Category Archives: Gardening

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!

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.

It is a gorgeous day.  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days. We always grow 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. 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!

A thrifty bank holiday weekend

Meeting a friend at Abberton Reservoir


What a lovely long weekend! We have been non-stop busy here at Shoestring Cottage, mainly in the garden, but I have enjoyed every minute.

Our neighbour chatting over the fence said they weren’t going anywhere as everything cost so much to do. We suggested a walk along the coast, which we do regularly – we are only half an hour away. He said even that would cost £20 by the time they had stopped for coffee and cake. Not the way we do it! A flask and a home made picnic costs just a few pounds to make. You can spend a lot on a day out, but you don’t have to if you can’t afford it – there is loads of free stuff to do!

Starting to look tidier …


In fact, we didn’t choose a coastal walk but had one around the local wildlife trust reserve yesterday and a five mile one today from the house to our beautiful local cemetery and back.

I also hit the boot sale again this morning and found more fantastic bargains for resale on eBay. I am still frequently amazed at what people are selling. Today I discovered a lady selling her spendthrift daughter’s clothes. Everything was £2, even a brand new and beautiful Top Shop dress and skirt, both with tags still attached, a fabulous floral Zara summer skirt and top and a gorgeous Warehouse dress in perfect condition.  I got loads of stuff so spent a few hours washing and listing some and will finish the others after work in the week.

Who needs chocolate?


We had a family roast dinner yesterday with two of the three daughters here. As I am avoiding sugar we had a fruit salad for dessert, which we all enjoyed as much as a chocolate cake 😀.

It’s great to feel we are finally on top of the garden – or getting there anyway. It is a lot of work but so nice to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. 

We are completing our long weekend with a couple of glasses of wine watching the final episode of Broadchurch – what a  series! Who needs the cinema?

My weekend cost very little; in fact the money I spent at the boot sale should be an investment and make me a bit extra. A thrifty weekend in all – how was yours?

Small victories 😀

Time to sort out the patio pots


I had a great eBay day on Thursday. I made three sales but one of them was for £120! If only I could do one of those a week I would be sorted. I hope to sell some more as it’s a double bank holiday weekend and the weather is a bit rubbish. I intend to hit the boot sale on bank holiday Monday to see what other treasures I can search out to resell. You can read about my eBay experiences here and here.

We also managed to book a holiday to celebrate Mr S’s big 5-0 this year (don’t tell him I told you!). We have been searching for a good deal for ages and we finally found one. It pays to shop around. Oddly, the all inclusive price was cheaper than the bed and breakfast option so we went for that. Majorca, here we come!

I have never done an all inclusive resort type vacation before. It will be an experience, I’m sure. Mr S loves a bit of sunshine. We used Teletext Holidays, which was weird as I didn’t know they existed. They seem to have some good offers.

Campanula for the old sink complete with sticks and logs to keep the cats off


We have been cracking on with the gardening, spending at least 3 or 4 hours out there each weekend to keep on top of it all. I have said it before – too much garden, too little time! I love it though. I get so absorbed in what I am doing that I forget about anything else. It is so good for a person’s mental and physical health.

I sowed some pumpkin seeds yesterday. The courgettes and tomatoes are coming up in the greenhouse, as well as hundreds of little seedlings in what we hope will be our new wildflower area. I sorted out some of the pots on the patio and Mr S did loads of cutting back and weeding.  We are planning to do a bit more as it’s a long weekend. 

So, small victories! What about you?

Frugal achievements 

Although March wasn’t a no spend month as January and February were, it was a low spend period. I am forever trying to make my money go further in many small ways. There is nothing life changing in this list, but every little helps! Here are some of my steps towards frugality for March:

Listed and sold several items on eBay

Took cuttings from our unusual multicoloured wallflowers – free plants!

Made a cake as a gift for my parents

Saved some old wine by freezing it in ice cube trays for cooking

Made chicken stock from old carcasses.

Reduced the amount of sachet food I give the cats and increased their dry food (cheaper and better for their teeth).

Took advantage of the Aldi super six offers to buy butternut squashes for soup at 49p each. This should cover our work lunches.

Sowed tomato seeds for the greenhouse. These were free Heinz seeds my daughter picked up! Should be interesting.

Sowed courgettes and broadbeans.

Purchased a lovely pair of curtains for our upcoming redecoration of the lounge. These were from eBay in great used condition for £20.

I think I must also have saved money over the course of the month by not eating sugar. This was much easier than I anticipated. I broke the sugar fast with a slice of lemon drizzle cake yesterday. However, I still intend to keep my consumption of refined sugar very low. I feel better for it!

It is a glorious day here and we have been using the green gym in the garden, i.e. digging and weeding! So I am saving more money and getting my exercise for free! Have a great week.

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.

Growing our own

Finally, spring has sprung! This afternoon we got out into the garden to get some jobs done. Mr S dug up and moved the compost heap as it had been invaded by bindweed so the compost was unusable, whilst I dug over one of the veg plots. 

We have decided to sow wild flowers on one of the plots this year. We were short of time last summer and cultivating, harvesting and preserving everything felt stressful. If I didn’t work full time I would grow a lot more but it is difficult to find the time. So this year we will stick with a few crops that we know are likely to do well: perpetual spinach, runner beans, courgettes, broad beans and chard. We shall also grow tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse. Keeping it simple, but still growing some of our own food. A wildflower garden will be lovely too!

We have blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries and a few apples as well, but they take very little work. So healthy and delicious.

I just loved getting outside. I am sure we must both be lacking vitamin D, we have been cooped up so much!

We went to see my lovely Mum in hospital this morning. Her hip replacement operation seemed to go well. She was a little uncomfortable but not in great pain. I will pop in again on my way home from work tomorrow. She has had a steady stream of family in today so she might actually enjoy some peace when we are all back at work tomorrow 😀.

Have a good week. Bye for now.

Mid week doldrums

Life’s a beach


I’m feeling a little flat. I think it’s because I can see hopeful signs that spring is on its way but it’s taking too damn long to get here! Yesterday was grey and wet. It was busy and stressful at work and I had a crashing head and neck ache for most of the day. Luckily today I feel a bit better. 

I need a bit of sunshine!

What I need is some decent weather at the weekend so that I can get out and tidy up the garden. I find gardening so therapeutic; the combination of being out in the fresh air and creating a bit of order has such a great effect on how I feel. 

The problem with our garden is that there is so much of it and not enough free time to keep it really nice. We are trying to make it lower maintenance by planting lots of flowering shrubs, but they are expensive so this is a slow process. Nonetheless it is so satisfying when the flowers arrive along with the sunshine. I can see the daffodils poking up already. 

Our home from home in Wales


I will cheer myself up today and book our regular week at a small holding in Wales. It is such a cheap holiday in a little old caravan but such a beautiful place that we keep going back.

Anyone else got the winter blues?

Beauty products that last and last…

Last April I blogged about buying a solid deodorant bar from Lush. Ten months on, it is still going strong! I have occasionally used a roll on deodorant on hot, sticky days but other than that I have used the Lush one. Not bad for a £5.50 investment. I will definitely be purchasing another one of these when it eventually runs out.

It made me think about other health and beauty products that seem to last forever. One I tried and really wanted to get on with (but didn’t) was a Mooncup. I love the idea that these produce no waste and, after the initial investment, cost nothing. However, I didn’t find it comfortable to wear. I also tried washable sanitary pads and these lasted quite a long time, but were awkward when I was out and about so I eventually gave up on those.

I make my hairdryers last for years – in the past I have gone through them in under 12 months. Now I make sure I buy one with a two year guarantee and never use it on full power, as this is what makes them blow. My current one is four years old but I hope it will keep going for a while yet. I do blow dry my hair every couple of days so work it quite hard.

I have had the same plastic hairbrush for ever – easily 15 years I should think. I remember brushing my daughters’ hair with it when they were younger. It’s practically a family heirloom!

I make other things last too. I have been known to water down shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, I squeeze the last drop of toothpaste out of the tube by snipping the top off and the same with foundation. I found that putting a little baby oil on the mascara wand as it neared the end made it last ages longer. 

Do you have any products that are reusable or that just seem to last and last? Do you dilute products to extend their use?

How much debt??!!

I heard on the news that the average UK household has around £13,000 of debts, not including their mortgages. The idea of being that much in debt frankly terrifies me. I occasionally put the odd small thing on a credit card, transfer it to a 0% interest card straight away, then pay it off as soon as possible. I’m talking three or four hundred here though, not thousands! 

I suppose this didn’t really surprise me that much though. I do wonder, if you are on an average kind of salary with average expenses, how do you pay that amount off? I guess you start being frugal and reining it in at some point or you go under. I would worry how I would cope if interest rates went up, or if I became ill and my income dropped. I will never get into that much debt!

We had a few hours in the garden yesterday as it was so mild. It really needed it. We have been really neglectful due to lack of time. We found a whole load of leeks that we had forgotten about so pulled the lot up. They were quite small as they hadn’t been thinned out enough but are usable. I feel a big pan of leek and potato soup coming on! It was nice to get out and dig. We did that instead of going for a walk but I’m sure it burned off a few calories.

We have finally found a lodger. She is moving in next weekend and only wants Monday to Friday, which suits us fine. That will boost the bank account a bit. Hopefully I can focus on saving money rather than getting into debt!

And finally …

We finally put the finishing touches on our little second sitting room at the weekend. I am really pleased with it. It is clean, bright and feels so much warmer. 

I still need to complete the downstairs loo. I am going to try to make time to do a bit on Saturday morning, continuing my little and often approach to life! 

We also spent a lot of Sunday weeding and tidying the front garden on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day and great to get out in the fresh air. It is looking a bit smarter now but there is still so much to do. I want to make it much more low maintenance so I am planting shrubs and grasses and mulching with shredded bark to keep the weeds down. 

I will do a few hours whenever I can to get it tidy for winter. We will get there …