Why you Should Make a Meal of Leftovers

LeftoversI was shattered when I got home from work yesterday, so I was happy to have a quick and easy dinner planned. Jacket potatoes with leftovers from the freezer; in this case some bolognese sauce and/or beef casserole. It may sound an odd combination but it was filling and tasty. A can of Smart Price sweetcorn ensured at least one of our five a day. With a little planning it is so easy to make a meal of leftovers.

How to make a meal of leftovers

I rarely throw food away. Even small amounts of mash or veg can be frozen to use to thicken soups and stews. Wrinkled apples make an excellent puree to mix with yogurt or serve with custard. Bread pudding is better made with stale bread (and I use the crusts). I also whizz up slightly stale bread into breadcrumbs and leave a bag in the freezer – you never know when you might need these. If yogurts are getting near their use by date I freeze them – when the kids were small I would put a lolly stick in the bottom of small fromage frais pots for a treat on a warm day. If I roast a chicken I usually deliberately get a larger one than I need and turn the excess into curry or make a creamy chicken pasta sauce. The carcass goes back into the freezer and when I have a couple I make stock.

Ignore best before dates

I ignore best before dates (and frequently buy from Approved Food, which sells food near or past its best before date at a hugely reduced price. In addition, I use my eyes and nose before chucking anything out that has a use by date. If you use my referral link I will earn a small commission.

I shop with a list and always have at least a week’s meal plans, so I don’t buy food that won’t be used. I do a regular stock take of my fridge, freezer and larder to see what needs using up, then plan meals around what is there. If I am working late, my plan will take that into account and I will either throw a meal together in the slow cooker or defrost something from the freezer. This way I am never tempted to get a take away when I get home late and tired. We will also eat something healthy.

I never guess how much rice or pasta to cook – I always measure 3 ounces of pasta and 2-3 ounces of rice, depending on how hungry we are. Sometimes I cook too much on purpose so that I can take some for lunch the following day.

Love Food Hate Waste

It is shocking what people throw away, not just because it is a waste of money, but because it seems immoral to be so cavalier about food when so many people in the world don’t have enough. There is lots of information, guidance on how to avoid wasting food and recipes at Love Food Hate Waste.

If you have stale bread to use up, here is my favourite bread pudding recipe, from my trusty and ancient Cranks Recipe Book. They don’t sell this fab book any more but Amazon has the one below, which according to the reviews has a fab selection of classics from the original (disclaimer – this is an affiliate link).

Spiced Bread Pudding (I always double up this quantity – it gets scoffed very quickly)

Stale bread, 8 oz (225g); half a pint of milk (284ml); mixed dried fruit 4 oz (100g); grated butter 2 oz (50g); brown sugar 4 oz (100g); mixed spice 1 tbsp (15ml); 1 egg; 4 tbsp milk (60ml); pinch of ground nutmeg

Break up the bread and place in a mixing bowl with the milk. Leave to soak. Add the dried fruit, butter, suga and mixed spice. Beat well. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the bread mixture. Turn into a greased shallow ovenproof dish, level the surface and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Bake at 180 C (350F/Gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes, until set (in my fan oven 35 minutes will do). Really delicious!!

There are more ideas for how you can make a meal from your leftovers, here, here and here.

 

A new recipe for courgettes! Stuffed with feta

At this time of the year I am always on the look out for new recipes to try to use up the courgette glut. Last night I made a pot of  stock using chicken carcasses from the freezer, and I will use that to make courgette soup for the freezer.

imageFor dinner I made stuffed courgettes, using a recipe I found in an old student cookbook and which I adapted slightly. I really enjoyed it, but Mr S was looking for the meat! Next time I will add chopped bacon to stop him feeling deprived.

Stuffed courgettes

4 medium courgettes
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion, chopped
8oz sweet corn
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
3oz feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Halve the courgettes lengthways, carefully scoop out some of the insides to make room for the stuffing and arrange in a baking dish.

Put all the other ingredients apart from the feta into a food processor with some salt and pepper and whizz it, then crumble in half the cheese. Stuff the courgettes with the filling then crumble the rest of the feta on top. Bake for about 40 minutes.
I think this would be nice served with a tomato sauce or just as it is with salad and new potatoes. We had it with rubber beans as that is the other glut.

If you have recipes for the courgette glut, please bring them on!

 

Busy Busy! I need more hours in my days

Firstly, I just want to say thanks to Declutterbug for nominating me for the Very Inspiring blog award. I will take a proper look at what I need to do for that over the next few days.

It’s all getting very extraordinarily busy here at Shoestring Cottage. The lovely Italian student we had at the start of the year wants to come back to see us and spend time with DD3, as they became the best of friends during her time with us and have been Face Timing ever since. The trouble is she can only come when the Spanish boy we are expecting this Sunday is still here. She will sleep in with DD3 – as she won’t be a paying guest she doesn’t need her own room.

Then, on the day she leaves us, our Mexican family will be turning up to see if we are suitable hosts to leave their 16 year old with as she studies for her A levels. This will be tricky as I need to work that day so I guess the best thing will be to provide a pre- prepared buffet so we can all get to know each other.

My head is spinning with the number of jobs I would like to get done before they arrive. I would like first impressions to be good! However I am a realist. I won’t manage to redecorate the kitchen but I can make sure the stair carpet is in place, the garden is tidy and and the downstairs loo gets a lick of paint.

Well, you know I hate to be bored and work best to a deadline so hopefully it will all work out.

Knitting your own Yogurt :-)

I popped into Sainsbury’s after yoga last night to buy a few bits that they don’t sell in Aldi. I was debating how many Lactofree yogurts I could afford (ie none really as I really need to stretch my budget!). They were £1.25 for four little pots; not extortionate but I could get 6 Sainsbury’s fruit yogurts for £1.

Mix up the ingredients...

Mix up the ingredients…

So, in the spirit of frugality, I decided it was high time I made my own again. It really takes just minutes in my Easi-yo yogurt maker, so there is no excuse.

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker...

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker…

I bought some Lactofree UHT milk, a small pot of live natural yogurt to use as my starter and some dried milk powder to make my yogurt thicker. Ok, this lot won’t be lactose free, but as I have a dairy intolerance rather than an allergy it doesn’t matter that much. However, if anyone can suggest a thickener other than milk powder I would be grateful – I like my yogurt thick!

Put the container of milk and away you go

Put the container of milk and away you go

This morning I mixed a tablespoon of milk powder with the same amount of starter, then whisked in the milk. I filled my yogurt maker up to the required level with boiling water, stood the pot in it and put the lid on. By the time I get home from work this should be ready to go in the fridge.

I have some blackberries in the garden so I will make a purée to mix with the yogurt and take a small pot to work each day. I reckon it will make double the amount contained in the 4 little pots and cost me £1.35 for a litre of Lactofree UHT AND 50p for my starter pot plus about £1 for the milk powder. Next time I won’t have to buy the powder or starter so it will be £1.35 for at least 8 pots of yogurt.

Do you knit your own yogurt? Any tips on a lactose free thickener?

Smart Phones, Burgers and too much Wine

We had an unexpected last minute invitation to a barbecue yesterday evening. It arrived so late we had already eaten our tea (Mr S’s sister decided to be spontaneous), so we went along for a few drinks anyway. I only had a couple, but I am such a lightweight I have had a headache all morning!

imageWe finally discovered something our fussy student would eat with a junk food tea of burgers in buns and chips. It was quite nice actually – I can recommend the Aldi frozen quarter pounders, but I am not eating like that too often!

I got a new iPhone at a bargain price yesterday. I am already a Tesco customer so I managed to negotiate a brilliant deal on a new iPhone 5 that is only a couple of pounds more than I pay now. I managed to get the old one to last me nearly four years, but it was so slow, kept switching off and then I dropped it and cracked the screen. It is good for blogging and I am using it now!

Making it up as I go along: pasta with everything

Our student declared at the last minute that he didn’t want dinner. I was grateful not to have to eat the junk food tea I had planned in order to get him to eat something (burger and chips – I will have to endure that tonight!), so I had to decide what to make at the last minute. I looked what was lying around in the fridge and  decided on pasta with a courgette and mushrooms sweated in butter, some grilled chopped bacon, half a pot of tomato pesto that DD1 had opened and a third of a pot of soft cheese. I mixed it all together and also chucked in some canned sweetcorn I found lurking asimage well.

Guess what? It was delicious and had the added advantage of using up lots of bits and pieces that needed eating. I had the last portion for my lunch today at work.

 

Soup Kitchen: soup for free!

chuck it in soupAs I type this I am enjoying a large bowl of delicious vegetable soup. As regular readers will know, I save and freeze all of the leftover bits of mashed potato, broccoli, peas, carrots, chicken carcasses, gravy, even meat (although that isn’t often left over) and when I have enough I chop up a couple of onions and maybe a head of celery, and throw it all in the pot. So, it is almost free, as I am using what most people would throw in the bin! I have never had a failure – just use a decent stock and plenty of seasoning and you can’t go wrong.

Usually I make stock first from a couple of frozen chicken carcasses, but this time I used ham stock that I saved a while ago and also a large bag of last year’s frozen courgettes. We had so many I am still using them as the next lot are arriving!

Bits and pieces of leftover veggies don't go to waste

Bits and pieces of leftover veggies don’t go to waste

I had a productive day yesterday as I had the afternoon off to wait in for Talk Talk to come and sort out my internet connection, which has been wobbly to say the least. I made the most of it and got most of the cleaning done as well as making all those phone calls to various organisations that I am usually forced to try to do in my lunch hour. Oh, to work a four day week….it is sadly not going to happen any time soon.

I am being forced to cook as plainly as possible for my fussy student. He ate a dry looking bit of turkey and some new potatoes for last night’s dinner, while the rest of us enjoyed our meat with some red wine and tomato sauce, green beans from the garden and broccoli. I know which I preferred!! He seems to exist mainly on crisps :).

Food Allergies on a Budget?

I went to my friend’s house for dinner yesterday. She is a fantastic cook and she didn’t disappoint. We had a slow cooked mutton and damson stew, with stuffed peppers and lemon roast potatoes, and it was superb. I don’t think she even follows a recipe book – she just has a flair and a feeling for what will work well.

My friend’s great cookery skills have come in handy as she was diagnosed with coeliac’s disease a couple of years ago so has had to complete change the way she cooks and eats to avoid any type of gluten.

Because she cooks from scratch most of the time anyway it has been relatively easy for her to make sure she avoids it. She also makes great gluten free cakes, although I think bread is more of a challenge.

imageBut have you seen the price of gluten free foods in the shops? I wouldn’t be able to afford those so would have to make my own baked products or just go without. I already have to buy lactose free milk – it took most of my life to discover I am lactose intolerant and it was a big relief when I finally did. However, soya ‘milk’ is revolting to me as are all the yogurts and ‘cheeses’ derived from soya. The only acceptable product I have found is Provomel chocolate desserts.

I buy Lactofree milk and yogurts now. It is just milk with the lactose removed and tastes like a slightly creamier version of normal milk. However, it is dearer – around £1.35 per litre when I pay £1 for 4 pints (2.27 litres) of the ordinary stuff in Aldi. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a cheaper alternative. I have on occasion made my own yogurt with it but prefer the bought stuff, so generally allow myself just 4 Lactofree yogurts a week – £1.48 for 4.

Fortunately I can tolerate small amounts of hard cheese and butter so can stick with Aldi for these.

Do you have any budget breaking food allergies and, if so, how do you manage? Have you found the perfect gluten free bread recipe yet? Can you stomach soya milk?

imageWe have just returned from a week’s holiday in the Lake District in Cumbria, possibly my favourite place in the world, and what a glorious week it was. It is a beautiful place anyway, but we were blessed with warm weather every day – the raincoats never came out of the bags, which was a first for me – I have been coming since I was 16 and expect to get rained on as part of the deal! The heavens did open on our last evening and it bucketed down all night and most of the way home, but we didn’t mind that.

We did some fabulous short walks. I would have happily dragged everybody a bit further, but I know there are limits when persuading teenagers up hills and across the fells. We walked around Rydal Water, popping in for tea at William Wordsworth’s house en route. imageWe visited the John Ruskin house overlooking Coniston Water and had our lunch in his gardens. We went up to the waterfalls along the edge of Ambleside to wear everyone out, then drove to Glenridding in Ullswater and snuck into the grounds of a hotel to get to the water’s edge and admire the fabulous views of the lake and mountains beyond. We ate delicious cakes at Chester’s Cafe at Skelwith Bridge, just behind the caravan park we stayed at, recommended by my Mum. It was certainly very busy and popular. imageWe also went to Wordsworth’s birthplace at Grasmere and saw the family graves in the local church. Grasmere is a pretty enough place, but these days really just a collection of gift shops.

We had a lovely short boat trip across Windermere to Wray Castle and then the visitor centre at Brockhole. However we made the mistake of paying to go into the castle. I am usually a fan of the National Trust but we were not impressed. It is in the process of being restored and is unfurnished. There is really nothing to see except a lot of rooms waiting to be refurbished and mostly covered in woodchip wallpaper. They had tried to make it more of a family attraction by filling the rooms with toys and dressing up outfits, but that wasn’t much good to us. I resented paying the entrance fee to be honest and felt we had been duped. I would say don’t bother unless you are NT members – just have a look round the outside for free.image

If you have a camper van or tourer caravan I can absolutely recommend the Skelwith Fold caravan park just outside Ambleside : lovely generous pitches in a beautiful setting and the park itself is spotlessly clean and tidy, with a good shop and helpful staff. I am very lucky to have my generous cousins who don’t mind letting the extended family stay in their static from time to time.

I brought the ingredients for many of our meals in advance from Aldi, and most of the time just had to buy meat or salad to go with the pasta, salad or rice we already had. We also bought fresh bread every day from the campsite shop and took a picnic and flask out with us. We had one big blow out, eating at Zeferelli’s restaurant in Ambleside. I had forgotten it was actually a vegetarian restaurant, and thought there might be a mass walk out when the family realised, but they stayed and we a had a most delicious meal (for example, I ate a wellington filled with nut roast and DD3 had a most creamy and delicious blue cheese lasagne).

My holiday fund is well and truly depleted and it is frugal all the way now. Fortunately I have a language student coming for three weeks from Sunday, so I need to prepare! Onwards and upwards! Are you going anywhere nice for your holidays, or planning a staycation?

Off on our adventures

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Very excited! We are off to the Lake District in the morning, leaving DD1 and her friends to guard the fort. My lovely cousins own a mobile home there and are letting us use it for a week. It was the location of many great holidays with my parents as a teenager so I looking forward to going back with my own teens.

It has been busy as usual this week, so tonight will be a mad scramble of last minute packing. We need to be prepared for all kinds of weather so we have waterproofs and jeans alongside our shorts and suncream!

I went to Aldi last night and bought some provisions: pasta, rice, sauces and a risotto mix so that we can make quick and cheap meals in the caravan; rolls, crisps and fruit for the journey, coffee, tea, cereal and juice so we are set up on the first morning, plus lots of sweets and drinks to keep in the car. We won’t be wasting our money in any motorway service stations en route, although we will take advantage of their loos!

I’m not sure if and when I will get any wi-fi connection. There, but will post when I can.

What frugal things have you done this weekend?

Didn’t get the chance to blog yesterday – I was a busy bee!

I had to give the house a thorough clean as we are going to my cousin’s caravan in the Lake District next Saturday (can’t wait! Such a beautiful place) and I am working all week so it was my last chance. The day after we get back our new language student arrives, so I want the house to be in good order. Having said that DD1 will be here looking after things, and she isn’t the tidiest of people, so I may still come back to an almighty mess! Anyway, there are more things in the pile in the shed destined for the boot sale next month. That should make a few pounds hopefully, as will hosting our student.

Banana muffins ready for the freezer

Banana muffins ready for the freezer

I used up some black bananas making a huge batch of banana muffins – half for this week, half for the freezer.

I also used a sad looking onion, some celery that I had forgotten about in the fridge and sweet potato that has been in there for over a week making a vegetable curry for dinner. I dug out the frozen tomatoes and courgettes from last summer’s harvest (I need to use these up before this year’s crops are upon us!) and popped those in the pot too, then found the leftover potatoes from Friday’s meal and they went in as well. That was a frugal dinner but really tasty. 

A hotpotch of veg - left over potatoes going into the curry

A hotpotch of veg – left over potatoes going into the curry

Finally, I sat up until midnight so that I could go and collect my girls from the station to save the taxi money. They went to a big concert in London yesterday and had a brilliant time, although they were exhausted since it was such a hot day yesterday.

Today I have DD1 arriving back from Amsterdam and DD2 going off to Turkey. They can fund themselves these days, and I love to see them going off and having their adventures. I enjoy travel, and that is the thing I find most frustrating about having no spare money. When I was younger and unencumbered with responsibility, I used to disappear abroad for months at a time, doing any jobs I could before I left to get the cash, and topping up when I was away by working if I could. I hitch-hiked around Europe with my then boyfriend (I would NEVER allow my daughters to do this now), I worked in Belgium as an au pair, I spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel, and I travelled around New Zealand with my now sister in law, staying in youth hostels and picking strawberries and asparagus on the way. Now I generally stay closer to home, although if I had a big lottery win I would be off like a shot! In the meantime, I am more than happy to spend a week in the Lake District. It’s Mr S’s first visit and I think he will love it.

What frugal things have you been up to this weekend? And do you have dreams of travelling the globe?

Just a Little Meat

When trying to get my food bills down I have struggled in the past with a lack of cooperation from my family around our meat consumption. If it was down to me we would eat vegetarian most of the time – 1. Because it is healthier and 2. Because meat is so expensive! I was actually a vegetarian for 16 years, so I know that veggie food can be just as tasty.

fish pie 1Fortunately, the whole family really enjoy vegetables, so it is easy enough for me to do a range of meals which contain just a little meat. They are almost, but not quite, veggie! A vegetable stir fry with noodles and left-over meat from the roast is a favourite, as are pasta dishes with a lot of veg and just a bit of bacon or chorizo sausage. I can also replace half of the meat in certain dishes with TVP (textured vegetable protein), so I can make two lots of Bolognese sauce or two cottage pies with the same amount of meat I would usually use for one. So one for now, and one for the freezer. I have tried the same with lentils and other pulses but can only get away with replacing about a quarter of the meat.

imageThere are other well-known dishes like toad in the hole that use just a bit of meat and are filling and popular. I also like to use sausages to make a mock roast – I pinched this idea from Frugal Queen and it is a good one. You make a full roast with stuffing and Yorkshires, but just replace your expensive joint of pork or whatever with sausages. It all goes down with no complaints here!

So, what are your ‘just a little meat’ dishes? Do you live with militant veggies or confirmed carnivores?

Getting organised and decluttering

The key to a lot of people living in a small house is organisation. I have to stand a bit of mess as I live with a very untidy family, and I don’t want to get all anal about it. I have been to friends’ houses where I was terrified about leaving a cushion out of place or creasing a hand towel. I want everybody to be relaxed but at the same time I don’t want to be falling over unnecessary mess and clutter. Regular decluttering helps.

imageUsing baskets

Over the years I have found that baskets on shelves are a good cost effective means of containing and hiding any clutter. I am brutal about getting rid of things I no longer use and know I am unlikely to find a need for in the future. Mr Shoestring hates this as he is a bit of a hoarder. He gets nervous when I go into decluttering mode!

I have mentioned before that my second daughter is back for the summer after her first year at university and has arrived with lots of belongings from her digs. Those items she doesn’t need to access daily have been packed off to her dad’s as he has a spare room, but there are still a lot of things!

imageA bit of rationalisation

A crucial part of my plan to keep my finances on track is to have foreign students to stay. We have another one coming in two weeks and hopefully a long term one arriving in September. This means that sometimes darling daughters 2 and 3 have to share a bedroom! We need to get organised so that DD2 can slip seamlessly back and forth.

So I am badgering them both to rationalise their clothes and belongings with a good bit of  decluttering. We currently have about 8 binliners full of items we will sell at a boot sale later in the summer, but there will be more.

I spent yesterday evening sorting the room out and trying to use every available bit of space effectively, and it is coming together. We will get there!

Are you a hoarder or the house proud type? Or like me, somewhere in between?

I’m all a twitter!

imageI thought I would get with it and get a Twitter account! Until now it has all been a bit of a mystery, but I decided to give it a try. You can follow me @shoestringjane. I will attempt to put something pithy on every now and again but we shall see.

I was heartened to discover a couple of lovely people had already tweeted about my blog. I had no idea! Thanks folks.

Amsterdam flower market

Amsterdam flower market

I waved DD1 off on her trip to Amsterdam this morning. I hope she takes the opportunity to properly explore this amazing city rather than only its nightlife. I spent a wonderful week there a couple of years ago on a houseboat with Mr S and we loved it. We visited many galleries and museums, had a walk through the beautiful Jordaan area and bought some bulbs for the flower market that still pop up in the garden every year as a memento of our trip. We also took a canal boat trip and it was fab. No doubt DD1’s experience will be a lttle different and she will be a lot more bleary eyed!

Simple Pleasures

image

The courgettes are coming!

The courgettes are coming!

I have said this before, but it doesn’t take much to make me happy. The older I have got, the more I appreciate the simple things. I don’t want lots of stuff. I would hate a party lifestyle. What I would like is more time to spend with Mr S and the girls, to cook and garden and travel, and enough money not to worry about day to day bills.

imageI went out early to put out the washing and it was so quiet and peaceful. Everything was blooming and growing, the birds were singing, the cat was slinking around my legs and it was heavenly. Shame I had to come in and go to work!!

But it was a good start to my day and I even picked a handful of raspberries to go on my porridge.

If you can’t stand the heat …

imageIt is so hot! I don’t like to complain as I love the sunshine, but I am feeling a little frazzled after a day in a very hot office where, for some inexplicable reason, there are two radiators that have been stuck on for weeks and it seems there isn’t a heating engineer in Essex who can sort it out!

imageSo I  came straight home, shed the office shoes in favour of my flip flops,  and went outside to rescue my plants and water the pots and the greenhouse.

I think tonight’s plan of action is to sit in the garden with a couple of nice cold beers from the fridge. I should go to the gym but I can’t face it.

Don’t curse me if you are sitting looking at the rain! What’s the weather like where you are?

Easy Banana Muffins

black bananasI love these! And I have some very over ripe bananas sitting looking at me accusingly. No one is going to eat them now, but they will eat banana muffins, so, a job for later. This makes a large batch so that you can freeze some for lunchboxes, etc. If you don’t want to do that, halve the ingredients.

500g self-raising flour
125g sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 medium bananas, mashed
240ml milk
160ml oil
2 eggs
Cake cases

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 4). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Then start to slowly whisk in the milk, oil and egg until well combined. Finally, fold in the mashed banana and combine well. Spoon the mix into your cake cases and bake for around 15 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.

These are lovely warm, but equally nice cold. However, you can reheat them for about 15 seconds in the microwave.

Brown Rice and Mediterranean Vegetables

Another chuck it together healthy tea. We had this brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with baked chicken but it is a perfectly good veggie supper with grated cheese stirred in.

brown rice and Mediterranean vegetablesI am still using up the huge courgettes I got in Sainsbury’s! I like the flavour soy sauce adds to these.

Brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables

Serves 6

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
I green pepper, chopped
1 large or 2 small courgette, diced
100g mushrooms, sliced
325g brown rice, cooked with a veg stock cube
600g (1.5 cans) chopped tomatoes
2tbsp chopped parsley (or 2tsp dried mixed herbs)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheddar to top (optional)

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the courgettes, mushrooms and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the parsley and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve your brown rice and Mediterranean vegetables with a good sprinkling of grated cheese.

image

We were out getting the best from our RHS membership today. Once it finally stopped raining the sun came out and it was boiling, so we took a drive to Hyde Hall Gardens in Runwell in Essex.

This is the fourth time we have been this year and it has been fantastic to see the garden changing and developing through the seasons. This is one of the four main RHS gardens and we are lucky to have it half an hour’s drive from home. It never fails to inspire!

rose2

Quick and easy pasta with bacon and vegetables

This was tonight’s supper and was thrown together from what I could find in the kitchen. I am trying to keep the fat content of our food as low as possible so grilled the bacon and just added a small amount of grated cheddar.

image

Serves 6

500g pasta, cooked
250g bacon, grilled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large courgette, cut into cubes
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Marigold vegetable stock
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese to top

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the courgette and mushrooms and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir, then add the stock powder and dried herbs and mix together well. Finally, chop up the cooked bacon and add to the sauce. Season to taste. Cover
and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the cooked pasta. Serve with a little grated cheese and a green salad.

imageI got the lettuce straight from the garden – you don’t get any fresher than that!

Chickenlady!

I am admitting to a guilty secret. I am obsessed with chickens! It used to be the real thing when I had more time and didn’t have foxes living at the bottom of my garden. Now I no longer keep chickens, or rather I do – my house is full of them and I even have them in my office at work. However, none of them has a pulse.

dresser
I have a dresser full of them in the lounge, two chicken clocks, chicken garden ornaments, chicken mugs and biscuit tins, chicken plates…you get the idea. I don’t know what it is about them exactly. I think they connect with my idea of a more simple life – growing my own food with a few hens in the garden.

My work chickens. They have been kidnapped and held to ransom but made it back to me!

My work chickens. They have been kidnapped and held to ransom but made it back to me!

imageI will go back to keeping chickens, but in the meantime I will make do with my ornamental ones.

I have had a productive morning, cleaning and organising the house and sorting out some things for DD1 to sell at her boot sale tomorrow. Let’s hope the weather holds so that she gets lots of customers.

The garden is calling though. We were given lots of free wildflower seeds at the Chelsea Flower Show, so I want to clear the wild area – which is just a bit too wild – and make it into a large bed of fabulous wildflowers for the summer. I also have lots of veg to pot on and plant. Mr S keeps turning up with more plants that people have given him!

Shopping around

Lots of money saving going on at Shoestring Cottage!

So, I sorted out the energy supplier a couple of days ago and today I decided to look for a good deal on my house insurance. Honestly – never accept the quote you get from your current insurers. They appear to think that once they have pulled you in with a good deal the first year they can hike the price up by 30% and you won’t notice. Well this savvy shopper did notice!

I had a look at a couple of comparison sites and found buildings and contents with accidental damage cover for less than half what I had been quoted. (As an aside, having worked in insurance claims, I would always get accidental damage cover. It seems to be the most common type of claim yet many folk don’t bother with it.) That’s a heck of a saving!

imageI also put in a bid on a small roman blind for the downstairs hall and won it for 1p! Ok, the postage was steep at £8 but it is a nice quality John Lewis one so I decided it was worth a bid of a few pounds. I didn’t think I would get it that cheaply.

I was very happy with this. Not so happy with last night’s dinner. I picked up two herrings  reduced to half price in Asda recently and decided to eat them. I have only tasted them pickled and I had never cooked them. I was alarmed to find they weren’t boned, but got my trusty Delia book out and followed the instructions, then baked them very simply in a bit of butter and some herbs. I served them with some leeks, courgettes and mushrooms stewed in a little butter and some mini roasties. Thank goodness for the veg as the herrings were still full of bones and not the tastiest fish I have tried. Still, they were full of lots of healthy omega 3s!

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Strange weather today – very heavy rain punctuated by strong sunshine. Still, we got to see this:

imageI have been doing a deep clean today. All of the decorating and gardening and general busy-ness hasn’t left much time for cleaning so the place was a bit grubby. I still have a bit to do in the morning, but it is looking so much nicer it is worth the effort.

making meatloafMeatloaf turned out to be a very easy dinner as it just involved throwing all of the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and putting them in the oven in a loaf tin. It was tasty too with some creamy mashed spuds and broccoli. I would put more herbs and spices in if I made it again. I actually doubled up and made two, one for the freezer. The recipe suggests it feeds 6, but I would say only if you have a very small appetite. It made plenty for 4 however.

meatloaf

It is here if you want to try it:

 http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/6772/mum-s-meatloaf.aspx?o_is=Hub_TopRecipe_1

 

Budget Dinners Week

Feeling the need for inspiration for budget dinners that are quick and easy to do after work, I have been scouring the internet. A site that I think is pretty impressive for this is allrecipes.co.uk.

Looking promising so far:

Crispy rosemary chicken and chips

Crispy rosemary chicken (made with chicken thighs)
Meatloaf (made with half sausage meat and half beef mince – I will use the cheapie pork sausages from Aldi and remove the skins)
Cheesy cottage pie
Slow cooker butter chicken (made with chicken thighs)
Slow cooker veggie chilli

Slow cooker veggie chilli

I don’t have time for fussy stuff and these all look delicious without being time consuming and fiddly. They are also frugal, nutritious and the sort of food my family will happily eat.

What sites can you recommend? Which recipes do you come back to time and time again?

Not Enough Hours in the Day!

I thought I would attempt a blog post this morning whilst the rest of the house is still asleep. It is quite nice in a way being up early on a sunny Sunday morning. The birds are singing loudly and the cats are bouncing about but other than that the world is quiet and there is no traffic.

I have struggled to find a spare few minutes to blog. Work was full on during Friday, I came home to do a large pile of ironing and I spent yesterday back in the hall painting. As for housework, who has the time? I have been doing a bit here and there, but only the bare essentials – the laundry and sorting food.

imageToday the garden beckons. There are some plants in the greenhouse that really need to go in the ground now but before that I need to do some weeding to prepare some space. Some of my neighbours trees need a good hack back too or they will starve my side of light. There are lots of seedlings that need potting on too. At least I enjoy this, especially on a beautiful day .

Before that I will get up and clean the bathroom and downstairs loo and wash the kitchen floor. I can’t let standards slip too low!

Is it just me? Does anyone else struggle to fit it all in?

 

Looking back

I think it is good to look back from time to time to see where you have come from and what you have achieved.

There have been points over the past few years when I couldn’t see how I would manage financially. I was newly single with a part time job but coping with the help of tax credits. I knew I would start to lose the credits as my children reached 18 so as soon as there was the opportunity for a full time job which was also a promotion I went for it. I prepared well for my interview and I succeeded in getting the job. I immediately lost most of my tax credits but that was fine –  I didn’t want to be dependant on them if I could avoid it.

It has been difficult adapting as I have slowly lost maintenance, child benefit and the remaining child tax credits for my two oldest daughters. I have done it by working overtime when I could, teaching yoga classes and taking in foreign students. How people manage when they don’t have these options or are unemployed I can only imagine. It must be hell!

I have learned how to budget, how to get what I need for the least amount of money, how to say ‘no, I cannot afford that’, how to make the best of what I have got and to realise that there are lots of great things in life that cost no money.

FailureI moved into my own house after a period in rented accommodation with the massive help and support of my partner, Mr Shoestring. Slowly we have transformed the house and garden using very little money. It is a work in progress but we are getting there and it is very rewarding.

I have seen my oldest daughter finally get a job she enjoys and that is permanent, my second daughter do brilliantly in her A levels and go happily off to university, and my youngest strive to do her best in her GCSEs, which started this week. I know she will do well.

I started this blog too, which helps to keep me motivated and on-track, and looking back to see what has been achieved gives me the energy to take on the challenges to come.

Damned with faint praise?

Every year at work we have an appraisal to make sure we have met our targets and are performing well in our roles. I always do the best job I can so I was confident I would have no problems.

As expected my boss handed me an envelope and thanked me for my work and said I was successful in meeting all my targets. All well and good, but almost in the same breath he went on to tell me that I wasn’t a star and there was always room for improvement. This made me chuckle a bit but it also made me consider very carefully the form of words I will use when I am letting the colleagues in my team know their outcomes! If you are telling someone well done I think a pat in the back with no negative asides would be better.

If there is improvement to be made I think that will be a conversation for another time and will take the form of ‘So do you think you can improve your performance even further next year? How?’

imageWords are powerful. They can hurt and do far more damage than sticks and stones. I am confident and resilient enough to take it on the chin, but not everyone is.  I even think the words you use to yourself can be damaging if you allow lots of negative thoughts about yourself to whizz around your head. I am guilty of this myself but also spend a lot of time telling myself that I can achieve things, and that I will get where I need to be. I believe in the power of positive thinking!!

Sometimes you just need a break

We had intended to continue with the decorating yesterday but neither of us could face another day of it. The house was covered with dust and grime, there was laundry everywhere that I couldn’t get outside to dry because of the wet weather and the general cleaning hadn’t been done either. We decided to start afresh next weekend.

Instead I spent the morning giving the place a quick going over and organising myself for the coming week. I feel so much better when I am in control and on top of things!

We took a drive to Brightlingsea in the afternoon and had a walk. It was very windy and certainly blew the cobwebs and decorating dust away. Sometimes the simplest things can make a difference and we felt much better for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

I have bought very little of anything

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

this month, although I have spent quite a lot of money on paint! About £100 I reckon but that’s not much to spend to decorate a room. I am currently saving my pennies towards a carpet to complete the job.

If you have any advice on the best place to get a bargain throw it my way :-).

If I could loosen the purse strings …

loosen the purse strings

The dream….

I was wandering  idly around Blogland with a cup of tea yesterday morning, girding my loins for the next bout of DIY. I very much enjoy doing this when I get the time, particularly looking at those with a money saving or frugal slant. There are a couple of well known bloggers who have good incomes now. You might think they no longer need to live such a careful and frugal lifestyle and would loosen the purse strings. However, they continue to live frugally because they still have specific goals they want to achieve. I have a feeling they would still do it as a lifestyle choice, even when they have achieved their financial targets.

Living the frugal life

We live a frugal life because we have to. If we didn’t we wouldn’t make our mortgage payments each month and could easily rack up huge credit card debts. When it is all going well and we manage a bit of extra income, or don’t get a large unexpected bill because the car engine explodes or we need an emergency plumber, we quite enjoy the challenge. It feels like a pretty productive and useful hobby! However, I don’t enjoy sailing so close to the wind most of the time. I know it wouldn’t take much for me feel I am drowning rather than staying afloat.

It did make me consider what I would do if I got to the point where I had paid the mortgage, got a different job that paid lots more, came into some money…would I still be as frugal? Would I loosen the purse strings or shop in Aldi if I could suddenly afford Waitrose? If I could choose, would I still buy all my clothes at bootsales? Would I spend a week decorating my hallway or get the decorators in?

I think the answer is that we would do a bit of both. I am naturally frugal and I can’t bear waste of any kind, because that was the way I was raised. However, I would love more quality time with Mr Shoestring and my daughters, so if I could afford the decorators I would happily pay for their skills! We would have more holidays as we both love travelling, I would buy a camper van (which has been my dream forever) and have lots of trips around the UK and Europe. Boot sales would still be my thing, but I would buy some decent quality new clothes as and when I needed them. I would continue to do my food shop with a list and might just pop into Waitrose after I had been to Aldi :).

What about you? If the mortgage and debts were paid off and you had a decent amount coming in, what would you do?

The DIY continues

Just to prove I have managed to do something this week, even if we aren’t quite finished and will have to come back to it next week, here is how the hallway is currently looking.

loosen the purse strings

Before…

loosen the purse strings

…now

loosen the purse strings

Before…

loosen the purse strings

…now!

Are we there yet?

Four days of decorating the hall and we are only about half way through! There is so much woodwork to repair, rub down, scrub and paint. Eight doors and doorframes, the bannisters, window sills and skirtings, plus walls to fill, wallpaper to hang walls and ceilings to emulsion. I am getting very tired but it is looking better already, so I know it will be worth it in the end.

imageI don’t need the gym anyway as I am sure I am burning lots of calories. The house is a complete tip, but it will have to remain so until we have finished and I can restore a bit of order.

imageTonight’s tea was a £1 Aldi pizza, jazzed up with some peppers, olives and cheese and served with a bag of salad leaves. I can’t be doing with cooking at the moment!

Back to it. I will post some pix if it ever gets finished. 🙂

Energy Companies – Lessons learned and GRRR!

I have mentioned this before, but I am having a dispute with First Utility at the moment. I have come to the end of a fixed two year deal with them, so I could leave. The only reason I have hung on is that I know they have input a meter reading in incorrectly, leading to them telling me I owed them a lot of money that I know I don’t. I thought it might be easier to get it resolved as an existing customer. I have taken the case to the Energy Ombudsman and it has been accepted (although I have to say they are almost as slow as First Utility in getting some action).

GrrrMy problem now is that I cannot currently access accurate information about my usage as my account shows that I have used zero electricity since they gave me a new meter 2 months ago. The data that was on there has disappeared and nothing has been entered since (???? How is that helpful for me as a customer?). Also the gas usage is wrong due to the inaccurate reading, so when I tried to look at other suppliers on one of the comparison websites I couldn’t easily work out how much my monthly bill should be. I think I am under paying First Utility as well and will end up owing them a bit of money, just not the very large figure they were attempting to get off me!

I refuse to waste any more of my life hanging on the phone to First Utility (usually around half an hour wait to get through), only for the poorly trained unfortunate at the other end to give me no resolution, just to promise to escalate after which nothing ever happens.

So I have been stuck in limbo, but I am reaching the end of my patience so may just move anyway.

However, the lessons I have learned that I will bear in mind:

1. Sometimes cheapest isn’t best. In terms of customer service, you get what you pay for with First Utility.  Diabolical and incompetent.

2. Once I decide on a likely supplier I will read the reviews on moneysavingexpert.com and elsewhere to make sure their customer service doesn’t completely stink. If I had, I wouldn’t have touched First Utility with the proverbial barge pole.

3. I will submit my readings monthly on-line and keep my own record. I will then check my account to make sure the correct figure has been recorded. (If I choose to change supplier again, I will then know exactly what I use)

4. I will check my account regularly to make sure my usage is not costing me more than the agreed direct debit amount. I stupidly assumed that if it did, First Utility would let me know. They didn’t, they never emailed my bills across and I assumed their silence meant all was well.

5. Heating and lighting the house is an expensive business these days. I have done all I can think of to reduce my energy consumption – the loft and wall cavities have been filled, I have double glazing, I have turned the thermostat down, I force the family to wear lots of layers and thick socks, we only use the lights in the rooms we are in and don’t leave things on standby…Mr S wants to get a woodburner and I think that may help. Other people I know who have them say they keep one room toastie and reduce the heating in the rest of the house to the bare minimum. I will have to see what I owe FU and then see if we can stretch to one. We think we have a working chimney but it will need to be swept and possibly lined.

In the meantime I will channel my pent up fury into the decorating!

Before I can do that today, I am off to see the bank to negotiate a new fixed term mortgage deal. Wish me luck!!

 

Manual Labour

I had no time for a blog post yesterday – the decorating has started!!

I knew the hallway was going to be a pain to redecorate. What it really needs is replastering, not just sprucing up, but the budget won’t run to that. I spent a lot of the day repairing the walls – filling in holes and patching up the wallpaper. We daren’t strip the old stuff off as it may be all that is holding the plaster together in places….Mr S did a very impressive repair of the artex on the ceiling. I wish we could get rid of that as well but for now it will be painted so it will look fresh and clean.

The bannister was a bit of a job and took ages to rub down and wash, but at least I did manage to put a coat of quick dry gloss on and it looks so much better. White instead of aged yellow! The kitten likes to jump up and down on it and wind herself in and out, so I had to shut her away in the end.

Mr S is coming over to help again today. Because I know we will both be starving by tea time and won’t want to cook, I have made a slow cooker creation – Bacon, barley and leek stew. If it is a successful invention I will post the recipe.

barley bacon leek stewBack to it!

Pauper’s Paradise

 

Shoestring Cottage

Shoestring Cottage

We don’t live in a fancy house; we aren’t situated in a particularly sought after area. Shoestring Cottage is actually a 1940’s ex local authority semi in Essex. However, as was often the case at the time, the houses were built solidly on lovely big plots.  Ours is the corner plot and looks out over a green. We have the scout hut behind us and a row of pensioners’ bungalows to one side, so it is quiet and almost all of the neighbours are polite and friendly.

imageI love our house, but even more I love our garden. In the summer it is so much work and, after three years, we are only just getting it as we want it. We don’t have a lot of money to spend, but we do have lots of enthusiasm! We often don’t know the best thing to do, but take advice from family and friends and we are learning as we go along.

imageAs we have an extra long weekend for the May bank holiday, this gave us a chance to catch up on the gardening yesterday, and also meant we didn’t go out anywhere and spend any money. It was a gloriously dry and sunny day, absolutely perfect for being outdoors.

greenhouse1Mr S cut all the lawns and put the new greenhouse staging together that I bought on Saturday from Wilkinson’s. It was an absolute bargain at £5. I prepared the greenhouse and did some clearing and weeding of the veg beds, including digging up the last of the leeks. I got a few courgette plants in (mine are only just germinating but these were from a neighbour), some mint, celeriac and some everlasting spinach. I also sowed broccoli, carrots, various flowers and planted the tomato plants – again from Mr Shoestring’s lovely neighbour – into the greenhouse. I could list everything in the garden as individual projects for the sake of the 52 projects challenge, then I would have achieved all 52 by now! The garden is an on-going project!

I wanted it done as on Tuesday morning I start decorating the hall. Now that will be a project.

What is your piece of paradise? Do you love where you live?

 

Don’t waste the bread ends!!

Take the leftover veggies...

Take the leftover veggies…

I had a super productive day yesterday. I cleaned the whole house, took DD3 to get her hair cut in town (we found a great little place that charges £10 for a cut and blow dry, and they were excellent), had a quick whizz around the charity shops and, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I made chicken stock then used it to make Shoestring Cottage leftover veggie soup. This was delicious. I used some fresh veg – some sad looking celery, leeks from the garden and some carrots – but it mostly consisted of bits and pieces of mashed potato with an assortment of vegetables such as runner beans, peas, carrots and cabbage. I often cook too much, so I put the leftovers in old ice cream tubs in the freezer for this very purpose. I stuck a few lentils in too to thicken it up and it went down a treat. This should last us for lunch today and tomorrow as well.

...and make them into tasty soup!

…and make them into tasty soup!

Whilst I was on a roll I used up the ends of the bread and made some breadcrumbs in the food processor. These are great for stretching bolognese type sauces, for nut roasts and meatloaf, and for coating meat and fish. If I wanted them to be crisp I would  bake them in the oven for 10 minutes or so, but for now they are just in a big bag in the freezer. I don’t understand why anybody would buy breadcrumbs – certainly not the strange orange variety you often find in the shops. If you have a food processor they take literally seconds to make.

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor...

Stick the ends of the bread in the food processor…

...and Bob's your uncle!

…and Bob’s your uncle!

Chick Pea Burgers and Super Cheap Veggie Soup

chick pea burgers 1It being Sod’s Law and a Saturday, I did of course wake up at 5.30 am, so no lie in for me. The up side of being a naturally early riser is that I am quite productive in the mornings. The down side is that I will be fast asleep on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder by about 9 pm … I am nothing if not entertaining!

I need to keep everything as cheap as possible this month as I have had a couple of unexpected bills. So I am planning to eat from the freezer and store cupboard as much as I can over the next few days. This means more veggie meals, which I love but everyone else will doubtless compain about. They will have to cope!

The first recipe in my store cupboard blitz is for these tasty little chick pea burgers. They are cheap, healthy and quick (as well as being vegetarian, vegan and excellent if you are on a low GI diet).

For 10-12 small burgers you will need:

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
Large handful of fresh coriander if you have it – failing that parsley is good too
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste

chick pea burgers 2Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until mostly smooth, although a few lumps of chick pea is nice. Put a little flour on a chopping board and shape the mixture into about 12 little patties. Cover and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill. When you are ready to cook them, heat some oil in a frying pan and cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. They are nice with some chilli jam on the side.

Since I was having a clear out, I pulled two chicken carcasses out of the freezer and made them into stock with 3 celery sticks, a large carrot, an onion, 3 bayleaves and 6 peppercorns. This is currently simmering away and I will drain it and use it for soup for lunch. I have saved bits and pieces of leftover cooked veg in the freezer, so that is defrosting, and I will add some onion, celery, carrots, pearl barley and whatever else I can find to make a good veggie soup.

So a good start to my mega cheap week!

Loaves and Laundry

imageI really needed a dry sunny day today, as I had so much laundry! However it was drizzly all day so instead I used DD3’s room as the drying room – luckily she is at university again and I have no student at the moment. I hung it everywhere I could and stuck the dehumidifier on for a bit to help it along.

I managed most off the cleaning, made two delicious banana and walnut loaves, got my hair cut and rang to try to sort the mortgage, or try to anyway. It is a work in progress!

imageMr Shoestring even persuaded me out for an early evening cycle ride to finish me off.

The banana loaf recipe is a Delia one and brilliant with over ripe bananas. You can find it here:

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/banana-and-walnut-loaf.html

 

 

Jobs for the Weekend

Still trying to ignore the sore neck today as I have a busy weekend ahead. I don’t think I can actually fit it all in, but here’s what I need to do :

1. Food shop at Aldi

2. Give the house a thorough clean

3. Catch up on the laundry

4. Make banana bread – got black bananas I don’t want to waste

5. Submit my online meter readings

6. Research a new mortgage deal

7. Plant some more seeds

8. Give in and go to the hairdressers as I am currently looking a bit like Worzel Gummidge

9. Go see some bluebells before they are finished

10. Drink wine 🙂

Well, I need some recreational time! Ok, none of it is very exciting, apart from the wine and bluebells, but I have to stay on top of things. What are your plans?

 

 

Like brands, but cheaper!

So we heard yesterday that Tesco’s profits are down 6%, this apparently due to the success of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I started using Aldi when it arrived in town about 3 years ago, and was amazed by how much money I saved – around £30 a week on average. It doesn’t sell absolutely everything I need, and I have to get cat food and one or two other items from Asda on my way home, but I find I actually plan my weekly menus around what Aldi are likely to have in stock. If they do the odd offer on something like dishwasher salt, which they don’t always sell, I will stock up on it.

I like the fact that the shops are small and there isn’t so much choice – I can get in and out with less stress than a Tesco mega store and without succumbing to buy their specials which are so tempting but bust the budget. However, my local Aldi is now so successful its car park isn’t big enough, so I go as soon as they open on a Saturday morning and I am in and out before a lot of people are out of bed.

I have found the quality of the food generally very good. You do have to check the freshness of the fruit and veg properly though. I buy a lot of plants for the garden as well!

I am a fan and it annoys me when I bump into people I know in there who feel the need to apologise and say they have just come in for the beer or chocolate and don’t usually shop there – I am not ashamed to shop in Aldi. I think it is brilliant. I tell them I am getting my whole week’s shop as well as my beer and chocolate 🙂

On the Up

imageI was just driving into work enjoying the sun and the fact there wasn’t much traffic because it is the school holidays here. Quite cheerful for a Tuesday morning, and better than I was feeling a few months ago.

My finances are usually pretty much on a knife edge, but they were getting worse. I lost child benefit, maintenance and tax credits when DD2 went off to university, then I found out I was getting a pay cut. I did have some moments when I was very low, but being generally positive I knew I had to find ways to bring in some extra income.

Now the plan appears to be coming together! Having two months of paying no council tax has helped – it is paid over 10 months and you get February and March ‘free’. My new yoga class is doing well now and I have had two language students. Tonight we have someone coming to check us out from an agency which places students on a longer term basis with host families. They stay up to a year and attend the local school. Having another teen in the house suits me better than getting an adult lodger, which was the original plan. I am hoping we will get someone from september.

So, times have been tough but things are definitely looking better. I will be able to make my mortgage payments and loosen the belt maybe one notch

🙂

Make do and mend

I am pretty rubbish at needlework. I would love to be able to run up a pair of curtains or make a cushion, but I don’t even own a working sewing machine and haven’t attempted to make anything for years. This will be something I might have a go at when I retire! However, I can mend an item of clothing and hem a skirt. This morning I found a small hole in a favourite cardigan so I mended that. It’s not exactly invisible, but it is good enough to make it wearable 🙂

image

So that’s one frugal thing before I even left for work! Let’s hope the rest of the week follows suit 🙂

Why am I frugal?

Beautiful Wales

Beautiful Wales

A friend at work discovered my blog by accident the other day. She is another frugalista because she is naturally that way inclined and also because she is saving towards her wedding. She wondered why I hadn’t told her about it and the truth is I don’t really advertise it. I have had too many people make assumptions in the past that being frugal means being a skinflint or ‘tight’.

It isn’t about that for me. If I had lots of money and could afford to be generous I certainly would be. My reality, like many of you reading this, is that I don’t have lots of money so I have to budget and be careful with what I have. It means sometimes having to say no – I don’t really need that night out, item of clothing, haircut, holiday and I can’t afford it. I need to attend to the essentials first and then see if there is any left over. However this does not mean that I don’t get new clothes. I buy lovely things that I like but they might come from eBay, a boot sale or a charity shop, or if I am really lucky they might be reduced in a sale.

It also doesn’t mean I can’t have nice days out, get a good bottle of wine or socialise with friends, I just cut costs by taking picnics, cooking and sharing food rather than going to fancy restaurants, and food shopping at the discount stores. I can have a holiday too, maybe not in a fancy hotel but in a cheap caravan in a beautiful location. Last summer we did just that in Wales and it was lovely.

I save money wherever I can and earn extra at every opportunity so that I can have a few little luxuries every now and again.

So, perhaps I shouldn’t be embarrassed and worried how others will judge me. I should be proud of my efforts 🙂