Tag Archives: Shopping

These are a little odd. They come in a liquid filled packet and look like jelly. However they are only 4 calories per 100g which frankly you can burn off cooking them. So I thought I would give them a go. They are however eyewateringly expensive compared to standard noodles. I paid £3 for my pack. Not hugely expensive in the grand scheme of things but for 180g of noodles it’s pretty pricey especially as I could literally get kilos of the normal noodles for that price.

So I bought them and in my fridge they sat, wobbling gently in the crisper every time I got out fruit and vegetables. Taunting me with their gelatinous ways. They scared the hell out of me. I have no idea why but I was really, really reluctant to try them but they cost so much I felt I had to. So I researched them and found out the following

  1. When you open them they will smell faintly of fish
  2. They don’t taste of anything
  3. They have a slimy texture

Marvellous! Fishy smelling slime? Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Could anything at all sound less appetising? Couple that with the appearance of them in the liquid which has all the culinary appeal of jellied thread-worms. Could this be the reason they promote weightloss because the very thought of them is enough to put anyone off food for hours?

But I am a tight wad and I had forked out good money (well technically good Amazon vouchers from doing surveys not actual cold hard cash but it’s the principle isn’t it?) so try them I would.

Chicken and Vegetables in Oyster Sauce with Zero Noodles

  • 170g cooked chicken
  • 100g spring onions
  • 4 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 courgette cut into matchsticks
  • 300g mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder

Serves 2 – calories per portion 215

Total cost around £7, I used leftover chicken and it depends on the cost of the noodles which varies dramatically.

Slice the onions, mushrooms and courgettes and stir fry with a little Frylight (I use the chinese one it’s very nice) add the chicken and cover to allow the veg and chicken to steam through then add the sauces and cook until the chicken is piping hot.

The Noodles

  1. Open the packet and drain into a colander. Try not to sniff. ** this is important** consider that they may be off when you do sniff them. Try a tiny little bit to check and realise that they do indeed taste of nothing and are indeed a bit slimy.
  2. Rinse them just in case and then realise it makes no difference at all, they are still slimy.
  3. Pat them dry with a paper towel until they are less wet but will still remain slimy.
  4. Throw them into a pan to dry fry having seized upon the idea that they may dry out and be less slimy.
  5. Add five spice powder and soy to flavour them.
  6. Keep frying, realise they lump together so chop them up with scissors…
  7. Keep frying, noodles are no longer as slimy! They are now like soy and five spice flavoured rubber bands! Partial success…
  8. Throw them in with the chicken and veg mix and serve.
  9. They are now slimy again but the other textures detract from it.
  10. The meal itself is actually very tasty and very low cal.
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Actually quite tasty

Verdict – They are OK, nothing special and if you are running out of calories then they are a good filler but I don’t think they are worth the cost. The dish would have been much nicer with some roasted broccoli seasoned with the five spice and that would only have been 25 cals or so more.

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I’d seen this particular site recommended on a couple of forums. I’d always had a look and then not bothered ordering. It seemed like a bit of a faff and the delivery charges seemed a bit steep. I am a fan of having my Ocado groceries delivered at 11pm to get free delivery, I don’t like paying delivery charges if I can help it. But I registered anyway and thought about it.

Then they sent me an email informing me that my first order would be delivered free of charge if I spent over £20.  It just, got, interesting.  Now you would imagine that spending £20 is easy. It isn’t really. Not on this site.

The email also included a special offer on tuna, not low quality tuna but John West tuna chunks in brine and not the snack size ones either.  The cost?  £2.00 for 5 (yes Five) cans.  I ordered 10.  I now have an entire shoal of tuna inhabiting my spares cupboard. I didn’t however have enough for free delivery.  So I browsed, and I bought…

Product
Cost Each
Quantity Cost
HP Brown Sauce 255g £0.50 2 £1.00
Pataks Original Garam Masala Curry Paste Hot Cinnamon and Ginger 283g £0.75 2 £1.50
Mcdougalls Vegetable Suet Mix 3500g £0.69 2 £1.38
Mrs Elswood Wasabi Sauce 270g £0.50 3 £1.50
Season Valley Garlic Mayonnaise 1 Litre £0.50 2 £1.00
Oxo 6 Chicken Stock Cubes £0.17 6 £1.02
FreeGells Cherry Menthol Sweets 3 Pack £0.50 2 £1.00
OFFER PRICE John West Tuna Chunks In Brine 185g £0.40 10 £4.00
Pureety Gourmet Texan Hickory Barbecue Marinade 64g £0.25 4 £1.00
Ritas Oyster Sauce 340g £0.50 2 £1.00
Starbucks Coffee Doubleshot Espresso and Milk 200ml £0.33 6 £1.98
Time Liquid Bio 735ml £0.75 2 £1.50
Nouvelle 100% Recycled White Toilet Tissue 9 Pack £2.75 1 £2.75
Snaps Spicy Tomato Flavour 39g £0.20 5 £1.00
Walkers Salt and Vinegar Flavour Crisps 34g £0.17 6 £1.02
Sub Total
£22.58
Shipping £0.00
TOTAL £22.58

It really is the most random selection of products.

I may however not have realised just how BIG the vegetable suet was. I thought.. ah that’ll come in handy for dumplings and pastries, possibly puddings and at 69p it’s a lot cheaper than Atora! I’ll have a couple.   Just how many dumplings can one make from 7 kilos of suet? I could feed the street!

The rest of the items I am more than happy with and I will be ordering again in the future… once I have cleared some room. The service was impeccable, I had both text and email notifications about the day of delivery with the option to change days to suit me. Then on the day of delivery I was given a one hour timeslot.

For those with a big family the bulk items are great. You should be aware that many of the products are near to or even beyond their “best by” dates, however they are safe to eat and safe to store too. They have been checked and erm.. approved 😉

www.approvedfood.co.uk

I won’t mention that they have Cadbury’s Creme Eggs on sale at 10 for a £1 😉

The Box

The contents


Back in the days of Yore people ate seasonally because it was that or starve to death.  Even back in the days when I was a child you just didn’t see strawberries in December.  You waited until May/June time when the first crops came in and they hit the shops and markets or you grew them yourself in cold-frames etc.  There was a sense of anticipation about the whole thing and they were a real treat.

Now there is none of this. You can go into any major supermarket and buy strawberries etc when there is snow on the ground. I’m not sure that I like that. It means that the fruit has been grown on the other side of the world and/or ripened in massive greenhouses that have artificial sunlight on them.  They also tend to have been grown for uniformity of shape and colour rather than for taste. Yet when British strawberries are in season there are huge displays about it and everyone raves about them.

It’s not just Strawberries, don’t even get me started about how superior British Asparagus is and Jersey Royals and they are undoubtedly so much better if they are eaten within hours of being picked.  Not days being processed and transported. The same must be true of other countries, when I visited the USA last year I ate the most wonderful corn on the cob that was in season, you could literally see the price dropping on a daily basis and it tasted just wonderful.

So why do we feel the need to buy inferior, imported produce that has traveled thousands of miles?

The answer is simply because we can, because it’s convenient and because we have become accustomed to it.  We as a society are so used to being able to get what we want when we want.  We have lost the idea of seasonal produce. This is madness, it harms the planet and it also is incredibly expensive.

I love fresh fruit and veg and so does my eldest son. He can easily devour an entire fruitbowl full in a single sitting (yesterday we devoured an entire pineapple between us and then he asked for more) he especially like fruit that does not grow in this country. It’s a tough balancing act, the earth mother part of me wants to feed my family only on food from within a 50 mile or so radius, only seasonal, only organic. The real mother part of me sees a child eating and enjoying fruit and veg and is just happy he is eating it.  It’s not easy finding the balance is it?

I do try though, I try to buy what is in season for the most part and this time of year it is easier.  So much lovely fruit and veg is in season and the shelves positively groan with local produce.  If you want to check what is in season in the UK then have a look here there are similar sites for almost every country. I like that site, it promotes the idea of finding a balance, of eating mostly local seasonal produce where possible and giving practical alternatives when it isn’t. For example showing when imported oranges from Spain are in season, not ones from New Zealand.

There is a quote on that site that I want to share as I think it sums up exactly how I feel

Ultimately, eat the seasons is about enjoyment not abstinence

That’s the key thing isn’t it? We all want the best for ourselves and our family. We don’t want them to feel deprived with a carrots in their lunchbox watching the other children tuck into mango because it’s January and nothing else is in season in the UK. We may not want to buy the mango from the tropics but a clementine from Spain is a more acceptable tradeoff isn’t it?

Then there are the options of preserving certain fruits and vegetables when they are in season.  It’s something I am going to be looking into and of course sharing the methods and recipes 😉

I’m also going to try an buy at least 75% of my fruit and veg from local sources (unless it has gone whoops! I reserve the right to stock up on expensive items when they are reduced in price)

What do you think, is seasonal eating something that concerns you or have you not given it any thought? I’d be really interested in your opinions.


I will skimp on many things but not when the welfare or health of my children is concerned.  I am quite fair skinned and obviously the children being children also have skin that needs a lot of protection from the sun.

However applying and reapplying lotions and creams to young wriggling children is a nightmare, as it guessing when it needs to be applied, waiting for them to dry off after they have been swimming so that you can reapply, waiting for the lotion to dry/sink in to the skin and then hitting the sangria when they immediately decide to go back into the pool/sea again.  If the Gods had really wanted to torment Sisyphus this is the task that they should have assigned him.

So when I heard about a sunscreen that was suitable for children, non-greasy, waterproof and needed only one application to last the entire day I was thrilled.. but skeptical.  The claims are true though.  I really cannot recommend this product enough (well perhaps I could if they gave me free stuff Lol)

I have used this product on my children (and me) for holidays in the blazing heat of North Africa and even in Florida at Disneyworld and various waterparks when we were literally outdoors from 9am until midnight with little or no shade.  Not once did I have to reapply and not once did I or the children burn.

It’s a liquid and so soaks into the skin almost immediately without the need for rubbing and as it’s not greasy it does not mark clothes. As an added bonus it contains a very effective insect repellant.  In addition it only needs to be applied 30 minutes or so before exposure to the sun,  many other once a day sunscreens require an hour or more.

My oldest has sensitive skin and suffers from eczema but this did not trigger any response at all.

It’s pricey at around £18-20 for 100ml but as you only use it once a day it is incredibly good value and value is what I am all about.

It’s called Parasol Kids 25+ and I have only ever seen it online. I have however found it on special offer here for just £14.99  plus P&P http://www.medicare-group.com/view/2381/parasol-kids-25-100ml.aspx


One way to cut costs and calories is to switch to non-alchoholic drinks. This is all very well if you are the sort of person that can drink endless cups of tea and coffee. For most of us however having a glass of something nice in the evenings helps us to relax and if we are off the booze for whatever reason we still want a glass of something nice.

This is when things become rather tricky. You can drink coke or other such things but they don’t feel “special” it’s a drink not a glass of something nice. So you have a look at the “special” section and realise that everything there is wildly expensive and full of sugar. Yes Schloer I am looking at you with your tempting array of flavours, posh looking bottles, high calorie count and hefty price tag.

That is why I was so please to stumble upon Aldi Fruit Crushes. These are really lovely, really cheap and really low in calories. My mission is complete. They come in three flavours and I shall now extol the virtues of each

First is Mexican Lime. It is suitably sour, a glorious colour and a meagre 2 calories per 100ml. On its own with ice and a slice it is refreshing and does not get too sickly. It also can be mixed with tequila and triple sec to make a long version of a margarita that is divine.

Second we have Elderflower and Pear, the name alone should suggest just how lovely it is and it is lovely. Once again not too sweet and with a delicious perfumed taste that is very grown up. This has 3 calories per 100ml so once again very low. Serve with ice and a slice of cucumber. If you are not avoiding the booze add a measure of gin for a perfect summer drink.

Finally we have Morello Cherry. The most calorific but still with only a teeny tiny 4 calories per 100ml. This has a sour, almost sherberty and a deep crimson colour. Just lovely, so refreshing and moreish. If using as a mixer it is wonderful with vodka and plenty of crushed ice.

All three cost just 49p for a litre bottle which makes them an absolute bargain in my book. OK they may not have lovely glass bottles but I can live with that 😉

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Today’s guest post is all about fuel. A timely post as it has just cost me over £70 to (almost) fill my car with diesel. This is not a typo.  I do not drive a Hummer or a sports car but rather a reasonably priced family car. So reasonably priced that it is in fact the same make, model and even colour and the reasonably priced car on Top Gear… Anyway if I am spending that amount of money I quite understandably want to be getting the best value. Which is why this post is so informative 😉 You can find the author’s blog here, follow him on Twitter here or if all else fails you can often find him on my sofa as he is my partner 🙂

I drive to work. Every day I do the same 18.4 mile journey to work, and then the same journey back. I travel at the same time each day, and I don’t use my car for anything else. I reset my trip counter each time I fill up and I use it to gauge how full my fuel tank is (I have a Toyota Aygo and so the fuel gauge looks like this….

…not very accurate). From experience I know the first block disappears about 100 miles, the rest at 60 mile intervals, meaning I will have done 340 miles when it gets down to the last block, so when I see the trip counter nearing the magical 340 miles I know I will be filling up soon. I can usually get around 350 miles out of a tank of Supermarket petrol.

I usually fill up at Morrison’s near where I work, I do this as it’s usually a couple of pence cheaper than the named brands and it used to be convenient. That is until Morrison’s had a promotion on whereby if you spend more than a certain amount in store you got vouchers for money off petrol. Almost instantly the queues for the petrol station became ridiculous, people were queuing all the way through the car park and out on to the street. Now I am frugal and will always try and save money, but I also do not like waiting around, so seeing the queue last time I needed to fill up I thought “bugger it” and went to the local Jet garage instead. I filled up and paid 2p per litre more than I would have done, but it also took about a third of the time to do. I thought nothing more of it until I started noticing that the fuel gauge wasn’t disapeering as quickly as normal. The first block went at 110 miles, the second at 175 and so on. It was only when the counter ticked over to 385 miles that it went down to the last block, and it was another 10 miles before I filled up again.

This peaked my interest, yes I’d paid 70p more for my petrol, but I’d gained about 40 to 45 miles. An increase in 1.5% cost for a 10% increase in mileage…..hmmmmm.

It was at that point I vowed to abandon Morrison’s petrol in favour of named and branded stuff.

But it didn’t end there. Those of you that know me will be well aware that I enjoy looking into things, delving and playing with figures and statistics. Well this was no different.

It’s reasonably common knowledge that the vast majority of petrol comes from the same few refineries, all the petrol companies use the same local base product, but it has additives mixed in to make them different. Knowing this it made me wonder what could possibly be so different between Morrison’s and Jet fuel to produce such a variance in performance.

So I looked into it, and was quite surprised what I found out. Did you know there is no actual limit to the amount of additives that a company can add to it’s petrol, so long as it is still usable as petrol and the total organically bound oxygen (basically the amount of oxygen from hydrocarbons) within the additives is no more than 2.7% of the total volume? You do now, but what does that mean?

In short when you buy a litre of petrol, you are not buying a full litre of petrol. The British standard (BS EN 228:2008 & BS 7800) say that it can be made up of up to 3% Methanol, 5% Ethanol, 10% Iso-propyl Alcohol, 10% Iso-Butyl alcohol, 15% ethers and 10% other oxygenates, so long as the total organically bound oxygen is less than 2.7%. A few simple chemical calculations later would show that the above maximum limits provide in each case a total organically bound oxygen figure of just short of 2.7% (except for ethanol, but I’ll come on to that next)

So for every litre of petrol you buy, 10% of it could be Iso-propyl alcohol, or 3% could be methanol, or 5% of it could be ethanol. Now these still burn and can be used as a fuel, but ethanol has a few interesting properties. For starters it’s 34% less efficient than petrol and it is also hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb water. Now 5% of ethanol would equate to 1.74% organically bound oxygen. Leaving a whole 1% left to play with.

That could be made up of any of the other alcohols and ethers listed in the British Standards document, or for that matter, anything else you could think to add. It was whilst thinking this that I noticed something that peaked my interest a little.:

BS EN 228:2008

5.6.1 Water Tolerance

Given the known potential for some unleaded petrol to absorb water, suppliers shall ensure that no water segregation occurs under the range of climatic conditions expected in the country concerned.

Water tolerance in petrol eh? And the only thing the suppliers have to do is ensure that it doesn’t separate. Well that’s easy enough isn’t it, they just need to add some form of Hygroscopic liquid that will absorb the water and still mix with the petrol.

Can you see where I’m going? they can add up to 5% ethanol, and  ethanol is hygroscopic and can absorb up to 20% of its volume in water without effecting its ability to mix with petrol. So long as they have Ethanol as an additive then a little water won’t hurt. In fact the amount of water that can combine with ethanol in a petrol mix, quite fortuitously, would result in a total organically bonded oxygen level of just under 1%. What a coincidence that the total volume of Ethanol and water that could be combined with petrol produces almost exactly the total combined limit for organically bonded oxygen.

Now some may say I’m cynical, but that got me thinking. Given the reputation of some oil companies, and the greedy nature of some petrol suppliers, would it really be beyond the realms of possibility that some suppliers would take advantage of this? No, surely not, I mean it wouldn’t be worth it would it? taking a 30,000 litre tanker and filling it with 28,500 litres of petrol at a supplier cost of 50p per litre, topping it up with 1,250 litres of ethanol at around 40p per litre, and then topping it off with 250 litres of water. Is it worth it for a saving of £250 per tanker? OK so each service station may get a couple of deliveries a day, more if it’s a busy one, and Major suppliers may have over 100 locations throughout the country……

I am put in mind of the scrimping Landlord of a pub topping up the Tanqueray with a little Morrison’s own brand Gin to make it go a little further, and then adding a dash of water for good measure.

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting the Morrison’s waters down it’s petrol, what I am suggesting is that the quality of the petrol I get from Morrison’s is vastly inferior to the quality of the petrol I get from Jet, and given that both will have come from, if not the same refinery, then certainly the same basic standard product, it can only be the additives that are put into the petrol that have made such a drastic difference.

During my research into this post, I came across a few discussions on this subject, usually along the lines of people claiming supermarket fuels was duff, tanker drivers saying that when they filled up their tankers the mix was preset and the base fuel and additives were mixed in the tanker, but when you dug deeper, and looked on a few more obscure forums, I cam across references from refinery workers. I’m not going to link to them as in all cases they would refuse to elaborate on anything as they valued their jobs, but the general gist was “you’d be shocked if you knew what went into the petrol”

I for one shall be plumping for the slightly more expensive Jet fuel in future so far it seems to be far more economical than the budget fuel from the supermarkets.


I absolutely hate running out of things.  It’s not only the inconvenience but also the cost. If you run out of something and need to buy it there and then you run the risk that whatever it is will be full price and even worse you may have to pay over the odds at a local shop for it.

This is why I have a spares cupboard. Well actually it’s not a cupboard but that’s what I call it anyway. It’s an area in the house that I store non perishable items.  Mostly these are cleaning and laundry items but there are also toiletries and foodstuffs.  I buy them not when I need them but when they are on special offer or even when they have gone Ooops.

Sometimes supermarkets will reduce items not because they are near the use by date but because they no longer have room for them.  They have promotions such as Baby and Toddler Week, Spring Cleaning Week, Barbecue Season etc and during those times they pile the shelves high with promotions. These are usually in larger sizes than are normally stocked and at good prices. When the next promotion comes along they no longer have the room for huge bumper sized cartons of fabric conditioner so these find their way to the reduced section.

I set aside around £20 per month for these items. Sometimes I spend it. sometimes I don’t but it’s there in case there is a brilliant offer on something I know I will need.  I know I am going to have to do laundry, I know that laundry detergent does not go off and I know I have some money available to stock up.

I currently have about 3 months supply of washing liquid, 6 months of fabric softener and 2 months of washing up liquid. All bought when they were reduced or on special offer.

It takes some organisation and planning and of course the room to store it but it does not have to be indoors as long as it is secure.  It’s a small thing but for months when there is an unexpected bill or expense not having to buy things like this is a Godsend and of course the actual cost per item is a lot lower.

Don’t let these bargains pass you buy, allocate part of your monthly or weekly budget just for these items. You don’t have to be specific just ensure that when the bargains are available you can make the most of them.  It’s simple but incredibly effective 🙂