Thursday, 29 November 2012

Instead of a chocolate advent calendar...

...I bring out the Christmas socks!

 I do my very best to only wear Festive themed socks (and knickers, if that's not too much information for you!), during the month of December. What can I say? Everyone has their Christmas tradition, right?

 Well, today is the last day of November, so I'm searching through my drawers, and bringing all those festive items to the front. It's like welcoming old friends ;-)

No thanks, I'm washing... hair.

 When I have the time, I rather like to experiment with natural alternatives when I'm washing my hair. Egg works pretty well as a shampoo, although you have to be prepared to rinse it really thoroughly with almost cold water to avoid the 'scramble' ( so not an option during the colder months! ). I've used herbs steeped in boiling water to make a rinse, and likewise lemon juice and skins. I gave bicarbonate of soda a try as a shampoo, and found that effective. However, most of the time I settle for a quick wash with a pretty basic, supermarket own brand shampoo, and a dollop of cheap conditioner. Occasionally, I develop a bit of a flakey scalp, and when that happens I switch to a baby shampoo for a while, which clears it up nicely. I don't really use any other products on my hair, except maybe some warm olive oil for a deep conditioning treatment now and again.

 My daughter, on the other hand, sees my tendency to wash my hair with food stuff as yet more evidence of my general, all round freakiness. She suffers with a sensitive, easily irritated and flakey scalp, which anti dandruff shampoo only makes worse. Baby shampoo is reasonably effective for her, but E45 shampoo is by far the best she has tried. It is, sadly, rather expensive. Paying nearly a fiver for a bottle of shampoo really makes me wince! But, it is a price I'm willing to pay. I'd rather spend more on something that works really well, than waste money on something which is going to fail. Also, I keep my eyes open for any special offers that reduce the cost. Boots sometimes have deals on for advantage card holders. They had 20% off all shampoos one day, so I picked up three or four bottles. On another occasion, they were offering an extra 25 points when you bought hair care products, so I picked up a couple then, too. My daughter only really uses conditioner on the ends of her long hair, so I'm only willing to provide the fairly average conditioner I buy for myself. If she wants something more glamorous, then she has to stump up for it herself, and sometimes she does.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Beware of little...

...expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.
                                                                           Benjamin Franklin

Money in the bank... like toothpaste in the tube. Easy to take out, hard to put back.
                                                                                                        Earl Wilson

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

How far that little candle...

...throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

 I really like to have candles burning at home, especially at Christmas time, and now that there are no small children in the house I don't worry too much about the safety aspect. A big package of tea lights really doesnt cost much, but can contribute a lot to the ambience of a room.

 I don't really own many proper candle sticks, but I've made a lot. Little empty jam jars look pretty, and so do simple glasses. I've used empty tin cans too, sometimes with holes punched into them. I have a couple of old saucers that I use too.

 You can turn glasses or jars upside down to stand pillar candles on.

 Sometimes I buy taper candles, if they are cheap, but I don't have any proper holders for them. So I fill the glasses, cans and jars with something to support the candles, and poke them in. I've used sand, gravel, rice, cous cous and cat litter!

 I always try to group candles together. Different sizes look really effective together - the more the merrier!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Epicurus said...

..."We should look for someone to eat and drink with, before looking for something to eat and drink."

Next Sunday a family from our church will be hosting their monthly bring and share open house. The idea is that everyone brings some food, it all goes on the table, and everyone present can share in the feast. This is a style of entertaining that I have turned to frequently, both in my home and at church.

It has a number of benefits. For one thing, it is an inexpensive way of hosting a large gathering. No one family carries the full cost of feeding so many mouths. It also builds a sense of community, with everyone contributing to a shared experience. When I have hosted such events I have usually provided something filling, substantial and cheap, like a great big pasta bake (just pasta, tomato sauce, veg and grated cheese), or a big pan of soup with bread rolls to dip in.

I guess you run the risk of having lots of the same thing, but that has never been my experience.

I've been giving some thought as to what I will take on Sunday. I am following weight watchers, so I want to be sure there is omething healthy and low fat! I also need something that won't take much prepping, as I am going to be out literally all day on Saturday. So, I think I shall settle for carrot sticks, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, bread sticks and a simple dip or two. A big tray full of those will look appetising without being too expensive! I might take some fresh fruit salad, too, depending on what is on sale for a good price at the shops.

Chocolatey goodness...

...recipe suggestion.

Very close to my school is a little shop which sells a dangerously addictive substance...


The kids at my school go crazy for it, and so do many of the staff. The Tiffin from this shop is the stuff of legend. If you've never eaten it, then frankly, you have never lived.

Well, it's almost the end of the month, so funds are running low. I have enough basic foodstuffs to see us through until payday on Friday, but sometimes the basics are not enough. You need a little tiffin. So tonight, I'm going to make my own. Tiffin is the easiest thing in the world to make, using very simple ingredients, but somehow tastes far more wonderful than you would expect.

First, put 2 tablespoons of golden syrup, 2 tablespoons of sugar (any sort), 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder and 110g butter into a large pan. Heat gently to melt.
Then, stir in approx 220g of biscuits, crushed and bashed to get a mixture of crumbs and lumps. Rich tea is traditional, but really any sort of biscuit will be fine. I usually use digestives, because that's what I have in most often.
Add a handful of raisins, if you like them. Actually, my daughter has an unreasonable aversion to all kinds of dried fruit, so I don't often bother. I might throw in a handful of rice crispies instead, or a bit more biscuit.
When its all mixed, spread it out into a tin, pressing it down well.
Then melt the chocolate, and spread it over the top. Chill for a couple of hours, then eat! It's very rich, you might want to keep the slices small.

Of course, this recipe has all kinds of variations.
You could add any kind of dried fruit you like - cranberries, apricots, cherries etc.
You could use plain, milk or white chocolate to top it, or a marbled mixture of all three.
You could use ginger biscuits, chopped up glacé ginger, and top with dark chocolate. I think this would make a very grown up Tiffin!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Not just reindeer food...

...or, how to eat carrots without getting bored of them.

I try to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg. For one thing, I know it is good for me, and for another, I can eat as much as I like on my weight loss plan, so it helps me to fill up.
However, some fruits and veg can be more pricey than others, so consistently cheap veg like carrots appear regularly in my shopping bag. They are one of those 'backbone' foods that are cheap, healthy and frugal. But if I served them up in the same way every time, my family would soon get sick of them. Here are a few different ideas for how to serve carrots, you will see how versatile they are.

Raw carrot sticks can go into lunch boxes as a snack in their own right. Teamed with a dish of hummus, or yogurt mixed with herbs, they can bulk out a meal by acting as a starter.

Grated carrot can be mixed into a pasta salad. Sometimes I mix it with a couple of spoons of mint sauce from a jar, and it makes a really tasty side dish, with a bit of a Moroccan feel to it.

Grated or finely chopped carrot can be mixed into any dish made from minced meat, to stretch the meat, bulk it out and add fibre and vitamins. It can also go into any tomato based sauce.

Roasted carrots are a favourite in my house. Just a splash of oil is fine. Shake some cumin, or coriander over for extra flavour. They are a lovely side dish served hot, but I always make extra because they are so good to take for lunch cold the next day, maybe mixed with a few salad leaves, or some cos cous. A bit of feta on top is perfect.

Roasted carrots can also be blitzed with some veg stck to make a tasty soup.

Steamed carrots, served just warm, and drizzled with a little olive oil, lemon juice and pepper make a lovely warm salad.

Carrot sticks, dipped into flour, egg and Parmesan, then deep fried are amazing!

My daughter makes a lovely carrot soup, with fresh coriander. A splash of single cream stirred in towards the end makes it extra nice, but a dollop of soft cheese will achieve the same creaminess, if that's what you have.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Stale bread and...


Christmas brings out the crafter in me!
I really enjoy messing about with bits of card and a prit stick, but I have learned from experience that any craft I attempt must be simple, and need nothing that cannot be found around my home. This idea fitted the bill perfectly.

First, I took half a dozen slices of white bread out of the freezer. It was the very cheap, very white, very plastic kind that I pretend not to like, but secretly gobble up, smothered in cheese spread, but any sliced bread will do.
They didn't take long to defrost, just long enough for me to search the kitchen cupboards for my plastic Christmas cookie cutters. Bought these for about 75p from Asda several years ago, in the after Christmas sale.
I cut out as many shapes as possible, mostly stars because I like them best. Used a straw to poke a hole in each shape. And then I left them to go hard and stale. After I cooked dinner in the oven, I put them in there with the heat tuned off, and left them again. Remembered to take them out before I turned the oven back on the next day, then did the same again. Basically, I just wanted them to dry out thoroughly, and go hard and dry.
When I was happy that they had dried out as much as possible, I set out to decorate them. Some I painted, some I covered with glue and glitter. I tied a thin bit of ribbon through the hole. Some of them were pretty dodgy (I could pretend a small child made them), but most of them looked quite nice. They would have made nice decoration for the tree, but I used them to decorate Christmas presents that I had wrapped in brown paper.

Making them satisfied my need for a bit of glittery creativity, without the need for an expensive trip to Hobbycraft for supplies.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Frugal moments...

...of pleasure.

A hot cup of tea on a cold day
A slice of warm toast with homemade jam
Soft, fluffy bed socks
A library book
A walk in the rain
A conversation with a friend
Music on the radio
A blanket to snuggle under
Someone to snuggle with
A funny text message to read
A friend to visit
A dog resting her head on your foot
Making a display of conkers, twigs and leaves
Taking the Christmas decorations out of the loft
Borrowing a Christmas film from the library
Laughing at a joke with a colleague
Putting together a new outfit from clothes you already own

Monday, 19 November 2012

Feed your soul...

...with free art.

 I am currently redecorating my bathroom, on a budget of big fat zero, which is a bit of a challenge! I wanted some artwork to brighten up a large, flat, boring white wall. I can't afford to go and and buy anything, so I need to get creative. I can avoid having to buy frames, because I intend to string some yarn between two hooks, and peg pictures onto it using some miniature clothes pegs. So I started looking on the Internet for some images that I could print for free.

And I found the most beautiful, gorgeous, delicious, wonderful LOVELY art at I cannot tell you how much I love these images. Original, quirky, beautiful art, all available to download for personal use for free. Go and have a look. Go now!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Comfort food...

...for cold weather.

 This evening we ate one of my faithful, reliable, frugal meals - lentil shepherds pie.

First, you chop an onion, and soften in a little oil. If you have any garlic, through some of that in too, but don't loose any sleep over it if you don't. Take a few handfuls of bright orange lentils (the dried kind, super cheap if you buy a big bagful from The world food aisle in a supermarket, even super cheaper from an ethnic food shop), and add them to the pan. Sometimes I add chopped carrot, or swede, or whatever else is in the veg rack. Sometimes I don't. Give it all a good stir, then add some liquid in the form of tinned tomatoes, water and a couple of stock cubes. If you have half a jar of pasta sauce lurking in your fridge, add that. If you feel like it, a squirt of brown sauce will do no harm at all. How about a couple of spoons of chutney, to empty the jar? Stir, and cook until the lentils are soft, and the sauce thickened.

Meanwhile, make the mash to cover your pie. Potatoes are the obvious choice, of course. Sometimes, a packet of instant mash will do. Doesn't have to be potato, though. Tonight it was parsnip and sweet potato, because that's what I had.

 Put the lentil mixture into an oven proof dish (or two, if you got carried away and made too much. The second one can go in the freezer for next week, with or without mash topping). Top with mash. Some grated cheese and breadcrumbs might be nice, but not essential.

 Either put the pie in the oven for a little while, or put it in the fridge then cook it tomorrow.


Frugal happiness...

...from this week.

 Monday was my daughters birthday. Our house was filled with family and friends all evening, sharing simple, tasty food, and far too many doughnuts. Cards and gifts were given, but the most precious thing was the love and care that surrounded my daughter. She is not loud, or pushy, but open and genuine, and delights in making friends, and on Monday evening lots of those friends went out of their way to show her how special she is to them.

 On Tuesday afternoon my school got 'the call' - inspection Wednesday and Thursday. Not fun for any teacher, but the high points were; Dunkirk spirit amongst the staff, pupils who made every effort to make a great impression, good friends who instantly offered to feed myself and my family, so I wouldn't have to bother with cooking (and served the most wonderful comfort food!), and that wonderful feeling of relief when it was all over!

 The cutest guinea pig ever, pop-Corning around his cage in excitement while I fed him carrot sticks.

 My two lovely dogs, jumping on the bed for a cuddle.

 Finding bags of corn for popping on sale at my local co-op for 20p each, and big bags of dried soya beans for just 40p each.

 Sitting in a comfy chair, in a warm house, with a cup of tea, and the knowledge that I have the weekend to spend with my family.

Happy! X

Monday, 12 November 2012

Camp outs, crackers and....

...Christmas stories.

 When you have children, the costs of Christmas can easily sky rocket. So much focus is on gift giving, you can easily feel as if you can never give enough to your child. I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but it isn't the be all and end all. There is much, much more to celebrating Christmas than just presents.

 I have spent the last half hour looking around the Internet at suggestions for frugal, thrifty ways to celebrate Christmas, and I noticed that most of the sites I looked at talked a LOT about gifts, and a lot less about celebrating in other ways. So here are some suggestions of ways to celebrate Christmas with children, without thinking about gifts at all.

How about a Christmas camp out?
 No, I'm not really suggesting that your put the tent up in your back garden! But you could set up camp in front of the Christmas tree instead. This is something that you could do as a family, or perhaps your child could invite friends round for a festive sleepover. You could make up beds on the floor and drink hot chocolate, eat mince pies and tell Christmas stories in a room lit only by the twinkling lights of your tree.

Visit the library.
My local library usually runs a craft and story session during the Christmas holidays. My daughter is too old now, but used to enjoy them. You could also visit the library to borrow a range of Christmas books, and read them aloud each evening in the run up to Christmas.

Make an event of decorating the tree.
If you can stand the thought of a less than 'perfect' tree, then let the kids loose on it. Some Christmas music on in the background, a tree and a box full of decorations might just be the highlight of their Christmas. You can always rearrange things a bit when they've gone to bed! A quick google will present you with loads of craft ideas for making decorations with stuff you already have to hand. If the thought of glue, glitter and cotton wool brings you out in a cold sweat, then snowflake cut outs might be the way to go. All you need is white paper and scissors, and they actually look quite effective. Some very elaborate and beautiful ideas can be found on line, if you want to try for sophistication!

On Christmas Eve, you can track Santas progress with NORAD.

A friend of mine with two young sons has a special Elf toy which only comes out at Christmas. Elf goes everywhere with them, and they post photos of his adventures on Facebook. They set a place for him at the table, and during the night he magically comes to life and writes little messages and jokes for the boys.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Take control...

...of Christmas.

 If you are fortunate enough to work in a sociable, friendly environment, then the chances are you will be invited to (or even expected to) take part in various activities to celebrate Christmas. These can be costly, but I've found a few ways of acting intentionally to make them more frugal. If you are the person who is prepared to organise and coordinate the activities, then you can make sure they fit your budget! Here are a few example;

Christmas cards - instead of all the cost and hassle of giving cards to all your colleagues, organise a charity donation instead. Suggest that people might donate a nominal sum, such as a pound or two, and send out an e-mail greeting to all colleagues with the names of those who donated on it. This can be cheaper and easier than churning out loads of cards, and you know that the money isn't going to be wasted, but will help a god cause. One year we did this in my workplace, and were able to buy lots of dog food, to donate to a local animal rescue centre.

Christmas lunch - instead of going out to a restaurant,  organise a bring and share lunch. I used to do this a lot at my previous workplace, and it was a great way of spending time with colleagues without involving a great deal of expense, or even effort.

Gifts - in some workplaces, gift giving is fairly common, and you end up spending lots on token gifts which you know are only going to end up gathering dust somewhere. Instead, a Secret Santa can be a much better option, so that groups of oil leagues only end up buying one gift, instead of half a open. Alternatively, you might collect contributions to raise money for a charity, or one of those buy a goat for a third world family type things. That will probably cost less, and you know it's being used for something worthwhile.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hiding the rocket...

...on the way to school.

 When I was a child, I don't remember much about Bonfire night. I'm sure we had fireworks in the garden, but the only time I can remember is when a poorly fixed Catherine wheel escaped from the fence and flew across the garden. My mum probably spent a lot of money on fireworks over the years, but I don't remember.

 What I do remember is that when my Auntie walked me to school in the days following Bonfire night, we would often come across spent fireworks lying in the path. We used to psh them into a make shift hiding place, like under a pile of leaves, and then see how long they could remain undisturbed. Each morning and afternoon, we would walk past and check the hiding place. Once, the firework stayed there until school broke up for Christmas - a record!

 I cannot remember why we did this, but I certainly remember it. Looking back, my most cherished memories are of times like that, times spent with family or friends. I wonder what my daughter will remember? And I wonder if she will realise that the most precious things in life don't cost a penny.

Keeping Christmas...

...without breaking the bank.

 Before I begin, I need to tell you that I LOVE Christmas!
Cheesy Christmas movies, mince pies, twinkling lights, feasting, carols, gathering family and friends, mulled wine, crowded shops...I love it all. I don't love the commercialised greed-fest that Christmas has become, but I really enjoy making a big deal out of celebrating. Although I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, that isn't the main focus of Christmas for me or my family. That doesn't mean that Christmas comes cheap, though! In order to celebrate Christmas, I do need to plan and budget for it.

 One of the main ways I do this is by planning ahead. I get really annoyed by people who boast about not even thinking about Christmas until December. I can only assume that they have someone else in their family who does all the planning, organising and shopping, and so makes Christmas happen for them, or they can afford to do all their shopping in one go, and paying top prices at that.

 I start thinking about Christmas in January. This is when I pick up cards, wrapping and sometimes even crackers, when they are being sold off really cheaply. I have a wooden chest in the conservatory in which I store my Christmas things.

 During the year,and particularly during September, October and November, I buy gifts here and there. These go into the chest, and means that I don't have to spend huge amounts in December.

 I buy savings stamps from my local supermarket all year. A pound here and there soon adds up, usually enough to buy the meat and veg for Christmas lunch. I have a lot of family over for Christmas lunch, usually 12-15. I try to buy as much as I can before December. Things like a jar of cranberry sauce, a bottle of wine, ginger beer to cook the ham in...they don't cst much per item, and can be picked up along with the weekly shop. If I left them all until the December shopping trip, though, the combined cost would probably make me wince!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Simple pleasures...

The family budget around here is always pretty tight, and never more so than at this time of year when we have birthdays, Christmas, and an MOT to pay for! That doesn't mean, though, that we don't have any fun as a family, it just means that we need to cultivate a taste for frugal pleasures.

 My almost teenage daughter always complains when I suggest a games night, but only because she feels like she should. We have a few board games that we really enjoy, like scrabble, UNO extreme and backgammon. Playing those games is a lovely way to pass an evening, but the real bonus is the time it gives us to spend together as a family.

 Watching a movie (preferably a Christmas movie!) is something we can do together that costs us nothing. We have collected a number of DVDs over the years, and sometimes we borrow films from a friend. We have used Lovefilm before now, and found this to be a fairly frugal way of seeing lots of different films. You can get some good deals, especially if you are a brand new customer. We cancelled our subscription after a few months, because we found that in the summer we didn't watch as many films. When the weather is good and the evenings are sunny, we are more likely to be out and about. Movie nights seem much more tempting in the winter, I find.

 As a family, we are pretty sociable, and love spending time with friends, but too many meals out, or even trips to the coffee shop, are not possible in our budget. Inviting people to our home is much less expensive, even with the cost of feeding extra mouths! I enjoy cooking, but I don't go in for fancy, dinner party style meals. A nice, tasty, family meal is always well received, especially if the dessert is good! Of course, a pleasant side effect of having people over for meals is that they often invite us to their homes, too!

 We have two dogs, so obviously walking them is a feature of everyday, whatever the weather. But on bright, cold days there is nothing better than bundling up in coats and scarves and going off for a walk together as a family. This costs nothing, and it is good for us!

 Making Christmas cards, decorations, and wrapping gifts is something that my daughter and I enjoy doing together. We are not particularly gifted artistically, but we enjoy the effort at least!

 None of the suggestions above are particularly original, but sometimes simple things like that can be forgotten about. There are plenty of people trying to convince us that the only way a family can have fun together is by visiting a theme park or event, or by buying an expensive games system, or by dining out...but those people are mostly out to make money!

Natural beauty treatments...

...from the kitchen.

 I'm not too keen on spending loads of money on creams and potions, nor do I put much time or effort into make up or beauty products, but I do sometimes enjoy a bit of a pamper session. I prefer to use natural products. My skin is pretty sensitive, and I tend not to react to simple food products in the same way that I can react to chemical products.

 I am no expert, but these are treatments that I have used successfully myself;

Yogurt face mask.
Supposedly, yogurt has properties which help prevent acne, it is good for clearing and disinfecting pores, and full fat yogurt can moisturise dry skin. Honey is pretty well known for its antibacterial properties. All I know is that this mask feels nice on my skin, and is a great way to use up out of date yogurt!

- Mix up a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt with a squirt of honey.
- Spread it over your face, and leave for 15 mins.
- Wipe off with a soft facecloth, rinse and moisturise as usual.

Egg and honey face mask.
1 egg
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
Mix them all up together, apply to face. After about 15 mins, rinse off and moisturise.

Cinnamon and nutmeg acne mask.
Nutmeg, I am told, has anti-inflammatory properties, and cinnamon is a natural antiseptic and exfoliant.
Mix to a paste 1tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and honey. Spread on face, and rinse off thoroughly after half an hour.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Planes, Trains.....

...and Automobiles.

(Or more accurately, cars and busses!)

 For a number of years, my husband and I ran two cars. He needed a car because his office was forty miles away, and he travelled all around the region as part of his job. I assumed that I needed a car in order to get to work, and to drop off and pick up my daughter at her out of school club.

 However, we reached the point where the car that I drove was really beyond repair. My first thought was that I needed to replace it, but then I reconsidered. There was a reliable and frequent bus route from my home to my place of work. Also, one of my colleagues lived close to me, and I felt sure that she would be willing to give me a lift. The one difficulty was getting my daughter to a from her club, but she was only going to be there for a few more weeks.

 After some thought, I decided not to replace my car. My friend was happy to give me a lift, and I was happy to chip in for petrol. We got on really well, and were both happy with the situation. I was happy to be living in a slightly more Eco-friendly way, and my budget really wasn't missing the running costs and upkeep of running my own car.
 Unfortunately, after a few oaths my friend moved abroad, and I had to reconsider my options. There were other colleagues who live near me, and offered lifts, but there was no one whose working patterns coincided well enough with mine to make regular car sharing a possibility. This left the bus. Cost wise, a weeks bus travel was equal to the fuel costs of driving a car. However, I wouldn't have to tax, service or MOT the bus! The journey took about 40 mins each way. In the morning, the bus was very quiet. It became my favourite part of the day. I had forty minutes entirely to myself. I would usually spend this time reading my bible and praying. On the way home, the bus would be pretty crowded, usually with old ladies, who were always happy to have a chat, and shared their mint imperials and werthers originals! If I wasn't chatting to one of the other passengers, I could catch up on some reading, or even play a game on my phone. There were some inconveniences. The times of the buses weren't always convenient, especially if I had to work late. However, I was usually able to accept the offer of a lift from a colleague on these occasions.
 Then, circumstances changed again. My husband changed jobs, and no longer needed the car for work. He found his bike more convenient, as well as a useful form of exercise. My daughter became a student where I work, and the cost of bus fares for us both to make the same journey was ridiculously expensive. So, the car is now driven by me. I appreciate the convenience this brings. The reduction in travel time, the freedom to drop in and visit my mum on the way home, or pop to the bank, and never having to stand around waiting for the bus in the rain. However, I really, really miss the bus. I hate being responsible for the car. I have no mechanical intelligence at all, and am wholly reliant on the RAC if anything goes wrong. Most people would assume that having a car brings freedom, but I feel like it's a bit of a ball and chain. If only bus fares were more reasonably priced, I would be more than happy to leave the car at home. Maybe if the powers that be ever get really serious about addressing environmental issues, then this will be something they will address.

Friday, 2 November 2012

There is... dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.
                                                                                                - Calvin Coolidge

I have learned... seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.
                                                                                - John Stuart Mill

When life sends you....

...bargain butternut squash.

 I popped into Aldi yesterday afternoon and found that they were selling butternut squash at 69p each. That is a lot cheaper than my local supermarket (£1.50), or my local fruit and veg shop (£1.16).
 Butternut squash keep for weeks, and they are just about my favourite veg, so I stocked up!

Last night I roasted two, along with some parsnips, onions and sweet potato, in a bit of oil and generously sprinkled with cumin, coriander and paprika. Whizzed it up with a bit of veg stock, and made an enormous pan full of lovely, lovely soup. Will serve it on Saturday night when I have some friends round, along with some cheesy croutons made from a sliced up, reduced price baguette (20p).

 Here's some other ways that I like to use butternut squash;

Instead of mashed potato - zero points on my weight loss program, full of vitamins, and seems to hit a similar starchy, creamy note.

Roast half moon slices with plenty of salt and pepper, and served topped with some yogurt and paprika, with chilli on the side for those who like it spicy.

Roast in halves, and stuff with a packet of sage and onion stuffing / risotto / mince and onions / tomato and veg sauce / cous cous and dried fruit.


Cubes of roast squash stirred through cooked pasta, with a splash of cream and a grating of cheese.

With cous cous, as a packed lunch

Cooked with chick peas, a tin of toms, some dried fruit and sweet Moroccan spices like cinnamon.

Roasted cubes on cocktail sticks for party nibbles

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stuffed hearts and Pauper's puds...

...a review of Delia Smiths's Frugal Foods.

Frugal Foods was republished in 2008, with all royalties being donated to CAFOD. It was first published in 1976, and reading it is in some ways a nostalgic journey through food history. The recipes themselves seem a little dated, as you would expect, but they also seem reliable, straight forward, clearly explained and tasty, which is also what you would expect from Delia.

 The artwork in the 2008 publication is lovely. Simple, clean line drawings, and beautiful photographs of simple, frugal ingredients like eggs or carrots, which complement the tone of the book; that food can be simple, tasty, nutritious and interesting, at the same time as being frugal.

 There are no photographs of finished dishes, but as the recipes are clearly explained this does not seem like much of a draw back.

 Cost cutting advice is given throughout, and is fairly simple and basic - but no less valid for that! I tend to read cookbooks more for inspiration than to follow recipes to the letter, and there was plenty of inspiration here. I was reminded of many 'old faithful' dishes which had been pushed aside in favour of newer flavours.

 One of the recipes which I tried out was egg with cheese and spinach sauce. This brought back memories. Delia, of course, gave concise, thorough instructions. Here's my garbled version!

Make a bechemel sauce, with 40g butter, 25g flour and 275g milk (or in my case, a dollop, a couple of spoons full, and 'enough'.)
Meanwhile, boil 4 eggs.
Stir 50g cheese into the sauce.
Cook and drain thoroughly a bag of spinach. Stir into the cheese sauce. Give it all a good mix. Delia suggested whiz zing it all up in the food processor. I expect that would make a lovely jade colou, but frankly I didn't want the extra washing up.
Put a bit of sauce into the bottom of a dish. She'll the eggs and cut them in half. Put them into dish, cut side down. Top with rest of sauce, then sprinkle over a handful more cheese.
Delia suggests putting under the grill, but I had my oven on for something else, so popped it in there for ten minutes.

I love cheese, I love spinach, I love egg.....this dish was great!
I served it with some new potatoes and some carrots, but it would be nice with salad too.