Healthy Eating on a Budget

This post is a long time coming and I am surprised I have not written it sooner, especially given its a bit part of my weekly food shopping mantra. Healthy eating has an often unfair reputation as being expensive. It can be but then again I think its pretty expensive if you regularly eat takeaways or buy ready meals. Although from the outset cooking from scratch can feel expensive, once you have your store cupboard ingredients you’re pretty much good to go.

I am aware most people who like cooking are pretty good at these, but this post is for those wanting to change their lifestyle but feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Your freezer is your friend. I’ve been surprised by the frozen vegetables you can buy now (I keep thinking of growing up in the 90s when it was peas, carrots and corn). Frozen fish and fruit is also really useful to have in as it means you only have to defrost what you need and it tends to be cheaper to buy.
  2. You don’t have to completely steer clear of food trends but be aware  that it does make your food shop more expensive. Be realistic. Can you justify spending the money on something you might not like, especially if you are prone to buying something, trying it once and then ignoring it while it takes up valuable cupboard space.
  3. Look at your protein alternatives and embrace vegetarian and vegan food. Quorn is our new household favourite. (Can I just say here the people who make Quorn should take a bow, it has improved so much). Not only is it generally lower in fat, it works out as less expensive too. Think about having beans and pulses and adding nuts or eggs to stir fries.
  4. Get your dried fruit from the baking aisle. Seriously, its cheaper buying the bigger packs from here than getting it from the fruit aisle.
  5. Buy your fruit and veg by weight where you can. Again, this stops you spending more than you need on vegetable that you might not finish and not only does it reduce food waste but you spend less.
  6. Plan your meals. Whether this is a vague plan of what you’ll eat or more detailed. Being aware of what you will eat on what night prevents you from buying more than necessary.
  7. Buy yourself some snacks. There will be some days where its just too long between meals. If you buy yourself stuff that you like it’ll prevent you overeating as you’ll feel satisfied. Plus buying more at once can work out cheaper unless you eat an entire multipack of crisps in one sitting (and that my friend is a lot of salt).
  8. Try new recipes. How are you going to enjoy your new healthy lifestyle if you don’t embrace the magic of variety?

Have you got any tips to enjoy healthy eating on a budget?

New Years Day – Small Changes

At New Year I think we can all confidently say that we are inundated with two opposing forces in both mainstream and social media. These being the concept of “New Year New You” or the alternate view of “making resolutions is pointless as you never stick to them anyway”.

While for most of us a complete lifestyle overhaul is unobtainable and daunting there are so many small steps you can do to make yourself feel better. It often seems to me that the whole wellness thing that really exploded between 2016 was difficult for us to stick to, expensive to obtain ingredients and often impractical for fitting into a family routine. Just ask me about the time I tried a kale smoothie and thought I was eating grass; or the time I tried the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever until the day I started crying because I was hormonal and desperately wanted some oven chips.

However, I am as guilty as anyone for letting myself think that means I can lose sight of healthier living altogether. I noticed my face becoming increasingly moon like in November and took myself in hand for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas. Here were my smallest changes, but I actually enjoyed the little challenges posed and I got a bit of a spring in my step.

So here are a few suggestions to help you along with a healthier year:

  1. If possible take advantage of your local parkrun. This is a fantastic event run solely by volunteers. Basically its a weekly Saturday morning 5k run. There’s runners of all abilities and its so well run and everyone is really encouraging, even when you’re just starting out. To be honest I am a terrible runner. My gait is like that of Kermit the frog, but the fresh air and actually doing the 5k gives me such a sense of achievement whenever I attend and you can see how you’re improving from your time each week. Its completely free and you can sign up here.
  2. Just try and do more active things at the weekend. Swim, go to a trampoline park, ride your bikes. D and I did a walk around Ripley today and it blew away the cobwebs away and we saw some beautiful countryside.
  3. Stop with the fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks. Full sugar fizzy drinks have so much sugar and you probably don’t really notice you’re drinking empty calories. Diet drinks seem like a sensible alternative but they’re still pretty acidic and the sweeteners can actually contribute towards you putting on weight. I have basically cut put my fizzy drink vice in favour or tea, coffee and water and I think this contributed to weight loss more than anything else and since I stopped having fizzy drinks I noticed I enjoy sweet treats way more.
  4. Identify when you eat the worst. I am a great boredom eater at the weekend and tended to snack after we did our food shop. I also always used to get to lunchtime at work and convince myself I had worked hard enough to justify caramel shortbread from the canteen. Breaking the caramel shortbread habit was straightforward enough as it because something of an ongoing gag between myself and my friends at work but the boredom eating was a challenge. We ended up food shopping at a different time of day to avoid this habit (we also saved money buying fewer sweeties).
  5.  On prepackaged food look at the traffic lights. When you’re out and want a snack this is a great way to grab a snack without it disrupting a basic healthy lifestyle.
  6. Don’t be hard on yourself all the time. Life is to be enjoyed and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is part of this. Give yourself time to relax and stress less about what you’re eating and just enjoy being with people you care about and have a good time.

Have a happy new year.

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Tearoute

Autumn is well and truly underway and what better time to fully embrace the wonderful drink that is tea than on a cold evening in November. When the lovely people at Tearoute offered me a change to try their tea I jumped at the chance. Tearoute is a mail order tea service with a Greek twist. They use Mediterranean sourced ingredients in a wide range of tea blends that are so fragrant they smell incredible.

I got send some Rooibos Abyssinia which had chocolately notes and was pleasantly spicy. I became obsessed with it the week I had a really bad cold as it sorted my scratchy throat and blocked nose right out. Which is funny because on the website rooibos is described as being something that improves headaches, asthma and allergies.

In addition, the fact you can see the leaves and spices in the blends is really something and having larger tea leaves really enhances the flavour of the tea and improves the overall clarity of the flavour.

I can’t wait to try more from this range and I think it would be the perfect Christmas gift for tea lovers of the world wishing to try something a little different.

For more information about the range of Tearoute products visit here. I promise you tea time will never be quite the same again.

Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

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The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

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Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

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Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A few weeks ago D and I went on a jaunt to Amsterdam. I think its safe to say our 4 days in the city reflected its vibe really well. We stayed at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, a design hotel that overlooks the waterfront. Within the hotel itself (which is a bit like a maze or like something from a film) there is a chance to explore various art installations dotted around the hotel. But I think given the short duration of our stay I will split the rest of this travel blog into sections.

Getting around: Amsterdam is famous for its cycling, however we actually ended up walking an awful lot so take comfy shoes! There is also a decent and relatively inexpensive tram network which makes the city pretty easy to get around. The train link to the airport is very reliable so getting to your hotel takes only a little bit of forward planning.

Culture: we visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. I really would recommend buying tickets for these in advance, particularly the Anne Frank House as they only let limited numbers of people in at once. The Van Gogh museum tells the story of his rather unusual and sad life and his artistic development through a collection of wonderful paintings. Something about being there and actually looking at the texture of the paintings as well as the actual paintings is probably pretty educational for artists of all experience levels. The Anne Frank museum was sad and uplifting all at once. Something about seeing the impact of the holocaust through the experience of 8 people rather than by reading statistics and other historical sources makes it easier to understand on a more personal level. The Anne Frank house has been restored to how it was when they were hiding there and while there are stark reminders of a family who were living in extreme difficulty, it tries to bring home a message of understanding others to try and prevent something on this scale happening again. Anne Frank was a rather wonderful writer and the museum definitely tries to encourage the view of her as a witty, clever but very real girl with her own faults rather that making her seem perfect.

We also had a trip to the Zoo (it was nice to be out in the sun after being inside a lot) and it provided a bit of light relief after being overwhelmed with culture and history. We also stopped by the Sex Museum (it was very cheap) which was as you’d expect. If you’re from Yorkshire and I say it was like the Yorvik Centre but with an 18 Certification you’d understand what I mean but it is extremely tongue in cheek.

Boat trips: you must go on a boat trip. This is a city with canals and you can see so much at a slower pace. There are also dinner cruise options if you’re feeling fancy.

Food and drink: The Netherlands are famous for bakeries and waffles (why do you think I went) and Amsterdam did not disappoint! Lovely cake, lovely stroopwafel. I cannot enthuse too much about it. It is also really inexpensive to eat out in restaurants and there are some amazing options for snacking and street food. Buy patates, you won’t regret it.

In terms of drinking and bars there is really something for most tastes and the atmosphere is really relaxed. Early evening drinking for the win!

Shopping: Amsterdam is amazing for shopping! Take full advantage (unless your debit card was frauded the week before like mine). Also not to be missed – trips to cheese shops, bakieries and the Bloomenmarket.

Where do you recommend we visit next?

Adding some pizzazz to your Halloween drinks

With Halloween coming up on Monday (and with the weekend fast approaching) I have a couple of easy and festive drink recipes you can try at home. They can be scaled up or scaled down really easily so would be perfect for smaller gatherings or larger groups (just make sure these are kept out of reach of little ones!) These won’t require lots of complicated spirits and a lot of ingredients you might already have in. I think mulled cider is a wonderful drink around Halloween and Bonfire night, while the vodka and grenadine looks pretty spooky. Perfect for all you vampire lovers.

To make mulled cider you will need

2 cans cloudy apple cider

2 shots spiced rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the ingredients on a low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved and the spices have started to release aroma. Strain with a sieve and serve (Initially I forgot this and let me say, it is not pleasant! I call it witches brew at this stage).

Scale up or down depending on how thirsty for cider you are.

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To make bloody vodka you will need

The vodka of your choice (we had vanilla)

Grenadine Syrup

Ice

The mixer of your choice – we had coke

The fun of this recipe is obviously that it looks a little bit like blood. However, unless you’re really trying to “get on it” you might want to add a mixer, otherwise you could end up falling asleep in a corner or something. Anyway all you need to do is mix 1 part grenadine syrup and 1 part vodka and serve over ice for the red effect. Then dilute a bit with something to make it more palatable.

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While these are no means the most complicated cocktail recipes and you will probably not win any mixology awards with these, they were pretty fun to make and drink. The simplicity of these makes these great for any budding party host!