Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

Growing your own hangover

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

Growing your own fruit and veg

It is a gorgeous day. Gardening and fresh air can be a good hangover cure!  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days.  At Shoesbring Cottage we are always growing our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. Growing your own means that you can eat food that can be quite expensive in the shops and a tiny fraction of the price.  So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.



I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

Do you grow your own fruit and veg? What have you got coming along?

A birthday celebration

Such a busy day today! We are going away for Mr S’s birthday on Tuesday, so thought we would have a few friends and family round for dinner today. He said he didn’t want a fuss, but you’re not 50 every day so I had to give him a little  bit of a treat 😀. 

I have been cooking all day – an Indian themed dinner, as it is easy to feed a crowd with curries and rice. I have made a chicken curry, lentil dahl, saag aloo and a chick pea curry, with some naans, poppadums and dips. I have three vegetarians and a coeliac amongst the guests and Indian food is frequently vegetarian and gluten free anyway, so it seemed a good choice.

A friend at work made a birthday cake, a splendid lemon and lime extravaganza with piped meringue and buttercream. I hope it tastes as good as it looks. I have also made a gluten free chocolate cake using the Betty Crocker mix I found in Aldi the other day. It looks nice so I shall be interested to see how it tastes. 

I have made enough to feed a small army so I hope they are hungry.  I will let you know how it goes!

Entertaining cheaply

We don’t go out much – it’s so expensive!! When we see friends we usually eat in. Tonight I have ‘the girls’ round. We do this every couple of months and take it in turns to cook.

I am trying to save as much money as I can for our holiday next month, so I won’t be going crazy with the expense. I am also at work all day so I won’t have a great deal of time!! On the menu we have butternut squash soup with crusty baguettes (made last night. The baguettes are the bake at home variety so I shall do those later); Jamie’s chicken tray bake (I make this a lot and it is reliably delicious and quick to prepare) with some sugar snap peas and broccoli; fruit salad and cream (I am still off the sugar).

I have a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge from my birthday and everyone will bring wine anyway. I also have some nibbles from Lidl to kick things off. OK, so it’s not Cordon Bleu, but it will be fun!!

I hope I’m not too bleary eyed as I have promised to drive my daughters to a boot sale on Saturday morning. I am doing well with my eBay sales, which all helps the holiday fund along.

Did anyone who is based in the UK watch ‘How to Live Mortgage Free’ on Channel 4 a couple of nights ago? I thought it was very interesting. There was a young lady who bought the shell of a boat and converted it into a house boat so that she could remain living in London – this cost her £33,000 in all, a chap who had purchased an old tin chapel with £50,000 cash from the sale of his previous home and a young family who had lived a super frugal existence for 8 years to pay their £240,000 odd mortgage off quickly, thus saving themselves around £200k in interest charges!!

I wish I had considered that paying off the mortgage early was even a thing when I was younger. I fell into the trap of thinking I had to move onwards and upwards, seeing each house as a step towards a bigger and better house and re-mortgaging many times to make home improvements. It was what everybody else was doing and it never occurred to me that there was a better way.  I will pay my current small mortgage off as soon as I can but I can’t help having a few regrets about my previous lack of financial education. Still, I am making up for it now!!

I really admired the creativity and determination of those featured and can’t wait for the next one.

 

Such a perfect day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mummies out there! It was a gorgeous spring day here today and I was desperate to get out and do some tidying up and to plant some little shrubs we picked up in B&M last weekend. They are quite good for plants. They don’t have a huge range but what they do have is very reasonably priced. We decided on a hebe and an azalea. At £4 each they were a massive bargain.

Whilst we were out fighting with the weeds, cutting stuff back and mowing the lawn, my daughters were making a delicious roast beef lunch. We were so ready for this after a few hours in the garden. We had it with a £5 bottle of cava from Lidl and strawberries for pudding. They even cleaned it all up. Fantastic! What a lovely bunch of girls.


Mr S found a very pretty Portmerion tea set in the charity shop on Friday for £25. We looked on eBay and found the teapot alone going for £75! This lot has to be sold on as we could make a handy profit. I should start getting up early and perusing the bootsales soon to see what else I can find to sell on. This could be a useful bit of extra income. 

We went to visit Mum and dad yesterday. He is quite frail and tired still but this isn’t surprising as he has undergone a serious bit of surgery. It’s hard to keep him out of his garden on a sunny day but we need to for now. I will try to get round to help in the week.

What could be better than sunshine, fresh air, exercise, home cooked food and family? It was a perfect day to set me up for a busy week. Mother’s Day or not, I hope you had a super Sunday.

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…

Taking the early train on the hottest day

Today I took the early train to London with all the bleary eyed commuters (not grumpy though; today is a beautiful day and, since we get so few of those they were mostly happy!). 

Me and my girl


I am not a big fan of the city: too busy, too frantic and fast paced, too dirty for me. But today was a big day. Darling daughter no 2’s graduation day! They only allow two people to the ceremony, so I was accompanied by her lovely boyfriend, with everyone else joining us for a celebratory lunch afterwards. They drove down and parked near her shared house in Hackney as that was cheaper than the train for three of them.

Hats off!

 The ceremony was interesting, not too long so that it got dull, but long enough and with adequate pomp and ceremony to feel special. Then it was lots of pix in the baking sun – our hottest day of the year so far at 34 degrees – and a glass of fizz in the hall. 
 I loved seeing all the graduates in their gowns – very Harry Potter-esque!

My girl and her gorgeous boyfriend

We had a lovely lunch at a Turkish restaurant in Hackney. It was perfect light Mediterranean food for such a hot day and good value at around £10 each for a main course. I had dolma (cheese and rice stuffed courgettes and pepper) which was really tasty. I am going to look out a recipe.

We drove back in very heavy traffic and we were all sweating buckets by the time we arrived home. I am currently wilting in front of a fan on the sofa. Still, we have storms forecast for tonight so I suppose I should enjoy the sun while it is here!

A fabulous birthday in Constable Country

  I booked the day off work today. I thought we could have a day out  and use a voucher my daughters gave us for  Christmas at a very fine restaurant at Dedham in Suffolk called the Boathouse. We wouldn’t normally splash out and spend £60 on a meal out ever! I just couldn’t justify it. However, it was lovely food in a very pretty building with views over the river and an absolute treat since we didn’t have to pay.
  Dedham is a delightful old fashioned little place and the area is famous for several landmarks and views painted by the artist John Constable. We didn’t look round the little shops today but instead had a walk along the river to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House, both the subject of Constable’s artwork. It was a beautiful sunny day and I think it did us good to walk off all the calories from dinner. I hate to think how much weight I will have put on this week!
    The girls bought me some products I was after from Lush for my birthday. Since I am still attempting to cut down on plastic waste I thought I would try solid shampoo and conditioner bars and a natural deodorant. They all came wrapped in recyclable paper and smell divine. Reviews I have read say they last for ages so I am hoping they will be good value for money. Toiletries can be so expensive! I haven’t tried them yet but will let you know if they are any good. 

Back to work and reality tomorrow as it is a really busy time. Back in a couple of days!

Sixty years of wedded bliss – plus moving towards less plastic waste

It’s another weekend!! How on earth did that happen? And a busy one to boot – I have  DD2 back from university with her boyfriend and we are all over to my sister’s for a family party to celebrate my parents’ diamond anniversary. Sixty years! I am so proud of them. 
  Family dos are always noisy affairs as I am one of four children, we each have our own kids and they bring along assorted boyfriends as well. We haven’t managed to give my parents any great grandchildren yet but I expect they will arrive at some point!

  I recently blogged about how I was looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste I produce. It feels difficult to achieve when you shop in a supermarket. Everything is wrapped and double wrapped and it’s hard to purchase liquid items in glass bottles and jars these days. One of my followers, Sue, asked if I had heard of Splosh, a company with the genius idea of reducing plastic waste by selling their products as refills.  

I hadn’t so I decided to investigate and get a few products to try. You can initially buy a bottle of, say washing detergent, but you use this bottle again and again by ordering a refills. These come as small soluble concentrated sachets that you mix with water.

I have started with washing up liquid and fabric conditioner. I have yet to use them so a full review will follow!

Have a great weekend everyone!

A year of celebrations

This week it was my youngest daughter’s 18th birthday.  All my children are now adults! I guess that makes me officially old. 😀

Tonight, to celebrate, she is having a dozen girlfriends over for dinner. I   am head chef, of course. I am doing a  of dips and crudités, olives, feta cheese and tortilla crisps, followed by spaghetti bolognese, with a dessert of birthday cake and fruit salad. Now that they are all 18 they can wash it down with some cava!

  The birthday cake is a deep dish of delicious chocolatey-ness made by my work colleague, Claire. When you open the box you are hit by the aroma of sugar and cocoa and it is making my mouth water as I type. Claire, being a baking genius, has surrounded it with the thinnest sheets of chocolate sprayed with edible gold. My daughter’s photo has been converted to sugar icing too. It is a masterpiece!

I know I will have a house full of shrieking and squiffy teenage girls, but I would rather that than they launch themselves on a nightclub in town. 

This year will be one of celebrations for my family, so I have a feeling I will be asking Claire to make another cake or two. I have my parents’ diamond wedding, my second daughter’s 21st, my nephew’s 21st (born within two weeks of each other) and another nephew’s 30th. 

We are a large family, busy and scattered, so it’s great to have these occasions that bring us all together.

Wish me luck – I have a busy day ahead!

Ho ho ho! Christmas is coming

Ok don’t pelt me with rotten eggs. I know it’s only 2nd October. However, if you don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill Christmas should be planned for. It comes at the same time every year, so it shouldn’t really be a nasty surprise to your wallet!

I am actually behind where I was last year. I usually buy small bargain presents and stocking fillers as I  go through the year but the few I have found have been instantly used as birthday presents by the family. I also usually have lots more in the kitty, but my car has been troublesome and expensive and eaten a chunk of my Christmas budget.

Even so, I have made a start on my shopping  and will try to get as much done as I  can way before the rush. My sister couldn’t believe it when I asked for ideas for presents for her kids in September! I have bought a couple of Mary Berry cookery books as presents from Aldi. Lovely looking recipes at a bargain price!
   
 I stopped buying for the adults in my family a few years ago. We are a large family and it’s just too expensive. Instead we do Secret Santa and this works well. We buy for children in full time education; once they leave school or university they join in with Secret Santa. I buy for my daughters and ask for ideas. They have a £50 budget and on top of that I buy small gifts such as socks, underwear, books and toiletries.

Most of our Christmas food comes from Aldi. They do a lovely range of treats at Christmas. If we are at home what we eat will be very traditional. It’s just a fancy roast after all, so doesn’t need to cost a fortune. I have made my pudding in the past but find it more economical to buy Aldi’s luxury pud rather than fork out on lots of ingredients. Christmas cake rarely gets eaten,so I will make a fancy cake as a treat, like a gooey chocolate one.

I have wrapping paper and cards put away that I purchased last year in the sales. Always a good tip! I keep and recycle gift bags so I never need to buy those.

I use the same artificial tree I have had for  years along with ancient decorations! I don’t spend a fortune and keep the decor simple. I might cut some holly to put in a couple of big vases. I expect the kitten to destroy any display fairly quickly and I can’t see the tree lasting long…

Anyone else planning Christmas? Is it a source of joy or anxiety? Any tips for a frugal festive season?