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?

Free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday

No money? Wondering what to do this fine bank holiday weekend? How about these ideas to keep you and the family entertained?

Get the April issue of Gardener’s World magazine. They have a 2 for 1 offer for over 400 gardens around the uk. Plus you have a great magazine to read when you get home😀.

Go to the park and play on the swings (preferably take a child with you, lol), or take a football or cricket bat.

Play rounders! I have excellent memories of family holidays doing this when I was young.

Go for a walk at a fast pace and you won’t need to bother with the gym. Do it with a buggy and you are resistance training!

Check your local museums and art galleries – some will be free.

Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, ideal for a family walk: www.visitparks.co.uk. It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Go find a bluebell wood. This is a good time to go! You can find some listed on the Woodland Trust website here.

Check out your local wildlife trust. They have all kinds of activities going on, from a family pond dip to an twilight bat or owl walk.

Go to the garden centre. We have several locally that have so much to see for free, and the kids love their displays. However, don’t be drawn in to the café, and don’t buy anything unless you need it and it is a good price.

Visit your relatives and friends. They are an under-rated and often under-valued form of entertainment and support.

Find a boot sale and get yourself some bargains.

There are lots more family ideas at dayoutwiththekids.com as well as great offers and deals at  Moneysavingexpert.com.

We will be meandering around a garden I should think. Maybe see you there! 

A gem on our doorstep

I often think that people love to spend a fortune jetting all over the world yet don’t take the time to explore what there is on their doorstep. We often get out and about in the local area and I think I know it well. However, this morning I found something wonderful to see five miles down the road!

We went for a walk in the village of Copford, not far from Colchester. We wandered down to the lovely old church and discovered some very old painted frescos on the walls inside. They are fabulous! It is a lovely church with a wooden frame and some gorgeous stained glass. The roof and walls were restored in the nineties. What a great find.

Outside there was a sea of daffodils, absolutely stunning. It was a very windy day but sunny and we had walk past Copford Hall and into the woods. I recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

We came home and went straight outside again to do a bit of pruning and tidying and to dig the second veggie patch. I worked up quite a sweat. Gardening is such good exercise and cheaper than the gym!

Keeping busy is stopping me worrying about my dad. My brother and sister took him to hospital today and they waited hours whilst they tried to find a bed for him. This makes me cross – it’s not as if they weren’t expecting him. He finally got a bed when they opened up a day centre as an extra ward. Here he is having his dinner. He won’t be able to eat after this as the op is tomorrow afternoon. 

I think the NHS is wonderful but gravely under funded at the moment. Let’s hope they do a good job and we get him home safe and sound. 

Back soon – have a great week.

What’s your best money saving idea?

I belong to a few Facebook groups whose focus is frugality and the question that comes up time and again when people join is ‘How can I save money? Where do I start?’ It seems many people are still struggling to get from pay day to pay day and looking for money saving advice and inspiration.

My first piece of advice is to have a long, hard look at your outgoings. Go through your bank statements and see what you can cut. Have you an insurance policy on an item you no longer own? Are you paying too much for your utilities? Shop around. Can you save money on your mobile phone or your tv and internet package? You need to check if there is a penalty for early cancellation but sometimes it is worth paying, or you could stay with the same provider but downgrade your package. Do you have a gym membership you barely use?

Make a budget and stick to it. I use Budget Brain from Money Saving Expert. Check your bank balance regularly so you know how much is in the account and when you need to rein in your spending.  

It is interesting to see how much cash can drip out of your account in the form of small purchases on lunch, coffees, newspapers, etc. £10 withdrawals here and there can soon add up to hundreds of pounds. You can save a lot of money by anticipating these small expenses in advance and organising yourself. For example, take your own coffee, teabags and milk to work rather than buying it. Take your own packed lunch. 

Avoid temptation. If you know you are prone to impulse purchases, window shopping is not the pastime for you!

Food shopping is often a great place to save money. You can save loads if you stop buying branded goods and use cheaper supermarket own brands, buy your fruit and veg at a local market, minimise convenience foods, plan your menus, make a shopping list before you hit the supermarket, eat less meat…I could go on. There are so many money saving ideas.

Look at your heating and hot water costs. There are plenty of ways to insulate your home cheaply, you could turn the thermostat down a notch, get the family to wear more layers of clothing, etc. More ideas here.

What about transport? Could you car share? Leave the car at home and walk or cycle?

Do you have a garden? If so, how about growing some of your own food. Digging is as good as a gym session 😀.

What are your top money saving tips for the newbie?

Eating out? It’s tempting, but…

It’s so tempting to spend loads going out to pubs and restaurants when there is a celebration or you just feel like a treat. My friends seem to do it all the time. A lunch out or cake and tea when they are shopping, maybe a meal followed by the pub five or six times a month. We hardly ever do this. The budget won’t allow it and I prefer to eat at home with friends and family anyway. I would rather do this than risk spending half my food budget on a single meal that might be less than satisfying. The pix are from a very nice meal out we had on holiday, so we do have the odd treat!

I also had two meals out over Christmas. One was absolutely fantastic, at a small family run Italian restaurant,  and one was mediocre meal at a well known pub chain. Because I so rarely treat myself to a dinner out I really resent paying for something I could do better -and vastly cheaper – at home. I emailed a letter of complaint to the latter a month ago but have so far heard nothing. Just remembered about this so will follow it up!

I do enjoy hosting the odd dinner party. It is quite possible to do this without breaking the bank – some home made soup, coq au vin and rice maybe, some fruit, cream and meringue. My low spend January won’t allow that this month but maybe next month.

If I had lots of money I would be happy to eat out more often I am sure. I don’t mind supporting someone else’s employment, especially if I don’t have to do the washing up!

What about you? Fancy dinner out?

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …

Soup, soup, wonderful soup!

I love soup at any time of the year, but it is particularly satisfying when it is cold and dark, you are broke and hungry and you want something comforting. I tend to go for vegetable soups so they are really healthy – you drink a couple of your five a day!

I plan to try Margaret’s yummy looking pestou soup here, which looks like a meal in itself. I very often just chuck whatever I have in the fridge into a pan with onions and stock and it always works out delicious, but I have some favourites I enjoy too.

Here are some of the recipes I like:

Carrot and coriander

Courgette and celery

Minestrone (another meal in itself)

I can recommend investing in some Sistema microwave cups if you like taking your soup to heat at work. They don’t leak and heat up really quickly, although they are prone to stain if you like tomato soup 😀. I will get some of the batch I made over Christmas out of the freezer for lunch today. 

I dredged the bottom of the freezer for last night’s dinner and found a pack of Quorn sausages that needed eating. These are not my favourite – I won’t buy them again -but they cooked up a treat in a sausage casserole. I used an onion, some garlic, a pepper, half a jar of pasta sauce, a tin of tomatoes and the end of a bottle of red wine with some herbs chucked in and it was nice with sweet potato mash. 

This morning I will top up what I have in the cupboards with a small shop at Aldi. I have my list at the ready. Have a great weekend!

Can’t afford a gym membership?

Me neither! I have joined gyms in the past but since I have been working full time I find it hard to find the time to make the best of my membership. 

Along with many people, the start of a new year has made me pledge to get fitter in 2017. I know from experience that I need to find forms of exercise that I can easily fit round the general busyness of life or I won’t keep it up consistently. It also needs to be free! I am on a no spend January and aiming for a low spend life generally to increase my savings.

I am a trained yoga teacher so no excuses not to practice yoga regularly (except for general laziness,  of course!). I love a good walk, as does Mr S, so we just need to get ourselves organised to get out for a nice long one every weekend. That’s the plan. Yoga most days, a good walk every weekend and a few little walks during my lunch break too. Ilona over at Life After Money is running her 1000 mile challenge again. I am not sure I can quite manage that far but I am keeping a tally to see how I get on. Four and a half miles and three yoga sessions so far this year! If you want to join Ilona see here.

An autumn walk


I was listening to the Simon Mayo Show on the radio on the way home from work which featured a fitness expert. She gave tips on using any small amounts of time you have to exercise, such as pulling your tummy in for a count of ten whilst waiting at the traffic lights or clenching your buttocks. I often do my pelvic floor exercises whilst stuck in traffic so will add these to the list! I also always take the stairs rather than the lift at work. 

What do you do to keep fit that is either free or costs very little?

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 🙂