Spanish Veggie Paella (Easy, Low Cost, One Pot Dinner)

This month I promised I’d share some of all-time favourite one pot meals. After all that meal prepping, cooking and pot washing in December, I need a few weeks of simple meals. Easy, quick prep, cheap, healthy meals that leave only one pot to wash up. Now we’re talking 😉

I’m going to begin with one of my absolute favourite one pot meals – Veggie Paella. This dish is typically made with shellfish, but I’ve used colourful veggies and nutrient-rich nuts instead 🙂

Spanish Veggie Paella

Here’s how I make it…

Spanish Veggie Paella

Enjoy! xx

This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s #WellnessWeekend

Saving Money with mySupermarket – Living Rich on Less #2

When mySupermarket asked if I would consider writing a review of their online grocery comparison and shopping site, I was more than happy to oblige. I’d first heard of mySupermarket about a year ago when a friend recommended that I should try it out as a way of saving money on groceries (which I mentioned in this post). I was so impressed with it that I’ve carried on using it ever since. Thanks to its online comparison tools, I’ve saved a small fortune over the past year as well as a huge amount of my time.

Let me show you some of my favourite features on the site.

Speed & ease of comparing individual prices
If I want to look up the best deal on a particular grocery item, I simply type it into the Search box. With one click I can compare the prices of different brands, volumes/weights, multibuy deals and spot the cheapest. I can also click to compare the same grocery item across five different supermarkets.

This week I found that Alpro milks and Seeds of Change Pasta Sauces were on offer at Waitrose, so I made sure I stocked up.

Prior to using mySupermarket, I used to walk up and down the aisles of supermarkets trying to remember prices in order to compare them. Sometimes I found that certain items appeared on three different aisles. One such example is nuts. These often appear on the wholefood aisle, baking aisle and Asian/World foods aisle. By typing the item into the Search box on mySupermarket, I can find out in seconds which brand/volume/weight is the best value for money. This has saved me a huge amount of time and money over the past year (and oh do I hate traipsing round the aisles of supermarkets! 😉 )

If you already shop online and have your groceries delivered (like I do), you can click on the ‘Options’ tab and import your regular shopping list into your mySupermarket favourites. Each time you shop you can easily amend the basket, adding and deleting food items. If it’s your first time grocery shopping online, it’s very easy to set up your shopping basket from scratch.

On the right hand side of the webpage, you see the price of your shopping basket across the five supermarkets. The price comparison automatically adjusts every time you add a new item to the basket.

Once you’ve finished shopping, you can select your preferred supermarket and your basket will automatically be sent to the supermarket’s website where you pay and select your preferred delivery date. It’s as simple as that! 🙂

‘Swap and Save’ Function
Once you’ve finished adding items to your shopping basket, you can click on the ‘Saving Centre’ in the bottom right-hand corner of the webpage. This shows you how you can save money by swapping items in your basket to cheaper items (either cheaper brands, larger volumes/weights or multibuy deals). You simply click to swap and your basket is automatically amended.

There are a multitude of money-saving features on mySupermarket and I’ve only explored a fraction of them so far. At the bottom right-hand corner of the home page, there’s a ‘Quick Tour’ link which gives a useful overview of all the site’s features.

Thanks to mySupermarket, I’ve saved hundreds of pounds over the past year, as well as countless hours of my time. So I’d like to say a big “thank you” to the “genius” that came up with the idea for this site. It’s brilliant! 🙂

– UK friends, have you heard of mySupermarket? If so, have you ever used it?

 – Friends outside the UK, do you have something similar to mySupermarket in your country? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Have a great week everyone! xx

 

Living Rich on Less! A Yummy Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend – Creamy Chana Dal with Cauliflower & Peas

Cutting Back on Personal Spending

In recent years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to cut my personal spending.  Since making the decision to leave the day job, I need to do this more than ever!

Here’s a few ways that I’ve cut back on spending so far…

Sold my car saving £100s each year (I now walk/bike/bus)

– Stopped my gym membership saving £360 per year (I now exercise outside)

– Negotiated a new deal on my phone, reducing my monthly payments from £30 to £13.50, saving £198 per year. I’ve now got a much better deal for less money!

– Stopped buying so many clothes which is saving me £100s per year. I hardly ever buy clothes these days and, if I do, it’s usually to replace worn out items. I still love quality brands, like Kuyichi, but I’ll buy last season T Shirts etc for half price or less. I also buy from charity shops.

– Stopped buying books & magazines saving about £100 per year. Instead I’ve got an Amazon wishlist for birthdays & Christmas 🙂

These cutbacks have reduced my personal spending by well over £1,000 per year.  And the funny thing is, I’m actually happier as a result of making these cutbacks. My life is simpler, less cluttered and I’m less dependent on money. However, there are two areas where I haven’t cut back, and that’s giving to charity and present-giving. These are too important to me!

Cutting Back on Family Overheads

I’ve also been sorting out the family’s finances in an attempt to cut our overheads. Here’s how I’ve got on so far…

– Switched our water from rates to a meter. We now pay £35 per month, compared to £61, saving £313 per year

– Switched our gas & electricity to a new supplier and reduced our consumption. We currently pay £79 per month, compared to £148, saving £828 per year. I check the gas & electricity deals each year now and switch if I find a better deal.

– Renegotiated our house insurance. For the same cover, we now pay £149 compared to £275, saving £126 per year. My advice is to never automatically renew your house insurance each year. You seem to get penalised for loyalty! I use comparison sites to check rates then ring my existing supplier to see if they can match it (they always do!)

– Renegotiated the mortgage. We’re now on a ‘tracker for life’ deal and currently paying 2.49%, the lowest rate we’ve ever paid on a mortgage.

– Cut our grocery bill from around £80 to £70 per week (this includes all household products, food & toiletries), saving £520 per year.

To date, I’ve managed to cut our bills by nearly £2,000 per year, which isn’t too bad considering the cost of living has increased these past few years.  It didn’t take a lot of effort either. There are some great online comparison sites available now, which save time & effort. Some of my favourite sites are: www.uswitch.comwww.moneysavingexpert.com, www.gocompare.com and www.mySupermarket.com.

The one area that I still need to work on is landline telephone & broadband. We’re currently paying £109 each quarter which is way too high.  I’m currently looking at Sky and Plusnet so, if anyone has experience of either of these two, I’d love to hear what you think of them 🙂

A Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend

On Wednesday, I promised that I’d give the recipe for one of our favourite lentil dishes which uses Chana Dal (also known as Yellow Split Gram and Gram Dal). This lentil is a relative of the chick pea and has a lovely nutty flavour.

This dish is super duper cheap to make! In Tesco, a 2kg bag of Indus Chana Dal costs just £2.99 (and this size bag will last you ages).

The dish is mildly spiced, so perfect for all the family, though feel free to crank up the heat if you like spice! It’s also deliciously creamy. I use Alpro Soya Cream in this dish, which makes it dairy free and low in fat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

[This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend, November 15-19 2012]

Lentils are so versatile. As well as using them in Indian dishes, we make lentil burgers, lentil loaves and add them to soups. This week I made a large batch of tomato and red lentil soup and it was lush! Lil’ L took it to school, M took it to work, and we had enough left over for dinner one evening too. You can check out the recipe here.

Do you cook with lentils? If so, I’d love to hear about your favourite lentil dish. Add a link to your recipe if possible.

Also, do you keep an eye on your finances and look for ways to cut bills? If so, I’d love to hear your tips!

Right, it’s Friday night and the weekend has officially begun 🙂 Time for me to sign off!

Have a great weekend everyone! xx

School’s Out! Planning Summer Activities on a Shoe-String Budget

The school summer holidays officially start for us today. I can’t believe that another school year has finished already. These years are flying by!

I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Lil’ L over the next six weeks. However, as I’m not working at the moment, I need to make sure that we keep spending to a minimum. 

We did lots of great free/ low cost activities last summer that we’re hoping to repeat or improve on this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

– Bike Rides
Inspired by the Tour de France, we’re going to devise our own ‘Tour de Bath’ where we explore different areas of the city by bike and record our ‘stages’ on a map, noting the distance and time.

– Hiking
There’s so much local countryside that we’ve yet to explore.  We’re going to pack some sandwiches, binoculars, a map, and waterproofs, and hike along footpaths and bridleways in the hills around Bath. Luckily my ‘smartphone’ has got GPS, just in case we get lost 😉

– Photography
Lil’ L loved the challenge I set him over the Jubilee weekend of photographing red, white and blue images. This summer I’m going to set him some more photographic challenges and show him how to edit photos and make online albums.

– Creating in the kitchen
Lil’ L has already devised a list of 15 new smoothies and milkshakes that he’d like to try making. During the holidays, we’ll work our way through his list, photograph the successes and blog about them.
I’m also really looking forward to teaching him how to make other treats, such as granola bars, chocolates, ice cream sundaes and so forth.

 

– Summer Reading Challenge
Last weekend, the children’s summer reading challenge was launched in Bath by Olympic Gold Medallist Amy Williams. It was such a pleasure to meet her! I didn’t get to hold the Olympic torch (like my mum did!) but I have now held an Olympic Gold Medal. It was beautiful… and way bigger and heavier than I imagined it would be!

The library reading challenge has really fired up Lil’ L. The first thing he wanted to do when he broke up from school today was to go to the library and borrow some more books!

– Maths Challenge
To keep our ‘maths brains’ ticking over, we’re going to take part in Carol Vorderman’s Online Maths Factor Summer School (I need this as much as Lil’ L 😉 ). The school costs £15 but is so worth it. Carol Vorderman has got to be the ultimate Maths teacher. Not only is she fantastic at explaining maths, but she actually makes maths fun. Her online schools are perfect for kids like Lil’ L who are yet to develop a passion for numbers.

– Summer Diary Writing
Lil’ L has recently started to get interested in writing and his stories are way more creative than anything I’ve ever written! I’d love to encourage him to keep writing over the holidays, maybe in the form of a summer diary or scrap book. As well as writing, he could add photos, ticket stubs, drawings and so forth.

– Family Activities at Local Museums and Galleries
There are lots of drop-in activities on offer at the museums and galleries in Bath which are free for residents, and I’m planning to make the most of them!  Does anyone fancy investigating Roman gods and goddesses and making Minerva’s wise owl? Or how about learning some Roman language and make a Roman book mark? I know I do! 🙂 
If you’re planning to be in the Bath area over the school holidays, you must check out the family activity programme. Here’s the link.     

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– Play Dates
It’s really important that I arrange some play dates for Lil’ L so he gets to spend time with his friends during the summer. I need to do this ASAP as I know diaries get filled really quick.

– Quality time with grandparents
Lil’ L rarely gets to have one-to-one time with his grandparents and this is something that he mentioned he would really like this summer. Next week, he’s going to spend a couple of nights with his nan and her two dogs in Dorset and he’s really excited about it! Hopefully, at some point during the summer, he’ll be able to have some one-to-one time with his other grandparents too.

– Family quality time
The three of us (me, M and Lil’ L) are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks’ of quality time together during the school hols, which means switching all the gadgets off (phones, computers, etc) and giving each other our full attention. We really value our quality family time. For me, it’s priceless 🙂

– Buddhist Festivals and Daily Meditation
There’s lots of Buddhist festivals in the UK this summer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to attend at least a couple. As well as inspiring teachings and meditation sessions, there’s always lots of fun activities arranged for the kids. Lil’ L made some great friends at the festivals last year and hopefully they’ll meet up again this summer.


I’m also hoping that we’ll get into the habit of daily meditation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. With Lil’ L’s help, I’ll set up a dedicated ‘meditation space’ upstairs. We’ll make it cosy with cushions and blankets, and light incense and candles. It’ll be great 🙂

 So that’s just a few ideas of what we’ll be able to do this summer on my shoe-string budget.  I can’t wait to get started!

I wish you all a wonderful summer. 🙂 xx

p.s. If anyone’s got a bit of sunshine to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could send it over here. Thank you 🙂

Be the Change (Book Giveaway)

A week ago, I mentioned that I’d recently made a big decision about my future.  I’ve been putting off writing about it, but it’s time to bite the bullet.  Big deep breath in.  Here goes…

I’m quitting my job. 

I can’t believe how hard my heart was thudding as I typed those words!  It seems so official now it’s in black and white!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on how much my life has changed since I took a sabbatical from my paid job.  The change has been so extensive that I feel like I’ve transformed into a different person!  

Pre-sabbatical, I was running a successful research consultancy but basically had no time for anything but work.  I spent very little time with Lil’ L.  I had no time to exercise and had no interest whatsoever in cooking.  To me, cooking was simply an inconvenient interruption to my work. 

Wow, haven’t I changed? 

It’s not just my lifestyle that’s changed, but my values and priorities.  I haven’t worked out exactly what I’m going to do yet, but I do know that I want my life to reflect the advice given by Gandhi

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”

I haven’t got the power to change the world, but I do have the power to change myself, so that’s where I’m going to start! 

I haven’t worked out how I’m going to manage financially yet, and I definitely don’t want to have to rely on M for money but, for now, I’m cutting back on my spending as much as I possibly can.

I’ve got a few ideas of projects that I’d like to embark on, however I’m going to make sure that I focus on one project at a time.  Better to emark on one project and get it finished, then start five and finish none (you can tell I’m talking from experience here 😉 )

I’ve read a lot of great books that have inspired me on making this change in my life.  One such book is:

“Be the Change
Action and reflection from people transforming our world”

Based on interviews conducted by Trenna Cormack, this book is a collection of first hand accounts of 28 amazing people who have made positive changes at global, national, local and grassroots levels.  The book is filled with passion.  It’s thought-provoking, uplifting and, above all, inspiring.

Would you like a chance to read it yourselves?  I don’t want my copy to sit on a bookshelf gathering dust.  It deserves more than that.  So, to commemorate the start of a new chapter in my life, I’m going to give away my copy to one of you lovely people 🙂

There are two ways to enter the giveaway:
1. Leave me a comment below
2. Tweet the giveaway, and leave a comment below to let me know that you did so.

 A winner will be chosen at random next Friday, 4th May at 5pm GMT.  The giveaway is open to everyone, no matter where you live.

Good luck everyone!  x