Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Very Last Tomatoes and Cucumbers !

Although it has been raining a bit it still looks pretty much like this round here ! MrShoestring went to the polytunnel to start pulling out the last of the plants and was astonished to find the following !

We used the two little cucumbers and the ripe tomato in a salad and then for a filling for a lunchtime sandwich. The green ones are sitting on the counter waiting to ripen up.

I think this is a record for us, to still be getting salad vegetables in December ! I planted the tomato seeds in January so shall definitely be doing this again next year ! Anybody else still got tomatoes, the ripe one really surprised us !

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Advent Muffins

Another tasty treat for Advent time ! 

100g soft margarine
1 egg
200g self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
30g raisins
4tbsp honey
100ml dairy free milk
1 apple chopped
A little sugar and cinnamon for the top

Line a muffin pan with 12 cases.Mix all the ingredients (not the bit of sugar and cinnamon for the top !) together and beat well. Place scoops of the mixture into the muffin cases. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top of each muffin. Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes until nice and brown on top. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy !

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Be Prepared !

The snowy days reminded me of all the preparations I make in the Autumn to make sure that we are ready for unexpected wintry weather. It isn't a lot of work if you do a little bit at a time and needn't be expensive either !

The first thing is to make sure that all the cars have scrapers for ice and some sacking and a shovel in the back if it looks like snow. The second thing is that we have enough torches in the house for everyone to have one each and plenty of spare batteries. These can be picked up for £1 at a pound shop and are you need to make sure that they are always kept in the same place so people know where to go to if the power goes off. Then I make sure that we have a reasonable stock of candles, usually about 2 dozen and enough safe candle holders ! You can pick up packets of candles cheaply at IKEA and candle holders are very cheap at jumble sales. You need matches or lighters and some snuffers to make sure that you can put them out safely. We have several wind up lanterns as well.

Secondly, during the Winter I always make sure that I have the makings of a week's food in the house. It might mean running out of fresh food but there is always plenty in the freezer and pantry and this is no more expensive than normal shopping, it just involves a bit of thinking ahead. We also have some cheap water containers from the pound shop which we can fill if we hear the water might go off. We are less affected by this than others might be as unusually for the UK we have a well in the garden !

Finally you need a means of heating and cooking that is independent of the electricity and gas grid and which will work if either of those go off. We have a couple of butane gas cooker rings and a wood stove. So even if the heating goes off we can still cook, heat hot water and have one room heated where we could all sleep until the power came back on.

Yesterday, when the snow was so heavy, the telephone line was sagging closer and closer to the ground and Master and MissShoestring were very worried that the internet might go ! However, I did not share their concern since I do not regard this is an emergency essential, I suspect they might differ with that opinion ! Not to worry though, the wind as blown all the snow off the line and we still have an internet connection, much to their relief !

I hope you are all staying warm and safe !

Monday, 11 December 2017

A Snowy Day

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning !

Here is the driveway, with a silver birch looking majestic and christmassy in her beautiful covering of snow !

This is the back of the house and I had to put my snow boots on to struggle to the back of the garden !

The little shed looking very wintry !

 A lovely maple, still beautiful without all her leaves ! MasterShoestring was very keen for us to try and get the car out so he could go sledging with friends in the next village, but we said maybe he could sledge there as there wasn't much chance we would get the car out the driveway ! Instead we made mince pies. listened to carols and went for a walk to enjoy all the wintry beauty !

I hope you are all wrapped up warm and can enjoy the seasonal splendour !

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Pause in Advent 2

The second week in Advent and a time to remember friends and family, write cards, send emails and presents, make calls and have a coffee with a friend ! We are also singing my second most favourite Advent carol. When I was young and we sang this in school it made me want to go and visit all the places mentioned, especially the Hills of the North and the Isles of the Southern Seas. If you are curious about the tune the words are sung to then there are several different versions to listen to on YouTube, but some of them have different words, I like these words best !

Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;
Though absent long, your Lord is nigh;
He judgment brings and victory.

Isles of the southern seas,
Deep in your coral caves
Pent be each warring breeze,
Lulled be your restless waves:
He comes to reign with boundless sway,
And makes your wastes His great highway.

Lands of the East, awake,
Soon shall your sons be free;
The sleep of ages break,
And rise to liberty.
On your far hills, long cold and gray,
Has dawned the everlasting day.

Shores of the utmost West,
Ye that have waited long,
Unvisited, unblest,
Break forth to swelling song;
High raise the note, that Jesus died,
Yet lives and reigns, the Crucified.

Shout, while ye journey home;
Songs be in every mouth;
Lo, from the North we come,
From East, and West, and South.
City of God, the bond are free,
We come to live and reign in thee!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Yellow Stickered Bargains

Yesterday I went shopping with MasterShoestring to do the heavy lifting, so I went a bit earlier than usual and did not expect the usual Friday bargains !

Sure enough the fruit and vegetable reductions and the ones in the meat department were still too little for me to be tempted, but when I got to the grocery section my luck was in. There was 1 packet of Barilla wholewheat pasta 500g at 38p, so I snapped it up. I never normally buy this pasta, always the own brand and now Aldi and Lidl don't seem to stock it anymore that means paying around 56p for 500g so I could see straight away this was a good buy !

Next were 4 tins of Napolina tomatoes at between 4p and 25p a tin. Some of them were chopped tomatoes and some were plum tomatoes but I still haven't been able to work out why 1 tin cost 25p, 2 cost 4p and 1 cost 6p ! Maybe it was something to do with how bashed up they were ? Anyway, definitely a bargain as even the cheapest tinned tomatoes at Aldi cost 29p !

Next was a tin of taco beans, useful for making filled tortillas, at only 9p and then 4 tins of Heinz soup at between 4p and 9p a tin. There was a slight problem with the discounted soup, as when I got home I discovered that 1 tin had scanned at full price, because the reduced sticker had not been stuck over the original barcode. I wondered about going back to ask for a refund but after totting up my savings decided that it was not worth the petrol money to do so ! Especially as chapatti flour, which we use in place of wholemeal flour was reduced this week from £5 for 10kg, to £3.50 for 10kg ! A great bargain! Thank goodness I had MasterShoestring to carry it !

So I think I might carry on shopping on Fridays !

Friday, 8 December 2017

Frugal Friday

Not a great deal to report on the frugal front as I have been busy finishing my assignment for college, I guess that was frugal as it involved no spending and no time to do any spending !

I did download the Simple Savings 2018 calendar and am wondering about trying a challenge every month next year. The 'buy no new clothing' one has gone quite well this year so maybe there are a few more things we could try next year.

The other reason we have been doing very little spending is because MasterShoestring is sitting exams at school this week and next, so I've been doing a lot of downloading of past GCSE papers. You can get these for free now whereas you used to have to pay for a book of papers. However, lots of them come with a blank page between each question, so that used quite a bit of paper and some printer ink !

We made tortillas, fajitas, mince pies, a pasta salad for a 'bring and share' lunch, cottage pie and spaghetti bolognaise. MasterShoestring chose the menu this week to make sure that there were plenty of leftovers for late night snacking !

I got a free notepad through the post and sprayed my old walking boots with weatherproofing spray as they had started to leak. I bought 6 bottles of the spray for a very cheap price a few years ago in Aldi and it is still proving useful !

St. Nicholas visited the house and left a few bits of chocolate in the shoes of those people who polish them, so there were a few happy faces first thing one morning ! Next week it's Santa Lucia, so Swedish buns will be appearing ! I love all these little traditions through Advent !

Have a lovely weekend !

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Saving Money on LED bulbs

Before I start on bulbs, just a wee note to say that I've updated yesterday's recipe to make the final ingredient 'flour' rather than 'four', sorry about the typo !

Last month we needed to replace the bulb in MasterShoestring's bedroom and we have a policy that when a bulb goes we look in the box in the linen cupboard and see if we have a spare one that we have already purchased and if not we replace it with an LED bulb, which will save money in the long run ! LED bulbs are quite expensive, which is why we are waiting for the existing bulbs to expire rather than replacing them all at once. So I looked for a bulb and found a very dim one, around 25W, which would do until we could get a new one.

I looked up the prices of LED bulbs online and at various stores nearby, including IKEA, but thought they were all rather expensive. I decided that I'd try in Poundland and see if they had any. They did, various different fittings and strengths of illumination. I opened the packets, to make sure that the bulb inside matched what it said on the outside, as we have been caught out by this before, but they seemed alright so I bought one for £1 ! I wasn't sure that it would last, but it was worth the chance !

Here we are a month on and the bulb has been fine, it has been on a lot, as MasterShoestring has been doing lots of last minute revision for his mock exams and no problems so far ! I wanted to wait before I recommended these bulbs but now I think Poundland will be my 'go-to' place for LED bulbs at quite a substantial saving, not just on the electricity these bulbs use but on the initial investment as well !

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

German Advent Cookies

Another delicious recipe for enjoying over Advent !

125g margarine
125g brown sugar
2 eggs
1tsp cinnamon
125 g ground hazelnuts
250g plain flour

Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll the dough into 2 rolls about 4-5cm in diameter and cut slices off to form cookies. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment so they don't stick !

Bake at 180C for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Leave to cool before removing with a spatula and cooling on a wire tray !

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Having a Tidy Up

It is always a good idea to have a bit of a tidy up before the holidays, it means that you don't buy things you already have, including presents you have hidden so well you can't find them ! But this week I had a good tidy up of the Blog Roll down the side of the blog. There were quite a few links which did not work properly and a few blogs which no longer post or only very infrequently. So I have removed all of those and now all the links work properly.

Now you should be able to click on a link and be taken straight to the blog. I still quite like Mr Money Mustache but every time I tried to include a link to him it was hijacked by another site, so you will have to find him independently ! There are a couple of links to sites which contain mainly paid resources such as Dave Ramsay and Simple Savings in Australia, but they also have free resources which I have found useful so I have carried on including them.

Frugaldom is another blog I really like but she posts about every 6 months so it didn't seem worth keeping the link up. I also really enjoyed Frugal Queen but I hear that she has taken everything down, so good luck to her and many thanks for all the inspiration over the years !

Many thanks to all of you reading here and thanks too to all the people on the blog roll who keep on inspiring us !

Monday, 4 December 2017

Are Homemade Mince Pies cheaper ?

I made our first batch of mince pies yesterday and was wondering if they were cheaper than shop-bought ones as I bought mincemeat this year as buying all the ingredients was going to be expensive. So I worked it out !

I bought a jar of mincemeat for £1 and made 18 nice pies out of that. For the pastry, I used my normal vegan recipe with oil in the crust and using 45p flour from Aldi that cost 32.5p to make. With 20 minutes in the oven costing 14p the grand total for 18 pies was £1.46.

This meant that each pie cost just over 8p to make. The cheapest shop bought pies I could find were from Asda where you could get 12 on special offer for £1.50. That makes their pies cost just over 12p each. Not a vast difference, so if you are pressed for time then shop-bought ones seem very good value.

However, making the pies, in the kitchen with the children, with carols to listen to, that makes a priceless memory ! So I hope you have a chance to do a bit of baking this season !

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Pause in Advent

Now the season of pause, of magical anticipation and preparation begins. Look for little moments of peace and stillness this week, rest in a moment of silence. This is our favourite Advent carol and we can start to sing it now !

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Simple Savings Saturday

If you go over to the website:-

the lovely Fiona Lippey and her team have put together a fantastic , free 2018 calendar to help you save money throughout the year. There is a challenge for each month of the year and ideas for beginners at frugal living, people with mid-level experience and then some real challenges for hard-core frugalers !

It is a proper calendar as well, with lots of space to write appointments or reminders about what frugal living task you are going to try that day.

I've printed mine out already, for added inspiration over the coming season !

Friday, 1 December 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, it had to be a pretty frugal week for us this week, to the extent that we have no self-raising flour or toilet rolls left, so I'll be off shopping later ! Here's what we did do to keep costs down !

I did get some yellow-stickered bargains last week and they have made meals a bit less boring than they otherwise would have been, so that was good ! I made lots of tortillas from scratch and bread and cake, also a big crumble from frozen fruit from the garden. I picked some leeks from the garden for leek and potato soup, but the cold has meant that we are really on the last few items before it finally goes to sleep for the Winter ! However, there were a few more little tomatoes from the polytunnel as well, very tasty !

I got a free magazine and newspaper from the supermarket and joined a free book club at the library and was able to download the chosen book free as well, so reading that has been keeping me busy this week. I washed out some freezer bags and boxes for re-use and cut up a ripped sheet in to squares for re-use in patchwork.

I got a freebie through the post for use as a stocking filler and also used a £5 gift card from Swagbucks to order a little Christmas surprise. I used my to compare prices between shops to make sure that I get the best value for the grocery money in the hope that I shan't have to raise the amount we spend.

The other big thing I did now that it is so cold is I went out and read the gas and electric meters so I could keep a check on how much we are using. I think that we are just ahead in credit and are still on the cheapest tariff, but was surprised when I checked, just how much the standing charge is, does the supply really cost that much ??

I am looking forward to a cosy time this weekend, as Advent starts, one of my favourite parts of the year!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

November Reckoning

This was a pretty expensive month for us and there was no money left over to put into savings, in fact we had to access some savings to get us to the end of the month ! However, this is why we have the savings in the first place and we are still on target to live on our base income for the year !

Expected expenses included renewing the car insurance and having a 5 week month so more money was spent on petrol and food. MasterShoestring also needed some new clothes because he had grown again. He is now into a small man's size which makes it worth buying slightly more expensive stuff as it should do him for a while. Unexpected expenses were repairing the car after it got petrol in it instead of diesel and having to pay for physiotherapy for my back. In the end the physiotherapy is definitely worth it as I am now getting better quicker and can still work, so it kind of pays for itself !

Another unplanned for expense for this month was buying a ferry ticket for next July ! We had various options for next year's holiday but then there was 20% off a very low price for the ferry crossing so that it would be 25% less than we paid this year, last weekend. I investigated travel options on the other side and decided that it made sense to book the ticket and pay for it at the discounted price and then sort everything else out later. There was just enough in the holiday savings account to cover it, but it did add to the overall total.

Food prices have definitely risen but shopping week to week rather than doing one bulk shop at the start and a few top ups seems to be more expensive for us in spite of the good yellow-stickered bargains. So in December it will be back to a bulk shop at the start of the month ! Next month I'll have to look at the total food spend over the past few months and see if I want to raise the total budget overall !

I'm looking forward to making plans for the New Year in December and coming up with the final totals for the year !

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Orange Jelly

We are not fond of the bits in marmalade so make this easy orange jam alternative which would also make a great, quick gift.

1 litre freshly squeezed orange juice (you can buy this if you can't find a good deal on oranges)
1 lemon - juice and zest
500g light brown sugar
8 sheets leaf gelatine or vegan equivalent

Place the gelatine in cold water. Put the orange juice and stage in a large pan, stir until sugar is dissolved on a low heat and then bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest. Add the gelatine to the pan and whisk off the heat until dissolved. Quickly pour the orange mixture into clean sterilised jars which you have been keeping warm on a low heat in the oven. Fill to the top, put the lids on tight and then turn upside down.

Refigerate the jam when you have opened a jar, but ours usually disappears on the same day !

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Homemade Hampers

A homemade hamper is my " go - to" gift for close family members when I'm not sure what to get them. MissShoestring will be getting a 'hygge' hamper to help with all those little touches when she buys her first home in the New Year. It will have a cosy throw, some candles, a book about Hygge and some chocolate and possibly a few other little treats for a cosy night at home. All wrapped up in a shopping basket which can be re-used. The cellophane can be bought off ebay or saved from a hamper you got and then how you decorate it is up to you. I like lots of curling ribbon and a pine cone or two !

USAShoestring will also be getting a gift hamper this year but his will be full of British food which is hard to buy in the USA !

A hamper does not need to cost much and is ideal if you are not very crafty. They can be as large or as small as you want and means that you can customise the contents so that people get what you know they can use !

Monday, 27 November 2017

Yellow Stickered Bargains

So on Friday I managed to get quite a few reduced bargains and all for an extra £1.24, so that was still well within the tiny grocery budget for this week. So what did I get :-

a packet of nakd snack bars in berry flavour for 28p, we would never normally buy these as they would be too expensive;

8 bottles of Ashbeck sparkling water, 2litre size for 30p for all of them, these will come in handy over the Christmas holidays to mix with our homemade grape juice and homemade elderflower cordial;

3 tins of Mexican refried beans at 14p each, normally I make these from scratch but this was cheaper;

a tin of black beans for 8p, these are normally 80p a tin, so a big saving here and delicious in chill;

a packet of 4 boil in the bag white rice sachets for 8p, we don't normally eat much rice but this will come in handy for individual servings for a quick supper for MissShoestring;

a tin of spaghetti hoops for 2p, we don't normally buy these either, but at 2p it will make a quick lunch for someone;

finally a packet of 4 organic kiwi fruit for 34p.

A good haul of bargains to help stretch the grocery budget and a few treats so I was well pleased.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Stir Up Sunday

Traditionally today is the day to make your Christmas Pudding and allow all the family to have a stir. The name comes from the collect for the day in the Church of England which calls for the Lord to 'stir up ' the faithful and get them ready for the season of Advent. You are supposed to stir the pudding from East to West in honour of the Wise Men from the East and make sure you add a few charms to the pudding mixture to bring the eaters 'good luck' ! We always add the charms on Christmas Day when we re-heat the pudding. They are always wrapped in large squares of silver foil as well, to avoid anyone having the bad luck of biting on them by accident and needing a trip to the dentist for a chipped tooth !

Today is a good day to bestir yourself and have a look at the calendar ahead and make sure that you have made plans. Do you have cough and cold supplies in ? What about if someone gets a stomach virus ? Are you ready for Advent? Calendars? Wreaths? Events? Menu plan for when it gets busy? Have you worked out a Christmas Dinner plan? Any presents need finishing off? Planning now, like making puddings now means that you can relax and enjoy the season as it unfolds with no spending hangover in January !

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Stir Up Weekend

Tomorrow is traditionally the time to make your Christmas pudding but why not have a go at a cake as well if you haven't already made one ?

This recipe has been used as our Christmas cake recipe for quite a few years as it does not contain eggs.

12oz self-raising flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1 1/2 oz margarine
8oz soft brown sugar
8oz sultanas
6oz currants
5oz raisins
1oz chopped candied peel
2oz glace cherries

Grease tin and line with greaseproof paper. Mix together flour and spices. Rub in margarine and mix in sugar. Stir in all the fruit. Pour in half a pint of water and stir.

Turn mixture into tin and bake for 1 hour at 180c, then turn down oven to 160C for 30-40 mins until cake is cooked. Turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack. If you want to keep the cake then freeze as the small amount of fat and no eggs means that it does not mature in a tin !

Friday, 24 November 2017

Frugal Friday

After a week where we had to get the car repaired, when it accidentally got petrol in its diesel engine and I had to pay for physiotherapy on my back, we found ourselves counting how much we have left until December 1st, definitely no Black Friday shopping for us !

I did use the Tesco vouchers we got to order a year's subscription to 'Kitchen Garden' magazine. We have had this magazine before and as well as motivating us to cultivate the garden it also comes with free seeds, which have added up to a substantial bonus over the year. Sort of a free gift with extra free gifts !

I got a few yellow-stickered bargains last Friday night and will try again tonight, but have a very small budget of £10 for this week's shopping so we'll see whether the reductions are large enough to make it worthwhile spending precious pennies on them !

I also went to a jumble sale last weekend, which I was really looking forward to, but they wanted 50p a book and £1 for each item of clothing so apart from paying the 50p entry fee, I left with nothing ! A very frugal visit ! That's the second time I've been to a jumble sale and thought the prices were too high. The library that day were selling off stock at 5 books for £1 which was much better value, but I didn't buy anything there either, just got 5 books and 3 magazines for free !

MrShoestring and I ordered a Christmas present for each other from Amazon, he wanted a soldering kit, which I would never have thought of, so we combined the order and saved on postage. It does spoil the surprise somewhat, but we also buy/make something we don't know about, so there is still some surprise element. After more than 15 years of giving him a Christmas jumper he finally confessed two years ago that he didn't like any of them, so we agreed that we would ask one another for ideas rather than trying to guess ! The money saved on postage will buy the little surprise !

I washed out some plastic bags for re-use and I have made a menu plan to 1st December to use up food we already have rather than buying the usual staples on Friday. This should mean I can keep the grocery bill within budget and inspite of unexpected expenses will finish the month with a little bit in the bank, if we are careful ! We did get a couple of cinema vouchers in the post from the Nielsen shopping survey so might go to the cinema tomorrow as a treat !

I hope that you had a good week !

Thursday, 23 November 2017

More Homemade Gifts

A teacup candle is an easy gift to make. Find an old teacup, melt down the stubs of wax you have saved and use a tea light for the wick. I melt the wax in an old tin I have saved for that purpose and place it in a saucepan of boiling water. Then a use a set of tongs for pouring the wax into the tin cup. I also wait a bit to let the wax cool slightly, just in case the teacup might crack.

If you are looking for more good homemade gift ideas Brandi at The Prudent Homemaker has just started her Gift a Day series again. You can find her at :-

Additional ideas are under the tab 'Make' where you can find lots of her Gift a Day posts from previous years.

Good luck with your gift making !

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Advent Stollen

A stollen is a German fruit bread which is often eaten at this time of year. Christmas ones usually have marzipan through the middle but we like it plain with butter for breakfast. Here's a recipe to make 2 stollen, one for eating now and one for the freezer.

300g sultanas
100g candied lemon peel
100g candied orange peel
200g almonds
4 tbsp lemon juice
750g flour
fresh or dried yeast
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 litre milk
300g butter or margarine
100g sugar
icing sugar for dusting

Chop up the peel and the almonds, pour the lemon juice over and cleave to soak for 30 minutes. Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the sugar and vanilla essence, cup the butter/margarine into small pieces and scatter on top of the flour. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and add this to the flour mixture. Knead to a smooth dough. (I always need extra flour for this bit)

Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Knead in the peel, sultanas and almonds and leave to rise for another 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 halves and roll out each piece into a wide rectangle. Fold the sides of the rectangle into the middle, with one slightly overlapping the other, to make the distinctive 'swaddled' shape of a stollen.

Place each stollen on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, to make sure they don't stick, leave to rise for another 30 minutes.

Bake at 190C for about 60 minutes but keep checking in case you have a fast oven. The stollen is done when it's brown on top and sounds hollow when you knock it on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar before eating. Delicious !!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Buy Nothing Day

Traditionally, the Friday after Thanksgiving in the USA is known as Black Friday, the day when the retailers can expect that their profits go into the 'black' as people use the long weekend as an opportunity to buy gifts for the holidays.

Over the last few years this trend has been exported to the UK too. I have had a look at the 'bargains' being advertised, but there is nothing we need, so on Friday we shall be supporting the other new tradition of making Black Friday a 'buy nothing' day !!

There is a website to help with all this which is UK specific and well worth checking out -

Hug your friends and family, read a story, make some crafts, cook a meal but don't go shopping !!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Lots of free ebooks

Head on over to where she is giving away lots of her ebooks on frugal living to celebrate Thanksgiving. I find her frugal living books very practical and inspirational and she says that she will not be making them available for free for a long time after this, so well worth grabbing a title you don't have yet !

Happy reading !

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Ten Things to do on a Cold, Wet Afternoon

Yesterday it was a really grey afternoon, cold, wet and getting dark early. What to do without spending any money and with 3 teenage boys over ? Here are a few ideas !

1) Light the fire - instantly makes indoors cosier.

2) Have a board game tournament -involves all.

3) Dress for the weather and go out anyway - the boys did this and went to play football in the deserted park !

4) Bake something - the boys devoured it on their return !

5) Have a little nap in front of the fire - I enjoyed this one !

6) Do a craft - get ahead for the coming season.

7) Read some old magazines and decided which ones to keep and which ones to throw away.

8) Do a housework task you have been putting off, cleaning out a drawer or cupboard can be very satisfying.

9) Ring or email a friend, gives your heart a warm glow !

10) Watch a film - the boys enjoyed this one too.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Yellow Stickered Bargains

This was one of my bargains last night, a pair of fancy rubber gloves reduced from £3 to 30p, cheaper than the cheapest gloves for sale for full price !

I also got 4 little tins of spaghetti hoops and sausages for 4p each and a 500ml bottle of washing up liquid for 3p, the only thing the matter with the washing up liquid was that the label was dirty.

I left the fruit and vegetables and other reductions because they were not low enough, but I was well pleased with the few things I did get.

They also had Cadbury and Mars selection boxes for £1, which was cheaper than buying the contents separately or the equivalent at the discount supermarkets. So I snapped up a couple of those to add to some hampers I am making for MrShoestring and USAShoestring.

All in all, well worth going out in the cold for !

Friday, 17 November 2017

Frugal Friday

Quite a quiet week, although hefty on the spending front as my new 'zero gravity' chair arrived to help with the rehabilitation of my back. The nice thing though was that with all this frugal living I can afford it from savings !

We bought sone reduced bread this week and stuck it in the freezer, at 800g for 31p I can't make it that cheaply ! I made yoghurt, granola, tortillas, quiche and raspberry cake from scratch and scored 3 tomatoes from the polytunnel, which is a record for November ! I also washed out a few freezer bags for re-use. They had only had fruit in them so should be OK.

I made our own Christmas gift tags and cards using some cards saved from last Christmas and will make some straw stars to put on the last of them using straw I already have. I also used a discount voucher at Tesco to pick up a cheap Christmas cake and chocolate Advent calendar as MasterShoestring has never had either of those things and is now well enough to try ! We'll see what he thinks compared to home made !

I received a £5 LovetoShop voucher for completing a Correctly Delivered survey for the Royal Mail and sold a book on Amazon to pay for one that I've got on pre-order. I also ordered a pair of cinema tickets using the points from the Nielsen shopping survey. I'm hoping that they arrive in time for us to go and see the new Paddington movie.

MissShoestring showed us all the Christmas adverts on her laptop last weekend and we had a lovely time laughing and oohing and ahing over them, especially the Paddington one. Our television service is only via the internet at present because a big oak tree breaks up the satellite service until it loses all its leaves. Since it's one of the last to do that in the Autumn we don't see any adverts at present ! I suspect this is a good thing !

I hope you had a frugal week too !

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Easy Homemade Gift

I made a couple of these last year for Miss and MasterShoestring. All you need is a metre of fleece fabric and some scissors. 

Lay the fleece out on  a clean floor or table and draw a chalk line at either end to show how far up you want the fringe to be. Then snip up to the line on both sides to create a fringe on the scarf. Brush off the chalk and there you have it, an attractive fleece scarf !

You can adapt this method to make skinny, narrow scarves or thick, wide ones, more like a stole. You could also use a wider piece of fabric and make a blanket the same way.

To add a personal touch you could embroider initials in the corner or add a motif or some sequins. It's so easy to do you can decorate as you wish !

Fleece is easily available in fabric shops or online, or do as I do and watch out for garments to up cycle in charity shops and jumble sales !

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Easy Recipe for Advent

Here is a very easy recipe to try out now and then enjoy with guests during Advent.

3 egg whites
150g brown sugar
125g dark chocolate grated
250g ground almonds

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and stir in the sugar a little at a time. Lightly fold in the grated chocolate and the almonds. Spoon walnut size blobs onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. It is very important to use baking parchment as otherwise the macaroons will stick. Bake in a pre-heatred oven 150C for 25 minutes. Leave to cool for a bit, but not completely, before lifting off the paper with a a spatula.

Enjoy !

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Christmas Cards and Gift Tags

This weekend I took my own advice and went to check on the Christmas stock - no gift tags left and only a few cards ! So I had to start making ! I always save the cards from the previous year to help with this.

Here are a few of the 70 gift tags I made by cutting round the good parts of old cards and then punching a hole in the corner with a hole punch. I don't add string at this point as I always put it round the parcels and leave an extra length to attach the gift tag. I wasn't going to make so many but then I remembered that the rest of the frailly always come looking for gift tags on Christmas Eve after the shops have shut !

I made 20 cards altogether and you can see a few of them above. I didn't have quite enough old cards to make the 30 new ones we needed so later on I used some crafting paper to make a few more modern looking ones. All the above ones have had Season's Greeting printed inside with an ink pad and stamp. The modern ones still need that to be done, so I suspect there will be some more crafting done over the coming week !

Have you got Christmas crafting plans ?

Monday, 13 November 2017

Buying an Electric Toothbrush

Last week my electric toothbrush stopped working. They all eventually stop working because the rechargeable battery inside them can only take a certain number of recharges before it stops working. I dislike this sort of built-in obsolescence and think it is very wasteful but a hand toothbrush or a battery operated one do not do such a good job of removing plaque. 

I used to have to visit the dental hygienist every 4 months and with the use of the electric toothbrush have cut that down to every 6 months. Since a visit costs £45 a time investing in a decent electric toothbrush is a saving, not to mention not developing gingivitis ! I have very tightly packed teeth, so a very good clean is important.

Over the years I have tried very expensive brushes and very cheap ones and my conclusion has been that you do not need a very expensive brush with lots of features to do a good job, you just need a reliable fast brush and a good cleaning head. Features such as travel cases and buzzers which tell you to move onto the next part of your mouth are unnecessary, as are 2 minute timers, you can use your watch.

This meant that when it came to replacing the toothbrush I knew to look for a basic model. I prefer ones made by Oral B as that is what the dentist recommends and I have had good service from them. The last toothbrush lasted over 5 years, used every day. Then I researched prices online, including the cost of postage and eventually found the model I was looking for on Amazon at the cheapest price and I had a gift card from Swagbucks I could use there. Spending a gift card on a toothbrush is not very exciting but since it brought the cost down to under £20 seemed like a good idea ! I then added a small book, which I can use as a stocking filler, in order to reach the £20 limit to ensure free shipping. Ordering the book was cheaper than paying the delivery costs. So I ended up paying less and getting more !

Ordering online was cheaper than buying locally and I was pleased to be able to take care of this chore in the warm !

Sunday, 12 November 2017


They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

Laurence Binyon

I love this 'Ode to Remembrance' and today will be thinking especially of all the young men whose graves we saw in Belgium over the Summer, not just soldiers and airmen but all the partisans of the maquis.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Getting Ready

Looking in the diary I realised that it is only 3 more weekends before the start of Advent. It is very late this year, on into December because Christmas Day falls on a Monday, making the last Sunday in Advent and Christmas Eve the same day.

So I decided that it was time to start checking for the advent calendar, we re-use ours from year to year and other supplies, like baking ones that we will need in Advent. I also checked last posting dates and wrote them into the diary. That was so we are not caught out when posting parcels and cards but can get them ready earl;her enough for second class.

Next I need to have a look at the wrapping paper and card supplies and think about a pudding and a cake. This year MasterShoestring's allergy problems are so much better that although I'm still allergic to marzipan I've promised we can have a cake topped with marzipan and icing as he's never had one. MissShoestring will help with that so I don't have to.

I've also priced up mincemeat and worked out whether it's cheaper to buy or make. Similarly I've started to look at turkey prices. We need a fresh one as the frozen ones contain additives which we can't have.

Then, time to look at the homemade decorations and plan which new ones we will make. All this is quite fun on a rainy, cold November afternoon, but will be less so when December arrives, so get planning now and enjoy the season of Advent when it arrives.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Frugal Friday

It has been quite a thrifty week round here and I managed to get a few treats in as well.

First of all I downloaded a free ebook and then found another one I wanted, so that made 2 free books. I also pureed all the Halloween pumpkins and put the flesh in the freezer for loaves and muffins later in the winter. 

I went to the library, instead of the jumbles sale and now have 5 new books to read for free. We made tortillas, refried beans, apple and blackberry crumble, chocolate cake, quiche, salsa, picked a few more tomatoes from the greenhouse, made bread, baked potatoes, yoghurt and granola and used up the cornflakes I bought for my Dad instead of buying Weetabix.

We washed out plastic bags for re-use and scanned all our shopping with the Nielsen scanner, so I nearly have enough points for 2 cinema tickets. I cashed in some Swagbucks for an Amazon gift token and used it to get £5 off a new electric toothbrush as the rechargeable battery in mine was finished. This seems like a luxury but saves money on dental cleaning !

I received some free Christmas cards and labels in the post and also a free GCSE revision guide for Science when I registered as a professional at the CGP website. Finally, I managed to get 3 free tickets for 'Wonder' at the cinema next Monday, so MasterShoestring is looking forward to coming on an outing with us !

How was your week ?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Eat Well for Less

We don't often watch television just now but turned it on on Monday night to see if there was anything interesting on. Lo and behold, it turned out that the episode that was on had been filmed just down the road from us. We had a lot of fun spotting the locations and people that we recognised !

We also learned a few things and have been watching an episode a night on the iPlayer ever since. We eat more frugally than the people featured but are always looking for new tricks, including :- putting spinach in scrambled eggs, making meatballs out of sausages and poaching them in tomato sauce and that it is worth paying extra for good quality honey !

If you haven't seen the programme yet, do take a look, it's well worth it even if you don't depend £200 weekly on groceries !