How to cook when you don’t want to go to the shops

Tips for when you’re too Sick, Tired or Broke to do a Food Shop

I’ve spent the last week with the flu and food shopping has seemed like an unachievable task. Here are a few ways to improvise with what you have and avoid going to the shops.

Use your Slow Cooker

Slow coolers are great for sickness because they require minimal effort on your part and you can throw in random ingredients and it somehow turns out edible! Use up vegetables you have lying around in casseroles and stews. You can make vegetarian versions if you have no meat in the house. I made a veggie chilli in mine with what I had left. If you season it well and add extras like chocolate and chilli flakes and coriander it won’t taste bland.

Make Minestrone

Soups are good in general for using up what you already have. I find I always have the ingredients to make minestrone, if nothing else. I always have tinned tomatoes, pasta and tinned or frozen veg even if I don’t have fresh veg. You can put anything you want in it: carrots, courgettes, peas or beans, corn, etc.

Top things with cheese

I find that even a dish made from simple ingredients tastes better with cheese on top. You can mix some into a rice dish or pasta to make it more substantial too. If you roast or fry vegetables and mix it with rice/pasta, oil and cheese it tastes surprisingly good for how little effort is involved.

Improvise with breakfast

If you don’t have essentials like bread or milk there are ways round it that don’t involve trailing yourself to the shops. Make porridge with water and liven it up by adding some butter and sugar/peanut butter/Nutella/honey and raisins, etc. Use old bananas to make banana bread for a breakfast treat. Make omelettes using whatever fillings you have on hand. Make your own cereal bars using oats, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, Rice Krispies or cornflakes, golden syrup, seeds, etc.

Add sauces and crispy toppings

Macaroni cheese is a good staple when you’re running out of food. You can also omit the cheese and make a plain white sauce. Use it over chicken or just with vegetables. Top with breadcrumbs, crackers or crisps and bake in the oven. This is a good way to use up stale ingredients too, as they will crisp up again in the oven.

Change your idea of what counts as a meal

A meal is something that fills you and that hopefully tastes good. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, or always contain certain ingredients, or have three courses. Sometimes my kids appreciate the simple things best, like a peanut butter sandwich, or hotdogs, or tinned soup. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to follow a meal plan formula when you don’t feel like it.


Kids Smoothie Cups Recipe

Smoothie Cups For Kids (and Adults) Recipe

This isn’t really a proper recipe, but I thought I’d share it since it went down as well with my kids as ice cream, without the hyperactive results. I was looking for easy ways to entertain kids today since I’m sick and these took two minutes to make and eating them kept them entertained for a long time 🙂 they’re like a cross between a smoothie and frozen yogurt.


1 frozen banana (just peel and shove in the freezer and add straight to blender)

1 handful frozen strawberries

a few blueberries

2 tbsps Greek yogurt

300ml whole milk (or any milk you like)

a large squeeze of honey

1 tsp chia seeds


Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until you have achieved your desired consistency.  Give it to them in little cups with spoons, party cups or add an umbrella if you want to make them for a party 🙂

I got all of the ingredients in Lidl. They have lots of frozen berries which are great for smoothies 🙂

Cheap and Cheerful Pizza Sauce (40p)

A lot of people seem to buy jars of pre-made pizza sauce, which admittedly is probably less effort, but probably costs more and doesn’t taste as good. This sauce is so easy to make and goes particularly well with this pizza dough recipe:

This is the best pizza dough recipe I have found. It tastes as good as takeaway pizza and you can let the dough rise in the fridge overnight if you want to make it the day before. It also freezes really well.

Here is the recipe for sauce (I am hoping all of these measurements are accurate since I typically just throw things at a pot.)


1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oil

Throw all ingredients in a pot (apart from the oil) and simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until all the flavours have combined.

Take it off the heat and stir in the oil, transfer to a blender and puree as smoothly as you like. I usually do mine in a smoothie maker and it comes out really smooth and a very vibrant colour, but you can use a blender, hand blender or if you have neither, just mash it really well 🙂 This usually makes enough sauce to top three 10 inch pizzas. (You can double the recipe to make a larger quantity.) The sauce also freezes well (just drain off any excess liquid when it defrosts before putting it on the pizza.)


For a really quick pizza use this on pittas, grilled muffins, bagels or make pizza toast for kids 🙂



How to stop spending money

10 Ways To Stop Being Skint.

As I write this, I am somewhat ironically, drinking a £2.50 cup of coffee in a coffee shop. But in my defence, I very rarely have a kids’ free hour, so if babysitting is offered I’m going to enjoy a cup of coffee without interruptions that lead to it to it being microwaved multiple times. I am guilty of committing some of these money wastages and it is from experience that I speak. I have often taken into account the small amount that an individual item costs, but failed to see it as part of a shockingly large total.

  1. Takeaways. It’s ok to get the occasional takeaway but when it becomes a weekly habit it wastes more money than you would think. If you spend £20 a week on takeaway for your family, that equates to over £1000 a year just on food deliveries. Keep appetising alternatives in the freezer to avoid temptation.
  2. Buying bottled water. I don’t really understand why people drink bottled water in places where the water is perfectly safe to drink; perhaps it is just a flavour preference or the idea of the water being cleaner. If that’s the case, it would be cheaper to buy a water filter and bring your own water in a reusable bottle when you go out.
  3. Coffee shop coffee can be a nice treat, but if you make it into a regular habit it proves very expensive. If you buy three cups of coffee a week in the average coffee shop, you would spend about £350 a year just on coffee. You can easily make filter coffee at home and I find that one bag of own brand coffee (costing £4.25) lasts me about two weeks. I usually drink two cups a day, so that works out at 15p a cup, and to be honest, it’s just as good.
  4. Buying branded items for no reason. I can understand buying certain branded items, if they have a distinctive taste. For example, I can’t get my taste buds around unbranded versions of cola. But spending five times the amount on branded stock cubes doesn’t make sense to me; is there a better-tasting version of fake chicken water? The value ones are just fine. Don’t be put off by plain packaging: you can barely detect the difference in its contents.
  5. Unnecessary TV channels. I know a lot of people who spend large amounts of money each year on TV packages when they only use a small percentage of the channels. I don’t know anyone who has time to watch hundreds of channels. I’m a bit weird, but I barely watch TV and only spend £2.99 a month on Now TV for my kids. If you only watch recorded shows you don’t even need to TV license. They also have entertainment, movie and sport passes.
  6. Going overboard at Christmas and birthdays. It shocks me how many people put themselves into debt to keep up with present requests from friends, family, and especially from their kids. If your get kids too much they don’t appreciate what they do have and don’t have time to play with it all. I have noticed when my kids have more toys they are easily distracted and more unsettled. It is pointless trying to outdo other parents with expensive parties and presents: those won’t be the things your kids remember. Agree to a Christmas budget for each member of your family. For example, my family members don’t spend over £20 on any person and we are always happy with the presents we receive. The less you get the more you remember. Have you ever noticed how many unwanted presents end up in charity shops in January?
  7. Going to shops “just for a look.” I have learnt that window shopping always turns into shopping indoors, with a bank card leaving your purse and a bag exiting the shop alongside you. The items you end up buying are always unplanned and leave you feeling regretful afterwards too. I think it is better to think over any purchases you hadn’t planned to get to figure out if you really want them or if you just got over-excited by the fancy window displays. I am definitely speaking from experience on this one.
  8. Driving distances you could easily walk. If you try to refrain from doing this, at least if the weather is cooperative, you would be surprised how much of your petrol is wasted on ten minute round trips.
  9. Paying for expensive classes for your kids instead of looking for free events/cheap memberships. When my oldest was a baby, I paid for her to go to baby classes that were £10 a session. I think she got more out of mums and tots, which was £1 a time and involved a free snack for her, and for me. Sometimes I think parents get lured by advertising and comparing what they are doing to what other parents are doing. If you ask most kids about expensive classes they are attending, they would probably rather be spending their time with their family or playing with their friends in the garden. There are so many free and cheap community events that it is pointless putting a financial strain on yourself just to keep up with what everyone else is doing. On the other hand, I think it is worth paying a membership for somewhere you go to often, as it works out much cheaper than paying per time.
  10. Buying lots of pairs of cheap shoes instead of investing in a really good pair. My boots cost about £100, but I have had one pair of them for five years, and another pair for two years, with little sign of wear. Any time I buy a pair of shoes for a fraction of this price they fall apart in a number of weeks. Some things are worth investing in: like decent, sturdy footwear and toilet roll that doesn’t feel like printer paper on your delicate parts.

A Day For Treats


I place a lot of importance on treating myself, particularly since entering single parenthood, as it can leave you feeling depleted. I think everyone should have a weekly designated treats-day. It gives you a positive plan for the week in the midst of all of your obligatory ones. It is easier to neglect this practice as an adult than it is as a kid. If someone else isn’t supplying the treats, I say you should take it upon yourself to do so.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant and can include items that you already have in your house, if you are imaginative with what you have on hand.

I like to pick three or four items and set them aside as incentive to persevere until Friday’s bedtime. And by Friday afternoon, that is all that is sparing my sanity. Making it something deliberate and pre-planned, instead of just shoving chocolate into your mouth in a moment of despair, makes it feel more like you have properly been rewarded for your hard work. (Although the aforementioned is sometimes essential too.)

Just because you have financial constraints or limited time shouldn’t mean that you forego all forms of self-indulgence. (I am consciously skirting around the term “self-care” due to the frequency of its usage at the moment and my strong dislike for clichés.)

This week I have a more elaborate treat eagerly awaiting Friday’s bedtime, but often I just pull together something simple out of what I have lying around. (I always have a fully stocked sweetie cupboard anyway.)

Here are a few examples:

  • Hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • A magazine/free e-magazine on your library’s website.
  • A band you have yet to hear/ a record you found in a charity shop.


  • A hot water bottle
  • Incense sticks
  • A drink you haven’t tried before. This could be a homemade cocktail or just a flavoured fizzy drink. Whichever one you opt for, you should drink it out of a fancy glass.


  • New cosy bedsocks
  • A tub of your favourite ice-cream
  • A playlist of soothing songs


  • Fudge or chocolates
  • Loose leaf tea
  • A new tea cup


  • A new scented bath product or shower gel
  • A colouring book for adults
  • Popcorn


I find that the best treats are composed of something to eat, something to drink and something to do/an item that provides comfort 🙂

You could formulate any number of treats using this method and still have something different to look forward to each week. It’s weird how something so small can lift your mood.





Budget Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

The Easiest 10p Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

These cookies are so easy to make that it probably takes less effort than it would to go to the shop to buy a pack of them.

Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease a large baking tray. Actually, realistically, this will probably take two trays.

This makes a batch of 10 cookies for £1 (this price based on all value range items, excluding standard baking powder and free range eggs.)

By the way, I like to measure in cups because I’m not a fan of precise measurements in cooking and scales are annoying to use. I don’t use spoons when I’m cooking; I just throw stuff together and hope for the best. Generally it is edible.


  • 1 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • A Pinch of salt
  • One egg
  • Half a cup of chopped up white chocolate (half a value range bar)
  • Half a cup of chopped up dark chocolate

Mix the sugar and melted butter together slowly with a wooden spoon.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Add the sifted ingredients to the sugar and butter.

Chop up the chocolate into tiny cubes and add to the mixture.

Stir in an egg and combine with your hands.

Roll into balls that are about the size of golf balls. Place on trays and flatten them out with the palm of your hand.

Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes and take them out when they are as chewy/crunchy as you like.

I find the process of making these really therapeutic. My kids like helping too and it isn’t overly complicated so doesn’t result in disastrous spillages when they grab the bowl. They make the house smell amazing as well, like one of those cookie scented Yankee candles, except it is actually ok to eat them.

Ways to Feed a Family for £30 a week.


OK, so I might not have the conventional family set up: we are a family of one adult and two children, but I have the appetite of a married couple, at least for chocolate anyway. So, I’m sure my weekly food budget is achievable by most families, or at least something similar to it.

I have had a trying time expense-wise due to a house move and a car accident, so I decided to revert to my £30 Lidl food shops to try and regain control of my finances. I was getting too easily lured by pretty displays and seemingly cheap offers in a shop I shall not name and have had to remind myself of my thrifty capabilities.

I thought I would challenge myself to live in a more frugal way without the need to sacrifice my sanity-restoring rewards and decided to share how I achieve this with others on a limited budget.I’m starting with food since it sits squarely in first place on my list of priorities.

Here are some tips on how to stick to £30 a week:

  • Pick two breakfast options and one weekend treat. For example, porridge, one cereal and make pancakes at the weekend.
  • Always have flour, baking powder and yeast. You can make pancakes, bread, pizza dough and baked treats really cheaply.
  • Invest in spices and dried herbs. You will use them to liven up every meal and they will save you money on pre-made sauces. The same applies to honey, peanut butter and sultanas. They will save you buying flavoured oats and you can use honey instead of maple syrup on pancakes and French toast.
  • Don’t buy snacks specifically for kids. Buy a bag of own brand raisins and some miniature tubs for snacks when you’re out or a standard box of breadsticks. Use crackers and cheese instead of flavoured kids’ crisps and biscuits.
  • Save leftovers and use them for lunches, adding additional ingredients or using them as a base for other dishes. For example, make a large batch of pizza sauce and then add some of it to meat to eat with pasta or rice.
  • Buy a cafetière and some fresh coffee. Own brand coffee grounds are good and often taste better than the coffee in coffee shops. I always look forward to café coffee and quite often find it to just be bitter and disappointing. Bring a travel cup when you go out instead and if you go for a walk you have a drink already prepared to save you from being tempted by certain drive-thru coffee places.
  • Only buy juice as a special treat for yourself and your kids. Drink water or make iced tea for a cheap, sweet drink. I will include a recipe for this soon.
  • Buy common ingredients for meals. For example, cook sausages and use them in a casserole with beans, use the leftover beans to make homemade baked beans with sausages and chips or wedges made from potatoes. Use the last of the sausages with fried potatoes for a breakfast treat.
  • Don’t be tempted by offers if there is a cheaper unbranded item on display. Look at the top and bottom shelves, since the more expensive items are generally placed in the middle, exactly where you are going to spot them first. It’s supermarket trickery.
  • Try to go shopping only once a week so you are less likely to be tempted to buy additional items you don’t need.

I will add some budget recipes soon, as well as the unbranded items that I have been impressed with.