October 14

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Whisky Marmalade and Money For Nothing

Week 3 – October 15th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

It is the week to Preserve Something. Nature is shutting up shop for winter but Mamade prepared fruit knows no seasonal limits and makes tasty marmalade with none of the faff. (Actually, I am not opposed to the faff because it makes the place smell amazing for hours. but, honestly, I think the end product is just as good with a tin of Mamade.) If you pot up a few jars of marmalade now they should have matured nicely by Christmas, ready for gifting or for guzzling on Christmas morning. You know, to offset the chocolate.

You can up the gourmet factor considerably if you buy a cheap bottle of whisky and add a splash to your marmalade just before you pot it. And if you need further inspiration for using the rest of your whisky (beyond the obvious…) then take a look at How To Turn A Ten Pound Bottle Of Aldi Whisky Into A Hamperful Of Tasty Treats.

Since it is also the week to Review Your Spending, take a look at Money For Nothing to see if you could get more for your money with loyalty cards.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a plan for a frugal but fabulous festive period.

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.

 

September 17

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

Week 3 – September 17th, 2018

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 10

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

Week 2 – September 10th, 2018

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 3

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Candles And Cake

Week 1 – September 3rd, 2018

 

It’s the first week of the month: if you can make the time, Put Cash In Marked Purses and Make Something.

I love September And October. They are new pencils and new plans. Crisp mornings foraging for free fruit and fragrant afternoons turning them into jams and jellies. Cosy nights indoors, with the slight threat of winter but none of the wet or the chill.

To be honest, I like November too – bonfires and fireworks and making plans for Christmas. And I am fond of December with it’s twinkles and parcels and sociable feasting…

(In the spirit of total honesty I have to point out that the above is a very edited picture of my autumns and early winters. It’s not nearly as calm, ordered, or reflective as that in Tartan Towers. Still, a woman can dream…)

What I love about this time of year is the anticipation of cosy times ahead. So, with that in mind, my Make Something  project this week is going to be Luxury Scented Candles. Something to give away but also something to enjoy at home.

I first made candles when I was about 7 – which tells you how easy they are to make – and can still remember the fascination I felt watching hard wax transform to liquid and back again. So you could treat this as a fun family activity AND a cheap way to treat yourself to a fragrant and twinkly home.

If you want inspiration to batch-cook a freezer-friendly snack try Apple And Custard Cakes. These are so easy a child could make them – no scales or beaters required. I will be back next week with a fresh thrifty habits planner and some suggestions for enjoying time outdoors before winter sets in.

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.

August 13

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Preserve A Plum

Week 3 – August 13th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

Are you partial to a plum? It’s not a fruit I have ever heard anyone go into raptures about although it is one that grows well in the UK. I am fairly neutral – I will eat one if it’s there but I won’t hunt one down if it’s not. But I will go to some effort to pick them in quantity because they make all sorts of delicious and cheap preserves. Delicious, cheap and easy.

Plums, damsons and their wild cousin the sloe all contain exactly the right balance of acidity and pectin (a fruit protein) to make it easy to get a set. And the same acidity means that they make sweet preserves that have an interesting flavour rather than a blanketing sugariness. They can stand up well to stronger savoury flavours too, going well with strong cheese and red meat. Plums and damsons should be ripe about now, sloes a little later in the autumn, and if you have a tree you can plunder, or a source of very cheap fruit to buy in quantity, take a look at Plum Preserves – 5 Delicious Things To Do With Free Fruit.

However you preserve your plums, be sure to use The Jam Labelizer to pimp your plum preserves with a free label design. All you have to do is download your label, save it at whatever size your jars need and print a whole sheet of them. Remember only to use the designs that are flagged up as free to print yourself. If that is too much work, try The Graphics Fairy’s Free Printable Jam Labels.

 

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on shopping sanely for kids’ shoes.

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.

 

August 6

Plum Preserves – 5 Delicious Things To Do With Free Fruit

I am undecided about plums. Bought in the supermarket they seem to have been picked weeks before they are ripe. Hard, sour, with an annoying tendency to suddenly race beyond ripe all at once – they are too tender for lunch boxes, too sour to eat without sugar and, frankly, lacking in flavour.

If you have a source of plums fresh off the tree though… Oh yes. A very different fruit indeed. Yielding and honeyed, quite unlike anything you can purchase in a punnet. The problem is, though, that if you have access to a plum or damson tree then you have access to more fruit than you can possibly eat before it starts to rot. Which is where preserving comes in. Plums are easy to preserves and the results are delicious. If you see cheap plums right now – or better still have a free source – remember that plum jam on a pancake in November is worth some effort in August. Here are five of my favourite things to do with plums.

  1. Make Jam. Plums and sugar alone make an excellent jam – in fact the natural balance of acidity and pectin in plums makes for jam that is not only delicious but very easy and straightforward to make. But this sweet concoction can only be improved by the addition of cinnamon, as in BBC Good Food’s recipe for Cinnamon-Scented Plum Jam.
  2. Make Chutney. If you prefer something more savoury than sweet, why not turn your glut of plums into chutney? Chutneys are simplicity to make – no fiddling with sugar thermometers or waiting to reach setting point. Put your ingredients in a pan, bubble over a low heat for a long time  – done. And the results are delicious with cheese or for dipping poppadoms into. Try Pam Corbin’s recipe. And remember that the most important stage with chutney is the one where you leave the jars in a cupboard for a few months so the ingredients can all mellow into each other.
  3. Make Plum Leather. Somewhere between a fruit pastille and beef jerky but very much nicer than this makes it sound, fruit leathers are a handy standby for lunch box treats. Try Olia Hercule’s recipe.
  4. Make Damson Jelly. For me, damson is the queen of jams (gooseberry is king, if you are wondering) but even I find the chore of removing all the stones a bit off-putting. This is where damson jelly comes in. As with all jelly preserves, all you have to do is cook the fruit – stones included – down to a mush and then leave it overnight to drip into a bowl. The resulting liquid is boiled up with sugar to make the jelly. Jars of intense, sweet jelly and not one moment of fiddly stone-removal. This recipe works with sloes and plums if you have them instead. Jellies work just as well with roast meat as with a round of toast – a truly multi-tasking tracklement.
  5. Make Plum Cheese. This uses the same technique as a jelly – boil up your fruit, strain, add sugar and cook till it’s ready – so there is no fiddly stone-removal. But the result is a firmer preserve that can be turned out of a mould and popped on a cheese-board. It’s like the pricey quince cheeses you see in delis, only with plums. And cheap. Try Larder Loves’ Plum And Lime Cheese.

 

 

 

July 16

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Blackcurrant Preserves And How To Handle A Glut Of Raspberries

Week 3 – July 16th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

I posted last week about getting best value from pick-your-own fruit farms. I am quite canny these days about only visiting farms where the fruit is genuinely cheaper than a supermarket but I still risk stumbling in pursuit of thrifty fruit every time I visit a PYO farm. Why? Because, dear reader, I am greedy. I see fat red strawberries or deep pink raspberries and, like edible pokemon, I gotta catch ’em all. Only at the exit till do I realise I may have picked more than we can either preserve or eat. If, like me, you come home from the fruit farm with too many berries, read What To Do When You Pick Too Many Raspberries for inspiration. And develop some self-control. You can come back and teach me how when you do…

This is also the season for blackcurrants. If you have a source of these little black flavour bombs, take a look at How To Turn A Basket Of Blackcurrants Into A Cupboard Full Of Frugally Fabulous Preserves for some inspiration.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and more advice on how to budget successfully.

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.

 

July 13

How To Turn A Basket Of Blackcurrants Into A Cupboard Full Of Frugally Fabulous Preserves

Is The Humble British Blackcurrant The New Superfood?

I lost interest in superfoods several years ago. I am not convinced any food remains super when it has been transported half way round the world. That, and superfoods always seem to be pricey. Nobody ever claims the humble – and cheap – brussels sprout as a superfood, for example. But a source of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants that is still bright green in the dead of winter sounds pretty heroic to me. Superfoods seem less like a health revolution and more like a marketing ploy, yet another way to get us all to buy expensive products when the cheaper, local version is perfectly good. So I am heartened by the more recent move towards embracing the super powers of foods that grow – cheaply – right here in our chilly northern climate.

Our national love affair with all things Scandi has reintroduced the idea that berries might be of benefit – great news in the British summer time when they are abundant. Which brings me to blackcurrants – hailed by one study as the next superfood over a decade ago. Blackcurrants are easy to grow and easy to pick. No bending over (strawberries I am looking at you) and no big prickles lurking on every stem (hello gooseberries and blackberries  and I see you have your slightly kinder friends the raspberries with you.) They grow in gardens, are abundant in PYO farms and make some of the most delicious preserves and desserts known to man. According to The Blackcurrant Foundation, these tiny powerhouses can help with all manner of health issues, from a UTR to Erectile Dysfunction but let’s not pretend I am really eating them for their health benefits. In truth, you have to add so much sugar to the tart little berries that much of the benefit to your body is outweighed by the damage to your teeth.

Got Blackcurrants? Got No Idea What To Do With Them? Look No Further…

No, for me, blackcurrants are not health food; blackcurrants are treat food. Their intense flavour is wasted on Ribena – it deserves to be in artisan jams and jellies gracing elegant cream teas. Or in seriously indulgent deserts. Or liqueurs. The closest I am prepared to go to claiming blackcurrants as health food is as a dressing ingredient in salads. Pam Corbin’s fruit vinegar recipe works beautifully with blackcurrants to make the perfect base for fruity salad dressings – perfect drizzled over rocket, pecan nuts and goat’s cheese. The link also leads you to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait. What better way to enjoy the fruits in season? In fact, if you want to cook with blackcurrants – or eat them in a decadent smoothie or a cool, sharp ice-lolly – look no further than The Blackcurrant Foundation’s own recipe page.

Delicious magazine’s Creme de Cassis recipe requires very little effort but quite a lot of patience. Keep some of your jewel-coloured liqueur until December and you can use it to make BBC Good Food’s simple but impressive Christmas Mess. Or enjoy it mixed with bubbly on Christmas morning.

Blackcurrants are incredibly easy to make into jams and jellies because they have just the right balance of acidity and pectin. It’s the combination of these two ingredients that ensures a good set for jams and jellies and, without it, you have to mix fruits together or add pectin to your mix. With blackcurrants you need sugar and heat and nothing else. The only fiddly bit is removing the stalks from your berries – and you can skip even this stage if you make jelly instead of jam. Simply boil up the fruit, stalks and all, and then strain it through a jelly bag or a clean tea-towel in a sieve. Then add sugar to the resulting juice and boil it up again to  make jars of thick, dark jelly. Try this Blackburrant Jelly recipe from The Irish Times to make an intensely flavoured and elegant preserve. If you are sold on jam, try this simple Blackcurrant Jam recipe with videos of all the important stages, from Farmersgirl Kitchen.

Finally, something a little different. Larder Love’s Blackcurrant And Rosemary Cheese – not an actual cheese, but a very dense, slice-able fruit preserve similar to the spanish dulce de membrillo – is simple to make and perfect to serve with cheese or pate.

Get picking and potting people!

 

July 2

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Beremeal Bread In Under An Hour Or A Matter Of Minutes

  1. Week 1 – July 2nd, 2018

It’s the first week of the month: if you can make the time, Put Cash In Marked Purses and Make Something

Bread is my nemesis. Milk and eggs I get delivered. Fruit and veg I keep in the freezer as a back-up to keep us going when the fresh stuff runs out. But I find it almost impossible to predict how much bread we will get through each week (thanks in part to Tartan Boy’s adolescent snacking needs) and even less possible to keep it fresh for seven days.

I don’t want to pop to the shops a couple of times a week to get more bread because, inevitably, I leave with more than the loaf I came for, and spend way more than I intended to. My freezer is too small (and too full of fruit and veg and batch-cooked meals and snacks) to keep a loaf on standby. I manage by stocking up on bread products that last a bit longer – wraps, bagels, bags of croissants – and using these later in the week. If I am organised, we can set the breadmaker to solve the problem for us while we sleep. But sometimes (OK – quite often) we need an extra loaf to keep us going and we need it now.

And that’s where my Beremeal Bread recipe comes in. I can mix this up in minutes and bake it in about half an hour. To the best of my knowledge it doesn’t keep for more than a day (I don’t actually know how long it lasts because we always eat the lot when it is fresh) but when it is this easy to make, it doesn’t need to.

You don’t have to have beremeal to bake it: you can substitute that for regular wholemeal flour to make soda bread. Or with maize meal to make it into delicious, golden cornbread.

Best of all – we recently discovered – you don’t even have to turn on the oven. Using a microwave you can go from storecupboard ingredients to warm loaf in only 15 minutes. Put all the ingredients in a plastic or silicone loaf tin (or cake tin, or muffin tin without the paper cases, or a smallish mixing bowl…) Mix them together and then pop it in the microwave for ten minutes to bake a perfectly edible loaf. It won’t come out with a coloured crust but it will come out with a delicious, moist crumb. We call it Cinderella bread. Like her carriage and gown (but not, mysteriously, her shoes) this bread will not last beyond midnight. The warm, soft bread will shrink and harden over a period of hours because it has been microwaved. All the more reason to eat it at once.

I will be back next week with a fresh thrifty habits planner and advice on picking soft fruit without getting stung. Happy baking!

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.

June 17

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Glam Jam And Elegant Gooseberry Cheese

Week 3 – June 18th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

One word: berries. Gooseberries are in season right now and strawberries will be joining them any day now. Preserves are a cheap and easy way to throw some sunshine into your cupboards for future rainy days and they require very limited culinary skills. Gooseberries and strawberries make particularly delicious preserves. If you have never tried to make preserves before, this is an ideal time of the year to try it.

Start with the gooseberries already in season. Gooseberries are great in chutney and, if you only have a small amount, that’s perfect for a cheeky Gooseberry and Elderflower Vodka from BBC Good Food’s website. If you have a heftier haul of the berries though (about 1.5 kilos) why not try my Gooseberry Cheese recipe? It is super-simple to make and produces a sophisticated treat to style up your cheeseboard. It is also pretty good just dropped in thin slices onto a scone loaded with clotted cream.

Now is also the time to watch out for pick-your-own farms advertising strawberries (unless you are growing your own). A freshly picked strawberry, still warm from the sun, is about as close to perfect food as you can get, in my opinion but, if you do want to preserve some of their sweet summery deliciousness for darker, drearier months of the year, add a little sparkle and use my Strawberry Glam recipe to create a little jar of jammy joy.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, a recipe for emergency pudding and the carefree abandon of a woman who is now on her holidays.

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.