Thursday, 15 November 2012

Tag - You're It!

As I'm fairly new to the blogging world I didn't fully understand how this tagging thing worked and I've been tagged. 
I've been tagged by Sue from over at Our New Life in the Country

Apologies to My Beautiful Life who also tagged me but I think I can only answer once.

Here are the rules:

* Once tagged you have to tell 11 things about yourself.

* Answer the 11 questions from the person who tagged you.

* List 11 questions for the person you are going to tag, if possible they should have less than 200 followers .

* You are not allowed to back-tag.
11 Things About Me
1. I have worked as a Special Constable but had to give it up when the business started.

2. Down to my warped sense of humour, telesales calls are my guilty pleasure - Depending on what mood I am in I will try and keep them talking for as long as possible before they put the phone down on me. I like to ask them the ins and outs of everything and really question their policies to which most are stumped because they have no idea either. My record this week is 20 minutes. Other times I will ask them to hold on, then walk away while I carry on with my jobs. 
3. I am a very suspicious person - I am constantly taking down reg numbers and times of anything that looks remotely out of the ordinary.  Even better now that I have a decent camera on my phone.
4. I can be very abrupt to persistent people who I think are trying to blag me by wanting to sell me something i.e. mis-sold PPI etc or door to door sales.
5. I write short stories- a few of which have been published, though certainly not enough to give up my day job.
6. I was a teenage mum - having my eldest daughter at just 18.
7. I had a mortgage at 19, held down 2 jobs as I didn't want to be stereotyped as yet another teenage mum.
8. I am never bored.
9. I hate television (apart from Downton Abbey).
10. Have got no time for people who constantly whine and think the world owes them something yet won't take responsibility for the mess they are in. 
11. I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at university as a mature student.


Here are the 11 questions Sue asked me!

1. What is your favourite part of Blogging?
Knowing there are like-minded people interested in what you have to say.

2. Who would you most like to meet (famous person or not)?  Oscar Wilde - his wit is second to none.

3. What is your best childhood memory?  Laughing, lots of laughing.  Being one of 5 we'd play all sorts of tricks.  Too many  (and some too naughty) to mention.

4. What is your favourite vegetable? Mushrooms

5. How many siblings do you have?
    4 - 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

6. What one food could you live on forever, if you had to? Hotpot.

7. What would you make me for a quick simple lunch if I were to pop round?
A bowl of homemade Pea and Ham soup already made, from the freezer, with a couple of rounds of crusty bread.

8. What is your favourite colour? Green (obviously).

9. Do you prefer cats or dogs? Dogs definitely.

10. Who is your favourite singer?  Not got a singer but a group and it changes with my mood and time- but either  INXS or the up and coming group Fun.

11. and Which of theirs is your favourite song? Never tear us apart by Inxs or Some Nights by Fun.

My 11 questions

1. What is your favourite book?

2. What is the worst job you have ever had?

3. What is a good frugal tip you can pass on?

4. Who is your guilty crush? i.e. someone who would not normally be considered attractive but has that something about them.

5. What motto do you live by?

6. What is one of your faults?

7. What is your greatest achievement?  Children are not included in the answer as that stands to reason.

8. What 4 people, past and present, would make the ideal guests at a dinner party?

9.  Who is your favourite comedian?

10. If you could go back in time, what era would it be?

11. Finally, why do you write a blog?

 I've decided to tag Sarina at Sarina's Allsorts

Monday, 12 November 2012

Blogging Mums!


Apologies for the following post but felt the need to have a rant about the below mentioned article. I was directed to this over the weekend and I'm annoyed at myself for allowing to be provoked by it and in a way creating more publicity for this narrow minded judgemental piece.

I don't blame you for clicking off now, but if you want a bit of provocative reading have a gander...

Free? You blogging mums may as well wear burkas

If you did take the time to read it could somebody please explain as I didn't fully understand where her argument was coming from.  It is a ranting from, what sounds like, a ballbreaking egomaniac that has a bee in her bonnet about blogging mums.  Why?  I'm not quite sure as there are that many bitter witterings that it's hard to see the point she is getting at. 

Is she getting worked up about the Mumsnet site? Mums who blog about motherhood? or the fact they get paid to do it?  Is it because they choose to stay at home and raise their children?  Or, the subject matter they choose to write about would not be of interest to anyone? Or is it because these blogging mums are not hammering on that glass ceiling in the hope it should smash and place them on a higher rung of the career ladder?  I don't know!!  All I know is that it is very contradictory as she is insulting women who are doing exactly the same job she is doing for a living - writing about life!

A couple of quotes, enjoy:

'Questions raised on Mumsnet site - and by god it's bitchy and competitive - range from 'Do you enjoy breastfeeding?' to 'What choosing an unusual pet says about you'.  Hmmm that sounds really bitchy and competitive.  If you are going to make a comment like that then at least back it up with an example that proves it. The only thing bitchy I can see is this column.

So what if women  'get PAID to sit at home' and write.  Surely we are advanced enough now in our society, as long as we are contributing, to be able to choose what we want without being judged.  Albeit, some do not get that choice and certain sacrifices are made, which is a factor not taken into consideration in her writing.  On the other hand, life, (seeing as we're making huge generalisations here) is about what makes us happy, is it not?    Not every woman is driven by money, so being able to spend time at home with her child is something she might prefer. 

As for writing about being a mother, they do so because they have an audience.  They have an audience because they are writing about something that interests other like-minded people.  What is so wrong in that?  Some of these blogs offer help and advice to people who are looking for it.

'I felt the hand of patriarchy on my back', Yes love, it's patting you on the back as you are promoting the subordination of women in this article with your ramblings of how they shouldn't be heard.

I'm off to bake some cupcakes in my tiny, safe, fragrant home. I'll leave you with the final comment, make of it what you will.

'They might just as well don a burka, and shuffle, so narrow is their vision.'  Oh the irony of the last part of the sentence made me laugh out loud.  :))

Bear with me, I promise to write a more positive piece next time xx

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Today me and Mini A went to the local Remembrance Day parade to pay our respects to all the service men and women, past, present and future.  Whatever your views are on war, today is the day to remember all those who have fallen; soldiers and civilians alike and to also spare a thought for the families who will no longer see their loved ones.  The turn out was brilliant for such a small town.  Service men and woman marched alongside the Sea Cadets, Scouts, Cubs and Brownies.  Different generations all joining together to remember!

However, that was not my only reason for attending. You see, the week before a group of volunteers had given up their time to clean the war memorial that stands outside our town hall.  They had given up their time to make a difference to our little town.  I must admit I didn't help out with this as I only found out about it after it had been done. That's why I asked to join the group and should any other projects come up I would be able to hear of them beforehand.

Too many times of late have I heard people bad mouthing the town, 'it's gone to the dogs,' etc, etc.  It makes a refreshing change to hear of people doing something positive and want to make it a nicer place to live.  So today not only did I pay my respects but also showed my support to the group of volunteers who are helping put a sense of pride back into the community.

I'll leave you with this :

by Jane Weir

Three days before Armistice Sunday
and poppies had already been placed
on individual war graves. Before you left,
I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
of yellow bias binding around your blazer.

Sellotape bandaged around my hand,
I rounded up as many white cat hairs
as I could, smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening
of my face. I wanted to graze my nose
across the tip of your nose, play at
being Eskimos like we did when
you were little. I resisted the impulse
to run my fingers through the gelled
blackthorns of your hair. All my words
flattened, rolled, turned into felt,

slowly melting. I was brave, as I walked
with you, to the front door, threw
it open, the world overflowing
like a treasure chest. A split second
and you were away, intoxicated.
After you'd gone I went into your bedroom,
released a song bird from its cage.
Later a single dove flew from the pear tree,
and this is where it has led me,
skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy
making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without
a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf, gloves.

On reaching the top of the hill I traced
the inscriptions on the war memorial,
leaned against it like a wishbone.
The dove pulled freely against the sky,
an ornamental stitch. I listened, hoping to hear
your playground voice catching on the wind.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Money and Energy Saving Tips!

Saving money and energy has now become a way of life that I automatically think about without thinking about it, if that makes any sense.  I thought I'd compile a list of things I do around the home and when out and about (most of you will already be doing these no doubt).

  • Never let the kettle boil - turn it off before it has chance to 'click'.  The water will be more than hot enough for what you need it for.

  • Only boil what you need, (or nearly boil as the case may be).

  • Turn all electrical items off at the socket - the only item that stays on overnight is the fridge freezer.

  • Don't throw crusts from loaves away - freeze them and use them to make breadcrumbs.

  • My bedside bulb has gone and rather than replace it I have a wind up camping lamp that I use when I want to read in bed.  Strange looks from the elder 2 kids round the door when they can hear me cranking it up!

  • I shower in the dark - the light from the landing is more than enough for me to see.  I know some will say why not shower in the morning - simple reason, I am not really a morning person and have far too much to do, plus I like getting into bed feeling nice and fresh.

  • I'm not a big fan of make up but one item I simply cannot do without is my liquid eyeliner.  When I feel this is running out I add a couple of drops of water to it and get a few more months out of it.

  • On wash days I put a load in as soon as I come downstairs and by the time I've taken Mini A to school the cycle has finished.  I then spread out on my maiden and radiator airers in the conservatory.  Even in winter, if the sun is shining it soon heats up and the damp air is not spread around the house.  Another tip I picked up from fellow bloggers was that if the flags are dry, the washing will dry whether it is summer or winter, so outside it goes.

  • A simple solution of thin bleach, washing up liquid and water kept in a handy squirty bottle keeps mildew at bay in the bathroom.

  • Any leftover lemon from baking is squeezed and mixed with 300ml of water and used in the microwave for 2 minutes to keep it clean and fresh.

  • I'm lucky enough to be able to walk to work each day, thus getting fresh air and exercise all for free.

  • Everyone should be in possession of a 'Magic Sponge'. Cheap, and ideal for removing those stubborn marks.

  • I only buy what I need, not what I want.  However, if there is an item I want and need but is not really essential, I will post on Facebook to see if anyone wants to sell or give away the item in question.  If not, I will scour the car boot sales. Failing that, should anyone ask me what I would like for Christmas I will mention one of these items.  Retro scales is one such item - I need some new scales as my current ones are cracked and do not hold enough, also the retro scales would be in keeping with my kitchen but something I  would not consider buying myself.

  • I email or use Facebook messaging rather than texting.

  • Use all the loose change in your purse when paying for stuff to make your notes last that little bit longer.

  • I saved Hands On over £5 when he needed a car radio code.  He was willing to pay to have it unlocked.  I wasn't.  I scoured the internet and hey presto we now have one working radio.

  • Watch every item being scanned if you use a supermarket, particularly those on offer and check your receipt whilst in store.  Several times I have had to take a detour to customer services due to incorrect pricing. 

  • In a supermarket look at the higher and lower shelves for the item you want.  Whilst the offers are mainly placed at eye level and you think you are getting a bargain the cheaper alternatives are very often placed on the higher and lower shelves.

  • If you have to use a supermarket for your fruit and veg don't buy in the packages.  It is cheaper to buy them loose.

  • And finally -  a smile, and a please and a thank you go a long way.  Good manners cost nothing!

If any of you have any thrifty tips please do feel free to share.  I'm always willing to learn.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


I've often said that since starting this blog my life is turning around and can honestly say I've never been happier. Don't get me wrong, life is not a bed of roses and the kids think I am more barmy than ever and this is because of a number of reasons. Now I only buy what I need and not what I want.  I avoid supermarkets at all costs and choose to shop around my local town, except for baking stuff.  I've not found anywhere else that stocks baking ingredients. 

Instead of having too much week at the end of the money, the roles have been reversed and any extra is going towards the mortgage.  The cupboards are bulging and we've never eaten so well.  Chicken nuggets, frozen chips, etc,  are totally out of the question, along with takeaways.  Everything is made from scratch. If the elder 2 choose to eat out they do so with their own money, they are both working after all. 

My shopping bill has reduced each week because I've stocked up on items that I know I will use.  I have used Approved Foods a couple of times, and again only bought what I needed.  There are some groceries on there that are more expensive than my local Heron Food store but others that cannot be sniffed at.  McDougalls Scone Mix £2.99 for 3.5kg and extra virgin olive oil £1 for 250ml. I am still trying with baking my own bread but have quite a way to go.  Still not perfected it yet.  That's why I always look in the reduced section first at Heron.  Today I was able to buy a full loaf for 20p because the sell by date is tomorrow.  After putting up the lunches most will be used, and the crusts will then be saved and frozen to coat Friday's fish.

I have been decluttering by either giving items away to people who need it, see here.... or selling it on Ebay and Amazon.  Remember that untidy bookcase?  Well, some of those books are surprisingly worth a small fortune.  Ebay is going well, the television we had in the bedroom sold for £57.17.  Not bad considering Hands On was going to tip it and said we wouldn't get anything for it.  I sold 2 dresses, 1 brand new for £5.52 and another one that I had worn for £9.70.  I couldn't quite understand that.

The thing is I want to share this with everyone.  Why has it taken me to the grand old age of 36 to realise it???  That's why I am finding it increasingly frustrating when friends and certain family members (Unthrifty Sis is not included in this statement btw) say they are struggling to make ends meet, yet in the next breath tell me about where they are going out for their next meal or where they are going at weekend.  Putting this diplomatically without sound didactic I suggested they cook their own meals to which their answer was that it was cheaper to buy a carvery than to cook it themselves.  I'm sorry, I have to disagree.  I'm going to be blunt here, it boils down to laziness.  I too have been guilty of this in the past but now prefer my own cooking to anyone elses.  We live in a society now where everything is so rushed that actually cooking a proper meal is too much effort for the majority, which will only be passed on to younger generations.  As much as elder 2 think it's time to call the men in white coats,  they do appreciate a home cooked meal and seeing me cook for the family every evening will hopefully be something they will take away with them for the their future families!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Charity Begins At Home

Some of you may remember my earlier post titled Care in the Community in which I mentioned recycling that could benefit the community.  I still take my papers to the Community Centre recycling bank but now I am in an organised  frame of mind I wanted to combine decluttering with recycling whilst knowing it is benefiting somebody.  Normally, any unwanted clothes go to a local charity shop but I have since joined a local group on Facebook (you may have them in your area too) where you give away your unwanted items and people ask to be added to be in with a chance of winning your item.

I know charity shops do a fantastic job and I do still give to them, but for me, I wanted to know if my things would help somebody within my local community.  I would sooner give away stuff to a local family in need of it.  Not only that, by doing this, I am getting to  meet some fantastic people from all generations who really are truly grateful for what they are given, and likewise, I too have had things that I have needed.  This little group has brought a lovely community feel back to the area.  This has not happened overnight but the impression I am getting is that people are talking again.

Take Saturday for example, somebody posted that a keyboard was needed asap as her son had to learn a song that week for school. I can fully empathise with children telling you they need things at the last minute. I didn't have one but knew Unthrifty Sis did, and hated it.  I told her the story and would she be willing to lend her keyboard to someone whom she had never met.  She jumped at the chance.  Not only did it benefit the lady needing it, but my sister was able to off load an annoying item and now had an excuse to do so.  The lady was very appreciative and promised to return it a week later to which Unthrifty Sis said it didn't matter as she could have it.  Two people very happy thanks to this local group.

I sorted some of elder 2's clothes last night.  They think if they wear it more than once to go out in, it is no good.  Hence, my airing cupboard  is bulging at it's hinges.  Some stuff is brand new and that will be going on Ebay.  The rest will be given away.  I uploaded a few photos and by 6pm everything had gone.  The clothes had gone to good homes and I was now able to see a little gap in my airing cupboard.  It was a win win situation.  I'm off now to sort out a bit more.  I'm hoping to get round to tackling my bookcase in the near future but I seem to have more of an attachment to books than to clothes. Although, as you can see, it does need sorting!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Whoever said Sunday is the day of rest?

Today feels like the longest day ever which is a good thing really as I've been able to cram loads of things in. 

Firstly, we'd organised a trip to Cheshire Oaks outlet village early on in the week as we are due to go on holiday shortly for Hands On 40th birthday.  Hands On, like myself, is not a great fan of shopping and don't very often buy ourselves new clothes.  Yet with the holiday looming, going away with silicone stained work wear is not going to be a hot look.  We decided on Cheshire Oaks as we went about 8 years ago, and at the time seemed a good place to get decent clothes.  But they were the days before thrifty frugal mindset had taken hold.  We traipsed the shops, gasping  how expensive things were, got annoyed at the over-crowdedness of it all, and yawned through boredom of trying to find summer clothes in winter. After 2 hours of this, Hands On managed to buy 3 t-shirts and pair of boots. Mini A got a couple of t-shirts and a hoody.  I, on the other hand, could not even be bothered looking for myself.  I shall be taking what I've already got. 

However, I did come across a kitchen shop and suddenly I wasn't so bored.  There were so many things I would have liked to buy but asked myself, do I really need it?  Beautiful cake stands, fabulous pans, etc. No, I don't need them.  I then spotted a steak knives set.  It was crying out to be bought.  Do I need them? Yes!!  Saturday night is steak night (takeaways are out, so the cost of a few pieces of frying steak from the butchers still works out a lot cheaper) yet trying to eat steak with a blunt table knife is pretty hard going, so I indulged.  They are rather pretty.  Hands On couldn't see how knives and forks could ever be pretty.  I have to disagree!

Back home, it was still early enough to make the most of the rest of the day.  Hands On pottered about and I set about clearing some more junk.  I've started looking around my house and asking myself :

A: Do I need it?
B: Have I used/worn it recently? 
C: Can somebody else make use of it?
D: Can it be upcycled? 

These 4 questions are helping me not only declutter my house but also my mind.  Sorry if I'm sounding a bit weird but when my house is organised I feel organised in my head. I've got a firm grip on my finances so now one of my next challenges is this.   I've given myself the task of doing a little each night and bit by bit I'm getting there.  It's almost therapeutic in a way.  One thing that did get the chop was the television in the bedroom.  We couldn't remember the last time we watched it and it's only purpose was to gather dust.  That will be put on Ebay and that's another electrical item less in the house.

After doing that I've prepared tomorrow night's evening meal, Beef and Guinness Stew.  So simple and I already had the ingredients in so that is simmering away nicely.  Peeled the potatoes to accompany it so that is all done! 

Now I'm off to bed to finish Northern Lights by Philip Pullman otherwise known as The Golden Compass in film form but a lot more exciting, and surprisingly deep, for a young adults book anyway.  Another challenge of mine is to tackle my enormous book collection (books are my weakness) and then I can pass them on and make room on my poor overloaded shelves.   So I read a little in bed each night and not only does it help me unwind but I'm also still doing a little bit of tidying up in a way which ensures me a good night's sleep.

What do you do to unwind?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Frugal Halloween

I was determined this year not to spend any money on Halloween costumes for Mini A.  Too many times in the past have I searched Ebay and Amazon for good costumes only for the kids to wear them once.  They are then discarded to the back of the wardrobe never to be used again except for anybody who bought them from the charity shop I donated them to.

We never make a big deal of Halloween, something else that is far too commercialised, but Mini A's dance group are having a party and she wanted something different to go as.  Rather than the usual witch, vampire, skeleton...yawn.. we decided for a head in the jar.  I came across this idea on Pinterest and it does look really effective.

However, no matter how good the intention if you haven't got the materials it ain't gonna work, and since the party is on Friday that doesn't leave me much time to get everything.  Believe it or not plastic bags were needed, tons of them, and because I always use my 'bag for life' I didn't have any, or a man's trench coat, a large shirt of Hands On wasn't big enough and the jar kept getting steamed up.  After much thought and deliberation I decided, as brilliant as it looks, it is not going to be very practical for a party.  Time for plan b, if I knew what plan b was.  For weeks I had in my head what I was going to do but it was my own fault for leaving it 2 days before the party.  Time to rummage. 

I came across a faux fur very long pillow case.  I cut a head out and slipped it over Mini A's head.  Next I cut out 2 arm holes and cut it jagged at the bottom.  Yes, you've probably guessed...a cavewoman...not very imaginative I know but when time's not on your side you have to make do.

With the left over material I cut out 2 circles and cut a little hole in the middle of each.  This is for Mini A to put her feet through and the material will fall over her boots.  I used an animal print scarf for a belt and the last remnants of the faux fur to make a headband.  Getting into the spirit of making the costume, Mini A came up with the idea of having a bone necklace to finish it off.  I made the dough and let her get to work.

I know the costume isn't brilliant but we've had a fun night making it, which is what she will remember in years to come and that's something money can't buy!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Keeping An Eye On The Pennies

That's another £31.25 saved per month, might not seem a lot but it all adds up.  The grocery bill has been sliced almost in half, we all take packed lunches to work and school so I was trying to see where else we could save money.  I know exactly what direct debits are coming out of my bank so I decided to scrutinise Hands On current account.  He's brilliant with his hands but when it comes to organising monetry matters he's not the sharpest tool in the box.  With having a mortgage, we know we have to have life insurance, which was coming out of his bank, but there was another direct debit not accounted for.  After searching the documents folder I found we had 2 life insurance policies for exactly the same thing.  I forgot that in January he was sold another policy but forgot to cancel the existing one.  The new one was over £6 cheaper, but I could kick myself for failing to notice this as it is £312.50 that could have have been spent (or saved as the case is now) elsewhere.  

Wanting to get this sorted asap I phoned to cancel.  But not before checking .  This site is my new best friend as it has a huge database of companies that use these 0870, 0844, 0845 etc etc numbers and it tells you the geographical dialling code, and sometimes freephone numbers.  I definitely recommend trying it as it will save you quite a bit in telephone bills. It angers me that more and more companies are resorting to these numbers to squeeze even more money out of Joe Public.  By the way, always dial 141 before dialling the new geographical number.  Some firms have even resorted to not answering calls if they know you have dialled this.  Fight fire with fire is what I say.

Also, the home insurance was due for renewal this week.  After spending some time searching for alternatives I found one that was £34.72 cheaper than my original provider.  Furthermore, because my money management skills are becoming a lot sharper we have managed to pay the amount in full saving a further £11.22.  It might not be much but, as the saying goes, 'it's better in my pocket than in theirs'.

Finally, another money saving tip that has been working for me is not to throw all my loose change in a jar.  In the past it has always been too easy to pay for everything with a fresh clean note.  '£2.56 you say, here have a fiver.'  Now I rummage in my purse for the exact money.  Sure it takes a little longer at the checkout and you have to put up with some disgruntled customers behind you and the cashier gives you an impatient, exasperated look when you hand over a load of small change but so what, it's legal tender and my notes get to stay a little longer in my purse.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

What a difference 5 weeks has made!

Well, that's it..catalogues gone, furniture bill gone, credit card gone and overdrafts paid up.  We are finally in the black and out of the red (nothing in this game for two in a bed...for all of you that remember Jim Bowen's Bullseye on a Sunday afternoon).  However, my joy was short lived when I realised I am still in debt... by a massive £57,000...the mortgage.  I know, by a lot of people's standards that is not a large amount but I want shut.  So that is my next goal.  I'm not setting my sights too high just in case I don't achieve it, but, if I can have it paid off by the time I'm 45 I will be more than happy.  That leaves me just over 8 years to do this. 

It's surprising how much can be saved when you scrutinise your finances and manage your money accordingly.  However, not everything has gone swimmingly.  The washing machine died on me early on in the week which meant paying out on something not accounted for.  However, due to having an emergency fund, the housekeeping budget has not been touched and rather than give these big stores our money (my husband's words, not mine - see I told you my frugalness is rubbing off) lets have a look on Ebay.   I know there is always a bit of risk when buying second hand electrical goods, but £100 for a washer that is only 10 month old seems to be a gamble that has paid off.  We collected it 14 miles away from where we live, the machine was immaculate and the lady even wanted one of our business cards should she want any work doing in the future. 

Hands On (who I shall refer to from now on) husband promptly had the old one whipped out, new one plumbed in, and a testing wash on the go by the time I had tidied away upstairs. So what better way to reward him than by baking his favourite Victoria sponge..oh, and I also made some gingerbread.  That and the fact I had bought myself 2 cake stands today for five quid from the car boot sale and I didn't want them to look naked in my kitchen.  I know it's supposed to be Stoptober, but with saving the money from the washing machine  I gave into temptation and splurged out a bit.  That will be it for a while.  All in all a very good day :)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Eat Well to Keep Well

This blog has been the kick up the backside I needed to alter the way I live.  I didn't intend it to be like that, it sort of just happened. I have always cooked and been careful with money but feel now this has stepped up a whole new level.  As well as wanting to reduce my debts, I am cooking everything from scratch (just the name of them famous golden arches makes me feel a little bit sick in my mouth) and I love passing this knowledge and enthusiasm onto my husband and children. Although, it has taken a few weeks to sink in. After reading Frugal Queen's blog about how much she spent on takeaways I realised this was another area where money was being spent needlessly.  

 I decided to use my poor unsuspecting family as guinea pigs for an experiment to show how much money can be wasted on takeaway food.  The first week I banned all takeaway, but going cold turkey only made them crave it more the second week.  So I then decided to let them have a takeaway whenever they wanted whilst also offering the option to cook something.  They chose takeaway.  Thursday had become takeaway night simply because it is payday. Friday because it is the end of the working week.  Saturday lunch because I work and nobody could be bothered cooking anything, and Saturday night because they didn't have time to wait for something to be cooked.  This was all well and good...until the Monday.  A whopping £54 had been spent on junk which left almost nothing for the rest of the week.  When asked why there was nothing (i.e. treats) in the cupboards this was the reason why. It is paying off as I have noticed a significant turnaround this week - they have not even mentioned eating out at all and have started to show an interest in what dish I am going to serve up next.  I made them homemade fish, chips and mushy peas courtesy of  a recipe from Frugal Queen (again) and even Mini A cleared her plate.

 I've also been making sure everyone takes packed lunches to work and school.  The butternut squash soup that I batch made on Sunday has been used for eldest one to take to work a couple of times.  The rest of us have taken sandwiches or barm cakes which I purchase on a daily basis from Heron Foods as it's only round the corner from where I work.  I often read on other blogs about doing the weekly shop or ordering in bulk but I like to shop daily as it works best for me, I work in a small town, walk to and from work so only buy items I need for the day as I have to carry them home.  Also I  have access to the 'short-dated' box, this week I have picked up- eggs=30p, single cream =5p and barm cakes= 10p all because the use by date was in a couple of days time.  This little lot would be well gone by then.  I avoid supermarkets at all costs and use Heron, my local butchers, delicatessen and market for all my food needs.

 I've still a long way to go (if I want to look half as glamorous as the lady in the picture) as I am spending a large amount in the kitchen at night, not leaving much time for anything else, so need to get more organised there. But knowing my family are being fed properly and I'm saving a packet in the meantime only has to be a positive thing, hasn't it?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The downside of being an optimist and Butternut Squash Soup!

A bit of an oxymoron but as the title suggests being an optimist can sometimes have it's downsides. When I started this blog I had a couple of ideas in my head of what I thought would interest people but it has done more than that.  My whole lifestyle is altering through being inspired by other people's blogs, becoming more self aware and also learning something new every day.  And that is where the problem lies.  I have always set myself goals which I must admit, have more or less reached but when I don't reach them I feel disappointed, as though I have let myself down somehow.  I have all these ideas swimming around in my head, of new achievements I want to accomplish, of things I want to do and areas in my life I want to organise but where are the days going at all?  I've only just realised how long it is since I last posted. Something else I feel guilty about. But never one to be down for long (I'm far too busy for that) I want to share some of the things I have been doing this week.

As you know I love my market produce and 2 butternut squashes at 50p each I wasn't going to leave, likewise with a bag of 7 onions at 50p.  I have made Butternut Squash soup in the past but it is only through reading other blogs and the mention of batch cooking spurred me on to do the same.  We had this for supper on Sunday (fed a family of 5) and still enough to fill 7 ziplock at 250ml bags for the freezer.  Below is the recipe for the amount I made of butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 litres of veg stock
  • salt and pepper

  1. Peel and dice the butternut squash (I always find butternut squash so hard to peel)
  2. Put oil in the pan and add the onions until softened.
  3. Add squash and potatoes and cook for a minute.
  4. Pour in veg stock and cook until squash and potatoes are soft.
  5. Blend until smooth.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This was served with homemade bread made from my little breadmaker, which is turning out rather nice thanks to Cumbrian's recipe (see comments on Help Needed From Fellow Bread Makers).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Help Needed From Fellow Bread Makers

Whilst on the road to self sufficiency I have been guided to attempt my own bread.  Admittedly, a lot of influence has come from fellow bloggers but the most surprising source has come from my husband.  JJ of all people, who has not one green credential to his name (apart from the time he bought an unleaded car and turned the bathroom light out...once) has been saying how good it would be to bake our own bread.  Fast forward a couple of nights and a few bids on Ebay and Voila!  We now have our very own bread maker, bought from funds saved through thrifty budgeting. Albeit a mini bread maker, and that is where my problems started.  The make of bread maker is a Cook's Essential 1.2lb capacity, yet does it state anywhere, in the poor excuse of an instruction manual, a recipe I could follow.  No!  It is poorly written and difficult to understand.  At no time does it mention the weights of ingredients to use.  Not to be beaten I went to the Fountain of Knowledge 'Google' and came across a mini bread maker recipe and used that.  Here are the results!

 I know I will have to dispose of the monstrosity before daughters 1 & 2 see it and be the object of their ridicule for the next few days.  So please, I am appealing to anyone who can help.  Any advice whatsoever will be appreciated.  Thanks in advance xx

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Crafts and Car Booting

Remember those jam jars in my very first they are, all complete. I can put this little project to bed, and also the jam jars, as there won't be any use for them this year, unless we have a power failure.

I've also been busy car booting (like I do every Sunday) but was especially pleased with my little treasures this week as I've even started limiting my spend.  Childrens brand new cookery book = 50p.  I love childrens' cookery books.  The recipes are usually simple but cooked from scratch, also it includes a handy metric conversion guide.  I can now see how much is equivalent to a cup without looking on the internet everytime. 

I couldn't resist 'Seven O'Clock Tales' by Enid Blyton, also = 50p (more than what I normally pay for but while it was Enid I made an exception).  Perfect for those upcoming winter nights for Mini A to read.  I remember reading the same collection at her age. 

Also, my little preserving jar = 50p.  It was supposed to be a £1 but the stallholder said I could have it for 50p.  Little did I know, that it is actually a Le Parfait jar, which are going for a small fortune on Ebay.  Perfect for my raspberry jam from Approved Foods (another frugal shopping wonder recommended by my blogging friends).

Finally, I also picked up a brand new roll of wallpaper =50p.  The colours were perfect for my conservatory, but not to wallpaper...oh no...  At that price I had a much more inventive way to use it.  I don't know how many of you have those ugly plastic storage drawers but we have 2 sets just to accommodate Mini A's toys...and you have to admit they are ugly. After browsing Pinterest (another site I have become addicted to when it comes to upcycling).  I came across a Pin (sorry I cannot find the link) that came up with a solution to hide the junk and make them a bit more homely.

 A bit of wallpaper, PVA glue and some fiddly cutting, here is one set completed, Blue Peter eat your heart out. It is not perfect and when doing it you will spend ages trying to get the air bubbles out only for them to show up later on, but it does look a bit better than before. What do you think?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Free Food

As you may have gathered I am a willing student when it comes to trying to grow my own food. However, I am still very much at the infant stage yet. So, imagine my surprise (and envy) when I discovered that my sister (the one who I am trying to convert into a green way of thinking) has plums growing in her garden. Not just 1 or 2 but a whole tree full. She couldn't understand how excited I got over some plums. Of course I was to help myself by all means, as long as I didn't expect my sister to help pick them off - too many creepy crawlies might be lurking about.

My bounty that I have decided to make Plum pudding with.

I used an oblong tin to bake this in.

  • Roughly 6 plums halved - stones removed.
  • 150g sieved self raising flour
  • 175g marg or butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2tbsp ground almonds
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 2tsp vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to gas mark 4.
    Add a sprinkling of sugar to a pan with 2tbsp of water.
    Bring to boil then bring to a simmer and add plums cut side down.
    Simmer for 3 minutes.
    Spoon plums cut side down into your tin and pour over what juice is left in pan.
 Add all other ingredients to a bowl and use food mixer to mix until creamy.
 Then pour over plums.
 Put in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes.
I served this with single cream.  Absolutely delicious.

I had never made this before but will definitely be adding this to my list of favourites.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A World Without Bees?

Just a short post today, but one that urgently needed writing.


Where would we be without bees?                                                                                                       

It's not a scenario I like to imagine, but sometime in the distant, or not so distant future, this could very well be a reality. The bee is the world's most important pollinator of food crops and with them rapidly in decline, how long before there is a national and international food shortage?

I was alerted today to  A petition to ban the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides which is not only 7000 times more toxic than the already banned DDT pesticide but has been linked to the rapid drop in  bees.  It makes an interesting read and the facts are scary.  100,000 signatures are needed to make the government sit up and listen, follow the example of Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia, and ban these powerful pesticides.

I've signed, and I am sure a lot of you will want to do your bit to protect one of nature's hardest workers!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Debts and Cake

I know I've not written on here for a few of days but that's not to say I've not been around. Whilst catching a sneaky five minutes during my dinner hour (15 minutes)  looking at all the other blogs I follow, I've also been trying very hard at becoming more frugal, thrifty and green; and this takes time!
When I started this blog I wanted to share events in my life that would interest like-minded people.  Little did I know the effect it would have.  Not only is it like diary, but also an education at the same time.  I am learning so much from the other blogs.  Frugal Queen's blog entitled 'Fish and Chips Twice' certainly made me think twice about the amount I spend on a Friday night takeaway.  £15-£20 a week = £780 - £1040 a year = shocking!
Little Cottage Comforts blog about harvesting in 'So many shades of grey' .  I'm nowhere near at the stage of being self sufficient but I am a willing learner and have started my own kitchen windowsill of herbs (another time, another blog), and also, a lovely Australian blog that has encouraged me to try and bake my own bread.  There are also loads of other blogs that I have gained a great deal from and will mention them in future posts.

I've also read about snowballing debts - when one debt is paid off, use that money to pay off extra on another debt.  I like to think I have always been pretty good when it comes to managing money but as I have learnt, there is always room for improvement.  I've said au revoir to two catalogues this week. Next is hubby's overdraft and then the biggy, MORTGAGE!  Our mortgage is not by any means large (a little under £60,000) but while interest rates are low I want to take advantage of making over- payments. 1- to pay off the mortgage quicker and, 2- that when (and believe me it will happen) interest rates go up it will not affect me as much and finally, 3-to have that feeling of finally owning your own home.  So that is why I have examined food cupboards for soon to be out-dated food as every little helps towards. Below is last night's tea:

 Traffic light pasta = green pepper that needed using along with a spring onion and a couple of tomatoes and cucumber.  The sweetcorn, tuna and pasta are always somethings I have in my store cupboard.
I decided to make a Victoria Sponge to use up the eggs and to make sure my hungry lots little bellies' were full.  I warn you now, it's laden with calories and sweet enough to make your dentist turn you away at the door. But, hey,  at least I know exactly what has gone into it, and needless to say didn't last  more than 24 hours (false economy there then). I have used food that would have been otherwise thrown away and I'm also a firm believer in 'a little of what you fancy does you good'.  As long as it's in moderation and you are active, why deprive yourself.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Guilt of a Working Mum

I work because...A) I need to... B) I want to make a go of the new business my OH has just started..., and C) the work ethic is passed onto my children.  I must admit, I love it.  I have never felt so content in a job. Don't get me wrong, it's not a high flying career, and the pay, say I won't be buying a second home in the sun just yet is a bit of an understatement.  More like NEVER.  3 years at university to end up in a job I trained to do when I was 16, but then again I've never been driven by money.  I get great satisfaction from only having myself to answer to.  I can walk to work as it's only just over a mile away.  I can take my children to work  (I say children, I mean child, the other 2 are already in employment), and it fits in with school hours.

However, as perfect as it sounds, it is not without it's downfalls.  I have to work 6 days a week and have not really taken time off during the summer holidays which is why  I am getting a bad back trying to lift this burden called guilt.  Guilty at not doing all the other things I see mums and dads doing during the holidays.  We try and compensate by going to our caravan at the weekends which provides quality time with one another but I always feel the time goes by too quickly and Monday comes around and it's either come to the office with me and be bored, or stop with a babysitter and not see your parents all day.  I've always worked but my work never seem to impact so much on family life as this job is doing.  That's why I have decided to teach my youngest to bake.  She's 8 years old and has a very sharp inquisitive mind.  I baked with the elder 2, eldest took to it like a duck to water whilst middle daughter struggles to distinguish flour from icing sugar and a sieve from a spoon, but hey ho, no 3 children are the same.

Child 3, who I shall refer to as Mini A from now on, was most eager to start baking her first batch of fairy cakes.  I have always baked with them... I've let them lick the bowl and stir the mixture until their poor little arms ached, and then swiftly took over again to create the perfect text book fairy cakes.  This time though, as much as it pained me, I took a back seat and let her do everything (apart from getting the icing sugar to the right consistency, she can do that next time).  She loved it.

Mini A wanted to decorate her cakes for family and friends.  I wanted to show her how, but she insisted on doing it herself.  I must say, not bad for a for a first attempt. and on tiptoes too may I add.
All in all a very productive evening, in more ways than one.  Baking provided delicious treats for tomorrow, increased maths and life skills, and most importantly it provided quality time together,
Did I mention my back was starting to ease up a little?...For a short while anyway!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Just want to say thanks

I didn't know what to expect after I pressed the publish button on my first blog just over a week ago.  I didn't expect the positive response and comments I have received and certainly didn't expect a world wide audience.  Thank you to all who have taken the time to read it.  I know I owe that to Sue,  for what she has done to acknowledge my little blog.  I am very grateful.  I often thought I was one of the very few people who is sick of, or who actually notices, how wastful as a society we have become, but Sue has opened up the doors and introduced me to like-minded people from whom I can learn from.

However, starting the blog didn't suddenly spring up overnight.  I have been carefully fermenting my ideas over a period of time but didn't have the nerve to broadcast them to the world. My inspiration came through being a regular reader of  A blog that reflects the lives of Andrew and Carol Oldham, 'but will also bring together those groups and individuals involved in the pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle.' So whether you're a keen gardener, wannabe gardener (like me), interested in good wholesome cooking or anything eco-friendly then go and pay Andrew and Carol a visit.  I can guarantee that there will be something for everybody to enjoy and you'll soon be looking forward to your daily slice of Life on Pig Row as the wide range of topics covered offers sound practical advice that we could all benefit from.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hard Boiled Fiction

Are we really to believe the latest hype that eating eggs can be as bad as smoking? 

According to a latest piece of research, egg yolks can further promote the clogging of the arteries.  Another nonsense story from the media based on a  piece of research that included a  select group of people.  1231 to be exact -because folks didn't you know that 1231 is a large enough figure to represent the billions of people worldwide???   Also, the average age of people taking part was 62.  Furthermore, factors that were not taken into account was the exercise, or lack of, these people did or did not do. A diet higher in other saturated fats - fry ups are not based on eggs alone, but for some reason this was not considered, and also alcohol consumption, all of which may also contribute towards a build-up of plaque.

Anyway, enough of the science bit - in short, I love eggs and don't like having them bad mouthed! They are cheap (if you know where to look), extremely versatile - where would our country be without the egg and spoon race, not to mention the various uses in homemade beauty products.  They are a good source of protein, and think of the limitless functions they provide for every cook/baker.

My youngest is a very faddy eater but eggs in the form of boiled, scrambled and the old family favourite 'chucky egg', she will wolf down.  Here is the recipe of her favourite scrambled egg which is so easy to make that if she was big enough to reach the hob I'd let her do it herself.  Fully supervising of course!

Simple Scramble

  • 1 egg per person
  • 1 tbsp of milk per person
  • Knob of butter
  • Spattering of salt) optional
  • Pinch of pepper  )
  • Heat the butter in the pan (I always use my frying pan).
  • Beat together the eggs and milk and pour into pan.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Stir continuously to prevent it sticking.
  • When it forms a creamy firm(ish) mass they are done.
  • Serve on toast.

Of course, there are variations and everyone will have their own style to how they like their eggs.  This is the recipe I use when cooking for children.  If it is for adults then I will increase the ingredients.  A simple, very quick breakfast /lunchtime meal and a great introductory recipe to get children into the kitchen.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Care in the Community

When asked what period in time would I travel back to, mine would have to be the forties.  I suppose it stems from my nan's time when she was a young woman.  She would often recall tales of times gone by, but by no means with the rose-tinted glasses.  She would tell of the hardships endured during the first half of the decade of war torn Britain and how the phrases 'make do and mend' and 'dig for victory' were instilled into people's way of thinking.  Yet despite such atrocities happening worldwide, one thing she did remember with fondness was the sense of community there was among everyone. 

Now, I don't want to go as far as being called upon should someone die and be expected to lay out the dead (as neighbours often did with her) but the thought of helping one another in difficult times is something I wish was more noticable in our society.  That is why I have made a conscious effort to try and help somebody in my community at least once a week.  I'm not talking about rushing into a burning building to save someone's pet budgerigar (although you never can tell until faced with the situation).  No, I'm talking about the little things, perhaps even the un-noticable.  Recycling.  More to the point, recycling that benefits the community.  Everybody recycles newspapers.  We don't often give it a second thought to put it out on recycling day. It's become a way of life.  But then while out walking the other week I passed my local community centre.  This centre provides excellent facilities and affords opportunities and activities for everyone to participate in, myself included.  I still have a wooden spoon I engraved when I went to the summer playscheme 23 years ago not to mention the countless first aid, language and computer classes I have attended.  I noticed outside a big recycling green paperbank, the ones that are normally seen on supermarket carparks.  The money raised from would go directly to the centre.

So a couple of times of week I take whatever papers, junk mail and pizza delivery leaflets to this paperbank.  It's 2 minutes from where I live, gives me a chance to walk the dog and is a way to say thank you in my own way for the fantastic service the community centre has provided and continues to provide to everyone.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Market Not Supermarket

Until I can morph into Barbara Good (Felicity Kendal from The Good Life, a seventies sitcom for you younger generations) and become completely self sufficient I would shop at our local market everyday, but I can't because it's only on once a week.  I come from an old historic market town whose market days, once upon a time, would bring folk flocking from miles around.  Though, sadly, that was quite a while ago now; the Friday market has declined somewhat over the years.  Why?  In my opinion, one of the factors being is that the supermarkets are squeezing the life out of it.  During a local forum discussion, I suggested a further Monday market should be brought back, if only for the fruit and veg alone. The reply I had was that people no longer have the money to shop a couple of times a week.  I understand we are living in austere times but I beg to differ. 

Here is what I bought from the local market for £1.55.  The supermarket price would have been £3.86 due to having to buy in packages - a saving of £2.31. I have bought exactly the amount I require, therefore there will be no waste.  Not only that, bar the potatoes due to the weight, all came in environmentally friendly, traditional brown paper bags.   None of the excessive plastic packaging.  The taste, compared to supermarket produce, is by far the more superior.  So those people who say they can't afford to buy fresh fruit and veg are obviously not looking far enough (or close enough as the case may be) to see how much they can save. So instead of trying to budget by shopping for supermarket bland names, sorry I mean supermarket brand names, support your local market/greengrocers for those of you who still have them.  To eat well needn't cost the earth in more sense than one.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Jam Jars

As mentioned earlier I love recycling.  My husband, who is a very hands on practical person, suggested buying some electrical garden lights.  My poor little heart nearly stopped in it's tracks.  ELECTRICAL.  Are you serious? We already have two teenage daughters that use enough electricity in a week than a small town in Ireland (and no amount of lecturing is going to make them change their ways-hair needs washing, drying and straightening everyday don't you know). If I had my way we would be all be using wind-up appliances to generatre energy- keep fit not fat!  So I decided to come up with my own creation.  These are only two of the lights I have created tonight.  The other three will follow shortly.  The only thing I have had to buy is the garden wire £1.48.  The rest of  the materials have come from teenage daughter number two nail varnish collection, mother-in-law jam jars, tea-lights -Halloween three years ago, and beads from old bracelets.  My husband smiled (the way he does when not wanting confrontation) and said 'Ooh, aren't you the creative one'.  I don't profess to be creative but when it comes to saving a bit of money and preserving the Earth for that little bit longer, then yes, I will rack my brains for whatever is necessary!

I Blame Enid Blyton

I blame Enid Blyton for creating in my head a Utopian ideal of how life should be lived.  I also believe I am part of a generation of Enid Blyton readers who all share the same ideals.  I have friends on Facebook with whom I have not had contact with for over twenty years and are living their life how Enid would have wanted.  Self sufficient, living in the countryside, drinking lashings of Ginger Beer, helping Father dig up the potatoes before going up the Faraway Tree for an adventure with Moon-Face (and still chuckle at the names Dick and Fanny).  I take great delight in recycling everything possible, scouring car boot sales, blackberrying, and 'proper' home cooking. My elder children consider me slightly barmy and my husband smiles at me (the way one would at a small child) when I show him my latest homemade creation.  Yet, this is me and I want to share it with you -whoever will listen.