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Sunday, 30 April 2017

The First Lettuce


The lettuce has been growing very well under the covers and yesterday we realised that it needed thinning out to give all the plants some room to grow. We treated ourselves to a delicious salad to go with out homemade tortillas, salsa and re-fried beans.

This is the earliest we have ever had lettuce from the garden and so far no slug damage ! I think that planting early, these seeds were started in January and keeping them under cover has really helped with the early harvest. We have started some more seeds to ensure a succession of lettuce throughout the Summer and we hope further into the season !

I have been like a mother hen with her chicks over that lettuce and went out every day to check on it. But it does go to show that giving a bit of extra care is repaid in a good crop. Previously, I would never have had the time to make such a fuss but I am hopeful that our New Year's resolution to make the garden more productive is coming true.

Yesterday, MrShoestring also cut back an enormous amount of foliage around a very, old apple tree we have. In years past, it has never given a good crop, so the few, small apples it did have we always donated to the local wildlife, as we had other trees which produced well. However, this year it is absolutely covered in blossom so we are hopeful that we a bit more light and air around it it might produce a bit of a crop for us this year !

How is your garden doing ?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Trip Out


I had to go to Gloucester yesterday to do some work connected with a trustee role I hold. It was very damp when I set off but started clear up as I reached the Cotswolds. To be very thrifty, I took a flask of tea, a stainless steel bottle of water and a packed lunch. The scenery I drove through was all free, including the lovely village of Burford.

The weather was very different on the West side of the country and it was a really pretty drive. All I spent was the petrol money and I spent the whole day helping (I hope !). A well-spent day and I hope to have more of them in the future. When I got back MrShoestring had done all the housework, which was a great help as I was back quite late ! It was lovely not to have to worry about supper or cleaning !

I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday wherever you are !

Friday, 28 April 2017

Frugal Friday


So, this was a lovely frugal week, with a couple of outings and plenty of home-cooked food ! It started out with a great haul from the jumble sale, some for me and some for the gift cupboard. We had a great time in and around Hampton Court Palace and went to see a thought-provoking film. Two outings in one week is a record for us !

I made a menu plan for May, trying to get the bill slightly lower than the budgeted £170 a month so that I have some extra for stocking up on good deals. This week I spotted 500g of mince beef reduced to £1.18, since the cheapest price elsewhere is £1.59 I stocked up but it meant that we had to eat from the store cupboard this past week. I also made from scratch tortillas, meatloaf, chocolate cake. pizza, pizza sauce, spaghetti bolognaise, salsa, pancakes, muffins and biscuits.

MrShoestring got a home haircut this week which saved us £10 and I re-used some foil and plastic bags. I used free stamps on several parcels and bought a book for a new baby using a gift token. We protected the seeds in the garden using fleece we already had and I got some more free seeds from a 'Kitchen Garden' magazine for which we have a free subscription through Tesco points. That is really a saving because of all the free seeds which come with each edition.

Another little tip is that the lovely blogger over at Simple Living 31 has reduced her ebook of thrifty tips to half price this weekend. You would probably save the cost of the book several times over by applying the tips !

I'm looking forward to slightly warmer weather this weekend to go and look at the bluebells in all their glory ! I hope that you have had a lovely, frugal week !

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Protecting the vegetable garden


A few years ago I bought several packets of agricultural fleece for £1 a packet in the pound shop. It has been languishing in a bag at the back of MrShoestring's workshop, unused and unopened. Every time he has a tidy up he asks what it is and I reply that it will come in handy one day.

Well, one day has arrived ! On Monday night we laid it over the vegetable beds and the strawberries to protect them from the predicted frost. It worked a treat, no seedlings or strawberry flowers were harmed. The fleece gets a bit damp, so I laid it over the washing line to dry and that night we laid it out again to protect the plants against the cold. By yesterday we thought that we should just leave it in place in case the promised hail and sleet turned up. Well, the day dawned clear and sunny but by mid-morning it was hailing ! I was so glad that we had left it in place as MrShoestring was away at work and the stuff is so light it is really difficult to put down on your own.

I am hoping for better weather towards the weekend but in the meantime am thinking that £3 spent long ago has saved all our seedlings and the strawberries for which I am very glad ! So, if you do see some cheap agricultural fleece, get some for the garden, you never know when it might come in handy !

Now, I just need a good way to protect the apple blossom !

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Night Out !




We haven't been to the cinema for ages and then in the same month we were lucky enough to get free tickets for two screenings ! We enjoyed the first very much so were looking forward to the next one !

We went last night to see "The Promise". The story concerns what happens to 3 people who are caught up in the chaos of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the consequences for Armenia and those who identify as Armenian. This is not a part of history that I know very well at all and so I was intrigued to know more about it. I know that the film has not been well received in Turkey and that also made me interested to see what the fuss was about.

It is a film which only adults should see as it deals, in some detail, with the consequences of war and displacement. It shows that there are echoes of the past in world events that we see around us today and this is a film that anyone who does not know much about what happened to Armenians in 1915 should probably go and see. Towards the end I found my self wondering whether it was all true, but right at the end of the film they show photographs and give historical facts which can be checked.

This was not a 'good' or amusing night out, but the film is well made and if the job of mass entertainment is to sometimes make us think rather than laugh than this film did that and more. MrShoestring and I agreed that it is very well-made and is a film that you 'should' go and see. It is not as graphic as 'Schindler's List' which I cannot go and see, but it is certainly shocking, gripping and very, very sad. So, not one for a birthday night out, but as one to talk about, it is a winner !


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Jumble Sale Haul 2


I was very fortunate at the jumble sale on Saturday to find 4CDs still in their original plastic shrink-wrap, meaning that they must be brand new. These are very easy to post and make nice presents so I always like to have a few in the gift cupboard. I got Verdi's Requiem, some Gregorian chants, a Brahms and Hadyn mixed programme from the Czech Philharmonic and Rachmaninov's Vespers. Those were all the new ones and have been put away for presents.

I also got a boxed set of 4CDs of Ella Fitzgerald as I love her voice. Then a 3 CD set of Nature symphonies with lots of different classical music from Beethoven to Sibelius. A 3CD set of Billie Holiday, as I think she has a great voice too and finally a Baroque collection from Classic FM and a CD of Acker Bilk.

I had been going to put some of these back, but the guy on the stall said that I could have the lot for £5 which meant I was paying just over 31p a CD so then I decided that was too good a bargain to miss ! I have already listened to the Acker Bilk and the Baroque collection so am looking forward to further musical treats over the coming weeks !

There are no more jumble sales advertised for a while now so I am glad that I am all stocked up with new music and books !

Have you had any luck with bargains lately ?

Monday, 24 April 2017

Jumble Sale Haul 1

There do seem to be fewer jumble sales about around here so I have been waiting for the latest one to happen and made sure that I got there before the end. It was a Scout jumble sale and in a very well-heeled village so I thought there might be a few bargains to be had ! They did charge £1 entrance rather than the more usual 50p, but as it was for the Scouts I didn't mind.

I had a look for a pair of school trousers, as that is the last thing on my list and although I did find a pair in the right waist size they were clearly too short as he has shot up so much. I didn't look at the rest of the clothes as we are trying to keep to the clothes buying moratorium for the rest of us !

I was more successful at the book stall, where as I was looking they declared that it was £1 for 4 books. I managed to find 3 that I really wanted and then added in a fiction book to make it up to the four.

This was the first item I found. Maps are expensive and we do a lot of walking. Often, I just download a map off the internet but with this up-to-date ordnance survey map we can find some new areas to explore.

I weeded my cookbooks earlier on in the year, trying to get rid of ones which I did not use regularly, one of the ones I kept was the original Cranks recipe book as it has a recipe for untested bread which I often use. When I saw this one I thought that it might have some new recipes for us to try and I'm looking forward to trying some out.


This was the fiction book that I added in to make the total up to four. I read some of the Nora Roberts I bought at the last jumble sale and gave others away as they were just too silly ! I'm hoping that this will be one of the better ones !




Finally, a really useful book. You don't need to have an allotment to make use of this one as it has plenty of advice on fruit and vegetable growing which everyone can make use of. MrShoestring is out there today weeding the blackcurrants as this is one of the jobs for April. It also reminded us about using some organic fertiliser on them !

All in all, a good little haul for only £1 !