August 16 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 33

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Make soup
  4. Do one Big Production with Encores
  5. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time every month, I will

  1. Tackle one Big Spend
August 9 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 32

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Do one Big Production with Encores
  4. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Try out a new, cheap or free activity
  2. Make something
  3. Grow something
  4. Preserve something
Category: The Habits
August 7 2014

Strawberry Glam – A Little Jar of Jammy Joy

Strawberry Jam With Added Sparkle

Strawberry GlamWe have been to the fruit farm this week (in between the showers).  The strawberry season is almost over so this was our last chance to get some cheap jam fruit.  (Subtext:  we ate all the fruit we picked last time faster than I could get out the jam pan.) Strawberry jam in the winter time is like a little jar of summer joy.  For the last few years I have dramatically upped the joy-factor by making not jam but Glam – a strawberry preserve that actually sparkles, thanks to the addition of edible glitter.  I can’t claim credit for this:  I shamelessly stole the idea from a poster on Mumsnet – but I can assure you that, having conducted rigorous tasting tests, 90% of my tasters declared themselves to be significantly more joyful after eating the Strawberry Glam.  The other 10% said he just doesn’t like filling in questionnaires.

How To Make Strawberry Glam

fruit-straweberries-beetons-graphicsfairy005aYou need only three ingredients for this recipe but you must get them right:  the sugar must have added pectin; the fruit must be in peak condition; the edible glitter must not dissolve in heat.  Try adding a little to a mug of boiling water:  if it is still there five minutes later you are fine.

Strawberry Glam Ingredients

  • 1kg strawberries
  • 500g granulated sugar with added pectin
  • 500g granulated sugar (do not make the mistake I made once and use
  • just the sugar with added pectin:  it makes not Glam but Glue.)
  • 30ml edible glitter (I use red but silver or gold would work too; the quantity is up to you – add more if my amount is not quite sparkly enough for your liking)

 

Strawberry Glam Method

  1. strawberry glam jarsPut the oven on at a medium heat.
  2. Put half the strawberries and the sugar in a high-sided pan, stir, and then leave.
  3. Wash your jars in warm, soapy water and then place the jars upside-down in the oven to dry.   Don’t take them out again until you are ready to pour jam into them – they need to be hot to avoid them cracking and to keep the jam sterile.
  4. Now return to your fruit, which should be starting to ooze juice into the sugar.  With a potato masher, mash it up a bit until the sugar is completely pink.
  5. Add the rest of the fruit and put the pot over a low heat.  Stir until all the sugar is completely dissolved.
  6. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up high and bring the jam to a vigorous boil.  Stick in your sugar thermometer if you are using one.  Keep boiling until setting point is reached.  This will be marked as ‘setting point’ or ‘jam’ on the thermometer.  Otherwise, after 8 minutes, turn down the heat and drip a little onto a cold plate.  Let it cool for a minute and then poke gently with your fingertip.  If it wrinkles, setting point has been reached.  If it doesn’t, stick the plate back in the fridge and turn up the heat again for two minutes .  Repeat  until you reach setting point.
  7. Once setting point is reached, turn off the heat immediately and get your jars out of the oven.
  8. Add the glitter and stisingle jam label - New Pager until it is mixed through the jam.
  9. Pour the jam very carefully into the jars. (A jam funnel helps enormously with this.  If you don’t have one, pour your jam into a jug that has also been heating in the oven and pour from this).  Seal your jars as soon as you finish pouring the last of the jam, either with lids or with waxed disks and cellophane covers.  I always have one jar that is not quite full.  That one is for immediate use as the amount of air in the jar will make it more likely to develop mould over time.  Your other jars should keep for up to a year.  They will probably keep longer than that, but the flavour will start to deteriorate and, anyway, a year from now there will be a whole new crop of sweet, red deliciousness to preserve.
  10. Wash your pot, spoon, funnel – in fact anything touched by your jam – in warm soapy water.  Before it gets time to set like concrete.

Strawberry Glam Labels To Download

strawberry glam labelYou can download a sheet of Strawberry Glam labels to print out here.   Print them on white card, cut them out, punch a hole in each one and you are ready to get busy with some ribbon.  For more jam-packaging ideas visit my Preserve Something page on Pinterest.  For more information about how to save money making jam, read my post The Thrifty Preserving Rules.

 

August 2 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 31

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Lift cash and put it in marked purses for different areas of spending.
Category: The Habits
July 30 2014

Making Jam And Saving Money

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This week sees the introduction of another new Thrifty Habit – Preserve Something.  It is summertime, soft fruit is in season, and that makes this the perfect time to make jam.
Home made jam.  A joyous jar of summer to spread on your winter toast.  A luxury product at  a low price.   A homely treat to share (or not).  Jam-making is slow, sweet and therapeutic, but is it thrifty?

preserves004Jam is basically fruit, sugar and a glass jar.   Sugar is cheap.  If you collect empty jam jars and have a cheap source of fruit in bulk, then you should be able to make  jam for the same price as a value-range jam.  It won’t taste the same as a budget jam though.  It will taste delicious, and be good enough to serve to guests or even give as a gift.  Deli jam at the same price as a value jam?  Bargain.

cupboard-lady-Image-Graphics-Fairy2Well, mostly.  If you don’t have a stock of jam jars you can buy them but your price per jar will jump by at least £0.50.  If you don’t have a supply of cheap fruit, your price will jump again.  So you could have a cupboard full of preserves by the start of winter for only a few pounds.  Or you could have them for a few pounds a jar.  Either way they will taste lovely, but the more you have to pay before you get started, the less thrifty it becomes.

On the other hand, a jar of jam and a round of toast is a cheap treat for a crowd of kids.  A humble victoria sponge sandwiched with home-made jam and cream trumps an expensive bought dessert any day.  A plate of pancakes and home-made jam with extra-thick double cream is a far cheaper treat to feed guests with coffee than any shop-bought cake.  And a lot more welcome.
So, yes, preserving fruit  is a thrifty habit to get into if you follow the thrifty preserving rules.The Thrifty Preserving Rules

 

Does that make it all sound complicated?  I have been making jam and other preserves for years and aside from the basic rules you must stick with about sterilisation (which any preserve recipe book will explain) the process is very, very easy.  You just have to be prepared to give it your full attention while you are doing it.  An hour in the kitchen, with the radio on, stirring a pot that smells like the very essence of summer…  What are you waiting for?

July 30 2014

The Thrifty Preserving Rules

Money-savingMaking preserves is a great thrifty habit to get into, allowing you to enjoy a luxury product for pennies. Over the years I have developed eight golden rules for myself to avoid my tendency to waste both time and money preserving like I am going into competition with Bonne Maman.   Here they are

  1. Buy cheap sugar – it is just as good for preserving.  For fruits low in pectin, get preserving sugar or sachets of pectin to add to your cheap granulated.
  2. fruit-straweberries-beetons-graphicsfairy005aDon’t pay more than you have to for fruit.  Forage for free fruit, or befriend someone who has a glut.  If you can’t find free fruit, visit a pick your own farm but check their prices first – some are a rip off.  A quick google of your local supermarket prices should tell you if your PYO is cheap enough to be worth visiting.  Fruit for jam needs to be at its peak so don’t buy fruit being sold cheaply because it’s at its sell-by date.   Do buy fruit in peak condition that is being sold cheaply because it’s in glut though.
  3. Don’t buy jam jars.  If you haven’t saved a stock of them already, try Freecycle or put the word out to your friends that you want empty jars.  Jars without lids are not a problem – you can buy replacement lids cheaply.  Even cheaper, buy little packs of cellophane disks, waxed circles and rubber bands instead of lids.  The heat of the cooling jam tightens the cellophane and creates a vacuum beneath it that effectively seals the jar.
  4. Do buy jam jars if you are planning to give preserves as gifts.  Yes, it ramps up the price, but it also ramps up the style factor. Estimate how many times you will actually want to hand over a fancy jar of jam to someone and splurge on only that many nice jars.  If you already have a collection of pretty jars to reuse though, just buy new lids.
  5. Don’t buy labels. You can buy cute jam jar labels but why bother when there so many lovely ones available to download free?  Check out my Preserve Something board on Pinterest for some suggestions.  You can buy adhesive printer paper sheets to make labels that stick to jars but I prefer the kind you tie on – card is cheaper for printing on and you don’t have to pick labels off the jars to re-use them.
  6. Don’t go nuts buying special equipment.  Unless preserving is going to become a serious hobby and money-saver for you it will be many years before you recoup the cost of some of them.  A sugar thermometer is very useful for checking if you have reached setting point but a cold plate works too.  A proper maslin pan reduces the chance of injury from rapidly bubbling jam but any high-sided pan will do.  The one piece of equipment I wouldn’t want to be without is a jam funnel.  I have wasted too many minutes from my life and layers of skin from my fingers trying to wipe hot dribbles of jam from the outside of jars.
  7. Apron-lady-GraphicsFairy2Do invest in a reliable recipe book that offers a wide variety of preserve recipes.  That way, no matter which part of nature’s bounty you find falling into your lap, you will have a recipe on hand to preserve it.  I have bought more such books than is decent over the years, but the two I come back to time and time again are Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves and The Good Housekeeping Complete Book Of Preserving.  Their recipes have never failed me yet.
  8. Don’t waste time and money making more jam than you can use in a year.  Make small batches to avoid waste and stop the process turning into a mammoth chore.  In any case, a family can only get through so many jars in a year without losing all its teeth.   Jam may start out as fruit but health food it ain’t.

The Thrifty Preserving Rules

July 26 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 30

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Do a Big Production and Encores
  4. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Take Stock and plan how to enjoy the things I already have
  2. Review my spending for this month
  3. Write a budget for next month
  4. Share some of what I have left over this month with other people
  5. Preserve something
Category: The Habits
July 19 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 29

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Make soup
  4. Do one Big Production with Encores
  5. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

 

Category: The Habits
July 5 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 27

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Lift cash and put it in marked purses for different areas of spending.
Category: The Habits
July 5 2014

Move along, there is nothing to see

We are on holiday in Orkney and will be back mid July.

As I type this I am watching a gentle breeze ruffling the fields of barley over the garden wall.  The heads of the barley are blushing in the early evening sun (it’s not actually early evening – the sun sets later this far north) and the sea is sparkling as it gently nuzzles the bay at the foot of the hill.  I am thinking that setting up a holiday-savings account back in January has turned out to be an excellent idea because, as I sit here, wine glass in hand, watching a hare playing in the field over the road, I am not one bit worried about whether or not we can afford to pay the overdraft this is racking up.  Because, this year, it isn’t.

Good luck with your own holiday plans, and may your breaks be as lovely – and thrifty – as ours this summer.

Tartan Thrifty will be back in two weeks.

Category: Buy Happiness