November 3, 2011 · 7:19 pm

As it was the half term school holidays last week, which began with a mini break to Sherwood Forest followed by Lil’ L’s 8th birthday, I didn’t get round to posting an update for Laura’s Big Budget Challenge.  Many apologies Laura!  To make up for this, I’ll give a rundown of my ‘money saves’ over the past two weeks vis-a-vis my 5 budget rules

1. Avoid waste. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to avoid throwing away any food over the past two weeks :)   There was a close call with a bag of spinach that was starting to look sorry for itself, but Laura’s post on Monday inspired me to make a spinach, butternut squash and chickpea curry.  I even roasted the squash seeds (for the first time ever) and we had them with the hemp burger and roasted squash dinner on Monday.  No seeds will ever get thrown away again… they’re so nice lightly roasted! :)

2. Shop around for cheapest deals. I’m planning to do another big online grocery shop tomorrow and I’ll definitely be using www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  It saved me quite a few pounds on my last big grocery shop and I’m intrigued to see what I can save this time round :)

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’ve been eating lots of home-grown apples (still not sick of them ;) ).  We’ve also had some very generous donations of home-grown produce from friends and family, including these amazing courgettes/zucchinis.

As well as using the zucchini in lots of savoury dishes (roasted veg & pasta; lasagna; fajitas), I made some wicked date and zucchini brownies last week, which I pictured in yesterday’s post.  (I’ll be writing up the recipe and posting it very soon).

All the donated produce has been used up now, so I’ve turned my attention to some rather unusual home-grown produce… dandelion leaves and nettles.  I didn’t intentionally grow these, but as they’re growing so beautifully in my garden, it’ll be fun to see whether I can turn them into something tasty ;)

4. Go foraging! Whilst cycling round Sherwood Forest last week, I couldn’t resist a quick pause to collect sweet chestnuts.

The cases are so prickly!  I used my feet to squeeze the nuts out of the shells, while M adopted a more hands-on approach.

I didn’t have a bag with me, so I crammed as many as I could into the back pocket of my cycling jacket.

You won’t believe how many I actually managed to cram into that pocket!

I absolutely adore roasted chestnuts!  They really remind me of childhood Christmas Eves when my Dad would roast chestnuts, sprinkle them with salt and tip them on a newspaper.  We’d then sit on the living room floor and tuck in!

Today, I decided to use some of the nuts to make a sweet chestnut casserole with herby dumplings.

The dumplings were flavoured with fresh rosemary from the garden.  This is one of the few edible plants that the slugs and snails actually leave alone!  It’s a really easy herb to grow and seems to look after itself.  Our plant has been here the whole time we’ve lived in Bath (11 years now) and it hasn’t need any attention at all. (That’s SO my sort of plant ;) )

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. We used our Tesco vouchers again on Lil’ L’s birthday, saving us £21 on the entry fee into a sea aquarium.  I’m glad we didn’t pay real money for this trip as the aquarium was awful (in my opinion).  The image of the snake-headed turtle pounding up and down its tiny tank is still haunting me :(

So that’s my big budget challenge update for weeks III and IV!  Have you had any great money saves in the last month?  If so, I’d love to hear them! 

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  • http://www.keepinghealthygettingstylish.com Laura Agar Wilson (@keephealthstyle)

    I’ve never tried roasted chestnuts, will have to give them a try! Thanks for the update – just in time for my round up post :-)

  • http://www.mynaturallyfrugalfamily.blogspot.com Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family

    Sounds like two good weeks. I have to say zoos and aquariums always make me sad. I feel so bad for the animals trapped.
    I cannot wait for that brownie recipe..zucchinis are one of my favorite veggies plus they are so versatile for savory and sweet foods.

  • http://certaintyincookiesandtaxes.wordpress.com certaintyincookiesandtaxes

    Perhaps a silly question, but I didn’t grow up with them – how do you know the difference between horse chestnuts and sweet chestnuts?
    Love the roasted squash seeds – I only recently tried roasting pumpkin seeds, and read that you can roast butternut squash seeds – who’d have thunk it!

  • http://garudauk.wordpress.com Blue Garuda

    Isn’t foraging great!

    I’ve eaten far too many sweet chestnuts and beech nuts in the last few weeks!

    We have a dozen or so lambs in the fields – months earlier than usual.
    (I hope they are not being bred early to keep the local farm shop stocked up.)

    I once went on a course to identify and forage fungi. Aside from the one you cut which turns brick red, I ended up harveting none, not even the pretty fly agaric (amanita muscaria) – nuff said! LOL :)

  • http://bitofthegoodstuff.wordpress.com Sharon

    Like you, I’ve roasted pumpkin seeds in the past, but never thought about roasting butternut squash seeds. They taste pretty much the same!
    Here’s a useful blog post which shows the difference between horse and sweet chestnuts. The cases are very different, so that’s the best way to spot the difference.

  • http://bitofthegoodstuff.wordpress.com Sharon

    OMG have you seriously seen lambs already? I’ve seen them in February, but never this early!
    In nature, ewes come into season in the winter and give birth in the Spring (when it’s warmer) to just one lamb, occasionally two. For lambs to be born earlier, the farmers use hormones or keep the ewes indoors to trick them into coming into season earlier, then they artificially inseminate them.
    Because lambs are not meant to be born in the colder months, the farmers have to put coats on them otherwise they die.
    It’s so unnatural :(

  • http://bitofthegoodstuff.wordpress.com Sharon

    Phew, glad I made it in time this week ;)
    Definitely give roasted chestnuts a try… they’re lush! There’s plenty of info on the web about the best ways to cook them (I’ve read that you shouldn’t eat them raw as they have high levels of tannic acid).

  • http://eatliveandblog.wordpress.com Kim @ Eat, Live, and Blog

    Those are helpful budget tips! Also, I love roasted chestnuts; they’re so good! :)

  • http://www.veganaphrodite.wordpress.com vegan aphrodite

    You are doing great! Im not doing this challenge, but Im deffinentelly trying to save some money. I dont like waste, so I try as hard as I can to use food before it goes bad. Thats how I came up with the kale, pear, caramelized onion salad yesterday :)
    Roasted chestnuts sounds so good! Ive never had them before. And that casserole looks amazing! Real comfort food ;)
    To save money, I order a lot of food online. Norway is CRAZY expencive, and a small (like 200 g) jar of nutbutter costs about $20. But, if I instead order them on Iherb, I can get a big jar (450 g) for only $10-14. Thats a huge saving. I also order things like Spirulina, Chis seeds and other super foods online!
    Have a beautiful weekend! I cant wait for the Brownie recipe :)

  • http://www.bitofthegoodstuff.com Sharon

    Wow Norway is so expensive! I hope you have huge salaries to compensate for the high prices ;)

  • http://www.nutritionbynature.net Amy-Nutrition by Nature

    Nice work on not throwing anything away! I need to be better at that. How fun that you found all those chestnuts.