Monthly Archives: March 2016

Stormy bank holiday

  Storm Katie paid us a visit on bank holiday Monday and took out two of the fence panels. It could have been worse I guess. At least the roof held up!

It wasn’t a great start to the day but I was indoors cooking anyway. I did a roast chicken and we had lots of Aldi 29p veg with it – parsnips, carrots and swede. 29p! So cheap. The swede wasn’t a great success, however. I just cooked and mashed it but I think I will find something nicer to do with the other half. It’s not really an inspiring vegetable! Any ideas anyone?

I am still watching my weight so avoided anything hugely calorific like chocolate cake or crumble for pudding. My lot are quite happy with stewed fruit and custard, so that is what we had. I used some of the blackberries and red currants I froze last summer from the garden, mixed with cooking apples.
  Later I  went and ruined my efforts at the garden centre where I gave in to a rather large chocolate crispy cake with my cup of tea! Mr S had some vouchers for Christmas so we went and bought a few plants. We don’t usually go near the rather expensive cafe but because we didn’t spend any actual cash we caved 😀.

I don’t expect to have lost anything when I get weighed this week! I hope I haven’t put any on though…

Happy Easter and welcome to my new site!

I have moved my site over to what I am told is a more flexible version of WordPress. At the moment it is a work in progress so the appearance might change every now and again as I experiment. Truth be told, I am not a techie and it is all Greek to me! Save me to your favourites 😀.

Boot sale bargains

I dragged Mr S up early and out to the boot sale this morning. It was freezing, but the sun eventually came out and it was nice when we managed to get out of the wind. The first boot sale was disappointing with very few traders. I found a couple of items but we decided to move on fairly quickly. The second sale was much better – still fairly small scale but it is the start of the season.

More bargains!

I found a nice pair of yoga pants, a warm hooded jumper, some brand new wooly tights and a very pretty lacey cornflower blue jumper from next. I also picked up some lovely dresses to sell on eBay.
 Boot sales are great for plants too. I bought some primroses – you can’t go wrong at 50p a pot. I would have got some fruit and veg too as it was excellent value but we already have plenty. No point in buying bargains if they go to waste.
We arrived home just as the rain came down, thank goodness. We did have some fine weather on Good Friday and we managed to do some work on the garden. I hit the weeds before they got established! I will plant a few more seeds next weekend.

We are off to my mum and dad’s to have Sunday lunch cooked for us now. It’s so lovely to have a four day weekend. I could do with that every week – how productive I would be!

Have a lovely Easter Sunday whatever you are doing and whatever the weather.

Losing weight, not money!

  I mentioned a month or so ago that I had joined a slimming club with a few work colleagues. We have a weekly weigh in, pay a pound a week and the person who has lost the most at the end of the month wins the pot. It has proved a good incentive, and I have found it easy to lose weight steadily without spending lots of money on organised slimming clubs, special diet foods or an expensive gym membership. I have lost 8lb slowly and steadily and I can really feel the difference in how my clothes fit. I am planning another 4lb and then I will be on target. Any more and my mum will start telling me I am too thin and trying to feed me up!!

   I haven’t followed a particular diet or felt deprived in anyway. I have simply stopped snacking during the day and now just eat fruit, I have reduced my portion sizes and avoided anything fatty or heavy and given up sugar and chocolate. I have allowed myself the odd glass of white wine in the evening plus maybe a Ryvita with low fat cheese or a bag of Aldi French fries, which are only 65 calories. This way I have lost 1 or 2lbs each week with no pain. I guess if I was very heavy I would be more stringent, but I only need to lose 10-12 lbs. I would like to get just under 10 stone, which is fine for my height and build.
  

  I have increased my exercise with a short walk most lunchtimes and a long one with Mr Shoestring at the weekend. I am also doing my usual yoga practice but trying to make time to do this more often. I feel better all round when I do.

 Yesterday we had an epic walk – longer than intended! We thought we would try the Flitch Way near Braintree, a long straight walk along a disused railway track – all the way to Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire if you do the whole thing, which would be a 30 mile trip there and back. We decided to walk about 3 miles and find a pub for lunch, a nice manageable 6 mile trek. However, a lack of preparation meant that we failed to find a pub at all – at 4 and a half miles we discovered we would need to walk another 2 to get to one in Felstead, so we turned round and headed back to Braintree.  

 We stopped at the little café in Rayne and called a few places nearby to check they were still serving food but they weren’t. At this point we gave up and stayed at the café for tea and sandwiches! It was 2.30 by this time and we were starving, so they went down a treat.

By the time we reached the car park at Braintree station we had walked over 9 miles! We had also burnt about 800 calories each so I was happy. Got blisters though!

Using wonky veg, making extra cash and cutting back on plastic waste

It’s all go at Shoestring Cottage! I have been working my way through the veg in the Asda Wonky Box I was given to review and I have to say it has lasted all week easily. It is excellent value at £3.50.  Asda has committed to putting 10,000 boxes into a selection of stores across the country at least once a month. This is currently making the boxes quite rare – I have yet to find one in my local store. Let’s hope they commit a little further! The problem will be, I am guessing, that if they really take off it will affect sales of Asda’s unwonky vegetables! The cure for this is simple – forget about perfection and just sell all of the veg as it comes…

spanish eggs and riceThe first thing I made was Spanish eggs – so easy and really delicious. I chopped a couple of the red onions and fried it up with some garlic and two of the red peppers from the box. I added a tin of tomatoes, a pot of Oxo Herbs & More rosemary and thyme that I picked up really cheaply in Home Bargains, a glug of wine and some salt and pepper. I cooked this up in the pan for 20 minutes then made some wells and dropped a couple of eggs on the mixture. I put the lid on and cooked this gently for 10 minutes then served it with some rice. As it was only me eating that evening I used two eggs, but you could add another couple and this would be a nice supper for two people – I had the leftovers for lunch the following day.

veg from boxWe also had a chicken and vegetable curry, which used more onions and peppers, sausages and  mash, using red onions, potatoes and the cabbage, and carrot and coriander soup, using the carrots. Tonight we will have beef casserole with yellow stickered beef, frozen tomatoes from last year’s harvest and from the wonky box red onions, parsnips and leeks. We will eat this with ‘wonky’ potatoes. We have eaten most of the cucumber in sandwiches and dipped into humus for lunches. The rest of the onions and potatoes will be used next week.

It is definitely worth buying a Wonky Box if you are fortunate enough to come across one.

peace ringI have also started a little Instagram/Facebook shop, selling some nice bits of inexpensive jewellery I managed to source plus the used designer dresses that I have been selling for a while on eBay.  I have also found some very pretty scarves so will add those as soon as they arrive. I sold two pendants the day after I made my page on Facebook, so I was pretty happy! You can find me on Instagram – @janeysboutique and on Facebook with the same name. I don’t expect it to make my fortune, but every little helps!

I am trying to cut the amount of plastic I use. It seems so difficult to avoid, but I am making a start. So far I have switched from butter in a plastic pot to the old fashioned stuff in paper, given up liquid hand soap for bars of soap and gone back to washing powder in a cardboard box. Of course I can recycle plastic containers but it is better to avoid them in the first place!

Bring on that wonky veg!

  
As promised Asda have very kindly sent me one of their Wonky Veg Boxes to review. I fully support this idea. Like many people, I have been appalled to learn how many perfectly good vegetables are wasted by the farmers supplying supermarkets because they are considered the wrong size, slightly discoloured or misshapen, a peculiarly first world point of view I feel! 

Asda has certainly received a lot of very good publicity for this move so hopefully the other supermarkets will soon follow suit. I really don’t care if my food isn’t a uniform size or shape and I am quite sure most people feel the same. I just hope that Asda extend this scheme quickly as it is quite hard to get hold of the boxes. I have yet to find one in my local branch, although my daughter has spotted them there a few times. 

They are exceptionally good value at £3.50. The cynic in me says this price will go up if they become too popular as this will impact on the amount of non-wonky veg we all buy. We shall see. What would be ideal is a situation where wonky veg us the norm and none of us bar an eyelid!

I like the fact that my veg arrived in a nice recyclable cardboard box with no plastic packaging on any of its contents. I am looking to reduce the amount of plastic waste I create through my various purchases so this was a bonus.

My box contained the following:

5 carrots
A cucumber
2 parsnips
Cabbage
3 red peppers
3 leeks
9 potatoes
Lots of red onions

The cabbage was a little the worse for wear – probably from sitting around in a warm press office I think! I was relieved to see that the other veg was actually a little wonky as I had read other reviews saying it was fine! It was all perfectly good quality.
  So…what to do with all this lovely stuff? Tonight I will begin with Spanish eggs – a kind of ratatouille base made with peppers, garlic, onions and tinned tomatoes. That goes in a baking dish and I will make little wells in this and crack an egg in each, cover with a little cheese and bake.

A spicy carrot and parsnip soup is a possibility or a parsnip gratin. Leeks and potatoes go well together in loads of things too: soup again or maybe a leek, potato and bacon bake. There are so many onions I gave some away! I use them a lot but already had some in the fridge.

The cabbage will be stir fried with onions and whatever else needs using up and, since my daughter munches on cucumbers like sweets that will disappear pretty quickly.

What would you make? Anyone else managed to get hold of a wonky box?

It’s the little things …

Excuse the lack of posts this week. I have felt inexplicably exhausted and seem to have spent a lot of my evenings snoring on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder on the sofa. Oh well – I guess my body needed the rest!

I was berating myself for getting so little done. Then I decided to make a list of all this week’s frugal achievements. To my surprise I did better than I thought. This proves we need to be kinder to ourselves once in a while. Writing a list proves you have accomplished something 😀.

So…what did I achieve?

Decluttered my wardrobe

I have pulled some things out to sell on eBay and have two bin bags to take to the charity shop. What’s the point of this stuff cluttering up my cupboard if I never wear it? Now I can see what I actually have!

Sold 4 things on eBay

I finally got round to listing some items that had been sitting in a cupboard for ages. I sold four and made £25 which has gone straight in the savings account. Every little helps!

Started a spending diary
I have done this before, although not for a while. This time I am following the plan in the book I am reading, Your Money or Your Life, and recording every penny that comes in or out of my life. I think this will prove a useful exercise to see if I am really in touch with my spending habits.

Repaired the dishwasher

This wasn’t really me at all – Mr S, my very own Handy Andy, came to the rescue and managed to get it working. It keeps blocking. I suspect it is on the way out as it is 15 years old. I won’t be replacing it when it does expire finally.

Dyed my own hair

I always do this. I use half a box of hair dye on my roots once a month which costs me about £2. My hairdresser charges about £30! They have to make a living but my budget won’t run to this.

Made thrift soup
  I dug out two carcasses to make stock – one was a chicken and the other the duck from Christmas! It made lovely stock. I added some frozen leftover mashed potato, pasta and veg, then chopped up an onion and celery and threw the whole lot in the pot with some lentils. It was delicious and will be lunch for about 4 days.

Repaired a hole in my jumper

My favourite blue jumper! It took three minutes to sew up the little hole that had developed. It was secondhand when I got it but I still want my money’s worth 😃😃.

Aranged to have a water meter

I have put this off for years as with three long haired daughters who spent a lot of time in the bathroom and required many loads of laundry to be done, not to mention the poor dishwasher, I knew my bills would go up with a meter. Now, with just one daughter left at home, it was time. The water company is sending an engineer in a few weeks.

Purchased lots of reduced jewellery

My new venture is an Instagram shop. I am currently on the look out for bargain bits to sell on and found some very pretty earrings and necklaces at a discount sale price. I will start a new account for this, although my current one now has over a thousand followers – I am quite pleased about this. I know it is yet another way to waste time but I enjoy looking at people’s pictures and getting a little window on their lives. Check me out: @shoestringcottage.

Wonky box

Asda have very kindly arranged for me to receive a Wonky Box to review. It should arrive this week so watch this space! In case you are living in a cave and haven’t heard, they are selling misshapen vegetables for £3.50 a box, which they claim contain enough vegetables to feed a family of four for a week. Sound excellent all round and I am very excited about this!

I am starting this week by finally starting some seeds for the veg patch. We had planned to do this last Sunday but had a day out to Pin Mill instead. So that’s my first frugal achievement for this week 😀.

Whatever you are doing, have a good week, money savers!

A bracing Mother’s Day walk in Suffolk

pinmill1We had a lovely walk out yesterday by the coast. It was very cold in the wind but we wrapped up warm. The girls were making us dinner, so we left them to it and drove up to Pin Mill near Ipswich. It’s a lovely little place with a great pub – the Butt and Oyster – an array of bohemian looking houseboats and some lovely walk through National Trust land with some spectacular views of the River Orwell.

pin mill 3We took a flask and a picnic (frugal as usual) and had a good walk in the winter sunshine. The water was an amazing colour – a kind of glacial blue-green. We treated ourselves to a couple of drinks in the pub after. Well, it would have been rude not to!

houseboatYou can’t help but dream when you see a cosy looking house boat with piles of logs stacked neatly outside, but I bet they are actually quite cold and damp potentially, and very exposed to the elements. They also command ridiculous prices that I guess only rich Londoners looking for a second home can afford – we found one that had sold for £345,000 last year!

On the other hand, this amazing hippy bus was advertised on Facebook recently for £6500 – hugely under-priced in my view and the seller went viral and was overwhelmed with the response she had. I hope she got a bit more for it. It is a work of art!hippy bus

One day I will get my camper van and the time to go wandering in it. I doubt it will be so pretty, but as long as it gets me from A to B and is comfortable I will be happy.

We came back to a gorgeous dinner cooked by the girls: roasted vegetables on a butterbean mash, paella and a huge fruit salad with chocolate mousse. Bang goes the diet! Everybody needs a day off and it was Mother’s Day.

Back to eating sensibly this week.

Anybody else dreaming of escape on a hippy bus or an idyll on a houseboat on the river?