Category Archives: General and rants

Five reasons why you should teach your children to cook

Teach your children to cook and one day they will cook for you

Teach your children to cook!

Tonight my 19 year old daughter made me the most delicious dinner. I left her very vague instructions: do something with the pork and the apples in the fridge. She sautéed apple slices in a little butter then added the pork loin fillets and cooked them for 10 minutes. She popped in a heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard, about half a glass of white wine and salt and pepper. That was cooked up for a further 5 minutes or so. It was absolutely yummy! So the first reason you should teach your children to cook is that one day they will cook for you!

This got me thinking. There are so many reasons to teach your children to cook. If you cannot cook yourself, then I hope this post will inspire you to learn and then pass on the legacy. There is no good excuse not to. Great cooks share their skills all over the Internet these days. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube are awash with ideas and instructions.

Having fun and improving motor skills

My three daughters can all cook well. I started encouraging them to get involved from a very early age, getting them to chop up soft ingredients like fruit, veg and cheese with a knife (not a sharp one) from about three years old. They loved it! We baked and decorated cakes, made crumbles and biscuits, sandwiches, omelettes – anything and everything. They learned a lot about weighing ingredients, how to safely use a knife and other kitchen implements like a peeler, where ingredients were stored in the kitchen and, importantly, how to clear up!

Learning about nutrition

Another good reason for teaching your children to cook is that you can use it as an educational opportunity. As we went, I taught mine about nutrition. Which foods contained fibre, which were high in salt, sugar or fat and should be used sparingly, how items such as cheese and bread are made, and which foods contained lots of vitamins. I don’t mean I gave them a lecture; I mentioned this is passing. For example, ‘We are making our own oven chips as these are lower in fat that fried ones’. They may not all stick to it, but they know what a healthy plate of food looks like and how to have a well balanced diet.

Increasing independence

Two of my girls have already left home and the third is about to start university. I don’t have any worries about them living pale and undernourished on ready meals and takeaways. One of them frequently tags me in fabulous looking recipes she has found on Facebook and is about to try, one cooks for a couple of hours each Sunday for the week so she has a decent dinner when she gets back from work and the other…well, she is still at home and frequently cooks my tea! I have never forgotten dropping daughter number 2 at university and finding the freezer full of home made meals from one of her new room mates mothers. She clearly didn’t see the point of teaching her children to cook and was worried her son would starve to death!

Saving money

Home cooking is essential if you need to stick to a budget. Convenience foods and ready meals are so expensive. If you know how to pull together a quick casserole, pasta sauce and or roast dinner you are set for life. However, much or little money you want to spend on food, you will always be able to eat well. The more you cook, the more you can cook, so start your children early. As they grow, their skills and confidence will grow.  Look at recipes with them, write a shopping list and let them help you to do the food shop too, then they will understand how much the ingredients for their fabulous creations cost.

If you teach your children to cook, they will thank you for this amazing and useful life skill. It will help with their health, their bank balance and, very likely, their social lives!

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
Craig Claiborne

 

 

 

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for  a home made eco friendly cleaner such as this one.

home made eco friendly cleaning spray

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

A home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop. Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces.

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 39p and the oil and borax substitute came from Summer Naturals.

Does anyone have some tried and tested eco friendly cleaning spray recipes they would like to share?

It shouldn’t happen to a polling clerk 

Working as a polling clerk

Wow! What a fascinating election result! I am interested again.  I wonder what will happen next? But I won’t go on about politics in this blog. Might save that for Twitter 😀. Working as a polling clerk was an eye opener. I was stunned at how politically ignorant some people are. Several people looked at their ballot paper quizzically and asked why they couldn’t see Corbin, May or whoever. We had to explain that they were voting for their local MP and that if they won the seat it would be a plus score for the political party that they preferred.

Some seemed to think it was a local election, even though we only had one of those back in May.  One lady had a rant at us about everything that was wrong with the government and we had to explain that we weren’t political candidates, just clerical staff. She said ‘Well, you’re lucky I voted at all’ and flounced off, leaving is to ponder this great favour.

I was very pleased to see so many young people in, often voting for the first time. This election appears to have really caught their attention and increased their interest in politics.

I lost my voice….

I didn’t realise how much talking I would need to do. The polling station was very busy and I had to repeatedly explain the process as the voters came and went. My voice is shot to peices today! I am keeping my head down and being quiet at work today (for a change!). It was a long day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope we don’t have another snap election any time soon. It if we do I will be happy to volunteer!

Short and sweet today as I am dog tired. I have lots to do at the weekend too  – eBay listings, cleaning, sorting a meal plan and food shopping, plus a little gardening. Whoever wins a General Election, life goes on….

Watching the wheels of democracy in action  as a polling clerk

Tomorrow I am looking forward to being a polling clerk at my local polling station for the General Election. I have never done this before. I think it will be interesting and and I am quite excited!

As you know, I rarely refuse an opportunity to make some extra cash and this will go towards our week in Wales next month. It is a looooong day though: 6 am until 10 pm, so don’t expect a blog post! When I arrive I have to help set up the room and voting booths, get the signs out, then check voters in and give them a voting slip. Enough food is required to last me the day, so I popped into Asda last night as I pass it on the way back from work and bought a large salad, chicken drumsticks, some sausage rolls, juice and fruit. I also need to provide my own mug, milk and teabags. They do this stuff on the cheap!!

It’s another side hustle but, of course, this kind of opportunity doesn’t arise too often 😀.

Politically disengaged

I try to avoid being too political on this blog. Apart from working at the polls, I am finding the process quite depressing. I feel pretty disengaged for the first time ever and  have been avoiding the news and most of the debate. I have heard it all before! Truth be told, I’m not really happy with any of the potential candidates.

I will vote though. I think we have a duty. There are many places in the world where people don’t get a say. Democracy may not be perfect but it is the best option. So, if you can vote, make sure you do!

The power of self esteem

We went to see a friend’s daughter, who is not quite 14, sing at an open mic night in a pub the other night. As she stood alone on the stage looking entirely self composed, I envied her incredible confidence and self esteem.

As her lovely voice echoed around the room I thought about myself at 14. I was painfully shy at that age, throughout my teens and into my twenties. There is no way I  could have jumped on stage even if I could sing!  I had very little confidence and, looking back, I can see how limiting that was.

If you believe you can, you can!

What I have come to realise is that If you don’t believe that you can do something you won’t even try, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This might mean you don’t revise for exams – what’s the point if you ‘know’ you’re not clever enough to pass? That opportunity for promotion at work? There are loads of people who are better than you who will go for it. You have no chance. University? You will never be offered a place and you don’t think you will manage living alone.

How many super successful people lack self confidence? Do you think they don’t have knock backs and doubts? The difference between those who settle for an ok life and those who strive for more is routed in their self esteem. So, their big idea was rejected or didn’t work? They will put it to one side and try something else. They will keep going because they believe that they will get there.

Running a marathon

Self belief will get you started and then give you the motivation to keep going. Marathon runners have likely trained for the event but as they approach the end it is the encouragement of those around shouting them on plus the little voice inside their head that says ‘I can do this’ that will see them across the finish line.

When your internal dialogue is telling you that you can’t achieve something, try switching it to ‘I can’. My auto response was always to doubt myself . I was so terrified of failure that I could barely begin, let alone stay motivated to achieve what I wanted. When these negative thought pop up, I recognise them and replace the though

Overcoming self doubt

Age and experience have shown me that I can beat those feelings. When I thought about training to be a yoga teacher my over riding attitude was ‘I can’t stand up in front of a room full of strangers and teach’! By then I had enough experience to put those feelings to one side and give it a go. Fortunately, the teacher encouraged me to start a class as soon as I could and within six months I was teaching at the local adult education centre.

When I divorced my husband I was full of self doubt. How would I cope financially? Could I manage everything alone? I found that I could. This is where my frugal journey began in earnest and this little blog was born.

This all had a ripple like effect on other areas of my life. When I was younger I would never stand up in a meeting to speak. Now I do that regularly. I doubt I will ever find it easy but I know I can. I had to do a group interview for my current job. Many people find this kind of situation terrifying but I quite enjoyed it!

Learning self esteem

Although many of us aren’t gifted with natural self confidence from an early age that doesn’t mean we can’t learn it. We can overcome shyness and lack of self esteem. We can replace each negative thought that pops up to undermine us with a positive one. We can develop awareness of our negative and sel-limiting thought patterns and retrain our brains to think differently.

I may not have been able to stand in the spotlight at age 14, but I can do it now! I am a work in progress and still need to give myself a talking to on a regular basis, but I am getting there! How about you? Has a lack of self confidence stopped you achieving what you want?

Of great Pinterest? Mistakes? I made a few…

I am just beginning to start to love Pinterest. Yes, I expect I am late to the party and many of you are already Pinterest addicts!

What is Pinterest?

In case you have no idea what I am talking about, Pinterest contains a cornucopia of advice and information, like a lifestyle search engine but with fantastic images to draw you in and inspire you. There are recipes, crafts, DIY and decorating ideas, advice on buying, selling and making money, gardening ideas, illustrated exercise sequences, travel ideas, items for sale and more.

I have been fighting with making my own pins to bring more people to the blog. It’s not as easy as it looks! Still, I expect practice makes perfect.  I have signed up with PicMonkey and Canva as these are both very helpful for designing the pins. I also watched a couple of You Tube videos – there really is nothing you can’t learn on there!

You might begin to see my efforts on my posts. If you do, feel free to hit the pin it button to share! Sadly, I don’t have much time to mess around with this stuff. I wish I did as I enjoy it! I am very much a total beginner.

If you want to see what I have been up to so far, including the pins I have made and those I saved because they were interesting, head along to Pinterest and search for Shoestring Cottage. I could do with some followers! If you feature your own pins on  Pinterest let me know and I will follow you back. if you are a seasoned expert on Pinterest, feel free to share your advice in the comments. I need all the help I can get!

Here is one I did yesterday. I think it looks OK but there is room for improvement for sure.

It is another beautiful day today here in Essex. It’s too lovely to be sitting here on the laptop, so I will be off out on a walk somewhere, doing a bit of gardening or possibly both! Have a super Sunday!

 

 

The amazing power of bicarbonate of soda

Yesterday it was a warm and muggy day. As I walked into the house after work I was hit with a most unpleasant pong. The bins! Both the main kitchen bin and the food waste container seemed to be fermenting in the heat. Yeeeuch!

Magic white powder

I immediately reached for the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). If I had remembered to sprinkle some of this magical powder into the bins before I put in new liners, they wouldn’t have been so smelly. I have done that now!

We always keep a big of tub of bicarbonate of soda handy as it has so many uses as a cleaner and deodoriser, as well as for making the odd muffin, of course! it is incredibly cheap for something that is so versatile.

I use wood pellets in the cat litter tray as it is better at absorbing smells, but I also sprinkle baking soda  in the bottom of the tray. It makes a huge difference.

It is good for getting rid of nasty odours in the fridge too; just leave a small bowlful at the bottom and it will help neutralise the smell.

Use bicarbonate of soda for personal care

Because of its deodorising properties, bicarbonate of soda can be used under your arms. I sometimes buy a solid deodorant from Lush that is mostly made of bicarb – and it really works! You can dab it straight onto your skin with a flannel.

It is also great for smelly feet when used in this way. Alternatively, a couple of teaspoons left overnight in stinky shoes or trainers will neutralise those nasty niffs!

I’m not a fan of this, but you can also use bicarbonate of soda to clean your teeth. Just dip your toothbrush in and brush! There are recipes online to make a more palatable minty toothpaste with it.  It can also freshen your breath if you mix a teaspoonful in a small glass of water and gargle.

Half a cup of soda in your bath will clean and soften your skin. Add a few drops of essential oil and you can abandon the bubble bath.

Gentle and effective cleaning

Bicarbonate of soda is well known as an effective and gentle household cleaner.

Use it as a scouring powder on dirt and stains pretty much anywhere in the house. Sprinkle it on a damp sponge and give surfaces a good scrub – it isn’t harsh so won’t scratch them. Tip it down the plug hole with half a cup of white vinegar to alleviate smelly drains then use it to scrub the sink!

Soak dishes with dried on food in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda before hand washing or placing in your dishwasher. This also works on tea stained mugs.

Sprinkle baking soda onto smelly sofas, rugs or carpets, leave for half an hour or so then vacuum. It is especially good at getting rid of pet smells.

If you have heavily soiled laundry, try add half a cup of soda alongside your washing powder or liquid. It will also brighten light coloured items.

I love bicarbonate of soda because I don’t like a houseful of chemicals. I like to keep things simple! I also try to avoid a lot of unnecessary products and packaging.  But mostly, I love bicarbonate of soda because it is cheap!

I have just ordered a 1kg bag from Amazon for £4.74 including delivery. It works out even cheaper if you purchase a 5kg tub. Please note that if you click through via either of the images above and purchase something I will earn a small commission.

SHOMO Awards: who will you nominate?

SHOMO Awards 2017

I mentioned recently that I had joined the UK Money Bloggers group and was featured on their site, here. The group runs annual awards for bloggers, the SHOMO Awards, each September. I have booked my ticket to attend and I’m so excited to go. This will be a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and attend helpful talks and workshops. If anybody wants to nominate me I would be very grateful.  I am hoping to get nominations in the Best Money Saving Blog and the Best Frugal & Thrift Blog categories. You can find out more and make your nominations for all of your favourite money blogs here.

Much More With Less

SHOMO Awards UK Money BloggersToday I went to meet one of the group to compare notes and swap hints and tips. Faith Archer lives just up the road in Hadleigh. She has a lovely blog, Much More With Less, documenting her move from London to the countryside, with frugal ideas and lots of beautiful photographs of her garden. We had lunch and a long chat about blogging, exchanging thoughts and tips. Hadleigh is a lovely Suffolk town with lots of charity shops, which Faith very kindly guided me round. I hope to see her again at the SHOMO Awards.

Making extra money as a polling clerk

With the general election just around the corner, I have been recruited as a polling clerk! I am quite excited to see the wheels of democracy at close hand. It is a very long day: 6 am to 10 pm. It’s not the best paid hourly rate but will nevertheless provide a nice chunk of cash for my savings. I am always on the look out for ways to make extra money and it should be interesting.

Has anybody else helped at an election?

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!

How to get your five a day on a budget 

We eat very cheaply here at Shoestring Cottage. However, not at the expense of our health, so we always eat our five a day. In fact, we eat a lot more than five portions of fruit and vegetables. I have around eight most days because I eat a lot of fruit. This has become easier since I gave up sugar. (Well, I have had the odd lapse but I have eaten very little, but that’s a post for another day!).

Check out your local market

It isn’t difficult to eat your five a day cheaply. There are so many ways to get some extra fruit and veg into your diet without breaking the bank. In the past when I was saving money I purchased from the greengrocer’s stall at the local market. If you have a good market and the time to get there this is still brilliant value. Now that I work so much I have little time to go into town, so I tend to get my fruit and veg from the discount supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. Their specials are excellent. I also look out for yellow sticker reductions if I can get to a store later in the day. I always freeze these or use them up straight away. 

Canned, dried and frozen count towards your five a day. This includes canned tomatoes, sweet corn and pulses. We always have these in the larder. Canned veg such as peas, mushrooms and carrots are really inexpensive and quite good in casseroles.

Pulses can replace some of the more expensive meat in dishes like bolognese – who will notice a few lentils thickening the sauce? Or you can leave the meat out all together and have a mix of beans in a chilli sauce over your rice. How about a can of chick peas in with your chicken curry?

Canned fruit can be more expensive, but fruit cocktail and peaches are reasonable and make a nice dessert with a bit of custard. If they come in syrup I tend to wash this off -too much sugar!

Dried fruits are also worth considering in small quantities . A little pack of raisins in your lunchbox can be nice if you fancy something sweet and I have them on my porridge instead of sugar.

Another small treat I enjoy that count as one of my five a day is an Aldi Foodie Market Raw fruit bar. They consist of cold pressed squished fruit and are around 90 calories a bar. I love the black currant and cherry flavours particularly. They cost £1.49 for a box of five. Much cheaper than a chocolate bar and so much healthier!