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.

My favourite Cranks flapjack recipe

Cranks flapjack recipe

This is adapted from the recipe in my ancient copy of the 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!

Cranks Flapjack Recipe


300g margarine or butter
150g brown sugar
6 dessertspoons golden syrup
450g oats


Preheat oven to gas mark 5, 190C. Melt the margarine or butter, 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 🙂

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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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.

Oaty Apple Crumble

I finally used up the last of the windfall Bramley apples I was given yesterday. I made three pots of compote for darling daughter no 2 to take back to uni, and my favourite oaty apple crumble. I love crumble in any form, but it’s even nicer with half oats and half flour, or even all oats in the topping. Brown sugar is especially good in this I think, but you can use the white stuff if you prefer it.

oaty apple crumbleOaty apple crumble

2 lb (900g) cooking apples
3 dessertspoons water
1 oz 25g) brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
For the crumble:
4 oz (110g)flour
4 oz (110g) oats
4 oz brown sugar
3 oz (75g) soft butter or margarine

Peel and slice the apples and place in a pan with the water, sugar and all spice. cook gently until the apples are softened but still have a bit of crunch. Place in a pie dish or casserole. Whilst they cook, make the topping. It is so easy – just oaty apple crumbleput the oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl and add the butter or marg in small chunks. Rub it in with your fingertips until it becomes well mixed up and crumbly. Place it on top of the apple and press down gently. Bake in a preheated oven at about 180 degrees, gas mark 4, for 45 minutes until golden. Eat with a large dollop of custard or ice cream.

This makes quite a thick topping – you can reduce the quantities to 3 oz/3oz/3oz and 2oz if you prefer it a bit lighter.

I have seen apples on sale for very little outside a few neighbours’ houses, but at this time of year you might be lucky to find them for free. You can make this oaty apple crumber with eating apples, but reduce the sugar by half.

Yoga for Back Ache

Achy back? Read on!

Do you suffer from an achy back? So many people do, especially if they work at a desk job. Sitting down all day isn’t great for you and can lead to poor posture and stiff muscles. Yoga for back ache is tried and tested form of exercise.

When I am not working for the Council or being queen of frugality, I am a yoga teacher, and have been for the past 10 years. Forget the hype about yoga. It may be the choice of many a celebrity and you may think you have to bend yourself up like a pretzel to do it, but actually it is very simple. You can practice at home or in a class, alone or with friends, you can be old or young, male or female, able bodied or have a disability.  Please don’t think you need to be a gymnast either! You need a very small space to do it and a mat – that’s all.

Yoga has kept me sane over many years, through pregnancy, motherhood, divorce and through my financial worries. As I hit 50, I found that working at a desk all day and gardening at the weekends started to take its toll on my lower back. For the first time I started to experience the aches and pains that I thought were just for other people!

If anything starts to hurt now I reach for my mat. If I have no time to do anything else, but have an achy back, I do the following mini routine. Use your common sense if you try this. Take your time and, if you feel more than a mild discomfort, slow down. Breathe slowly. Stretch and enjoy it. Spot the kitten – she was waiting in vain for me to do Cat Pose…

Yoga for back ache: an easy sequence for all abilities

Standing forward stretch
Hold onto the back of a chair or window sill. Aim to get a nice flat back and open under your arms. Straighten your legs if you can. Hold for 5 or 6 breaths.yoga for back ache

Rag doll
Starting from standing, soften your knees, and gradually curl down into a very soft forward bend. Keep your knees bent though – we are stretching the back gently not the hamstrings yet. Hold for 5 or 6 breaths and come up really slowly.


Lying knee to forehead
yoga for back acheLie on the floor with your knees bent. On an out breath draw your right knee in towards you and, if it doesn’t hurt your neck, lift your head to look towards the knee. Hold for 10-15 seconds breathing normally, then release. Do the same with the left leg. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Hamstring stretch
yoga for back acheIf you get a lot of lower back pain you may have tight hamstrings. This is extremely beneficial for stretching them out. If you have a yoga or martial arts belt, great – if not, a dressing gown belt is perfect. Lie on the floor and place the belt under your right foot. Stretch the foot to the ceiling, keeping the ankle flexed (ie, don’t point your toes). Straighten your leg as much as possible. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Release and do the same on the left leg.

Lying twist
yoga for back acheIf you have severe back pain, pile up some cushions to support your knees when you do this. Lie on the mat and draw both knees in towards you. Tighten your tummy muscles and if necessary support the knees with your hand as you take them to the right. If your left shoulder lifts when you do this, you need to rest your knees on a couple of cushions. Move your head to the left if it doesn’t hurt your neck. Rest there for a minute or so, then support your knees back to the middle and change sides. Repeat twice on each side.

Bridge pose
yoga for back acheLie on the floor with your knees bent and your arms by your side. Your heels should be close enough in towards your bottom that you can almost touch them with your fingers. As you breathe out, press the small of your back into the floor. As you breathe in, release. Do these small pelvic movements a few times, then begin to lift your hips up off the floor, as far as is comfortable. Your toes should stay in contact with the floor and your feet should be parallel to each other. Hold for a few breaths then uncurl to the floor again. Imagine you could bring each vertebra to the floor before the next. Take a breath and repeat twice more.

Finally, draw your knees in towards your chest and take hold of them. Rock gently from one side to the other. Rest for a few minutes.

Find a teacher

If you practise this sequence regularly you will hopefully find that your back becomes more flexible and that your back pain is more manageable. Try yoga for your back ache. If you find it helps consider finding a class. I recommend finding a British Wheel of Yoga qualified teacher here.

Time for an Energy Saving Audit

lights outLike everyone else, I am slightly terrified that the energy companies keep putting up their prices.

Fortunately I took advice from MoneySavingExpert.com and managed to freeze mine for a couple of years some time ago. I try to do as much as possible to keep my bills low and use as little gas and electricity as I can, but I think it is time for an audit.

I have been exploring various websites for advice and come up with the following checklist:

1) Use energy saving bulbs (I am guessing we are all doing this, since it is difficult to buy the old kind now). Check
2) Try a cooler wash when doing the laundry –  30 degrees. I tend to use 40 degrees for everything, and a quick wash when most items aren’t too grubby. Will try a 30 degree wash from now.
3) Tumble dryers? Forget them! Use airers or hang outside on a sunny day. Check.
4) Don’t run the dishwasher unless it is full. I use mine loads. I am sure there is an argument that it uses less energy to wash dishes by hand, but ours never runs unless it is full up and saves me lots of time. I can’t afford to buy another one if this one breaks down, so at that point I will revert back to handwashing. Check.
5) Go round the house and turn off everything at the plug that is left on standby. Culprits in my house are the Wii, the TV (which has no off button – go figure!!) and the DVD player. This we need to work on.
6) When you use the kettle, only boil the water you need. I do this, but need to train the troops!
7) Buy energy saving appliances. This is tricky if you have to buy second-hand, but not impossible if you do some research in advance. The last appliance I purchased was a large fridge freezer which is triple A rated for energy efficiency. This is worthwhile as it is on all the time! Check
8) Check the Internet to see if you can find a better deal on your energy provider and if you can fix your tariff. I recommend starting at MoneySavingExpert.com, which will help you avoid the pitfalls. Check
9)Train your family to turn off lights, TVs, etc behind them! Check
10) Turn off laptops and PCs when they aren’t in use. Darling daughters, read and take note!
11) Have a shower rather than a bath – it will use a lot less hot water, which means you can adjust your timer and heat the boiler for less time. We are having more showers now, but I think I could heat the boiler for less time. I will adjust!
12) You could also consider turning down the water temperature by adjusting the thermostat on your boiler. I did this by 1 degree and nobody noticed the difference. Check.
13) Turn down your general thermostat to no more that 21 degrees. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that just one degree lower could save £65 a year. Mine is at 20 degrees.
14) If you are lucky enough to have a spare room, turn off the radiator when you have no guests and close the door. No unused rooms here
15) Insulate your loft and wall cavities. I had mine done for free with British Gas. Check with your energy supplier to see what they offer. If you are in receipt of certain benefits you may be entitled to insulation and a new boiler, even if you don’t own your property. MoneySavingExpert.com has very good information on this. Check
16) Use draught excluders at the bottom of your doors and fit extra linings to your curtains. I need a thick curtain at my front door.
17) Consider fitting reflective radiator foil behind your radiators. This costs £7 for a 500mm by 5 metre roll at B&Q. I need to do this!
18) If you have your oven on, can you cook something else at the same time? How about flapjacks for the lunchboxes whilst you are doing tonight’s stew? Check

Good sites to look at for advice on this:

Energysavingtrust.org.uk, moneysavingexpert.com, BritishGas.co.uk (and your energy provider’s website)

Second Hand Rose

I found myself looking at my outfit this morning and humming this to myself….’second hand Rose’.

I was wearing a skirt from a boot sale (£1), a top from Ebay (£2.50) and  a pair of boots, again from a boot sale (£3). My outfit also includes a cardigan from the charity shop (£2) and my daughter’s old black coat (not trendy enough for her!!).

My underwear was new to me. I draw the line at second hand knickers, but would wear a second hand bra if it was in good condition. So, for the princely sum of £8.50 I was ready for the office. I really don’t think my colleagues would have guessed (in fact I got four compliments on the top!).

When you know you can buy decent quality clothes in pretty good condition for a few pounds, it becomes difficult to justify £20 or £30 on a single new item.  Especially when you are strapped for cash. Being a second hand Rose becomes addictive.

second hand Rose

The pix don’t really do it justice…it is a fab deep blue long velvet dress with a cowl neck

second hand RoseQueen of the boot sale

I think it is in my genes, as my mother is Queen of the Boot Sale. As a pensioner, she rarely buys any clothing from new. It becomes an adventure to see what you can find. I regularly come across great quality brands in the styles I like for just a few pounds. Per Una, Laura Ashley and Monsoon, to name a few.

By buying second hand clothes, not only do you kit yourself and your kids out for next to nothing, you are recycling! You are also supporting charities or helping other cash strapped people by buying their unwanted stuff. Everyone’s a winner.

I would rather wear rags than rack up more debt, but fortunately I don’t have to. I am committed to being as frugal as possible in order to pay off my credit card and make my mortgage payments every month. Buying lots of new clothes is out of the question.

My most recent bargain was a beautiful blue velvet cowl necked dress, originally from Dorothy Perkins. I got it in the local hospice shop, reduced from £6.75 to £3.50. I am hoping for some invitations to a few Christmas parties to give me the opportunity to wear it now – what do you think? What have been your best clothing bargains? Are you a second hand Rose?

Frugal Fish Pie

I love fish pie, especially made with cod, salmon and prawns….but fish is expensive!! I had the wrinklies over for lunch and I fancied fish pie, so I thought I would have a go at making a budget version. This frugal fish pie went down a treat, and I don’t think anyone would have guessed!

Frugal fish pie

Serves 6

Asda white fish 450g (this cost £2)

100g smart price prawns (I think this was 1.99 for 220g)

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped into quarters

1 kg of potatoes

3/4 pint of white sauce (I cheated today and used a couple of packets of white sauce, 50p each from Asda)

fish pie 1Defrost the prawns and fish and chop into chunks. Peel and cook the spuds with plenty of salt, and mash with a bit of butter and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. While they are cooking make your white sauce and make sure it is well seasoned. Place your fish, prawns and eggs into a suitable dish and pour the sauce on top. Finally spread your mash on the top and place in a preheated oven at about 180 C (mine is a fan and this worked fine) for 40 minutes. We had this with a reduced price cauliflower and some carrots and it was yummy.

I estimate this cost about six pounds all in, which isn’t bad for dinner for six people. A frugal fish pie that was quick and easy too.

Perfect Pasta

The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is start a major cooking event. Weekday food needs to be cheap and reliable and easy. You can’t go wrong with these two favourites to feed the hungry hoards.

Cheesy Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Bacon (serves 4)
12 oz (350g) pasta
2 large leeks, chopped and washed
1 pack of Asda Smart Price bacon or similar (about 6 rashers), chopped
2 oz (50g) frozen peas
2 oz (50g) butter
Cheese sauce, made with a pint of milk, 2 oz (50g) of flour, 2 oz (50g) butter, 6 oz (175g) cheddar cheese and a pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the grill and bribe one of the kids to make a salad.

Cook the pasta in boiling water. Don’t overcook – you want it al dente. While this is cooking, make the sauce by melting the butter and adding the flour to make a roux. Cook for a few minutes so that your sauce doesn’t taste floury. Add the milk gradually, whisking any lumps out as you go. Keeping stirring as it thickens – don’t have the heat up to high or it will burn. Add about 4 oz of the cheese and stir until melted. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the leeks and bacon until softened in the butter, then add the peas and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes. Mix with the drained, cooked pasta, then add the sauce. Place in an oven proof container and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Grill until the cheese browns and bubbles and serve.

Tuna Pasta with Olives (serves 4)
12 oz pasta
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
Olive oil
A 400 gram can chopped tomatoes
10-20 black olives (I find I have to eat the whole jar once opened but you might be more disciplined!)
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 can tuna (200g)
4 tbsp white wine (this is almost as dangerous as the olives.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently fry the onion and garlic until softened but not brown. Add the wine and tomatoes and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the olives, herbs and seasoning and cook for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook and drain the pasta. Add the tuna to the sauce and mix in the pasta to coat it well. This is nice topped with some grated cheddar or parmesan if you happen to have some.

Budget DIY: Home is Where the Heart is


We love our house. We sometimes sit at the bottom of our large, slightly unkempt garden and feel so happy and fortunate to have a place to call our own. Except that most of it belongs to the bank!!! We would love to be free of the mortgage, but the reality is that is not going to happen any time soon. The aim of our scrimping and saving is to make the mortgage payments every month in order to stay here. So, we am in the same boat as many people and far luckier than others.

Budget DIY

It’s no castle, just a modest ex local authority semi. These houses were solidly built with big gardens and lots of space around them so we aren’t overlooked and it is very quiet and friendly. Unfortunately for us, the previous owners were of the bodge it and hope for the best school of DIY. They painted just the side of the door you could see and also around furniture, which was something of a surprise once their furniture had been removed! They used bits of old rough plank for skirting boards, the bath was broken and the boiler didn’t work. The kitchen was fitted by someone with a sense of humour and no spirit level. The whole place needs work.

We had a little spare cash to use on decorating when we moved in a couple of years ago, but by the time we had paid for the new boiler, there was no money left for fancy wallpaper, plasterers or new carpets, so my partner and I have had to be creative! It is definitely a work in progress and budget DIY is the name of the game.

Making the best of what you have

In truth it isn’t about having a house suitable to grace the pages of Ideal Home magazine. It is about making the best of what you have. I buy solid bits of furniture from charity shops and eBay, then paint them to suit my décor. I have curtains, bedding and kitchen equipment from Freecycle. Most of my crockery is old and mismatched but I have a lovely old fashioned 1920s Royal Doulton set that my Mum picked up for a song from an auction that I bring out when I have people round.

I am lucky to have a partner to help me who understands the make do and mend philosophy. He rarely throws anything away that might come in handy, mends saucepans with broken handles, used bathroom sealant to repair the hole in my watering can (1 year on and it’s still going strong) and didn’t laugh when I potted up my daffodils in my old leaking wellies.

A shoestring revamp

My next challenge is to revamp the hallway without spending any money. We probably have enough gloss in the shed for most of the woodwork. The current wallpaper will have to stay so the walls can just be painted. The ceiling will need some work as there are signs of an old water leak, and inexplicably half of the skirting boards have been removed so they will need to be replaced.

The stairs are currently painted a migraine inducing red. I can’t afford new carpet at the moment so will keep an eye on Freecycle to see if anything comes up that could be used. I already have a pair of cream linen curtains in place that came from Freecycle four years ago and are still good. I have a few pictures for the walls and will add some family photo montages.
It will be a labour of love. Watch this space…

Chick pea curry – cheap and cheerful

I would happily stop eating meat if I was just feeding myself, as it is so expensive. I prefer vegetables anyway, especially when I have grown them myself. Sadly, my daughters feel deprived if I don’t give them meat some of the time. Fortunately, there are many veggie recipes that they will all happily eat, and this chick pea curry is one of them.

Chick Pea Curry

chick pea curry We had this chick pea curry tonight and it is a real family favourite. Healthy, delicious, easy and cheap. You could make it even cheaper by using dried chick peas, but I tend to go for the canned variety. I got this recipe from my thrifty mother, and we all love it.

1 lb chick peas (2 cans)
3 tablespoons oil
2 onions (I used leeks I had lying around in the fridge as well)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons chopped root ginger (I usually buy a piece and freeze the rest, but I’m sure dried will do)
6 cardamoms, split and seeds removed (I rarely bother)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Half a pint of vegetable stock
Chopped parsley for garnish
Chick pea curry

Chop the onions and fry until soft but not brown.

Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and chick peas, then the stock.

Cook for 10-15 minutes on a low heat, seasoning to taste.

Serve with rice. My mum likes to mix in some sour cream or yogurt at the end and it is nice, but not essential.

Classic Money Saving…

A nice November day, perfect for drying the washing outdoors

A nice November day, perfect for drying the washing outdoors

Years ago I purchased an American book on frugality called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It feels a bit old fashioned in some ways now – it was written before the Internet took off in the 1990s – but it still has some extremely useful and inspiring money saving tips, as well as some ideas that won’t appeal to anyone but the most zealous scrimper (make your own baby formula springs to mind). I still sit down with it when I feel the panic rising and need some inspiration.

The author says that your expenses will be either essential or optional. A lot of things that we consider essential – mobile phones, satellite TVs, etc – are probably not. I would hate to do without my mobile phone because I like to stay in touch with my kids, so to me that is something I wouldn’t be without. However, I plan to get rid of my Virgin package as soon as my contract with them comes to an end and dig out my old Freeview box. This is definitely not essential and I am really not interested in most of the channels anyway. I have pared them back to the bare minimum for now.

Only you can decide what spending is essential and what is optional in your life, but it is interesting to list all of your expenses and see what you could do without if absolutely necessary. You might find there is a lot!

In the spirit of the Tightwad Gazette, here are some money saving tips off the top of my head:

It may not save masses of money, but if you don’t like strong tea, use the teabag twice.
When you get a present, open it carefully and save the wrapping.
Reuse old envelopes from birthdays or junk mail. I stick a freezer label over the old address and use them again – green as well as frugal.
Scratch cook where you can. Look, I work full time and run a house more or less single-handedly. I don’t have a lot of spare time. Sometimes I cut corners with sauces from jars and packets. However, if I can I cook from scratch and try to make double. For example, you can stretch a pack of mince with lots of tomatoes and veg and you have two lots of Bolognese sauce, one for now and one for the freezer.
If you have any outside space, grown some fruit and veg. Seeds are very cheap, especially if you share with friends. Courgettes are an easy one to start with, in the ground or in a grow bag (I have never had much luck with pots).
Buy clothes from boot sales. I have managed to get many bargains during the season – nice brands like Monsoon and Laura Ashley that I could never afford to buy new – for a pound or two an item. This is recycling at its best, so you can be green as well as frugal once again.
If you have a dishwasher, break the tablet in half. This seems to work just as well as a whole one in my machine.
Forget the tumble dryer. They are so expensive to use. Invest in a couple of good wooden or metal dryers. On a good day get the clothes outside on the line. I notice that Lakeland do an plug in clothes dryer that claims to cost very little to run, which I am considering as an investment. It can get a bit tiresome having clothes drying all over the house and this would speed up the process.
Don’t waste food! Only buy what you need and take a shopping list with you when you shop. Plan your meals too – I found this saved time as well as money. Put leftover bits of veg and mash into small bags in the freezer and use to pad out your soups and casseroles.
If you have time, get your hair cut by the students at your local hairdressing college. I found they take longer but tend to be very careful, and their tutor checks their work. The last time I did this it cost £7.50 for a cut and blow dry!
Look after your teeth – it really is worth keeping them clean. Even NHS dentists are expensive these days.
Drive slower. It might annoy the boy racer behind you but it really does save money on petrol.
Cut back on restaurant, cinema and pub outings. How about hosting a pot luck supper with friends, asking everyone to bring some food and drink? This is a brilliant way of socialising without breaking the bank. Me and Darling Daughter 3 have a regular Monday night movie night, where we put on a DVD – bought from the charity shop, borrowed for free from a friend or rented from the local independent DVD store – and make our own popcorn.
I’m sure you have masses more!

Pumpkins and a fabulous harvest

pumpkin soupChopped pumpkin

We had a veritable bounty of wonderful veg from the garden and greenhouse this year. This was the first year we had put so much effort into growing our own food; last year we managed a few courgettes in grow bags and some runner beans. This year we have had fabulous tomatoes (thanks to a bargain greenhouse purchased on Ebay and free plants from a friend), peppers, celeriac, onions, carrots, French and runner beans, peas, fennel, rhubarb, various courgettes and squashes, beetroot, leeks, a few currants and berries and best of all, some lovely big pumpkins. Now that Halloween is out of the way, it is time to make some more soup for the freezer. Pumpkins make the most glorious, smooth and delicious soup. Here is the recipe I use:

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

One medium pumpkin

2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock

3 large onions

2 sticks of celery

2 tsp of cumin

4 cloves of garlic

Vegetable oil

Plenty of salt and pepper

The first thing you need to do is roast your pumpkin. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6, 200C. Peel your pumpkin and cut into large chunks – about 2 inch squares should do. Put into a bowl and mix in a couple of tablespoons of the oil. Roast in the hot oven until the pumpkin begins to soften – about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and garlic and brown for 5 minutes in a small amount of oil, then add the cumin and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin and the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, seasoning to taste, then puree and cool.

I save margarine, ice cream and large yogurt pots for my mega soup making sessions. I ladle single, double or larger portions, depending on the size of my container, label and freeze. Home-made soup is so much nicer than tinned, and a lot cheaper when you are using home grown veg as well as being a great way of using up a glut.