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Budget recipe binder: Cottage pie

calendar22 September 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Cottage pie

One of the easiest and most all-round satisfying meals there is, the whole family will be happy with this classic cottage pie for tea. Why not make a bigger batch and freeze the leftovers for next week?

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 4
Total cost: £2.82* (all ingredients bought from scratch £6.94)

One large onion (20p)
Splash of vegetable oil (a few pence – one litre 99p)
300g frozen minced beef (98p – one kg £3.25)
300g frozen mixed veg (30p – one kg £1.00)
Water, boiled in kettle
4-6 tbsp gravy granules (a few pence – 100g 20p)
800g potatoes, peeled (80p)
100g grated cheddar (50p - 500g £2.50)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
Chop the onion and fry in the vegetable oil until they start to brown.
Add the mince and fry for ten minutes.
Add the veg, mix together and pour in enough water to just cover.
Bring back to the boil, then cover and simmer for half an hour. Keep an eye out that it doesn’t boil dry.
Meanwhile, set the potatoes to boil for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the mince mixture from the heat. Add the gravy granules, using more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce. Stir until smooth.
Drain the potatoes and mash with a bit of milk or butter if you fancy.
Transfer the mince mixture into an overproof dish, cover with the mash and top with the cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese turns golden brown.

Frozen mince and vegetables are ideal because they last longer than fresh and you can cook them straight from the freezer. For a vegetarian version of this recipe, go for soya protein beef-style mince (454g £1.50) from the frozen aisle – you’ll be surprised how much it tastes like the real thing!

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

Stop smoking for Stoptober

calendar20 September 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Stop smoking for Stoptober

Since 2012, the NHS and others have been campaigning for smokers to brave it in October and quit for 28 days through an initiative called Stoptober. So far, around a million people have taken up the challenge. With 215,000 people taking part in last year’s Stoptober, organisers hope for even more to get involved in this year’s campaign.

Quitting for just 28 days has been found to make you five times more likely to stop smoking for good. What’s more, quitting as part of a supportive group can improve your chances even further. If you quit with your friends, family or co-workers this Stoptober, you know they will be there to offer support and advice.

By signing up for Stoptober you’ll be entitled to a free support pack as well as regular emails and texts giving you information and support. There’s also the Stoptober app which is free to download onto your phone and the whole month is well supported on social media. The NHS Smokefree website’s Stopblog regularly releases articles, videos and podcasts which you can subscribe to for even more encouragement. Just head to to get signed up.

Christians Against Poverty is also keen to back you in your quest to go smoke-free. 71 CAP Release Groups are currently running in churches and communities around the UK and are here to help people break free from a wide range of life-controlling habits and dependencies such as smoking. The courses span eight sessions and offer free emotional and practical support in an environment of security and trust.

Why is CAP involved? Smoking hits your bank balance every bit as much as your health. If you don’t believe us, check here to see how much you’d save if you quit [url=][/url]

Smoking addiction is a huge problem in the UK with eight million people smoking in England and almost 80,000 smoking-related deaths recorded every year. However, huge changes are already in progress, with a decline in smoking of 37% over the last 50 years.

If you, or anyone you know, wants to join in with this year’s Stoptober – or if you want help quitting smoking right away – visit the NHS Smokefree website at

To find out more about CAP Release Groups, whether you’re interested in signing up or running one through your local church, see the CAP website at

Absolutely no panicking allowed

calendar16 September 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Absolutely no panicking allowed

I don’t want to get you into a panic, but I’m sure you know there are, as of today, a hundred days till Christmas. If you’re like me, every year you swear that next year you’ll prepare for Christmas, get everyone’s presents well ahead of time and then, when it comes round again, the same thing happens. You find yourself stuck fighting the crowds again, with just a few days to go. If you’re living on a budget already, Christmas time can hit your wallet hard. So if you haven’t done it already, for the good of your state of mind (and for the good of your bank balance) it’s time to start planning right now.

The first step is setting a goal and the second is sticking to it. So, set a hard limit on what you can realistically spend on things like food, drinks and presents for the family and stick to it. I don’t know about you but once I can say to myself, “THIS is how much I will spend on Christmas this year” the process becomes a lot clearer and easier to break down. Check out to gain some great tips.

The next step is to work out how to get to your goal. Usually the simplest way is to put aside small amounts often rather than in one go. If you’re paid monthly, there are four monthly pay days before Christmas Day. Most banks offer a regular savings account so it takes a small amount from your regular account automatically.

If you’re part of a credit union or would like to join one, many of them offer Christmas club savings schemes. Take a look at Savings Stamps and Christmas Club Schemes where you can pay in regular amounts, effectively buying in bits, and soon it’ll add up to a lot.

Remember if you shop at the same supermarket all the time, it might be a good idea to get a customer loyalty card and save up points for the big Christmas shop. You can save points or buy stamps – do your homework and compare the deals on offer.

Some people start up a Christmas box at this time of year, buying a few bits to get ahead in the run up to the festivities. This can really work but don't let it stop you deciding on your spending limits.

Have you considered taking on a Christmas job to boost your income? Most retailers and the Royal Mail recruit from September but it's worth popping your head round the door of local restaurants who are likely to need extra hands on deck for the Christmas season.

This bit is important: don’t freeze up in a panic and do nothing to prepare. Do something while you’re in September. This next bit is even more important: the most valuable thing is the time you spend with the people you love the most.

Budget recipe binder: Veg korma

calendar31 August 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Veg korma

Curry night doesn’t have to be a write-off when you’re on a budget. Pop the takeaway menu in the drawer and make your own instead. Why not treat your family to this veggie-friendly meal this week for less than £3?

Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
Total cost: £2.92 (plus £1 for four naans or 50p for a pouch of own-brand microwaveable basmati)

One aubergine (50p) cubed
Three medium carrots (18p) sliced finely, as they will take the longest to cook
Two large potatoes (60p) cubed
One large onion (14p) roughly chopped
Two heaped tsp medium curry powder (tub that will do at least five of these recipes £1)
One tin of coconut milk (50p)

Boil a small amount of water in the kettle.
Heat a splash of oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.
Add the curry powder.
Then add the vegetables and potatoes and stir them around to soak up all of the flavours.
Add a medium sized mug of boiling water from the kettle, to ensure the veggies don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
Pop on the lid, turn down the heat and let them simmer until the potatoes start to soften.
Add the coconut milk, stir, and while that’s warming through zap the rice in the microwave or warm your naan bread under a medium grill.

Experiment with different veg – this recipe is great for using up odds and ends in the bottom of the fridge such as cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans and peas. Add protein with a drained tin of chickpeas (35p).

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

1,000 have said goodbye to joblessness in just three years

calendar04 August 2016

Paul Archer's avatar Paul Archer

1,000 have said goodbye to joblessness in just three years

We’ve got a lot to celebrate in the CAP Job Clubs team – we’ve just seen our 1,000th person find work.

When we set out with this project in 2013, we had no idea how the church would take this project and run with it.

Now there are people finding confidence, skills, work and a new group of friends through 163 CAP Job Clubs all across the UK – and it is just amazing.

We knew from our experience with debt counselling that when someone in the household is working, escaping the worst of poverty is generally easier.

We sensed too among the people we helped that there was the need to feel useful and play a part, something that is in everyone’s DNA as we all seek to make the most of what God has given us in talents and personality.

Before we officially launched down in Westminster, we had done our homework; took advice; worked through trial sessions and we hoped the Church would back us.  Now, as we reach this milestone, we can see the repercussions are astounding.

Not only have we seen 1,000 people find work, more than half of those have been freed from stress; half of those no longer are depressed and nearly half no long suffer from anxiety.

While four in ten of the people on a CAP Job Club had said they sacrificed regular meals, statistics show the money earned by the work of a thousand people will have purchased 1.5m meals.

Their families too will see the difference. We estimate 617 children and now living in a working household, breaking the generational cycle of unemployment and paving the way for a more fulfilled future.

In the survey that Job Club members take, 99 per cent of them say they would recommend a CAP Job Club to other jobseekers. Then there is an “other comments” section.

By this point, they’ve already answered lots of questions and don’t need to fill in this bit but the majority take the time to express their thanks.

I’ll sign off by letting them say it best, as they generally do.

“Thank you for turning my life round and giving me the confidence, motivation and ability to find employment. Thank you for listening to me and praying for me.”

“It’s not only the course I have benefited from here, I have also made friends!”

“Just a big thank you for helping me find employment and helping me gain the confidence I needed.”

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