Saturday, 31 December 2016

Wax Melting for New Year

I have an old tin pot which I keep from year to year specifically so we can melt wax for the New Year. The idea is that you gather up all your old candle ends and melt them over hot water. You can skim out the old wicks but we usually do not bother as the idea is to pour the wax in to a bowl of cold water. Each person takes a turn at pouring the wax and seeing what shape it makes as it suddenly cools in the water. Then we have great fun making up stories about what the New Year will bring for that person based on the shape made. It is just a bit of fun and ideal for older children who get bored waiting up for the New Year.

When the children were very small we used to put them to bed and then get them up a few hours later and pretend that it was New Year at 8pm. This is a bit harder to do if you live somewhere where fireworks are very popular !

Wherever you are, whatever you do to celebrate I hope that you have a great New Year !

Friday, 30 December 2016

Frugal Things we did this week

This might seem a funny week to be posting a list of frugal things we did this week but we still did them !

We also did some unfrugal things, like having the heating on all day as we had guests !

So firstly, we did save some wrapping paper and packaging which was non-Chrsitmas specific and put it away for re-use later in the year.

Secondly, we put a couple of gifts which were duplicates into the re-gifting section of the gift cupboard. Re-gifting is alright in our book as long as it is something that the recipient will love, the gift is brand-new and there is no chance that they will ever find out that it is a re-gift !

We ate leftovers all week and deforested the freezer where the giant turkey had been stored. We transferred everything left to the big freezer and now we can switch off the little freezer until next Autumn when it will once again hold harvest bounty. So that will save a bit of energy !

We went to the sales and only bought 2 things costing 20p ! Everything else was not a NEED and the prices were too high ! Then spent a bit online and decided that paying postage was more frugal than looking around the shops ! I will have another look next week with a list.

We used stamps from the Royal Mail survey to send 'Thank you ' letters and used email for some as well, so no cost there.

We took MissShoestring back to her flat at a time when there was no congestion charge so £11.50 saved there.

We have made a budget for 2017 and hope to stick to it !

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Tackling Paperwork

These quiet few days between Christmas and New Year are the ideal time to tackle paperwork which you usually do not have time for. For instance, we have been writing to get up to date pension quotations from all the providers we have money with and have been burning old tax records. It is also worth having a look at whether products you signed up for a long time ago, such as children's savings plans are still meeting your needs.

Then make a list of things you need to do with a timeline to do them. I've cleared out and burned a lot of old paperwork and know that I need to do something about getting more accurate pensions' forecasts from all our providers. We also need to update our wills as the children are getting older and one of them does not live in this country anymore.

Doing a big clear out now can save you a lot of money and hassle when the time comes and you need that paperwork. For instance the dishwasher flooded today and I know that our home insurance will pay for the damage as I was just going through the booklet. I know where the booklet is, I know that is from this year's house insurance provider and I know what I have to do to make the claim. If I hadn't been just clearing up the paperwork I think that I would have assumed that we weren't covered ! So, clearing up the paperwork is well worth doing !

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Shopping for Christmas 2017

So I have been doing a bit of shopping for  next year's Christmas presents and accessories and so far have spent under £15. I bought books for a lot of people using the lovely book token I got from grateful parents at work. Then I inventoried all the Christmas stuff and decided that we do not need to buy anything as long as the Christmas tree is not lit too often ! I found lots of stocking stuffers left over from previous years and so have decided that next year we can just round that out with some chocolate and free items, so no shopping there.

Finally I went on the Sports Direct website as they always have really good discounts and found some base layers and tee shirts which all the menfolk will love. Even with the postage cost the items were a very good price. I wondered about using the Click and Collect service as then I would have got another £5 voucher to spend in-store and not have had to pay postage. However, the store is 10 miles away so I had to reckon in the petrol cost and it is also in a really, busy town with lots of discount shops. I knew that I would want to have a look in all the discount places and would then see lots of things which would come in 'handy'. So in the end I decided that paying the postage cost was probably more frugal than going to the store.

I still have a £20 voucher to spend in IKEA later on next year so I think that will take care of everything ! It's all about NEEDS not WANTS next year so although I missed not going bargain hunting as much as in previous years I know that my bank balance will thank me.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Menu Plan

We have a lot of turkey and other leftovers so I decided to make a plan to use it all up by the end of eth week to make sure none of it goes to waste.

Monday - turkey fajitas with lots of fixings, Miss Shoestring will make these and this will allow us to use up quite a few vegetables including a couple of avocados.

Tuesday - turkey cacciotore. Pasta will make a change from all those potato heavy dishes over the past few days.

Wednesday - turkey pot pie. This is easy to make, loved by everyone and if there is anything left it can be popped in the freezer for a busy day.

Thursday - turkey soup. This might be the last dish we need to use up the turkey leftovers, depending on how much people eat in sandwiches for lunch.

Friday - stir fry turkey with rice. This should be the last of it and if it turns out that there is none left I can still make a stir fry with the rest of what is leftover.

I don't normally have so many leftovers but people's appetites seem to have been smaller this year, probably due to the number of treats that people gave them as presents and so there has been a lot of snacking going on ! I think that there is a lesson to be learned for next year, in that all the treats should go in the cupboard to be shared around after meals !!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Going to the Sales

Depending on where you are today, Boxing Day may be the day to go to the sales, either in person or online. I always try and buy the things I need for next year's celebration in the sales. These tend to be better than Black Friday deals and get even better as we move into January.

However, I have noticed that shops are trying to cycle through the sales faster than they were before and so far I have noticed that big supermarkets for instance are not discounting food or decorations as deeply as they once were. So my advice is to make a list of what you NEED and then go out this week to look for it at a discount of at least 50%. Less than that and it might not be worth buying. Look ahead to any weddings, baby or graduation gifts you might need this year and then pick them up at a steep discount to store away for later.

I don't need very much this year so will be sticking strictly to the list. So far I haven't done very well. only buying 2 small items but that is also because I dismissed some other things because they were not priced at a steep enough discount. I shall look again later ! Good luck with your sales shopping and remember that it is only a bargain if it is something you would have bought anyway !

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day

A very Merry Christmas from our house to yours !

Our Christmas is very traditional, stockings in the morning, dinner at lunchtime, a walk and then games in the evening. However you celebrate please stay safe and have a good time. Here is one of our favourite carols which we will be singing around the Christmas tree. We love that it has relevance for today.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.

 How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

 O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Unblocking a plumbing blockage

This might seem a strange post for Christmas Eve, but yesterday MrShoestring did manage to unblock the sink in our bathroom using a new sort of plunger like the one shown above. We thought that lots of people end up with a plumbing emergency over the holidays when plumbers are hard to get hold of so having one of these sink and bath unblockers on hand might be a good idea ! Today, whilst the shops are still open is not too late to get one !

MrShoestring spent a long time trying to unblock the sink using a plumbing snake and an ordinary plunger. He made a big mess and by the end of it, instead of the sink just being slow to drain it was completely blocked !

We started to research on the internet about what else we might do and came across a special gas that in contact with water will guarantee to unblock blockages in 1 second. This sounded liked the right product but it was only available online and at a cost of £22. This seemed a bargain compared to the cost of getting a plumber but MrShoestring spotted one of these in the Screwfix catalogue and dashed off to the industrial estate to get one 10 minutes before it closed. Returning triumphant with this special pressure plunger he had fixed the sink in 5 minutes !

We have a septic tank and old plumbing lines so we also have a set of septic line rods for unblocking the lines to and from the septic tank, these come in very handy if we have a lot of people stay, like over the holidays, as they often don't understand that you cannot throw the usual stuff down the toilet when you have a tank ! Be prepared is our watchword for the holidays, so I hope that you are well-prepared for plumbing and other emergencies !

Friday, 23 December 2016

Frugal Friday

Even though it is Christmas week we have still been looking to cut costs. One of the things I have been trying out this month is shopping weekly to a plan using the local shops. Well, I wasn't impressed that I have almost run out of money ! Nothing left over for bulk buying those 19p vegetable bargains and I had to use a bit of accounting slight of hand to come in on the food budget for the month. I will have £5 in hand if I include the £6.75 credit for school meals that we have sitting in Master Shoestring's account. So it will be back to bulk buying and a monthly shop at Aldi next month !

MrShoestring's plumbing repair for his Mum worked so now he is tackling the slow flowing sink in our bathroom. This will definitely save money as the sink trap is tiled up in the wall and it will need a sledge hammer to get to it. So if MrShoestring and his trusty plumbing 'snake' can get it moving again that will be fabulous.

My brother is coming to tea today and I debated long and hard over buying a few treats but in the end the shopping budget decided that the tea will all be home-made !

We had the car serviced and used a coupon to get a free MOT with the service. This works out really well as the garage does all the work required to allow the car to pass BEFORE the MOT so no repeat testing fees. They are a small, local garage and are really good about warning us about repairs coming up so we can begin to save up for them.

I also inventoried the present cupboard and discovered that together with a very generous book token that I received from work I shouldn't have to buy any gifts next year !

Last thing we did was to run through the budget for next year to check that we will manage with me going full-time studying and it looks like we will be fine as long as we STICK to the budget ! So January will be all about doing just that !

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Swedish Ginger Biscuits

These are MasterShoestring's favourite Christmas biscuits but you do have to make the dough the day before you are ready to eat them as it needs chilling overnight.

550g self-raising flour
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cloves
2tsp groundcinnamon
1tsp ground cardamom
150g vegan margarine
200g golden syrup
100g caster sugar
100g dark brown soft sugar
150ml rice milk or other vegan milk

(Obviously if you don't have to avoid dairy use butter and double cream in place of the margarine and rice milk)

Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough and then rest in the fridge overnight with cling film or a plastic bag over the surface to stop the dough drying out.

The following day roll out small quantities of the dough on a well-floured board and cut out shapes using cutters. Use greaseproof paper or baking parchment to stop the biscuits sticking to the trays and bake for 5-6 minutes at 200C or 180C in a fan assisted oven. Remove from the baking tray whilst soft and leave to cool on a rack.

Delicious !

These can also be used to decorate with if you make a hole in the top of the biscuit before you put it in the oven. Then thread with ribbon or gold and silver string once cool. A tin of these makes a lovely gift.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Cost of Homemade Mince Pies

I made my first batch of mince pies today and was a little worried about the homemade mincemeat as it seemed much drier than the shop bought stuff. However, MrShoestring tried the tester pie and declared that he liked the homemade one better, as it was not as sweet as ones made with other sorts of mincemeat.

Previously I've always bought factory made mincemeat cheaply after Christmas so decided to work out the cost of the 1 dozen pies I had made.

The pastry cost 56p and made 13 pies, a dozen plus the tester one MrShoestring ate ! That seemed quite high to me as flour is cheap but rice milk and sunflower oil are not. Then the mincemeat mixture made enough for 36 pies so I divided the cost in 3 and got 51p for the mincemeat, not bad considering it also included a tablespoon of brandy. Then there was the cost of cooking the pies, at 7p, for a total cost of £1.14 for 13 pies. I didn't cost anything for my time or the wear and tear on the equipment or for the sprinkling of icing sugar.

The cheapest I could find bought mince pies was £1.50 a dozen in Iceland but the more usual cost was £1.80 - £2.00. So it is cheaper to make your own and these are allergen-free which is a big cost saving for us. But if you didn't have to watch what you eat, I would be very tempted to buy good shop bought ones to save time as the cost difference is not that great. 

One thing is for sure, I now know what the target price for cheap mincemeat after Christmas should be, anything lower the 50p and I'll pounce !

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


These delicious biscuits are highly spiced and originate from Denmark. I have adapted the recipe to make it slightly easier and to get rid of the butter and double cream so Master Shoestring can enjoy some ! As I write I still have a half a tin left but I think when school finishes today they will all get eaten !

200g vegan margarine
200g caster sugar
425g self-raising flour (or plain plus 2 tsps baking powder)
75ml vegan milk (or the other sort if you are not dairy-free)
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cardamom
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cloves

Cream the margarine and sugar together until fluffy, then add all the other ingredients. Mix to a stiff dough, cover and leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

Pinch a teaspoons worth off the dough and roll into a small ball. Place on greased proof paper lined baking sheet or baking parchment. Preheat oven to 200C or 180C if fan assisted. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. If you have used greaseproof paper you must take them off whilst still soft or else they will stick. Leave to cool and they will become nice and crispy. Enjoy !

Monday, 19 December 2016

Chocolate Slab

A couple of kind relatives have sent us hampers fro Christmas. They are full of things we cannot eat so I have packaged them up to re-gift to others and have set about making some substitutes to have on Christmas Day. One of the substitutions is a chocolate slab for Master Shoestring. These are really easy to make.

Line a shallow, long tray with non-stick baking parchment and melt 100-200g of chocolate in the microwave, the amount depends on how big your tray is. Mix in any add-ins you want to include once the chocolate has been poured into the tray. Then leave to set in the fridge. Carefully peel off the chocolate slab from the baking paper and you have  a lovely chocolate slab to package. Try not to touch the slab too much as warm fingers will melt the chocolate ! I think Master Shoestring will be very pleased with this substitution !

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Pause in Advent

We have been singing the Twelve Days of Christmas quite a bit this week and I was fascinated to hear that it is based on Christian teaching.
The two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments. The three French hens stand for Faith, Hope, and Charity.The four calling birds are the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man's fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Saviour.The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.Seven swans a-swimming represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit-Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes.Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty and Continency.The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.The eleven pipers piping stand for the eleven faithful Apostles and the twelve drummers drumming symbolise the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.
I was really fascinated to read all of that as previously I only knew the carol in the context of a story about someone trying to woo his sweetheart !

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Homemade cards and gift tags

We always keep the cards we are given and use them either to make new cards or gift tags. Gift tags are really easy as you just cut up the main picture and punch a hole at one end. Then you can tie it on to your gift using the gift tape or string round the parcel and write a greeting on the plain side on the back.

Christmas cards can either just be the old motif stuck on a new piece of card or for children we tend to do something like the above. This one was made a few years ago and uses fingerprints from the children, ideal for grandparents.

I know that lots of people like to buy charity cards and we have done that in the past but now we do homemade ones for recycling and give the money we save to charity instead.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Frugal Things this week

This week is the last week I shall be commuting into London and I have been saving money by not loading the Oyster card with a fixed amount but using my contactless bank card to pay the fare. This should mean that I am only left with a few pence on the Oyster card rather than several pounds.

As I explained on Monday we packed picnic food for Master Shoestring's trip and have been posting Christmas parcels this week so they can go second class. I have also been using my free stamps to keep costs down and have rejoined the postal survey to earn some more.

Mr Shoestring worked out what he would need to repair his Mum's plumbing and brought the items from our stack here rather than having to pay high prices at the hardware store near her house.

I made a batch of shortbread for a gift rather than buying something and handed out homemade cards at work. I also took note of some loss leader prices on Christmas vegetables and have plans to blanch some and put it in the freezer this weekend, 29p a kilo for carrots probably can't be beaten !   

Thursday, 15 December 2016


I learned how to mend clothing in school and was never very good at it. The emphasis then was in making sure that you could not see the repair. Now it is fashionable to show off the area which has been mended and some pairs of jeans come brand new with 'mending' showing.

So far this week I have mended an apron, a teddy bear, a pair of tights and a shirt. All of which would have been unusable had I not done so. I'm glad that I can mend and even more glad that it does not matter any more if the mending shows !

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

YouTube for Plumbing Repairs

Mr Shoestring is off to visit his mother who is 80 years old and does not have the internet. She has a plumbing issue she would like him to fix so he has downloaded instructions and will take them with him in order to effect the repair.

YouTube has a wealth of do it yourself videos and earlier this year we saved a fortune with some instructions on how to replace the battery in the car key ourselves rather than paying over £100 for the dealer to do it. If the plumbing repair works it should save a similar amount as his Mum was quoted £99 per half an hour !

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Santa Lucia

Today is another saint's day often celebrated in Europe, St Lucia. She is most often celebrated in Scandanavia where she was from, with candles and cake ! Today we will have a class in school wandering around with candles, giving out treats to the other children. They visit unexpectedly singing and remembering Lucia's kindness to the poor after she was forbidden to help by her husband.

It is a good time to remember that in this season of plenty and joy there are so many with so little and there is always something we can spare.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Packing Food for a school trip

Master Shoestring is off to Lille on a day trip today. The school has organised a French trip to the Christmas market, so I hope he speaks lots of French to make it worthwhile. The trip was very reasonably priced and Master Shoestring is a reluctant French speaker so we thought that it would be a good investment.

One of the ways we are keeping the cost down and making sure he has something allergy friendly to eat is to make all the food he is going to need. So bacon buttes for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch and plenty of snacks. We even saved money on the water as he brought his own from home in reusable bottles. We know that he will also probably buy several trays of 'pommes frites' but that will be with his pocket money ! 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pause in Advent

On the third Sunday in Advent we always start to think about the animals in the Christmas story. When the children were little that meant a chapter a night of " Mary's Little Donkey", a lovely story of the donkey who takes Mary to Bethlehem and then on to Egypt.

Now we are more likely to be found singing this song around the piano.

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
Been a long time, little donkey, through the winters night
don't give up now, little donkey,
Bethlehems in sight
Ring out those bells tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Follow that star tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day
Little donkey, carry Mary safely on her way
Little donkey, little donkey, journey's end is near
There are wiseman waiting for a sign to bring them here
Do not falter little donkey, there's a star ahead
It will guide you, little donkey, to a cattle shed
Ring out those bells tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Follow that star tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day
Little donkey, carry Mary, safely on her way
Little donkey, carry Mary, safely on her way

It was made famous by Vera Lynn but now it is quite popular in schools.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Paper Snowflakes

One of the other types of decorations we put in the windows at this time of year are paper snowflakes. There are lots of tutorials on the web showing you how to do it but one of the best is this one :-

You need sharp pointed scissors or a pointed scalpel to cut out the paper and a good quality of paper such as that used in a printer or photocopier, then with care, you can get lovely results like the ones above.

Good luck with your snowflake making !

Friday, 9 December 2016

Frugal things we did this week

The nicest frugal thing I did this week was make little chocolates to go in Master Shoestring's shoes for the visit of St. Nicholas. At 14, he still wants to hear how he is doing and be rewarded for his good deeds !

IKEA has chocolate moulds for 80p and you can also find them in pound shops or dollar stores. I also used festive bags to wrap them and I made them with ingredients that I had on hand, so no money spent. I also used the chocolate which got stuck round the edges of the melting bowl to make some chocolate raisins. You just put a few raisins in the bowl and roll them around in the chocolate which is left. I left them on a non-stick sheet to dry and that was another little treat for Master Shoestring's shoe !

We are also being very careful about topping up our travel card with the exact amount of money we need, with only 1 more week of commuting left we don't want to be left with money on the card which we can't spend.

I also scheduled a service on the car for after the next pay period so we don't have to pay for that just now. We watched Netflix instead of going to the cinema and arranged a lift one way to a party Master Shoestring was going to so that parents shared the cost and the time that the journey took.

I also ordered a few gifts for next Christmas season, taking advantage of a reduction to £1 of a very nice gift which will easily keep in the cupboard until Christmas 2017.

I mended some socks, a pair of tights and a pair of pyjamas and ordered a book I needed for my course through the library for a cost of 60p rather than the £9.99 it would have cost to buy.

I also bought 12 pints of milk to put in the freezer for 21p each and found a reduced lettuce for 20p.

So all in all a good frugal week !

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Watching online instead of at the cinema

Last Saturday Miss Shoestring came home and was very keen to go to the cinema. We don't have a cinema nearby, the closest is a 20 mile round trip and I explained to her that the petrol and the over £7 cost of a ticket just wasn't in the budget this month. She very kindly offered to pay but that didn't seem right when she is just moving into a new flat and paying off her student loan so I suggested that we look for a film to watch online instead.

It turned out that she has a Netflix subscription so all she had to do was configure the television in the sitting room to accept her subscription and we were all set for a night out beside the wood burning stove ! We had watched this week's films from Lovefilm already ! It worked a treat and we started watching a new series and saw several episodes of something she recommended. We had a lovely evening with top class entertainment without using any petrol. A month's subscription costs £5.99 for the minimum package which is less than the cost of 1 cinema ticket so that seemed very good value for money and is something we will consider once our Lovefilm gift runs out.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


The closest pound shop to us is a 20 mile round trip away so I tend to go 3-4 times a year and stock up on the things which are good value there, such as stocking fillers and stationery. However, in the Summer I discovered that there is a pound shop which operates online, it is called poundshop and I ordered several things for back to school in August. I was very pleased with the quality and the prices. The delivery is quite expensive at £6.50 so I made a big order of £35 in order to qualify for free shipping. Thinking about spending petrol money to visit the pound shop in person also helps me see that as long as I order things we are going to need this is still money saving.

This time I spotted that they had some nice Christmas gifts and I wanted to order 8 of them to store away for Christmas 2017, however with the postage that did not seem such good value. So I out in another big order to get the free shipping of things like tea bags and rubber gloves to get up to the free shipping. I checked the prices with other websites, such as my supermarket, to make sure that I was getting a bargain. All in all I spent £8 on gifts, £3 on food and £20 on household items as they had a killer deal on toilet paper. We have plenty of room to store toilet paper and will definitely need it !

I'm looking forward to the order arriving and feeling all stocked up !

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

St. Nicholas

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, all over Europe children are looking forward to a visit from him. He carries  his golden book and the children enjoy hearing about their good deeds over the year as well as the bad habits they need to work on. St. Nicholas always has a sweet treat to leave in the children's shoes to reward them for helping with spreading good deeds across the world.

St. Nicholas in our house comes to good children who have polished their shoes and have left them out in good time. One year USAShoestring forgot and he got a cabbage in his dirty shoes, he has never forgotten it ! This year. Master Shoestring is hoping for a few allergen free treats which can be gobbled up before breakfast as well as a little message saying he is trying hard at school but needs to learn to hang up his uniform !

Monday, 5 December 2016

Stain Removal

This weekend MrShoestring's favourite blue cotton jumper appeared out of the wash with a big, black stain in the middle of it. When I asked him about it he said that he thought it was food that he had dropped one lunchtime but he couldn't quite remember. Stain removal for a stain that you are not quite sure what it is can be tricky as you might end up setting the stain. Since the black mark was right on the front of the jumper I had nothing to lose trying a stain remover, as either it would work and the jumper would be saved, or it wouldn't and the jumper would have to be binned.

I have some spot stain remover from Persil which I was sent a long time ago to review so I spread it liberally on the mark and left it. The first go faded the stain but you could still see it. Second time it had faded a lot, so I put the jumper back in the wash at 30C and waited to see what would happen.

The jumper emerged like new and I was really glad that I had tried removing the stain before throwing out the jumper as now it is back in MrShoestring's drawer and he is very happy about that !

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pause in Advent

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming

1. Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
2. Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
3. The shepherds heard the story
proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory
was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.
4. This Flow'r, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God,
from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.
5. O Savior, Child of Mary,
who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory,
who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray,
to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

This is a German carol, Est ist ein Ros Entsprungen, which has a really beautiful tune, it is one of our favourites and we usually start to sing it on the second Sunday in Advent. It reminds us that Christmas is not just the end in itself but the start of a long journey to redeem all humanity.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Making Paper Stars

We use all homemade decorations round here and one of the traditions for the first week of Advent is to   put a transparent tissue paper star in each window of the house.

There is a good tutorial about how to make these over at this website:-

You can use tissue paper, but then you have to cut it into squares yourself, or you can order books of kite paper which come ready cut and are a slightly stronger paper which makes it easier to tear if you want to make smaller stars.

We always back the stars with book covering film as that way they do not get damaged by condensation on the window and you can keep them from year to year.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Frugal Things we did this week

There were several frugal things which we did this week which I was quite proud of. The first was re-using Master Shoestrings chocolate Advent calendar from last year. He can only eat dairy free chocolate and he likes a chocolate calendar, as he is now a bit old just for ones with pictures. So we kept the allergy free calendar from last year as it came with a plastic tray with little images on it which looked a lot like a tray of chocolate moulds.

This year I melted some chocolate in the microwave and then spooned it into that tray to see if I could make my own little chocolates for the calendar. A few minutes in the fridge and I was popping out little chocolates ! I put the tray and the new chocolates back inside last year's calendar and closed all the doors. It looks as good as new and cost 30p, using chocolate from Lidl, rather than £6.99 ! I was very pleased and I think Master Shoestring will be as well !

The other thing we did was make our own Advent wreath and used candles we already had to light it. Wreaths were on sale in town for £12, so that saved quite a bit as well. We also got the IKEA tree and menu planned for December so we won't buy too much !

Thursday, 1 December 2016

November Reckoning

We did very well with our saving this month, putting away around 46% of our income. One of the contributory factors to that was finding all that free wood and saving £90 on a log delivery.

We have had a few lean months, with big expenses and intermittent income, but now we seem to be back on track and that is looking good for being able to work less in 2017.

We are still spending a great deal on train transport, over £50 a week, but that should decrease to under half that in the New Year.

We also underspent on food , thanks to finding lots of reduced meat and also underspent in other categories such as medical and dental. Just as well as next month's post office bill will be quite high !

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

St Andrew's Day

Today is St Andrew's Day and as Scots, with nearly all our extended family still there, it is a chance to talk about the country and eat delicious food !

St. Andrew was a brave guy and Scots people are famous for their tough, shrewd character and for being careful with the pennies !

If you ever get the chance to go to the town of St Andrews on the East coast of Scotland it is well worth giving the golf course a miss and exploring the old town and church there. Monuments to a time when the Celtic Church was flourishing ! 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

IKEA Christmas tree deal

We were in two minds about whether to drive to IKEA for this year's pay £25 for a tree and get a £20 voucher for the store. However, having researched the prices of other real trees we have decided that it is worth it. We need a few, new pillows and other people are charging over £25 for smaller trees so Mr Shoestring is going to use his free day to go and get one today.

We put up the tree on Christmas Eve so he will make a cut in the trunk and store it outside in a bucket of water until we need it. If we leave it any longer to get one then they will all be gone. A bit of effort means that we get a Christmas tree for £5 and then can take our time choosing some pillows in the New Year.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Money Saving Show

If you can access televisions shows from the United Kingdom then I can recommend the Money Saving Show by Martin Lewis on ITV tonight at 8pm. Last week's show was all about saving money on your energy bills and this week's will be all about getting a better rate on your savings.

Although Martin also has a great website, moneysaving seeing him help people live save hundreds of pounds was very motivating and he also shared some tips which were brand new. I am especially looking forward to tonight's show on saving as we have a substantial sum of money languishing in an ISA which paying under 1% interest ! So I'd like to move it somewhere more profitable !

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Pause in Advent

Here is a poem we often say at Advent time, it reminds us to be a light unto the world.

The gift of the light
I thankfully hold
And pass to my neighbour
Its shining gold
That everyone may
Feel its glow,
Receiving and giving
May love and grow.

When all our bothers
Have lit their light
No more shall continue
The darkness of night;
But joyful all men
The message shall hear;
" The Christ draws near!"

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Advent Spiral

This weekend is the time of advent spirals round here. A spiral of greenery is laid out on the floor and a big candle is left burning in the middle. One by one children enter to light their little candle, held in an apple, from the large one. Then they place their lit candle somewhere on the spiral. Afterwards adults can light a candle too if they wish. The lighting of the candles is accompanied by music and singing and gradually the whole room fills with light. We look forward to the coming of the Light which overcometh the darkness !

Friday, 25 November 2016

Frugal Things this week

This week I saved money by :-

coming home early from a meeting so I did not have to pay peak charges.
planning my holiday food shopping so that I can use an £8 off a £40 spend at the supermarket.
collecting some more free pallets for wood to burn.
moving our savings to an account where they can earn interest.
packing my own meals and drinks when I had to stay late at work one night.
changing the station where we got off one night to go to another event thus saving two trips.
researching petrol costs.
calculating our spend to the end of the month and then transferring the leftover money into savings so it can not be touched.
not buying any Black Friday deals !

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Unlike our North Atlantic cousins October/November in Europe are not seasons of thanksgiving but that seems a pity. So today let's see how many things we can be thankful for . Here's a list of ten to get you started:-

1) I have food in the fridge.
2) I have clothes to wear.
3) I have a place to call home.
4) My home is safe.
5) I have money in the bank.
6) I have money and resources to share.
7) I have more health than illness.
8) Modern medicine has cured me of illnesses which would previously have meant I died.
9) My family all have good health care.
10) The Earth is a beautiful place to live.

I've only just got started, I'll keep counting on the way to work !

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Why you don't need a smartphone

I was a bit shocked at my course this week to hear that we all needed to give the organiser our mobile telephone number so we could use apps to talk to one another about the course. I do not have a smartphone and have no intention of getting one. In addition, my work at present is very strict about any online presence of their staff. I explained that I would not be participating and felt very off doing so.

Later I just felt cross that the expectation in colleges today is that everyone will own an expensive, unnecessary bit of technology. So I put together a list as to why a smartphone is a definite want rather than need.

1) They are expensive and a pay as you go cheap model will fulfil any communication needs very well.
2) They encourage inattention to your surroundings and the number of people who have been injured on the roads and pavements is increasing because of their use.
3) People use them in their motor cars and this is downright dangerous.
4) The blue light they emit stops you going to sleep.
5) The expensive ones are targets for thieves.
6) They encourage bullying at school.

I can see that they are useful for some people e.g.) students who change living place often and last week when we were stranded on a broken down train several people used their smartphone to look up alternative routes. But the norm, something you must have like food and shelter, I don't think so !

Monday, 21 November 2016

Supermarket Reductions

We enjoyed a few unexpected treats today thanks to some excellent supermarket reductions. First were two big boxes of cut up exotic fruit for 25p each. A real treat with lunch at this time of year !

Second treat was the lovely soup, made with the 13p packet of soup vegetables.

Third treat was the delicious salad sandwiches to go with the soup made with a 13p packet of baby salad leaves.

Altogether a great find at a time of year when fruit and salad can be rather expensive !

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Planning holiday menus

At the end of this week I shall probably be doing my grocery shopping for December, so this week we had a chat with the family about what we would like to have to eat over the holidays. We already have a turkey, bought half price last Easter ! We already have potatoes, bought from the farmer at less than 30p a kilo ! We already have brussels sprouts, bought reduced in Waitrose a few weeks ago and the pudding and cake are already made.

The other things we decided on are pizza and ice cream for Christmas Eve, roast parsnips and carrots for Christmas dinner plus sausages wrapped in bacon. I shall use bacon pieces and ordinary sausages cut into pieces rather than paying extra for small ones. I shall also get some cream and coconut cream to go with the pudding. Boxing Day we shall have leftovers as everyone said that this is their favourite part of Christmas food. So I shall have to make sure that I cook enough on Christmas Day. They also want turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake for Christmas Day tea. After that we shall return to the normal menu plan. We shall have sparkling apple juice to drink, made with sparkling water and homemade apple juice which I have in the freezer.

Planning ahead like this means that I do not buy too much food which then goes to waste.

We also planned our Christmas baking and I explained to Miss Shoestring that she cannot have a whole Stollen to herself !!