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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Lunchbox Tips to Help You Reach 5-a-day

My family take packed lunches to work and school almost every day.  It can be a challenge to get some of their 5 a day into packed lunches, particularly school lunches, as bananas tend to get bruised and squished and so do other soft fruits.  And it can be difficult to keep cut fruit and vegetables fresh until lunchtime.

Tropicana conducted consumer research with found that:

72% of Brits think it’s harder to be healthy when having lunch on the go.  

Lunch is one of the meals least likely to include any of our five-a-day, second only to breakfast.  

For more than one in four (27%), lunch is the least likely meal to include any of our five-a-day.

Thankfully none of my family are particularly picky when it comes to eating fruit and vegetables, if yours are then there are tips and tricks which may help:

Variety is the key
Kids love bright colours, so why not try making a rainbow in their lunchboxes with lots of different coloured fruit and vegetables. This is a really fun way to incorporate a variety of fruit and vegetables into one meal and will help to keep things interesting. It also means they will be consuming lots of different nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals), contributing to a healthy balanced diet.

Get the whole family involved

Get the family on board and make little ones feel valued and important, by including them in meal planning and shopping. It’s a great way to teach good habits as well as give them part ownership of what goes inside their lunch box. Children are more likely to enjoy trying foods they have been involved in choosing, which will also help to prevent waste.

Sandwiches and Salads
You can add a variety of vegetables to sandwiches, and fruit to salads, to keep lunchboxes interesting.  Why not brainstorm sandwich fillings and experiment with new lunchbox salads on the weekend, and get children involved in helping prepare them.  My children enjoy Mixed Vegetable, Halloumi and Chickpea Salad, Storecupboard Salad or Super Quick Chickpea and Couscous Salad.  We've even included homemade vegetarian sushi in packed lunches which was very popular with my children and their friends alike.

Make fruit and vegetables fun

Whether it’s drawing a smiley face on a banana skin or providing a mixed pot of bite-sized fruit to challenge children to create a smiley face or animal using the fruit (80g of mixed fruit pieces counts towards your 5-a-day) – lunchtime needn’t be dull! Both children and adults alike enjoy bite-sized fruit and veg - it’s less messy and more convenient. Why not try pre-chopping some fruit and veg a few nights a week to keep in air-tight containers in the fridge (keep for approx. 2 days depending on the type) for an easy way to pop an extra hit of the family’s 5-a-day into the lunch box.

Try leftovers in a flask for older children and grownups
There are so many delicious soups, and leftovers from dinner the night before that can be heated up the next morning and kept warm in a flask for a delicious, warming, and filling lunch.  My older children particularly like Root Vegetable and Red Lentil Dhal or Quick Vegetable Tagine with Couscous.

Put fruit and vegetables into baking
My family enjoy Vegetable and Cheese Bites or Oven Baked Vegetable Crisps in packed lunches, or a piece of 5 A Day Cake or a Wholemeal ABC Muffin as a treat.

Floating fruit

To create a fun and tasty way to get more fruit, experiment with adding fruit to jelly. As well as providing nutrients, fruit also contributes to your fluid and fibre intake.  Make sugar-free jelly, and add an 80g portion of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mandarin segments, or other chopped fruit, before it sets. 

Fruit juice counts as one of your 5 a day
The Department of Health counts 150ml of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice as one of your 5 a day portions of fruits and vegetables. Because juices contain less fibre than whole fruit, 100% juice can only count as one portion. 

Tropicana have launched compact 150ml Tropicana Little Bottles which are a great way to get 1 of your 5-a-day. Available in two classic flavours, Pressed Apple and Smooth Orange, the hydrating new Little Bottles range offers an oh-so-easy way to brighten up lunchboxes and are packed with vitamin C - Try Smooth Orange for a great source of potassium and folate.  Make sure you keep the juice chilled when on the go.

What are your tips and tricks for getting some of your 5 a day into packed lunches?

**Sponsored Post**

Monday, 16 January 2017

Our Family Meal Plan for week beginning 15/01/2017

Our Meal Plan this week is more expensive than usual as I need to restock our baking ingredients.  We've run out of bread and baking flours, sugars, eggs, butter, oil, etc.  Last week was a challenging one, toddler boy was poorly with high fevers for several days, but nothing else obviously wrong such as a cough or nasal congestion. Thankfully on day 4 his temperature started coming down and he's now back to his usual self.  I managed to stay on track with our Meal Plan, but it was tough as I was so tired and didn't want to cook but had to just get on with it.  I did make toddler boy a few smoothies using fruit and veg that was on the Meal Plan, as he was off his food.

The plan this week is low faff and fairly easy with a couple of slow cooker dinners, and all the meals are family favourites.  I need an easy week as I am utterly knackered after several virtually sleepless nights with toddler boy last week and my usual weekend night shift, plus an extra shift.  

As usual there is plenty of fresh fruit, and lots of vegetables in our Meal Plan.  The greens in the back garden are still going strong, as are the herbs, which saves us money and adds some extra vegetables to our meals.  

Our Meal Plan 

Breakfasts will be toast with spread or porridge with homemade apple and pear compote.  We'll have pancakes on one day over the weekend and homemade crumpets on the other.

Packed lunches this week will be Quick Vegetable Tagine with Couscous for the first half of the week, and Cheese and Vegetable Puffs with vegetable sticks, for the rest of the week and of course a piece of fruit and baked treat for afters. Weekend lunches will be Crustless Quiche and Slow Cooker French Onion Soup with cheese toasts.

Crustless Quiche

3 cups mixed vegetables
1 cup cheese, grated
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup self-raising flour
good grinding of black pepper

Put the vegetables and ¾ of the cheese into a greased ovenproof dish. Lightly beat the eggs and milk together in a jug. Sprinkle over the self-raising flour and mix well, ensuring there are no lumps. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables and grind over some black pepper then sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake at 200°C for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Serve either hot or cold.


My husband has requested a batch of Iced Buns this week, I won't fill them with cream though, and I will also bake some ABC Muffins and Flapjacks.


Mixed Vegetable and Macaroni Cheese

I make my own cheese sauce using a roux base and add frozen mixed vegetables to the pasta during the last few minutes of cooking time. Our Macaroni Cheese usually has plenty of vegetables with the pasta in a rich cheddar cheese sauce.

Slow Cooker Beef Casserole (enough for two nights)

1kg beef braising/stewing steak cut into chunks
1 tsp ground ginger
2 onions, sliced
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
2 x 400g cans of kidney beans, drained and well rinsed
2 peppers, roughly diced (any colour will do)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 bay leaves
1 Tblsp sugar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

If you have time, brown the meat in a non-stick pan, use a little oil if necessary.

Put the beef and everything else in the slow cooker. Stir well and cook for 7-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the casserole needs thickening, stir 2 Tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with 2 Tbsp water into it. Serve with mash and greens or mixed vegetables.  I sometimes make the leftovers into pasties for the second night, it helps the leftovers go further and also makes them into something different.

Packed with Veg Pasta Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 carrots, finely chopped
6 celery sticks, very finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and very finely sliced
3 peppers, finely chopped
500g mushrooms, finely sliced
2 tsp salt
3 Tblsp tomato puree
3 tbsp plain flour
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried mixed herbs

My children help me prepare the vegetables, however you could use a food processor to chop them finely if you want. Put a large heavy-based saucepan over a moderate heat, add the oil and fry the onion for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two before adding the carrot, celery, leek, pepper, mushrooms and salt. Cook, stirring often, for a further 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Turn the heat down to medium/low if necessary. You want the vegetables to be soft but not browned.

Add the tomato puree and cook for a minute before adding the flour. Stir to coat the vegetables in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes, sugar, and mixed herbs. Pour in 1½ cups/375ml of water and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat so the sauce is gently simmering. Cook, uncovered, for around 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced and is rich and flavourful.  Serve stirred through cooked pasta with a generous grating of Parmesan.

Homemade Pizzas - using leftover Pasta Sauce as a topping along with onions, peppers, corn, courgettes, mushrooms and cheese.

Sausage One Pot (enough for two nights)

2 onions, peeled and diced
2 peppers, diced
10 good quality pork sausages
4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat and cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft, adding the garlic for the last minute or two.

Remove the skin from the sausages and shape the mixture into 20 balls. Add to the onion in the pan. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the balls are golden brown and piping hot and no pink colour remains.

Stir in the tomatoes and beans, and cook for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice and mixed vegetables.

Shopping List

44 items cost £67.29 from Asda on 14/01/2017.

Packets and Cereals
1x    Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                        £2.18
1x    ASDA Good and Balanced Wholewheat Spaghetti (500g)    50p
1x    Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg)                                64p
1x    Silver Spoon Icing Sugar (500g)                                        88p
1x    ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                            95p
1x    ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                               £1.20
1x    ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg)                       45p
1x    ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg)                      45p
1x    ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g)                                     88p
1x    ASDA Cous Cous (500g)                                                   65p
1x    ASDA Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)   65p
1x    ASDA Good and Balanced Wholewheat Penne (500g)         50p

2x    ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                         £1.54

Tins, Jars and Cooking
2x    ASDA Good and Balanced Cannellini Beans (300g)            80p
1x    ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn in Water (326g)                     35p
1x    ASDA Vegetable Oil (1L)                                                   £1.15
1x    KTC Chick Peas in Salted Water (400g)                            33.3p
4x    KTC Red Kidney Beans in Salted Water (400g)                  £1.33
10x   KTC Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice (400g)               £3.33
1x    ASDA Stock Cubes - Vegetable (12x10g)                          59p

Dairy and Eggs
3x    ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)               £2.97
2x    ASDA British Whole Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                            £1.98
1x    ASDA Smartprice Butter - Salted (250g)                            99p
1x    ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g)               45p
1x    ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15)                       £2.00
2x    ASDA 50% Less Fat Mature British Cheese (350g)            £3.00

Fruit and Vegetables
30    ASDA Grower's Selection Bananas by Weight (200g)         £2.10
2x    ASDA Grower's Selection Carrots (1Kg)                            90p
8      ASDA Grower's Selection Courgettes by Weight                £2.70
4      ASDA Grower's Selection Leeks by Weight                        £1.35
2x    ASDA Grower's Selection White Potatoes (2.5Kg)              £2.50
3x    ASDA Grower's Selection Whole Cucumber                       £1.35
2x    ASDA Grower's Selection Celery                                       £1.20
1x    ASDA Grower's Selection Garlic Loose                              20p
2x    ASDA Grower's Selection Brown Onions (1Kg)                   £1.34
6x    ASDA Smartprice Apples (500g)                                        £3.00
1x    ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (650g)                                £1.25
2x    ASDA Grower's Selection Mixed Peppers (700g)                £2.40
3x    ASDA Grower's Selection Sweetclem (900g)                      £3.00
1x    ASDA Grower's Selection Plums (750g)                             95p

Snacks and Sweets
1x    ASDA Smartprice Dark Chocolate Bar (100g)                     30p

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x    ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (10 per pack - 750g)   £3.33
2x    ASDA Butcher's Selection Diced Beef (475g)                     £6.67

1x    ASDA Italian Roast and Ground Coffee (227g)                   £2.00
Prices and special offers reflect those on My Supermarket, and are correct as of 14th January 2017.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

We purchased our shopping from Asda, had we shopped elsewhere I shopping would've cost:

Tesco £72.74
Morrisons £79.95
Sainsbury's £83.52
Ocado £98.33
Waitrose £100.54