Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Penang Beef And Coconut Curry With Peppercorns

We love curry and it does not matter what part of the world it comes from.  This is a Thai curry and it is not hot at all in fact in this dish the heat comes from the pepper not chilli although you can always add chilli on top like we do it you like a bit more heat.
You can use any cheap cut of beef for this dish and because it is cooked for a long time it will be amazingly tender.  It is important that you do not shake the coconut cream as you want to separate the cream from the milk.

Penang Beef And Coconut Curry With Peppercorns

1 x 400 ml Tin of Coconut Cream
500 g Diced Beef Shin/Blade/Chuck or other stewing cut
2 Tbs Red Curry Paste
2 Tbs Palm Sugar or raw sugar
1 Tbs Fish Sauce
1 x 55 g Tin of Green Peppercorns in Brine, drained and rinsed
8 Kafir Lime Leaves
4 Tbs Roasted Salted Peanuts, chopped
1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
1 Long Red Chilli (Optional)

Open the cocnut cream and spoon out the thick cream from the top and set aside in a bowl.  Pour the remaining coconut milk into a large saucepan and add your diced beef and a little water to cover if required.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours or until the beef is tender.
Allow the beef to then cool in the liquid.  

When the beef is cooked and cooled heat the remaining coconut cream in a wok over a medium heat until the oil starts to separate.  Add the curry paste and fry gently for 5 minutes the add the sugar fish sauce, half the peanuts, the kaffir lime leaves and beef.  Then add enough of the beef cooking liquid to make a thick sauce.
Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring every so often and then add the peppercorns, basil and finely sliced chilli.  As soon as the basil is wilted remove from the heat and serve over fluffy rice and garnish with the remaining peanuts.

This is a really easy curry to make and the pepper is a great change to the normal chilli heat that curries often have.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pumpkin Chickpea and Panchetta Salad

It's pumpkin season and last week a friend gave us a 1/4 of a very large Queensland Blue pumpkin and I decided to make a warm salad with it.

I used panchetta but bacon would also work and for a vegetarian option it could also be left out or replaced by home made garlic croutons.
I get my panchetta sliced for me when I buy it so that it is not too thin.  It needs to be about half the thickness of a slice of bacon.  Because it packs a lot of punch you do not need very much of it which makes it quite a frugal option.  I purchased 8 slices and use 4 slices in this and 4 slices were left to be added to pasta and it cost me just over $2.

Pumpkin Chickpea and Pancheta Salad

1 kg Pumpkin cut into 1.5 cm cubes 
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic
4 Slices of Panchetta
1/2 Cup dried Chickpeas that have been cooked or 1 x 400 gm tin of Chickpeas
1 Cup of loosely packed Coriander


Salt and Pepper
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees then combine the pumpkin, first measure of olive oil and garlic in a large bowl and spread in a roasting tray and cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until cooked.  Cool until the pumpkin is just warm the start preparing the other elements.
Heat a fry pan up to a medium heat and fry your 4 slices of panchetta till browned then drain on a paper towel so they crisp up then when they are cool crumble the slices into small pieces  Remove the pan you fried off the panchetta in from the heat and add the chickpeas moving them around in the so that they warm slightly and pick up some of the panchetta flavour from the fat that has cooked out.
Whisk together your dressing and you are ready to assemble.

Reserve 1/2 the panchetta to sprinkle on at the end,  Combine all of the other ingredients gently in a bowl before adding the dressing and serving with the extra panchetta.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Changing The Way I Shop To Manage The Budget

I have previously posted about  how I use a small white board on the fridge to not only plan our meals each week but also our shopping.

In the past I have always just added items to the list as they ran out, as they were required for meals or as desired by the two of us.  The problem with this strategy is that I end up replacing things that I do not use that often and may not use again for a while.  This has meant that there have been some weeks where we spent more than we needed to get through the week.

So I have come up with a new strategy.
I have divided the shopping list into two sections. 'This Week' for the items needed for this weeks meals and 'Future' which is a list of items to be purchased in the future, that have been used up or are close to needing replacing.
This means that each week when I go shopping I am only buying what is required for that week yet I am not loosing track of what needs replacing.
If I know that the weeks shopping list is small and will not exceed our $50 budget I can add a few extra items off the 'Future' list.  Otherwise they will get purchased when they are actually needed for the weeks meals.

This week for main meals we are having:
Thai Beef Salad - Nothing needed as I substituted some of the ingredients for  others.
Devilled Sausages, potatoes and Broccoli (nothing required)
Spinach and Salmon Flan (nothing required)
Lamb Neck Casserole with Polenta (nothing required)
Chicken and Olive Tagine (tomatoes needed)
Pasta (tomatoes and tomato paste required)

So the food items on this weeks list were: tomatoes, tomato paste, bread, carrots, milk, cream, 00 flour, apples, peanuts and bananas.  Total spend $39.86

There are plenty of breakfast items on hand including cereal, toast and eggs.  For lunches Hubby takes leftovers plus carrots, apples and nuts and because I work from home I can have leftovers, salad, eggs on toast or what ever I feel like.

Our pantry is already bursting at the seams well stocked so we are in a really good place to be cutting back quite significantly on our grocery spend and I am looking forward to sharing with you some of the frugal meals I will be making.

What are you having this week?

Friday, 22 May 2015

Getting Tough On The Grocery Budget

As I mentioned yesterday I am in the process of making some changes to our budget to accommodate my changes in lifestyle (going back to Uni) and the reduction in my income, and one of the areas where I think I can make quite a bit of savings is the grocery budget.

Now for the purposes of this post our "grocery budget" includes all items purchased at the green grocer, supermarkets, markets and butcher but excludes dog food. 
As I have mentioned in my posts about beef we also have hundreds of kilos of beef to eat but we sometimes want a change so there is an occasional purchase of other types of protein.  I also work from home permanently and Hubby takes his lunch every day so there is almost zero spend outside of the "grocery budget" on other foodstuffs.

If I look back at our spending habits we have been spending between $70 and $120 (more often at the lower end of the scale) per week for the last few months.  Now while that is not a huge amount of money I believe that we can really cut back on that amount because we rarely need to purchase meat and have a bit going on in the garden.

We also have a well stocked pantry and when I say well stocked what I really mean is bursting at the seams.  
You see when you are bit of a mad keen foodie like me you tend to have ingredients from many different cultures and many types of a single product. Take vinegar for example I have at least ten different types....yep ten. But I do use them all and they do not go off.
However if I am honest there are a few spur of the moment purchased items that have been sitting in the pantry for a while and it is time they saw the light of day.

So where to from here.

Well I am going to set a maximum weekly budget of $50 and I am going to get very strict with my menu planning.
I have previously posted about how I menu plan using a small white board on my fridge and while I have been using this system for a long time I have often decided what we are eating then organised ingredients which means I often buy things just for that meal.

So from now on I am looking at:
What need using up?
What has been in the pantry for ages?
What do I have multiple of?
What is in the garden?
What can I substitute?

I will then plan our meals based on the minimum number of additional items I need to purchase.
Now while this makes perfect sense it is easy to fall in to bad habits when you are tired or rushed so I will also be making sure I have a good stockpile of prepared meals that can be heated up in just a few minutes.

Wontons can be made and frozen to have on hand for a tasty and quick meal

The other thing that I know is important to get the buy in of Hubby, is that there are enough "treats" or "not home made" things so that he does not feel deprived.  This means that I will buy an occasional bag of chips/crisps, cordial (yuck) and salted peanuts.

So each week I will be posting about my menu plan for the week and how much I spent.  I will also be posting recipes for fugal meals that make the most of what is in season and good value for money.

How much do you spend per person each week on groceries?
What tips and tricks do you use to stick to your budget?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

It's Time To Update The Budget

Do you budget?  What kind of budgeter are you?

By that I mean do you:

a) Plan out all of your spending, saving and commitments and then break these amounts down to fit into your pay cycle so that every pay a little bit is put away for all the different things?
b) Do you put away regular savings and then just pay you bills as they come along knowing that you generally earn more than you spend so it just works it's self out?
c) Do you live budget free?

Until I decided to go back to Uni I was definitely in category b)  
For me this meant that I put away regular amounts of savings, paid bills such as power, insurances, charity bequests and the mortgages by installments and just paid other large expenses like car registration, car servicing and holidays out of savings when they came along.  I also had no set budget for things like groceries, entertainment, gifts, celebrations or treats.
I used to know someone who used an envelope system and every week a little money would go into each envelope and would later be used to pay bills.  I tried this for a while but hated having lots of cash lying around.

Image result for budgeting

Combined with my decision to go back to Uni I have also elected to cut back my hours at work so this means if I want to be able to keep up with all of my savings and financial commitments I needed to look at my budget and make some changes.

To start with I downloaded the Excel version of this budget planner provided by the government.  It is easy to use and allows you to indervidualise it and gives you an ongoing tally of what is left each month.

I started by inputting all of my projected income (based on my reduced hours) and expenses to work out how much I was going to have to left or would be short by.
After doing some quick sums I knew that I had to cut some of my expenses.

These are some of the things I have done to reduce my expenses:
I cut a regular donation to a charity.  I have supported them for 5 years and I feel no guilt from stopping the payment now.
I have reviewed our insurances and have reduced out building and contents insurance sums insured as they have crept up.
I have reviewed our home phone plan.
I have not renewed one of my magazine subscriptions

We don't tend to go out a lot and our family only does gifts at Christmas time so I was not too worried about if I was overspending in these areas.
I do not have any credit card debt and have a good amount of savings (but I do not want to tap into this) so I still need to look at other ways of saving a few more dollars other wise I will have to reduce my savings.

One of the biggest revelations was when I reviewed all of our grocery receipts for the last few months and this looks like an area I can make a big saving, but more about that tomorrow.

So when/why did you last review your budget?
Do you have any great tips for reducing expenses?