All posts by Hannah Brice

How to make Mac and Cheese

Definitely the best mac and cheese recipe you’ll ever find.   ….On this site.

mac and cheese

Everyone has one dish that is their arch nemesis. That one dish that epitomises FAT and everything you shouldn’t eat, yet every now and again – particularly if you’re hungover – you have to succumb to those cravings.  For some people it’s a super greasy Chinese. Other people love a takeaway pizza with ALL the sides.  For me, it’s macaroni cheese.  Or mac and cheese if you’re in the US.

There is no meat in it. No veg. Not even anything resembling a green herb.  It’s pasta (carb), flour (carb), butter (fat), cheese (fat), more cheese (fat) and milk.   But so what?  As I said, every now and again, you need to listen to your body and give it what it wants.

Last week, after a particularly late night/early morning, I knew it would be a mac and cheese night.  And you know what? It was SO WORTH IT.

macaroni cheese

Here’s how you make 2 portions.

Ingredients for mac and cheese

200g macaroni pasta

18g butter

18g flour

225ml milk

a pinch of nutmeg

60g mature cheddar cheese – the stronger the better!

Method

Apart from the pasta, you’ll notice that the remaining ingredients are the same as those required for the cheese sauce in my lasagne.

Turn the grill on to a high heat and put a saucepan of water on to boil.  Once boiled, start cooking your pasta according to the packet’s instructions.  Macaroni takes waaaaay longer than other pasta shapes.

Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat and then add the flour and mix to a paste.

Then add the milk and use a whisk to get rid of any lumps.  Once it has started to thicken, add about 3/4 of the cheddar cheese and nutmeg and continue to mix until it forms a thin paste.  Remove the heat and leave it to cool slightly. It will also thicken a little bit more.

cheese sauce

Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce.

cooking macaroni

macaroni

Give it a good mix, season to taste, and then pour into an ovenproof dish.

prebaked macaroni cheese

Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and put under the grill for about 10 minutes or until the top has gone a lovely crispy brown colour.

cheesy topping

half eaten

Then enjoy…. and see if you can’t eat it all at once!

Romance on a budget? Try these cheap ideas for love

After cheap ways to express your love? Read on…..

If you ask me, Valentines Day falls at a bad time of the year. The idea is that you spoil your loved one rotten with gifts and treats and get spoilt in return, but the reality is that you’re still skint after Christmas and at halfway through the month, your bank balance is PARTICULARLY low.

So if you want to be romantic any time of year without the expense, you have to be creative.

Because P and I are still in frugal mode, we don’t celebrate Valentines Day in extravagant fashion. (In fact, he has other plans that night! The cheek of it!) When we do come to celebrate it, we’ll hardly spend a thing.  How? Here’s my list of cheap ideas for romance:

Cards

Don’t buy cards for each other. They cost as much as a fiver each and because the message and sentiment of the card has been written by someone else and mass produced, how personal and romantic is it really?? Instead, you’re better off writing a note to your other half, putting it an envelope and giving that to them. You don’t have to be a world-class poet – you can even just list three things that you love about your other half, and that will be enough to make them smile. And it’s personal. And it’s free.

Entertainment

You don’t have to go out to be romantic, particularly if you’re trying to save money. Instead, plan a night in watching romantic films and get those films from your friends by posting a request on Facebook asap and arranging a romantic movie swap. I’m sure you’ll get a few that you haven’t seen.

Dinner

Don’t cook. It’s stressful. And stress does not equal romance. Check out the supermarket for meal deals – they all have a good one. And to help you out here’s a lovely list of what’s on offer:

Asda: Get a starter, main, side, dessert, wine and a box of chocolates for £15

M&S: Get a starter, main, side, dessert, prosecco or wine and chocolates for £20

Morrisons: Get a starter, main, side, dessert and a bottle of wine or fizz for £15

Tesco: Get two mains, two sides, two desserts and a bottle of wine or Prosecco or chocolates for £20

Waitrose: Get a three course meal for two and fizz for £20

Chocolates

If you have a very sweet tooth, try a homemade fondue, by melting a big bar of dairy milk, and dipping marshmallows and berries and grapes into it.  Total price: £3.07. Yum!

Gifts

Don’t set budgets for gifts because while it means you won’t spend lots, you won’t manage to get them anything decent either. Big waste of money. Instead, sit down together and choose a luxury gift that you each want – such as diamond earrings or a football season ticket – and then the romantic gesture is that your other half saves up to get you it by Valentines Day next year. You’ll feel excited about the gift you’re getting, satisfaction that it’s something you truly want and deep appreciation of the trouble your other half has gone to in saving up for it. Who cares if you have to wait a while?!

And then…..it’s bed. And if you need help in that area, then you need a different kind of blog.

So there you have it, 5 very simple cheap ideas for romance! Love you….

Cheap meal ideas to get you through the week

cheap-meal-ideas

For the last few weeks, I’ve been following strict meal plans. It’s been bloody brilliant. Not only has it meant that I’ve had to become super organised and P and I know exactly what we’re having to eat each night, but we’ve also saved a fortune. I’ve also been getting this strange pleasure from using up what’s in the freezer and bagging up and freezing meals to have at a later date. Have I become boring and old??? Who cares if it means my healthy bank balance of early 2016 is restored!

Anyhoo, where am I getting the cheap meal ideas from in order to build meal plans? How am I saving money on my food shop? Well, if you need an answer to my second question then you haven’t signed up for my financial e-course yet. That has a WHOLE DAY dedicated to saving on your food bills so sign up now. It’s free after all.

To answer the first question, I thought I’d share a few links I use which have helped me A LOT. You see, I don’t follow the prescribed meal plans you’ll find online on sites such as Tesco because they make assumptions about what you do and don’t like to eat and they assume that there will be 4 of you eating in every single night. That’s not a true reflection of every household is it?

As long as you follow some simple rules, meal planning can be so. much. easier.

How to build your own cheap meal ideas

  • Cut out expensive meats and seafood for a while. This means chicken breasts are a no-no (go for thighs or turkey instead) and prawns and scallops are also to be avoided.
  • Sausages are great provided you stick to the rule of two per portion, and if there’s two of you to feed, you freeze or refrigerate the remaining two for a future meal.
  • Mince is a great buy. If you add a whole lot of diced onion, carrot and celery to the mix when making a ragu, you can squeeze out a lot of portions and then it can be used as a base for a multitude of meal options. Check out my recipe here.
  • If you love fish, try frozen. You can buy bags of frozen cod, salmon, pollock and smoked haddock and all can be cooked really easily in a pot of sauce and served with rice and veg.
  • Don’t buy ready prepared fresh veg. Work out how many ‘portions’ of veg you need and buy only that, or buy frozen.
  • Don’t buy pasta sauce – instead buy a tin of tomatoes, season and cook slowly. Done.
  • Eat one of the following meals once a week. It won’t kill you and it’s so cheap (this is a post on cheap meal ideas, after all):
    • Scrambled egg on toast
    • Jacket potato and beans
    • Omelette
    • Soup
    • Homemade cheese scones (see recipe here) or homemade soda bread (Be Clever With Your Cash), ham and pickles
  • Embrace the wonder of chorizo. I think it is possibly the most wonderful and versatile ingredient there is and it can work in soups, pastas, omelettes and fish dishes and it will keep for weeks in the fridge too.
  • Finally invest in a cheap blender and some vegetable stock and when ever you have ANY leftover meat or veg, chop, bring together in a pot with the stock and seasoning, blend and freeze. And voila….homemade soup.

The above should give you a good few cheap meal ideas but if you want to get a little more creative (without spending a fortune), further help is at hand.

Cheap meal ideas in recipe form

So, without further ado, here are some meal options (and links) to help you plan weeks’ worth of interesting and tasty meals and save some money:

  • Sausage and bean casserole (BBC Good Food)
  • Sausages with mustard mash and red onion gravy (Good Housekeeping)
  • Vegetable Crumble, just 25p a portion! (Thrifty Lesley)
  • Pasta, chorizo, homemade pasta sauce, red peppers. (Chop up the peppers and chorizo and fry. Cook the tinned tomatoes slowly in a pan and season. Boil the pasta and mix altogether. Simple but delicious.)
  • Leftover roast dinner hash with poached eggs (Tesco Real Food)
  • Easy mac and cheese
  • Sausage/leftover roast chicken risotto (my recipe here on my old blog)
  • Leftover turkey and potato curry (Savings 4 Savvy Mums) and keema naan (Reduced Grub)
  • Creamy fish curry (a good recipe for the frozen fish) (BBC Good Food)
  • Sticky hoisin pork stir fry – you’ll never buy bottled hoisin sauce again! (Skint Dad)
  • Chorizo, chickpea and tomato flatbreads (Thrifty Lesley)

And for the sweet treats, you have to try my shortbread and Miss Thrifty’s FABULOUS Chocolate Orange cake which costs only £1.44 to make!!!

I really hope this helps you. Do you have any cheap meal ideas or recipes of your own you can share with me?

How to save money

How to save moneyWhy I’ll be saving this year

I’ve been bad. I’ve let a lot of good spending habits slip. It all happened gradually and I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the bank balances and then disaster struck. Well, several disasters struck. Over Christmas, our boiler broke. And a pipe in the loft started leaking. And our hoover gave up the ghost. And our microwave started making crackling noises. All of that cost a lot to fix or replace.

But….because it’s Christmas, you think, “ahhh it’s fine. I’ll look at the finances in the new year. We can cut back a bit. Not a problem!”

Then in January, perhaps my least favourite person on the planet, after Donald Trump, Harry Hill and both Jedward twins, decided to make life a lot harder. The taxman ruined everything. Both P and I learned we owed several thousand pounds. EACH! Oh, and because of the new way HMRC is doing things, I also owed money for the current tax year too!

So, to say I feel skint would be an understatement. Our debt has now grown significantly and I need to pay it off quickly. Very quickly.

So, I’m getting back to my good money saving habits. In fact, I’m taking it even further this year. And my plan of how to save money works.

How to start saving money

The trick to doing anything new well and maintaining it is – I find – to start with an intense, and sometimes painful, kick off and then you ease into a programme which has the right balance of the good habits and the rewards so it’s easy to fit it into daily life and keep it going.

For the rest of January and for all of February, I will be conducting my intense programme. The first thing I’m doing, is going through the FeastStyleThrive e-course myself. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to refresh my memory and check I’m doing everything! That means I conduct a full-on check of my finances, and then overhaul my spending on EVERY SINGLE PIECE of expenditure. Then I pick and choose the habits to keep going and voila! That’s how to save money.

Adopting a money saver mantra

It’s all very well signing up for a free course and reading the emails but it does still require a hell of a lot of willpower to actually take action.

So here are some helpful reasons why this is exactly the right time to do it:

          A lot of the people you know are doing Dry January – poor souls. So you have fewer drinking companions which means fewer excuses to go out!  Plus it’s BLOODY FREEZING! Stay in, enjoy the slipper time!

          You put on weight over Christmas. I’m sorry. But it’s true. That diet will only work if you don’t buy treats, booze or ready meals so save the pounds (in more ways than one).

          One of the easiest ways of how to save money is to adopt a meal plan and I’ll be posting mid-week meal plans over the course of the next few weeks! You’re welcome in advance.

          You deserve a good summer holiday this year. A fabulous, post-lots-of-pictures-on-facebook-and-instagram-and-make-everyone-hate-you kind of holiday. It’s not going to pay for itself so start the hard work of saving for it now.

          And finally, by looking at your finances now, at the start of the year, and working out how you can change a few habits to save money each month, you will be looking at a bank balance that is several hundred pounds heavier by Christmas.  Yup!

I’m going to be posting more tips on how to save money and documenting my money saving journey here so keep checking in, and please do share you advice and experiences, I’d love to hear them!

Ditch the gym – how to keep fit for free

I’ve put this post in ‘Life’, ‘Style’ and ‘Finance’ because it applies to all. You see, as part of my mission to save money, I decided about two years ago to shun gyms and try to keep fit for free.  I was getting fed up with the fact that £65 was being sucked out of my bank account every month regardless of how often I went for a work out. £65 a MONTH! Over a year – because many gyms shamelessly lock you in for minimum contracts of about 12-18 months – this is £780! THINK what you could do with that money! Shall I help?  See below:

TWO pairs of Jimmy Choos (Romy 85 Pumps £425 and Miami trainers £350) and CHANGE!

jimmychootrainers

 

A Mulberry handbag (Lily £750)!

MULBERRY

Or a holiday!

No brainer, huh?

Anyway, by quitting the gym, I didn’t stop exercising, I just found ways to keep fit for free. Conveniently, most of my methods sit on my phone!

Running

My main form of exercise is running. With the right music playlist and an interesting running route, it can do wonders for your mood, health and bum.

So if you are already a keen runner like me, I’d recommend this:

mapmyrunMap my run (on iOS and Android) – I have a heart rate monitor but I use this beauty of an app to track my distance, time and therefore speed.  It updates you every mile  on time and speed and you can play your music over the top which means the time flies when you’re running.  Your runs can also be logged so that you can monitor your progress over time. And if you’re sadistic or a show off, you can also share your times online with complete strangers. Yeah right.

Now if you don’t really enjoy running because you find it quite boring, this is the app for you:

zombiesrunZombies, Run! (on iOS and Android) If you like to add a little excitement to your run and don’t suffer too much from nightmares, try this.  Open the app and start running.  You’ll be running along and then suddenly you hear heavy breathing and weird animal like groaning.  Then a shout that you must hurry up as the Zombies are coming!  It will absolutely make you run faster and push you to  get more from your workout but just be careful not to run though a wood or quiet street when you’re using it as it may feel a little too real and freak you out completely.

Circuits and mat work

If running is not for you or you want more of an all body personal training kind of experience, I recommend:

nike training clubNike Training App (on iOS and Android) This is a personal trainer in your phone. It’s brilliant. You pay pennies to download the app and then have access to hundreds of 30 and 45 minute workouts focused on tightening, toning or strengthening whether you’re a beginner or an enthusiast.  You have access to demonstrations of each exercise so you can make sure you’re doing each step correctly and the trainer calls out words of encouragement throughout.  I cannot recommend this app highly enough.

510QAa9l1+LSworkit (on iOS and Android) – This is great for people who blame a lack of free time for not exercising. With this app, you can do as little as 5 minute workouts of strength, cardio, yoga or stretching.  It’s really good if you’re injured as you can focus on particular parts of the body.

Yoga

If Yoga is more your bag, then you need to check out Yoga with Adriene. You will not find a nicer, cuter, more qualified yoga teacher anywhere on the web and her tutorials are addictive.

Team activities

Moving away from technology, there are plenty of activities you can do with other people, for free!

You’ve heard of army bootcamps right? You head to the park, get shouted at and do circuits until all the fluid in your body has been sweated out. Amazing exercise but hard work.  Well, British Military Fitness run free trials of their bootcamps – if you’re brave enough!

Alternatively, if you like a friendlier sort of exercise class, there’s a fairly new local council initiative whereby qualified fitness instructors teach exercise classes for free in parks! It looks like it’s currently just a London-based scheme at the moment but if it gets enough interest, it may go nationwide! Details can be found at Our Parks.

So, short of some kit and trainers, what more do you need??? Follow my tips to keep fit for free and start sweating AND saving!!