Monthly Archives: January 2014

A low maintenance kind of girl

Ok, so I’m not your stereotypical Essex girl. I don’t bother with fake tan (who wants to be orange?), I don’t wear loads of makeup – although I always wear some; I don’t want to frighten the neighbours after all – and  I have never worn false nails or eyelashes.

However, I have always looked after my skin. At the age of 50 I am glad I made the effort to keep the wrinkles at bay. I use a moisturiser morning and evening and don’t go out in the sun without suncream.

I don’t have lots of different products; I just can’t afford them. I refuse to believe all of the expensive advertising  which uses pseudo science to persuade the gullible to part with large amounts of cash in the vain hope that they will ever look like the models in the adverts. You either look like Kate moss or you don’t. No amount of  expensively packaged anti wrinkle cream or glossy lipstick is going to change that.

My current best buy is Aldi night cream (the one with the blue lid if you are interested). This costs £1.99 and is as good if not better than more expensive and well known brands I have purchased in the past. I buy cleanser from Boots currently. The one I am using is good and cost £2.99. I get cotton pads in Aldi too as they are only 99p for two packs. Most of my makeup comes from Boots – I think their points system is really good and I can pop into the large one on the edge of town on my way home from work. I only buy what I wear every day plus a few extras for special occasions. What’s the point of owning masses of makeup if it never gets used?

I am happy to be a low maintenance kind of girl, especially if it saves me money 🙂

Favourite recipe books

I was scouring my pile of recipe books last night for inspiration for this weeks frugal meal planning and it occurred to me how few are less than about 10 years old! I have my favourites that I refer to again and again, and now I get so much culinary inspiration on the internet I don’t really need to buy any more.

I was vegetarian for 16 years in my youth and, although I eat meat now I could happily live without it, and still eat a lot of veggie food. Generally it is healthier and much cheaper. So lots of my favourites are vegetarian plus some cookery stalwarts like Delia Smith. I want food to be easy to prepare and contain reasonably priced ingredients. I don’t have the time or money to faff about when cooking!

These are my top cookery books in no particular order:

The Cranks Cookbook
Entertaining with Cranks
Complete Cookery Course, Delia Smith (not so impressed with Frugal Food)
Healthy Cooking for Kids, Carole Handslip
Vegetarian Cooking, Carole Handslip
Vegetarian Kitchen, Sarah Brown
The Goode Kitchen, Shirley Goode
The Cancer Prevention Cookbook

These are just off the top of my head as I sit at work having my lunch. What books can you recommend? Which have you used until the pages have fallen out?

Bring Back the Sunshine…

I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing the relentless dreary, dark and wet weather would give way to a bit of sunshine. Mr Shoestring must be feeling the same as he just texted me a load of pictures of the garden last Spring, including the one below.

digginIt made me long to get out in the garden!! Still, I have plenty to do indoors for now. My next project in the 52 projects series will hopefully be to paint my bedroom, so I need to be super organised this week and make sure I have enough time to get it done at the weekend.

I am determined to up my fitness still, and this week I have taught my yoga class (and joined in!) and been to the gym. I did kind of ruin this by eating half a bar of Aldi’s Hazelnut Heaven. My favourite and only 69p! It would be a shame to waste it and I will need the energy 🙂

Boiled ham in parsley sauce, 62p a portion

hamFor a change, instead of roast chicken on Sunday, I bought what looked like a tiny joint of ham for £2.99 from Aldi, and boiled it up with some bouquet garni and whole black peppercorns for an hour. Amazingly, this made 5 meals; 2 for me and Mr Shoestring on Sunday, and 3 more last night for me and the girls. We had it with parsley sauce – I bought 10 for £1 from Approved Foods a while ago and used two over the two nights. It was delicious served with creamy mashed potatoes and veggies.

I have saved and frozen the ham stock – this is far too good to tip away. I still have some leeks in the garden and plan to use the last of them to make some leek and potato soup, so I will use the stock for that.

I also used some more of the apples I was given – some of them have been sitting in my fridge for almost three months but they had kept brilliantly. We had them stewed with a bit of brown sugar and mixed spice with custard. Simple, cheap but delicious and it went down a treat.

Late to the Party, but I’m joining in 52 Projects!

My lazy Sunday yesterday meant that I had time to read all of the interesting blogs I never get round to looking at. I came across Dreamer’s blog and 52 Projects challenge. (See it at This is a brilliant idea. I am busy most of the time but sometimes I don’t know what I have achieved. I also have so many jobs to do around the house and this challenge might give me some focus. Dreamer says: “The idea of 52 Projects is to get you motivated to chip away at tasks or projects that you have been putting off doing. Whether it is things that need doing around the house and garden or activities you have intended to try but never got around to it, new crafts you may want to sample, recipes you have thought about trying, a particular walk you have been intending to undertake – whatever it may be that you have been putting off. Taking these tasks and breaking them down into achievable chunks could help you to get motivated again, and start getting through them one baby step at a time.” So, I have a long list in progress. The first thing was to tackle the mould that had built up around the house due to extreme amounts of condensation. I had done it all except DD2’s room. As she is at uni, I have used her room as a dumping ground and not got around to it. I needed to clean it and repaint it. Mr Shoestring invested in a dehumidifier a few weeks ago and it has completely solved the problem, so we shouldn’t have this issue in the future. I only wish I had known how effective they could be before! It is soul destroying when you use precious time and money decorating, only for the mould to hit as soon as the weather gets colder. imageAnyway I did that yesterday afternoon, and touched up the paint in DD2’s room whilst I was at it. See the before and after pix! Inspired, Mr Shoestring ripped the last of the paper off my bedroom wall in readiness for our next project, which will be to repaint the whole room in white. imageAnother bit of frugal DIY this as I can’t afford to do anything fancy. I will be on the lookout for some suitable secondhand curtains and bedding to inject a bit of colour. As I say, there is quite a list developing so I will record my efforts here. I am looking for a weekend job as well which will eat into my spare time but until that happens onwards and upwards with the projects!

Lazy Sunday :-)

After my busy week and DD3’s party last night, I am really shattered. Me and Mr Shoestring had intended to have a day out somewhere – he fancied cockles at Leigh on Sea – but the weather is vile so has put paid to that. So instead we are having a very rare duvet day – fantastic! Lying in bed eating cupcakes and watching an ancient James Bond film.

I got up this morning to complete madness. We got home about 11.15 last night, unpacked the car and just dumped all the party stuff in the kitchen and hallway. I could barely find the space to make a cup of tea first thing.

All cleared up and quiet now. But I refuse to feel guilty for having a lazy Sunday. I will drag Mr Shoestring off for a yoga session later though!

It’s all go at Shoestring Cottage

cakesWe have had a lot of fun this morning piping icing onto the cupcakes ready for the big Sweet Sixteen party tonight, making sausage rolls and pizzas and finishing off the sweetie trees. As you can see, my healthy eating won’t be starting until next week. I can’t do it surrounded by unhealthy carbs!!!

sofaIn the midst of all the madness, a truck arrived with the sofa and bed I bought the other day in the charity shop. I am very pleased with the sofa as it is so comfy! I am sitting on it as I type.  I wasn’t sure it would go with my duck egg blue walls but I think it does. There is nothing quite like a bargain to give you a warm glow of satisfaction. I need a matching three seater now. 


Time to Hit the Gym!

Very pleased to learn from the Government today that I am better off! I wish they had told me sooner. 🙂 I am sure there a quite a lot of people as well as me that failed to notice this.

Anyway….There was a time when I was super fit, not so long ago! I was at the gym three times a week, did yoga at home four times a week for an hour, went to aikido every week and walked the dog most days.

However, having a full time job and working shifts whist being a single parent has put paid to all that. It’s not a good enough excuse to do so little though! I managed a bike ride at the weekend and a big yoga session on Monday but I haven’t hit the gym for two weeks.

I feel better mentally as well as physically when I exercise regularly. I look at people my age who are puffed out walking up the stairs and can’t touch their toes and I don’t want to be like them. I owe it to myself to be as fit and healthy as I can and hopefully be here for another half century! I really don’t believe that getting older means you have to give in to getting stiff and fat and inactive.

So, next week I will be getting back on track, and watching the carbs too as I could do with losing a few pounds gained this winter.

I use a very cheap gym at a local independent school, but there is also an ever cheaper one that is part of a chain . I did try that but it was rather packed at peak times when I generally need to use it.

For a while I gave it up all together because I was too worried about my budget, but I decided that it was worth the expense and I will continue whilst I can. There are lots of ways to exercise for free though, so if I couldn’t afford the gym I would do more cycling and get out walking. I use, which maps your route, pace, calories burned, etc, and is a great source of inspiration. You can even show off by sharing your progress on Facebook! I have a friend who lost 3 and a half stone just walking every day and cutting down on the carbs.

So…off to do some yoga! 🙂

Furniture Bargains!

We are fortunate to have three charity furniture shops locally, and I have found some excellent quality bargains in them over the years. I prefer to buy good solid second-hand items than new cheap stuff that falls apart in no time.

On Saturday I drove DD1 round to the nearest as she wanted a new bed. We found a lovely double with a very clean mattress for £65. She doesn’t like the idea of a used mattress but honestly it looks perfect, so I think she will use it for the time being.

Whilst I was in there I spotted a pretty little two seater sofa. My current sofa looks ok, but is actually the least comfy chair you can imagine. As it was £60 and they said they could deliver both items for £10 I went for it! It is a yellowy cream colour and my lounge is duck egg blue but I will chuck a throw over it to make it blend in!

I will now have to look out for a similar looking three seater and get rid of the current one but that will have to wait until I can afford it.

It’s all systems go preparing for DD3’s sweet 16 party on Saturday! I have made lots of cup cakes but can’t ice them until Saturday morning. It will be a busy day 🙂image

Super Shed!

As we have had a few good days weather wise, Mr Shoestring has been able to get on with the monster shed he has been constructing.

imageWe got the bare bones of the shed from a lovely lady via the local Freecycle site. The roof was no good but the rest was reasonably sound. He has been gathering the materials to rebuild it for a while and wanted it to match the shape of the existing shed. This involved building up the height and adding a roof with a single sloping side. He has felted this so that it is now water tight and has  added a small window so that I have an area for potting up plants. It’s looking great and  just needs a door!

I guess it is a sign of my age when I get excited about getting a new shed, but I don’t care! I am very proud of it, not to mention Mr Shoestring for being so clever and resourceful 🙂