Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Review: The Morrison's Mum becomes a #Morrisonsmum

I come from a family of big eaters.  I have a family of big eaters. With three active growing boys I am constantly feeding them.  Like chicks that don’t stay in the nest, their natural inclination is to scavenge and forage in the cupboards and the fridge as soon as they get home from school.  Unless that is, by some miracle I have got myself organized (usually involving a timer oven or a slow cooker) and then, with sighs of satisfaction they fall on their food and eat until they are sated (for the next few hours).  

And it gets worse throughout the holiday period – not only are they constantly on the hunt for fruit or snacks, but so are the myriad of friends that tag along on a daily basis, and at one point during last summer, my weekly shopping bill topped £250!  And that’s without the additional loaves of bread from Tesco Express, or the odd pint of milk.  It’s an expensive business, raising boys.  I once heard of a woman who cooked a whole roast chicken every day and left it in the fridge for her boys to pull apart.  At the time I had toddlers and a strict no fridge opening policy, and I laughed at the idea.  Now it’s not looking quite so mad – if only I had the time…

And that, frankly, is what my cooking is all about.  I love to cook, but during the week, and with the long nature of boys summer sports, my food has to be quick and easy to prepare from scratch.  I very rarely buy ready prepared meals –the discrepancy between the shop’s ideas of portions, and those of my kids, would simply escalate my food bill even further.
In fact, I will fully admit that I am a bit of a supermarket tart.  If there’s a BOGOF at one, that’s where I will go.  If it offers a reward card, I will take them up on it.  I’ve been to all of them.  I like Lidl for the drinks and the wurst.  I like Tescos and Sainsburys for their own brands.  I like Morrisons for the veg, and when I am running late from work Asda does some mean pizzas (Friday night compromise).  I buy cheap cuts of meat from the butcher and make curries and stews. And a stock up at Costco is great once in a while for the staples such as bread, canned goods and pet food.  For some peculiar reason I like free range eggs, and a particular brand of baked beans – and on that I do not compromise. I also know that my shopping bill, for the five of us, plus pets, generally comes to between £170-£180 for 7-10 days, unless we have guests big or small.  Which we do.  A lot.

So when I was asked to be a #MorrisonsMum, in which Morrisons invited me to go and take advantage of their newly launched price cuts, I jumped at the chance.  Even though the stipulation was that I had to shop over the Bank Holiday weekend.  I detest food shopping at the weekend, let alone a Bank Holiday, but with good grace I decided to pop along to a Morrisons local to me at Southwood, Farnborough.  I used to be a regular there when it was a Safeway, as it was next to the very posh gym at which I was a member.  Needless to say, once the reality of kids hit home, costs were cut, and so the gym and I parted (no tears shed) and consequently there was no need for me to go to that part of town. 

What a difference!  Fantastic selection of veg – all on ice, a great meat section, where I indulged in some rib eye steak (5 adult portions at an eye watering price of £32) and fish (I was a little selective, as two out of my three boys are a bit funny about bones), plus the normal weekly shop.  I was checked out by a nice chatty lady called Sharon, who packed my bags for me as I fumbled to load my full trolley’s worth on to the conveyor belt.  Looking at the steak, she chortled good naturedly, ‘Taken a small mortgage out for those have you?’ pondered over the samphire that I had bought as a whim and genuinely showed an interest in me as a shopper.

Eldest and Middle Sons both have important exams this week, and normally we would have a meal out, where G would give them the benefit of his exam advice which they can then ignore as we order adult portions of steak and chips at roughly between £10- £17 depending on what restaurant we are sitting in.  Little Man can never finish his, but between the three remaining males there is never anything left on his plate.  But this time G was participating in that activity unique to 90% of the British male population during a bank holiday, that of decorating, and so we didn’t have the time to eat out – hence the bought in steak.

I have always been a fan of BBQs, and was devastated to find 16 years ago that this was not a skill that G possessed.  Not that he realised it, as he set fire to carefully marinated lamb kebabs, ensured the sausages looked like bits of charcoal, and we all chipped our teeth on the chicken breasts.  No, it’s taken a long time to dissuade him from the manly job of BBQing, and so as soon as I could, I trained the boys up in BBQ technique – which causes one less family argument!  

Two tomato salad with red onion, basil and balsamic dressing

And what a successful meal this was – the steaks were as big as the plate they are on, I made a gorgeous tomato salad out of the selection available at the veg counter, and individual meringue islands for dessert. For the two course 'special' meal plus a lovely homemade lemonade, it came to £10.50 a head.

Morrisons mini mozzarella balls, Morrisons sundried tomatoes, fresh wild rocket and iceburg lettuce

The boys just about to tuck in! 
Sparkling strawberry lemonade, recipe courtesy of <alittlebiteoflife> (The kids loved it, and G and I spiked our glasses with a drop of gin -bliss)
Homemade meringue islands -sauce with Morrisons own brand milk chocolate and double cream

Morrisons Signature Chilli and Morrisons Signature Pork sausages with black pudding. All from quick sale area at @ £1.75 a head
Trying out Morrisons version of Crunchy Nuts

Jerk Haddock with couscous, samphire and wilted iceburg

For the meal above I used Morrisons frozen haddock fillets.  They were a decent size, and can cook in the oven from frozen.  However there was one drawback - there were quite a few bones, but overall very tasty. Cost £2.75 per portion.

Mummy's Spanish Fish Stew

This simple dinner can cost as much or as little a head as you like. For a dinner party I add shell on tiger prawns, clams, razor clams, even crab claws. In this instance for a cost of around £4.50 a head, I used fresh mussels from the fish counter. I have taught the boys how to clean the seaweed 'beards' from them, and most importantly how to check that they haven't died.  I also used two packs of fish pie mix from the fresh prewrapped fish and some prawns that I had knocking around in the freezer. Watch out for bones... 

I am not a chef, just a mummy who cooks, and I find it particularly hard to follow recipes without fiddling – hence I rarely bake.  But hopefully I have given you some of the ideas that I had for our meals and how much I actually managed to buy in my shop at Morrisons. Many of the base ingredients bought feature time and again in further meals. And if you wish to know how I created the dishes featured – please comment below.

Even the dog got a fresh beef bone (3 for £2)
And did the overall cost live up to the Morrisons price cuts promise?  All I can say is that my weekly shop – including that splurge on the best quality steak – came to £162.17.

Perhaps that gym membership could be on again…

I was compensated for this review by Morrisons, but please note that all views, and opinions are my own and have not been biased in any way by any third party.