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Can you meal plan your way to financial freedom?

As I’m sure is the same for you, we are always busy with something or other.  For us, if we are not dashing around to school, work or days out with the kids, we are firmly planted on the smallholding (pun intended) raising our livestock and growing our own food.  Oh not to mention doing everything else that us humans do, cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping for said cooking…..this is making me tired just typing!  

In my years of experience, one thing I have learnt for us to be successful is that life needs organising. By successful I don’t mean anything other than the smooth running of this place, food on the table and a comfortable home with happy and healthy inhabitants.  Being organised doesn’t mean take the fun out of things or running an inflexible military operation.  It does mean we have to be organised or things slip and don’t get done, which can have negative outcomes.  Not having matching socks doesn’t matter as much as having no food prepped/available for the evening meal, which may lead to eating out ruining our budget etc etc.  Forgetting to feed the animals is not acceptable where as forgetting to write ‘butter’ on the shopping list is.  You see where I’m coming from?

As we move in to 2021 we will be making our usual plans and dreams for the coming year, one of which is already decided upon.  That leads me to this new blog.  Meal planning our way to financial freedom.  Crazy woman?  Bear with me.

The dream for Steven and I is to be able to make an income from our smallholding, enough to support us so we don’t have to work for big cat/other companies forever. We DO want to work, but for ourselves. If you know us from our smallholding blog, you’ll know we aren’t work shy.  

Why do we have to work?  To bring in an income.  Why?  We have chosen a lifestyle choice which includes having a mortgage.  To pay the mortgage we need to work and continue to earn at least one of our wages just to settle the bills every month.  So why doesn’t one of us quit and the other just work?  Well then what would we do if hard times hit? We would have no plan b.  Right now, we have a plan b, one of us goes down, the other steps up and we adapt.

So the short version is we are doing numerous things to lower outgoings and save money to overpay the mortgage.

Maybe you can relate this, maybe it’s not a mortgage for you, maybe you want to save money for one reason or another, or you simply need to meet your current mortgage or rent demands.  One thing is for sure, times are really hard for many right now, during the 2020 pandemic.

In the 4 years or so we have lived here, one thing we have managed to do, which is helping us save towards overpaying the mortgage, is reduce our grocery budget significantly.  From around £600 a month (I’m aware this is spending stupid money from not being organised, buying on a whim and eating out!) to what is a reasonable £300 a month.  The only way I have found to do this is planning.  Meal planning, freezer planning and planning your grocery shop.  Meal planning can be reverse planning, which I’ll talk about in another post or standard planning (ie planning ahead).  Without sitting down and planning my family’s meals out, I wouldn’t be able to have a grocery budget of £300. 

I refer to this sitting down time as one of my “Kitchen Tasks”, a phrase you will hear me use often.  This blog isn’t about paying the mortgage off, it’s about what we are doing with the grocery and grocery related bills to reduce them and to use those savings to over pay on the mortgage. Other people will want to reduce their grocery budget for another reason or maybe you don’t want to reduce your budget, maybe you struggle with meal ideas and would like to start meal planning. 

Thinking of ideas to cook each day or for the freezer can be overwhelming. I hope my blog can help.  What you can expect in the coming posts is to join me around our Farmhouse Kitchen Table and I’ll share how I manage all of these activities and my other Kitchen Tasks!  Including weekly meal plans, shopping lists, grocery hauls and related budgets.  Get insight in to our lives and follow our journey to financial freedom with regular updates on everything.  I hope you find some useful or inspiring information here and even if not, I’d love for your support as we take on this next chapter in our lives. We have a dedicated Facebook Group if you would like to be a part of that community, I’d love to see you there.

Transparent, real life going on here!  Now, final comment for today, remember I said I live on a smallholding (homestead)?  My Aga is my favourite part of the kitchen and in the spirit of the transparency I mentioned, here’s me working around a poorly duck at my Aga.

Isn’t she beautiful 🙂

If you got this far, thank you for reading!! I really appreciate it!

Please leave me a comment below or on social media if you’re new here (everyone is, it’s a new blog!) as I would love to get to know you.  

Bye for now, Tracy x

Scotch Broth (cook low and slow)

This recipe is our favourite meal in a bowl soup. This recipe calls for 500g (1.1lb) of diced lamb. You can pick a half leg of lamb up from supermarkets at the moment for £8.50 per kilogram and dice your own if they don’t sell it diced. The long, slow cooking of this recipe means that you don’t need to but lean cuts, in fact quite the opposite is needed. Even better, support your local butcher and buy from them.

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This serves 4 decent size portions and currently works out at £1.38 a portion. It’s a little on the expensive side but does very well as a main meal served with a chunk of homemade bread.

Ingredients

  • 500g diced lamb £4.25
  • 2 leeks, sliced and washed (apx 500g) 95p
  • 2 decent size carrots, chopped in to coins 5p
  • 1 large onion, roughly diced 5p
  • 55g pearl barley, rinsed 5p
  • 1 litre stock (lamb or whatever you have to hand) 20p
  • Herbs such as a bay leaf, fresh parsley – or mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Using your preferred oil, brown the diced lamb over a high heat for 5-8 minutes.

Add diced onions, sliced leeks and chopped carrots and cook for a few minutes.

Add pearly barley and stir through before adding the stock. Ideally homemade stock but whatever you have to hand will work well. This will thicken.

Pop in the herbs salt and pepper to your preference.

Cook low and slow for up to 12 hours. You can do this in a slow cooker, in which case you can throw it in and go, omitting the browning of the meat stage. I cook mine in the Aga on the hot plate whilst preparing and then in the simmering oven overnight, usually for 10-12 hours.

When it’s done, give it a stir through and taste to check the seasoning. It’s beautiful!

My sourdough journey – the very beginning

I’ve recently just posted the start of my sourdough journey on YouTube! It’s super exciting for me as I tried to create my own sourdough 5 years or so ago when we moved to our smallholding and I failed! We didn’t enjoy the taste and I don’t think I managed to make it particularly active, though in hindsight I think it might have been impatience on my part!

This weekend I will make an updated video to share with you how it is going. In the meantime, I’m going to continue making comfort food and hiding from the cold 🙂

If you like the video and would like to see more, please subscribe to our YouTube channel as it really helps us build out community on that social media platform, thank you!

A Birthday week- Weekly Meal Plan – November 2nd

November sees my husband’s birthday and I can’t wait to taste the pork fillet he has requested. Below is the plan I had made, using up items we have available. However as is life, there was a curveball thrown in that one of our freezers has given up the ghost. Therefore the meals this week are all freezer surprise! I’ll leave the plan as was so people can use it for ideas.

Monday:  Soup and pudding.

Tuesday:  Amatriciana chicken traybake (using thighs).

Wednesday: Meatballs and paste.

Thursday:  Slow cooked pork, cider and sage hotpot

Friday: Curry night.

Saturday:  BBQ pulled chicken (wraps? rice?)

Sunday:  Pork fillet, mushroom sauce and wilted greens.

Breakfasts:  Oat based (porridge, pancakes, cold oats), egg based (dippy, scrambled or omelette) or cereal. Weekends are English breakfast, pancakes or eggs on toast.

SOTW: Red lentil, chickpea and chilli.

POTW: Chocolate cake!

Snacks:  Hard boiled eggs, pepperami, cheese sticks or sweet treats

Please do let me know if you try any of these recipes or meal ideas, or if you would like to know more on how I manage my meals and planning.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Delicious Amish white bread

My go to bread is normally a basic white loaf which does me well every time. However I recently discovered this Amish bread which I was really impressed with.

Practicing for winter cooking – any excuse!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tbsp dry yeast
  • 2.5 cups warm water (warm is 110 – 120F or 43 to 49C)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 8 tbsp butter (4 go in to the bread itself, so if you’re short, just use 4)
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 7/8 cups bread flour

Instructions

Melt 4 tbsp butter

In a stand mixer or large bowl, add warm water, sugar and yeast then stir and rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the melted butter with 4 cups of flour and the salt.

Mix it all, this will be very wet still.

Add remaining flour until bread dough consistency which takes me up to 8 cups. You don’t want it sticking to your hands nor crumbly. Knead for 5 minutes at this consistency.

Take it out of the bowl and knead for apx 10 turns.

Melt another 1 tbsp butter into a clean large bowl and turn the dough into it to cover it all.

Cover in cling film and a tea towel and leave to rest and rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

After 1 hour, knock back, divide in to 2 and shape to desired shape (use a loaf tin if required).

Leave to rise (either on baking sheet you will bake on or in a loaf tin for example) for up to 45 minutes.

Bake for 30-45 minutes in a medium hot oven. To test it is cooked, turn over and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow.

Leave to rest at least 5 minutes before cooking (if you can!) and brush with the last of the melted butter. It is absolutely delicious.

Spooktacular – Weekly Meal Plan – October 26th

Halloween is fast approaching and as it falls on a weekend this year and given the kids won’t be out enjoying it, I thought we’d do a themed meal for the day and enjoy it in the farmhouse. Stay tuned for more on that.

We have corned beef one pot this week and it was so good, a seriously underrated meal. I’m not sure if it’s everyone’s cup of tea so let me know if you would like the recipe.

Coming up this week is also half term and the kids are home whilst I am working from home. Here’s the meal’s I am planning to have with them and my husband.

Monday:  Cottage Pie served with home grown veg (sprouts, cabbage and parsnips).

Tuesday:  Chicken, broccoli and rice casserole.

Wednesday: Cranberry chicken one pot.

Thursday:  Pork Bolognese.

Friday: Pork chops, roast potatoes and seasonal greens.

Saturday:  Halloween buffet

Sunday:  Roast chicken dinner with Yorkshire puddings

Breakfasts:  Toast from a new recipe I’ve found, oat based (porridge, pancakes, cold oats), egg based (dippy, scrambled or omelette) or cereal. Weekends are English breakfast, pancakes or eggs on toast.

SOTW: Red lentil, chickpea and chilli

Snacks:  Banana flapjacks, brownies, fruit,

Please do let me know if you try any of these recipes or meal ideas, or if you would like to know more on how I manage my meals and planning.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Time saving freezer packed lunches – Weekly Meal Plan – October 19th

This month has gone by so quickly. My month’s run from 25th until 24th around pay day, just how I’ve always done it. I did the fair size grocery haul last pay day and except for milk, yoghurts and a few fresh items we fancied (didn’t need, just wanted), we’ve not needed anything else.

I am really pleased with how well freezing the kids’ packed lunches has worked out. The ham brioche are not in the slightest bit soggy, the cheese is perfect and the yoghurts lovely and chilled by lunch time. We grab them out of the freezer on a morning, they defrost during the day and are perfect to eat when their lunch time comes round. They take up a bit of space in the freezer so I guess you have to prioritise, for me this is such a time saver each day (mentally too!) that it’s a no brainer.

We also have a full freezer of pork in all it’s forms now so you will see that featuring more and more heavily in the meal plans each week. Here’s what I am planning for this coming week.

Monday:  Home reared pork chops, mushroom gravy and seasonal veg from the garden.

Tuesday:  Left over chicken curry (from Sunday’s roast), rice and naan bread.

Wednesday: Soup and pudding night (see options below) 

Thursday:  Corned beef stew, mash and mushy peas.

Friday: Shredded ham and roast potatoes with green salad

Saturday:  Lasagne (homemade from freezer), chips and left over salad

Sunday:  Home reared diced pork and apple one pot.

Breakfasts:  Oat based (porridge, pancakes, cold oats), egg based (dippy, scrambled or omelette) or cereal. Weekends are English breakfast, pancakes or eggs on toast.

SOTW: Chicken and noodle soup or pea soup.

POTW: Chocolate sponge and custard

Snacks:  Mini frittatas, hummus and peppers, home made scotch eggs (using quail eggs)

Please do let me know if you try any of these recipes or meal ideas, or if you would like to know more on how I manage my meals and planning.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Happy new week everyone, Tracy x

Rain, rain go away – Weekly Meal Plan – October 12th

I do enjoy being in the kitchen, with the warmth of the Aga keeping the cold away and the dogs under my feet seeing who can get closest to the heat, whilst the wind and rain beats down outside.

Then I have to go out in the elements to take care of the livestock and no amount of wrapping up tightly in a hat, scarf and coat can make being in the rain enjoyable for me! Especially in the volumes we are getting right now. On day’s like these, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of porridge to help you prepare for this or a thick soup to toast you from the inside before heading back in to sit in front of the Aga again. That reminds me, I’m out of Pam Corbin’s ‘souper’ mix (home made bouillon in a jar), so I’ll get some more of that done this weekend. This last batch lasted me for ever!

This is what we have been eating this week.

Monday:  Cottage Pie (homemade in the freezer so a nice and easy tea)

Tuesday:  Jacket potato bar (options of chilli, beans, cheddar, tuna mayo)

Wednesday:  Chicken stir fry with egg noodles

Thursday:  Diced pork stew with mash and seasonal veg

Friday: Chip shop fakeaway

Saturday:  Sesame orange chicken, brown rice / freezer surprise

Sunday:  Roast chicken and yorkshire puddings

Breakfasts:  Oat based (porridge, pancakes, cold oats), egg based (dippy, scrambled or omelette) or cereal

SOTW: Harvest Gold soup,

Snacks:  Flapjacks, hard boiled eggs and my famous steak pies (sooo delish!)

Please do let me know if you try any of these recipes or meal ideas, or if you would like to know more on how I manage my meals and planning.

If you are interested in seeing what we grow here on the smallholding, feel free to join in the fun on our Instagram or Facebook smallholding pages. We also dabble in YouTube which is rather amusing! Not the content, just that we don’t know what we are doing with it yet!

Rich beef and prune casserole

This is THE best Autumn dish! I look forward to cooking it each year. Delicious, tender beef, tasty rich sauce all served over creamy mashed potatoes and garden vegetables. Who wouldn’t want this?

I cook this on the Aga top and then in the simmering oven however you can use whatever you have to hand. We are all about ease here remember. Stove top or slow cooker, even in the instant pot! The choices are endless. Here I give stove top times but adapt as you need to – let me know if you have questions in the comments below.

Ingredients

  • 500 diced beef (or rump stead)
  • 6 shallots or 2 small onions
  • 100g prunes in juice (I actually use a full tin for ease and it is yum)
  • 1 can tin chopped tomatoes
  • 600ml beef stock (I use beef gravy granules for ease)
  • grated zest of an orange OR 1/2 tbsp marmalade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or sprigs of fresh
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  • Spray a heavy based, lidded pan (I use my trusty cast iron Dutch oven) with 1-cal spray and brown the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add all of the other ingredients, ensuring you scrape any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.
  • Leave for a hour, stir and taste. Simmer for another hour and serve.

You can make a vegetarian version by substituting 450g mushrooms for the meat and using vegetable stock.

Slow cooker recipe – Taco Tuesday’s

I didn’t even know about Taco Tuesday until I started expanding our meals. We are very rebellious though and have tacos on other days of the week too! I made extra of this recipe and froze it in zip lock bags in the freezer. It defrosted great and lends itself to many varieties. I add extra rice to it when I need to bulk it out, more peppers and sweetcorn make a healthy addition. It’s an easy recipe to stretch out, making it super frugal too.

Ingredients

  • 1kg minced beef
  • 2/3 cups (less or more depending how you like it) cooked brown rice
  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1.5 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1.5 TBSP onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cumin – optional
  • Tinned Beans – optional

Instructions

The reason I do this in the slow cooker is to throw it in and leave it. It can easily be done on the stove completely.

I put the mince in the slow cooker for 4 hours on low then drain it and put it back on the warm setting.

Add all other ingredients and leave to until you need it.

We served with soft and hard shelled tacos as that’s what we have it, however it is delicious over wraps or just salad. Served here with cowboy instant pot beans too. Yum!

Instant Pot recipe – honey and mustard chicken thighs

I don’t know about you but chicken thighs are marmite in my house. My husband would choose them over any other part of the bird, my daughter would prefer to be vegetarian and it’s too much effort for my son to have an opinion some days 😉

All that said, every week we are blessed enough to be gifted 2 large thighs, drumsticks and wings off an organic, pasture raised bird. So this week, I am making these honey and mustard flavoured thighs.

Ingredients

  • As many thighs as you need for your family, we had 5/6
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cornflour to thicken as needed

Instructions

  • Season the chicken thighs in salt and pepper
  • If using the instant pot, on sauté mode seal the thighs individually, maybe 3 mins on each side and set to one side
  • Add chicken stock in to the empty instant pot to remove any stuck on pieces. You can use seasoned water if needed.
  • Add chicken thighs
  • Mix honey and mustard and pour over the top of the thighs
  • Set the valve to sealing and cook on manual for 10 minutes the quick release.

We served ours with brown rice and mixed vegetables and they were delicious.