September 16

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Free Food From The Urban Hedgerow

Week 3 – September 11th, 2017

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending. If you only preserve one thing this month, make it Mulled Apple Jelly – sweet, sharp and spicy, it is delicious with sweet and savoury food, making it the perfect all-rounder.

Product DetailsI bought this beautiful book (full price – my secret shame) when I was a student. It took me to a time when ladies kept house with an iron hand. A time when herbal remedies and secret recipes were passed from mother to daughter like family heirlooms. A time when still-rooms and store-cupboards secured survival and pleasure for whole households. A kind of Poldark of the kitchen.

An odd choice for a twentieth-century twenty-something, studying at a city-centre university, don’t you think? Nowadays we don’t need home remedies, hand-made preserves, or DIY cleaning products anymore – we have supermarkets not still-rooms for all that. And – romantic as the notion of gathering in and storing the harvest seemed as I read the book – it was hardly something a city girl like me had the option of doing. Cities don’t have hedgerows bursting with free fruit, do they? Cities have shops.

Sloe Gin And Beeswax” is still on my bookshelves, and I still dip into it for useful advice and sheer escapism from time to time. It is a lovely book and I would still recommend it if you can find a copy – it has been out of print for a while. But since I first read it I have discovered that cities do, in fact, grow free fruit. I have picked all sorts of fruits, completely free, without leaving the city – sometimes without even leaving my local area. For more information about how to plunder the city’s food supplies, read The Urban Forager.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, and advice about finding ‘free’ food in your very own kitchen.

September 15

The Urban Forager

I used to feel such envy of my country cousins in Autumn, imagining that they were out in sunny lanes, gathering abundant free produce from the hedgerows. Perhaps they were – but I lived in the city, and knew that the city has no hedgerows.

But, over the years, I have discovered that the city, too, has it’s free larder for the foodie forager – you just have to know where to look. I now pick plums, damsons, apples, sloes, and several different types of berry without leaving the city – sometimes without even leaving my own neighbourhood.

Some fruit has snuck in wherever it found a place – elderberries for example, perfect for making Larder Love’s dark, fruity chutney, have tucked themselves into gap sites, disused industrial yards, and cracks in walls. Some fruit has been planted for its pretty blossom in spring, its autumn fruit an overlooked bonus. Crab apples are the prime example, and make the perfect base for Mulled Apple Jelly. And some of it has become so traditional in gardens that we don’t even register it as a plunderable producer of fruit – take the humble sorbus/rowan tree, found in so many front gardens for example. Rowan Jelly is found in the poshest of deli’s – so why not in your cupboard, for free?

(Side note: rowan was believed to ward off evil entities of various sorts, and was planted by front doors to keep houses safe. That’s why, even now, it feels like a front garden kinda plant.)

Autumn is the perfect time to go looking for fruit – the urban hedgerow is signalling its existence with jewel-bright produce right now. So keep your eyes open as you go about your usual business. If you want to actively seek out free fruit, look for green highways – urban features that stretch out into the countryside – like canals, or old railway lines that have become cycle paths. The Sustrans website will let you check out which bit of the National Cycle Network – much of which is made of old railway lines – runs near you. And carry a few plastic bags with you at all times: you never know when you are going to bag some brambles or find some windfall apples waiting to be used. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) if you are not sure if the fruit you have found is edible – look it up. The “River Cottage Hedgerow ” book will help you identify pretty much every edible plant you could find anywhere in the country. Happy hunting.

 

September 9

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Digging Some Spring Colour And Dogs In Duvets

Week 2 – September 11th, 2017

It’s the second week of the month: if you can make the time, Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity and Grow Something.

Yes, it is Autumn – a time for picking, not for planting. (On that note, free outings don’t come more wholesome than foraging in the fresh outdoors for free fruit – take along some Dogs In Duvets for lunch and it’s a picnic too.)

But it’s not too late to plant bulbs – in fact, this is the perfect time to do it. Right now all the usual bargain outlets (Aldi, Lidl, Home Bargains, etc) are stocked with cheap nets of daffodils, tulips, crocuses, etc. Granted, they don’t offer the wide variety you will get in a big nursery or DIY store. But, in my experience, they grow just as reliably as pricier offerings. Check out mail order suppliers too – they often have great bulk offers, handy if you have a lot of ground to cover.

An afternoon digging in the autumn sunshine now could see you enjoying bright colour in the dullest months of the year. And if you plant some indoors you could even have them flowering in time for Christmas for you to enjoy or give away. Pots of colour, for only a couple of pounds.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, a recipe for Mulled Apple Jelly and some tips on urban foraging. In the meantime, enjoy digging and picking and eating delicious Dogs In Duvets.

September 2

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: A Free Christmas Wreath And Thriftier Main Meals

Week 1 – September 4th, 2017

It’s the first week of the month: if you can make the time, Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity and Grow Something.

Do you have any shrub herbs (lavender, bay, sage, rosemary…) in your garden? If you don’t – do! Even if all you have is a window sill, these are easy plants to grow, give colour right through winter, smell amazing, attract bees and butterflies, and can make cheap meals taste fancy. Right now is an excellent time to plant them – mild weather to help them bed in but less dry than the spring time.

If you have some already, then it’s time to think about cutting them back. It helps keep them in shape, looking good for the winter (I like to think it does the same for me if I do it vigorously enough…) But it also helps to make them last longer which means you don’t have to replace them every few years, Which is pretty thrifty.

Obviously you are not going to just chuck the cuttings away. You are going to hang them up indoors somewhere warm and dry so you can have a free supply of herbs in the kitchen for the next year. So why not kill two birds with one stone by drying them as a wreath. That way in about three months time you can bring out your herb wreath, add a few festive touches, and hang it up for Christmas.

After Christmas you can dismantle your wreath and put your dried herbs in jars. Or, if you are as disorganised as I am, you can hang the wreath in the kitchen to remind you to get round to jarring up your herbs. And then spend the next six months just picking them directly from your wreath as and when you need them. I got to quite like the country-kitchen feel it gave – or maybe I am just making excuses.

Once you have turned your garden refuse into a wreath, try turning the meat eaters in your house into pulse-lovers. Pulses are the cheapest source of protein but not everyone is happy with a vegetarian main course. There is a happy compromise: this is it.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, a suggestion for a free family activity and some ideas to bring cheap colour to your garden at minimal cost to your pocket. See you then!

June 29

Thrifty Things To Do This Summer

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Summer

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageThe Tartan Family are off on holiday for two weeks and I am taking the chance to have a wee holiday from Tartan Thrifty for the whole summer. Our builders moved out just before last Christmas, I went back to work just after Christmas, after 7 years of stay-at-home-parenting. Which means I now have a six-month backlog of DIY tasks to finish off the building project. Much as I would prefer to spend my summer tapping on my keyboard, I will be spending it sanding, painting, digging and tiling. Which isn’t such a bad swap, really.

I will be back in the autumn though, and I will still be updating the Thrifty Habits Planner each week. In the meantime, here are some ideas for a thrifty summer. Enjoy – the links and your summer! See you in August.

If You Only Do One Thrifty Thing This Summer…

Jam jars at the ready – this is THE time of the year to preserve something. A cupboard full of frugal jams means that snacks through the rest of the year can be as simple as toast or a pancake or a scone with jam. You can pimp it with clotted cream for the grown-ups, or you can leave the kids and their friends to help themselves to a round of toast with melted butter and sticky jam. Either way, it will be cheaper than buying pre-packaged sweet snacks.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a visit to a pick-your-own fruit farm for cheap and fresh soft fruit. It ticks two thrifty boxes in one go – a free outdoor activity for the whole family and a cheap source of treats to see you through the winter. That and it’s a guaranteed way to get everyone to eat at least one of their five-a-day, for one day at least.

If you have a glut of home-grown soft fruit – or a generous friend with one – then your jam will be even cheaper. Just remember The Thrifty Preserving Rules to make sure your cheap treats stay that way.

What To Preserve This Summer

Gooseberries have been in full swing for a few weeks now but it’s not too late make some elegant Gooseberry Cheese. You could also try some Gooseberry Jam. It combines sharp flavour with deep sweetness and – for me – is second in the world of jammy things only to lemon curd. Use The Jam Labelizer to glam your jam with a designer label.

Strawberries are just coming into season, making this the perfect time to knock up a few jars of Strawberry Glam – a sweet, sparkly treat for the winter months. Then there are raspberries – perfect for jam but even better for Larder Love’s Raspberry And Chocolate Jam.

A little later in the summer you can pick blackcurrants and make a jam that tastes like Ribena and is delicious with scones and cream. But then, what isn’t?

If you really get into making preserves, you are going to need a reliable recipe book that will tell you immediately what to do with your freshly picked fruit. You can’t go wrong with Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves. A wide variety of recipes, accurate and easy-to-follow instructions and a really useful introduction that tells you when all the fruits you might care to preserve are likely to be ripe – I wouldn’t be without it.

Whatever you preserve – hide it away for a bit. The flavour is better after a couple of months. Happy preserving!

 

 

June 21

What To Do When The Kids Want Branded Shoes And You Want To Stay On Budget

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s the third week of the month – time to Review Your Spending and to Preserve Something. Gooseberries should be about ready now, so why not try some (very easy) Gooseberry Cheese?

I am gearing up to do Shoe Battle with Tartan Boy again. Inconveniently, his feet keep growing and every time they do, we have a fight over whether or not shoes that are not the “right” brand will do. What can you do, when your kid wants branded shoes and you want to stay on budget?

What To Do When The Kids Want Branded Shoes And You Want To Stay On Budget

Tartan Boy and I are both – in different ways – fussy about shoes. I think it’s important that shoes look good AND feel good and don’t like paying for shoes that don’t tick both boxes. But my definition of good is based on how they look and feel to me. If the nice, comfortable shoe is also an Asda bargain I will have no qualms about buying it.

Tartan Boy also wants his shoes to look and feel good. He believes he looks good (and he feels good about this) when he is wearing one of the brands he and his peers have deemed acceptable. His definition of good is based on what he believes other people will think of his shoes. I have not read the minutes of the Teen Footwear Advisory Committee, or whichever secret adolescent agency it is makes these decisions, so I can’t see why Nikes are better than New Balance.

So we will set off to buy him new shoes. I will have every intention of insisting that we stick to a sensible budget for shoes that will be outgrown before they are worn out. He will have every intention of getting a cool brand. And we will reach a stalemate. Because he is not paying, and I am not getting it.

I Don’t Get The Whole Branded Shoes Thing

Nike astro-boots are a perfect example. They are made of sweat-inducing plastic, provide no support in the sole and yet cost as much as a quality school shoe because only Nike will do. (Allegedly.) I think a regular trainer supports his feet far better for sport and would not dream of running around in a shoe with so little cushioning myself. But a little bit of him dies inside when he has to play in anything other than ‘proper football shoes’.

And in spite of all my thrifty principles… I do understand. In a previous century, I too was a teenager and bound by the Geneva Convention On Cool Shoes to wear only what “people” thought were cool at the time. But I also get that this is a mug’s game – and that I am setting him up for a lifetime of slavishly buying brands just because”‘people” say they are better. Then again, I also think wearing the right gear boosts his confidence in himself as a ‘real’ footballer and improves his enjoyment of his sport. So where can we compromise?

My Three Secrets Of Sane Shoe Shopping

Over the past year we have – finally – come to an understanding on shoe shopping.

  1. I stick to my guns about quality – if the shoe is badly constructed and is not going to protect his feet I don’t care what label is on it. He has, over the years, accepted defeat on this.
  2. I, likewise, have accepted defeat in his love of brands but I have not accepted that this should be at my expense. I set a realistic budget and if his choice of shoe is more than this he makes up the difference from his own money. I am counting on this eventually making him wonder if he couldn’t be getting something better for that money than a production-line logo on his shoes. In the meantime, he feels like he has some control over what he wears and I am relieved of the burden of putting my (non-branded) foot down.
  3. I have taught him to check budget outlets for big brands at bargain prices. It’s amazing how much less a shoe in last season’s colours costs than the same shoe in this season’s  new hues.

I have failed completely to teach him that slavish brand-buying is a mug’s game but I am delighted to say he has learned how to get what he wants without paying more than he has to. He is becoming pretty skilled at finding the design he wants at the price he can afford. I am happy that he is wearing a supportive shoe on my budget. He is happy that he has shoes he considers cool – even if he had to chip in to the cost, or put in time shopping around for a bargain.

But, still, every time he tells me his shoes are getting too small I gear myself up for a fight… Old habits, like old shoes, die hard.

May 29

How To Budget, Part 2

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s the final week of the month – time to Make A Budget for next month and to Share Something. Last month I wrote about how to clarify your values before you even start deciding how to spend your money. This month it’s time to look at how to go about drawing up your budget.

Last year I had a moment of clarity while watching Downton Abbey… I realised that you don’t need fancy tech to help you manage your budget: you need honesty. Honesty and simple arithmetic are the keys that let you lock down your budget.

The arithmetic part is easiest – add up what you need to spend, subtract it from what you have to spend and, if there is anything left over, spend it on what you want to buy. Simple. The honesty part is trickier – we all struggle to work with the real sometimes. But it is important to train yourself to be honest because, if you don’t, your finances will spiral out of control, leaving you wondering where you went wrong.

 

How To Write An Honest Budget

  1. Work out exactly how much you have to spend this month – don’t settle for a ballpark figure or an optomistic guess!
  2. Make two lists: a list of all the things you want to spend money on and a list of all the things you need to spend money on. Be honest about how necessary each item on this list is. Does it fit with your values? Does it have to be paid this month or can it wait? Will there be dire consequences (like having no food, or your electricity being cut off, or your credit rating plummeting) if you don’t pay it? Push yourself to be honest about the difference between needing and wanting to spend money. When you are done, look again at your values and check there is nothing that matters to you missing from either of your lists.
  3. Now try to get as accurate a figure as you can of how much each item on each list will cost you. Add up the Needs. Subtract the total cost of your Needs from the amount you have to spend this month. If you have enough to pay for your Needs – breathe a sigh of relief. If you have more than enough to cover your Needs – do a little dance to celebrate because that means you can also spend on some of the things on your Want list. Don’t have enough to cover your Needs? Well…

What To Do When The Numbers Don’t Add Up

First of all, congratulate yourself – you have found out now, before you spent anything, rather than at the end of the month when you have already overspent. You are ahead of the game. Don’t waste that by burying your head in the sand and telling yourself it will all work out somehow. Go back to your Needs list and start shopping around to see if you can get anything on that list for less. For example, could you get a cheaper tariff from your energy supplier? Could you reduce your supermarket spend by shopping in a cheaper supermarket or buying only own-brand? Could you take the kids on free outings this month instead of spending on softplay/cinema trips/etc.? Will second hand or borrowed do for some items on your list?

If that’s not enough to bring your Needs in line with your income, prioritise your list – what items are most urgent? Shift anything that does not have to be paid this month to the top of your Wants list.

If that still doesn’t bring your Needs in line with your income, consider adjusting your income – can you sell anything on Ebay or at a car boot sale to raise a little extra money? Have you got savings you can dip into this month? Does anyone owe you money?

What To Do When Drawing Up A Budget Seems Too Miserable An Experience

I have been there, and I know the stomach-churning feeling of seeing how little of your Needs will be covered by your income. But I also know that facing up to that, honestly, is the first step towards changing it. Do your budget in short, 15 minute bursts if that is all you can bear. Stick on music, do it in the advert breaks of your favourite show, promise yourself a (cheap!) treat at the end of it. Do whatever it takes to get it done – but do get it done.

May 22

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – School Uniforms On The Cheap

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

 

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

It’s a five-week month, which means we get to slip in an extra week of thrifty habits – so this is the week to Tackle One Big Spend or Take Stock. How about doing both? If you take stock of kids’ school supplies now it will allow you to start tackling the Big Spend of kitting them out next session while you still have time to shop around for the best deals. You can find out how to do a school uniform audit here and how to take advantage of summer fayre uniform stalls to bag a bargain blazer here. Don’t forget to think about stationery, lunch boxes, etc. too.

May 17

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Elderflower Preserves

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s the third week of the month, which means it’s time to Preserve Something and to Review Spending. When you dig out your receipts and/or delve into your bank statements for the last three weeks, think back to this month’s post on clarifying your values before you draw up a budget. Are the things your money has been spent on in line with the things that really matter to you? Are there areas you are spending on that are not really worth the money to you? And are there areas you want to spend money on but don’t?

As for preserving something…

Elderflower Preserves

I think they smell of sherbet; Tartan Dad thinks they smell of cat pee. We both agree that elderflowers make their presence felt – and they are present everywhere from rural hedgerow to urban wasteland. So why not make something for (almost) nothing with the frothy, fragrant (?) flowers bursting out in parks, gardens and railway banks all around you this month and next?

British Larder has a lovely recipe for elderflower and strawberry cordial or you can find a plain cordial recipe here. You can dilute it with cheap carbonated water as an occasional drink (it is mostly sugar so not for everyday glugging) or pep that up with a splash of vodka if you want a sparkling drink with a kick. Or you could use it to flavour Eton Mess or fold into gooseberry fools or make delicious. magazine’s elderflower jellies

And if you still have blossom to spare, try a batch of classic elderflower champagne for a sparking wine that is ready in weeks. Nearly-free fizz – what’s not to love?

May 1

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Something New With Old Jeans

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s the first week of a new month – time to Put Cash In Purses before you start spending, and to Make Something. This month I am planning to make something new with old jeans. Why? Firstly because it will justify the big stack of little pairs of denim trousers I have failed to throw out over 13 years of motherhood. Somehow I managed to discard most of my babies’ clothing, but the jeans… ah, the jeans were too cute not to keep.

A beach-ready tote made from the legs of old jeans from Christie Chase Blogs

I blame my mother. When I was 7 she turned a pair of my outgrown jeans into a cute little duffel bag for me. I was hugely impressed by this transformation and used it with pride for several years. When Tiny Tartan outgrew his first pair of jeans, some forgotten bit of my brain kicked in and decided to turn them into a tiny toddler tote and some matching bean bags. He carried the tote, filled with little toys, crayons and colouring books everywhere we went for three years and was always able to entertain himself with the contents.

Another bit of my brain kicked in too – the thrifty bit. I would have paid for a little backpack in a shop for Tiny Tartan but jeans you are about to bin are FREE! Up-cycling his jeans was not just a satisfying way to hold onto a particularly cute garment, it was a way to save money. What’s not to love about that? And so here I am, 5 years and many saved jeans later and I finally have time to do something with them. Which is, basically an excuse to spend hours on Pinterest. If there’s one thing I love more than actually getting on with making something, it’s trawling through pictures of things I might make. If you want some up-cycling inspiration for your own jeans-stack, have a look at my Make Something board on Pinterest. Enjoy!