Monthly Archives: November 2013

Leek and Potato Pie

photo 1So what to do for Saturday tea that is easy and filling? Searching in the freezer this morning, I found a pack of frozen short crust pastry that I must have bought for a specific purpose but didn’t use, so that was my starting point. I am trying to empty the freezer a bit for some Christmas meat that I plan to buy with my Sainsbury’s points, and also to make room for a new batch of pumpkin soup, so I will use up all the bits and pieces this week.

So, pastry. Lots of leeks in the garden. It had to be leek and potato pie!
I used up some bacon I had as well, but you could easily leave this out to make it vegetarian.
pie uncooked500g of shortcrust pastry
4 medium leeks, washed and chopped
Dessertspoon of butter
3 rashers of bacon
450g potatoes, peeled
Tsp of mixed herbs
130g cheddar, cubed

Preheat oven to 180C or equivalent. Cook the potatoes so that they are still slightly firm and chop into cubes. While they are cooking, melt the butter and add the leeks and chopped bacon, with the herbs. leek and potato pieCook gently for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft. Mix them with the potatoes and the cheese. Roll out the pastry and line the bottom of a medium pie dish. Add the filling, then add the pie top. Brush the pie with a little milk. Make a small hole in the middle, then bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
This served 4 of us with a pile of cabbage, peas and gravy.

Dark Days: Black Friday

What is wrong with the world when people queue from 5 am to get £80 off a TV, and are prepared to push old ladies over and wrestle strangers to get ‘a bargain’? Lots of us don’t have much money, but few of us would risk hurting other people in order to buy something we really don’t need at an even cheaper price than it was originally. I would rather buy a second-hand TV, or even not have a TV at all, than join the disgusting display of rampant consumerism and greed seen at some of the Asda stores today.

Did Asda really not know the likely outcome of their decision to bring a US style Black Friday event to the UK? Of course they did. Look at the publicity they got! It is all part of the buy buy buy for Christmas mentality being whipped up by big business, and the British Public are falling for it.

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”
― Vicki Robin

We are told we need to buy the best of food and drink, have a whole new wardrobe, spend vast amounts of money on family, friends and even your child’s teacher – and don’t forget you need a new sofa and bed for Christmas as well – because it is the season to be jolly, and they want your lolly!

Come the New Year, when the tinsel has been put away, the tree is on the compost heap and a huge excess of food has been thrown in the bin because our appetites don’t increase that much just because it is Christmas, a lot of people will have a huge hangover in the form of a massive credit card debt that they may not have paid off by the next festive season. This time I am not going to be one of them! I  bought Christmas presents last month – I am not at the point where I refuse to join in, tempting though it is. However, I am spending what I can afford to spend and have still paid a chunk of my credit card. I will do the same this month. Next year I will be organised and thrifty enough to have built up a fund for christmas and won’t have to worry about it. This is my pledge to myself and this blog is helping to keep me determined so I can do it!

Feeling a little deflated…

So, people, this is why you need a contingency fund….Yesterday I thought perhaps I had a slow puncture and would get a repair done this morning, but then I woke up to this:flat tyre

Luckily Mr Shoestring was around so shot off to get his compressor and put enough air in the tyre for me to get round to the fast fit place to get a new one. I was persuaded that both of my back tyres were pretty bald, so ended up paying for two new ones.

I am early enough in my journey to sorting out my finances that I don’t have a contingency fund and this had to come out of my current account. Not fantastic this close to Christmas, but it can’t be helped. I need my car to get to work!

So I need to squeeze my budget even more this month to get through with no overdraft and still paying off a chunk of my credit card bill. I reckon I can do it. I will be using up what is in the cupboards, eating lots of veggie food and spending as little money as I can get away with 🙂

My favourite flapjack recipe

FlapjacksThis is adapted from the recipe in my ancient copy of the Cranks Recipe Book. It makes a lovely moist and crumbly flapjack that actually tastes better after a few days, so is good for making at the start of the week to use in lunchboxes. Saying that, I made this quantity on Sunday, and they have all gone already!

300g marg
150g brown sugar
6 dessertspoons golden syrup
450g oats

Preheat oven to gas mark 5, 190C. Melt the marg, sugar and syrup on a very low heat, stirring frequently. Mix in the oats and stir thoroughly. Press down into a large-ish tin () and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut into the size you like. Don’t leave it to cool completely though or it is really difficult to cut.Have a nice slice with a hot cup of tea, and Bob’s your uncle 🙂

Mr Rotavator!

rotovator 2We have had a lovely gift from a neighbour of Mr Shoestring’s. He helped him to put together his shiny new rotavator, and in return the neighbour gave him his old one. It works perfectly and will be a great help in digging over and extending the veggie patches for next season.

It pays to be a good neighbour 🙂

This year we grew courgettes, pumpkins, runner and French beans, celeriac, chard, carrots, leeks, parsley, red and blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries, onions, sprouts (not doing too well these), rhubarb, sweetcorn, tomatoes and peppers.

Next year I would like to add to this some nice salad potatoes, lettuces and perhaps some cucumbers  in the greenhouse.

It is so satisfying growing your own food, and saves masses of money. It is hard work though! Still, there is nothing like eating a warm tomato fresh from the greenhouse or corn on the cob that you picked 10 minutes earlier. Absolute heaven!

Pork and lentil casserole – a real winter warmer

pork and lentil casseroleI dug out a classic of the kitchen yesterday, the Goode Kitchen, by Shirley Goode. She was the original queen of the frugal kitchen and, even though this book is from the 1980s, a lot of her advice is still relevant now. If you can find yourself a secondhand copy I recommend it.

She talks about how to cost the food you prepare like a professional chef, so you can accurately work out how much individual meals cost to make. She suggests that when you buy ingredients you take the overall cost and divide it up. For example, if you take a bag of flour, divide the cost of it by the number of grams in the bag to work out how much, say 100g, costs. Then write this on the bag. You can do the same with a single egg, 100g of cheese, 100 ml of milk, etc. You can accurately calculate the cost of every recipe you make and see if you can make it any cheaper! I certainly intend to start doing this from now on.

There is a recipe in the book called lamb and lentil casserole, which is great for stretching a small amount of meat. I adapted this and used pork instead, as it is cheaper than lamb, and added a few leeks as I am growing them in the garden. I used a bit more liquid than in the original recipe because it seemed a bit dry, and more potatoes to make it more substantial. I think this would work well in the slow cooker so I will use that next time.cooked pork and lentils

600ml good beef stock
100g green lentils
1 small onion, chopped
2 small leeks, washed and sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 large potato per person, sliced
350g pork, cubed
Salt and pepper

Well, Mr Shoestring seemed to enjoy it!!

Well, Mr Shoestring seemed to enjoy it!!

Preheat oven to 180C. Bring the stock to the boil, put the lentils in a large casserole dish and pour the stock over. Brown the meat in a pan, then add the onions and leeks and soften. Place on top of the lentils with all the other veg. Season and stir, then cover and cook in the oven for about 1 hr 15. Check there is enough stock after 45 minutes and add more if necessary. Serve with a green vegetable.

Serves 4.

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Gardening in the Dark…

bulbsWeekends often seem busier and more exhausting than weekdays – I go to work on a Monday for a rest! But they are also incredibly productive and enjoyable. I feel focussed on my goals: to be debt free, to stay in this house and continue to pay the mortgage, and to start to build up some savings so that I have cash to pay for my car insurance, for emergencies, for Christmas and birthdays and even, one day, for a holiday. It is early in my journey, but I will get there!

I also want my house and garden to be a haven. This means spending time (but as little money as possible) making the house warm, attractive and comfortable, and making the garden as productive as possible whilst still being full of flowers and shrubs.

Justin up the ladderSo today Mr Shoestring and myself were hard at work, cleaning the fridge and oven and more mould off the windows, then outside: Mr Shoestring up a ladder working on the Freecycled shed (the frame of the extended roof is in place, the sides are up and felted and some of the actual roof is now on) and me weeding the beds and planting the daffodils and tulip bulbs that Mr Shoestring treated me to last weekend. I planted up 4 pots of bulbs ready for the Spring, with a layer of tulips planted deeply, and the daffs on top. This will hopefully give us pots of lovely yellow daffodils and as they die back the tulips will start to bloom. I also began to put bulbs around the flower beds – I ran out of time as it gets dark so early at the moment. Whilst I could still just about see in the dusk I managed to rake up a couple of wheelbarrow loads of leaves for the compost heap, then managed to drag Mr S off his ladder and in for a cup of tea and a cuddle with the kitten.

I have also managed to make a load of flapjacks for the lunchboxes this week, if they last that long. I will post the recipe in the week.

Chilli Chicken: add a bit of spice to your life

view golfBit shattered today. I started my cleaning late as I had to take kitty to the vet for her second set of vaccinations first thing – she is a bit shaky, tired and sorry for herself now, as she was after the first lot.

Then I went to cover a yoga class at the local golf and country club as they were short of a teacher. I won’t say no to the extra money right now, no matter how busy I am. It was a beautiful morning and there was a lovely view across the golf course. The class members were very welcoming too, so it wasn’t exactly a chore.

Yesterday I told you about my new resolution to clean really thoroughly and more often rather than having a crazy rush round and a just about good enough clean on a Saturday. I started by cleaning about half of the windows – we have a huge problem with condensation in this house, so this involved cleaning a lot of black mould off the window frames first. What a difference sparkling shiny windows make to the look of a room! Mr Shoestring also attacked a bit of mould in my bedroom; it collects in the corner where the wall stands clear of the neighbours. I also cleared all the cobwebs from the downstairs rooms, polished, swept and mopped right through. I will do a bit more tomorrow and then through the week.

Tonight’s dinner had to be simple and warming. I defrosted some chicken over night, and decided to cook it in a chilli sauce. It was really good, if I say so myself, and easy-peasy.

chilli chickenAbout 4 portions of chicken (I used 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks) with skins removed
1 red pepper
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tins chopped tomatoes
4 oz mushrooms
1 tsp cumin
half tsp chilli flakes
1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
A good dash of Worcester sauce
Plenty of salt and pepper

Brown the chicken in a small amount of oil and set aside. In the same pan, add the chopped onions and garlic and fry for 5 minutes, then add the spices and stir in for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, chicken, herbs and Worcester Sauce and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, add salt and pepper and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked right through, and serve with rice.

No OCD here: cleaning instead of decorating?

Tidy houseI have watched a few episodes of Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners recently. Although I have been as shocked by the illness of OCD as I have by the terrible state of some of the participants’ houses, one thing stood out for me. This is that a very ordinary house with décor that is out of date and a bit tatty, can look great when it is fabulously clean, tidy and clutter free.

I have mentioned elsewhere that my own humble abode was previously inhabited by Mr and Mrs Bodger, and that it is looking distinctly unloved in certain areas. In the absence of any time and money to do what I would like to do and redecorate throughout, replace the rotten badly fitted kitchen, as well as the rather old and shabby bathroom, I have decided to take a leaf out of the OCD suffers’ book!

I am not intending to get up at 4 am and clean for 5 hours a day, but I do intend to do a little often and well, rather than give everywhere what my mother would call a lick and a promise at the weekend and never clean anywhere really thoroughly!

I am reasonably clutter free but I do have piles of papers everywhere that need sorting, so this will be my job this evening.

I need to get Mr Shoestring and the Shoestring Girls on board with this, as it is mostly them that makes all the mess!!

Save Money, Save the Planet

recycled plant potsHappily, lots of things that save you money are also good for the environment. Simply consuming less, wasting less, holding onto things for longer, repairing rather than replacing, buying second-hand, etc, will give you a greener lifestyle. Getting off the treadmill of working to buy stuff and then more stuff pays dividends to the state of your bank balance and the planet.

There is so much you can do to get a warm green glow…

Don’t waste food. Plan your week’s meals and then go shopping with a list. Stick to the list!!! Watch your portion sizes too. This will help your waistline as well, so double bubble.

If something stops working get out the manual to see if it is something simple. Look on the Internet to see if there are any suggestions. Get a quote for repair.

Likewise, repair your clothing and get your shoes mended rather than throwing them away.

If you need to replace an expensive item check Freecycle or Freegle first. Then the noticeboard at the local shop, Ebay, charity furniture shops, etc. If you really need to buy new, look at as many reviews as possible and buy energy saving devices – they are cheaper to run.

If you have a garden, make your own compost. Don’t throw peelings, apple cores, teabags, eggshells, etc in the bin. Mix them with your garden waste and compost them. Save as much as possible from going to landfill.

If you like crafts check out websites like pinterest. They have a whole section of ideas for recycling: Check out the fabulous planters made from old tyres above, and also these brilliant Christmas tree decorations made from old lightbulbs.
recycled lightbulbs
Eat less meat – firstly it is expensive, and secondly, according to Donnachadh mcCarthy in ‘Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth’, one acre of land can produce 30,000lb of carrots but only 250lb of beef. Also 15% of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming, comes from farm animals.

Let your garden be a bit untidy – don’t waste money on chemicals, and create a wildlife friendly garden. Gardening costs very little, is good exercise and a great stress buster.

Grow some of your own food! I can’t afford to buy organic in the shops, but everything from the garden is chemical free. Packets of seeds cost just a few pounds and produce masses of delicious vegetables.

Use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean your house. It is extremely cheap, plus do you really want your home to be full of chemicals?

Buy large containers of washing up and laundry liquid. This produces less plastic waste and usually works out cheaper.

When you need new items for your home, buy second-hand. Most of my furniture, curtains, bedding and rugs has come from the charity shop, Ebay and auctions. If you are a creative sort you can shabby chic a solid piece of furniture and make it a work of art.

Forget nasty chemical air ‘fresheners’ and plug ins. You are literally inhaling pollutants! If you want fresh air, open a window.

Insulate your house – check to see if you are eligible for any grants. Your energy supplier should have information on this, or try the Energy Saving Trust.

If you exercise, try to resist the urge to buy energy drinks and bottled water. Invest in a sports bottle and fill it from the tap.

Train your family to turn off lights, PCs, TVs and DVD players. Don’t leave items on standby.

Don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. This is expensive and the dry cleaning process uses toxic chemicals.

If you like to read, use the library or buy second-hand from the charity shop. You can also use, where you can buy or sell books and the site supports the Woodland Trust.

If you have a baby check out reusable nappies rather than disposables. This saves so much money!

This one will separate the greenies from the dark greenies! Consider using washable sanitary towels or perhaps a Mooncup instead of tampons.

Keep a scrap paper box. The back of junk mail letters and the envelopes they come in are good for list writing!

Re-use wrapping paper.

Save water – if you are on a water meter this makes financial as well as economic sense. Shower instead of bathing, but put the plug in and use the ‘grey’ water to water your plants in the garden.

If you buy fruit in the supermarket, save the plastic bags it comes in and reuse them as sandwich bags.

Keep your accelerator foot light and save petrol. Boy racers must all live at home with their parents – once they have to pay their own rent and bills they may slow down a bit…

These are just a few ideas. There are so many other things you can do once you start to think about it. I would love to hear your suggestions.