Making a bit of extra money



I have been listing and buying on eBay over the past week. I need to try to earn extra money to make up for losing DD1’s housekeeping ( although it is always possible it actually cost more than she gave me to keep her!! We shall see). I have found some beautiful dresses. I think they will sell but it’s tricky knowing how to price them.

I am looking forward to the boot sale season starting in the Spring. I should find some real bargains there to sell on.

Every little helps!

The sun is shining today and the daffodils are looking promising. I know we have a way to go but I hate winter and can’t wait for the better weather.

Car wash and a vaguely restful sunday

Well, did I get my day of rest? Nearly!

I had to clean my car. It was filthy but the weather hasn’t been kind enough for car washing and I wasn’t going to pay £15 to get it done at the local hand wash when I could do it myself.

I scrubbed it inside and out – Mr S is in the habit of using it to transport lawn mowers and the like which doesn’t help and it was muddy from all the wet weather. It took over an hour. I washed Mr S’s car as well whilst I was at it, since he was digging over the compost heap and veggie patch.

I did manage a nap in the afternoon though, which was state luxury.

I made a version of A Girl Called Jack’s spaghetti with spinach and mushrooms over the weekend. I added a chicken breast from the freezer to stop the moaning from the resident carnivores. It was very tasty and nutritious and went down well with some Aldi garlic bread. Has anybody tried Jack’s second book? I think it might be worth buying it.

Cheesy potato bake with parsley, rosemary and thyme

cheesy potato bakeWe had a cheap and filling late lunch today, a cheesy potato bake served with Aldi sausages and vegetables. As we were going to the cinema I wanted to keep it simple. This is how you make it.

cheesy potato bake900g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Heaped tsp dried rosemary
Heaped tsp dried thyme
Large handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
1/2 pint milk
Salt and pepper
100g grated cheese

cheesy potato bakePlace the spuds, onions and garlic with the milk in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in all of the herbs and season well. Grease a large casserole dish and pour the potato mixture in. Cover with the grated cheese and bake at about 180C for 45 minutes. Eat as an accompaniment to sausages or as a vegetarian main with some vegetables.

This cheap and easy cheesy potato bake is also vegetarian and gluten free.

We saw the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything tonight. What a great story and an excellent film. I really recommend it if you can get to see it!

Vegetable bake and a good day’s work

Before...dirty and rather tatty

Before…dirty and rather tatty

I had the day off today to start the refurbishment of an old dresser. My parents had it made in the seventies and gave it to me when I bought my first house. Back then honey-coloured pine was all the rage – I remember this dresser in the family kitchen with its matching table and benches. At some point I painted it blue, but for the past 3 years it has been at the back of Mr Shoestring’s workshop gathering dust.


It is a cute little dresser and is the first part of our planned redecoration (on a shoestring, of course) of our kitchen – Mr S is going to remove the ugly breakfast bar to make space. We chose a chalk finish pale green. Today I sanded it, washed it thoroughly and applied the first coat. It is looking very encouraging so far! Hopefully I will get the final coat on tomorrow and will wax it over the weekend.

Mid transformation!

Mid transformation!

Because I knew I probably wouldn’t fancy cooking when I got in, I prepared the dinner before I went, a very simple veggie bake based on Delia’s  Leek, Carrot and Potato Pie which features in my original copy of Frugal Food. It was perfect after my day freezing in the workshop – warming and comforting. I used tinned potatoes to save time – they are 15p in Aldi and I couldn’t buy fresh for less – and also a packet of bechamel sauce that cost 10p from Approved Food. Half of the leeks were from the garden – the last of them – and the other half came from Aldi this morning from their Super Six range and cost 59p.

200g carrots, chopped ( I don’t bother peeling them)
2 x 420g tins of potatoes
50g butter
100g mushrooms
500g leeks, washed and chopped
1 small onion
1/2 pint white sauce
150g cheddar, grated
2 tbsp breadcrumbs, made by whizzing up half a crust of bread with my hand blender
2 pinches cayenne pepper

veggie bakeCook the carrots in boiling water until cooked but still al dente. Sweat the leeks, onion and mushrooms in some butter until soft. Season well to taste. Drain the carrots, reserving 1/4 pint of water to make up the sauce, then follow the instructions on the packet but replace half the suggested milk with this water (or make a bechamel from scratch so that it can be gluten free if necessary). Slice the potatoes. Arrange the vegetables in layers in a deep casserole dish, finishing with a layer of potatoes, seasoning as you go. Combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese and cayenne and sprinkle on the top. Bake in a medium oven (180C) for about 40 minutes until the topping is golden brown. Serve with a green vegetable and enjoy!tinned spuds

The girls complained at the lack of meat, but since they both presented me with clean plates I don’t think they suffered too much 🙂

Cleaning my boots with a banana skin, and other crazy frugal notions…

I have  been trying to find some clear or taupe coloured boot polish for ages. I got a nice pair of leather boots in the sale last winter – £35 reduced from £120. They are lovely quality and very comfy, but a weird colour. As a consequence I have never polished them and they were looking a bit tatty.



Idly eating a banana it occurred to me that I had read somewhere you could use a banana skin to clean leather. Well, why not? Have you ever tried it? I’m not convinced it works! Still, they look vaguely cleaner I guess and it cost nothing…


…after??? Hmmm

Some frugal ideas are brilliant but it has to be said that others are slightly nuts. For example, I have never found screwing up the netting that oranges come in and using it as a pan scourer remotely successful. I would never consider making my own baby formula (I would leave that to Mother Nature with the professional baby milk manufacturers as a back up). I have tried squishing the ends of soap together to make a new bar, but it invariably falls apart. I wouldn’t consider giving someone a gift wrapped up in old newspaper or magazine (not that I read them these days!). These things save hardly anything and take up lots of time, and I don’t have enough of that as it is, so I think I would do better to spend my time planning frugal meals, growing some of my own food and finding ways to cut my household bills such as my energy or diesel usage.

So what is the nuttiest thing you have attempted to save money, and did it work? Please share!!

Leftovers risotto: waste not want not!

imageSometimes you need to be creative in your frugal kitchen. You can’t always slavishly follow a recipe. I frequently adapt recipes to make use of what I have, and sometimes I just make it up.

imageLast night I looked in the fridge and freezer and I had some shredded chicken from Sunday’s roast (frozen), half a punnet of mushrooms that were looking a bit sorry for themselves and half a jar of spanish chicken sauce. So what to do with all these leftovers? I decided on a sort of risotto. This is what I did:

imageFried the mushrooms in oil and a little butter with two cloves of garlic and two large shallots purchased by our French student when he made the ratatouille last week. I added a handful of frozen peas too. I cooked about 350g basmati rice and threw that on top with the half a jar of sauce, a can of tomatoes and half a glass of white wine that was lurking in the fridge. I boiled it up for a bit and added a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée, salt and pepper and a couple of shakes of smoked paprika. Finally I threw in the shredded defrosted chicken and warmed it through thoroughly. It was delicious! This fed three of us last night and we finished it for lunch today.

imageSimple, nutritious and it used up some leftovers that some folk would have ended up throwing in the bin.

imageWhat are your best leftover recipes?

Making extra money

Our nice French student went home today. He was a lovely guest and it was a real pleasure to have him. We make so many friends and find out about different cultures by hosting foreign students. It is a very enjoyable way to make extra cash and I recommend it if you have a language school nearby.

I am hoping it is a busy year for students as it helps so much with our finances.

This weekend will include a tour of the charity shops. As DD3 has had no luck finding a part time job to fit around college we thought we would search for bargains to resell on Depop to make her a bit of cash. I am stunned at what you can flog at quite high prices if it can be classed as vintage! We may not be able to get going properly on this until the boot sale season begins. Wish I had kept some of my ugly 80’s clothes!!

More cupboard decluttering is required now; I am starting on repainting the dresser for my kitchen this week and then will repaint the kitchen itself. I want the kitchen as ordered as possible before the chaos starts.

Any interesting plans for the weekend?



Meal Planning for Budget Eating

For me, planning my week’s meals is an essential part of sticking to my food budget. I check my cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what I already have and what especially needs using up and this is my starting point. I look at the diary to see who will be home on which days, when I will be out or home late so that I know how much time I will have to prepare the meal. When I am feeling skint, I reduce the amount of meat that we eat and stick to a more basic menu. In the summer, when I have lots of produce from the veg patch, I plan our meals around what we have ready to harvest.

I don’t like waste so I frequently have lots of small bits of leftover food sitting in the freezer, so I incorporate these into my plan as well.

I only roughly plan lunches and breakfasts but make sure I have plenty of bread and cereal and don’t buy more if we have some to use up. I also make vast pots of soup!

Because I am a busy person though I do sometimes get stuck in a rut: macaroni cheese, spaghetti bolognese, chicken stew, chick pea curry….if I am not careful it can get a little dull. So tonight I have made a list of different recipes. I have been through my ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Frugal Food and A Girl Called Jack’s first book, plus the internet, and come up with the following list that I will be working through:

Macaroni au gratin
Spaghetti with meatballs
Spaghetti with tuna and olives
Cheese and mushroom quiche
Leek, carrot and potato pie
Pancakes with spinach and cheese
Lentil and vegetable curry with rice
Spanish tortilla
Potato and cheese baked eggs
mushroom and spinach pasta
Smoky red lentil burgers in pittas
Brie and bacon risotto
Sort of paella
Ratatouille and rice
Ham, mushroom and cheese crepes
Vegetable masala curry
Creamy mustard chicken
Macaroni cheese with leeks and bacon

Most of these will be acceptable to the hungry hoards and help me stick to my budget, although Mr S will moan if he doesn’t see enough meat!

Would you give a guest a microwave meal?

Meal planning

Our lovely French student has insisted on cooking for us tonight. He has been so appreciative of everything I have put on his plate. I am looking forward to a bowl of ratatouille cooked the authentic way!

He told me that the other students in his group are envious when he tells them what we have been eating: home made soups and casseroles with fresh vegetables every day and the odd home made cake. Some of them have apparently been presented with a microwave meal every night! Honestly, what a way to treat a guest. Perhaps that is what they eat every day anyway, but you would think they might make a bit of an effort for a paying guest.

However I have spent far too much on food in recent weeks so when he goes we will be eating a lot less meat. We will have the vegetables and cakes though still. You need the odd treat.

So I have been trawling the net for new nutritious yet frugal recipes. My favourites are always veggie stews and curries in this weather plus pasta and risotto dishes.

I am working on my meal plan. Any suggestions?