This week’s easy meal plan

easy meal plan

Simply souper

As the weather remains rather windy and cold, I am still in soup making mode. It is so nice with some cheese on toast or crusty bread for lunches.  In the past few weeks I have made pea soup and celery soup. As there is a pack of parsnips in the bottom of the fridge begging to be eaten, this week I will be using this recipe to make spicy roast parsnip soup.

easy meal plan

We also seem to have a lot of apples. I go through phases of eating them constantly and then not fancying them. As I don’t want them to go wrinkly I will make an spiced apple cake to snack on during the week and for dessert with custard.

Here is what I have planned for dinners this week. I am going for easy stuff as I am still suffering with my poorly neck and shoulder.


Prawn paella. I will use onion, garlic, peppers, peas and some stock and basically make it up as I go along! We shall have salad with this and maybe a chunk of baguette.


easy meal plan

Pork chops, roast potatoes and vegetables for Mr S. I will have a Linda McCartney cheese and leek plait. My daughter bought me these when she was in Tesco and they are really nice. I will definitely buy them again. Tesco do seem to have the best selection of vegetarian items.


Macaroni cheese with broccoli. I love this – macaroni cheese is the ultimate comfort food.


Slow cooker vegetable stew and dumplings. I will make cheese dumplings from an old recipe from my Cranks recipe book. This was in the days when you couldn’t buy vegetable suet. You can now, but I prefer these!


Tuna plait with jacket potatoes and salad. I will publish the recipe for this next week. It is another one stolen from my mum. She is going to start charging me for these if I’m not careful. She is a great cook. My girls, even though they are now adults, still love going round there for what they call a ‘nanny dinner’!


We are going to the cinema! I have got tickets to the Joni Mitchell 75th birthday show, which is being shown on the same day all over the world. Mr S is not that excited about this, but is coming anyway. He isn’t a Joni fan. Imagine!! We will have tuna plait again – hopefully there will be enough for two meals.

The Joni film is showing at cinemas all over the country, but we are going to the Odeon.


Friday night is….fish and chips. Not from the chippy – just out of the freezer. I always make Friday an easy night. Glass of wine, film on the tele – fab!

For more of my frugal recipe ideas, seethis page.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links.

5 quotes to create calm


Quotes to create calm

I had a mega stressful day yesterday, for reasons I can’t really go into on the blog. I thought that, rather than doing five frugal things this week, I would calm my restless brain with five calming quotations. I feel better already! I hope you enjoy my five quotes to create calm.

#1 The calmness of cats

“The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat” – Jules Renard.

As a cat owner, I can verify that there are few creatures that look quite so relaxed as a cat. Not necessarily sitting, but lying usually. Our cat, Dora, gets so calm and chilled you can almost feel her sinking into your lap. She makes you relaxed just looking at her!

quotes to create calm

#2 The calm of the countryside

“I long for the countryside. That’s where I get my calm and tranquillity; from being able to come and find a spot of green.” – Emilia Clarke

I couldn’t agree more! Getting out into the countryside or having a walk through the woods always helps me to relax, being surrounded by green. It is one of the many reasons I love holidaying in Wales. There is so much endless green space. I believe we suffer when we are trapped in a concrete jungle.

quotes to create calm

#3 Acceptance to create calm

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” – Wayne Dyer

I could quote Wayne Dyer over and over. He was such a wise and clever person. Acceptance of a situation that you cannot change is the path to a peaceful mind. Easier said than done sometimes, but worth pondering on when you find yourself feeling out of control.

#4 The power of meditation

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things. That’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment…It’s a discipline and you have to practice it.” – Walter Isaacson

I have been practising meditation on and off for a while. It is worth finding the time to try it, although it can feel insanely difficult to learn to still the chattering monkey that is your brain. I have found that using an app such as Calm or Headspace is really helpful to get started. I explored the various apps and online resources for meditation in this post.

quotes to create calm#5 Positive thinking

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” – Wade Boggs

I really believe that cultivating a positive attitude towards life, and expressing gratitude for the good things you experience, is massively beneficial to your mental and physical health. I recently wrote a gratitude journal for a week as part of this post, and continue to lift my spirits when I feel low by counting my blessings. It really works!!

quotes to create calm

I hope that you enjoyed these quotes to create calm. Do you have any go to gurus for when life is giving you a kicking and you feel a bit frazzled?




Six reasons everyone on a budget should learn to cook

everyone on a budget should learn to cook

My daughter, who is at university and on an extremely tight budget, is a very good cook. She also has a good understanding of nutrition. I am happy to take credit for this, as I always encouraged her and her sisters to cook and bake from an early age. Hopefully this means that she won’t come back looking too pale and under nourished! I think everyone living on a budget should learn to cook and here is why.

Six reasons everyone on a budget should learn to cook

Cooking from scratch is cheaper

everyone on a budget should learn to cook

The most obvious reason to learn to cook is that it’s cheaper than buying ready made. I’m not saying you have to cook everything from scratch. Who has the time? However, you can whip up a pasta sauce for the price of a can of tomatoes, a few dried herbs and an onion.

You can get creative with  basic ingredients

Once you have learned a few basic skills, you can have a look at what you have – or what you can afford – and make tasty dishes from whatever is in the cupboard. Curries, the aforementioned pasta sauces, casseroles, soups, omelettes and risottos can be made as cheaply as fish fingers and beans and are much more interesting.

You can make dishes that are more nutritious

Vegetables and pulses are cheap, but also really nutritious. You don’t need expensive ingredients to eat delicious budget food, such as chick pea curry or lentil vegetable stew. If you like the taste of meat but can’t afford it, dishes like cheesy pasta with leeks, peas and bacon or smoky chicken with chick peas can help stretch the rations. Generally speaking, most dishes that you make yourself won’t contain too much sugar, salt and additives and will therefore be healthier.

You can batch cook to save time and money

everyone on a budget should learn to cook

If you can cook basic dishes such as a tomato sauce, you can make a ton of it and freeze some. Then you can use it mixed with mince or vegetables as a pasta sauce, for lasagne or in a chilli. You can buy lots of vegetables cheaply in season or at the end of the day at the market and batch cook soup. We grow some of our own vegetables, which makes batch cooked soup making even cheaper.

You can entertain at home rather than eating out

everyone on a budget should learn to cook

If a restaurant meal is likely to stretch your budget too far, you can entertain friends by cooking at home much more cheaply. You are then likely to get return invitations and free dinners in exchange! You can also organise a pot luck supper and confidently take a dish good enough to share.

You can make treats on a budget

If you learn to bake, you can make treats such as farmhouse fruit cake or flapjacks. You can whip up a batch of chocolate brownies or a nice fruit fool. Treats should feature in a budget menu, after all!

For more of my favourite frugal recipes, have a look here.

Easy cream of celery soup

cream of celery soup

I love home made soup. It makes such a cheap and nutritious lunch with some crusty bread. However, I tend to chuck anything and everything in, so If I am not careful I end up with a hearty veg soup that tastes the same each time.

Inspired by my mum’s pea soup recipe, I thought I would focus on a single vegetable at a time in my soup making for a while. So next up…an uncomplicated but incredibly tasty cream of celery soup. You can knock this up in twenty minutes and it will taste far superior than anything you can get from a tin.

Cream of celery soup


2 tbsp. oil

1 head of celery, washed and chopped

I medium onion, chopped

1 large potato or two smaller ones, chopped

1 dessertspoon of good vegetable stock, such as Marigold dissolved in 500ml boiling water (or make your own, recipe here)

250ml milk or soy or oat milk if you prefer

Salt and pepper to taste


cream of celery soup

Heat the oil and chuck in the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes or so, but don’t allow to brown. Add the potato and cook for another couple of minutes.

Dissolve your stock powder in boiling water and add to the vegetables. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes and celery are soft. Add the milk then allow to warm and blend for another 5 minutes.  Whizz up with a hand blender then season to taste. It’s wise not to add the salt until this point as the celery and stock are already salty. If your soup is too thick at this point add a little more milk and warm through before serving.

If you enjoy this cream of celery soup recipe, have a look at my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

What’s in the larder? This week’s Shoestring meal plan

shoestring meal plan

This week’s shoestring meal plan attempts to use up some items that have been sitting there a while. I refuse to waste food! Hopefully I will only need to do a small shop to eek out what we already have in the larder.

I am also making double of lots of our meals at the moment, as I am not up to loads of cooking. We really don’t mind eating the same thing two nights in a row, as it means less work!

Again to save me getting too much pain from my poorly neck, I stocked up on a few vegetarian frozen meals when I was in Tesco the other day. I don’t often shop in Tesco, but they do sell a really good range of nice veggie and vegan items to store in the freezer.

This week’s meal plan


I unexpectedly have two out of three daughters home on Saturday, so I need to make something they will enjoy. DD1 has requested a chicken casserole, so that is what they will have. I will make a vegetarian one for me, which will do for Saturday and Sunday. As I have parsnips and mushrooms that need eating I will use this Nigel Slater recipe. I have made it several times and it is delicious. If I can’t pick up any chestnuts, I will just make it without.

We will have mashed potato and broccoli with this.

We shall have fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and honey for dessert. Obsessed with Greek strained yogurt since I discovered it is very low in lactose.


Vegetable casserole, but this time with rice to ring the changes!


I picked up some Tesco cheese and onion crisp bakes recently from their freezer section. I really like these. They also make an easy meal with some salad or vegetables and potatoes.

They do a very similar version of these in most of the supermarkets it seems.


Salmon with new potatoes and vegetables.


Another Tesco veggie meal for me. I thought their mushroom and camembert pies looked scrummy so bought some of those whilst I was in there.


Lentil Bolognese and pasta with salad. There are peppers to use up in this. I will make enough of this for tomorrow too.


Lentil Bolognese again with frozen corn on the cob.

So, that’s my easy shoestring meal plan for this week. What will you be eating?

For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see this page.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links.


Five frugal things

five frugal things

I don’t feel as if I’ve done much this week at all! I am still off work and not exactly getting out much. However, as ever, it is the little things that add up to a few achievements.

Firstly though – I have news! The results of my MRI scan finally came back and the spinal clinic rang me. As I thought, I have bulging discs  pressing on my nerves. I knew this was the issue and it explains the terrible pain I have been suffering for months now. Not one, but two discs are prolapsed. I don’t do things by halves! I should get an invitation soon to go in and discuss treatment options, but the chap I spoke to seemed to think surgery could be involved. It’s not the best news, but actually I feel that I am moving towards getting it resolved, so I am happy.

Anyway, here are my five frugal things for this week.

Darned my socks

I haven’t darned a sock for ages. If you buy cheap ones it hardly seems worth the effort. However, a couple of my really good bamboo ones developed holes in the big toes. So I actually darned them! Well, I sewed them up and did a good enough job for them to still be wearable. I am no seamstress but I remember a few things from my sewing lessons at school last century :). As the saying goes, every little helps when it comes to saving money.

Home made soup

My mum gave me her recipe for pea soup recently and I have made it a few times. It is so easy and cheap. I can’t be chopping up loads of vegetables at the moment and this requires very little prep. The recipe is here if you fancy giving it a try.

Buying second hand

buy second hand

I was really delighted the other day when Mr S found us a fully working Dyson vacuum cleaner in the charity shop for £40. I gloated a bit about it in this post about buying second hand.

It works fantastically well, even coping with the cat hair that my Henrietta just doesn’t pick up. I know – it says a lot about me that I am this excited about a vacuum cleaner! It’s so hard to understand why it had been thrown out.


I also spotted an almost new black hoodie in the same charity shop. It was only £2. As I am living in jeans and comfy tops at the moment, rather than my office attire, I realise I need more casual clothes.

Got my eye on a pair of jeans on Vinted too. This is a new second hand clothing site and worth a look.

DIY exercise

I have been reluctant to do a lot of exercise over the past couple of months as  I was worried I would cause more damage to my neck. However, last week I began a regular daily routine as I feel my muscles are turning to jelly. Having spoken to the spinal clinic I have been assured that the exercise I have done won’t cause further damage and can only beneficial.

I do 20 minutes of gently yoga based stretching followed by a two mile (minimum) walk. I definitely feel better for this, and it costs me precisely nothing. I can’t lie to do the yoga as I get more pain, but I have devised a plan that I can do standing or sitting.

What have been your five frugal things this week?


Why you should buy second hand


I love being a second hand Rose! Now that I know what you can find second hand if you look carefully, I am reluctant to buy much that is new. From furniture, to clothing, household goods and tools, you can buy pretty much anything second hand.

Just a few days ago, Mr S spotted a fully working Dyson vacuum cleaner in our charity shop for £40. I had been hankering after a ball upright that could manage all of the cat fur in our house, but they are upwards of £250 new. It is exactly what I wanted and works perfectly. That boy has an eye for a bargain!

buy second handWhy should you buy second hand?

There are many reasons to buy pre-owned goods. Here are some of them.

You save money

It is obviously much more affordable to buy second hand goods, which is great if you are on a budget or trying to pay off debt.

You can afford better quality

In fact, buying second hand really allows you to see the quality of an item. If it has been worn in and is still in good nick, you can see it is good quality. Cheap, fast fashion is likely to look a little faded second hand.

You can buy designer brands

The cost of some designer and branded items amazes me, but people seem happy to pay way over the odds for an item just because it is from a particular designer or brand. These same people seem to tire of their branded goods quite quickly, which is great for bargain hunters like me. I regularly pick up expensive designer items at boot sales, in charity shops and online.

It’s better for the environment

Buying second hand helps create a circular economy. Instead of our make, take and waste approach, which depletes resources and causes issues with waste disposal, buying second hand (and donating or selling on when you no longer require the product) allows maximum use from the resources used in the item’s production.

When you buy second hand, you also encourage people to recycle and prevent items going to landfill.

You save on packaging

When you buy second hand from a boot sale, your local Facebook selling group or a charity shop, items won’t be as highly packaged as a new item, if at all. Even if you buy from online auction sites such as eBay, Depop, Gumtree, etc, sellers often send items in recycled cardboard and other packaging. This is another plus for the environment!

You can buy vintage and unique items

buy second hand

Charity shops, boot sales and jumbles are often a treasure house of quirky finds and vintage items. I love vintage art nouveau and styles from the early 1900s, for example, and Mr S has found some really lovely things for our house. He picked up what seems to be a genuine old piece of Clarice Cliff and a gorgeous old lamp, both on Facebook. He also came across this quirky teapot in the shape of a car, which we have since found on eBay for over £100!

You support charities

Many charities rely on their shops to bring in much needed cash. Even though I often complain that some of them charge too much, generally I am happy to buy from them and know that my purchase is helping a good cause.

It’s fun!

When you shop second hand you get the thrill of the chase! There are few things so satisfying as knowing you have found a mega bargain, like our Dyson, or located a unique vintage item.  It also tends to be a lot cheaper than spending the day in the shopping mall. I often come back with bags of stuff from the boot sale, having spent about a tenner!

buy second hand

What types of item should you buy second hand?


I have never bought a new car in my life and don’t suppose I ever will. Someone once told me they go down in price by a couple of thousand as soon as you drive them off the forecourt! I am sure there is some truth in this. A gently used second hand vehicle is my ideal.


Ditto with bikes – I don’t think we have bought any of those new either.  There are always loads of kids’ bikes in particular at boot sales and used adult bikes aplenty online.


Furniture is another area where you can see the quality of an item when you purchase it second hand. People seem to change their sofas with their colour schemes and you will often find them in charity shops in great used condition. I also love old wooden bedroom furniture from the 1930s and 40s. These are heavy and solid, not like the flat pack rubbish you can buy nowadays that last 5 minutes.

Looking round our lounge/diner, I can only see one piece of furniture that was purchased new. This is a good solid pine bookshelf that was bought 15 years ago and will easily do that and more again.

Mobile phones

I was slightly nervous about buying a second hand phone, but Mr S has had two now. Both have been great! As neither of us wants to get tied into an expensive phone contract, a second hand phone makes sense. We can pick up some good quality, fully working cast offs that people sell when they upgrade.


Apart from underwear and sometimes footwear (as I have wide feet!), I rarely get any new clothes and almost always buy second hand. I think the current throwaway fast fashion industry is shockingly damaging to the environment.  Also, if a top can be produced in Asia then transported all the way to the UK and still only cost a fiver I worry about how much (or how little) the people who made it must have been paid for their work.

I can buy much better quality, high end bits of clothing if I get them second hand. Great when you are on a budget but want to be a more ethical shopper.

This post gives more information on buying second hand clothing.


buy second hand

Second hand books are everywhere! I don’t read as much as I should, but if I am off on holiday and know I will have time I will often peruse the shelves of the charity shops. If I need a specific title I usually see if it is second hand on Amazon.

I also like the book sales they run periodically at the library – they sell them off super cheaply.

Media – DVDs, CDs and computer games

Ditto. If you aren’t into streaming you can pick up all of the above very inexpensively second hand.


buy second hand

When my daughters were little we bought loads of toys second hand. Particularly when they are tiny, they don’t care if they are new or not as long as they have good play value. Boot sales are extremely good if you want to buy second hand toys and games.

There are lots of things I have missed off this list I am sure! If you buy second hand you can satisfy your craving for a bit of retail therapy without breaking the bank, benefit your local economy and help the environment. What’s not to like?


The Wilko Eco range review: eco friendly cleaning on a budget



eco friendly cleaning on a budget

I was delighted when I popped into my local Wilkinson’s store recently and spotted some own label eco-friendly cleaning products at a very low price. Now that I have been using them for a while, I thought it was time to write a review. It seems to can do eco friendly cleaning on a budget. (This isn’t a sponsored post.)

One of my frustrations with trying to live a greener life is that, unless you are happy to make all of your own cleaning items (and who has the time?), they tend to be pretty expensive. Up to now I have used a lot of vinegar and bicarb of soda, occasionally treating myself to the odd bottle of Ecover or a refill in an old bottle when I have managed to find somewhere that offers this an option.

I have made some of my own spray cleaners (such as this lemon cleaning spray) and will continue to do so because they are effective, cheap and easy. However, I haven’t found vinegar alone very effective as a toilet cleaner or fabric softener, so have had to fork out for green versions.

What items are in the range?

Wilko have eight products in their Eco range, all at a very good price, as follows:

Dishwasher tablets, 25 for £3.50

Washing up liquid, 500 ml for £1

Eco kitchen cleaner spray, 500ml for £1

Laundry liquid, 1.5 ml, £3

Fabric conditioner, 1.5, £3

Multi surface cleaning spray, 500 ml for £1

Toilet cleaner, 750 ml for £1

Bathroom spray, 500 ml for £1

They also sell soda crystals at £1.50 a pack, which was what I actually went in there for. My local Coop always used to sell them, but it’s hard to track them down these days.

Why are they eco?

Wilkinson’s says all of the products in the Eco range use plant derived ingredients, are vegan and won’t irritate sensitive skin. They do, however, all come in plastic containers, which aren’t too eco friendly – although they are reusable and recyclable.

Do they work?

So far I have tried the washing up liquid, the dishwasher tablets and the toilet cleaner and I have to say they have all been excellent and very effective.

The dishwasher tablets come in a dissolvable plant based cover, so I was excited to find them. I was irritated by having to use tablets individually wrapped in plastic. Because of this I had previously tried an environmentally friendly powder brand, but it was soooo expensive! These actually work better than the cheap Aldi ones I have been using and I will definitely continue with these.

The washing up liquid also works well. It isn’t as thick as the Ecover one, but so much cheaper I am sure I can live with this. You didn’t need much so it is lasting quite a long time.

The toilet cleaner is brilliant! I stopped shoving bleach down the loo a year ago now and was buying Ecover instead (which is also really good and smells lovely). And do you know – the toilet didn’t turn brown as I was afraid it would! The Wilko loo cleaner works a treat and has a natural and pleasant fragrance. Definitely buying this again as well.

What next?

I won’t bother using any of the cleaning sprays as I am happy with my home made one for now. If you read my review of my Eco Egg laundry egg, you will know that I no longer need to buy laundry liquid. However, I can’t always get a refill of fabric conditioner (and it’s a hideous price) so I will be giving this a go next.

It’s great to see a large company offering eco-friendly products at an affordable price. Well done Wilko for leading the way. Now, how about installing refilling stations into your stores? That really would impress me!

You can see the whole range of Wilko’s Eco cleaning products on their website. Do fancy eco friendly cleaning on a budget?



My mum’s pea soup (easy peasy!)


We have eaten this easy and delicious pea soup – made with frozen peas – at my mum’s a few times lately. It is delicious and really cheap to make.  So I prised the recipe from her and here it is!

My mum’s pea soup

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

1 stick of celery

550 g frozen peas

800 ml vegetable or chicken stock

2 tbsp chopped mint or basil


8 tbsp mascarpone cheese (optional)


pea soup

Fry the onion and celery in the oil for 5 minutes until softened. Add the stock and to the boil. Pour in the peas, bring back to the boil and cook for around 5-10 minutes. Add the herbs and season to taste. Blitz in a blender and serve.

You can add 8 tbsp of mascarpone with the herbs to this pea soup, which makes it very rich and creamy, but I didn’t have any and it was nice without.

This is such an easy recipe for pea soup. If you try it, I hope you love it as much as we do. For more of my favourite frugal recipes, click here.



This week’s frugal and healthy meal plan

frugal and healthy

I am aiming for another frugal and healthy meal plan this week. We will be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and lots of vegetarian food.


Stir fried vegetables and noodles with baked chicken for Mr S and perhaps a Quorn fillet for me (I might not bother). I have carrots, courgettes, celery, peas and cabbage to put in the stir fry. Couldn’t see any bean sprouts in Lidl yesterday but we can do without.


Fish pie. Lidl had a fish mix on offer so I snapped it up.  We have broccoli and carrots to eat with this.

If I feel up to it I will make a bread pudding with some of the odds and ends of bread in the freezer.


frugal and healthy

Brown rice cashew nut pilaf. I will make enough for two nights and have the same tomorrow night as well. We will have a green salad to accompany this.


As above :). It’s always good to have a night off cooking.


frugal and healthy

Cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie with vegetables and vegetarian gravy. I just love lentils!


frugal and healthy

Home made ratatouille with brown rice. I made this last week and put half in the freezer. We will have this with some grated cheese for a nice, easy tea.


Our usual end of week easy omelette dinner, maybe with a jacket potato or some air fried chips and salad.

Since I discovered that proper Greek strained yogurt is really low in lactose, I have been buying it every week. It makes a nice breakfast on muesli or an easy pudding with some fruit and honey. Love it! I also bought some low fat humous to have as a snack on crackers or as a dip with carrots.

So that’s my frugal and healthy meal plan. What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.


This week’s frugal wins #Fivefrugalthings

It has been a momentous week. I have taken voluntary redundancy from May! Now to decide what to do next. We will keep the belts very tight until I work out an alternative source of money to live on. It’s exciting though. I am so ready for a change. In that spirit here, here are this week’s frugal wins.

Devising an exercise plan

I watched the Tonight programme last night about the problem with back pain and how many days work are lost as a result. All the experts were saying that the issue is our sedentary lifestyles and sitting for long periods at desks or on the sofa.

My pain isn’t back pain, it is a trapped nerve in my neck. However, I know that what they were saying about a sedentary lifestyle is what has happened to me. I have worked for ten years at a desk job. When I started I was very fit, teaching and practising yoga, doing martial arts and going to the gym. Over the past 5 years I got less and less active and got used to suffering various aches and pains as a result.

frugal things

Once I was fit…

Now I have resolved to get fitter and even looked up a personal trainer specialising in back pain. However, at £40 a session I realised I could join a gym for that much each month! I might even do so, but first I am going back to what I know: yoga and walking. How did I get to this? I am a flipping exercise professional, for heaven’s sake!

So I have saved money by sorting out a very gentle 15 minute yoga plan followed by a two mile walk. As I am still signed off work there is no reason why I can’t find the time for this, as long as I do it first thing before the pain hits. I will let you know how I progress.

Eating what’s in the cupboards

I didn’t bother doing a meal plan or a big shop this week. We seem to have plenty of food in the house so I have been devising meals around what we have and using it up. I will pop to Lidl later though as we need fruit and vegetables.

I am still eating as healthily as possible but have once again been comfort eating snacks when I am in pain and miserable. Today I will make sure I get some low fat humus to eat with carrots and celery instead of eating a load of biscuits.

Booking a holiday

frugal wins

You may think this isn’t frugal, but it is the way we do it! As I explained in my post about February’s money wins, we are off to the Green Gathering in August and have arranged to travel into Wales after to stay in a very cheap AirBnB place. See this post to find out more about the Green Gathering and how you can get 10% off the ticket price.

Cutting the cotton wool

frugal wins

For a while now I have been cutting unnecessary waste and trying to be greener. I no longer buy packs of cotton wool pads. Instead I use soft reusable face cloths like these ones. My bathroom bin rarely has anything in it these days! They save money and are nice to use. I thought I would mention these now as they are reduced from £7.99 to £2.99. You don’t even have to use makeup remover or cleanser, although I tend to.

Making stock

frugal wins

I have done my usual trick of making a big pot of veggie stock from peelings and trimmings. This post explains how. Later I will make some soup. It’s so easy to do this and healthy too, plus it is much cheaper and nicer than the tinned stuff.

So here are my frugal wins for the week. How has yours been?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

On the money with

In this edition of On the Money, we meet Katie from  Katie lives in South Wales with her husband, their daughter and their dog. She started her blog as a place to document how she makes and saves money whilst on maternity leave and also how she generally simplifies and orders her life.

Conversations with money bloggers: Katie Saves

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My siblings and I lost our mother to cancer when I was eight. My Dad was a bit clueless as to what presents little girls would like so he gave us a Christmas and birthday budget. I remember circling things in the Argos catalogue, adding it all up and making sure I hadn’t used up my £200 pot. This involved crossing expensive things out and swapping them so I could get more for my money.

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

I’ve always been quite money savvy; growing up with not a lot makes you very aware! But when I was earning a very good wage at 21, my partner at the time and I were living beyond our means. He had terrible credit and so I racked up debt in my name. How naïve I was.

What was your worst money decision?

Aside from taking out credit for my ex, my worst decision was reserving a waterfront apartment with him. Luckily the relationship came to an end before the completion date or I would’ve ended up with a mortgage 2.5 times more than my current one!

What was your best money decision?

Leaving that relationship with lessons learned. I began living within my means. When I actually came to buy a house with my husband, we purchased one that was more than sufficient for a good price. We didn’t buy an expensive one just because we could get a big mortgage!

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

Meal planning and batch cooking. We are terribly lazy when it comes to food and spend far too much on takeaways. Meal planning and making a few batches for the freezer takes that temptation away. Even on nights we can’t be bothered to cook, there’s something readily available rather than a £25 Dominos order.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

I use Meerkat Meals a lot (which I got for less than £2 by buying a day’s travel insurance). I also have a Taste Card through my bank account. If we’re eating somewhere that’s not covered by either of those I’ll do a quick online search for a voucher. Also, cash envelopes is a biggie. Using cash to pay for things instead of swiping your debit card makes you much more intentional with your spending.

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Don’t buy things on credit! You don’t need to. If you’re earning a good wage, be careful with your money and save for the future.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

My wedding dress! Although it cost £600, it was gorgeous – current season, lots of detailing and very flattering. It should’ve been £1400 but it was a sample. It just so happened to fit me like a glove so I didn’t even have to spend money altering it.

What was your most recent purchase?

I booked a hotel for after a gig hubby is taking me to for my birthday this month. We don’t get a lot of nights just us, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

We’re on a part-time single income, so we have to keep a very close eye on our finances at the moment. My wage just about covers our living expenses so we would be in trouble if we didn’t budget!

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?

I’m turning 30 this month and I’d like to have the mortgage paid off by the time I’m 40. I’m also hoping to be making enough from my side hustles that I can quit my job and not return to work when I go on my next maternity leave (no baby on the way just yet though!). We also want to buy a holiday home, so we have a savings plan for that.

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

A big holiday for both sides of our families. Then I would pay off our mortgage and the mortgages of my nearest and dearest.

Many thanks to Katie for this insight into her life. Check out more of her money saving ideas at

You can find more of my On the Money series talking to money bloggers here and here.

What went well in February: my monthly money wins

February may be a short month, but I am happy with my monthly money wins so far. Here is what went well in February here at Shoestring Cottage.

Monthly money wins


monthly money wins

I have continued to buy a few extra non perishable groceries as an insurance policy in case Brexit leaves the shelves empty and prices soaring. Creating a Brexit stockpile may not be necessary at all, but it can’t hurt. We will use the food anyway and won’t have to worry about any last minute panic buying.

Even in the pharmacy today, when I joked about stockpiling my medication, the pharmacist said not to worry, as they have been doing that for some time. Good to know!

I try not to be too political on this blog, but honestly. What an absolute and utter mess. None of the parties are going to come out of this looking good. All we can do as the little people is plan ahead and be as self sufficient as possible.

Jumble sale haul

monthly money wins

Darling daughter no 1 took me to a jumble sale last Saturday. I hadn’t been to a good old jumblie for years and years! You rarely see them advertised now. We got so many clothes and other items for hardly anything. Most things were selling for 10 or 20p. As it was a fundraiser, I felt they should have charged more, and actually paid more than they were asking for a couple of things. I am particularly pleased with this beautiful art glass vase. I paid 50p but checked on the internet and found it was worth at least £50. It’s stunning.

monthly money wins

I also found this really cute red owl handbag for 20p. Love it – so cheery!

Free haircut

As I mentioned in this post, I had a free haircut a couple of weeks ago. A salon was advertising for clients for their trainees. I am happy with the hair cut but not the time it took. Nearly 2 and a half hours! I may go again, but not whilst I am still suffering from a trapped nerve. Luckily it wasn’t too bad whilst I was there or it would have been agonising!

Home made cleaning product

monthly money wins

I decided not to waste some lemon rinds when I baked a cake and transformed them into a home made lemon cleaning spray. It is excellent! It works better than straight vinegar and smells more pleasant too. You can find the recipe here.

More adventurous budget cooking

meal plan

Aubergine and chick pea tagine

I don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money to eat well, particularly if you keep meat and fish to a minimum. As I have been off sick and home more, I have had the chance to mess around with recipes. The two I enjoyed the most this month were both vegan: creamy coconut lentil dahl (my absolute favourite) and  aubergine and chick pea tagine. Neither were too fiddly – I am still suffering quite a lot of pain at various points during the day, so I can’t be doing with slaving over a hot stove for hours.

Money off a festival

I managed to negotiate 10% off an amazing festival for Shoestring Cottage readers, the Green Gathering in Chepstow in August. You can find out about the event and how to get the discount here. This is the favourite of my monthly money wins. It is a festival that lives up to its name, powered by wind and solar with the aim of minimising waste. There are also some excellent acts playing and loads of other stuff to see and do. I can’t wait.

Cheap holiday

As Chepstow is almost in Wales, we decided to take a few more days and visit Pembrokeshire after. We nearly always go to our favourite Machynlleth, so it was time for a change.

To save  money on accommodation, we scoured AirB&B and found a cute little place not too far from Tenby. It is a detached guest suite and is costing £28 a night! For the two of us! Honestly, AirB&B is by far the cheapest way to travel if you don’t want to camp. We will have had enough of living under canvas by the end of the festival and will be looking forward to a few home comforts. I hope they don’t mind us turning up looking a bit wild and dirty!

Do you have any monthly money wins for February?

Disclosure: the link to AirB&B is my refer a friend link and I will receive money off my next trip if you use it. Thanks if you do!


Creamy coconut lentil dahl

creamy coconut lentil dahl

We have been eating this delicious coconut lentil dahl a lot lately. It is very easy to make and pretty cheap too. This is my onion free version, but you can chop and fry your onion with the celery if you like it. It is vegan too. We either eat it with rice and poppadoms or with chapatis. I was excited to find these in Lidl the other day as I love them!

Creamy coconut lentil dahl

Serves 4


2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 celery sticks, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 large carrot, diced

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

A 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (I peel and freeze ginger and grate it straight from the freezer)

225 g red lentils

1 400 ml can coconut milk

1 heaped tsp vegetable stock dissolved in 400 ml hot water

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

A good squirt of lemon juice

50 g flaked almonds

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok. Add the celery, onions if you are using them and garlic. Gently saute for around 5 minutes then add the carrot and spices. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk and stock. Season to taste and bring to the boil.  Cover and cook for around 40 minutes, checking regularly to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If necessary, add more water. When the lentils are soft, add a good squirt of lemon juice and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with rice or chapatis and sprinkle the almonds on top.

I hope you enjoy this creamy coconut lentil dahl. Check out my other frugal recipes here.


Get 10% off the Green Gathering: a festival with a difference

green gathering

I am so looking forward to the summer. Planning events helps me get through a dark, potentially depressing winter. I just don’t enjoy this season as much as the others and need some sun on my skin and being in the great outdoors without freezing my bits off. If you feel the same, how about looking ahead to a festival with a difference, the Green Gathering in Chepstow in August? Even better, Shoestring Cottage readers can get 10% off!

green gathering

Powered by wind and sun

The Green Gathering Festival is billed as a “festival powered by wind, sun and people, with hundreds of talks and skill-shares, four stages for music and spoken word, crafts and permaculture, health and healing, fabulous food, a huge interactive kids’ area and so much more”. In other words, it is right up my street! And what’s more, if you use the affinity code below before 30th June you can get 10% off.

green gathering

We can’t wait for this festival. It is so refreshing to find a festival that has a  policy to keep waste and fossil fuel use to an absolute minimum. There are strict rules that traders must adhere to regarding their energy use and the types of disposables allowed. No plastic bottles or polystyrene food containers will be found here. They must be recyclable or compostable.

green gathering

What’s on

The line up will include some festival favourites, up and coming talent, solo artists, a bit of punk, politically conscious acts and protest banks, folk tunes, reggae, cabaret, comedy and more.

green gathering

The craft area will showcase blacksmithing, carpentry, weaving, pottery, upcycling and more. You can join in too, as there is a programme of short workshops.

green gathering

You can also take part in activities such as chi gung and yoga, or have a reiki or reflexology session, find out about permaculture principles or listen to talks on sustainability and climate change.

A family event

green gathering

Children haven’t been forgotten at the Green Gathering. They will have the best time! Whether they fancy singing, making costumes, story telling, tie-dying or making musical instruments, there will be loads for them to do. For little ones there is a sandpit, bell tent baby space and a messy play area. You can even take toys they have outgrown to the toy swap shop.

green gathering

There will be food stalls full of ethical and organic vegetarian and vegan offerings. You can visit the green market too, where you will find hand-made, upcycled and one-off items to buy.

Bars include the Glad Apple Cider Bar and the Brimmon Oak, where you can purchase beers and ciders, ‘dark & stormy’ rum and ginger, organic wine and more.

Get your 10% discount here!

I have teamed up with the organisers of the Green Gathering to offer you 10% off advance tickets if they are purchased before 30th June. So come along and immerse yourself in four glorious days of sustainable fun and frolics!

Your discount code is SSCB19 . To get the 10% discount head to the Green Gathering affinity code page here. Look forward to seeing some of you there!

The Green Gathering is at Piercefield Park, Chepstow from 1st to the 4th August 2019. More information is on the Green Gathering’s website here.

green gathering


“A place to feed your soul and colour your imagination” – Permaculture Association

“I don’t think we’ve ever been to an event as welcoming and warm as this one” – Festival Kidz

“Inspiring and modern with a refreshing old school edge […] one of the most interesting festival experiences to be had” – eFestivals

“By the time we left we were refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to change the world” – Inspire, Create, Educate

Disclaimer: I have been gifted tickets by the organisers and I am delighted to promote this event in return. All views are my own.


Taking care of the pennies: 5 frugal actions for the week

frugal actions

The room is bathed in glorious spring sunshine today. It’s beautiful weather! I was thinking how little I have achieved this week, but actually is is the small frugal actions I take that make a big difference in terms of the bank balance. As the old saying goes, “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”!

small frugal actions

So my small but significant frugal actions for the week are as follows.

Hanging the washing out

I made the most of the sunshine and hung the washing on the line for the first time this year. It saves falling over the clothes horse or running the dehumidifier to try to dry them. I don’t understand people who continue to waste energy and money on their dryers when the weather is so good.

Having a clear out

My daughter and I went for lunch at my parents and helped  sort some of the junk in their garage. I say junk, but actually some of it is treasure so we have listed much of it on eBay. They say if it sells we can have 50% of the profits.

Making the most of not paying council tax

It is lovely in February and March to have a couple of months off paying the council tax, particularly as it is due to go up again. Instead of spending it, I put £130 into my car fund . My old banger won’t last forever, so I will need a new old banger!

Free trip

frugal actions

We went for a walk last Sunday with Mr S’s brother and dog to see a regular classic car meet up down at the river. There weren’t hundreds there but they were interesting. Old cars are so much more beautiful and full of character than new ones. I love them.

We also got a look around the boat that the sea scouts use, which is an old light ship. I love being a tourist in my own town.

Saving money on meds

I would have done this before, but I kept thinking my neck problems would be sorted by now. However, as I don’t think my trapped nerve will be going without surgical intervention now, I bought a 3 month prescription card. I paid for it with one lot of tablets, so anything else I need will be effectively free.

So that is my week of small but worthwhile frugal actions. Do you look after the pennies? What have you done this week to save money?

This post may contain affiliate links.

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.


Being the best version of myself: the results

best version of me

Last week I had a plan. The plan was to aim to be the best version of myself with some small achievements every day. It was just a bit of fun really, but I enjoyed it! You can read the original post here. The results are below.

Exercise: a daily walk.

It has helped that the weather has suddenly become more spring like. Sunshine and the hint of daffodils poking through never fail to make me feel happy and positive. However, I didn’t manage to get out every day. When I didn’t I did some simple, gentle yoga stretches (along these lines).

We did have the most fabulous walk on Sunday with Mr S’s brother and discovered the most beautiful tucked away mill pond, call the Distillery Pond. The houses were absolutely gorgeous and you would not believe they were so close to town. I have lived in Colchester for almost 25 years and I am still finding interesting parts that I don’t know. Always good to be a tourist in your home town!

best version of me

We also had a lovely walk along the seafront from Frinton to Walton and back. I feel very luck to live so close to the coast, especially on a lovely day.

Semi fail. Not too worried about this, as I have been as active as possible bearing in mind I have an ongoing trapped nerve problem. I need to move, but if I move too much I suffer for it.

Two litres of water every day

I was surprised to find that I easily drink two litres of water. Generally I keep a pint glass next to me all the time so I sip throughout the day to keep hydrated.

When I was younger I suffered from a lot of headaches. Looking back, I realise they were probably dehydration, so I heartily recommend drinking lots of water every day.


A gratitude journal

As I said in my original post, I completely believe in the benefits of positive thinking. Being grateful for all the good things in your life is a sure fire way to lift the spirits. I easily found 3 things each day to be grateful for, from having my two silly cats, to a supportive partner, a nice house, a beautiful garden, lovely work colleagues, no debt, being able to pay all my bills each month to having three gorgeous daughters.

Gratitude is a good habit to cultivate if you are inclined towards depression and negativity. Everybody can find something to be grateful for.


A daily meditation

best version of myself

As I said in this post, I have been practising meditation for a while using the Calm app.

I did this enthusiastically for the first few days, then realised that last thing at night was a better time for me to meditate. It helps me drift off to sleep. However, I only did five out of seven days.

Semi-fail, but again I am not too worried and felt the benefit of a regular 10 minute meditation. I absolutely recommend a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace, particularly if you are a beginner.

One household chore a day

This was easy because I am not working at the moment. Cleaning one room a day or doing one chore (such as cleaning the oven, which I hate) is much better than having to do the lot on a Saturday. When I am organised I also do this when I am working, but sometimes I am busy or just too tired. I will try to keep it up when I go back to work as it means I have Saturday free for something more fun.


Taking a daily supplement

I decided to take a magnesium supplement this week. I ordered it through Amazon and it arrived on day two.

It is claimed that magnesium can help with a multitude of conditions, including  trapped nerves and muscle spasms, but also fibromyalgia, both of which I have. This article explains more.

It may be my imagination, but I think my muscle spasms have definitely been less severe over the past few days. I plan to continue to take this for a while and see if there is a sustained improvement.


There are many things I would like to do in reality to be the best version of myself. For example, lose the extra half stone that I am always trying to get rid of. This week’s meal plan was super healthy but I have only lost a pound. This may be because my colleagues from work brought me round a load of chocolate. Got to love ’em!

What would you like to do to be a better version of yourself?

This post contains affiliate links.

How to buy less stuff and save more money

save more money

As I have been going into town a lot recently to have acupuncture, I have had more of an opportunity to browse the shops. I have been impressed with myself at how little I have been tempted by all of the colourful, shiny goods in the windows. Time was I would go ‘window shopping’ with my friends after pay day and end up spending a large chunk of my salary. It felt good at the time, but not so great a couple of weeks later, when I realised I had too much month left for my remaining cash. These days I want to save more money and buy a lot less stuff.

Too much stuff

These days I feel that stuff – the books, DVDs, clothes, gadgets and general paraphernalia that clutter up our homes and lives – rarely brings much lasting satisfaction.  I am not talking about all purchases. For example, have used my classic Kenwood KM330 Stand Mixer, 4.6 L, 800 W – White for around 30 years. As I purchased it second hand in the first place I consider this a very good investment purchase!  However, my fruit and vegetable juicer is gathering dust in a cupboard and needs to be cleaned up and sold. What a waste of money.

Another investment purchase was the  Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas and I can see us using this until it stops working. It is brilliant! I am listening to the Prime most popular playlist that Alexa very kindly put on for me as I type this. Now we have this, I can’t see us needing to buy any more charity shop CDs, another temptation for both of us.

I am not saying don’t buy anything. Just consider whether you really want it, will use it or can afford it before you fork out your hard earned cash. Remember, that stuff equals money. Also, if you are bothered by clutter, think about where you will put it!

But how can you learn to stop impulse buying endless stuff? Here are some tips to help you break the spending habit, avoid clutter and save money in the process.

How to buy less stuff and save more money

Unsubscribe from mailing lists

I try really hard not to sign up for marketing offers and mailing lists when I make online purchases. Nevertheless, the odd one gets through. Make the time to unsubscribe so that you don’t get temptation through your inbox every day.

Think how many hours you need to work to buy stuff

This one works wonders for me. Know your hourly wage after tax.When you are tempted to buy something, consider how many hours you would need to work to pay for it. In the excellent book Your Money or Your Life, the authors Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez recommend looking at your purchases in terms of how much life energy (ie the time spent at work) you are trading to pay for your lifestyle. As many of us live for the weekends, this is a great tip!

save more moneyReward yourself differently

We all have those ‘I have been working hard, I deserve to treat myself’ moments.  But if you want to save more money, how about rewarding yourself in a different way? Rather than buying a new skirt or top, put some money aside in your holiday fund maybe, invite a friend round for coffee and a chat, allow yourself time to sit and read a book or run yourself the deepest bubble bath and light a candle.

Don’t go shopping for fun

There are so many free or cheap things you can do for fun. Going shopping in the mall is not one of them if you want to save more money, especially if you are prone to give into temptation.  Shop from your wardrobe instead and remember what you already have. Visit your local library or free museum. Take a walk around your neighbourhood – be a tourist in your own town!

Don’t browse websites or catalogues out of boredom

As above. There are many things you can do if you are bored. Read some of the books you impulse purchased but never got round to (my vice).  Take up a cheap hobby if you are prone to boredom – rambling, knitting, cooking, gardening, painting, wildlife spotting…use your imagination. Personally, I never pick up or order catalogues now, not even the seed catalogues I used to get.

Consider the waste from every purchase

If you are concerned about packaging and its negative effects on the environment, as I am, expand your thinking to include the waste and energy used by the items you impulse purchase. If you stop and consider the manufacture, transport, packaging and pollution that might arise from each item you buy, you might think that you don’t just want to save more money; you also would like to minimise the impact of your lifestyle on the planet.

Have goals

Many of us have vague goals about what we want to achieve in our lives. Maybe we have dreams to travel, buy a house, save for our children’s university costs, get a better car or whatever. If your dreams seem distant and impossible, starting a savings fund towards them and considering your purchases in terms of how much you won’t be able to put in your savings because of the money you spend, your perspective is likely to change.

Once you begin to develop new thinking patterns about your spending habits, it becomes easier to resist the urges to the point where you barely have those urges. You can save more money and live the life you really want.


Eco friendly laundry: Eco Egg review


I purchased my Ecoegg laundry egg just over four months ago. As I have been using it for a while I thought it was time to give some feedback. So here is my Ecoegg review.

My reasons for buying the Ecoegg were as follows:

a) to reduce the amount of waste I created in the form of plastic bottles and cardboard;

b) to save money on laundry detergent;

c) to cut out some of the chemicals I use here at Shoestring Cottage, benefiting us as a family and the environment.

How does it work?

The manufacturer claims that “The Laundry Egg is a complete replacement for laundry detergent and fabric conditioner.  Just pop it in the drum of your washing machine on top of your clothes – no powder, liquid, tablets, gels, or fabric softener required.”

According to the blurb it works like this: “The Ecoegg contains two types of cleaning pellets. The tourmaline ceramic pellets weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and the fabric. The mineral pellets then naturally ionise the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric, lifting away the direct and grime. The two types of natural mineral pellets inside the egg work together, lifting off the dirt and odours, leaving significantly less residue on your clothes.”

ecoegg reviewSounds good so far, so when I received my Ecoegg – in recyclable cardboard packaging – I was really excited to test it out. I really wanted this little blue egg to be effective!

It arrived with 2 little packets of pellets. You have to fill your egg with one and when the pellets fall beneath the refill line, add another packet. I have been using mine since September last year (during Zero Waste week), so haven’t had to refill it yet. You can also buy refills of the pellets and use your egg over and over again, helping to save money and reduce plastic waste for years to come.

Money saving

The egg I purchased was the Fresh Linen 720 wash version, which cost £24.95 on Amazon. The price per wash works out at 3- 4 pence. Even if you currently buy a generic supermarket laundry liquid or powder, this is a significant saving!

Better for your skin

The Ecoegg is dermatologically tested and supported by Allergy UK . It has been awarded the Allergy Friendly Product Award, so could be the perfect product for those who suffer from eczema or dermatitis.

But does it really clean your laundry?

I have been really happy with the effectiveness of the Ecoegg. On a general wash of clothes worn to work or about the house it is great. I do think you might miss that (totally fake) ‘just washed’ smell from your normal laundry liquid. I add a few drops of essential oil to the fabric softener drawer but, to be frank, it’s not really needed.

However, I want to be honest in my Ecoegg review. On really dirty items such as Mr Shoestring’s work jeans, it doesn’t lift tough stains out. I think it would have a hard time with blood or oil too. Having said that, any commercial washing powder might struggle with this! To counter this I use a pre-wash stain remover. Ecoegg sell their own stain remover, but I am still using up a bottle I already had of Sainsbury’s own. At £9.99 the Ecoegg one is a bit pricey for me!

ecoegg reviewI still have a cardboard box of washing powder from Aldi too. If a wash looks particularly dirty, or is a messy white wash, I use the powder instead of my Ecoegg. This doesn’t happen very often, but I wonder if families with kids who play football on a muddy pitch or love to jump in filthy puddles would manage?

The Ecoegg doesn’t soften clothes in the same way a fabric softener would so I still add conditioner to each wash. I purchase mine at our local food coop, who do refills, which means we aren’t generating the need for more plastic bottles.

Concluding my Ecoegg review

Overall I am an Ecoegg convert. Mostly the clothes we wash are my barely dirty ones as I work in an office, or Mr S’s slightly grubbier ones, which can be dirty if he has been working outside. It doesn’t leave your sheets ‘whiter than white’, but that is because if doesn’t contain a lot of chemical bleaches, so I can live with that. This means it doesn’t leach the colour from your darker clothes too, which is a bonus.

I am happy enough to have a box of laundry powder to get things a bit cleaner on the odd occasion. Because I can buy fabric conditioner in bulk I don’t mind that the Ecoegg doesn’t leave our laundry super soft. It might be enough for many people to add a cup of white vinegar to be even more eco-friendly.

The Ecoegg has definitely saved us money and will continue to do so, I hope, over the next few years. So would I recommend it? Most certainly!

Do you prefer greener methods to regular laundry products? What do you use?

This is not a sponsored post and I purchased the Ecoegg myself. However, this post does contain affiliate links and if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!


A meal plan to lose weight

Meal plan to lose weight

This week’s meal plan has got to be healthy! I need to stop reaching for comfort food like chocolate and… no, it’s just chocolate that is my downfall at the moment. so I need a meal plan to lose weight.

As I am home a lot and nowhere near as active as usual, I have been piling on the pounds and I don’t like it. No jeans with elasticated waistbands for me, thanks.


I have been taking a daily walk, as I said I would in my post Seven Days to be the Best Version of Myself.

Time to develop some better habits with my eating too. Also, potentially time to feel hungry a lot!

I hate dieting. However, when I have needed to drop a few pounds in the past sticking to an eating plan has been the way to go.

A meal plan to lose weight

Better snacks

Snacking is my downfall. will make sure I have lots of chopped up fruit and veg around for snacks, as well as some fat free Greek yogurt. I will also buy some crackers for the evenings when I snack the most, with a low fat topping such as lactose free cottage cheese.

Breakfasts will be muesli or porridge with fruit, as usual. Lunches will be a sandwich with a hard boiled egg or some low fat grated cheese and lots of salad.

This week’s meal plan isn’t a hundred miles from what I usually eat but I will cut out a lot of the cheese and some of the carbs. I will also keep my portion sizes small.

meal plan to lose weight


Mozzarella, basil and courgette frittata with a large green salad for me and some new potatoes for Mr S.


Salmon with lots of vegetables. Mr S can have more new potatoes with his.

We always have a dessert on Sunday, so fruit and yogurt.


Chick pea curry with a chapati.


Vegetable and aduki bean bolognese. Broccoli.


Vegetable stew with a small portion of mashed potato. Mr S will have some baked chicken with his.


More veg stew with a piece of baguette.


Cod fillet with home made tomato sauce and lots of veggies.

It sounds a pretty healthy meal plan to lose weight, doesn’t it? Now all I have to do is stick to it!

Are you trying to lose a few pounds? Do you follow a particular plan?

As usual, I am linking up with Katy Kicker for her weekly meal plan linky.

Five frugal things to do in February

frugal things to do

As I type this, we have blue skies and sunshine outside. So weird when we had snow a week ago!  Climate chaos rules. It has made me think of getting outside again in the fresh air, so here are my ideas for five frugal things to do in February.

A bit of heritage

We usually have a membership to one organisation at a time that will give us interesting days out. As long as we we use them regularly they give us great value. We have done the National Trust, the RHS (a lot) and also English Heritage.

I love visiting old landmarks and houses, as you can see from my posts from Holkham Hall and Powis Castle. I was perusing English Heritage’s website and found this article, Days out for under £20.  You can save more money by joining though. There are some good places to go! You can join English Heritage here for £4.67 a month as an individual or £8.25 for a joint membership.

If you fancy joining the National Trust, you can currently get up to £8.40 cash back via Top Cashback (this is my refer a friend link). It is so worth checking Top Cashback for every online purchase you make. I currently have £115 sitting in there earned since I last cashed out in November.

Visit a wildlife trust

Another charity that we are happy to support is the Essex Wildlife Trust. They have all kinds of events locally, from a beach litter pick, to an eco jewellery workshop, family pond dipping, nature trails and bat walks. Generally, we just get our wellies on and have a walk around one of the reserves nearby.

You can visit even if you aren’t a member and pay a small fee. It makes a nice frugal thing to do in February, or any time. You can find out about your local wildlife trust and how to locate nature reserves in your area here.

Cheaper days out in London and beyond

frugal things to do

My parents bought Mr S a St Paul’s Cathedral visit for two for Christmas from They do a lot of different days out quite cheaply. One of my presents to him was a trip for two to Windsor Castle with a cream tea thrown in, which I also bought on Yes, you guessed it – I basically got two extra presents for myself! We are going to book them up once my neck and shoulder are better. There are some really good online deals, but remember to book your train fares up well in advance to get the cheapest deals. Otherwise they can mean it’s not such a frugal day out at all.

Find a good garden centre

This could end up NOT being a frugal thing to do if you can’t resist temptation! However, we love to take a wander around, looking at the plants, laughing at the exorbitant prices on some of the pots and furniture and just generally getting ideas for the garden.

A gorgeous one is Perrywood in Tiptree. It is so popular you even get coach loads of people turn up!

Visit a jumble or table top sale

It is too early in the year for a boot sale to be one of my frugal things to do.  However, if you are a bargain hunter like me, you will love a good rumble at the jumble!  But jumble sales are quite hard to locate these days and I thought they were a thing of the past. Recently I have discovered that a search on Facebook can yield good results. Scout groups seem to still run a good jumble.

Table top sales are more common, but are generally more for those interested in collectables, curiosities and antiques. A Google search will usually show a few, as well as Facebook.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas for frugal things to do in February! What are you doing?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

On the Money with Emma from Bee Money Savvy

bee money savvy

In the latest edition of On the Money we meet Emma from Bee Money Savvy. Emma is a 20-something recent graduate who is in the process of saving up for a deposit on her first home. Whilst a student, Emma had to find ways to make her student loan stretch further while working part-time to fund her masters.

Emma created in 2017 to pass on her financial wisdom to her fellow millennials, aspiring home buyers and anyone looking to gain financial freedom.

Conversations with Money Bloggers: Bee Money Savvy

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

When I was around 6-years-old we would visit my great-grandad every few months. He would always save pennies in a jar for when we visited and we would take them to be exchanged for notes. I can’t remember what we spent the money on, but I remember admiring how saving small amounts of money could add up so quickly.

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

Growing up I would often see my parents just getting by with their finances, so I’ve always been very money conscious. I’ve never really allowed myself to get out of control. I’m happy to admit that even from being a teenager I’ve always been a bit of a cheapskate.

What was your worst money decision?

A few years back, and in the midst of being love-struck, I decided that my wardrobe wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the person I was dating. To impress him I bought a ton of branded clothing, including a jumper that cost me £150! I’ve worn that jumper twice!

What was your best money decision?

I was a very sensible student (the majority of the time). As soon as I enrolled on my degree I knew that my student loan wasn’t going to cover my living expenses so I went looking for a part-time job. I worked throughout my degree as a lifeguard, fitness instructor and sports coach. On top of that I managed to earn enough to open a savings account.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

Regularly switch energy providers! If you haven’t switch energy providers for over two years you could save around £200-£300 just by switching.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

Go card free! If you’re an impulse buyer then pay with cash. Only withdraw the exact amount you need for the day/week. That way you can only spend what you have on you and you can see exactly what you’re spending.

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Shop for the best deals. It’s so easy to get blinded by shiny new technology/clothes/etc. and not consider that the shop next door could be offering a better deal. Check multiple retailers before making a big purchase and haggle where appropriate (phone providers are always worth haggling with). I have been stuck in so many over-priced phone contracts throughout the years.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

bee money savvy

I was pretty happy with the broadband deal I got last year. I managed to find an £18 a month deal but then went through a cashback site and got £110 cashback plus a £50 prepaid card. With the money from cashback and the pre-paid card my broadband works out at £56 for the whole year!

What was your most recent purchase?

My partner and I went 50/50 on a new game for our Nintendo Switch. We managed to save money by buying a gift card, getting cash back, as well as earning some Nintendo loyalty points in the process.

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

I’m not strict when it comes to budgeting, but I am always hyper aware of what I can and can’t afford and how my finances for the month are looking. As well as my banking app, I use a chat bot to send me updates on how much I’ve been spending.

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share? 

I’m hoping to buy my first home in the next year or two. I’m currently in the process of saving up for a deposit (and convincing my partner that we should move away from renting and towards buying).

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

If I won the lottery I would pay off any debts that my family has, treat myself to a holiday, buy my partner a car (I will definitely get brownie points for that answer) and start looking for a house!

Thanks so much to Emma for her contribution. Great advice about switching energy providers and using cash back sites such as Top Cashback and Quidco. Check out Bee Money Savvy for more of her tips.

You can read more of my On the Money series here and here.

This post contains affiliate links.


Being the best version of myself?

best version of myself

I am very proud of my lovely daughter, Chloe*. She has been working on her writing career and now throws out fantastic content for some of the biggest names in the magazine industry. This one made me laugh and particularly piqued my interest, ‘I tried to be the best version of myself for a week and this is what happened‘.

Putting what I know about my daughter aside (making her bed every morning? Really?), I thought it might be fun to steal her idea and try something similar.

I have tweaked some of her goals for the week. For example, I am off work sick at the moment so I’m not getting up at 6 am if I don’t have to. More sleep most definitely helps me be the best version of myself. Especially with all the meds I am taking!  Also I generally make my bed already.

Social media? I maybe spend 15 minutes a day on Instagram, maybe 5 or 10 on Twitter, and hardly ever look at Facebook these days. I need to do something whilst I am at home, so I won’t kick my social media habit just yet.

What do I need to do to become the best version of myself?

Exercise: a daily walk.

Being at home and not moving much (and putting on weight), I would say an hour a day in the gym would be beneficial. However, anything other than simple stretches when you have a trapped nerve in the neck is asking for trouble, so I will go with a short daily walk.

Getting outside and having a brisk walk helps me at any time, physically and mentally.

Two litres of water

At work I always have a big bottle of water on my desk. But two litres? Not sure if I drink that or not. I will measure it out.  It seems that being the best version of myself will mean frequent trips to the loo. At least that will be more exercise.

A gratitude journal

I completely believe in the benefits of positive thinking. Being grateful for all the good things in your life is a sure fire way to lift the spirits.

I will try this each morning. Not buying any fancy special journal. I will use an old notebook I rescued from my lodger’s recycling!

A daily meditation

best version of myself

As I said in this post, I have been practising meditation for a while using the Calm app. But I am not in a routine with this so will have a go at meditating each morning, before I get ready for the day.

One household chore a day

At the moment I can’t manage a good clean through of the house in one morning, as I usually do. Just cleaning the bathroom the other day sent my shoulder into a spasm. But it is important to me that things don’t get too messy. I will aim for a small achievement each day. Mr S is good at hoovering so he can do all of that. Today I will dust the bedroom and change the sheets.

Taking a daily supplement

I already take a ton of supplements. However, I was reading recently about the benefits of magnesium. It seems many of us are deficient in this vital mineral. This is because levels are much lower in the soil (and thus in our food) than they used to be.

It is claimed that magnesium can help with a multitude of conditions, including a tendency towards trapped nerves and muscle spasm, and also fibromyalgia. This article explains more. I am in, and have already ordered some.

So this is my plan for the next week to begin to achieve the best version of myself that I can manage with a trapped nerve :). I will let you know how I get on next week!

*Before the other daughters start complaining I am super proud of ALL three of you!

Home made lemon cleaning spray #ecofriendlycleaning

home made lemon cleaning spray

I thought I would share this recipe (if you can call it a recipe!) for  a fabulous home made lemon cleaning spray. Regular readers will know that I have gradually been replacing the nasty chemical products at Shoestring Cottage with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Cheap as chips

However, you can pay through the nose for more environmentally sound products. The beauty of this home made lemon cleaning spray is that it is as cheap as chips! Ideally you would use the rinds of lemons that have been used for something else first. I made a lemon drizzle cake with two lemons. This involved using the juice and some of the rinds. I couldn’t face chucking them straight into the compost bin as they smelled so wonderful. Lemons are well known for their cleaning and antibacterial properties so a concoction for cleaning seemed the obvious solution.

I usually use a mix of 50-50 white vinegar and water as a spray when I am dusting the furniture, in the microwave, on the windows and to clean the kitchen surfaces and cooker top. The addition of lemons means it smells so much nicer.

home made lemon cleaning sprayI usually use old plastic spray bottles, but this time invested in some home made glass spray bottles from eBay.  The spray part is still plastic but they will last a long time hopefully. My home made lemon cleaning spray will save me buying lots of polish in spray cans that are extremely difficult to recycle or items in plastic.

The recipe: Home made lemon cleaning spray

You will need:

The rinds of two lemons

Around half a litre of white vinegar

A suitable glass container with lid


Add the lemon rinds to the glass container. Pour over the vinegar and put the lid on. Leave it somewhere for two weeks. Strain into a large measuring jug. Check how much vinegar you have and then add the same amount of cold water. Give it a stir then pour into your containers. Bob’s your uncle! Couldn’t be easier. Using a home made lemon cleaning spray such as this will cut the number of chemicals in your house that you and your family breathe in and save you money too.

Do you make your own cleaning products? I also like this one using borax substitute.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Six of my favourite You Tube money saving vloggers


Six of my Favourite Money Saving vloggers

As I have been off sick, I have had a lot of time on my hands. Resting up means I can catch up with some of my favourite vloggers on You Tube. Some of them aren’t strictly into frugality but their lifestyles mean they are saving money, so I have included them in my list of money saving vloggers anyway. I hope you enjoy them!

Mean Queen

I love Ilona and have been reading her blog, Mean Queen, Life After Money for years. Now I have also started watching her You Tube channel. She isn’t slick, but she is always likeable and charming. Ilona is a down to earth, no nonsense northerner who speaks good, old fashioned common sense. Her frugal lifestyle meant she could retire earlier than most and live a good life on a pension. You can view a typical one here.

Emma Drew

Emma is less about saving money and more about making it. If you need to up your income she has some very interesting vlogs with really good ideas. She explains everything so clearly and is certainly a great example of practicing what she preaches. She is now a multi award winning blogger earning a 6 figure sum. A good money making post can be viewed  here.

Sustainably Vegan

Immy Lucas founded the #lowimpactmovement. She is vegan, obviously, and into a generally minimalist and low waste way of life. In my experience, this makes also makes her super thrifty and frugal and thus a money saving vlogger! I first discovered her when I was searching for money saving tips as here and here. However, I soon realised that there was more to her than this and now I love watching her channel. As well as vlogging she is a photographer, so her videos are very slick and professional. She also has a lovely, soothing voice.

Immy vlogs about sustainable living, reducing your waste, avoiding plastic, fitness and more.

Dave Ramsey

Not really a vlogger, but worth including as I find his radio show broadcasts on You Tube both entertaining and inspiring. I am a fan of his baby steps to financial health. During his show he encourages, advises and cajoles the people that call in with their questions on debt.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey, many people have not only worked their way out of debt but have found ways to grow and invest their income to sustain their future. You can also see some of them doing their ‘debt free scream’ on his show!

Debt Free Dana

Another US money saving vlogger, Debt free Dana follows Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. She is a full time working mum of four, so how she finds the time to do her videos too I don’t quite know! She tells you what you know already, common sense frugality and money saving. I like her manner and presentation.

money saving vloggersSimpler Greener Mummy

Back to the UK, Simpler Greener Mummy aims to live a green and sustainable life with her family on a limited budget. She does her best to save money so that she can stay at home with her kids – she even home educates. She also aims towards simple, green living, as I do. This post is a good place to start. Even though she is basically a parenting vlogger and mine are all grown up, I find her interesting and inspiring.

I am also amazed at how much of their lives people are happy to share. Every now and again I consider starting a You Tube channel but not whilst I am working full time. Maybe one day I will be one of these money saving vloggers! Who do you enjoy watching?

Sticking to the meal plan…

meal plan

Last week’s meal plan went awry! We were out when we were supposed to be in, Mr S was off doing stuff so it was just me a few nights and I couldn’t be bothered…. I ended up eating eggs and chips instead of making something ‘proper’. We also had an unplanned dinner with my parents. Never mind, meal plans need to be flexible and it did mean I only had to spend around £15 topping up and didn’t buy much at all.

This week hopefully we shall sticking to the meal plan. Generally speaking, I love meal planning for the time and money saved with a small amount of organisation and forward planning.


Smoked salmon pasta. This was one of the meals we didn’t get around to. The smoked salmon was frozen so it is fine to use this week. We will use up a bag of salad I bought a few days ago.


Chicken casserole for Mr S, roast potatoes and kale.  I shall have one of my veggie meals from the freezer.

If I feel OK, I may make a cake! Not sure what yet but will try to use what is in the cupboard.


meal plan

Lentil dahl

Some of the lentil dahl I made last week and froze. It was yummy!! Served with rice and a naan from the freezer. I played around with this, and will publish the recipe next week.


Spaghetti Bolognese. I have  minced beef in the freezer for Mr S and will freeze half of his Bolognese sauce for another time. I will have a simple tomato and pepper sauce with grated cheese.


Salmon from the freezer with potatoes and vegetables. I have a packet of hollandaise sauce in the cupboard so will cheat on that!


meal plan

Aubergine and chick pea tagine

Just me in for dinner, so will see what is leftover or eat something I made earlier from the freezer. I still have some of the aubergine and chickpea tagine in there. This was delicious! Perhaps that with some rice.


Valentine’s Day! We will have a home made but easy dinner as I said in this post.

I will have another go at getting rid of the burgers in the freezer, with air fried chips and salad or veg. Still loving my air fryer, even if I’m not very adventurous with it.

So, this week’s meal plan is pretty straightforward, but as I am still in pain it needs to be. Do you meal plan? If so, what are you eating this week? Let me know in the comments below.

As usual, I am linking up with Katy Kicker for this week’s meal planning linky. Hop over and see what she has on her meal plan.

For more of my frugal food ideas, have a look at my recipes page here.

A free haircut and being frugal in February… #fivefrugalthings

Another week has gone by so quickly! I had the last of the block of 5 massages that my mum kindly bought me and I still have 3 acupuncture sessions to go. Being frugal, I booked blocks of each as they were cheaper. Both are helping my pain levels I think but the nerve is still well and truly trapped.  MRI scan is next week so hopefully I will soon find out what is going on to cause such pain. And, just as importantly, what can be done about it!

1# Charity Shopping

being frugal

My daughter has been dragging me around the charity shops every now and then to stop me going mad with boredom, as you may have seen in yesterday’s post. We have found some fantastic bargains, but some charity shops charge ridiculous amounts for tatty clothes just because they are a well known label.  Of course they want to get the most money for their charity, but they also need to use their eyes and common sense when doing the pricing.

Having said that, they are currently discounting a lot. I think they must have been inundated over Christmas or maybe everyone is doing a Marie Kondo clear out! I watched her show a couple of times on Netflix and it is interesting. However, I can’t see myself finding the time to fold all my clothes the ways she suggests and keep them like that. Being frugal to me includes getting rid of clutter and not buying stuff I don’t need anyway.

2# Not buying new glasses

I went to have my eye test at Boots, because my employer pays for an annual check there. My reading glasses are usually swinging round my neck (or I lose them!) but I now need glasses for distances, mainly for driving. I thought perhaps it was time to give in to varifocals and wear them full time. However, the price they quoted me was astronomical – £420!

I decided to take my prescription away and look elsewhere. I checked out a few online sites, including one called SmartBuyGlasses, which gives you 50% off your first pair if you sign up for their newsletter. This sounded promising and I thought I could always unsubscribe to the newsletter later.  I am still considering whether buying online is right for me and have emailed off a few questions to their customer service department.

If it means paying £420 I will stick with the ones I have for reading, and a pair I got for work which the optician told me were fine for driving. Has anyone else bought glasses online and saved money? Did you encounter any issues?

3# Entering competitions

I guess this is only money saving if I actually win something, but I have been using some of my time off sick to enter some competitions. One of the sites I like is as it has a straightforward format taking you directly to the competition. I have been on others where you have to answer sooooo many questions and they are clearly just trying to gather your data for spamming later.

On the Martin Lewis Money Show last week they talked to a lady who had won over £70k from competitions! However, she did enter A LOT. I think she said about 100 every week. It would be fun to win something like a holiday or a new laptop, but I don’t think I will be that obsessive.

4# Birthday cards on the cheap

being frugal

I think I have said this before, I like sending birthday wishes to people but, being frugal, I resent paying £3 plus for a piece of card that will only end up in the recycling. So I am always on the look out for cheap cards. Card Factory is one of my favourites for stocking up.  However, in the Sue Ryder charity shop they had these quirky cards for only 50p each. I think the designs are really witty and I love them!

5# Free haircut

I said last week that I had booked a free haircut at the training night at a salon in town. Yesterday I went to take advantage. The haircut was very good – the tutor checked everything and stepped in to do the tricky bits. However, it took almost 2 and a half hours! When you have a trapped nerve in your neck, sitting still for that long is no fun. Luckily I had topped up my painkillers about 20 minutes before I went in so I survived the experience. However, I’m not sure I want to sit that long for a hair cut again, even if it is free.

They do a full head of colour at the training night for only £10. When I am better I might consider that as normally professional hair colouring is so expensive. I usually do it myself  – I think I have only ever had one professional colour in my life. Such a skinflint 🙂

Anyway these were my frugal doings this week. Are you being frugal in February?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post may contain affiliate links.



Charity shop haul: my latest bargains

charity shop haul

I felt a bit better yesterday morning so popped out for a bit of charity shopping with my daughter. We got a great charity shop haul! I paid for it later with a migraine and lots of neck pain, but I can’t sit at home all day, every day. (If it’s your first time here, I am off sick at the moment with some kind of disc problem and a trapped nerve. Not fun!)

Both of us want to start a proper reselling business. I have been reselling on eBay in a minor way around my full time job for a number of years. My daughter preferred Mercari and was doing really well, but sadly it didn’t take off in the UK and closed.

You Tube inspiration

I have been watching some UK eBay resellers on You Tube to get advice, hints and tips on what sells well. So far, with a few exceptions, I have only done clothing. I have discovered an English couple who make a good living selling on eBay and Amazon selling all sorts. Check out Nic and Andrea Hills. They are inspirational. It’s not an easy life and they seem to work very hard. However, they are their own bosses and have flexibility about how their day goes.

My eventual aim is to work part time for an employer and run an online business and blog the rest of the time. I am fed up of the 9-5, particularly since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia last summer. I feel as if work gets the best of my energy and creativity, leaving very little for when I am at home! Being off work, although I am in pain a lot of the time, has made me appreciate the value in having time to myself.

Here is some of my charity shop haul, to give you an idea. We are lucky to have a £1 clearance store run by the local hospice. A lot of our charity shop haul came from them, but we visited a couple of others too.

Adult clothing

charity shop haulA beautiful Phase Eight beaded dress in perfect condition. This was unpriced, so I assumed they would charge at least a fiver. When I got to the till they took just a pound! This was my bargain of the day and if it fitted me I would have kept it! I think I can get £30 for this.

charity shop haulA coast bustier, £1. These sell for £5-10.

charity shop haulA pink Alfred Angelo evening dress for £2.50. I had never heard of this brand, but they seem to go for anything from £5 to £50! I will try it at £15 I think as it’s in excellent condition.

charity shop haulAn absolutely gorgeous Monsoon floaty sequinned skirt for £1.50. Bit screwed up so I will steam it.

charity shop haulTalking of screwed up, a pink Karen Millen dress. It is so ruched you couldn’t iron out the creases, so again I will try it with my steamer. This was more expensive at £5, but Karen Millen can go for silly prices.

charity shop haulA Fat Face dress and a skirt too. These cost £1 each and should sell for a tenner each I reckon.

Other stuff

charity shop haulI don’t usually sell toys, but found a lovely wooden camper van with two figures. They sell for £26 new, so I might get a tenner on it. I only paid £1.

A cute Toyland Noddy soft toy for 50p.

charity shop haulA wicker tray. Andrea on You Tube snaps wicker items up in good condition and says they sell really well. We shall see!

charity shop haulA Monsoon dress for a baby for 50p. It is beautiful, but I don’t think children’s clothes sell for much.

My lodger Katie beat me at the bargain hunting though. She found what she assumed was probably a fake Chanel bag in a charity shop for £3. She had it checked out by a friend who works for Chanel and not only is it genuine, they sell for £750 new! £750 for a handbag!! Who has this kind of money? No one I know.

I will let you know how I get on as an eBay reseller. Had anyone else had any bargains from a charity shop haul? Do you sell on eBay? I would love to hear your hints and tips in the comments. I have a couple of posts about eBay reselling here and here if you are interested!

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Got a Brexit stockpile? Stock up with Approved Food

Brexit Stockpile

I asked on my Instagram page if anyone else was making a little ‘just in case’ Brexit stockpile, and a surprising number said that they were! To start with, I thought it was just media scare mongering. Then I read this article from the BBC and I started to wonder.

As a result, I have started my Brexit stockpile with a large bag of non perishables from Aldi. Tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn and potatoes, tea bags, pasta, rice, etc. It might be unnecessary, but what’s the worst that can happen? I have lots of staples to see us through for a few months.

My Brexit stash shopping list

I had planned to get a few bits each week. Then I remembered that many of these staples are usually super cheap on Approved Food. So I went on last night and bought the following.

It’s always worth checking out the bundles and boxed deals. My biggest bargain was a box of sauces worth £21.33 for £4.99. I will be interested to see what’s included, but the reviews are good! I usually cook from scratch, but it is always handy to have some jars of sauce for when I need something quick and easy after work.

2kg Whiskas dry cat food, £5.25 – hope they like this. Much cheaper than the usual stuff I buy!

500g Tate and Lyle brown sugar, £1

Huge 1kg bag white sugar, £1.49

1 kg Hovis granary bread flour, 2 for £1.50

‘Perfectly Good’ self-raising white flour, 2 x 1.5kg bags for £1 (that’s a lot of flour!!)

500g plain flour, McDougalls, 2 for £1

Ryvita thins multi-seed flatbreads, 2 packs for £1.50

Rajah Biryani Curry Paste , 2 for £1

Jordan’s 6 pack Frusli bars, 99p

Kallo vegetable stock cubes, 2 for £1

Kernal King peanut butter, 2 for £1.50

Resisting temptation

Brexit stockpile

My Brexit starter pack…

I’m not going to lie, you have to wade through pages of catering size packs of items such as yellow icing to find the useful stuff. There is also a lot of temptation in the way of cakes, chocolates, crisps and other snacks (useful if you have hungry kids, though!). However, the savings, especially on branded items are immense. Some things are near or past their best before dates, but last a long time anyway.

You do need to check that the discounted brands aren’t still more expensive than the supermarket own brands too. Usually you can bag a bargain on most things, though.

Approved Food can be absolutely brilliant for gluten free stuff and items for particular dietary requirements. As these tend to be expensive and branded, buying close to or after the best before date can save you lots of money.

The household section can be interesting too. Everything from shoes polish to notepads, pens to gift sets is on there at really big discounts. It’s a bit random, but worth a look.

Watch out for catering packs

Another tip is to check the sizes you buy. I once inadvertently bought a catering size pack of stock powder. It was so huge it would have lasted us way past the need for a Brexit stockpile and into Armageddon! I ended up giving everyone who stepped through the door a little tub to get rid of the stuff!

There is a delivery charge if you spend less than £55. It’s £5.99 for a single box and £8.50 for 2 boxes. It’s worth clubbing together with a friend or family member to make sure you spend enough to get your delivery free.

My box of staples for my Brexit stockpile cost just over £33 including delivery. I will also continue to pop a few bits in my basket each week to add to our stores. I am reassured by our decision to resurrect our vegetable patches in the garden this year. We are going to start buying our seeds this month.  Hopefully then, even if the shelves are bare post Brexit, we will be OK.

What do you think? Are you building a Brexit stockpile or do you think I am bonkers?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission but it won’t impact on the price you pay. Thanks.

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

aubergine and chick pea tagine

I recently made this aubergine and chick pea tagine for one of my vegan days – I try to eat completely meat and dairy free twice a week. This recipe comes from a very old book, The Cancer Prevention Cook Book. Despite its slightly scary title, it is full of nice foodie ideas and healthy too. I don’t think it is still in publication, but you might be lucky and pick it up on Amazon.

aubergine and chick pea tagine

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

This is nice with rice or couscous. Serves 4.


1 small aubergine, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

150g mushrooms, halved

1tbsp ground coriander

2tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp groung cinnamon

2 txp ground turmeric

225g new potatoes, sliced thinly (I found it best to par boil these)

60ml bottle of passata

1tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp chilli sauce

75g ready to eat dried apricots

400g can of chick peas

Salt and pepper

(I also added 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika and 1 heaped tsp vegan stock powder)


aubergine and chick pea tagine

Sprinkle salt over the aubergines and courgettes and leave for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry. Then toss in 2 tbsp of the oil and grill for 10 minutes, until tender. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another minute, stirring to allow the flavours to mingle. Add the potatoes, tomato puree and half a pint of water (add the vegan stock at this point, if you are using it). Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the aubergine, courgettes, chilli sauce, apricots and chick peas. Season and cook, partially covered for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add extra water if the tagine becomes too dry.

I really enjoyed this aubergine and chick pea tagine and can see it becoming a regular on my meal plans. Better still, it freezes really well.

For more frugal recipe ideas, check out my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

This post contains affiliate links.

OnlyNaturals Review: ecofriendly cosmetics and toiletries

I recently discovered a lovely company called OnlyNaturals, a family run British company based in Berkshire. They only sell natural and organic skincare and cosmetics containing no harmful chemicals. This is the direction I am trying to move towards with the products we use here at Shoestring Cottage.

CBD balm

Regular readers will know that I have been struggling for months with pain from a trapped nerve in my neck. I have tried all sorts to get relief, from massage and acupuncture to an array of drugs from my doctor.  Next stop is an MRI scan to see if I have damaged discs. I am not used to spending so much time with medical professionals – I am usually so healthy! However, this has proved a tough issue to relieve.

onlynaturalsI have been using CBD oil orally, but had heard that CBD ointment applied to the skin can be helpful for pain. With a bit of research, I found that  OnlyNaturals sell it!  I am trying a small pot first, so have ordered the 10g balm for £13.99. They also do CBD oil in capsule form, which might be worth exploring as it tastes vile!

Fewer nasties

Looking at the OnlyNaturals website, there are so many beautiful cruelty free products with fewer artificial ingredients. all of their products need to fit the following criteria:

  1. No Parabens
  2. No SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)
  3. No Phthalates
  4. No artificial Colours
  5. No artificial Fragrances
  6. No Mineral or Petroleum Based Oils
  7. No contaminated Talc or Lanolin
  8. No animal ingredients (other than milk based ingredients and beeswax)
  9. No animal testing

only naturalsBecause they use only the best, natural ingredients, their products aren’t cheap. However, if you want to do natural beauty on a budget, you can do some savvy shopping with their offers. This Sukin Love Your Skin set is on offer at £15.99, down from £23.99. It consists of a foaming facial cleanser, hydrating mist toner and moisturiser. Pretty good value for three products I think.

onlynaturalsThey have some great value items in their sale too, so it’s worth a look. I wear lipstick a lot and really love their Lily Lolo natural lipsticks at £9.50 each, which I think is pretty reasonable. This one, Demure,  is in the sale for £6.50 and is just my colour!

Sound environmental policy

I like the OnlyNaturals policy on the environment as well. They choose products made by companies who are environmentally responsible and their packaging is either recycled or comes from sustainable sources. They ship products in cardboard and recyclable jiffy bags and use packing material inside the boxes that is fully biodegradable and dissolves in water.

Check them out and tell me what you think! You get a 10% discount on your first order.

This post isn’t sponsored but it does contain some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase using my link I will earn a small commission. Thanks!



Using it up: Cheap meals from the freezer


cheap meals

Our freezer is rammed full with the possibility of lots of cheap meals. It looks as if I have been unconsciously storing stuff up for a no deal Brexit… We need to eat it! Here is what is there:

What’s in our freezer

A ton of redcurrants and blackcurrants from the garden.

Two bags of foraged blackberries.

For some odd reason, two packs of fish fingers. We hardly ever eat them, but a fish finger sandwich makes a nice lunch.

A large pack of diced beef, bought yellow stickered.

2 packs of lean steak mince, again yellow stickered.

Pack smoked salmon trimmings.

3 fish in breadcrumbs

2 bags Yorkshires

6 pots home made soup

3 beef burgers – I bought these when we had our last language student

2 vegeburgers

Pack of vegetarian butternut squash sausages

Half pack vegetable falafel

A giant pig in blanket – seemed like a good idea at Christmas…

Jam roly poly

Frozen peas

1 steak

1 salmon steak

4 chicken thighs

2 lots of vegetable tagine, home made

Box of ready to bake sausage rolls

2 packs pitta bread

2 lots of home made chick pea curry

1 lot of home made chicken and chick pea curry

1 naan bread

2 loaves bread plus various odds and ends saved for bread pudding

A container full of veg ends for soup making

Ready for Brexit?

cheap meals

The start of our Brexit stash

I don’t even know how some of this arrived in the freezer! I think the girls must have bought the sausage rolls and jam roly poly when they were here at Christmas.

Anyway, the meal plan this week will incorporate some of this. I want to make space for some frozen fruit and veg, just in case there are shortages if there is a no deal Brexit. Despite my comment at the beginning of this post, I have started a Brexit store of tins and non perishables in the last couple of weeks.

The media may well be scaremongering, but it pays to be prepared. We will be stocking up on seeds to grow some of our own fresh food this summer as well. We had a year off last year, but now is the time to get the wellies and spade out. (Well, as I can’t dig with my trapped nerve, I will have to stick to the light stuff for now!)

As I have rambled on, here is  a rough meal plan to create cheap meals and use stuff up.

Cheap meals from our freezer


Beef stew for Mr S and defrosted aubergine and chickpea stew for me, with kale and potatoes. This will be one of my vegan days.


The same for Mr S as there is a lot of beef in that pack! I will have a chick pea curry and we can both have rice.

Jam roly poly and custard for pudding.

If we are home, fish finger sarnies for lunch.


cheap meals

Chicken and chick pea curry

Another vegan day for me. I will have lentil dahl with rice . Home made soup for lunch.


Burgers, home made chips and peas.  My daughter is round for lunch so will shall have some of the pittas with falafel, humous and salad.


I will make some kind of pasta dish to use the smoked salmon in. This one looks nice. I will substitute the double cream for a Lactofree version. We will have some broccoli with this.


Just me for dinner so I will eat leftover pasta from Wednesday.


Butternut squash sausages, with mash potato and vegetables.

This week of cheap meals from the freezer should free up a little space, hopefully.  I am hoping my neck pain will allow me to finally make some currant jelly too at some point. Do you plan your meals and find it saves you time and money? Check out some of my favourite frugal recipes here.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.


Making money and saving it too #fivefrugalthings

Making money

As I said in my Monthly Money Wins post the other day, I pretty much sailed through my no spend January.  Despite being at home the whole month, I didn’t resort to surfing the internet buying stuff I didn’t need! Instead of spending it, I have been thinking about making money – and saving it too.

Finally got a water meter

I have been meaning to get a water meter fitted for ages! When we first moved here all three daughters were at home, which meant lots of hot water for baths and showers, at least one load of laundry each day,  more running of the dishwasher, etc. We decided it would be cheaper at that point NOT to have a meter. Now, with only one daughter living here just some of the time (she is at university) and a lodger who spends most of her time at her boyfriend’s, we use much less water.

Making money

I am trying to make the best of being signed off from work by catching up on all of these little jobs I never get round to. Today a nice gent came to check all was well and decide where to put a meter. The engineers will be out next week. He left us with this little water saving pack for the garden.  It contains lavender seeds, a water saving hose nozzle, some swell gel, a water retaining mat and water stick for our pot plants and lots of useful information. As we live in one of the driest parts of the UK, the guide to drought tolerant plants leaflet contains great tips for good plants for our garden.

Making money with eBay reselling

I have decided to get serious about my eBay reselling this year, and make it a proper business. Now is a good time to hit the charity shops as many of them have been inundated with donations before and after Christmas. There are lots of fantastic reductions to be found. Selling on eBay is a good way of making money.

Making money

I focus mainly on clothes as I know what will sell already and have spent about £90 on stock in the past week. However, I have started looking at the many You Tube videos on reselling to learn more about other items to look out for. That is for the future. For now, I am washing, ironing, photographing and listing my clothing purchases. I managed to find two Karen Millen silk dresses, one for £2.99 and the other for just £1. When I looked at what these are selling for I was amazed. At least £30-40, which would be a fantastic profit.

A good start to my efforts toward making money.

Festival time

Making money

At this time of the year, I need something to look forward to. We fancy a festival, but prefer a smaller, more chilled out affair with a few interesting acts, rather than a frantic and very expensive V Festival type experience with huge headliners.

For a few years I have wanted to go to the Green Gathering, so I contacted the organisers to see if they would give us free tickets for a review. They were happy to do this, so watch out for a post on this fantastic looking festival! It looks eccentric and fun!

Part time veganism continues

Regular readers will know that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat vegan two days a week. This has been surprisingly easy, as I already eat a lot of vegan dinners. I bought oat milk for my porridge, a nice Tartex mushroom from the health food shop plus hummus for sandwich fillings. Other than those things, I didn’t need to buy anything.

Making money

Being a part time vegan is making us try some different recipes. Eating less meat, fish and dairy is cheaper and healthier I think. I made a yummy aubergine and chick pea tagine and will post the recipe next week. We will be eating that again as it was really tasty.

Free haircut

I was going to book myself in for a cheap haircut at the local hairdressing college. They charge just £7.50 for a cut and blow dry. Then I remembered that a salon in town was advertising a student night and asking for models. I rang them and they charge nothing at all! The down side is that they are super booked up so I will have to wait a couple of weeks. I don’t mind this for a free hair cut.

So, that is the summary of my week of making money and saving it as well. What are your frugal achievements this week? Have you managed to save a few pennies and are you making money with any side hustles?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.



On the Money with


Jo and Leisa are twin bloggers who both gave up the ‘joys’ of teaching to enjoy their second passion: writing. This lead to them starting two successful blogs: and They hail from the sunny isles of Jamaica but have called the UK home for nearly two decades. They lead a simple, frugal lifestyle and aim to inspire others to do the same. Their blog led them to having a spot on Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money, which gave them a bigger platform to promote awesome frugal living ideas.

Conversations with money bloggers: Joleisa

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

As little girls we used to get a little bit of money to buy snacks. The shop was not far from home so we would walk to the shop and eat the snack on the way back home. Saving any money didn’t even cross our minds! Those were the days!

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

Yes, certainly. Before the frugal bug hit, we used to spend without a care in the world with little or no thought of saving, etc. Even as grown teachers, we used to be sympathetic to any and everyone who needed to borrow money (most of whom never repaid), we would grocery shop when there was no need and we would buy more clothes for the entire family than was necessary.

What was your worst money decision?

Perhaps one of the worst money decisions made was being duped into having a credit card. It was the most stressful time ever! Soon after getting the card, the spending spree began. Not being money savvy at the time and having ‘free’ money, I was certainly caught out. I ran up a bill that seemed impossible to pay off. That’s when I decided: ‘Never again!’. I pledged that if I ever paid it off I would never ever get one again. That was over 14 years ago and I have kept to that promise, thank God.

What was your best money decision?

Debatable, but perhaps investing in real estate, both here and abroad. That way we have somewhere to stay for part of our vacation when we go abroad and also our properties  give a good rental income. We think that is a good investment as well for other reasons: when the stress gets too much, we can sell on or if the market is very favourable for sellers, we can benefit.  I wish I understood the stock market more, though, because I hear there is some money to be had that way.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?


In a word (or two, in fact) MEAL PLANNING. Man, we have wasted a lot of money on food! But not any more! We plan the meals for up to a week, shop for just those ingredients and then execute the meals. Along with that we also batch cook and freeze or  refrigerate meals for the family.

One good tip: if there is a glut on the market for a particular food  produce, then it is usually reduced in price so that is a good time to buy the produce and get your culinary creativity going. Look at various ways to use the product, who knows, you might even invent a recipe! We have invented quite a few and have saved lots of money along the way.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

Plan, plan, plan.  Plan for as many incidentals as possible. Think, will I be out at lunch time? Should I pack myself something to eat or am I making a conscious decision to buy a ‘treat’ lunch? Is my destination near enough so I can walk, saving me petrol or bus/train cost? Just think, think, think. Don’t be caught out by making impulsive purchases. It’s so good to do a little victory dance when you are back home and you have stuck to your plan.

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Learn how to make and use a simple budget. The simple parts should be:

  • Money coming in
  • What I MUST spend
  • Savings
  • How much do I have left to spend

I find if this is simplified for youngsters, they are more likely to understand and to take it in. Many have no knowledge of money management (a sad state of affairs in schools). We should not sit back and think, they are 18 and they are adults now, so they should know. They can’t know if no one teaches them. So teach them the simple way and eventually they will get it.

Warn them against using money that is not theirs (credit cards!). Advise them to save up for what they want rather than buying things on the spur of the moment and paying for excessively long periods of time and with interest. Let us try to spare them the hell we went through because of lack of knowledge.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

Recently, on the Channel 5 show, Shop Smart, Save Money, we managed to purchase ingredients for three meals for a family of four for £9.00! That was a real bargain. Needless to say, we won that challenge!

What was your most recent purchase?

Hair products. We are doing a no spend January (except for must-buys). My hair is breaking badly so I have bought some products which promise to heal it. We will see!

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

In a word, yes. However, we are so adept at the budget now, it is not written. However, it does follow the same format as detailed above for under 18’s.

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?

Yes. We would love to become debt free by the end of 2019 (except for our mortgages). Hopefully we can retire at 60, by which time we should have paid off all mortgages. The plan is to be healthy enough to do some travels.

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

Well, first thing to do is to pay off all debts including mortgages, then retire earlier and start the travelling earlier too. Of course, we would support some worthwhile causes and make some  family members and close friends financially set for life.

Thanks so much to Jo and Leisa for this brilliant and interesting contribution. Check them out on Shop Smart, Save Money too! If you enjoyed this, check out some of my other On the Money interviews here and here.


What went well in January: my monthly money wins

monthly money wins

Here is  a round up of the small and the large achievements in my financial journey this month. I am trying to save money where I can, as well as to make extra. So here are this month’s money wins.

No Spend January

I have found my no spend January surprisingly easy. I didn’t feel the need to buy anything! It helps to have a goal, and I am motivated to put any extra money into my savings. I am desperate for a holiday to France this year, plus I need to start a car fund. My old girl may not last that much longer!

I have been putting off one expense though, and that is a new car tyre. Now that January is over, I will be getting that sorted straight away. Other than that, I don’t plan to go crazy and spend all the money I managed to save on my no spend month.

Did I have any no spend fails? Just one. I took some bags of items to donate to the charity shop and spotted a really thick Jack Wills hoody for a fiver. This is something I really wanted as I only have one hoody to my name, so I caved and bought it.  I am glad I did as this morning I woke up to snow – I need lots of layers to keep warm. We also had a cup of tea at the hospital, as I said in one of my week Five Frugal Things posts. Not bad for an entire month though!

Zero Waste Shop

monthly money wins

This is only one of my money wins in a roundabout sort of way, but it should save  money. I am over the moon that Colchester now has a zero waste bulk shop. A proper one with big casks of cleaning products so that I can refill my own bottles, alternatives to plastic items such as a loofah scourer and a range of shampoo bars. They also have loose food items such as potatoes, pasta, pulses, cereals, rice and herbs and spices.

An Ethical Life hopes to expand quickly and offer more products soon so I will be supporting them and I hope others do too. Refilling should save me money on the Ecover products I currently buy. I make a lot of my own eco-friendly cleaners too, but handily this shop also allows refills of white vinegar, a key ingredient. Annoyingly, Asda has started selling their white vinegar in plastic instead of glass bottles so I will take my old glass bottles and refill them.monthly money wins

Selling my old stuff

I thought January would be a quiet month as far as selling on eBay went and it was. However, I made the time to list all of the things I had lying around and sold some of them more or less straight away. I made £108 from my old stuff. Not a fortune, but better than a poke in the eye!

Making a bit extra from the blog

I am a long way from making my blog my full time job (though I would LOVE that!) but I do manage the odd bit of affiliate income and some sponsored posts. This month I have made £450, which is a great start to the year. This has gone into the car fund. I intend to keep this up every  month and try to improve on it as much as I can in my spare time. It is hard to make my side hustles pay working full time hours and running a house . I would love to work fewer hours as an employee and be partly self employed. Maybe this year will bring more opportunities to do this.

What have your money wins been this January? Let me know in the comments below.



A Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

Valentine’s Day can be an expensive time. Even if you are careful, you could spend £60 plus on a meal out with a glass of fizz, another £30 on flowers, £60 on some aftershave… whatever takes your fancy. Of course, you could just choose to ignore it altogether and save your money! We tend to go for the mid ground and eat a treat meal at home. So, if you want a Valentine’s meal on a budget, what could you go for?

I don’t want to have to do a lot of fancy cooking for a meal in. It’s not a treat if I have to spend ages preparing and clearing up. So I will be looking at easy options at the discount supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl. We will have two courses with some nice olives and nibbles to start with and, of course, some fizz.


Aldi do a nice pot of Greek olives with feta or some stuffed cherry peppers with ricotta, both for a mere £1.49. We have eaten these before and they are lovely. Alternatively we might chop up some cantaloupe melon from Lidl for 99p.

Main course

Lidl do a delicious looking Cheese and dill salmon wellington at £3.99. Fish would be a good choice for us, as I eat fish but not meat. Mr S eats pretty much anything!

Another Lidl choice might be two Deluxe salmon fillets for £3.75.

If you prefer a steak, as Mr S would, Lidl have two rump steaks with mustard butter for £4.99.

All of the above could be teamed with Aldi’s steak cut chips for 99p, or some baby potatoes from Lidl for 72p. Lidl also do a nice speciality broccoli for £1.15.


Lidl Deluxe continental apple tart for £1.99 or maybe a Deluxe Belgian chocolate cheesecake for 2.99.

Aldi offers a heavenly chocolate fudge cake for a mere £1.29 or a double chocolate gateau for £1.69.

Belgian chocolate luxury mousses are only 49p each at Aldi.


Aldi’s cheapest Prosecco is pretty good – we had some at Christmas. Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC comes in at just £5.49 a bottle. If you prefer your bubbles to be pink, Lidl do a very good Cava Rosado Brut at just £4.99.

Our Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

This is what we have chosen for our Valentine’s meal on a budget this year.


Greek olives with feta          £1.49

Main course

Salmon fillets (Lidl)              £3.75

Baby potatoes (Lidl)             72p

Hollandaise sauce (Lidl)     65p

Speciality broccoli                £1.15


Aldi heavenly chocolate cake   £1.29


Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC  £5.49

Our pretty luxurious three course meal with fizz comes in at £14.54. OK, we have to do the washing up ourselves, but it should be pretty minimal! A meal like this would cost a lot more in a restaurant, so I am happy with our Valentine’s meal on a budget.

As reader Laura points out, Tesco also does a mean meal deal of a main, a side, a pud and a drink for a tenner so it’s worth seeing if you fancy the choice there. We have tried both the Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s meal deals in the past and they are pretty good and excellent value.

Alternatively, you could go super cheap and have pizza and cola for £1.92, as suggested by Skint Dad in this post! Don’t think Mr S would be too impressed, but in the end if you were with your one true love…

Do you aim to save money on Valentine’s day, ignore it all together, or push the boat out on a restaurant meal?

More healthy dinners: this week’s #mealplan

healthy dinners

I am planning more healthy dinners this week. Being unwell for so long has made me determined to be super healthy and get better! I take so many pills at the moment I can’t wait to get this trapped nerve sorted once and for all. Still waiting for my MRI… I am doing some extremely gentle exercise whilst I wait, but plan a mega fitness regime as soon as I am sorted!

My two vegan days went well last week so I am doing the same again this week, on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t enjoy almond milk in my tea at all, although it was OK in my coffee and porridge. This week I am buying oat milk instead.

A week of healthy dinners


healthy meals

Aubergine and chick pea tagine. This sounds delicious. I haven’t made it before but came across it in an old recipe book that cost me 20p in a library sale. I use it a lot. It’s called The Cancer Prevention Cook Book, and it is chock full of lovely, healthy recipes with great photos. You can find it on Amazon still for about 40p! I recommend it!

There is couscous in the larder that really needs eating so I will serve some of that with this dish.


We will have a roast dinner today. Mr S will have roast chicken or a chop and I will have a nut cutlet, with roast potatoes, lots of veg and a Yorkshire pudding.

I will make plum crumble with our home grown plums that are in the freezer. If I use the vegan margarine this can be one of my vegan days and I will attempt to make custard with oat milk. Not sure how that will work out but I can but try!


Not strictly a vegan day, but I really fancy making a tomato and lentil dahl, again from the Cancer Prevention Cookbook. It uses ingredients I have in the cupboard anyway. We will have it with brown rice.


Salmon with potatoes and vegetables, with a hollandaise sauce. One of my favourite simple but healthy dinners.


Spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce and grated cheese. Mr S can have mince in his, as I bought lots of yellow stickered stuff which is in the freezer. I will make extra and freeze for some ready meals once I get back to work. We will have salad or veg with this, depending on what’s left.


healthy dinners

A nice bit of comfort food – macaroni cheese with a large salad and avocado. I will use whole wheat macaroni.


Probably the same again – I don’t mind eating the same thing two days in a row! Less cooking.

So this is our week of healthy dinners. Not much meat or fish, some pulses and lots of vegetables. What are you eating?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.

January is a long month! #Fivefrugalthings

January is a long month….

I saw this funny post on Skint Dad’s Instagram the other day, which rang true… January is a long month. Even on my no spend challenge it is dragging a bit!

no spend January

Regaining control of your finances with a no spend January

If you are feeling the pinch and still haven’t recovered from December it’s not too late to have a few no spend days or even weeks. The discipline of buying nothing except essentials is great. If you decide you are going to spend less, it is easy to just spend and it creeps up without you noticing … However, if you declare you will be spending nothing then that is clear cut. No shopping, no going to the pub, no buying stuff on the internet, no beauty treatments or hair cuts, no meals out. You pay your bills and buy your groceries. You get petrol and pay for any essential repairs, but that’s it.

That might sound depressing, but it’s actually the opposite. It is only for a limited time and you reap the benefits with greater control of your money. So what frugal things have I achieved for this week of my no spend January?

1# Going part time vegan

january is a long month

I don’t think I could sustain a completely vegan diet. Nevertheless I find myself preparing vegan meals quite a lot of the time anyway. If you avoid buying lots of processed vegan foods such as ‘cheese’ or burgers, eating vegan is actually extremely cheap.

I decided to eat totally vegan twice a week in my new year’s resolutions, partly for health reasons – less fat and more vegetables and fruit – and partly to reduce my environmental footprint.

It wasn’t difficult as I enjoy this way of eating. I even experimented with a vegan lemon drizzle cake. It turned out a little soft in the middle but was so lemony we ate it all anyway. My difficulty with the diet is having to either drink my tea black or to put non-dairy milk in it. The almond milk I purchased didn’t taste good in tea. Next week I am going to try oat milk.

2# Keeping warm with our wood burner

january is a long month

I mentioned previously that I am currently signed off work with a trapped nerve. As it has been just me in the house a lot of the time during the day, I have been sitting in the lounge with the wood burner on rather than heating the whole place.

Me and the cats love snuggling up in front of a roaring fire! Cheaper than heating rooms nobody is in.

3# A walk in the park

january is a long month

We are lucky to have a beautiful park in Colchester town centre. Castle Park is huge and always immaculately looked after, with lots of interesting things to look at each time we go. This time there were these lovely willow figures of men tending a war time allotment.  We had great walk round it in the cold sunshine. It was so cold the pond was frozen over. Fortunately some parts had broken and melted as it was full of swans and ducks.

january is a long month

There were lots of people in the park, obviously not put off by the freezing weather. This is great. With all the cuts in local government, it is really important to use facilities that we pay for with our council tax so that they can’t easily justify stopping the funding for local amenities like parks, libraries and museums. Use them or lose them and make sure your councillors know how much you value them!

4# A bit of bird watching

january is a long month

Mr S received a huge wreath made from bird food as one of his Christmas presents. We need to put it in the garden, somewhere the cats can’t get at so the birds feel safe feeding from it. I also plan to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch so have been online to get a free pack. Hopefully the wreath will draw the birds in and we can record a few feathered visitors. It runs from 26th to 28th January. Why not take part? It’s fun, it’s free, it’s educational and it’s useful!

I’m not great at identifying birds but Mr S is pretty knowledgeable. I have been looking at the RSPB website, where there are pictures and descriptions of the most common birds you might see in your garden.

5# Changing broadband provider

We decided to get a grip with our TV and broadband. We had the cheapest, most basic contract with Virgin, which was fine for broadband but pointless for the TV. We get more channels on Freeview! We decided to get rid and take out a broadband and phone only package with Now. I did it through Top Cashback and got £75 cashback! I use cash back sites for pretty much everything I buy now – they save me so much money! (This is my referral code, by the way.)

january is a long monthThe contract will only cost £25 a month, as opposed to the £44 we were paying with Virgin. So, £19 a month saved plus £75 in our pockets. Most of the TV we watch is on catch up, which we can get via the Firestick, and Netflix. I don’t think we will miss Virgin.

How has your week been? Do you find that January is a long month?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.



Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson Book Review

zero waste home
Can you imagine your family producing just one mason jar of waste each year? Even reducing the waste in your recycling to the bare minimum? Can you envisage for one moment your home as a minimalist, plastic-free haven containing only the things you really need? Less to clean and maintain, fewer toxins, and a simpler life richer in the things that really matter? Bea Johnson and her family have created just that and her book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life explains how.

Achieving simplicity

By adopting a zero waste lifestyle, the Johnsons have achieved a balance and simplicity that most of us can only dream of.  It may not be possible for all of us to create a completely zero waste home, but we can learn from their experience to reduce our dependence on plastics, cut our waste dramatically, to eat more locally and healthily, and to learn to place our emphasis on experiences over things.

zero waste home

You can follow the 5 Rs by taking your own containers to a bulk shop

The recent Marie Kondo phenomenon has illustrated our dissatisfaction with the vast amount of stuff we purchase and cram into our homes. We work harder to make more money to buy yet more stuff, and only occasionally stop to consider how little lasting satisfaction comes from this lifestyle. By moving towards the attainment of a zero waste home, we can help to reduce the stress on our environment, save money and improve our physical and mental well-being.

Five steps to a zero waste home


Johnson advocates a five  step approach to reducing your waste. Step 1 is to REFUSE. This means curbing your consumption overall, refusing business cards, leaflets, junk mail, goody bags, receipts, plastic bags and single use plastics generally. By taking a reusable bottle, cloth bags for your groceries, taking your own containers to buy loose goods and refusing as much potential waste as possible – ie not bringing it into your home – you will reduce the demand for many items to be produced in the first place.


This means questioning your need of past, present and future purchases. It means the reduction of stuff, maybe donating or selling items that you have accumulated but no longer use. Even giving up shopping as a leisure activity, maybe downsizing your property, gettimg rid of one car if you have two, etc.


Repurpose the items that come into your house that you weren’t able to refuse or reduce. Finding a new purpose for an item that might otherwise be thrown away or sent for recycling helps to alleviate resource depletion and extend their useful life. For example, you can used old coffee jars to collect and store dry goods purchased in bulk.


If you have followed steps 1 to 3 so far, you won’t be sending so many items for recycling. This is progress, since recycling isn’t a panacea for our over consumption. Recycling uses a lot of energy for a start and is confusing. Some plastics are recyclable and some are not. Some claim to be compostable, but how long does this take? Are our recycling systems properly regulated and robust? How do we know they aren’t shipped off to a third world country and dumped?

#5 ROT (compost the rest)

When you have gone through the four preceding steps, hopefully all you have left is compostable food and maybe also paper waste. You have achieved zero waste!

Can you really achieve zero waste?

zero waste home

We are lucky to finally have a zero waste shop

Johnson does admit that a truly zero waste lifestyle is pretty much impossible, but we can all move towards it. The benefits to our finances, our health, our time and the environment will be immense. She guides you through the whole of your home and lifestyle, giving you invaluable information and advice to enable you to at least follow a low waste existence.

Zero Waste Home has had a huge impact on how we live at Shoestring Cottage. I urge you to buy a copy and lend it to all of your friends and family members to encourage them to tread more lightly on the earth.

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Sarah Brown’s Spiced Almond Risotto

spiced almond risotto

As I have finally commenced my new year’s resolution to eat completely vegan twice a week, I have been looking up some recipes in my old cookbooks. Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen is one of my favourite go to veggie recipe books, and contains a lot of vegan dishes too. On Sunday I made this yummy dish, as per my flexitarian meal plan. It was really nice with a nice big salad. If you have a meat eater in the house, as I do, it goes well with a roast chicken thigh or two.

Spiced almond risotto

Serves 4


1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove crushed garlic

6oz brown rice

3 sticks of celery

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 pint boiling water

2 oz sultanas

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

4 oz almonds

Salt and pepper to season


spiced almond risotto

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and fry the onion, garlic and rice for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the celery, sliced, along with the spices and fry for 3 minutes more. Pour over the boiling water and add the sultanas, mushrooms, pepper and almonds. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes,, until the rice is cooked. Ideally you want all of the water to be absorbed but keep checking to make sure the rice doesn’t boil dry. Add more liquid if you need to. Season well to taste.

I hope you enjoy this spiced almond risotto as much as we did.

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