Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

 I love chick peas! And I love spinach. Mostly I love frugal healthy food and spicy chick peas with spinach fits the bill on both counts.

Spicy chick peas with spinach

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper, chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can chick peas, drained
half to one tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsps cumin
half pint veg stock
salt and pepper

Fry up the onions, garlic and pepper  in the oil until soft, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach and all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for at least half an hour, covered. Taste and season.

This spicy chick peas with spinach dish is so easy. It is also low fat and vegan. A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!

I like to serve this as part of a frugal Indian dinner party for friends. Cheaper than eating out!

Using up windfall or wrinkly apples: American apple cake

apple cakeI have a big bag of windfall apples, plus our own little trees are finally producing some nice fruit. This is great, but I eat most of the apples in this house and my tooth is still a bit odd so they aren’t getting eaten! This is a great way to use them up. I usually resort to apple pie or crumble, but I thought I would make a cake for a change. This one is packed full of apples and is lovely by itself or warm with custard. It is adapted from the Best of Sainsbury’s Baking and is an old favourite.

125g (4 oz) butter
350g (12 oz) caster sugar
2 eggs
250g (8 oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
2 tsp mixed spice
750g (1.5 llb) apples (recipe calls for desert apples, but I have used cooking apples as well and they are fine)
125g (4 oz) chopped mixed nuts

Preheat oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour, soda and spices and fold in, then mix in the apples and nuts. Work together well, then turn into a well greased baking tin about 9x 13 inches. Bake for 1.5 hours, then check to see if cooked and cooker for a further 15-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine cooked in 1 hr 45.

Budget DIY 

In my dreams, my kitchen DOESN’T look like the one on the left, but rather is a serene green country cottage type affair, like the Flowerpot Cottage one.

Budget DIY

Our kitchen  looks ok at first glance, but when you live with it day to day you realise it was put together by a one eyed monkey who had lost his spirit level! I have made it a bit worse by splodging bits of paint testers here and there to see what might work. What would work would be to rip the whole darn thing out and start again, but sadly the Shoestring Cottage purse strings won’t run to that right now.

The one at Flower Pot Cottage is a beautiful kitchen – this is what I will have when I win the lottery….

If you have Instagram check out @flowerpotcottage on. She has the most fabulous house, the epitome of good taste. Hers is pretty much my dream kitchen.

Back in the real world, I am making plans for a frugal renovation of my kitchen that will involve some paint, repairs and a nice new blind. You can make a huge difference with a bit of budget DIY.


I will probably need to wait until after Christmas but in the meantime I will be collecting bargain accessories to get the look I want.

Any hints and tips? What is your advice for budget DIY on a shoestring?

Budget beauty

budget beautyI have said it before: I am a low budget kind of girl when it comes to make up and toiletries. I am into budget beauty.

Don’t believe the hype

At my age I have tried so many products and I no longer believe the pseudo science or advertising hype. All I need is a cleanser of some kind, some cotton wool and a moisturiser without too much fragrance in it. I don’t get on with soap for this as I have dry skin.

I use an exfoliator once or twice a week – the St Ives apricot stuff is fine. We have shower gel in the house as the others like it but actually I still prefer soap and a flannel. I always use body lotion, again because of the dry skin.

Because I tend towards being too pale and showing any tiredness immediately I always wear a little makeup. I use a razor and soap to get rid of the fuzz, pluck my own eyebrows and do myself the odd manicure and pedicure. It would be nice to visit the beauty salon to be waxed and preened but it’s not in my budget.

I quite fancy getting my nails done, but I know I would wreck them in 10 minutes doing the garden! I dye my own hair but draw the line at cutting it…

budget beautyBudget beauty at Aldi

When I was in Aldi the other day buying the night cream that I use I had a good look at their range of toiletries. They are excellent value. This particular moisturiser costs £1.99 and is as good as anything else I have ever tried, including the Clarins range that I used to spend a small fortune on.  Home Bargains is another that I like for shampoos, shower gel and conditioner. They also sell the hair colour that I prefer.
In Aldi this week you can buy shower gel for 33p, face wipes for 89p, permanent hair colour for £2.39, hairspray for 79p, sanitary towels for 69p for 14 and an impressive looking beauty serum for £3.99, among other bargain beauty buys.

Check out the supermarkets

I look out for bargains in the supermarkets for makeup. The foundation I have now is really nice and was on offer for  £6.99. I know people who will spend £35 on a small pot of this stuff! Very recently I also discovered the MUA range in Superdrug which is incredibly cheap. £1 for a lipstick and £2 for a cream blusher! That will do me!

My daughter raves about the budget beauty bargains at Cosmetics Fairy and they do seem worth investigating.

Fragrance – the prices! I am sure you shouldn’t need to sell a kidney to smell nice! I go for the Body Shop range fairly often. Another good ploy is to buy the gift sets of fragrance and body lotion after Christmas. You can usually find them massively reduced. Perfume either smells good or it doesn’t. Who cares if Britney’s name is on the bottle?

You might think I am tighter than the proverbial bit of the duck’s anatomy. But if you need to watch the pennies  you can save money with a budget beauty approach. Start at Aldi. You may be surprised at what you will find!

Ho ho ho! Planning for Christmas

Planning for Christmas

Ok don’t pelt me with rotten eggs. I know it’s only 2nd October. However, if you don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill Christmas should be planned for. It comes at the same time every year, so it shouldn’t really be a nasty surprise to your wallet!

I am actually behind where I was last year in my planning for Christmas. I usually buy small bargain presents and stocking fillers as I  go through the year but the few I have found have been instantly used as birthday presents by the family. I also usually have lots more in the kitty, but my car has been troublesome and expensive and eaten a chunk of my Christmas budget.

Even so, I have made a start on my shopping  and will try to get as much done as I  can way before the rush. My sister couldn’t believe it when I asked for ideas for presents for her kids in September! I have bought a couple of Mary Berry cookery books as presents from Aldi. Lovely looking recipes at a bargain price!

  Secret Santa

I stopped buying for the adults in my family a few years ago. We are a large family and it’s just too expensive. Instead we do Secret Santa and this works well. We buy for children in full time education; once they leave school or university they join in with Secret Santa. I buy for my daughters and ask for ideas. They have a £50 budget and on top of that I buy small gifts such as socks, underwear, books and toiletries.

Most of our Christmas food comes from Aldi. They do a lovely range of treats at Christmas. If we are at home what we eat will be very traditional. It’s just a fancy roast after all, so doesn’t need to cost a fortune. I have made my pudding in the past but find it more economical to buy Aldi’s luxury pud rather than fork out on lots of ingredients. Christmas cake rarely gets eaten, so I will make a fancy cake as a treat, like a gooey chocolate one.

Buying in the sales

I have wrapping paper and cards put away that I purchased last year in the sales. Always a good tip! I keep and recycle gift bags so I never need to buy those.

I use the same artificial tree I have had for  years along with ancient decorations! I don’t spend a fortune and keep the decor simple. I might cut some holly to put in a couple of big vases. I expect the kitten to destroy any display fairly quickly and I can’t see the tree lasting long…

Anyone else planning for Christmas? Is it a source of joy or anxiety? Any tips for a frugal festive season?