Setting goals: August update

setting goals

Do you ever feel like you are super busy all the time yet still don’t achieve what you want to? That is me to a tee! This is why I decided recently to start setting goals on a monthly basis to help direct my energies.

August’s goals were:

To develop the blog

I managed mostly to write three blog posts a week, which was my target. In addition, I spent some time talking to the lovely Sara at Debt Camel, who gave me some great advice on a redesign for the blog. I am working on this now and hope you will start to see some improvements. This is a long term aim as it is a big job!

To increase my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter following

I would like to reach 1000 followers on Twitter (@shoestringjane) and 2000 on Instagram (@shoestringcottage). I’m almost but not quite there yet! If you use either maybe you can help with this. Follow and retweet/like. Send me a comment and I will follow you back! A lot of you went and found me on Facebook as well, so many thanks if you did.

To increase the amount I sell on eBay

This has really improved and I have sold as much in the last 10 days as I did for the whole of July! This is partly I think because I am getting better at finding good stuff and I have been to several boot sales.

To get a new lodger

Yes! We have a new lodger arriving at the beginning of October. She is a masters student and plans to stay for a year. I have repainted all the woodwork in her room to brighten it up and will emulsion the walls as soon as I get time.

Continue with my grocery challenge

Regular readers will know that I have been on a grocery challenge to spend no more than £35 a week on food for three people per week. I have just about managed this, without feeling deprived in any way. Focussing on your spending in this way saves so much money! I am going to continue with the challenge in September, although I might relax it a little. This is where setting goals can be so motivating.

Setting goalsWe have a really great crop of Victoria plums on our tree for the first time. They are delicious and I have frozen a few to add to our stock of blackberries and greengages. I also tried Asda’s super cheap 22p sponge mix for the first time the other day. I cooked the plums and then poured the sponge mix on top to make a frugal pudding. it was really lovely with custard. You only need to add an egg. If I was using it to make a Victoria sponge, however, I would use two packs.

Setting goals for September

Mr S is designing a new blog logo for me and it looks great! I aim to get this onto the blog as part of a redesign this month. I just have to sort out the techie bit (I am rubbish at this!). Watch this space…

I will re-emulsion the walls in the lodger’s room.

The garden is starting to fade now that we are moving into Autumn. The plan is to tidy up and weed all of the beds and dig over the veg patch (with Mr S’s help, of course).

I will sort out a new broadband contract and possibly purchase a Freeview box, although there are other possible options I need to investigate. To this end, I sought advice on the Skint Dad Community Facebook group, which turned into a really long thread full of good ideas. It seems I am not alone in thinking that Virgin, Sky, etc. are over priced!

Are you setting goals for September? Did you achieve all that you wanted this month?

Planning for Christmas….and saving money

planning for ChristmasI can hear some virtual sharp intakes of breath at the thought of planning for Christmas when we are still in August! How dare I mention the C word when we have only just had the bank holiday!

I belong to several money saving Facebook groups. One of them is all about planning for Christmas and has been running since about April (if you are interested, search for Thrifty & Frugal Christmas). There are plenty of people who like to get organised! This group is full of ideas for cheap presents and even some freebie stocking fillers.

Take the worry out of planning for Christmas

Some of the money saving groups I read feature people who are anxious about the cost of Christmas. There was a big discussion on one thread about how to keep costs down. One young woman said she would only have a budget of £100 and she was worried about the strain of buying for her various family members. There is something terribly wrong if you are losing sleep months and months in advance of the event. Planning for Christmas should be fun, not just another thing to worry about.

It reminded me of how I felt a few years ago with three small children to buy for, loads of relatives (I am one of four children) and a very limited amount available to spend on Christmas. Even if I stuck to £10 a person, it was still more than I could afford at the time.  I suggested to my family that we stop buying for the adults and just stuck to purchases for the kids. We all have plenty of everything already and have seen enough Christmases to be past disappointment if we don’t get a huge pile of gifts. Now we do a secret Santa for the adults and buy just one present for whoever’s name we pull out of the hat costing £15 – £20. It works really well!

However, it took a few years for everyone to agree to this. It seemed we were the only ones feeling the pinch. So I had to find other ways to save money. The following is an amalgamation of my money saving ideas plus those I have gleaned from Facebook to help you with your planning for Christmas.

Be honest!

Both with yourself and your loved ones. Tell them your budget and what you will be spending on each of them. Make it clear you don’t want them to go over that budget when they purchase for you. You might even decide between you not to bother, or perhaps to spend a little extra on something else, like a nice meal out together.

I know that Ilona from Life after Money doesn’t do Christmas at all and I respect that. She says, ‘I find it very liberating that I have chosen not to join in. My brain is not cluttered with the worry of getting the right presents, buying the right food, sending cards, and generally running around like a headless chicken trying to keep up. I can sit back and relax and watch everyone else getting their knickers in a twist. You will not see a furrowed brow on my face, you will see a wide grin from cheek to cheek.’ You can read an article about Ilona and her approach to the festive season here.

I love this! If you think it is a load of nonsense and don’t intend to join in with the rampant commercialisation of the season, don’t be afraid to say so.

Start early and spread the cost.

This is the reason I am writing this post at the end of August. I know that some of you will already be on top of your Christmas planning and might even have bought gifts in the January sales. However, if you haven’t,  buying something each week will mean you notice the impact of your spending a lot less.

I usually start about now, especially with Christmas food. I already have plenty of cards, gift wrap and decorations purchased in the post Christmas sales. Now I am on the look out for everything else!

Buy second-hand

Charity shops and boot sales, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Gumtree are all great places for this. One lady on Facebook said, ‘I help in a charity shop and we often have new items in from big stores, and many of the toys look like new’. I remember doing almost my entire Christmas present shopping at boot sales one summer. I saved an absolute fortune and I honestly don’t think anyone was any the wiser!

Get creative

If you are crafty you can make all kinds of presents. Pinterest is awash with great ideas for making gifts out of scraps and upcycling. I used to love soap making and created some really special soaps one year that rivalled the poshest in Lush but were much cheaper. You can knit or crochet, paint, or  grow plants. Just use your skills and talents!

Photos of your children are lovely gifts for grandparents in a charity shop frame (if they are old enough, get the kids to decorate it). If you are a cook you could make foodie gifts such as cakes, chutneys or biscuits. You could make them up into a hamper. Home Bargains is excellent for cheap baskets to use for these.

Hunt for bargains and freebies

Check out the sales and join Facebook groups where excellent deals are posted daily. As well as the Christmas one I already mentioned, I like Spend Less, Live Better and Free Samples Giveaways and Competitions UK. Check out stores such as Poundland, Home Bargains, B&M, etc for stocking fillers like colouring books and pens. They also do great offers on bigger toys and nice but cheap items such as candles. If you have a gardener to buy for now is a great time to find bargains in these stores.

If you have a family to buy for you could make a hamper for them to share and fill it with inexpensive bits and pieces like sweets, chocolate, small toys, etc.

Use cash back sites

If you are going to buy Christmas presents online you may as well get some cash back – it soon adds up. I use Top CashBack often but have also just signed up for QuidCo. Both offer cash back whenever you click through to make a purchase to a retailer. If you click through to Top CashBack via my link I will earn a small commission and you earn £2.50 when you spend £5.

Give time, not money

One suggestion on a Facebook group that I liked was to offer time as a gift. You could give tokens promising babysitting, gardening, car washing, ironing, cleaning, etc. This is a nice gift for teenagers to offer older relatives.

Set a limit and make it fun

If you don’t fancy Secret Santa, how about setting a limit per person and making a game of it? I read about a lady whose family agreed their gifts to each other could cost no more than £2. This meant they had to be really creative – either a home made gift, something cheap but amusing from the pound shop, or a charity shop bargain. They tended to make the gifts funny rather than serious and had a lot of laughs along the way.

Don’t feel bad about not spoiling your children

Everyone knows children whose parents almost bankrupt themselves spending thousands on gifts. Do the children appreciate lots of presents more than two or three thoughtful things that they really wanted and waited for? I remember being desperate for a Barbie and her horse when I was a kid. Because I had to wait six months for it to arrive on Christmas day I loved it even more and remember the pleasure I got opening it to this day.

Ask for contributions

Finally, if you are hosting a Christmas gathering don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to bring a contribution. A bottle of something at the very least, but preferably a dish as well. It is fun to share and this way everyone is involved.

Does planning for Christmas make you anxious? What are your top tips for effective Christmas budgeting?

 

 

 

Five Frugal Things 26th August 

I have had the busiest of weeks. Very productive, though – I have done loads! Sometimes life is like that. I am sure I have managed five frugal things and more. Here are my top frugal achievements.

1. Website of the week

Website of the weekI suppose you could argue that this wasn’t really an example of frugality, but it did showcase our thrifty lifestyle. I was in the Sun newspaper! Shoestring Cottage was Mrs Crunch’s website of the week. I was really chuffed about this. I never thought I would be featured in a national newspaper.

I was also recently featured on a lovely blog, a Beautiful Space. You can check that out here.

2. Hosted a frugal party

five frugal thingsWe had a gathering of the clans yesterday – a lovely sunny party in the garden. It was a lot of work as there were 20 of us. How do you host such a party without breaking the bank? Fortunately my family made some contributions of cakes, a sausage plait and a home made coleslaw, plus everyone brought drinks.

I went to Aldi for almost all my ingredients and used a lot of garden produce as well. A huge moussaka, courgette and tomato bake, quiches and various salads all went down well with the hungry hoards. I bought beer and prosecco from Aldi too, as the prices are so good in there.

It was a fabulous day and so nice to catch up with everybody.

3. A bit of DIY

I have been meaning to spruce up the lodger’s room before the new one arrives. The garden has taken up so much of my spare time I hadn’t had a chance. So I took the day off work on Wednesday and painted all the woodwork. I still have to emulsion the walls some time but it already looks so much brighter. A can of one coat gloss cost just £15 in Homebase and there is still loads left. You don’t have to spend much to smarten up a room.

4. Another Aldi bargain

Darling daughter and I are both lactose intolerant and usually drink Lactofree milk. This costs anywhere between £1.35 and £1.55 a litre, although I sometimes find it on offer for £1 and stock up.

I was really happy to hear that Aldi now sell a version. It is only £1.15, which is a great price. I know where I will be buying this from now on. I won’t have to go hunting for the nearest place where I don’t have to take out a mortgage to buy the stuff!

Food intolerances can be expensive. At least we don’t have to eat gluten free as on of my guests did yesterday.

5. Using up the veg

five frugal thingsWe had so much veg in the house I made a cheap and extremely easy vegetable bake. I sautéed  some courgettes and celery, then added cooked potatoes, sweet corn and carrots. Finally,  I smothered it all in a cheese sauce and topped it with tomatoes and more grated cheese. Then I baked it for about half an hour and it was delicious with some crusty bread and home grown runner beans.

I love this kind of easy, thrifty dinner, which often makes it onto my five frugal things list.  I made enough for two meals. We had it the following evening with some bakes chicken.

I also froze the excess runner beans, which are now arriving at an alarming pace! It is great to think we will still be eating our own produce as we move towards winter.

All in all, a satisfying week and it was easy to achieve my five frugal things. What have your frugal achievements been this week? Let me know in the comments.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. You can hop on over to their blogs to get some more frugal inspiration.

Grocery challenge update: How low can you go?

grocery challengeRegular readers will be aware that we have been on a £35 per week grocery challenge. For the whole of August we have been saving money at Shoestring Cottage by keeping our food bill as low as possible.

If you need to make some quick savings – if you have an unexpected bill, for example –  try reducing your food budget. A grocery challenge is a great place to start.

How low did we go?

grocery challengeDid we stick to our reduced budget? Yes, pretty much. We have been under some weeks and over on others but so far we have spent just £150 on food for the three of us. This works out at around £37.60 a week. We still have a week to go as August is almost a five week month. We have plenty of food in the house so should be able to keep to about £25 for this week’s shop. How did we achieve this?

Meal planning

Every week I check the cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what we already have. I then make a meal plan for the week ahead. If there is something that needs using up I incorporate that into my plan.

I check to see what is available on the veggie patch and include that too.

I work full time so I don’t have time for fussy food. Dishes that are fast, tasty, cheap and nutritious are required. We are fortunate at this time of year to have a lot of fresh produce from the garden, which helps a lot as it is more or less free food!

Did we live on pasta?

grocery challengeOf course we didn’t! We ate dishes like roast chicken and ratatouille, cheesy vegetable hash, sausages and mash, spinach frittata and courgette and tomato eggy bake. We took leftovers for work lunches or home made soup. Breakfast was usually porridge and fruit. When I am stuck for inspiration, I search through my frugal recipes.

Were there any exceptions?

The challenge excluded household items like toilet roll and cleaning supplies. We also had a burger out when we went to festival and a family party that was from a separate budget. Our challenge didn’t preclude the odd bit of spending on fun.

This grocery challenge has been an interesting experience and a great discipline. I am pretty frugal most of the time anyway, but will loosen my purse strings a bit when we hit the end of the month.

Has anyone else tried a grocery challenge? How do you save money on food?

The joy and pleasure of home grown food. Do you grow your own?

home grownIf you have never tasted a home grown tomato,  warm from the greenhouse,  freshly picked runner beans, tasty courgettes or a corn on the cob that was still on the plant ten minutes ago, you have missed out.

Home grown fruit and veg really is superior in taste. Because you tend to eat it soon after it has been picked, your own produce is also likely to contain more nutrients.

Bring on the wonky home grown produce!

Sometimes home grown produce may be a little wonky or discoloured, but it makes up in flavour what it lacks in beauty.

A huge bonus is that home grown costs a fraction of its shop purchased equivalent. A single packet of courgette seeds, for example, will feed you and half your street if you sow them all in one season and will cost you just a couple of pounds. A blackcurrant bush will set you back a little more but will repay you with a fabulous fruit harvest every summer for years once established.

Home grown in a small space

I know not everyone has a garden but you can grow all kinds of crops in pots and buckets on a balcony or in a small yard. You won’t be self sufficient but you can have a taste of the fruits of your own efforts and labour.

Producing home grown fruit and vegetables does involve a faihome grownr amount of work, of course. I like to see it as keeping me fit and saving on the price of a gym membership!

In the freezer we have chopped courgettes ready to be made into soup or chucked into casseroles as we head through the winter. There are plums, greengages, blackberries, red and blackcurrants for pies, crumbles and smoothies. Chopped tomatoes will make great pasta sauce and bags full of runner beans will be a useful accompaniment for meat and fish dishes.

How to remove cigarette smoke from fabrics

I have known for some time just how useful it is to have a bag of bicarbonate of soda in the house. I have written about its fantastic cleaning power before.

This week I have discovered yet another use for bicarbonate of soda: a way to remove cigarette smoke from fabrics. I bought a very pretty dress from the boot sale last week, one of my amazing boot sale bargains. However, when I looked at it more closely I realised it stank of cigarette smoke.

You can remove cigarette smoke from fabrics!

remove cigarette smoke from fabricsFortunately the dress was washable, so I put it in the machine on a gentle hand wash. When I got it out, it smelled even worse! As if the stinky smoke and tar were so deeply ingrained into the fibres of the fabric that I was releasing them but not quite letting them go.

I had a quick look on the internet and several sites suggested adding half a cup of bicarbonate to the powder dispenser. I tried this and washed it again. It smelled better, but still not quite there.

I tried again, this time adding a cup of white wine vinegar and some lavender essential oil where I usually pour the fabric softener.

Hurrah! Third time lucky! As a non smoker, I had no idea cigarette smoke be so absorbed into a fabric. The previous owner must have been such a heavy smoker she probably didn’t even notice!

The dress came out good as new after its three washes. I thought I was going to have to give it to the charity shop.


My stock of bicarbonate of soda is almost used up now so I will get some more. I generally buy one like this from Amazon: SODIUM BICARBONATE of Soda | 1KG BAG | 100% BP/Food Grade | Bath, Baking, Cleaning. You can get even bigger bags that work out cheaper still but I don’t have the space to store it. (Disclaimer: this is my affiliate link)

White vinegar

White vinegar is another incredibly useful cleaning ingredient in its own right. I must do a post on that some time. It works well by itself or in combination with the bicarbonate of soda. As well as in combination to remove cigarette smoke from fabrics, I used them both in this home made cleaning spray.

Has anyone else tried any natural home made cleaning products? What do you recommend?

Off to London today to see the flat DD2 has moved into with her lovely boyfriend. We are driving as there are four of us and it is cheaper than by train. When I  go again in a few weeks for the SHOMO Awards I will travel by train as I will be by myself. So much more relaxing.

Incidentally there is still time to vote  for your favourite blog in the People’s Choice award. Voting closes on 31st August.

Whatever you are up to today have a great Sunday.

Jane

Courgette glut recipe: courgette and tomato eggy bake

Courgette glutIt is such a pleasure to grow and eat your own delicious fruit and veg. However, there is always too much of something and we have had a courgette glut for weeks. The freezer is packed with them in various forms. Actually, the courgettes have finally slowed but I am still dealing with the glut. Now the tomatoes are coming thick and fast. This seasonal vegetarian recipe combines the two.  It makes a nice change from courgette soup!

Courgette and tomato eggy bake

Serves 6

2oz/50g butter

1 lb/400g courgettes, thinly sliced

1 lb/400g tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 medium onions, chopped

Two medium peppers, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs

Half a pintwhite wine or cider

1 tablespoon Marigold vegetable stock

Pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, sliced

4oz/100g grated cheddar

Salt and pepper to taste

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or wok and sauté the onions, garlic, pepper and courgettes for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Add the white wine, stock powder, herbs and seasonings and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chilli flakes if liked.

courgette glutNow start to layer up. Place the courgette mixture into a large baking dish. Add the sliced tomatoes.

courgette glut
Finally, add the sliced eggs and top with the grated cheese

courgette glut
Bake for around 30 minutes. This goes really well with some crispy roasted new potatoes.

Anyone else got a glut of anything? How are you dealing with your tomato or courgette glut?

Student budgeting for university: a new student’s guide

Imagine….you are 18, you have never had to worry too much about money and suddenly you get £1000s arrive in your bank account. You are rich! No, you’re not. It is your student loan and you need to pay your rent first then make it last the whole of the academic year. You know nothing about student budgeting and it is all very scary!

Next month darling daughter number 3 will be going off to university. I really hope I have taught her enough to help her get through her new life without getting into debt (well, any more debt than has already been agreed with Student Finance England!) So, here are my top student budgeting tips:

Student budgeting tools

Firstly, you need to know how much money you have and how long you need to make it last. You need to understand what your outgoings will be and make sure you keep enough by for these. There are plenty of downloadable spread sheets and calculators on the Internet to help with this. They will tell you whether you really can afford another night out or need to tighten your belt. UCAS has a handy one to get you started here.

This will only take you ten minutes and it will be a worthwhile investment of your time.

Avoid impulse buying

Before spending your precious student loan, ask yourself: do I really need this? Or do I just want it? Can I afford it? There are a lot of spending habits you can sink into as a student that will eat into your funds. Sometimes it is the smaller spends that add up. Coffees out, drinks in the pub, taxis, makeup, sweets….and suddenly you have spent that £20. Similarly, don’t rush to join the university gym unless you know you will use it constantly. Wait to see how things pan out and if you can really afford it. If you are cycling everywhere, you are keeping fit anyway!

Learning to cook

If you have never learned to cook, this is the time to begin. When I dropped my second daughter at university, the freezer was already packed full of home made ready meals for a particular male student, provided by his mother! I could have felt bad for sending my daughter off with a bag of basics from Aldi, but I wasn’t concerned as I knew she was capable of putting together a decent,  healthy meal. I was more worried she wouldn’t be able to fit her leftovers into the freezer!

Still, it is never too late to learn to cook and there are a lot of student cookbooks on Amazon. The Student Cookbook: Great grub for the hungry and the broke has good reviews.  If you are  off to uni this year and cannot cook, you still have time to learn the basics. Ask your parents to show you how. Spaghetti Bolognese, an omelette, sausages and mash, a cheese sauce (for macaroni, a vegetable bake, etc) are all simple things to try. If you cannot cook at all, the temptation is to buy takeaways and fast food – these might seem cheap, but they are a lot more expensive than a jacket potato with beans and cheese that you can make yourself in no time.

Cooking is a skill for life and essential for effective student budgeting. Even if you are going into catered halls of residence I still recommend you learn some fundamental cooking techniques.

Kitchen essentials

There are many downloadable lists on line advising on the essential kitchen items to take to university. But are they really essential? When you are concerned about student budgeting you don’t want to waste money on pointless purchases.

You don’t need a set of saucepans – just one or two with lids will do. You only need a couple of plates, bowls, glasses and mugs and a small amount of cutlery. Your student housemates will be bringing these items too; as you get to know them you can share. As I am urging you to cook, you do need a chopping board and at least one decent sharp kitchen knife, a bread knife, a small wok or frying pan, some spatulas, a colander, a cheese grater, vegetable peeler, kitchen scissors, a tin opener and some plastic food storage containers with lids.

These are brilliant for freezing your leftovers so it is worth taking some freezer labels too so that you can identify your frozen creations. An indelible pen is handy for marking your stuff in the fridge and cupboards. And as you are a student you might need a bottle opener too :).

However, you don’t need to buy these all brand new. We have been scouring the charity shops and boot sales and have found a lot of items second-hand.

Food planning and buying

I know it sounds dull, but a bit of planning can go a long way towards effective student budgeting. Have a think about which nights you need food and then write a shopping list. Have at least a rough plan for what you will eat each day.  It could be that you have a bit of time on a Monday but will be late back on Tuesday. Your plan for the week could be to make double the quantity of a meal on Monday that you can heat up on Tuesday. If you are likely to be out several nights don’t buy too much food that will then be wasted.

Check to see which is the cheapest supermarket near your accommodation. Aldi and Lidl are great for saving money on groceries. Is there a good street market? It is worth exploring what is sold there. If you are cycling, a decent back pack or panniers are a worthwhile investment for bringing your groceries home. For walkers, how about a good, old fashioned granny trolley on wheels?

If you make friends with other students in your accommodation, maybe you could share the cooking and buy food together? Bigger packs are always cheaper.

Tracking your spending

If you don’t already have it, get online mobile banking. This way you can check often how your balance is looking and if you need to start cutting back.

Save money on text books

Text books are a major expense. However, you don’t have to buy them all new. Amazon will have many for sale used for starters. This is useful article from Save the Student gives more detailed advice about how you can save money on textbooks.

Getting a job

If you just cannot make your student loan stretch far enough you will need to bring in some extra money. Part time jobs are in high demand in student towns and it helps if you already have some retail or bar experience.  Get yourself a decent CV done and make sure you include any work experience. Ensure grammar and spelling are spot on for all your applications and the lay out is attractive. There is a lot of guidance on line about CVs and going for interviews and this will pay dividends when you are looking for a graduate job later. Keep plugging away.

Whilst you are job-hunting, you could look at making a little extra doing online surveys or mystery shopping. There are all kinds of paid opportunities once you start looking. A fantastic blog to check out to help increase your income is The Money Shed.

So, what are you waiting for? Have the most fabulous time at university, make the best of the experience and come out ready for what ever the world offers. I hope this helps you with your student budgeting so you can manage your money and avoid any more debt than is strictly necessary.
 

Boot Sale Booty – a successful Sunday

Boot sale booty

Boot sale booty

Sunday’s boot sale booty

I had a great weekend. The mad weather desisted and remembered it was summer, which helped. We spent a lovely day at Wrabfest on Saturday with two of my three daughters.  On Sunday we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5 am to help my other daughter do a bootsale. She had quite a bit to sell and I also got some great boot sale booty to resell!

I didn’t mind the early start, as once I had helped her set up I could get round quite a lot of stalls to see what was on offer. I didn’t get any boot sale booty for myself but I found a whole load of clothes to list on eBay.

One of my bargains was an absolutely gorgeous long silk Monsoon evening dress that I would have kept for myself if I ever needed a posh frock! I found lots of good high street names, brand new with tags,, some as-new Skechers trainers and a beautiful dress from Coast. Most cost me £1 or £2. The Monsoon one was £4.

I don’t know why people don’t sell such items themselves for more money on eBay, but they have the choice. I don’t feel bad for making a little profit and supplementing my bank balance this way.

I continue to find this a useful source of extra income, although July was quieter than previous months. I think that is a summer thing and hopefully it will start to pick up as we move into autumn.

Wrabfest

This little festival in Wrabness was a lot of fun. Here was some great music from talented bands – no one famous but excellent all the same. There were activities for the kids, lovely foodstalls, all kinds of retailers and a bar. This got very busy in the evening. If they run it again I hope they have a second  bar and more loos!

It is run completely by volunteers from the village and was a very impressive community event.  I think it must be lovely to live in a place where there is lots going on and a real community vibe.

SHOMOs – still after your votes

I have mentioned before that I have been nominated for the SHOMOs UK Money Bloggers Awards next month. I am really excited to go and meet lots of other bloggers. My nomination is for the frugal and thrift category. You can’t vote for me in that as it is judged, but you can vote in the People’s Choice awards. If you are interested, go to this page on the UK Money Bloggers website. I will be hugely grateful to get a few votes at least.

How was your weekend? Anybody else been hunting for some boot sale bounty?

 

Follow me on Twitter: @shoestringjane and on Instagram: @shoestringcottage. My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/shoestringjane.

One pound meals? Fast and fresh, please

Book review: One Pound Meals – Fast and Fresh, by Miguel Barclay

My daughter bought Miguel Barclay’s FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals recently and it is fab. The food really is cheap, easy and uncomplicated to prepare. Above all, it is delicious.

It is actually Miguel Barclay’s second book on this theme. I haven’t read the first (One Pound Meals: Delicious Food for Less) but I will look out for it now.

It is a great looking book. Every recipe has its own beautiful photograph that makes you really want to eat the food! It is all the proof you need that frugal food doesn’t need to be dull. I like the fact that Miguel has designed the recipes for this very specific £1 budget. It gives me confidence in his frugal credentials.

The vegetarian meals are excellent. The sweet corn, courgette and feta fritters were a winner as was the Thai sweet butternut curry. I will definitely also be cooking the sardine pasta and the garlic portobello pappardelle. Both look so easy to prepare after work. I like the sound of curried halloumi, Spanish chorizo stew and the £1 chicken wings. There aren’t many recipes I wouldn’t try, to be honest!

There are no desserts, but in reality how many of us eat a dessert every night when we are eating on a budget?

The recipes do live up to the fast and fresh claim of the title. There is nothing that looks fiddly and it uses a lot of vegetables, making the food very healthy.

Check out Miguel Barclay’s Recipes on Instagram.

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