The Cost of Living and Post Coronavirus

We put this handy guide together during lockdown when Coronavirus was at its peak.  However, given how useful some of the information is in here and the positive feedback we received, we have decided to leave it in.

This section of your local offer is to give all St Helens Care Leavers information about the Futures service, share news and give you some ideas for things you can do at home that will hopefully fill your time!

If you have any ideas you would like to share with us, let us know through your Personal Adviser or Social Worker.

 

 

 

Tips to help keep costs down during the cost-of-living crisis

 

Here are some tips to help keep your costs down at home – simple things you can do to help save money without costing you anything!

 

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room or leave the house
  • Turn off lights when watching TV
  • Don’t leave devices on charge overnight
  • Turn off devices completely when not in use, don’t leave TV’s in standby mode
  • Make sure the washing machine is full before you use it
  • Wash clothes at 30 degrees if possible
  • Don’t fill the kettle full before boiling. Only put in what you need
  • If your freezer is iced up, defrost it and it will run more efficiently
  • Spend one minute less in the shower
  • Turn down your central heating thermostat by 1 degree
  • Don’t leave your heating on when you leave the house. If you have a timer, learn how to use it
  • If using the oven, try to make meals for a couple of days in one go so you can just re heat the second meal the next day
  • If you can, use the microwave oven rather than the main oven
  • Open you curtains to let the sun in, then close them to help keep in any warmth
  • If you have drafts, use an old towel as a draft excluder to keep the cold out
  • Try to plan your food shop – don’t just use the most convenient store
  • Try to go towards the end of the day when fresh food is often reduced
  • Download Apps such as ‘Too Good To Go’ to help cut down on food waste
  • If using a cash machine, don’t use one that charges a fee – there are still plenty of free to use ones about
  • If possible, walk rather than get the bus to save the bus fare
  • Check any subscriptions you may be paying – Amazon, Netflix etc. Are you getting value for money?
  • Check your phone contract. If it is up, look for a better deal
  • Join a Food Pantry - speak to your PA for details.  There are now 5 across town with more opening soon

 

The government will give every household in Great Britain £400 off their electricity bill. This is called the Energy Bills Support Scheme. You don’t need to do anything to get the money and you won’t have to pay it back.

You’ll get the £400 in 6 instalments starting from October 2022. You’ll get:

  • £66 in October and November 2022

  • £67 in December, January, February and March 2023

If you have an electricity meter and pay your bills every month or quarterly, your supplier will automatically take the amounts off your energy bill each month.

If you have a prepayment meter, your supplier will confirm with  how you how you will receive this. They’ll either:

  • automatically add the instalments to your energy meter 

  • give you the instalments as vouchers by email, text or post

If you get vouchers, you’ll only be able to use them for your own energy account.

How about trying a bit of painting?

Do you ever wonder how decorators make painting and decorating look easy?!
Well here are a few tips and ideas for you to try at home to make things a little bit easier for you with less mess (hopefully)....

The first thing to remember is that preparation and having tools to do the job is really important! You may need some basic tools, such as good paintbrush, roller, paint/roller tray, some old towels to wipe paint away, bucket…..Oh yes and old clothes so you don’t ruin your good clothes. 

You don't want to end up looking like this....

 

So if you want to paint a wall it’s quite easy, but if you have marks on the wall or any holes you will need to make sure you clean everything off and then fill any holes with some basic filler!
You can wash walls down with some soap and warm water, get them nice and clean and take any dirt of the walls before painting!

You can buy wall filler quite cheap at most DIY shops (Wilko is open in St Helens or you can order wall filler online).

You need a wall filling knife as well, but…..If you have an old bank card you don’t need you can even use that! Just as good and free!

Step 1

Start by raking any loose plaster from any cracks with the corner of a filling knife or scraper. With a small paintbrush, dampen the crack with water to make the filler dry slowly. This helps stop it from shrinking and falling out of the crack!

Step 2

Put some filler onto the filling knife and push it across the hole at right angles to the crack. Press firmly until the filler comes just over the surface. Leave this to dry, then smooth it down with medium-grade sandpaper. You can use a sanding block for this or cheaper way is to wrap the sandpaper around a bar of soap! Cheaper and just as good!

Once everything is dry get ready to paint !

Quick Tip!

Make sure you cover any furniture and your floors with old sheets! We don’t want paint on your lovely carpet or sofa!!!!

Quick Tip!

If you use a roller tray put some kitchen cellophane (the clear wrap) or tin foil in and around the tray, make sure it is over the edges of the tray.
Pour your paint on top of the cellophane or foil. When you have finished, you an take it off and throw it away! No need to clean the tray!!

Quick Tip!

Always make sure you put any paint tins or paint trays on old newspaper. If any spills out it will only go on the paper……Not on your floor !!

Step 3

 

Use masking tape along the bottom of all the skirting boards and around the borders of anywhere you’re not painting (such as light switches and windowsills). This helps keep the rest of the paintwork in your room sharp and doesn’t need a really steady hand for your interior painting!!

Remember!!

There are different types of paint, and depending what type of paint you use will determine how you clean up and clean your brushes !! Water-based paints dry quicker and have less fumes. They also can be cleaned up with just water if you do spill any! Plus you can clean your brushes in just warm water…Easy and cheap!

Emulsion paint is commonly used on walls and ceilings and often where the surface is uneven, this is water based and easy to clean!

Oil based paints like some gloss paints need white spirit or turpentine to clean brushes or any spills.

Really important to remember……oil based paint can be hard to clean up if you spill it! Plus, you need to clean the brushes with White Spirits or Turpentine. If you don’t, your paintbrush will dry up and will be very hard to clean! So as soon as you finish painting with gloss type paints, get the brush in White Spirits or Turpentine and clean those brushes!

Paint Brushes

There are loads of different ones, so here is a quick guide!

  • Synthetic brushes/bristles are the best for water-based paints as it doesn’t absorb water and won’t cause brush marks.
  • Natural bristle is best used for solvent-based paints like gloss as it creates a smooth finish.

Step 4

So now we get to paint the wall!

 

Here are the easy steps to make it much easier for you and less hassle!

Watch a helpful video

Ever heard the painters and decorators say ’cutting in’? Well it just means painting around the edges of the wall!

Take a look at the picture below……Using masking tape on the ceiling then start painting the wall using your brush, it doesn’t have to be neat as the masking tape will stop it going on the ceiling!

Then once you have painted all the way around the edges……Just use the roller and paint the middle bits!!

 

All Finished!?

Make sure you clean that roller, if you’re using emulsion paint just use warm soapy water, and clean the brush as well……in water!!

Easy and ready for the next job!

Painting and decorating is not always hard to do, you just need to have the right tools, know what paint to use and how to clean everything up!!
Most importantly be confident and give it a go!
 
Steve Oakes, Futures Team Personal Adviser is willing to come out to any of our young people decorating and help you out with a few quick tips!!

Believe in yourself and you can decorate your home just as well as anyone else!!

Looking after your emotional health while staying at home is really important. Remember this situation won't last forever and if you are struggling, speak out and someone will be there to help.

Here are a few tips and ideas to keep emotionally healthy...

Everyone is different, Focus on you!

The government is telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work. This will mean that a lot of us will be spending a lot of time at home.

Our regular social activities are no longer available to us and this may affect our mental health.

Everyone’s mental health is different and how it can be affected can be different too.

This is out of our control, but we do have to comply in order to keep everybody safe. So, take this time to create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself.

 

Try something new and set yourself a new challenge

  • Learn a new language. There are lots of free apps that will teach you how to speak another language.
  • Try some photography. Most of us have smart phones, now is a perfect time to capture nature without the usual disruptions of daily life!
  • How about making your own quiz... We are holding regular quizzes on the Futures Instagram. Why not be our quiz master?!
  • Try some gardening. 
  • How about some creative writing?!
  • Try some baking or trying new recipes. 
  • Start your own podcast. 
  • Try a new exercise... a high intensity online work out, running, yoga.  
  • Painting.
  • Drawing/colouring.
  • Jigsaws, puzzles, word searches, crosswords. 

Set out a new daily routine, keep it simple and focused.

Allow time for relaxation and normality, just adapt to maintain social distancing.

The News

It is important to keep up to date with the news and any new information the government is providing us with. However, filling your day with this news may not be good for your mental health and may lead to increased anxiety.

It may be wise to:

  • Limit yourself to watching or reading about the daily update of an evening given by reputable sources such as BBC News Gov.uk and Public Health England are also reputable sources that you can access.
  • Avoid non-reputable sources such as social media posts, rumours and opinions by others.
  • Accessing good quality information about Coronavirus can help make you feel more in control and reduce anxiety levels. 

Stay Connected

We are living in the 21st century with technology, social media and other means of connections such as gaming. These are all good ways of staying in touch with those who matter most to you.

  • Social media: allowing video calls, group chats, seeing what others are doing with their days at home.
  • Apps: Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger.
  • Gaming: Connecting with others while gaming.

Online Support

Online services are available for you to access. These services offer guidance on how to help reduce anxiety levels, how to help lift your mood, giving you a sense of control and lead to a more positive mindset.

Mind

Information about how to keep yourself safe and how to tackle negative thoughts about the current situation.

Kooth

Online chat forums with mental health professionals. Online services offering teaching about good distraction techniques and coping methods.

Gov.uk

Online guidance setting out principles to follow to help people to manage their mental health.

Mental Health Foundation

Guidance full of suggestions on how to help tackle feelings of anxiety, low mood and top tips on how to stay connected with people.

Action For Happiness

Action for Happiness share an online calendar every month. Each day has an action that aims to support your emotional health!

Apps

Download apps that are related to helping with mental health: Mindfulness, meditation, Breethe, Aura, Jour. If you are a child in care or a care leaver you can get a one-year free subscription to Breethe through IMO

 Keeping Active

Exercising and keeping yourself active is a very good way to ensure you are maintaining your physical health as well as your mental health. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that lead to an improved mood. Exercise can also reduce feelings of stress, depression and anxiety.

We have a specific section relating to physical activity with lots of ideas!

Remember.....

 

 

We are spending a lot of time at home. Now is the perfect time to get organised and make chores a little easier!!

 

Getting Organised

Here are 13 quick tips to help you organise your home.

Why not try and be creative while you are organising... you can click on these two links for some great tips! Pinterest | Spruce.

Cleaning Tips

 

Who likes chores?! Mrs Hinch has helped us all save time doing chores and given us lots of ideas to help keep our homes sparkling! 

Mrs Hinch cleaning tips.

Time-saving tips for chores you usually hate!

Listening To Music

During this time more than ever, music can play such an important role in supporting our mental and emotional well-being. Whether that’s simply by relaxing and listening to your favourite songs/artists, or creating a play list to help get you through those newly formed exercise routines, music is essential goodness for the soul! 

 

Free Music Trials

Find albums, artists, playlists, or simply create your own music. Remember to take a note of the date so you can cancel your membership after the free period has ended!

YouTube

Free music through YouTube:

YouTube Music

Tiny Desk Concerts

Live Social Media Performances & Upcoming Performance Dates

Vulture

Billboard

Radio & Podcasts 

BBC Sounds

Discover The Latest Music Videos, News & Articles 

NME

Complex

GRM

Here's a list of free games you can play on your console, laptop or phone.

 

You have a lot of time on your hands so be sure to have regular breaks from the screen and limit your time to allow yourself to stay physically and emotionally healthy. 

You are strongly advised not to enter any bank details if requested or if you do sign up for any 'free trials', make sure you cancel before the end of the trial period, otherwise you may be charged for an annual subscription.

We would advise caution if registering for any online gambling website. Please make sure you read very carefully any terms and conditions and if in doubt then please ask for advice. If you think you do have a problem with gambling please see the following links:

NHS Gambling Support
Be Gamble Aware

PlayStation

Free PlayStation Games

X-Box

Free X-Box Games

Nintendo 

Free Nintendo Switch Games

Retro Gaming

Amiga Games
Commodore 64 Games
Classic PC Games
Internet Arcade
Sega Master System
Atari
ZX Spectrum Games

Current Gaming Websites

Google Play Store
Apple App Store
Mini Clip Games
Games.co.uk
Free Online Games

Games for Children

Cbeebies
Nick Jnr
Lego Games

Have Fun & Be Safe! 

It is really important to be kind to yourself and what better way to do this than a pamper day! Here are some different tips and ideas to practise good self-care.

Take a Bath or Shower

The warm water will definitely soothe tired and aching muscles. Other benefits are improved sleep, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, reduces anxiety, and decreased migraines and tension headaches.

DIY Beauty Products

Why not try making your own beauty products? We have plenty of time to experiment and they are all on a budget!

Make your own:

Bath Bombs

Body Scrubs

Hair Masks

Facials

Meditate with Candles


Turn off those bright, artificial lights and light up some candles and meditate. This relaxes your mind and gives you a peaceful feeling. A good thing to add to meditating are natural sounds such as birds chirping or ocean waves hitting the shore. You can find these sounds on apps that are discussed in the 'Looking After Your Emotional Health' section.

Nail Love

 

Paint your nails, give yourself a manicure and why not try different nail art designs. Here are 50 different nail designs

Here are some fitness ideas for you. If this isn't for you, there are lots of other ways to stay active including: walking, dancing, skipping, yoga... to name a few!

Workouts Without Equipment

  • All exercises are 1 set.
  • Complete the set 4 times.
  • Take a 1 minute break in between each set.
  • Complete the workout 3 times a week!

Instagram Fitness Influencers 

  • @thebodycoach Joe Wicks offering workouts and healthy food ideas.
  • @alexandrashappybody offering 10 minute workouts and healthy food ideas
  • @rwl offering a variety of scheduled workouts including yoga and dance.

YouTube Fitness Channels 

Free Apps for Running

  • Human: running app for beginners nudging you to complete at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
  • Couch to 5K: an app that build you up to running 5K.
  • Nike+ Run Club: For more advanced runners offering competition between runners and GPS maps.
  • Strava: For a mixed variety of runners where you can compete and track how far you have gone.

St Helens Sports Development Team

The St Helens Sports Development Team are keeping us active at home with a variety of online work outs that you can do in the comfort of your own home. 

Fancy a Challenge?

Here are some fun activities you can do with your child/children:

Flying Fish

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make Japanese Flying Carp

Playdough Recipe 

Did you know you can make playdough in next to no time from everyday ingredients found in your kitchen cupboards? Save money and involve the kids in this thrifty kitchen craft activity.

  • Makes 1 coloured ball
  • Prep 10 minutes

You will need:

  • 8 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp table salt
  • 60ml warm water
  • Food colouring
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the water, a few drops of food colouring and the oil.
  2. Pour the coloured water into the flour mix and bring together with a spoon.
  3. Dust a work surface with a little flour and turn out the dough. Knead together for a few minutes to form a smooth, pliable dough. If you want a more intense colour you can work in a few extra drops of food colouring.
  4. Store in a plastic sandwich bag (squeeze out the air) in the fridge to keep it fresh. You can make a batch of colours and give away as kids’ party bag favours or hold a playdough party for your child’s next birthday.

Milk Carton Elephants 

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make Milk Carton Elephants.  

Home Made Prints

So easy to make!

  • A cup of salt
  • A cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Knead and roll into a shape of your choice on a greased baking tray
  • Do your prints then bake at 180 degrees for 45 mins
  • Allow it to cool down then decorate

Twirling Lovebugs

Here's a step-by-step guide on making Twirling Lovebugs.

Rainbow Butterfly Footprint

A lovely keepsake!

  • Start by squirting each of your rainbow colours onto a palette. Squirt your paint onto a paper plate to save washing up!
  • Paint a stripe of each colour across your child's feet. Paint quickly to make sure you don't allow the paint to dry out. For babies and young children it may be easier to take the prints while they are sitting down.
  • Print your child's feet onto a piece of paper or card. Keep the prints close to each other and make sure the outer edge of each of the print is in the middle of the butterfly print.
  • Draw the butterflies body between the footprints using a black pen.

Arts & Craft Links

Here are some more links for arts and crafts ideas for children!

Kids Crafts

Garden Crafts

Rainbow Art Projects

Spring Craft Ideas

 Have Fun & Make Amazing Memories

Why not feed your inner creative flair and give creative arts a go...

Drawing & Colouring

Here's a guide on how to draw animals

How about trying some online colouring and you there are some brilliant mindfulness colouring tools too.

Online Craft Projects

Theatre & Musicals 

  • St Helens Theatre Royal are keeping us entertained in lockdown and are planning virtual shows!
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched a YouTube Channel, The Show Must Go On, to deliver virtual musicals for you all to enjoy!

Dance

  • MD Creatives are bringing you dance tutorials that you can try at home. They have a community of people who are beginners and advanced dancers who can help bring your inner Beyonce alive!! 

Art

  • Heart of Glass are an organisation that use art to bring the community together. They have held many projects in St.Helens that have shown care and compassion through art. They are keen to reach out to you virtually.

 

Now is a perfect time to try some cooking skills! Here are some quick recipes that you can try on a budget.

Food hygiene is really important. Find advice on food hygiene and food safety

 

Breakfast Ideas

Scrambled Egg for 1

Ingredients

  • 1 Bagel
  • 2 large eggs
  • dash of milk
  • 1tsp butter
  • Seasoning
  • 1 vine ripened tomato, sliced

Method

Cut the bagel in half and lightly toast the bready side.
Meanwhile crack open the egg and whisk with a dash of milk and add butter. Cook on a medium heat whisking to make scramble egg. Season with pepper.
Slice the tomato and place a layer of tomato on the bagel and top with scrambled egg, place the top on the bagel.
Alternatively use wholemeal bread or seeded batch loaf.

 

Breakfast Omelette for 1

Ingredients

  • 1 sausage
  • 1 slice of back bacon
  • 2 mushrooms
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method

Cook the sausage under a hot grill for 8 – 10 minutes, turning them occasionally until browned. Cook the bacon under the grill for 5-6 minutes turning once until crisp and golden. Cool slightly, then slice the sausages and cut the bacon into bite – sized pieces. This could be done the night before, simply chill until required.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until golden. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the sausages and bacon and mix well.

Beat the eggs with a little black pepper. Pour into the pan and stir for 1 minute until the eggs begin to cook. Shake the pan to level the surface. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the surface has almost set. Remove the baking sheet then cook the omelette under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes until firmly set. Cool slightly before serving.

Mexican Style Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
  • ½ red chilli, finely diced (optional)

Method

Warm the oil in a frying pan, then add the onion, garlic and chilli and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes and paprika.
Cook for 5 minutes then make 4 wells in the sauce and crack in the eggs, cover with a lid and cook for 8 – 10 minutes or until the whites are set.
Serve with crusty bread / toast / bagels / wraps.

Lunch/Dinner Ideas

Wraps

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast/beef/quorn (one meat) cut into strips
  • 1 red pepper de-seeded, cut into strips, 1 red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Choice of spices (dried chillies, mixed herbs, Cajun spices)
  • Tortilla wraps

Method

Warm oil in a wok or frying pan.
Add the sliced meat, gently fry until golden.
Add the sliced peppers, garlic & onions until sizzling.
Stir in spices of choice.
Place onto open tortilla fold & serve.

Carrot Soup for 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion (90g)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) oil
  • 1 large potato, peeled (200g)
  • 6 large carrots, peeled (300g)
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) milk (optional)

Method

Peel and chop up the onion and fry it in the oil at the bottom of the saucepan until it is golden.
Clean and chop the other vegetables.
Add the vegetables and the stock to the onion.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes until the ingredients are soft.
Allow to cool a little, and mash the soup or put it through a blender.
Add the milk and bring back to serving temperature (but don’t boil it as the milk may curdle).
Serve with plenty of fresh crusty bread.

Handy Hint

Mashing the soup with a potato masher will help thicken it.
Use ‘Low Salt’ vegetable stock cubes.

Once you have got the hang of making soup you can make it with any ingredients you have to hand or left over.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup for 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 300g (10 oz) broccoli florets
  • 450ml (3/4 pint) vegetable stock*
  • 450ml (3/4 pint) semi-skimmed milk
  • 60g (2 oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place the onion, broccoli and vegetable stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Liquidise the soup using a hand blender or food processor.
Return to the saucepan with the milk. Heat until almost at boiling point.
Add the grated cheddar cheese, stirring until it melts.

Easy Peasy Soup for 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil
  • 200g frozen peas (or 2 tins of peas)
  • Fresh mint (optional – dried herbs work well)
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml milk (optional)

Method

Peel and chop up the onion.
Heat onion in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add 500ml of water & add 200g of frozen peas. Bring to the boil.
Simmer for 2 minutes.
Allow to cool a little.
Place everything in a blender with fresh mint and blend until smooth (or use a potato masher).

Dinner/Tea Ideas

Tortilla Pizza

Ingredients

  • Tortilla wrap
  • Tomato Puree/ Passata
  • Grated courgette
  • Sliced mixed peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Spring onions
  • Sweetcorn
  • Low fat grated cheese
  • You can choose different toppings.

Method

Preheat oven Gas 4 180C.

Spread the tomato puree/ passata onto one side of the tortilla.
Place all the other ingredients onto the tortilla, layering the cheese on last.
Place another tortilla on top of the ingredients and place in preheated oven. For approximately 10 minutes.

Sausage Casserole

Ingredients

  • 450g (1lb) reduced fat sausages
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • ½ pint stock
  • 1 tsp dried herbs
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • Frozen veg works just as well and you can use how much you need.

Method

 

Brown the sausages by dry-frying them in a large saucepan, turning frequently or brown under the grill. When browned place in a casserole dish.
Warm 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in the saucepan; add the leeks, carrot and pepper.
Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Stir in the tomato puree and the flour mix to a paste.
Gradually add the warm stock and then add the tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stir in the sausages, sliced mushrooms and herbs.
Cover with a lid or tin foil and simmer for a further 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped
  • 200g (8oz) mince (use beef, pork, turkey, quorn)
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
  • 200g (8oz) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 400g dried spaghetti
  • ¼ pint stock

Method

Heat oil in a large saucepan and add mince.
Brown the mince, stirring to prevent it sticking.
Pour off any excess fat, which has come out of the mince.
Add the onion and garlic to the mince and cook for another 2 minutes
Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, herbs, grated carrots and mushrooms.
Bring the sauce to the boil, then add the beef stock, simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Check the seasoning, pepper if wish; serve with spaghetti or other pasta.
Make a large batch and add mixed beans and chilli powder to make chilli con carne which can be served with jacket potatoes.

Chicken Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Mushrooms
  • 225ml/8fl oz low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 85g/3oz light soft cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
  • 2 sheets filo pastry

Method

Heat oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6.
Heat 1tsp oil in a medium frying pan. Fry the chicken until browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leek, Mushrooms and a splash of water, and gently fry until soft, about 7 mins. Add the carrot and cook for 3 mins more. Pour in the stock and boil until reduced by half, then add the mustard and soft cheese, stirring well to combine. Return the chicken to the pan, add the tarragon and some seasoning.
Divide the mixture between 2 small ovenproof dishes. Take the filo sheets and scrunch them up. Top each pie with a sheet and brush with remaining 1 tsp oil.
Cook the pies in the oven for 15 mins, until pastry it's golden.
Using filo helps keep this pie low in saturated fat, why not add sweet potato wedges to boost your veg count.
Alternatively top with mashed potato.

Creamy Ham, Mushroom and Leek Pasta

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms
  • Ham
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 225ml/8fl oz chicken stock
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 85g/3oz light soft cheese
  • Wholemeal Pasta
  • Black pepper

Method

Heat 1tsp oil in a medium frying pan.
Fry the mushrooms and Leeks gently until soft.
Add the carrot.
Pour in the stock, add the pasta and boil until the pasta has softened.
Add the mustard and soft cheese, stirring well to combine.
Add the ham and black pepper to taste.

Chilli Con Carne for 4

Ingredients 

  • 200g Minced beef or Quorn
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 1-2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 grated courgette
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 2 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs tomato puree
  • 400g can kidney / baked beans
  • 1 Stock Cube

Method

Brown the mince for a few minutes in a non-stick pan.
Add the chopped onions & garlic.
Add Tomato Puree & Tinned tomatoes.
Add grated carrot & crumble in the stock cube.
Add beans. Simmer for 25 minutes.
Add diced pepper and cook for 10 minutes.

You are ready to serve, the dish can be served with boiled rice, jacket potatoes, or tortilla wraps.

Chicken and Leek Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Mushrooms
  • 225ml/8fl oz low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 85g/3oz light soft cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
  • 2 sheets filo pastry

Method

Heat oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6.
Heat 1tsp oil in a medium frying pan. Fry the chicken until browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leek, Mushrooms and a splash of water, and gently fry until soft, about 7 mins. Add the carrot and cook for 3 mins more. Pour in the stock and boil until reduced by half, then add the mustard and soft cheese, stirring well to combine. Return the chicken to the pan, add the tarragon and some seasoning.
Divide the mixture between 2 small ovenproof dishes. Take the filo sheets and scrunch them up. Top each pie with a sheet and brush with remaining 1 tsp oil.
Cook the pies in the oven for 15 mins, until pastry is golden.
Using filo helps keep this pie low in saturated fat, why not add sweet potato wedges to boost your veg count.
Alternately top with mashed potatoes .
Also a great way of using leftovers from a Sunday dinner/ Christmas dinner.

Beef and Tomato Bake for 4

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 500g lean minced beef (quorn)
  • 1-2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 600ml beef stock
  • 1 garlic wholemeal baguette, split into slices

Method

Brown the mince in a non-stick pan for a few minutes, then tip into a bowl.
Tip the onions into a bowl. Tip the onions into the pan with the oil, then cook for one minute more.
Return the mince to the pan with the tomatoes and stock, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn the oven to fan 180/conventional 200/gas 6.
Spoon the mince into an ovenproof dish, then arrange the baguette slices over the top.
Bake for 12 minutes, until heated through and the bread is crispy on top.

Chicken Nuggets for 4

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 3 oz breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 fl oz water
  • 1 oz grated cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • Plain flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF or gas mark 6.
Cut the chicken breasts into small chunks.
Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and garlic powder together and place the mixture in a large plastic bag
Combine the egg and water in a bowl. Dip the chicken pieces into the egg mixture and then drop into the plastic bag.
Place the coated chicken pieces on an oiled tray. Bake for 10/15 minutes or until tender and golden brown, turning once midway through cooking.

Tip: At stage 3 when making the breadcrumbs any seasoning may be added e.g. grated cheese, garlic powder, sesame seeds, black pepper, herbs or spices.

A great but messy dish to make with kids. Plastic bags help keep mess to a minimum.

Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon of oil
  • Mixed herbs

Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC or gas mark 6. Place the baking tray in the oven.
Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks (8 per potato).
Place the potatoes in the mixing bowl, pour the oil over and sprinkle on the herbs.
Mix the potatoes with the oil and herbs.
Remove the baking tray from the oven.
Carefully place the potatoes on the tray, and place back in the oven.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, turning them over after 25 minutes, until golden.

Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 chicken breast
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder or paste
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • Courgettes, mushrooms or tinned tomatoes (optional)
  • Alternatively use jar of premixed sauce

Method

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. Add the chicken, onion and garlic and cook over a low heat for five minutes to colour the chicken and soften the onion.
Add the curry powder, tomato puree and flour and stir for 1 minute.
Add the chicken stock and season to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
At stage three you could add tinned chopped tomatoes, sliced courgettes or mushrooms.
Serve with rice and top with low fat Greek yogurt if desired.

Dessert/Pudding Ideas

Speedy Sticky Pears

Ingredients

  • 410g can of pear halves in natural juice, drained
  • 1.5tsp granulated artificial sweetener OR 2 tsp sugar sprinkled over
  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 100g Low fat plain fromage frais
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon or ice cream/cream /yogurt

Method

Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat. Drain the pears on kitchen towel and sprinkle over 1/2tsp of sweetener. Lightly coat the frying pan with low fat cooking spray, add the pears and cook for 2 minutes each side until caramelised (sticky and going golden in colour).
Meanwhile, mix the fromage frais together with the cinnamon and the remaining sweetener. Spoon over the caramelised pears.

Tinned Apple or Pear Crumble

Ingredients

  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 115g (4oz) sunflower spread
  • 55g (2oz) porridge oats
  • 55g (2oz) sugar or 3tsp granulated sweetener
  • 2 tins of apples or pears or a mix of both

Method

Open the tins of apples or pears and place in oven proof dish.
For the crumble topping, rub together the flour and sunflower spread in a mixing bowl until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the porridge oats and sugar.
Place the cooked apples in the base of a lightly greased heatproof bowl. Sprinkle over the crumble topping and level the surface.
Place in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden.
Serve hot or warm with natural yogurt, or custard made with skimmed milk.

Handy Hints

Use wholemeal flour to make pastry or biscuits with extra fibre. For extra flavour and texture sprinkle 1 teaspoon (5ml) of ground cinnamon and 50g (2oz) Californian seedless raisins over the apples before covering with the crumble topping. Freeze the Crumble on the day of making and use within one month.

Bread and Butter Pudding for 4-6

Ingredients 

  • 6 large slices wholemeal bread
  • 40g (1.5oz) butter/ margarine
  • 115g (4oz) sultanas
  • 40g (1.5oz) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 500ml (1 pint) milk (semi-skimmed)
  • Ground nutmeg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
Spread the bread with butter/margarine and cut into quarters diagonally.
Arrange one third of the bread triangles in a lightly oiled baking dish, with the crusts to the bottom and the point of the triangle uppermost.
Sprinkle the sultanas and nutmeg among the layers as you go.
Continue layering the triangles until the bread has been used up.
Combine the sugar, eggs, and milk and then pour the mixture over the bread.
If you have time, allow to stand for 20-30 minutes for the custard to soak the bread.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set but wobbly and the top is beginning to brown and crisp. Reduce the heat if the top browns too quickly.

This pudding is warming and comforting, great for cold days! You can substitute sultanas for banana slices or stewed plums – delicious!
If you are cooking for one, you can halve the recipe (and just use one egg for the custard mixture) to make pudding for two days. It’s also easy and cheap to make.

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