Not wasting food

I am so enjoying my Christmas break. We have been taking things easy for a change, seeing family and having a good rest – plus eating too much!

I have cleaned out a couple of kitchen cupboards though – that had been the extent of my efforts. I like to go through them all every now and again to remind myself of what is there and make sure we eat anything near its best before date.

We have plenty of food in the house which I do not want to waste. I bought the usual amount of fruit but because there is so much in the way of snacks and unhealthy stuff that it hasn’t been eaten. I will make a big fruit salad tomorrow and then it should go. We are all murmuring about eating too much rubbish so something healthy should go down a treat. 

We don’t have Christmas leftovers here as such as we weren’t here on Christmas Day, otherwise I would be making Christmas soup with it all!

How about you? Are you using it all up?

I’ll embrace this new trend

I heard on the news the other day that there is a new trend amongst parents not to overspend when buying Christmas presents for their children. Instead they are buying four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

I hadn’t really considered it before but this is more or less what I always did for my daughters when they were growing up. I didn’t have the money to spend hundreds on each of them, but I wouldn’t even if I had been loaded.

They had a main present -something I knew they had been hankering after – some little gifts like sweets and colouring pens, maybe an item of clothing like pyjamas or a new dress, books and perhaps a coat they needed. I asked my daughter if she felt she missed out and she said she definitely didn’t.

Before I had children I spent Christmas with a couple of quite well off friends with a two year old son. This little boy had so many presents it was obscene. They lined one long wall! He got over excited and was mostly running around throwing wrapping paper about. He couldn’t be bothered to open them all let alone take any time playing with them. He also didn’t open the little gift I had bought him so I have no idea if he liked it. I expect it ended up at the charity shop with half the other stuff!

I swore that I would never do that to my own children. I wanted them    to show appreciation and gratitude, and to enjoy their gifts of course.

I am always amazed at people who get so swept up in the Christmas frenzy they buy their kids an x- box rather than paying the rent. So I will be embracing this trend and I hope it spreads!

Perfect Sunday 

I don’t normally let Christmas in this early, but I needed to go through all my decorations to take the spare ones into work and before I knew it we had put ours up!

I bought loads really cheaply at my favourite charity shop and the others I have had for years. It looks really cosy.

We had a lovely autumn walk today in the sunshine, walking five miles  from Colchester to Wivenhoe and back. If you haven’t walked the Wivenhoe trail I recommend it. When you arrive there is a great pub in the village called the Rose and Crown, by the estuary. Today we settled for a cup of tea in a little cafe before we headed back to Colchester. 

We now have roast pork in the oven which will be followed by apple and blackberry crumble made with foraged fruit for pud. Can Sundays get any better? 

Who knows where the time goes?

A rare treat! I met some of my old college buddies on Saturday night for a meal in Covent Garden in London. It is turning into an annual reunion, which is lovely. Only five of us could make it this time. The bad selfie above is what we look like now and the one below is what some of us used to look like. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were 18 and now we have all hit 50! Can you spot me? 
The city was heaving as it was Black Friday weekend and the last part of my underground journey was horrible – everybody squeezed on top of each other. I deeply dislike both crowds and the tube so I was glad to get there. It was worth it. We had a lovely evening and the journey home was a bit better. 
Mr S dragged me out for a walk on Sunday – he fancied kicking a few leaves about! It was what I needed – a bit of fresh air and exercise.
I managed to almost finish my Christmas shopping this weekend. I found a few Black Friday bargains. I was buying anyway – I tend not to get dragged into the hype usually. All bought online -I wasn’t going to brace the crowds twice in one weekend!!
How is your Christmas shopping going?

Are you in a JAM?

I have heard the phrase JAMs over the past few days, standing for households who are ‘Just About Managing’. Low to medium income families who are generally overlooked. Apparently the Government will bring in some measures to help such households in tomorrow’s autumn budget. 

You could argue that some of the JAMs have already been negatively impacted by changes to in work benefits, so will the Government look again at that? I doubt it. I suppose  some have benefitted from the introduction of the national minimum wage, so swings and roundabouts. 

Now I know why things feel so sticky here sometimes – we are JAMs! Not holding my breath for much assistance from the Government though. With this lot I think we all need to learn to help ourselves as much as we can!

Enough of politics. I have come to the conclusion that the world has generally gone mad so best  just to keep my head down!

I finally sorted DD3’s car insurance last night. I chose Adrian Flux who gave me a good deal on a policy for her as a learner driver to run along side my own policy. We will have to start the whole battle again when she passes no doubt.

We tried Lidl’s 3 fish roast as a possible option for Christmas dinner for my nearly vegetarian daughter (she eats fish but not meat) at the weekend. I wouldn’t recommend it. It didn’t have much fish but did have a lot of quite rich and cloying sauce. It was basically an ok tasting fish pie, but not special enough for Christmas. We will make her a posh nut roast I think!

A cheap lunch

Rushing about today. Already been into town to collect my new glasses (varifocals – struggling with them right now!), get my hair cut and buy a few more Christmas presents. I will save the rest for Black Friday next week.

I am having a cheap and easy lunch of sardines on toast. I love this. It’s old fashioned I know but healthy and 29p a tin from Lidl. I am trying to eat more oily fish and this is a good way to do so. Now I am having a quick clean through as I have another possible lodger coming to look at the room later. Then we are having a family dinner and off with Mr S and all three of my girls to see the new JK Rowling movie. More tomorrow!

Autumn is on its way – and Christmas! 

It suddenly felt very autumnal as September arrived here in Essex, with lots of rain and winds that have bought some leaves down. Our Italian student has already realised that it is wise to carry an umbrella at all times! Still, we had a good summer so I am not complaining. 

The student is very sweet and seems older than 16. Hopefully she won’t worry me too much! However, she hates vegetables! She will eat peas and carrots but that is it. I use a lot of vegetables in casseroles etc so she will have to pick them out. We have sausages and mash tonight so she should be fine with that.

There are so many jobs to do in the garden. Luckily the student is spending most of the weekend in London so we will have time to get on with them. My neighbour cheekily commented on how untidy the front garden was looking! It’s not that bad! So much garden and so little time. I shall invite him to help if he says anything again. It’s ok for him as he is semi retired.

We did 45 minutes weeding on Sunday before the student arrived and that made a difference. Little and often is the way to go.

This weather. Is my cue to start thinking about Christmas. Yes, I know! But it soon creeps up and I like to spread the cost and I hate the last minute rush. I don’t really enjoy shopping either so little and often works for me here too!

Anyone else planning Christmas? Got the sprouts on yet? 😀😀😀

Love Christmas, Hate Waste


A Christmas wreath made from old magazines

I was exploring the Essex County Council website today and ended up on the Recycle for Essex site:, which has some excellent advice on reducing waste and lots of ideas on how to be creative with waste generally rather than dumping it.There are some brilliant Christmas craft ideas. I like these gift bows made from old magazines:

You can also make gift bags from newspapers, a wreath from sweet wrappers or magazines, loads of decorations from CDs plus there are useful links to other wastes for more inspiration.

An old CD becomes Santa

There is a link to the Love a Food Hate Waste website too, which is a great site. There are lots of ideas for using up your Christmas leftovers, from Christmas pudding ice cream to Stilton, ham and Brussels sprout tart! I bet that is nicer than it sounds 😊.

You don’t need to live in Essex to find some inspiration for reducing your waste this Christmas. Check it out!

I have been enjoying a blog called recently. Jen Gale has an interesting perspective on using less and wasting less which I agree with. She has had a lot of attention from the media of late too, with a piece in the dreaded Daily Mail about avoiding the rampant consumerism of Christmas and making it more simple. You can read it here. She and her family spent a whole year buying nothing and making do, and carried on when the year was over. She is a very inspiring person with a refreshing view on life.

What are your tips for reducing, reusing and recycling this Christmas? Are you trying to make it more simple and meaningful?

The week at Shoestring Cottage – catching up with myself

Well, the week has got away with me. I have no idea where it went, it was just one busy Christmas blur. And we still have almost two weeks to go!

I feel more on top of Christmas now. I have done most of my gift and food shopping, written my cards and started wrapping up the presents. I have begun having odd dreams  that suggest I still don’t quite believe I have control, however. Last night I dreamed I had somehow left the turkey out of the freezer and it was sitting in a bag under the tree, completely defrosted! We aren’t actually having turkey so I should feel reassured….


Christmas is here (and the cat doesn’t care)!

 Yesterday we decided to risk putting the tree up. I didn’t think it would last two minutes with the kitten but, to my surprise, although she was fascinated, once it was up she appeared to lose interest. The two year old tortoiseshell, Lola, gave the bottom branches a chew then also decided there were better things to attack. I got up and went to check this morning and the tree has survived the night!

Our student goes back to Angola on Friday. It will be nice to have the house to ourselves again but I will most certainly miss the income. Belts will need severe tightening until I get another and there is nothing on the cards at the moment. 

In the spirit of frugality I already have some stock on and will make some more thrift soup later (if you are wondering what that is see here). I have given most of the last batch to Mr Shoestring’s mum as she has the flu and doesn’t feel like eating too much at the moment. I also have lots of bananas that appeared to go from green to overripe in a day. I think this happens when they are stored at too low a temperature. I am thinking of making some of Jack Monroe’s  Peanut butter and banana muffins as they look pretty wholesome and perhaps also some banana bread for the freezer.

Speaking of Mr S, he has been struggling with severe back pain for a few months now and an MRI scan has revealed a ruptured disc and degenerative disc disease. We were both shocked by this. He is one of the fittest and most active people I know. So no lifting or strenuous activities for him at the moment. The physio has given him some basic back bends to focus on to get the disc back in place. Forward bends and twisting movements are likely to push it further outwards where it hits the nerve and causes the pain. We will also be taking regular walks and when he is a bit better doing some gentle yoga and Pilates to strengthen his core. I had a good chat to the physio. As a yoga teacher I am interested by exercise as therapy and how the body works. I would love to have the money to train in this area.

I found myself in complete agreement with Arnold Schwarzenegger this week – now, that’s a sentence I never thought I would type. He said that we should all eat less meat for the sake of the planet. He didn’t think many people would sign up to becoming vegetarian, but he did feel that they would support perhaps two meat free days a week. This is a good approach for the money saver too as meat is expensive. I tend to take this approach as my family do not want to stop eating meat but aren’t averse to the occasional veggie dish and we eat a lot of ‘ just a little meat’ type recipes where the meat is  a minor ingredient and there to stop them feeling deprived and to add flavour – a bit of bacon in a pasta bake for example.

I hope you are in control of Christmas and not getting stressed. I am off to do my yoga practice now to keep the turkey nightmares at bay 🙂