Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

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

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper. chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 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.

A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!

The thrift style challenge

Once again I looked at my outfit today and smiled when I worked out how much it cost. Long black M&S skirt, secondhand on eBay for £3; indigo blue Tu cardigan, 99p in the charity shop, long sleeved crossover Monsoon top, £2.95 in the charity shop.  Total cost: £6.94. My shoes were new: £8 from New Look.  Yesterday I had on a pair of jeans, £1 from the boot sale; plain black top, 99p charity shop; long turquoise M&S cardigan, £2 boot sale; leather boots, a cast off from my daughter. Total cost: £3.99. Some people pay more than that on a pair of pants!


Some recent bargains, total cost £5.50!

 I am not suggesting I am any kind of style queen, but I manage to look quite respectable most of the time. I rarely wear anything new these days – usually it is just my footwear and undies. Once you realise what you can get for a few pounds you resent paying lots of money for anything! This is why being thrifty becomes a kind of hobby after a while. It is incredibly satisfying.

It seems I am not alone in my thrift obsession. Instagram is awash with frugal fashionistas displaying their quirky and stylish secondhand bargains: check out thrify_meg, michellerosborough and hellathrifty for starters, but there are loads more.

If I ever come into money I am quite sure I will go on a wild spree and buy as many beautiful new clothes as I want. Until then I am happy with my frugal bargain wardrobe. 

How much did you spend on today’s outfit? 

Exercise and weight loss for free!

  I caught a look at myself the other night as I was taking a pic of the kitten and got a shock. I wasn’t holding anything in and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I am getting fat!! I am naturally pretty slim and always in the go, and I wouldn’t be classed as overweight, but even so the middle aged spread does like to creep on every now and again. 

There was a time when I did a lot more exercise than I do now. I still practice yoga, but I used to go to the gym too. Now I have other financial priorities and a gym membership is too expensive. I am a qualified yoga teacher so can practice for free, so no excuses there. Jogging is free, not that’s not an option for me as I have dodgy knees, so I have decided to start walking again. 
  I dragged DD3 out for  a power walk this morning. I downloaded an app called Map My Walk which measures distance, pace and the number of calories burned. As you can see we just went round the block – a gentle start but I didn’t want to frighten her off!

I intend to do this at least twice week, and up the yoga too. 

I am also cutting out the three Cs: crisps, cakes and chocolate! I have downloaded a second app, My Fitness Pal. This keeps a diary of what I eat and the number of calories. I am aiming for 1200 a day, although I can eat more if I exercise. I could join a slimming club but again I have other plans for my hard earned cash! It is common sense; if you eat too much you will get fat!

Snacking is my downfall. I eat really healthy meals but too much rubbish in between. As I know I will snack, I am making sure I have healthy choices in the house, like cottage cheese, low fat humous, carrot and cucumber sticks, fruit and popcorn. I will take some to work as well to ensure I don’t resort to the chocolate machine. I can exercise for free and I don’t need to spend loads of money on ‘diet food’. I aim to lose 9 pounds. I will let you know how I get on!

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.

Autumn at Shoestring Cottage

  There is still lots going on in the garden at Shoestring Cottage – the cosmos are beautiful, the trees are gold and red, the red hot pokers are at their best. I have tomatoes, spinach and cabbages to eat, and there is some chard coming along too. The courgettes and beans are done. 

  The pumpkins are tiny! We usually grow them from seed but this year decided to buy a couple of plants and they are rubbish! Hardly any fruit on them and what there is won’t make a Halloween lantern let alone my favourite pumpkin soup. I will have to grab a couple from the supermarket for a soup making session.


The chard needs weeding!

 Speaking of fruit, we do have apples for the first time this year which are delicious. We have had about 10 already from our two tiny trees.  I also have a bag donated by a friend so I will be making an apple cake later. I haven’t baked for ages and Mr S is feeling deprived!

I like nothing more than a walk through the woods on a sunny autumn day. I am hoping we can get out today. Mr S has been struggling with sciatica and not his usual energetic self. So that is today’s plan – apple cake and an autumn walk. How are you spending your Sunday?

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

  I have said it before. I am a low budget kind of girl when it comes to make up and toiletries. 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 – and I don’t get on with soap for this as I have dry skin- some cotton wool and a moisturiser without too much fragrance in it. 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. I wear make up because I tend towards being too pale and showing any tiredness immediately, but not that much. I use a razor and soap to get rid of the fuzz, I pluck my own eyebrows and do myself the odd manicure and pedicure. I can’t afford to visit the beauty salon to be waxed and preened. 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…
  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 and 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, plus they sell the hair colourant 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.
  I look out for bargains in the supermarkets for makeup. I really like the foundation I have now and it was on offer for  £6.99. I know people who will spend £35 on a small pot of this stuff! I also very recently 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 bargains at 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 at massively reduced prices or celebrity fragrance when the celebrity has fallen out of favour. It either smells good or it doesn’t. Who cares if Britney’s name is on the bottle?

If this stuff really matters to you, you probably think I am tighter than the proverbial bit of the duck’s anatomy. But if you are on a tight budget you can be sure you can do it more cheaply. Start at Aldi. You may be surprised at what you will find.

Ho ho ho! Christmas is coming

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. 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!
 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.

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