Saturday, 30 March 2013

Be Thankful.


Sue xx

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Miserly March - Thrifty Thursday Tips - Week 4

The last three Thrifty Thursday tips have been about freezing, leftovers and growing, each requiring the input of the previous, well if we are looking at things that way what comes first in this list of ways to save money - YOU DO !!
You have to look after yourself to be able to do any of the others.  To be able to grow the food to freeze and to use as leftovers you have to be as healthy as you can possibly be and as happy in your own skin as possible.
Well to my mind you do.  And this is how I stay healthy on a budget.
The first thing I do, and this is really cheap and easy, is to drink lots of water, whether it be free from the tap, or bottled water it really doesn't matter, what I do know is the most expensive bottled waters don't taste any better really than the cheap ones.  I drink either filtered tap water or any supermarkets basic Sparkling water, sometimes I have a slice of lemon or lime in it either straight from the freezer or at the moment I have a jar of these slices in the fridge that were reduced to 39p from £1.59 an offer I could simply not say no to :-)
I eat as healthily as I can.  I have treat now and then, and I can rarely say no to a piece of chocolate (that would be  so rude), but by and large we eat well, we eat what we grow and supplement it from the shops and supermarkets aiming to have the fewest possible additives.  I don't read the fat/calorie/sugar content of the foods I buy I read the ingredients list on the packet or label instead.  I buy foods that have only the ingredients that I recognise and as few of them as possible.
The best foods to buy don't have labels at all. The longer you can stay in the fruit and vegetable aisle the healthier your supermarket shop will be, and also the cheaper.  If you buy vegetables to make a nice veggie casserole or curry you will get a heck of a lot more for your money than if you buy a pre-prepared ready meal version.
If you're short of time during the week have an afternoon at the weekend when you set to and make big pan fulls of soup, stews or curries and freeze them in meal sized portions, then you will have ready meals of your own for pennies rather than pounds.
Once you've got your insides nice and healthy, the outside is starting to look better too, so don't throw money at buying fancy products, find out what you like and what suits you and stick to it.  I make our own soaps because I like to have simple ingredients and it works out so cheap compared to buying the same quality of soap from the shop.  But you can find some really good bargains, especially if you buy supermarkets own baby or 'simple' soaps.  But find out what suits you and use that.
Find products you like and trust and stick with them.  I dye my brown hair blonde because it brightens me up and makes me feel good, but I do so economically, as my hair is so short I only use half a pack at a time, so these four packs bought when on offer will last me nearly all year.
I recently pared down my make up bag and rarely any make up now, the chickens just didn't appreciate the effort :-)
But I do spruce myself up when we go out together, using my favourite brands of foundation and mascara, even these I buy when on offer making sure I get a years supply at the time.
I did try switching my face creams to the supermarkets own brands, working my way down the price scale, but I honestly found that for me it didn't work, my skin was dull and sometimes greasy and I had more spots.

So now I've switched back to my favourite brand,  yes, it is more expensive but it suits my skin and I use it wisely and try to buy only when it's on a really good offer, stocking up when it is.  In my opinion being frugal is not about struggling to manage with something you don't like or that doesn't like you it's about knowing what to spend your money on and when.
And once you've spent your money on something, it's about making sure you get every last drop of that product available for use.  If you hear a quiet 'thud' in this house it's usually the sound of an upended bottle falling off the neck of the bottle it's been balancing on for hours as it finally lets go of every last little bit of content.
  In this picture you can see cheapo shower gel being dispensed into our handwash dispenser, I do this because it costs only 10p for the shower gel and it does a brilliant job of getting our dirty gardening hands clean, this is one cheap product that does suit us both.  I usually add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to it and give it a good shake, this helps to heal any cuts or scratches we might have picked up and makes the 'handwash' smell lovely.
In this house all tubes are cut in half and the products scooped out for use, usually you get at least an extra few days out of them.  If you have never done this before next time you think you've used all your hand cream or toothpaste just snip the end of the tube, you will be amazed at the amount of product left in there clinging to the sides trying to avoid being used.
So it's all about commonsense and getting the most for your money, spending that money wisely on products that suit YOU.  No matter what the adverts may promise us and what the airbrushed girls in the glossy mags imply that we might end up looking like, we will a;ways ever only be ourselves.  If we get the inside as healthy as possible then we can work on the outside in the way that suits us best.
The best beauty treatment of all of course is absolutely free and that is SLEEP and while you are asleep you cannot be spending any money at all ... so the most frugal tip of them all is to go for a nap.
I hope you have enjoyed Miserly March's Thrifty Thursday Tips, now what can we do for April :-)
Sue xx

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


A year ago today I lost my Dad.  After a few months of being terribly poorly he passed away peacefully holding onto my Mum's hand.
Together for so long and together at the end.
He loved, and was loved.
You can't ask for more in this life.
Today I am sad but I am thankful. 
I had my Dad for so long, I was almost 52 when he died.  I was so lucky to have had this wonderful man in my life for so much of it.  There are so many much worse off than me.
Thankfulness and gratitude are so much better than sadness.
I have somehow managed to let go of the deep, deep sadness that I felt for so long.  Maybe when you love someone so much and they love you back that love wraps itself around your heart and clings on, shielding it from some of the pain, keeping it managable.
Dad if you are somehow close today, know that I love you as much now as when you were here, and that when I think of you each day I see a happy, smiley face with a twinkle in your eye and that mischievous smile on your lips.  You lived your life well and filled your days with things you enjoyed, I take so much from that.
A was and still am a Daddy's Girl .... and I am proud to admit it.
Sue xx

Saturday, 23 March 2013

I Am Me


My name is Sue I am a bookaholic :-)

Sue xx

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Miserly March -Thrifty Thursday Tips - Week 3

My name is Sue and I am a 'growaholic'. 
Tips for the first week of Miserly March were all about using your freezer wisely, then we moved on to using your leftovers and wasting nothing.  What comes before these things ..... well in my world it is growing the food that will live in the freezer and become some of those leftovers.
This 'growing thing' crept up on me slowly and pretty slyly, it made it's first appearance many years ago when my boys were small and it was a necessity to put fresh good food on the table.  Then I went out to work and built a career of sorts, there was no time for much gardening and growing of foods so I handend over my cash and bought from markets and shops.  Then suddenly I had an unexpected life change and my green fingers were once again called into action. 
Luckily although I had disguised it well the green was still there, and I have managed for the last four years to grow the majority of our veggies and some of our fruit.  Last year was a disappointment as it was for so many gardeners in this country.  The weather defeated all but the very best of us.  Losing my polytunnel on our move (the wind ripped it to shreds just before the move and then we decided not to re-assemble it here as we will hopefully not be staying too long), scuppered my chances of growing under cover, so I was at the mercy of the elements apart from my draughty, slug infested greenhouse.
So what's this got to do with Thrifty Thursday Tips I hear you asking.
 Well do you honestly expect me to be the sort of grower that throws money at the garden, that has posh wigwams of shiny steel for her beans to grow up, that buys hundreds of little pots to start off her seedlings.  That heats the greenhouse to temperatures warmer than the house.  Now don't get me wrong if that's what you want to do go ahead, you will still save money in the long run, lots of money and your plot will look beautiful as well as productive.  But I started cheap and I continue to do things as cheaply as I possibly can, indeed with each passing year it gets cheaper and cheaper.
The plan above was done on the computer for me by Lovely Hubby taken from my quickly scribbled plan of the Veggie Patch and made all posh.  Thank goodness we noted down the positions of all the trees and fruit bushes in the tyres around the edge of the plot because some naughty little geese have chewed off all the labels from them.  Now we have to rely on this plan.
So at the start of the growing season I get out last years plan and see what worked and what we enjoyed eating, what went where and for how long and generally bring myself up to speed on things.
Then I get out these.
All year we save up all the inners from toilet rolls and kitchen rolls (and so does my lovely Mum), these are kept squashed in bundles ready to be brought into action at planting time.
I cut each toilet roll inner into half and kitchen roll inners into four, and then I plant virtually everything we grow into these first, this way each and every seed gets it's own little pot to send out those delicate first roots into, and that vital little infrastructure is never disturbed as I plant the entire thing undisturbed into the ground when the conditions are right.  The cardboard disappears completely after a few waterings or heavy showers of rain and adds its nutrients to the soil.
You can leave the tubes full sized for peas and any other plant that likes a long root system, but half sized works well for most things.
Sometimes I plant in what comes to hand ...
.... and I waste nothing.  Icrecream tubs and margarine tubs make excellent plant markers.  Just cut them to size and write on them with permanent marker and you have a weatherproof plant label. (But not puppy or goose proof - they just run off with them!!)
The fruits of all the hard work make it all worthwhile, and a stroll around the veggie beds on a Summers morning lets you know what you will be having for tea that night.  I used to plan the meal and then go and pick the veggies to go with it, but after a couple of years I switched this around.  Now I go out and pick what we have the most of, what is the ripest and ready for eating, then I bring it in and plan the meal around it.
This way nothing is wasted and everything is eaten at its very best.
There are some wonderful treats available when you grow your own.
I don't think I fully appreciated just how much money I was saving until I did the workings out for Below the Line last year, it blew my mind.  The post HERE gives all the costings of what I had to eat for the five days of last years challenge, and this is the homegrown food that I used to bulk out my shop purchases, luckily after the year before's challenge I had thought to save myself lots of veggies in the freezer as the challenge is slightly early in the year for most of what I needed to be large enough to harvest.
All the above food came in at less than 5p (4.8p to be exact).  I was queried at the time at how could this possibly be so cheap and this was my answer -
This shows just how cheap it can be to grow and eat your own produce.
My brother said I should add the cost in of the growing, the compost and the fertiliser, as well as the price of the seeds so I sat and had a think.

I grow (plant, dig and weed) because that's what I enjoy doing - FREE. The compost we make ourselves from scraps, waste and manure (horse and chicken) - FREE. The fertiliser we make ourselves from Comfy, Nettles and worm bed run off - FREE. The water for the plants we use is saved rainwater - FREE. So the costings of the veggies really is just for buying the packets of seeds, which I do in the sale at the end of the Summer usually at 50p a packet. So the costings are based on the price per plant obtained from the seed planted, and, believe it or not, always rounded UP.
It really puts things into perspective when we see just how cheaply we can grow our own foods. And you DO NOT need lots of land, although we currently live on four acres, only a small plot of this is our Veggie Patch, I purposely made it the size of an average largish garden or a normal sized allotment plot so I could see how little land I would be able to get away with for growing food at our next and final house move.  As you can see from the picture the beds could be squished a little closer together or be larger and therefore be even more productive, but there are only two of us (and the chickens) to grow for and I had the space so I went for larger pathways.
So my Thrifty Thursday Tip for this week is to grow your own. 
Whether it be turning your whole garden over to fruit and vegetables, using just a small part of it, planting in amongst the flowers and shrubs or planting in tyres, containers, troughs or pots.  Use your hanging baskets for trailing tomatoes as well as, or instead of flowers.   If you have no outdoor space use those lovely sunny windowsills in the house for herbs and 'cut and come again' lettuces, move them away onto a table top on the hottest of hot days so they don't scorch or get too leggy.  One packet of seeds could see you in herbs or lettuces for a whole year and save you an absolute fortune. 
 Think about it, a nice Parsley plant at the supermarket will set you back anywhere between one pound and three, and for less than that you can buy a packet of seeds which will give you hundreds of plants.  You could get together with a friend or two and each buy a different herb or vegetable and then share the seeds out between you.  So for the price of one packet of seeds you will all have two or three different herbs or veggies.
You save lots of money, you reap the rewards in cheap, nutricious, tasty and fresh foods and you get the satisfaction of feeding your family with something you grew yourself.  Involve the children in growing with you and who knows they may even want to eat more veggies each day.  Happy time spent together in the fresh air and good food as a reward, what could be better.  And it's about time more children learnt that vegetables come from the ground and not out of a plastic bag from the supermarket!!
I'll be back next Thursday with the final Thrifty Thursday Tips and it's all about YOU.
Sue xx

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Monday, 18 March 2013


Sue xx

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Taking a break .......

I'm taking a break ..... from Blogging, from being a chicken mummy, from planting seeds, just taking a break from my life.  Me and a little companion are hitting the road to spread our wings, to feel the wind in our hair and fur,  and just generally take some 'me' time.
I will be back soon, but in the meantime my wonderfully understanding hunk of a man is holding the fort.  Working less hours at his day job to give himself a bit of a break too, he needs some 'me' time as much as I do.   But he will be taking care of all the chores that I would normally be doing on his return from work each day, so he will still be busy.   I will owe him big time, but we are so secure in our lives and our love for each other that we can each give the other space when we need it and this is all this is.  Space to be ourselves, just for a moment or two. 
It's a tough time of year, those of you who have been reading the Blog for a while will know what happened this time last year and make allowances for my disappearance.
The Blog will pop up now and then with little snippets of thoughts, and Thrifty Thursdays are scheduled to appear, so you should not miss me too much.
See you soon.
Sue xx

Friday, 15 March 2013

Please Help

I don't often beg for help on my Blog but today I am making an exception.
This is Mali, a beautiful Asian elephant who has spent  her entire life, over 36 years in solitary confinement in a tiny enclosure at Manila Zoo, she was taken from her Mum whilst still needing to suckle and put on public display.  She has lived in the same enclosure since then with no veterinary care whatsoever.  That she has survived this long is amazing, she needs desperately the company of other elephants.  Could you live like this for that length of time.
Thanks to lots of hard work mostly by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick she has a chance but Dr Sheldrick needs support, so if you have a couple of minutes to follow this link I would love you to sign.  I have.
If we can garner enough support the authorities will have to re-home her.  The good news is that there is a safe home waiting for her in a sanctuary.  To see more about this go to the dedicated Free Mali the Elephant Facebook page and see how many folk are getting involved already.
See HERE for more information on Dr Sheldrick and there is much more information on Mali at the top of the petition page.  Blogland is a wonderful place, lots of you are on Facebook, or Twitter and could help spread the word, please do, over 2,000 of you read my Blog posts each day, if just half of you follow the link and sign this petition I would be so grateful.
Thank you.
Sue xx

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Miserly March - Thrifty Thursday Tips - Week 2

Last week tips for Thrifty Thursday were all about using your freezer wisely and indeed lots of the things I am about to mention this week also make good use of the freezer.  It is a useful piece of equipment for anyone trying to save money on the food bill each week.
This week I am mainly talking about leftovers.  Of course leftovers can be just that, the last few ladles full of stew in the pan, the last few cooked potatoes that just didn't fit on the plate or made the portion size too big, or they can be purposeful leftovers.  The sort of leftovers that you plan ahead, roasting a chicken that is too big for your family and knowing that you can make extra meals out of it in the form of curries, soups, pasties to last all through the following week, and of course using the bones to make your own chicken stock ready to be popped straight into the freezer for future use.
Sometimes leftovers can be the last few items in the bag of frozen veg, that you would like to turn into the basis of a meal but seem too small to insignificant to fill up the family.  Either way with a bit of imagination you can stretch leftovers to make whole meals and sometimes meals that you would never have thought of making, and they can be wonderful.  This bake I made a while ago is a good example,
I simply added a bit of cheese sauce, (this one was made from half a tub of Philadelphia soft cheese mixed with some milk) to some frozen broccoli and the last few bits of cauliflower saved from the previous nights tea ....
.. adding a good handful of breadcrumbs and a topping of grated cheese straight from the freezer and then baked for 30 minutes in a hot oven, totally delicious and using up the last of lots of things and leftovers.  A meal out of virtually nothing and yet filling and tasty.
No matter how little I have of something left over, I pop it in a tub and put it in the fridge as soon as it has cooled down.  This gives me time to think what I want to use it for, if there is nothing I can think of or fancy for the next nights meal I will put it into the freezer instead and save it for future use when inspiration (or lack of funds) strikes.
These Mediterranean roasted veggies were actually made into two quiches with simply the addition of a ready made pastry bases, two eggs per quiche and a sprinkle of cheese, but they could just as easily been used to top a homemade pizza, popped in a couple of pastry circles, folded over and made into pasties, whizzed up in the liquidiser with a can of tomatoes into a wonderful pasta sauce or, if made a bit thinner with some stock, a big pan of soup.  So this little tub of leftover veggies would then be forming the base of a meal for at least two people,
How much better to save a little part of a meal rather than leaving the table stuffed and feeling yuk after forcing down that last little bit rather than 'wasting it'.  Better for the purse and the waistline!!
Of course purposeful leftovers are a really good idea to save money on fuel too. 
If you cook just a little bit too much one night you don't need to use extra fuel to cook from scratch the next day.  In this case the previous night we had a large plate of pasta each in a tomatoey sauce, so I just cooked a couple of extra handfuls of penne pasta, cooled it quickly under cold running water and stashed it in the fridge, knowing full well that the oven would be on the next night for baking a loaf and I could turn the leftovers into a tasty pasta bake with a large handful of homegrown spinach and some cheese sauce (and again it ended up with breadcrumbs and cheese on top) and have it in the oven at the same time as the bread.  Saving me time and fuel cooking the pasta first.
Sometimes leftovers can be as simple as a bowl of homegrown New Potatoes, saved in the fridge from the previous nights evening meal and then served cold for lunch the next day with a sprinkle of herbs and a good dollop of mayo.
What do you do when you have half a lettuce and half a courgette leftover and not much else in the fridge and you have sudden lunch guests, once when this happened to me I turned to .....

Mum’s Lettuce and Courgette Soup
1 oz butter plus a small amount of olive oil
8 fresh large outside dark lettuce leaves roughly chopped
1 medium onion cut into small chunks
1/2 medium sliced courgette
1 chicken or veggie stockpots diluted with 1/2 a pint of hot water or a stock cube
1 level tsp turmeric
1 clove of Garlic, crushed or finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 large spoonfuls of yogurt to stir in at the end
Soften the onion, lettuce, courgette, in the oil and butter for 5 minutes, do not let it brown
Then stir in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes
Then blitz with your blender.
Serve with a swirl of yogurt, if you have it.
It turned out a treat, and with addition of a bit more water served three of us with a slice of crusty homemade bread each. It doesn't taste of lettuce really which you would expect to be a bit insipid but has a depth of flavour that you really do have to taste to appreciate. I've made it since and it freezes beautifully. 

So this was a case of unplanned leftovers, but it does show you that it is wise to hang on to that half a courgette that might otherwise have found it's way into the compost bin ... or heaven forbid the dustbin.

A brilliant Blog to read if you want inspiration for leftovers of all kinds is Suzy Bowler's Blog 'Sudden Lunch' on my sidebar to the right. HERE is one of my favourite and quick ideas for using up a little piece of salmon you might find lurking on a plate in the fridge. Delicious :-)

Oh, and what I meant to say right at the top of this post, is you see the pies in the picture, well virtually any leftover can be popped into a small pie or pasty and be turned into a wonderfully filling meal. Everything from pasta in cheese sauce (a favourite in many Scottish pie shop are Macaroni Cheese pies and that is what you will be making), to a spoonful or two of baked beans either on their own or mixed with some leftover potatoes (mashed or chopped), a tiny bit of meat, see this post for more info on making a teeny tiny bit of steak go a long, long way, of course my absolute favourite pie filling is cheese and onion, and using a handful of grated cheese from the freezer and as much onion as you have left over from making another dish makes this a quick and economical pie filling. If any of your proposed fillings are a bit dry a little bit of gravy mix made up will soon remedy this or make a simple white or cheese sauce.

I hope some of these tips are helpful, and to those of you who may have read them before I apologise, but I do seem to have a lot of new regular readers - welcome to you all. Any way it is always nice to have your memory jogged with things you may have done yourself before and then got out of the habit of, something I am notorious at.

After a comment yesterday asking for recipes I will try and include some whenever possible, I might even get round to having a stand alone page with the cost cutting recipes I use on a regular basis at the top of the Blog.

I'll get to it soon - promise !!

Sue xx

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Year of Less - Pricing up and Packing Away

As I sort through the contents of the spare room, the kitchen cupboards and the nooks and crannies all over the house I take everything into the spare room and slap a price sticker on it, then it is packed away ready for the first car boot of the season.   Sometimes I work methodically and sometimes I pull out a drawer and it's contents annoy me so it is tipped out and sorted then and there.  Good if I have a spare ten minutes, not quite so good if I was just reaching for a pen!
It won't be long now until that first car boot, weather permitting it should be on the first Sunday in April and I will be so glad to see the building stack of boxes gone from the spare room.  As I sort and clear and space is revealed even knowing that the stack is there tucked in behind the door pulls me down.
I need room to breathe. 
Room equals space, space equals freedom, freedom to do as we please and go where we will.  It clears the mind, my mind, and frees the soul.  That we do this together is good, that Lovely Hubby understands my need to de-clutter is brilliant, I thank him for this silently each day, and sometimes it comes right out and I thank him aloud, not often enough I know but he reads this and sometimes to see thanks written down is even more acknowledging.
So thank you Lovely Hubby for not complaining too much when the thing you reach for is no longer there, 
 for putting up with the shifting belongings we do have and that we are keeping, and I promise that soon, hopefully by the end of this year, the things we have got left will all have a space they can call their own, and they will remain in that space long enough for you to get used to it.
Now if you will just let me into the Man Shed I could really have some fun and fill some boxes :-)
For my Mum ........

... Happy Birthday Mum, love you lots, see you soon.
Sue xx

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Stating the Obvious!!

It's so bl**dy cold!!
Yes, I am stating the obvious!  It is -3.5 here today.  The sun is doing her best to take the chill off the air but the wind is thumbing his nose at her and making it feel like -10 instead.
The dogs have up until now refused point blank to get out of their beds but I am about to resolve this and drag them kicking and barking into the frosty world that is outside the back door.
When am I going to be able to plant my seeds, the greenhouse is showing a temperature of minus one and I wouldn't dream of sowing my lovely little seeds until all danger of frost has passed.  I learned the other year that late sown seeds catch up quickly to early sown ones, so I am being good and biding my time.
It's just soooooo frustrating!!
Oh..... and I want one of these.....but with thick woolly socks too!
Sue xx

Monday, 11 March 2013

Home Grown Spinach

This picture was taken last year when I put the last of the Spinach into the freezer, it has lasted us well, we still have a couple of boxes of frozen 'blobs'.  All I do is briefly blanch it, cool it, let it drain for a while in a colander and then put it in spoonfuls to open freeze, once it is frozen it is tipped into large boxes.  We try and use it in the order it is frozen in, but the other day I found some from 2011, it tasted just as good once cooked as a bunch of fresh spinach from the Veggie Patch would do now. 
 I tend to grow 'Perpetual Spinach', you can pull off a few leaves from each plant and they all continue growing all year round.  Through all the frosts and heavy rains this Winter the spinach has survived, I have pulled a few leaves off to treat the geese and chickens whenever the grass has been a bit sparse, but I made sure I left enough on each plant so it could survive the Winter.
We eat it with all sorts of foods, it's delicious with salmon, or a in a quiche with eggs, cheese and a dash of sweet chilli sauce, or sometimes I simply add it to the pasta water for the last couple of minutes of cooking and then strain them together through the colander, adding a swirl of good olive oil and handful of Parmesan style cheese to the top of each bowl before serving.
Sometimes the easiest foods to grow and cook are the tastiest, the healthiest and the cheapest.
And if it's good enough for Popeye, it's good enough for us :-)
Sue xx