Short. Hungry. Addicted to tea. Hi, I'm Emma. I like to write stuff.


I should probably start this off by saying I'm not much of a drinker.  It's not something I do that often.  So naturally, I'm a bit of a lightweight.

Saturday, Kris and I stayed overnight in Birmingham with 2 two of our awesome friends - Guy & Fiona.  Spur of the moment, in the middle of a pub,  I decided to blog the night. (with the attention span of a gnat, a belly full of gin and a deep hatred for using my phone while in social situations.)

So the moral of the story is, if you ply me with gin & tonic's and then take me out for a meal, I apparently become "food blogger extraordinaire" because the post I imagined in a gin haze and my memory of the photos is a lot better than the reality.

So yeah.  Here it is.  Lower all expectations.


Birmingham.  Saturday 9th May.

First up, pre-drinks in the hotel.  Then I put on actual make up and a top without food on it, and off we go!   We have one round in a pub that smells like wee, then it's off the Bacchus bar, with it's roman paintings and medieval decor.  We sit on stools, even though I hate stools.  I have to run and jump to get on them.  Actually, I'm pretty impressed I even got up here, so I'm not moving until we leave.  Even if I need to pee.  I decide to take a photo of our giant glasses next to this fake tomb we're sitting next to.


One bowl of gin and tonic consumed and pictures of ourselves are starting to sound like a good idea.  Why does gin make me think I'll suddenly look good in pictures?  I take a picture of husband while the guys are getting the next round.  I only get husband's ear, beard and shoulder in frame.  For some reason, I felt that was a great shot and don't take any more.

That guy in the blue shirt is how I feel looking through these pictures.

Four drinks down
Got to the restaurant just in time for the booking.  Pretty waitress takes us through a massive crowd to get to our table.  I feel very short in here.  Everyone is wearing stilts.  What's wrong with flats people?!

 I feel very jealous of the decor in this place.  It's gorgeous.  Even the menu's are beautiful.  I take an arty shot of the menu for instagram, which I suddenly care about more than usual.  I curse the lighting,.  When people stare,  I nod knowingly and think "Food blogger woes, they'll never know the pain"  This alerts me to the fact that I'm being a giant douche.


The many identical blurry pictures will have to be good enough because it's time to order and all I've done with the menu is artfully move it around and take pictures of it like an asshole.

This is literally the ONLY half decent picture.  DRINK IT IN.

Despite the fact that it took us a while to decide what cocktails to buy and even longer for said cocktails to arrive, I make my thirsty friends artfully arrange their cocktails in a line whilst I furiously snap away.  They all come out blurry and I genuinely for a second think that I should have bought my lighting kit and SLR.  It's time to evaluate my priorities, but instead I get into a really awkward position and take some more blurry pictures.

People are starting to stare, but do I care?  No, I am a food blogger.  This is what I do.  Okay, you've never done it before with a belly of gin.  Or in general.  But tonight I can start.  I can do this.


I can't do this.  Look at that guy in the back.  Judging me.  I swear I hear the words "basic bitch" come from somewhere but I can't be sure.  The hen party sitting next to us is taking less pictures than I am.

I take the following notes on the cocktails.  They are exactly the kind of notes a girl 4 gins down would take.

Mine tastes like strawberries. (It was a friggin strawberry cocktail.  Not exactly food critic worthy notes here)
Fi's  = purple and I like glass. (good to know)
Kris = Has half a passionfruit in it.  Tastes so. (so what?  SO WHAT?!)
Guy = 90% ice,  named after restaurant (why is this revelant?)

I have no idea what I was hoping to achieve with these notes.  The only taste notes I took were blazing obvious.  Like saying a strawberry cocktail tasted like strawberries.  I'll leave you alone with that bombshell of an observation.


I feel ashamed.  I made people stop eating to take this piece of crap photo.  For once in your life, you evaluate your life choices.  Then you remember husband is eating mushrooms out of a trowel and drinking a poncey cocktail and you can't help yourself.  Several more blurry snaps are on their way.


Action shots of people eating are cool, right?  That's a thing?

Eventually you get bored of taking pictures of everything.  Five drinks down and you decide to live in the moment.  I take one shitty picture of the mains that I don't save and decide to just enjoy the meal and join in on the actual conversation.

Which leads me to this.

The only picture of my pudding.  


It looks like a penis.  I mispelt kebab.  It's very dark.  It's very blurry.  This is possibly the worst picture I've ever taken.  Why did I take it on Snapchat AKA the worst camera in the world?

Nothing is ever so dismal though.   I'm pretty sure I can scrub it up in Photoshop.  Right?  Bit of messing with the levels, some cropping and it will be awesome.


NOPE.

And that is why I don't do restaurant reviews.  ESPECIALLY reviews with drinks.

So after the penis kebab, I switched to water and just enjoyed the time with my friends.  Which was awesome, and I can tell you that overall, the meal was awesome.

I apologise fully to my snapchat friends who received weird snapchats of my food, close ups of my nose and my hotel toilet door.  I'm still not entirely sure why I found it hilarious to send you those.

Most of all, I'm sorry Fi & Guy, who must of heard "Just gonna snap this for the blog" and probably weren't expecting that blog to be this big ole pile of crap.



This week has been a weird one.  For starters, this is my second post of the day when two weeks ago I couldn't even squish together enough coherent sentences to make one weekly post.  So hello mojo, welcome back you sexy beast.

The second weird thing is that we've apparently plunged into a slew of crap weather.  It's freezing, wet and dark outside.  So we're right on track for our English summer.  Everyone grab their wellies.

The third thing, apparently there's three things.  Is that this post has been in my drafts folder for a while,  I started it a few months back whilst drinking fruit wine and cooking a meal. (Why do they call it fruit wine... isn't all wine fruit wine?) I opened it up earlier this week and decided to finally finish it off.

 So it was a lot longer, and at one point there was a paragraph about whales and blowholes that I've erased because it was just as weird as it bloody sounds.

So to set the scene, a slightly drunken me, dancing around my kitchen gazed at her dog, her friend and her spoons and realised she couldn't do her blog without them.  Then she picked up her new sharp knife and realised that there were many 'tools of the trade' that help her every single day.

Plumbers have plungers, business people have fancy suits, waitresses have comfortable shoes and builders have their bum cracks, here's mine...

A Collection Of Wooden Spoons

I have gone through about 20 plastic/silicone spoons in my short time here on this earth.  I have melted them in toffee (by accident, I wasn't making a strange new flavour), I have set them on fire, I snapped one trying to open a tin of golden syrup.  They are just too easily destructible for my cooking style (Which is apocalypse-esque, since you asked).  Before you suggest what I think you're about to suggest, I don't do metal spoons, you can't lick them clean without second degree burns, so we always come back to ole faithful.

You just can't beat a large collection of wooden spoons.

Yes large.

A Fancy Knife

It took me a while to fork out for a fancy knife because "They all do the same job" - but I eventually took the plunge and bought myself an all singing, all dancing set of knives.  Man, that made it sound like my knives are extras in a Disney movie. But they aren't.

And now I've made myself sad.  Poo.

Anyway, in my totally boring non dancing set of knives, lives my new favourite fancy knife.

I swear to god that thing is so sharp it could outwit Sherlock.

It slices through onions like air and it makes cutting up potatoes feel like slicing through cheese.  Who knew chopping up stuff didn't have to constitute a workout... I never knew that every session didn't have to end with your blade stuck half way through a butternut squash.  I didn't know you don't HAVE to look constipated as you chop up vegetables.  My eyes are now as open as my freshly cut vegetables.

Good knife = Less work.  There are of course, downsides...

Pffft, I can do that.

First Aid Kit

They say that with great power comes great responsibility.  I say, that with big fancy knives, comes a few bloody fingers.  In fact, as a girl who has been to the hospital many times due to her accident prone-ness, I can testify that the kitchen is the number one place to store a nice little box of plasters and a first aid kit

That big fancy knife I was telling you about?  If it can slice through a potato like it's cheese, it can go through your finger like it's...er.. cheese.

Wow, still not good with the metaphors.

After I bought my first fancy knife, I cut off a small piece of my thumb, made a scary slice into a finger nail and chopped into the side of my finger.  All in the first 3 days.  My hands were decorated in various plasters and bandages.  I felt like such a badass.  Oh who are we kidding,  I am a badass.

You're probably thinking I should be more careful, or perhaps buy pre-chopped veggies, and if you are, then my mum is right behind you, victoriously cheering on that statement.  But I'm not paying extra for a machine to chop up my veggies and the few cuts I do get ARE me being careful.


A Dog.

Save hours of sweeping up by getting your own personal living hoover!  Genna will follow me around the kitchen, licking up spills, bits of meat or general crumbs that have fallen on the floor during the cooking process.  She will also alert me to dropped vegetables by kindly informing me that there is something on the floor that's inedible.  I also know if something good is on the go if she comes and sits in the kitchen doorway, giving me the stink-eye.

Friends That Love Food

If you look up the definition of foodie in a dictionary you've got a pretty decent view of why my friends are helpful to me.



Oh okay, wait, no let's try that again...


er... okay hold on


Oh screw this.

The point I was trying to make is that all of my friends love food.  Yes, I know that everyone loves food, but what I mean is this: we host dinner parties and throw dinner parties sometimes, just to try a new recipe that someone has found.  We send each other recipes, and blogs we like the look of.  If one of us gets a new kitchen toy, the others want a full and detailed review on it's workings.  For instance HINT A friend got a smoker for his birthday HINT and I know he's going to create magic with that thing.

We go to restaurants that look amazing, and send each other the menus before we go.  Some of my friends are so awesome at cooking, it inspires me to try out their styles & recipes.  This makes it a hotbed of recipe inspiration, and means that I'm never lacking in new methods to try.  They are my ultimate tools.  Did that come out right?

Oh who cares, I'm proud of my douche-bags.  KEEP ON ROCKING.  Or foodie-ing.  Or whatever.  I forgot what I was talking about because it's dinnertime.




This morning, my social network feed was a flurry of arguments and people proudly proclaiming they've never voted, some who mocked those who had and there was some pretty vile stuff.  It's getting ugly.

Everyone has their own opinion, I've never tried to change any of my friends minds on the subject because they are doing what they think is best for them.  By trying to change their minds, I'm saying I know better than them and I don't.

But by mocking my decision to vote, you are telling me it doesn't matter that people I love are starving, struggling to survive or are battling unfair policies.  You are mocking my decision to want to change that on a larger scale.

And that's what I don't understand.

If everyone had the same mindset of not voting, the UK would look a lot different than it does now.

If you have no inclination to vote, I guess can understand why.  The political system is confusing, the big players talk down to us and talk mainly of budgets, empty promises (that all sound like variations of the same thing) and big talk of the 'economy' and 'austerity'.  These things aren't a part of our every day conversations.  They feel so far away from us and our ordinary lives.  We wonder how could voting possibly make any difference for us?  Do we really feel the difference when the parties change?

I didn't vote because the parties promised me things.  I didn't vote just because someone died for me to do so, although I am forever grateful that they did.  I didn't vote because one leader looked more charismatic than the other.  I didn't vote out of fear of immigration, or because a newspaper told me what to think.

I voted because I'm angry.  

I'm angry because people surrounded by gold chairs and fat expense accounts tell us that we're the problem.  That the poor living off benefits, and immigrants are the entire problem when they use our tax money to pay for expensive lunchesextra houses and fucking duck ponds.

All whilst making cuts to lifesaving cancer wards, education and other basic human rights.

Before I receive the hate, I don't think being an MP is an easy job.  But I'm still angry, because everyday, I see the problems caused by the policies & laws that people say don't affect them.

I'm angry because good people, friends of mine, who have always worked hard and paid their taxes, can barely afford to eat.  These people are kind, giving people, some who have lost their homes and jobs.  Not because they are lazy, or not trying hard enough, but because the system has failed them.

I'm angry because the main piece of advice from brokers I got when saving for a house deposit was "ask your parents for the money."  We are paying the price for the banks mistakes.

I'm angry because 1 in 5 families are living below the poverty line, the call for food bank donations are every week when it used to be every month.  I'm angry because the people that need this help are branded lazy when they are just hungry.

I'm angry because when relatives of mine were sick at the beginning of the year, they were lying in agony in a hospital hallway for a day.  Not because 'immigrants are taking up all the space' but because of the slow selling off, privatisation and the cuts to OUR NHS.

I'm angry because the trains are crap and expensive.  When I researched why I found out that was privatised as well.

I'm angry because there were such hard working nurses and doctors, doing everything they could to help my family.  Every single one I've met this year was a miracle worker.  Cheerful, helpful, and worth 10 times more than the wage they were being given.  They were taking the brunt of the anger.

I'm angry because small businesses, like the one I work for, struggle under the current laws.  More independent businesses closed in this past five years than I dare to even count.  We can't pay fancy expensive accountants to make our tax bill magically shrink.  We're drowning in a sea of unfair policies.

I'm angry because elderly friends of mine are living off canned foods and rationing their electricity and heating.  How is that fair?

I'm angry because even though I am comfortable in life, and I have a house and a job, one day I might not, and I'd hope that my country would want to help me, not berate me more if that were to happen.

Everyone has their own reasons for voting, just like everyone has their own reasons for not voting.

No, there is no perfect party, and things need to change, but how do you think we voice that to the powers that be?  How do we know if your vote actually makes a difference?

Because do you think an MP will turn down a position because only a small amount of people in his constituency voted them in?  Turning up to vote means every voice gets a say and you strengthen those small voices that want a change.  That is how you make a difference.

That is how it affects me.

And that, is why I voted.

You know what's hilarious?  The other day, I was writing my recipe for this pie when I found myself writing a disclaimer about using canned chickpeas instead of soaking my own.  For starters, I have never soaked chickpeas in my whole life.  Ahh, the dreaded food blogging guilt.

That niggling feeling that we're not good enough, that we should be doing things perfectly, making things from scratch and being amazing at everything.

Afterall, I set up this blog to write and share my food.  I often find myself getting ready to apologise for certain things when I blog.

So I'm saying goodbye to the guilt, and confessing my sins.  Let's face it, they aren't really sins at all, but what make us fabulously human, with all our different beliefs, ideas and shizz like that.

OWN IT.



Using shop bought filo/puff pastry
I prefer shop bought pastry to that I make.  It's time consuming and my under-eye bags end up puffier than the end result.  I'm just not very good at it.  I can admit that.  So if I fancy making a pie, or a pretty puff tart thing but I don't fancy spending half my afternoon rolling, kneading, lathering myself in butter & waiting for a mediocre result, then I pop to the corner shop and buy it.  DUH DUH DUH.  If you like doing it yourself then awesome!  I don't.

Using my food mixer to knead dough
When I type that out, it feels like the most ridiculous thing ever, but I once felt guilty for not kneading my own dough by hand.  I don't have any sass to add to that.  It is literally the most benign and stupid thing I have ever felt guilty about.

Writing an opinion
I once casually mentioned in a recipe that I didn't use artificial sweeteners because I don't like the taste.  The next day I received a reply saying I could go and eat shit because I didn't know crap.  Followed by a rant about my misplaced belief in toxins and chemicals (err.. what?) and that even water and kale were made of chemicals.  It ended for me "to enjoy my life of pseudo science and being a shitty wholefood warrior".  Yeah, I literally just do not like artificial sweeteners because they taste rank to me, there's no agenda.  Calm your tits.  So now, Pseudo science and the wholefood warriors is my band name.  Our hits include Chemical Kale & Eat Shit If You Don't Know Crap.


Not knowing who popular chefs / restaurants are
I was at a blogger meet a few months back when everyone starting talking about a restaurant I've never heard of, run by a chef that sounded like  a Disney character.  For five minutes I nodded along, pretending to know what the hell everyone was going on about, laughing in the appropriate places, secretly googling Louie Le Peu (that wasn't his name, but I can't remember it) before giving in and accepting that I'm just not that into this side of food blogging.  I do not keep on top of the culinary news and that's okay, because I have knowledge in other areas.

 This is just on constant repeat in my head if I don't know what's going on.

Liking cheap chain restaurants
Don't get me wrong, I love visiting independent restaurants, tea rooms and cafes.  I love the personality in them, and the food is usually awesome.  You know what else?  I have friends with kids, so a lot of the time, if we're going out for a meal, it will be to somewhere like the Harvester.  It's the same wherever you go and the food is simple, but you can eat there for a fiver and get free salad.  I have just as much fun, but the gasps of amazement are usually because my arms didn't stick to the table rather than the presentation of the food.

Not being able to keep fresh herbs alive
It's a running joke in my crew (I am never saying that again, I'm sorry) that I can keep a house of animals alive and healthy, I have turned my fussy eating husband into a vegetable munching machine, and yet I can't keep a friggin plant alive.  Isn't that supposed to be a step down from animals and husbands?!  The longest I've kept my herbs alive is 2 months and then we had to move out to have work done on the house and the cold / work dust killed them all.  I've read books, I've read blogs.  THE DAMN THINGS WON'T STAY ALIVE.



Being lame at twitter
I'm sorry, I don't get twitter chats.  I like the premise, I want to meet new and interesting bloggers, but I just don't understand this thing.  Who is the host?  Who do you reply too!?  Do you have to search the hashtag and scroll through them all?!  It's been two years and twitter still confuses the hell out of me.  I use it sparingly because I just don't like being on my phone if I'm with people, and I'm usually around people, so I'm rarely on twitter.


Being Messy / not having a pinterest worthy kitchen
My kitchen is not pinterest worthy, it's made to make my life easier.  I make cakes and get batter in my knickers, hand prints on my work surfaces and icing sugar on the ceiling.  I make soup and it ends up on the windows.  Sometimes I look around at the devastation I cause, think of the well lit, shiny pinterest kitchens and die a little inside.  Then I think "I would wreck that beauty in five seconds" and feel pretty happy with my lot.


Writing a story to go with my recipes
This is a blog.  My recipes have stories.  I make salad toppings and talk about fences.  I'll make a pie and tell you about the time Mary berry came to me in a dream and tap danced.  I'll put a paper fez on a chicken and celebrate doctor who.   If you don't like it, don't read it.  End.




Picture the scene, if you will, husband and I were sitting at a computer, finishing up our to-do list for travelling.  I smiled at husband, and he smiled at me and then he said those magical words that every woman loves to hear.

"We're not fit enough to do half of this stuff"

Ahh, the romance.

He's bloody right though.  Like most newly weds, we've gone from waking up at 6 to exercise to being lazy bastards really.  We spent this year getting a bit fatter, indulging in our hobbies and trying new things.  We've not been unhealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but let's just say husbands weight rack is currently holding rubbish and my rebounder was last used when I babysat.

So we made a pact, there and then.  We were going to get fit again.  No more TV with a side of ice cream.  Much more veggies.  Lots and lots of long walks.

So if you follow my instagram, you've probably been treated to lots of smug-ass photos of some of the food we were eating before I got sick.

This pie was one I made and I was so pleased with it, that I had to share.  It's filling, it's healthy and it's so easy to make that I could do it whilst recovering from my stomach flu.


It's got a really rich flavour, and you don't need much to fill the gap.  I served mine with some roasted broccoli, asparagus & green beans cooked in chorizo.  Lush.  Also I got to use my new pie dish again, and this time, as you can see, I made an actual pie.

Prep is around 15 minutes, and cooking time is an hour altogether, so it's not a quick recipe, but it's perfect for hitting that "I want healthy food but the thought of another salad makes me want to stuff vegetables into my eye" moments.

We all have those moments right?  Right?




Whilst I used this as a main, it's also pretty banging as a side dish to some roasted meats.  The pie itself is vegetarian, but feel free to accompany it with whatever you like.  This pie serves 4 hearty portions.

YOU WILL NEED

3 large rooster potatoes, washed with the skin still on
2 large carrots
1 can of chickpeas
1 stock cube
few sticks of rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (fresh)
2 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
Splash of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch of sea salt
15g extra mature smoked cheddar (has to be smoked & extra mature for the intense flavour, trust me!)

FIRST OF ALL
Preheat your oven to 200°C/ gas mark 6.

Chop up your potatoes into small chunks, do the same with your carrots and place them into a large saucepan with your chickpeas and stock cube.  Fill it up with boiling water and set to boil on a high heat until the carrots and potatoes are soft.  This can take up to 20 minutes depending on how small you cut the chunks.  Whilst this is cooking, grate your cheese.

DO THE MASH
Once you've cooked your potato, carrot and chickpea mix, drain the saucepan and using your preferred methods, mash it all up.  I use a masher but any method with do.  Get it as fine and mushy as you can.  It won't be smooth, there will be chunks left, but don't worry.  Once it's all mashed, quickly add in the cheese and mix it all in.  Add the smoked paprika and sea salt and give it another vigorous stir.

I SHALLOT FORGET
Chop up your shallots and crush your garlic with a garlic press (if you don't have a garlic press, finely chop).  Add to a small frying pan and lightly cook in the olive oil & Maple syrup for 5 minutes.  Keep stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.  Once done add it to you pie mixture (olive oil, syrup and all) and stir it in, add your chopped parsley and prepared rosemary.  Give it a good stir before popping into your pie tin.

PIE TIME
Pop into your preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.  Leave it to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

and there you have it!

The smoked cheese really is the key to making this recipe awesome.  It's so strong you don't need much, but the smokiness in mature cheddar really adds depth to it.  It's not very expensive depending on where you purchase it, but I promise the extra purchase it completly worth it!

If you want to be a bit more indulgent (and make the pie a lot more cheesey)  add an extra 30g of normal cheddar and 10g of butter.  It tastes amazing either way.

As I said before, this tasted awesome with a medley of roasted green veg and chorizo, but be creative.  Let me know if you try it and what you paired it with, because I'm nosy.

Leftovers can be frozen, and re-baked once defrosted.  Though it's not as nice as fresh.  Just saying.




Early, on Monday morning I was casually perusing some blogs when my stomach started to turn.  I shook it off, and went back to reading, but it kept dancing around, feeling off.  I had to go home to let a workman in, and it was then, that I started to feel pretty weird.

I'll cut a really long story short and tell you that the weird feeling turned into a fever, sickness and um, other nasty things and the last 5 days have been pretty horrible.  This is my best attempt at a header.  I can't be arsed to fanny about with graphics.  BOO.

So what do you do when you can't think about food, or eat it?

Go fricken mad. That's right, I watch films.  Weird, happy, colourful and downright awesome films.

So I decided, in honor of the sickness bug I have probably given to everyone.  Here are my favourite sick bed films.  No hard hitting documentaries, no depressing satires of our world.  I want to feel encased and happy like a child, thank you very much.  Just pure "Feel better soon" serum directed directly into your brain.

Here's a wee selection:



The Princess Bride

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch.
+  The film opens out on a bored kid in his sickbed.  HELLO, I CAN RELATE TO THAT.
+  Young Cary Elwes and his floppy mane, come rescue me from this sicky hell.
+  You know what, this is just the best cast ever
+  SWORD FIGHTS.  MANY SWORD FIGHTS





Clueless

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch.
+   It's sunny and colourful.  Everything you are not feeling right now.
+   90's fashion & music.  Yes.  Yes to it all.
+   As if!   So many things to quote to clueless husband later.



Hercules

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch.
+  The music.  It will uplift you and junk
+  In my opinion, more people should wear tunics.  I like a bit of knee.  These are my sickbed thoughts.
+  I'm gonna have to point out the music again.  Zero to hero!




When Harry met Sally

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch.
+  Well, for starters it's a classic.  Yes it is.
+  My god, we're on an emotional roller-coaster ride with just Billy Crystal's jumper selection.
+  This is making me feel like I have friends in the room with me.  Not just my sickbowl and a pillow.
+  The chemistry.  People talk about chemistry but in this, it's totally real.




1995 Pride and Prejudice series

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch
+  The height of drama is a woman living with a man without being married.  So you won't exhaust yourself going "BUT THAT'S NOT FAIR."
+  Colin firth, constantly looking out of windows & leaning on fireplaces.  Seriously, make a game out of it.
+  This is six hours long.  Perfect way to while away a dull day in bed.
+  Everyone is awesome in it.  And the costumes are vaguely similar to the duvet you are wrapped in.  Feel free to imagine you are Elizabeth Bennett swanning around the countryside.





Bridget Jones's Diary

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch
+  You know that chemistry thing?  It's here as well.
+  You have ups, you have downs.  But you got the laughs too.
+  IT'S RAINING MEN.  BEST FIGHT SCENE EVER.
+  She is wrapped in a duvet.  You are wrapped in a duvet.  Her hair is mostly a nest, your hair is mostly a nest.  She is your sickbed spiritual sister.  Or some crap like that.  I'm not even sure anymore.  I'm a little feverish obviously.
+  COLIN FIRTH.





13 going on 30

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch
+  I will not apologise for this one.  It is the ultimate feel good chickish flick.
+  Two words:  Mark Ruffalo is my favourite.  I can't count when I'm sick.
+  Those two sort of sounded like a poem.
+  Thriller!
+  This is the film equivalent of bubble gum.





Legally blonde

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch
+  These films are getting more and more pink.  Pink is my sick colour,
+  Reese Witherspoon is a babe.  When I'm better, I'm going to be more like Elle.
+  This is also my second sickbed film where someone dresses up in a bunny outfit.  So that's totally my thing now.
+  Oh yeah, the film.  C'mon.  It's so good.
+  It's like a feverish dream of pink and dogs and shizz.





The Rocker

Here's why it's a good sickbed watch
+  This film should be more popular.  It has an awesome selection of music.
+  Emma stone!  As a moody alternative rock chick? Hell yeah!
+  You know what?  This is just another fine cast of banging actors.
+  That guy just put sick in his pocket.  Sick on your clothes is something I need to feel normal about right now.


There are SO many more.  So many, but these are just the ones that came to mind.  So what's your sickbed watch?





Here's the thing - To go travelling, you need money.  Not as much as we all think, but still,  it costs more than we had sitting in our dusty savings account at the time.  We had to start getting serious about saving some dough.  Or else we'd be in a pickle.  We couldn't just turnip to these places with no money.

See what you get with me?  Food Puns & money saving tips.  The fun never stops here folks.

Anyway, I started to do the dreaded "look through the finances" to see where we could scrape together some savings each month.

I became someone who kept receipts & actually read them, someone who made notes of what she bought, and went through old bank statements.  It was horrible.  The good part was I made spreadsheets and everything looks better when properly presented onto a spreadsheet.  Extra cool points if you can make a power point presentation with cool effects and music.

I didn't do that.  This time.

It was from this that I started to realise our food budget was out of control.  We are two people, how on earth are we spending SO MUCH MONEY ON FOOD.  It was our second biggest expense every month.  More than 4 of our other bills combined!

So I got researching.  I realised it was going to take a bit of work to do this and still eat the food we liked.  It would involve some serious planning.

It was then I was started making the excuses for myself:

"I like to make food from scratch, and husband hates structured & pre-planned meals"
"The ingredients I like are a bomb at the supermarket!  Plus, I'm so busy!"
"Vegetables are expensive, I have no idea how I'm going to cut back!"

"You know what I hear?"  My subconscious said.  "I hear someone who just doesn't want to do the hard work.  They just want all the results for nothing.  Shame on you."



Damn it, when I'm right, I'm right.  I can't complain about my budget being too high and then not do anything.  That's why it's bloody high in the first place.  So I got to work.

 I read multiple budgeting tips,  I completely re-arranged our finances.   I watched a programme where old ladies gave their money saving tips and made everything themselves.  I read old recipe books, scrounged blogs, I worked out where it would be better to plan and save money, and where it would be better just to spend a little extra and eventually, after two months, I had managed to cut our food budget by half, without cutting out anything we had before.

How much by?  I hear you ask.

From over £450 to just under £200 every month.

You fecking what?!


So, how did I do it?  Did I make a sacrifice to the supermarket lords?  Am I eating out of bins?  Am I on the streets holding "Will dance for food" signs?  Is it witchcraft?!

Nope.  All it took, was the implementation of my research, which I have kindly collated into this post, just for you.

REALISE NOT EVERYTHING CAN WORK FOR YOU

Whilst doing my research I started to realise that a lot of the advice I was reading was completely unusable in my situation.  For instance, one woman claimed the cost of keeping chickens cut down her budget dramatically, and then every couple of months they would slaughter one for dinner and that was that.

Yeah, that wouldn't work for me.  I would get too attached.  I would give them all names, personalities and yorkshire accents.



Another guy grew all his own potatoes.  I can't grow my own potatoes right now.  I can't even keep a mint plant alive.

So, I'm aware that some of you might read this and not have the time to do some of the things that I do,  or have fussy eaters in your household and not have the resources I have.  Every household situation is different.

That's why my first piece of advice on creating a food budget, is to get your research from different sources.  Use what works for you from each one, and don't feel bad if something that works brilliantly for one person, is completely useless for you.  That's the brilliant diversity of life.  Or something like that.

I'm childless, with my own house, I work a structured week, with weekends off, so I have time to do a bit of shopping around at the weekends and I don't have to worry about anyone nicking my food out the fridge.  I only feed two of us, with a few dinner parties a week, so I'm aware my numbers won't match those with families, room mates or weird work hours.  But hopefully, you will find something to help you here.

BE SMART ABOUT WHERE YOU SHOP

One of my close friends lives near a Lidl.  For months she kept telling me how amazing it was, and for months I waved it off as something to check out at some point in the future.  I mean, they probably wouldn't have all the vegetables I like anyway, and I get vouchers from Tesco, plus how much cheaper can it be?

The answer is that I'm an Idiot.  Lidl is amazing.

ALL THE FRUITS.  ALL THE VEGETABLES.

Far from being the barren wasteland, with shitty discount veg, they had everything my previous supermarket had, just alot cheaper.  We came out of our first shop, with as much food as before, but almost half the price.   They even had Sharon fruit.  And the brand of potatoes Husband loves.  AND KALE.  The stupidly overpriced leafy green is not stupidly overpriced there.  Life is good.

We talked about it endlessly for hours.  We were so pleased that budget shopping wasn't crap that I could have cried.  I kept shoving my receipt in people's faces and saying "LOOK.  LOOK HOW MUCH STUFF I GOT FOR £30!"

I now do my weekly fresh stuff shop at Lidl, I'm not buying less food, or cutting anything out.  The fact that there isn't a coffee shop to tempt me, or excessive choice over cheeses and cans means I don't spend as much time in there, or spend any extras on stuff I don't need.   Lidl kicks actual ass, me and my clever friends are actually in love with it.

No, they don't do some of the things I use, like coconut oil, or the dog food my fussy pooch likes, but I'll get to that part later on...

So for now, I've cut my fresh weekly shop down from £75 - £90 to an average of £30 - £40.

So stop being a snob and check out some of your local discount supermarkets, yes some of them will be pants, but some might just be that lifeline you need.


DEALS EXIST

Have you ever walked into a supermarket and seen that something was on offer, and you thought "What a fricken bargain, I'm glad I came in here today!"

You can pre-plan that feeling of elation!  With science!

Okay, not with science.  But I've got you excited for my next tip, right?

We get bombarded with supermarket "deals" magazines.  These used to go in the recycling bin, now they are perused, noted and THEN put in the recycling bin.  They contain the the insider knowledge to these amazing bargains.






So I see it, and I plan a meal around it, sometimes that will be our treat  (like if they are selling off cider cheap, or squash)  Sometimes, it's a lifesaver, as they have household essentials like loo roll, washing up liquid and washing powder too.  It really pays to check.



Here's my favourite bit.  Sometimes those magazines even have coupons in them, and I love coupons / vouchers.  So have a snoop and you can cut your 'expensive taste' portion of your food budget by half.



MAKE A PLAN

I meal plan for the week, but it's not stringent, I have a husband who decides what he wants to eat on a whim and hates structured meal plans.  So it works out like this:

- Breakfast stuff (oats, milk, fruits etc)
- Lunch stuff (Decided based on deals - usually veggies to make soup and bread for sandwiches)

Dinner food get split into five categories.
- One big meal on a Sunday using whatever meat / veg are in the reduced / offer sections.
- Two meat meals a week after that, usually two different meats each week.
- 2 veggie meals (from blogs, recipe books etc etc)
- One pantry meal (More on that later...)
- One freezer meal (made from leftover foods from the week before, more on that in a moment as well)

Obligatory stock photo of a pen and paper.  That's how professional this post is.

If we're going out that week, or have someone over, I make amendments to it, but generally, this works out for me.  If there's a certain recipe I want to make one week, I write down the ingredients I don't have so I don't forget them.  Apart from that, it's a bit of a free-for-all, but gives me the flexibility to make what I like, whilst keeping my food waste to a minimum.  All leftover food (if there is any, is bagged up, frozen and used for the freezer meals)

KEEP A STOCKED PANTRY / CUPBOARD / FREEZER

I'm going to tell you a little story.  You know, to keep the passion alive in this blogger/reader relationship.

When we were searching for our house, I would hate a house if I hated the kitchen.  It became the thing we were known for.  So, after months of vetoing places, I knew we had a winner when the estate agent bypassed all the rooms in our house and took me straight to the kitchen, told me to hold onto my knickers and opened up A PANTRY.

I was so excited I could've crapped myself.  I didn't, because I'm a lady and whatnot, but still.  Excitement aplenty.



Pantries ARE AWESOME.  They are also lifesavers.

I keep that bad boy full.  Because when your fridge is empty, your pantry is your best friend.  I'm aware that not everyone has one of these, and space is limited in most kitchens, but keeping a good stock of dried foods, cans & jarred goods will save you butt-loads of money because it lasts, it's flexible and best of all, can be bought in bulk.

But as usual, I only bulk buy things I will actually use.  None of us are innocent, we all have weird cans and packets stored away  (I have jars of pickled things, and poached pears in mine)

For creating my pantry meals,  I use "search by ingredients" websites, like these and either follow them, or get enough of an idea to make a meal by inspiration.



As for freezer meals, My mother in law will sometimes bring us meats that were down to about 10p in the reduced section and we freeze it.  A reduced section is a gold mine, because 9 / 10 you can freeze what's in there and use it for meals (for next to nothing).

If I make too much of something (which is most of the time) I'll freeze the leftovers.  If a recipe calls for half an quantity of vegetables, I'll cut it all up and pop the rest in the freezer.

If there is stuff left on my plate at the end of a meal, I add it to my "stock box" which is quite simply, a lunchbox of frozen veggies & meats that I turn into stock when it gets full.


We also go to 'pick your own' farms in the summer, and for a quarter of supermarket price, bulk buy fruits and veggies and keep them in the freezer for defrosting in the winter.

 Also, there are so many recipes you can make in bulk and freeze the leftover.  Here's a some links to wet your appetite,  you might even be surprised.





USE WHAT'S ON OFFER, BUT USE IT WISELY

This kind of calls back to tip number two, but I'm going to expand on it.


I'll only buy things on offer if I think I'll use it.

I don't buy my normal list and THEN what's on offer either, I'll sub it for something I would have bought instead.  For instance, I have pork joint on my shopping list, but I see a whole chicken for half the price in the reduced section.  I'll swap the chicken for the pork.  I'll only buy both if I think I'll use both in the week ahead.

As I said above, I'll buy things in the reduced section and freeze them too, but only if I can see myself using them within the month ahead.  Deals are only a good offer if you think you can use it.  If I think I'll be throwing things away in a months time during a freezer purge, I don't buy it.

SNACK YO'SELF

So, here's an example.  One of my favourite snacks is popcorn.  Big bags of popcorn are about £1.50 and full of crap.  The tiny healthy snack packs of popcorn are nearly a quid each.  But a bag of kernels, costs £1.20 and makes enough popcorn to last a year.  Pop that in some coconut oil, sprinkle on a bit of sugar or salt and you've got yourself cheap snack right there.  Another example:  The other night Kris wanted flapjacks, they were out and cooling on the side less than half an hour later because of my well stocked pantry.  I have a simple, small quantity cake mix for 'spur of the moment' cake making too.  There's nothing wrong with splashing out on a chocolate bar, or a biscuit, but it's much nicer, cheaper and better to just do some research, get a baking cupboard together and make it yourself.

THE INCREDIBLE BULK

I bulk buy things I used to buy weekly.  I get my (usually quite expensive) cooking things, like special vinegars, smoked garlic, nice cheese & free range eggs (my goodness, the sentence made me sound like a bit of a dick) from local farm shops & delis.

Don't think you have any near you?  Seriously, give it a Google.  I did and I found over 10 within a 20 minute drive from me.  The drive to them is beautiful as well.  And those extras, the things that usually cost a bomb in supermarkets are usually (I say usually, because some take the piss and charge for being twee) much cheaper in farm shops.  A smoked garlic in my supermarket, came packaged all fancy and cost me £3 a bulb.  In a farm shop, it's £1.80 and it's bigger.  BOOM.  SAVINGS.  Plus your helping out a local business.  Get in.



I get things like lentils, grains, herbs, noodles and other specialty ingredients (soy sauce, weird oils, spices) from the market, foreign food shops (there's a little local Indian one near me that does BAGS of spices for about 50p) or a little local wholefoods shop in my home town.  It sounds like a hassle, but I go so rarely, that it becomes a little monthly adventure.

Here's just one price difference:  One weekly shop of 500g bag of lentils in Tesco: £1.50.  One 2kg bag of lentils from my local world food shop - £2.50.

Unsure of where to start looking for these bargains?  Google is a start, but it's not the only place. Ask around on Twitter, or ask your friends.  Even just taking a walk about your home town can provide results.  On a drive towards the countryside, There were loads of homemade signs saying "Free eggs, help yourself, or veggies for a £1 a box"

I found a lot of these places by going on local Facebook pages, blogs or looking in my towns 'shopping guide' that they hand out in the independent shops.  It literally took me five minutes and saves me buttloads of money every month.

LOOK TO HISTORY

I have a few wartime recipe books, including my nanna's handwritten ones, because they are fantastic at making things s t r e t c h.  I learnt how to make a chicken last for several meals, and use it's carcass to make stock.  It was in a 50's freezer guide that I found the tip about keeping a "Stock box" of leftovers to make soups.  I learnt how to make bread, mock cream and stretch out a small amount of vegetables, grains and eggs into a filling tasty meal.  Have a look on eBay, or down your local charity shop and seriously be amazed and what they can teach you about making the most of what you buy.

Here's a few newer editions with the same principle:



Now I'm not saying I'm perfect, and you know what, sometimes I can't be bothered to check the magazines for deals so i wing it, sometimes I forget to defrost what's in my freezer to eat it that day and sometimes, you just want to buy a piece of cake.

But by occasionally, not stringently following these, is how I keep those bills low.

What do you use to keep your food budget low?  Share below and give me some more ideas, you can never have too many, right?


Fiona: 
Lidl is my budgeting tip!  Don't mock it until you've tried it!

Laura
I only ever write lists, plan meals for the week beforehand usually going by what's already in and whatever else we need goes on the list as does whatever we're running out of, rice, pasta, spices etc
and if anything's on offer usually stock up on it.  I'd also say, it's worth going to different shops
like we get a lot of stuff from sains/tesco  but there's the odd bit of meat, veg, stock cubes, ketchup, salt etc that we get from lidl/aldi  I had a receipt from lidl, and worked out how much it would have cost if I'd have bought the same things from sainsburys, there was a massive difference.

Laura (Day Dreaming Foodie)
I'm terrible at budgeting.... take today for example. I've just impulse bought a cow... *had to go in, this was my favourite*

Vegan Budgeter
My local shop deliver fresh veg every few days, I market bulk buy my stock food, like lentils and pulses.  I make everything else from scratch.  If I can't make it, we don't have it.  Simple saving technique.  As a vegan, I find it easier and cheaper to do it this way, even though it might cost more than some families shops.  I save by not having meat, so it balances out.

Gemma
We shop as a house, get a food shop delivered once a week, on a Thurs, so all the yum stuff is fresh for the weekend, we all suggest things we fancy for dinner and anything else I buy general ingredients to create dinners from for the other nights.  The bits we run out of we get from the local shop ie. milk - I usually get a few treats from whole foods for weekends and generally get my fruit n veg from the market.  Oh and I try and spread 'household' items out so I don't need to be buying toilet roll, kitchen roll and cleaning products the same week each month if that makes sense?  Like spread the cost out to an item a week?

Rachel
When I cook in the evenings I try to make my lunch at the same time but change it slightly so if I'm having pasta bake for tea I'll use the remaining pasta in a salad over the next couple of days.

Anon
I shop wherever the bargains that week are!  It's easy to get into a habit of buying things out of habit, so shopping somewhere different means I never get in a shopping rut.

Here's some helpful links:

31 Insanely Smart Ways To Save Money When You Cook
Budget menu: Tips to cooking well for £1 a portion
How little money can a person live on?
'We're trying to stick to £50 a week for our food budget – but it's tough'
How to Plan Your Meals When You’re on a Tight Budget




Hello there.

A few of you have asked where I've been, why I've not been posting TFIF or any recipes of late.

Well....

Every day, I open up a brand new blank post page, write three sentences, have a fit, curse at my screen a little bit and close it down.



An hour later, I'll start it up again, have a little read, realise that everything I write sucks and a bored monkey slapping it's knob on a keyboard could write better than I ever could.

So that's where I am right now.  I have the blasted curse of bloggers block.  It sucks and I'm grumpy.  This is my draft folder right now.  Look at that.  21 unfinished posts.


So I can't blame it on a lack of cooking, because I've been doing loads.  I can't blame it on being busy because I always am and it's never stopped me before.  I can't even really blame it on a lack of ideas, I just have no SOLID ideas.  My brain is fizzing over with little sprouts that never take root.  It doesn't help that most of them are weird anyway.




I'm starting to feel like there must be some magic formula around that makes bloggers able to post 3 times a week, cause I can't.

So here we go, I open it out to you.


Help a lady out.  Throw me some ideas for helping me get out of this rut?  Things you used to get out of your own if you have had one, or an idea, prompt or anything?

Post in the comments or send me en email.   Or don't.  It's up to you, but I'll really like you if you do.

I might even make you cake.

A big fecking cake.

With a sparkler on it.




As the year opens out, I'm finally fulfilling my lifelong wish to travel.  After years of saving for grown up things like a house, a wedding and a bathroom (16 year old me would hate me), we are ready to go.

But it's my first time.  The getaway to Disneyland Paris, whilst fun, really doesn't count and apart from lots of trips around the country and my very food-centered honeymoon in Edinburgh, we're not traveled.  I can't say I've explored what I want to explore.  So this is all new.

So I'm documenting everything.  This week, it was all about the preparation.  Guide books, research, blog reading and insurance comparing.  Thrilling I know.  So, this week, it was less about being hungry and addicted to tea, and all about the shortness.  This gif just about sums up my life as a shortarse....

Pats on the head?  Check.  Tip toes?  Check.  Shirts as dresses?  Check.

I say my height doesn't effect my life in a negative way, and it doesn't, not really.  Here's a list of how my height can affect my holidays:

1 - I can never find a maxi dress that isn't a foot too long.
2 - I have to tip toe to see over the airport check in desks, in fact, there's a lot of tip-toeing.  My calves are intensely more powerful than yours.
3-  My collection of steps and stools aren't travel friendly.  Which means a lot of jumping, parkour on kitchen work tops and climbing to highest view points.

And that's about it for holiday related short people problems.  My life is not drastically altered by being five foot 1, my holiday photos are just a little lower down than yours.

Yeah....

The final thing I had to do last week was renew my passport.  Mine didn't' match my new travel documents and it was holding up bookings and all sorts.

Well, to renew, you need new pictures.  Something I was quite looking forward too because in my last set, I had an...er... very distinguished style.



The joys of getting your first adult passport at 18 is that your questionable style choices, and make up woes are there for everyone to enjoy for the next 10 years.

Lucky for me I'm changing mine early, thanks to marriage.

Everyone suggested I go and get my passport photos done in an actual shop, using this 'special service' that promises to get your photos right for the passport office.  They have a little set up, in full open view of the shop.

I wanted to use a booth.  I'm old fashioned and I like to veto if I look too crap, but people persisted that this was the better choice.

So I walked in, on a busy Saturday afternoon, got in line and waited.  Once I arrived at the front, the woman looked me up and down, paused, and then went to get a child's booster seat.  Let that sink in, okay.

A BOOSTER SEAT.  FOR CHILDREN.

The short people jokes already come in thick and fast without active encouragement.

But my Englishness froze me to the spot.  I'd already initiated this woman in the process of doing my photos.   I was in a line and everything.  

I had two choices.  I, a 25 year old adult, could literally hop onto a throne of embarrassment and let a room of 30 people watch this happen.

Or I make a stupid excuse and leave.

I went with the latter.  I get the car booster seat joke about 50 times a day.  I can only imagine the mirth of anyone who knows me, walking past that shop window only to see me, legs dangling about a foot off the floor, sitting on a booster seat my ass was too big for.  I would never live it down.


Three days later, I sat at the post office, with my form and my new slightly manic looking passport photos. (I got them done in a booth in the end.  One with a beautiful adjustable stool.)  I hand it all over, along with a butt-load of money and the rest of my sanity and there we have it....

The last hurdle in my travel planning.

When my shiny new passport plops onto my doormat my less than 5 days later, I take it as a sign, that even though it puts me out of my comfort zone, and can be difficult at times, I am so ready for this.

LET IT BEGIN.

If anyone has any great travel blogs, sites or guidebooks, please post them below or email them to me, research makes me happy.




author
Emma | Fork and Good
Married. Mid-20s. Documenting it all via vaguely sarcastic and sweary blog posts. Obsessions changes weekly.