Challenge Day 5, Lunch

Lunch today was rushed and eaten while doing housework. That meant a quick sandwich (fat reduced pate) with bites eaten between washing dishes.

The calories for our sandwich was 253. Snacks today included a banana, popcorn and a hard boiled egg.

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Challenge Day 5, Breakfast

Breakfasts have been somewhat lacking in imagination this week, as the budget restrictions have left less options than normal for being creative. Add into that being busy and ill, we’ve repeated far too often. Which is all in an effort to explain why we again had Frosted Flakes and skimmed milk with tea, and the kids today had crumpets and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Our calories again were 165 for the cereal.

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Stuffed Pasta and Veggies

Tonight I needed to make dinner in a flash. We had been busy all day so I had no time-a prime candidate for a take away night! However with the tight budget, that wasn’t going to happen, so I chose instead to do our easiest meal.

The pasta is ready made, the sauce is from a jar and the veggies are frozen. 20 minutes from freezer to table, and clean up is quick and easy.

Pasta and Veggies

  • 2 packets Danielli stuffed pasta (Lidl).
  • 1 jar Combinio onion and garlic pasta sauce (Lidl).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (Lidl).
  • Boil as kettle of water, add to pan (this is faster than boiling on the stove). Add veggies and bring back to boil. Boil for 10 minutes, add pasta. Leave to cook for 4-5 more minutes, and drain.

    While veggies and pasta are draining, heat sauce in the pan. Add back veggies and pasta and stir. Serve immediately.

    20 minutes and one pan to serve a meal that is significantly healthier than take away, and costs less too. With under 450 calories per serving, and a cost of £3.76 (94p per serving) for the meal, take away stops being the easiest option!

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    Challenge Day 4, Lunch and Ginger Pear Cake

    Today Dinner Mama had guests at lunch time, and that means a break from the norm, and trying to be a little more creative while not hurting the budget too much. Thankfully we still have lots of fresh fruit and other snacks to offer, and enough of the basic ingredients to whip up a cake.

    Lunch today-beans on toast. Warm on this cold day, cheap, and tasty. But the best thing is a fresh pear and chocolate chip cake, still warm from the oven.

    This cake is far more dense than most cakes that I make, as a result of having two whole pears in it, and much more moist too. In fact it’s so dense that you might not trust that it’s cooked when it’s done-test it by inserting a thin, sharp knife or a tooth pick. If the pick or knife come out clean, it’s cooked. If raw cake mixture shows on the knife, put it back in for another five minutes.

    I’ve used chopped chocolate buttons for this-half and half white and milk chocolate, but you can use whatever you have to hand, be that a bar of chocolate, dark chocolate, it will all taste nice. I chose not to grease my cake pan, but to use a layer of paper instead. This may lead to wrinkles in the edge of the cake but reduces the calories slightly.

    You may also want to change how you handle the pears. I grated them, because I’m not a fan of chunks of fruit in cake, but if you prefer, you can chop them into small chunks instead. Either way the pears will sink to the bottom of the cake.

    Pear and Chocolate Cake

    • 2 medium eggs.
    • 150g of demerara sugar.
    • 150g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, melted.
    • 100ml of skimmed milk.
    • 200g self raising flour.
    • Half teaspoon powdered ginger.
    • Half teaspoon powdered cinnamon.
    • 2 pears, peeled and grated, around 400g peeled weight.
    • 50g of chopped chocolate.
    • A little extra cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on the top.

    Melt the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light in a bowl, in the microwave on half power for 20 seconds at a time till melted. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160 if you have a fan assisted oven). Line a spring form pan with baking or grease proof paper.

    Beat the eggs in a bowl with a whisk. An electric whisk will do this more quickly, but a hand whisk will do it just fine. Once the egg is well beaten, add the sugar and mix, before slowly pouring the melted I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter into the mix-keep mixing as you pour it in.

    Add the milk and whisk till well mixed, then sprinkle both the ginger and cinnamon onto the mix. The mix at this point will look very wet-that’s OK and to be expected.

    Slowly add the flour, a little at a time and mix well. Once all of the flour is mixed in, and the mixture is lump free. Fold in the pears and the chopped chocolate and mix lightly.

    Pour the mixture into your lined pan and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon and sugar, and place in the middle of the oven. Leave to cook for 45 minutes before checking. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire wrack for a few minutes before trying to remove the paper.

    This moist, rich cake has 210 calories per serving (12 servings per cake). As made, it cost approximately £1.40 to make.
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    Challenge Day 4, Breakfast

    I’m afraid that we tend to be a bit repetitive when it comes to breakfast, so today saw us having egg and toast again. Today it was scrambled, with Hovis Wholemeal toasted, and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, with a cup of tea, at 337 calories.

    The good news is that it’s Friday! The weekend is almost here!

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    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice

    Dinner tonight will be a quick and easy fix. The chicken was cooked two days ago in the slow cooker, a chicken joint that gave us enough meat for three meals. That means that all that I have to cook is the rice and veggies, and warm the meat, beans and sauce through.

    Arguably, I could make a better, healthier Spanish chicken from scratch, using herbs and spices to taste. Unfortunately, I don’t have the spices needed for this in my pantry, and I can’t afford the buy them with our budget as it currently is. This ready made sauce jar cost just 79p, and is quick and easy to use, needing no prep and no cooking, no blending or spices, no experimenting to get a nice flavour. When paired up with the already cooked and chopped chicken, and a bag of frozen vegetables, it makes a quick and cheap dinner that should be a hit with the family.

    I have to admit to being a huge fan of such easy, cheap meals!

    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice 

    • 250g pre-cooked chicken (left over from an earlier meal).
    • 1 can red kidney beans (Asda Smart Price, or equivalent shop own brand).
    • 1 bag of frozen vegetables (such as Lidl floret mix).
    • 300g of white rice (Aldi, or Asda Smart Price brand or similar).
    • 1 jar of Aldi Chicken Delight Spanish Chicken sauce.

    Put your bag of vegetables in to cook the steamer or a pan of boiling water. Add your rice to a pan with hot water according to the instructions on the packet-commonly with twice the amount of water as rice. Cook vegetables for about 30 minutes in the steamer, or 20 minutes in the water, or until done to your liking.  Cook rice until nice and soft, 12-15 minutes.

    Put the chicken and beans in a pan with the jar of sauce to heat while the vegetables and rice cook. Allow to heat together on a medium heat until piping hot-at least five minutes. Serve the Spanish chicken over rice, with the vegetables.

    Per serving, this meal costs just 96p, and has 537 calories approximately. Adding corn adds another 58 calories per person per 80g serving, but is delicious (and is how we did it!).  Day three of our budget challenge is over, we’re almost at the half way mark!

    If you wanted to adapt this for baby-led weaning, you would likely want to take the baby’s portion of chicken and beans out before the jar of sauce is added. As an alternative, a little tomato puree could be added so that baby has a sauce and their meal looks the same. As most baby-led weaning families will know, this is essential for stopping baby demanding your dinner instead!

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    Challenge Day 3, Lunch

    Today, the little member of the Dinner Mama family is still on an “eggy weggy woo” kick. So lunch today is scrambled egg on toast. I use water in my scrambled eggs because it makes a lighter egg, but also because milk can interfere with iron uptake. Since eggs are an important source of iron for us, I like to make sure that we benefit as best we can.

    I cook the eggs in the microwave for speed and convenience, making this a quick and easy lunch that takes just about as long as the bread takes to toast.

    One egg and two Hovis Wholemeal with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light costs us 270 calories from our calorie budget.

    Our snacks this morning were a banana and a plum at around 25 calories, and a medium banana at 105 calories, making our day total so far, 565 calories.

    This afternoon we will have some toffee popcorn and a packet of Aldi’s Snackrite crisps as a snack-approximately another 190 calories.

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    Challenge Day 3, Breakfast

    Today is a yucky morning, weather wise, and it left the Dinner Mama family needing to get out of the house and on their way to work and school a little more rapidly than normally. That left a breakfast of cereal all round, because it’s quick and easy to both prepare and eat.

    Frosted flakes and skimmed milk cost us just 165 calories from our daily calorie budget. On a horrid day like today, we have a warm lunch to look forward to, and a both warm and filling Spanish chicken for dinner tonight!

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    Sausage and Mash

    I’m sure that most children growing up in the UK in the last forty or fifty years will have looked forward to the nights when they were served sausage and mash. The Dinner Mama household is no different, with my children both loving this simple dinner.

    While it’s quick and easy to make, the calorie count is good enough to not scare most people. Perhaps the biggest benefit however is the cost, with a family of four being served for just £3.

    Sausage and Mash

    • 1 packet of 8 pork sausages (Aldi).
    • 1 bag of frozen floret mix (1kg bag, Aldi).
    • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
    • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.

     

    Peel potatoes and chop into evenly sized pieces. Put into a large pan and cover with water, put onto boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. Put frozen veggies in a steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam for 30 minutes or until done to your liking. If boiling, allow around 20 minutes.

    Place sausages under a high grill, or on the cooking plates of a stand alone grill (such as a George Foreman). Prick to allow the fat to drain out, and cook until golden brown all over, turning frequently.

    Mash the potatoes in with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and serve with the veggies and two sausages per person. When prepared as directed, this meal has 593 calories per serving. Each serving costs just 75p, making this a cheap and easy go to meal!

    This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using salt free butter in the mash and slicing the sausages down the middle lengthwise. Day two of the challenge is complete, 6 meals down, 15 more to go!

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    Challenge Day 2, Lunch

    Today, we’re being a little dull. My youngest and I are having a Philadelphia sandwich again (14g of Philadelphia Light, 2 slices of Hovis Wholemeal, 196 calories) and a Brooklea strawberry rice pudding pot (198 calories) for a lunch time total of 394 calories.

    Dinner dad is having cereal for his lunch, in order to keep his calories low for a treat later today.

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