Using cheap mince and a kind of spag bol

imageI had to nip into Sainsbury’s the other day and bought a few groceries to keep us going. I thought I would risk the Basics mince. It was only £1.50 for 400g, crazy cheap. However, it was 20% fat!

imageI managed to make this into a perfectly delicious spaghetti bolognese anyway. What I do when using cheap mince is to fry it up first with no extra oil and then strain it. This gets rid of most of the fat so that it can be used in whatever dish you like without creating a greasy mess. Whilst it was straining it I sautéed onions, garlic, pepper and mushrooms in a little olive oil and then I added the mince, 2 cans of tomatoes, tomato purée, dried mixed herb, a stock cube and some salt and pepper and simmered it all up whilst I cooked the spaghetti.

imageIt was a yummy Saturday tea!

imageI deep cleaned DD1’s old bedroom this morning and it is starting to look like the gym. Let’s hope we get the chance to use it tomorrow as today has been too busy.

I need a longer weekend!


Slimming my waistline as well as my budget!

imageI am managing to stretch this week’s groceries by eating less meat and using things up. It also helps that we  are eating two meals out this week. LAst night we were  invited for dinner at my daughter’s new house. I wonder how long it will be before I have to return the favour because she is running out of food and groceries! I did bring back three bags of her laundry as she has no washing machine yet.

Tonight we are at my mum’s. This is always a treat as she is an excellent frugal cook and source of inspiration to me. Even now they are all young adults my daughters still get excited about going for a ‘nanny dinner’!

So this week my Aldi shop will be small and hopefully very cheap.

Now that darling daughter has departed we are planning to turn her room into a gym/yoga room. This is brilliant as I can’t afford a gym membership and feel really unfit at the moment. There was a time when I would be at the gym three times a week, at my martial arts once a week and doing yoga pretty much every day. I won’t have the time to be that full on but I can certainly make some improvements.

We already had a cross trainer stored away and now a friend has offered me a stepper for a tenner! Perfect.

So no more excuses. I’m slimming down my waistline as well as my bills!!

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.

A busy and profitable weekend

imageWhat a busy couple of days! I’m officially shattered.

I spent much of yesterday dragging boxes and furniture into and out of a hired van helping my daughter and her best mate move into their new home. It’s a lovely little Victorian terrace in the centre of town. It is painted in neutral colours so it very quickly started looking nice. I went back today and they had unpacked all the downstairs rooms and had the pictures on the walls and the curtains up. It looked gorgeous and really homely.

Because it was muddy and wet out, there was a lot of muck on my floors by the time we had been in and out loads of times so I had to start cleaning as soon as I got home.

The minute I sat down DD2 turned up from university with her boyfriend, so I had to sort them out with dinner and have a catch up. Thank goodness there was a nice glass of red wine handy to help me recover from all the effort!

imageThis morning I taught a yoga class for one of my fellow tutors. This was nice as the sun was shining through the windows and I had a full class of enthusiastic yogis, including Mr S who came along for the ride.

DD2 declared we must ‘do something fun’ this afternoon, so we decided on a walk around Wivenhoe, a lovely little town on the estuary about 5 miles from colchester, followed by tea and cake in a small coffee shop.

I was determined to find some time this weekend to list some of the clothes I have been collecting on eBay so I have been doing that this evening and have 13 items listed for sale so far. Many of these cost me 99p from my local charity shop so I should make a few pounds from them. I also picked up a couple of designer dresses that were displayed badly quite cheaply on eBay. I paid £6 each and have them listed for £25. I have made an effort to make them look good so hopefully they will sell and make me a nice profit!image

I’m hoping for a quieter day tomorrow. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest after all 🙂

How is your weekend so far?

My baby is flying the nest…

Mum’s gone to Aldi….

Tomorrow is the big day. DD1 is leaving! Going to her own cute little house with her best friend. Out to face the big wide world and to cope with the responsibility of paying her own (quite large) bills and attempting to live on a budget and not get into debt.

I want her to succeed but I am also worried for her. I know what it is like to have to stretch every penny and go without if necessary, how depressing it can feel sometimes to have no spare cash and to never be able to be relaxed about money. It’s hard when you are 22 and just want to buy clothes and makeup!

My moving in gift is a week’s worth of groceries from Aldi, as ever my favourite supermarket. (As well as all the furniture, curtains and kitchen bits she has pinched from the shed and the attic of course!)

I have bought them bread, milk, butter, cheese, fruit, fresh and tinned veg, pasta, rice, pizza, chicken, jars of sauces, loo roll, kitchen roll, cling film, cleaning stuff, fajita kits, baked beans and more… Her groceries cost more than mine!! Still this should take the pressure off until she gets paid again, then she is on her own!

Anyone else have mixed emotions about their babies flying the nest?

Pancake anyone?

pancakesI got home from work to find DD3 had made pancake mix from scratch – I had intended to use up the batter mix I got from Approved Food. In the end we used both -pancakes are pretty popular at Shoestring Cottage! I like mine with lemon and sugar – DD3 went for Nutella.

brie and bacon risottoShe also made the Brie and Bacon Risotto from A Girl Called Jack. It was lovely, and I will definitely be making it again. I don’t think there has been a dud recipe from this book so far. I will look out for her second book if I can get it at a bargain price. Nothing will beat the first one in the charity shop for 99p though. The picture makes it look strangely pink – it wasn’t! I will have the leftovers for my lunch at work tomorrow.

I found out that we will be hosting another student next month, which is brilliant news. She is a Japanese nurse. Should be interesting and it all helps me to keep my head above water.

What are you having in your pancakes?

Using it up! Home made quiche and a bit of charity shopping

pastry mixI have another day off today, using up my annual leave. I love having a bit of spare time, just to potter and be a domestic goddess. This morning I decided to use one of the packs of pastry mix I bought some time ago from Approved Foods to make a quiche for tea. I have never used one before – it goes against the grain – but it was a massive bargain and I couldn’t resist buying a few.

quiche 3It was certainly extremely quick, so great for people who are in a hurry I guess. The pack said to mix the contents with 6-7 tablespoons of water. Well it took me 14 before it would stay together, and I ended up adding a tablespoon of sunflower oil too. This did the trick! This made one quiche base and a tray of jam tarts. I made a cheese, mushroom and tomato quiche – the tomatoes were looking a bit wrinkly so they needed using up too. The jam tarts were made with my home produced redcurrant jelly.

quiche 2The pastry was actually not bad at all. We have had some tarts with our morning coffee and will be eating the quiche for tea with some chips and vegetables. Yum!

I have two more pastry packs in the cupboard so that will feature in my next two week’s meal plans. I also have some batter mixes – I will use a couple of those tomorrow night, seeing as it’s pancake day.

jam tartsIt’s just me and DD3 at home today as she is on half term. We are planning a bit of charity shopping and I will treat her to lunch at that awful McFood place. She likes it and it won’t  break the bank so I am happy to make a very rare visit.

quiche 4Whilst we are at the charity shop she is going to talk to them about volunteering. I think this is a great idea to give her a bit of work experience and do a bit of good at the same time. I think it will look great on her university applications as well when she comes to do them.

Back to work tomorrow, but I have my last day off on Friday when I will be helping DD1 to move into her new house. The place will be quiet without her, although possibly a bit tidier :).

Whatever you are doing this half term, enjoy it. Hope you manage a bit of family time.

Cheesy potato bake with parsley, Rosemary and thyme

imageWe 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.

image900g 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

imagePlace 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.

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!

Say it with cake! Happy Valentine’s

valentin cake 2You could buy expensive perfume, diamonds and jewellery, or you could make a delicious double chocolate heart cake as I did this morning for Mr Shoestring. He knows I love him, but it’s nice to have to opportunity to remind him! I picked up the handy silicone cake dish for a few pounds a few years ago and it has proved quite useful.

valentine cake

It also happens to be my brother’s 50th birthday today, so we won’t be going out or even cooking a special meal in tonight. Instead we are going en masse to his house for a clan gathering and fish and chips, washed down with lots of noise and chat and cups of tea no doubt. We have booked tickets for the cinema tomorrow night instead to see the Theory of Everything, which I am really looking forward to. A rare treat!!

Whoever you love and whoever you are with today, I wish you a lovely Valentine’s Day. Spread the love!