own would work out cheaper still. This is something I plan to look into when I get time.

My favourite way to eat hummus is as a dip with fresh veggies – white cabbage being my all time top choice. It is also nice as a spread on bread, or added to other meals as a flavouring. Some ideas I would like to try as varieties of this recipe are: using coconut oil instead of olive oil, and adding tomatoes and herbs instead of lemon and garlic. What other ways do you enjoy hummus? Have you got your own favourite recipes? I would love to hear more ideas for ways to enjoy this yummy, healthy condiment.

The beauty of homemaking

I always knew that becoming a mother was a career choice for me. To my mind, it can’t be anything else. Raising children is not something to be done on the side, in our spare time, but something which calls for the highest standards of commitment, sacrifice, dedication and effort. I’d like to share some of the common reasons I hear against mothers choosing to stay home with their children, and my responses to these reasons.

1) Some people seem to think that women who choose to stay at home full time are unambitious. Firstly, ambition is not what life is about. Secondly, I think being a stay-at-home Mom is probably the most ambitious career out there! A housewife and mother has to master so many different facets of life. She is a cook, a cleaner, an arbitrator, a psychologist, a day-care provider, a mentor, a friend, a nurse, a teacher, a personal shopper, a playmate, and a care assistant. On top of these she may well specialise in a few other areas, such as baking, craft making, research, nutrition, health, sports, music, or just about any other subject or vocation you can think of. Being a full time homemaker is anything but boring!

There are joys in motherhood that can never be found in another career.

2) The other objection I frequently hear against being a stay-at-home Mom is that of financial strain. I admit that sometimes this is an issue. However, I think it is much less of an issue than most people perceive it to be. If you are thinking, “We can’t manage without two incomes.” I would encourage you to think again. Our lives are usually full of unnecessary stuff, which could be cut out to reduce our monthly expenditure. And if you really do need more money, then there are ways to work around this and still stay at home. Right now, for example, I am bringing in some extra money for my family by joining Usborne and selling children’s books. This allows me flexibility to work around my kids, rather than mothering around my work. It’s important to really evaluate our priorities, and make sure we are backing what we believe by the way we live. It’s no good wishing we had the resources to stay at home, but in reality placing a higher value on home decoration.

3) The last reason I commonly hear for women not staying at home is, “It’s just not for me.” This may be true. But what about your kids? To simply say “it’s not for me” seems a rather selfish reason. If you have carefully weighed all the pros and cons, if you have decided that you need to prioritize something else, or if you have prayed and prayed and prayed and still believe it is ‘not for you’, then I respect that. God has certainly called each of us to our own ministries, and we must act accordingly. But if you simply have a fear that you won’t like being a homemaker, then I truly hope you will stop and think again. There are such joys, such excitements, such challenges, blessings, and wonderful experiences to be had when you make your kids your career.

In closing, take time to read one of my favourite passages of Scripture, encouraging young mothers to keep her priorities right in the sight of God.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

Five a day: part 3, fun for kids

My little food loving Princess!

My kids are opposites when it comes to their stance on fruit and vegetables. Prince, as I mentioned in part one, has issues with the texture of almost all raw options, and most of his life has strongly disliked them. Princess, on the other hand, seemed to be born with a passionate love for all food! Her first real food after breast milk was a strawberry, which she gummed to death, holding my hand (which was holding the strawberry) as tight as she could with her little fists to keep me from taking it away! Her intense love of strawberries still holds strong today, but she also loves to eat just about any fruit and most vegetables on offer.

I have to admit, I was quite relieved when Princess came along loving these healthy foods! I did nothing different with her – they are just naturally different. My prince has mild autistic traits, and texture issues are known to be prominent in this spectrum. It is because of this that I have taken a very gentle approach to getting Prince to eat these raw foods.

My success so far is limited, yet hugely significant. Prince, who is nearly six, loved his fruit as a baby. In fact, his first birthday ‘cake’ was actually a fruit salad instead of cake. But only a few month later he started refusing to eat certain fruits until I was left with just one I could get him to eat – bananas. He even went through a period refusing these, but I managed to successfully reintroduce them to him when he was four. Apart from banana he has not eaten any other raw fruit or vegetable in nearly five years. Until now. Now Prince also eats sugar-snap peas, apples, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, green beans and baby corn – all raw!

This is more than I had imagined was possible 6 months ago, and we are still in the processes of expanding his range. Here are some things I have done which have helped my Prince to do so well. You may find some of them useful if you have kids who don’t like their fruit and veggies.

  • Be patient.  Understanding that Prince has a real issue with texture, and that he wasn’t just being fussy or defiant has helped me to be patient with him. I think this has been one of the most important steps we have taken, though it can be one of the hardest. I have had to be patient for nearly five years, waiting until he was mature enough to take on the task of facing such a challenge to his senses.
  • Know your child.  I know Prince very well. I know what he struggles with (in this case, texture and discipline), and what motivates him (encouragement, imagination, achievements). When you can identify these things, you can work out a plan which plays to their motivations and overcome their struggles.
  • Put the two together.  When you have been patient and discern that your child is ready, then put your plan into action! My plan was to use a chart. Charts work very well for Prince, and ever since Princess started working on a ‘no accidents’ toilet chart he has been asking for one. The timing was perfect – he was highly motivated by finally having a chart of his own, with prizes to work towards.
  • Explain the ‘why’.  The classic children’s question! Prince is in a real ‘why’ phase, so it is both important and interesting to him when I explain why he needs to work on eating raw fruit and vegetables. We talk about vitamins, health, illness, etc.
  • Be firm but gentle.  The first few times he tries any new food is particularly hard for Prince. I have to insist he eat it, and usually have to feed it to him. I have to keep enforcing the next bite. But I also keep it very matter-of-fact, to help him not become over emotional about it.  I am careful not to raise my voice, and not to tell him off or get angry. It’s important to keep in mind how difficult this is for your child.
  • Make it fun!

    Make it fun.  Sometimes I encourage Prince to imagine that his chewing is ‘choo-chooing’, and that he is going on a journey somewhere exciting. This distracts him from the tastes and textures in his mouth, as he thinks up new places for each bite. Sometimes I arrange his food in fun shapes. The other day I made an ‘alien’ face with different vegetables for the eyes, ears, mouth, hair etc.

  • Pray.  God cares about every detail of our lives, and this is no exception. Pray for your child to have the strength and discipline to be able to take on this challenge and succeed.
  • Encourage their success.  Praise is sweet to the ears of a child. Make sure you acknowledge their hard work and achievements, even if they have only managed a little. This is sure to encourage them to keep working hard and trying their best, and to have a positive outlook.

I want to leave you with something Prince said to me a couple of weeks ago, as he was working on eating cucumber.

“Mommy? When I’m finished my chart I am going to LOVE fruit and vegetables!  And I am going to say, ‘Mommy, please can I have some strawberries, please can I have some carrots, please can I have some grapes, please can I have some blueberries!'”

Five a day: part 2, on a budget

The trouble with fruit and vegetables is that they are expensive. They are especially expensive if you like to buy organic… which I do! If you have money to spare, then I guess this isn’t a ‘trouble’ for you, but I find most people are like me – on a tight budget. So here are some of the ways I have found to save money and still eat healthily:

  • Set a budget and work to it.  To do this effectively I break it down. My budget is £250 per month. From this I make a rough weekly budget, which is £60. I also break that down to a daily budget, which is roughly £8 per day.

    Work out your budget right down to a daily amount.

    Doing these rough calculations helps me to stay on target. It means when I am out in town and tempted to buy a quick burger instead of going home for lunch, I can immediately see just how much extra that costs. £6 doesn’t sound like much on its own, but when compared to a total daily budget of £8 for the  whole family for the whole day, £6 on one meal suddenly seems huge!

    Breaking it down also helps me when I go grocery shopping. Instead of trying to estimate how much I need for a whole month, or how much I have already spent, I go knowing that if I just stick to my weekly budget then the whole month will balance. I use the handy calculator on my mobile phone to add up the cost of things as I go, aiming for no more than a £60 trolley load.

  • Eat less meat.  Fruit and veggies are expensive, but so is meat.  To allow extra money in my budget for fruit and veg, I cut down on meat.  We eat meat, on average, once a fortnight.  Instead, our main meals are mostly based on grains, veggies, eggs and fish (usually tinned, as fresh is too expensive).
  • Make your own.  While it is not always cheaper to make your own foods, it usually is. It is also almost always healthier. I love to make my own bread and my own hummous.
  • Stock up on eggs and bananas.  Both of these are cheap, healthy and filling. So we buy LOTS.  I took my brother with me to the grocery store one time, and he was shocked to find me buying 45 eggs at a time! To be fair, though, that was actually for two weeks 😉
  • Eat less.  Probably the best grocery money-saving tip ever! We don’t go hungry, but on the other hand we don’t (or at least TRY not to) eat more than we need. The principle ‘eat only until you are full’ helps both your waistline and your purse.
  • Drink water.  I guess this is easy for me, since water is my favourite drink! But even if you don’t much like it, I recommend you drink it almost exclusively. It’s much cheaper than buying drinks, and it’s super healthy too.
  • Look for deals. As I said, I like to buy organic where I can. I wish I could get everything organic, but I can’t. Instead I look at what organic produce is on sale each week, and get those. Then, if I have ‘spare’ money, I also buy a few select other things organic. When I do buy meat I almost only get organic (can’t bear the thought of eating growth hormones and antibiotics by the mouthful!). I also try to get fruit and veg with softer skins organic, as the pesticides are absorbed into the fruit more easily on these.I also look out for other kinds of deals and coupons. At Tesco right now they have a ‘spend £40 on this week’s shop for £5 off next week’s’, which is a great deal for me. I have also seen ‘get £10 off your first online shop’ promotions and things like that, which are good to take advantage of if you are eligible.

I hope these are helpful for you. So far, they have been working for me 🙂 Tomorrow I will share the last part of the Five a Day series, with some ideas for getting kids to eat your yummy, healthy, accurately budgeted food!

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