Friday, 23 February 2018

Frugal Friday

The last full week of February and it seems that I will not be able to plant out those seedlings anytime soon, brrr, it's cold ! But the frugal living goes on !

This week there was plenty of wholesome home cooking to feed out tummies and generate some much needed extra heating at the same time ! We made leek and potato soup, red lentil and tomato soup, hummus, tortillas, refried beans, chips, salsa, stuffing, pasta bake, bubble and squeak, blackberry and apple crumble, lemon cake, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, pancakes, granola, vegetable curry, chapattis and yoghurt !

I washed out plastic bags and containers for re-use, planted some more cress and re-used foil. I got 2 free magazines and a free newspaper at the supermarket and downloaded a free ebook. I read some library magazines online and took my own lunch and flask of tea to a course to save buying anything. I also made lunches for MeShoestring all week.

Other than that I have been trying to formulate a menu plan and shopping plan for March and also to plan a Mother's Day card and present that will cost very little but look great !

I hope that you had a great, frugal week and are staying warm !

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Getting Ready for Spring

You can tell that it is getting near to the end of winter at our house when every spare window sill has seedlings in pots on it. This year I was much more careful with the tomato seedlings and every time they got too leggy I re-potted them. So now we have over 40 little tomato plants. I'm not sure what we will do with all of them, but MrShoestring says that he will think of something !

I also planted lettuce seedlings every two weeks and although these have also got quite leggy I think they will be alright planted out into the cold frame around the beginning of March.

I haven't tried radish seedlings before but they appear to be growing strongly and might lead to some early crops.

In the meantime our weekly crop of cress is being mixed in with the egg sandwich fill in for MrShoestring's lunches and is stopping him missing home-grown lettuce too much !

Has anyone else started seeds ?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Wheatmeal Loaf

This is the loaf we make most frequently, with white bread reserved for special occasions. MrShoestring often makes a 100% wholemeal loaf but I think a bit of wholemeal and white makes the lightest loaf and the inclusion of some white flour adds some calcium for those in the family who can't eat dairy. I'll be making this loaf today and now use ordinary plain white and wholemeal chapatti flour as the difference in protein content between them and strong bread making flours is actually very small and the price difference is large. The smaller amount of gluten in the flours means that you don't get such large, airy holes in the dough but with no salt the bread still seems to rise just as much.

275g chapatti flour
275g white plain flour
1 tsp dried yeast
2 tsps sugar
300ml water
25g oil

Put 50ml warm water in a cup and stir in the yeast and the sugar. Put to one side to bubble up. Put the flours and the oil in a bowl and stir together. Add the yeast mixture and the water to the flours and oil and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rise for an hour. Punch down and place in a greased 2lb loaf tin. Leave to rise somewhere warm, (we use the airing cupboard) until the bread has just reached the top of the loaf tin. This should take 30-40 minutes. Bake for 40 minutes at 200C. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

If you leave the bread to cool then it will slice much more easily. When I'm in a hurry I sometimes just make rolls from the dough as soon as it is mixed and just let them rise for 20 minutes before baking in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes.

Enjoy !

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Handy Clippers !

I cut MrShoestring's hair on Sunday afternoon using a pair of clippers very like these ones which we bought from Boots on our return from the USA, about nine and a half years ago. MrShoestring goes to the barber about twice a year and the rest of the time I keep it tidied up. However, the last time he went to the barber they charged him £15 ! I think they knew that it was poor value for money as they offered him a free eyebrow trim as well. MrShoestring thinks that he can trim his own eyebrows and was curious as to whether the clippers had been a good buy and if so, why weren't we using them all the time ?

So I did a bit of research. I think we paid £9.99 for the clippers and a similar pair today with scissors, different combs for the clippers and some oil to keep them working cost £12, so not much different there. At that rate they are very much a worthwhile frugal purchase as with even one home haircut you will have saved the purchase price. There are lots of instructional videos on YouTube about how to clip hair and I have yet to nick any flesh, so it seems quite safe !

Now haircuts were cheaper ten years ago but even so, with an average of 6 cuts a year we have saved MrShoestring over 50 trips to the barber and several hundred pounds. A real frugal win ! Maybe it really is time to stick with all home haircuts !

Monday, 19 February 2018

February Challenges 3

The grocery challenge is still going well with a spend of £9.36 this week keeping the overall total to still under £120 for the month. This will go a bit higher with a couple more school lunch payments but all that home bread baking is saving a lot of money ! However, I do have to remember to plan ahead as sometimes MasterShoestring's late night snacks mean that there is no bread left in the morning !

The gift budget was eaten into slightly with MrShoestring spending £15 on Valentine's Day. This is quite modest and since he doesn't spend any money the rest of the time and I was the beneficiary I can't complain ! This means that the gift budget is down a bit as I also bought a cushion pad for the cushion I made for MissShoestring, I did have a look at the great stash of craft materials but there wasn't quite enough padding for a whole cushion so buying one was the only option and it was under £5.

Clothes challenge is still going well too with no money spent so far this month. However, with a jumble sale on Saturday I'll have to remember to avoid any bargains ! I would quite like some blue fluffy wool to knit some socks for USAShoestring for next Christmas so I'll keep an eye out in case there is something that could be unravelled and used, but that can be paid for from the gift budget !

I hope that all of your challenges are going well too !

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Ten Things we can learn from the Olympics

We have been enjoying the Olympic coverage all week, although sometimes that has meant slightly odd bedtimes. We like the sport action but are less keen on all the studio discussion. However, it has led to some interesting discussions at home and we came up with the following list of things that we noticed about the event which have applications in wider life :-

1) Even tiny things can make a difference;

2) There is always another chance;

3) You can always improve over time;

4) It's great to have support from family and friends;

5) Sometimes you have to sacrifice to get where you want to go;

6) The youngest have something to teach the oldest;

7) There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes;

8) You are always in with a chance;

9) Having a go is the important thing;

10) Always get back up after you fall down !

Great observations fro a frugal life as well as a sporting one ! I hope you have a peaceful Sunday !

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Home Economics

This lovely lady is called Jane Ashley and she has a good blog called "Eat not Spend". I sometimes have a look on the blog for recipe ideas and then dismiss them as being too expensive, but then I heard that she had published a book called " Home Economics. How to eat like a king on a budget." I ordered it from the library as it said it contained recipes that meant you could feed your family of 4 for £35 a week. That figure would just about fit into my monthly budget with a bit of tweaking to allow for school lunches, so I thought that it was worth a look.

The book is arranged very well with lots of basic information at the front like essential store cupboard supplies and kitchen equipment. Then it has basic recipes such as bread, including gluten-free and homemade pasta. I'm never sure whether it is worth making your own pasta or if it would be cheaper to buy your own, but apparently the taste makes it worth it and the homemade ravioli does look great !

There is just a small section about breakfasts and lunches at home, which was a bit disappointing but there are whole pages on making your own stock, jointing a chicken, making soup etc. so I suspect there are plenty of ideas for those things throughout the book.

Then the main part of the book is devoted to weekly meal plans of different types such as vegan, low carbohydrate, gluten free etc. The meal plans do include lunch ideas and have simple suggestions for breakfasts such as porridge and toast and jam. The meal plans are costed showing a week's shopping at the start of the section and they all add up to less than £35. However, a few of the prices are already out of date, I can't buy butter for £1.09 anymore for instance, but I expect that you can knock a few pence off somewhere else to make up for it.

Since we follow a few special diet plans some of the meal plans would need adapting for us, but reading the menu plans gave me lots of ideas for new recipes and a growing realisation that buying 'luxury' ingredients, such as limes, might not break the bank !

For comparison, I looked at the budget recipe book " A Girl called Jack" which I got when it came out. I think the recipes in "Home Economics" are more family-friendly and it would be an interesting challenge in March to see if I can tweak some of the menu plans so that they will fit our dietary requirements and budget !

It's certainly worth getting from the library and I'm going to try a menu plan week from the book to see if it would be worth buying !