How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a day: Book Review

Another one for My Frugal Bookshelf! I have just finished re-reading Kath Kelly’s wonderful book, How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day. It was just as inspiring as the first time around! She is my kind of woman.

Could you live a year on a pound a day?

The book tells the story of an English teacher living in Bristol who made the drastic decision to live on a pound a day to save money for her brother’s wedding present. Her friends thought she was crazy and that she could only achieve this if she became a vegetarian, travelled nowhere and used old rags instead of tampons! She proved them wrong.

During the course of her year living on a pound a day,  she became a yellow sticker officianado, organised  a clothes swapping party, hitchhiked and cycled everywhere and camped for free. She did a WOOFing holiday (where, incidentally, she met her future husband), discovered just how cheaply she could purchase clothes if she turned up at jumble sales just before closing and found a vast number of free events in Bristol, some rewarding her with refreshments just for turning up. She also collected over £100 in money from the pavements on her travels – what a careless bunch we are!

Super frugal

It became more than just a quest to get her brother a decent wedding present, however. She became much fitter from all of the walking and cycling she did (once she had curbed her liking for too many reduced cakes and pies!). She realised how much money she used to fritter and how much we waste as a society. Her super frugal lifestyle revealed our consumerist society to be hugely wasteful and damaging to the environment, as well as people’s bank balances. When Kath Kelly’s year came to an end she knew she couldn’t go back to her previous ways.

She has written a couple of other books since, which I intend to explore. I have just downloaded a sample to my Kindle app of Doing the Right Thing. If I enjoy this I will buy the book.

I purchased my copy of How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day for the Kindle too, although if you prefer an actual paper book you can pick them up second hand on Amazon (my link: How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly ( 2008 ) Please note  if you purchase anything through either of my links I will receive a small commission. The Kindle version is a bargain at only £2.08. 

 

My Zero Waste Kitchen – book review

I have said before in this blog how much I dislike the pervading waste culture. We are a throw away society and no longer seem to value our possessions or how much they cost in financial and environmental terms. Easy come, easy go!

This also applies to food. I remember learning about wartime rationing at school. Food was scarce but nobody starved in the UK because nothing was wasted. Now we are guided more by use by and best before dates than commonsense and a lot of perfectly edible food is thrown away with barely a thought.

I am generally careful to avoid waste like this, but I am not perfect and could definitely try harder, so I was delighted to receive a copy of My Zero Waste Kitchen from Dorling Kindersley.

It is a prettily designed, small hardback book and good value at £6.99 I think. The advice given is clear and simple, although probably aimed more for those who have just begun to think about reducing their food waste rather than the seasoned waste free cook.

I like it though – there are a lot of useful tips that I hadn’t come across before, such as the page on eggs. Did you know you could use crushed eggshells as a stain remover or as a calcium supplement? Or that you could revive stale cake by putting it overnight in an airtight container with a slice of bread?

Why not put apple cores and kiwi skins in your smoothie? I am sure they would taste just as nice and add nutrition. I was less convinced about adding banana skins, however, as I think they would be too bitter.

If you want to get maximum value from your lettuce, you can cut off the end and root it in water to start a whole new plant. I have never tried this and I am sceptical, but might give it a go.

The recipes in the book look interesting. I like how a base recipe is presented such as hummus or flapjacks alongside ideas for foods you could add to save wasting them. I will definitely be trying the Waste-not want-not savoury muffins, as they look yummy.

If you want some fresh ideas on how to begin to reduce your family’s food waste, or you want to teach your children more about the subject, then this book will be a great place to begin.

If you decide to buy this book using the link below, I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

My frugal bookshelf: Delia Smith’s Frugal Food

If anyone ever doubted the awesomeness that is Saint Delia (as I call her), think again. This book is a classic with good reason.

First published in 1976, At a time of inflation, rising prices and world food shortages. Sound familiar? Those problems persist,  but add to those our current issues around austerity, benefits cuts and  the uncertainty around Brexit and you realise that hard times and financial pressures are an increasingly common reality for many people.

This book, with its reliably cheap and tasty recipes, is still relevant. It was actually republished in a glossier format in 2008 but I have a copy of the original, with yellow pages and spillages to testify to its regular use.

There are some recipes I wouldn’t class as frugal. I think meat and fish may have been cheaper when the book was written so I don’t cook lamb or beef much. However, there are lots of recipes for those on a budget.  My favourites include pork sausages with cider sauce, spaghetti with tuna and olives, bean and lentil chilli, souffle’d jacket potatoes and liver casserole. There are some great puddings too. Classics like bread pudding and spotted dick alongside blackberry cheesecake for the forager.

You can still pick up various versions of this book secondhand, but if you use my link to Amazon to make a purchase I will receive a small commission.

Another Goode Book

Reader Rosemary reminded me of this one for my frugal bookshelf.  The Goode Kitchen was written by the late Shirley Goode to accompany her BBC series of the same name in 1986.

Shirley had a precise and logical approach to saving money in the kitchen, which has barely dated. In fact her approach to her kitchen decor (open shelves and a mix of charity shopped mixed crockery) seems positively on trend . Think shabby chic! She believed in spending more on the essentials, such as some quality knives and pans.

I first read the Goode Kitchen years ago and clearly absorbed this approach to cooking. Shirley can take a lot of the credit for much of my kitchen behaviour now – reusing yogurt pots and margarine pots to freeze soup or store leftovers, keeping old bread bags and making stock from bones and chicken carcasses.

She takes an interesting approach to budgeting that makes me think she was an influence on Jack Monroe, carefully costing her ingredients to easily calculate the price of any meal and adjusting ingredients to always get the best possible value.

The recipes are straightforward, nutritious and tasty. They use ingredients likely to be in most cook’s store cupboards or easy to find in a supermarket. For example, you will find recipes for fish chowder, Somerset rabbit casserole, poor man’s jugged hare (actually made with beef) and pauper’s pottage (a healthy vegetable stew) – great, no frills family food.

It is sadly out of print now but you can still find the odd copy secondhand on Amazon, as I did. If you see it at a reasonable price, grab it! There is a link below but you may have to go through and do a search.
goode kitchen

 

How long could you live on NO money?

Here is another excellent book for my frugal bookshelf – The Moneyless Man: a year of freeconomic living by Mark Boyle.

It was written as a response to the author’s observation about how disconnected we are to what we consume. We rarely stop to think about where the products we purchase come from, who produced them, what their social and environmental cost was or how destructive some of our shopping habits are. As he says, ‘If we all had to grow our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it…If we had to make our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor’.

He decided that for one year he would not receive or spend money. He lived off grid in a caravan he got from Freecycle. He parked it on a farm in return for his labour. He built a compost toilet and grew much of his own food. He also ate waste food rescued from supermarket skips and foraged wild food. He relied on a bicycle for transport and, since he couldn’t pay anyone when it needed repair, had to do himself. He made home-brew – the point wasn’t to be austere and joyless, and fun was allowed!

Although I couldn’t see myself living in this way, reading this book made me realise how much I could do without and still live a happy and comfortable life with less damage to the environment. The story of Mark Boyle’s year without money is extraordinary and hugely inspiring.

You can, of course, order it for free from the library, but if you choose to purchase it through my link I will receive a small commission.

Food with a purpose

Following my blog about the classic Mennonite cook book More-With-Less Cookbook (World Community Cookbooks), I have discovered a really interesting site called Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I am impressed with the recipes! Lots of delicious sounding, straightforward and frugal food such as apple slab pies, great northern beans with sausage, mushroom scrambled egg bake and cookie sheet chocolate bars. Lots of the recipes are ‘for a crowd’ so plenty of scope to batch cook and freeze if you are just feeding the family. I can see myself trying a lot of these out!

This is what they say:

We are a group of ten women who share recipes and our faith, with a purpose, inspiring hospitality while using our resources to help needy people around the world.   Mennonite Girls Can Cook is more than just recipes. We encourage you to think about HOSPITALITY versus entertaining. Our hope is that you find the joy in BLESSING versus impressing.  Our recipes are about taking God’s bounty, and co-creating the goodness from God’s creation into something that we can use to bless family, friends and those who need a caring meal.  We take everyday ingredients to make recipes which will nourish, provide energy and delight our taste buds. No matter which way you look at it, wonderful things happen when we gather around the table. While sharing a meal, relationships are nurtured, encouragement and fellowship can be offered and a place of refuge is provided for those who have had a stressful day.

I am not religious, but I do appreciate their message – ‘think about BLESSING versus impressing’, and the simple pleasures to be found in sitting round a table and eating with others. If you prefer a cookbook rather than a website they have some that you can buy: Mennonite Girls Can Cook
and Bread for the Journey: Meditations and Recipes to Nourish the Soul, from the Authors of Mennonite Girls Can Cook being two of them. They donate all proceeds to the work their community does. So, using the cookery books make you feel good twice!

I won’t be trying the sweet recipes until I am eating sugar again. It has been easy to give up so far, but it is only day two :).

Until tomorrow…

More with less

Ages and ages ago, I bought the More With Less cookbook by Doris Longacre. I read the introduction, loved the ethos of the book, but none of the recipes appealed to me much so I put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it. I thought it was time to revisit it!

It was commissioned by the Mennonite Central committee in America as a reaction to the extreme overconsumption of food and an obesity epidemic at a time when people in other parts of the globe were going hungry.

It preaches a more simple approach: eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and processed foods. It was first published in 1976 and my copy is the 25th anniversary edition. The current popularity of veganism might suggest some of the rest of the world is finally catching up with the health message, but the obesity epidemic is even worse and people still go hungry.

So, the message is still relevant, but what about the recipes?

There is nothing fancy in the presentation or the content. Many are vegetarian or use just small amounts of meat. Many of them will seem quite alien to the UK or European reader, but others are quite international. The measurements are in US cups – I invested in a set of these some time ago from Lakeland, and they have proved their worth. You will need them if you follow the recipes in this book.

It is a classic text and I am making a resolution to try some of the food in this book. It totally fits with my frugal approach to eating!

Has anybody else got this book? What do you think of it?

Another frugal classic: the Penny Pincher’s Book

I discovered the Penny Pincher’s Book at about the same time as the Tightwad Gazette. I would say it is the UK equivalent. Like the Gazette, it was born from a newsletter, the Penny Pincher Paper.

John and Irma Mustoe are not preaching an austere and joyless existence. Rather they are saying that saving money gives you more choices and more control. ‘Spending money must be a skill at least as important as earning it’ – a great quote and one I agree with.

It is full of tips to save money, some to save pounds and others that will make a few pennies difference. Making do, mending, reusing and repurposing in creative ways form the basis of much of the advice. There are many suggestions for wringing every last drop of value out of all your purchases. Some may not be worth the effort (reuse the free envelopes in junk mailings by turning them inside out and carefully regluing it is one I wouldn’t bother with -I’d sooner stick a label on top of the address) but others are genius. For example, bicarbonate of soda can be sprinkled on a flannel and wiped under the arms as a deodorant. I know this works as my long lasting Lush one is basically bicarbonate of soda with some essential oils. Dilute shampoo by a third and it will last longer and lather better. Turn down your heating by one degree to save around 8% on your heating bill. Take care of what you have – ‘maintenance works’!

Just because you cannot do all of a job it doesn’t mean you can’t do any of it. This is Mr S’s philosophy for sure. He is currently fitting our new wood burner. He has removed the old fireplace and laid the hearth, fitted a mantle shelf and plans to clean the chimney. Once we have paid a professional to line the chimney he will fit the burner. 

It’s a great book that you can pick up and read a few pages of every now and again to get some inspiration, but you will easily read it through as it’s an interesting and absorbing read. I have the original book from 1995, which you can still pick up secondhand, but I notice that Amazon is selling an updated version, the Penny Pincher’s Book Revisited, published in 2007.

So, another classic on my frugal bookshelf. More to follow!