My two lovely boys are getting a bit of a reality check at the moment! Not that I think that's a bad thing, far from it - but realising that your parents actually mean what they say when they say 'We don't have any money' can come as a bit of a shock to the system! At the moment they both need new school shoes - and I mean they really do. Ali has worn both of his right through the sole and one of Liam's is ripped down one side! If this had happened before now I would have gone straight down the street and got them both a new pair - but I can't at the moment, the shoes in Whangamata are all too expensive. No more flashy skate brands for a while! They're just going to have to wait until we go somewhere with a cheaper shoe shop. I feel a bit harsh making them wait but sometimes as a parent you don't have a choice. I still remember the exact same thing happening when I was Liam's age and my dad was made redundant. Going to the supermarket was a family thing on a Thursday night and while my mum was in charge of the sensible stuff, Dad and I always went along to make sure the 'important' things went in, like massive bags of his favourite peanuts and my favourite giant bars of Swiss chocolate. Until one night we went along and I reached for my usual bar of chocolate and for the first time ever my mum said 'no'. We couldn't afford things like that any more. I thought she had to be kidding, right? I mean come on, a bar of CHOCOLATE? How could we not afford a teensy thing like that? But she was serious. She said that we had to save all our money for important things and couldn't get luxuries like that any more. I don't know who was more shocked at having to go without, Dad or me but Mum was deadly serious and I didn't get my chocolate. Of course I now know she was just doing what she had to.
Just as I'm doing now - except in my case it's not just chocolate, it's everything else too! The boys have been asking for days 'when are you going grocery shopping?' to which Noel and I reply serenely 'When we have some money'. It doesn't bother me at all, not being able to go food shopping. When I look in the fridge, freezer and pantry I still see heaps of food. It's kind of like an enforced $21 Challenge! I've been having fun substituting things and making up recipes and whilst the boys might complain 'we don't have any food!' I haven't noticed that they're starving - in fact quite the opposite, they are loving my creations! They're also realising that there is life without cheese squares and - shock horror - tomato sauce! We ran out of both almost two weeks ago. We also don't have any bread but I found some packs of long rolls in the freezer and everyone has been enjoying those for lunches, as well as bagels for breakfast.
To be honest I'm actually really enjoying the break from the supermarket - hang on, make that I'm enjoying Noel having a break from the supermarket. I hardly ever set foot in the place but I reckon since we moved here he's become a bit of a supermarket addict. Maybe that's a bit harsh, I know he's really just on the hunt for specials but when I'm trying like mad not to spend ANYTHING and he comes home with bags full of meat when we still have plenty in the freezer it stresses me out a bit, especially when it happens several times a week. After years of not having to buy meat I daresay it's a novelty but I'm quite happy to use every single thing we already have up first before buying any more. Still, Mimi's fabulous recipe for Poached Chicken Breasts has proved very handy and has done us several meals so I shouldn't complain too much! Like this extremely delicious Chicken Potato Slice which I will share with you but be warned, it's only an SS recipe if you already have all the ingredients on hand, otherwise it could prove very expensive! It's just too good not to share though!
CHICKEN POTATO SLICE
4 large chicken breasts, poached Mimi style (I actually found three was enough and kept the fourth for lunches)
750g potatoes, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped (or you could use up spring onions)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1/2 cup cream
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove garlic (or 1 tsp crushed)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup white wine
2 tsp French mustard
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Put oven on to 180C to warm up. Cut poached chicken into bite sized pieces. Place potatoes to cover the bottom of a large casserole dish and dot with 15g of the butter. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until tender. Top with the chicken and onions. Microwave the rest of the butter with the garlic in a medium sized bowl for 30 seconds, then stir in flour, water, chicken stock, wine and cream and cook on high for three minutes, then stir in mustard and mayonnaise. Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Cover, then pop in the oven for 30 minutes and sprinkle with parsley before serving. This is SERIOUSLY good!
I would also like to share with you my very first totally made-up recipe! I like to call it:
PENNY'S CURRIED BEEF CASSEROLE-Y THINGY
Splash of oil
800g stewing steak of some description
3 tbsp curry paste (I used Tandoori)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 cup beef stock
Approx 1/3 cup cream (whatever I had leftover from the chicken recipe the night before!)
Put your oven onto 150C to warm up. Heat the oil in a large pot or casserole, then quickly throw in your beef and brown it all over. Add the onion and the tandoori paste and cook for a few minutes, then add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook gently in your oven for around three hours. Thicken if necessary (I use Bisto so I don't have to but not sure if you get that in Australia?) and serve with rice and vegetables, or you could have it with mashed potato. Everyone loved this! You could probably cook it for less or on the stove top if you wanted to but I had the super cheapest gravy beef to work with and was worried it would be tough as old boots. However when I took it out it just melted it the mouth!
I was very proud of my efforts, not least because it's usually Noel who is known for making up recipes that work and I don't usually have the confidence to do it. However, just as in the $21 Challenge if you can't afford to go shopping you have to make the best of what you've got and I'm finding all those little bits and pieces of Tandoori paste and mustard and so on to be worth their weight in gold. I'm not torturing myself by looking at the bank balance at the moment; the important thing is I know I'm doing a darn good job of not spending. Better still, I'm actually enjoying 'going without' - in fact to me it doesn't feel as though we're going without at all, quite the opposite!