October 15

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

Week 3 – October 16th, 2017

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.

 

October 9

Grandpa’s Guide To Bringing Home The Brambles

When I was a child we spent a week each autumn in a caravan in the countryside. No electricity! no central heating!! No tv!!! No wifi!!!  Evenings spent playing board games; the soft hiss of gas lamps being lit as evening fell; beds still water-bottle-warm in the mornings as ice-crystals formed on the inside of the windows…

In spite of conditions that make Tartan Boy look at me with a mixture of horror, pity and incomprehension they were happy holidays. As kids, we looked forward to doing things that were different from our usual lives but still reassuringly familiar, because we did them each year. One of our favourites, enjoyed most days, was brambling with Grandpa. Grandpa is long-gone, sadly, but his approach to taking children fruit-picking stays with me. Here are the three wisest tips I learned from him.

  1. Kids need a reason – chat on the way about what you are going to do with your brambles when you get home. Make bramble jelly? Bake a bramble pie? Knock together a bramble and apple crumble? If that’s too far away to motivate them then offer a small reward for filling their containers. Most kids will do anything for a fun-size mars bar.
  2. Children need a quick win – don’t take big tubs for them to fill slowly. Grandpa used to collect empty food cans, drill two holes near the top and thread string through to make a long handle. Looped over a child’s head the cans hung at chest height, leaving our little hands free to pick fruit and pop it in the cans.The cans filled quickly, we felt proud of the speed with which we had reached the top and that spurred us on to fill another. Grandpa meanwhile tipped each full can into a big tupperware box. If drilling holes in cans sounds like too much work for a short brambling expedition, try dishing out small tupperware boxes for your kids to bring back to the mother ship.
  3. Children get bored quite quickly – don’t chivvy them to keep picking once they get restless. Move on – there will probably be a new patch of brambles not far away and they can attack that one with renewed enthusiasm. Or let them climb some trees, or play hide and seek, or sit down and have a snack… If none of that works, it’s time to call it a day and go home to eat your brambles.
September 30

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Candles And Cake

Week 1 – September 4th, 2017

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.

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.

February 14

Being Thrifty When You Can’t Be Bothered

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 Page
This is the week to Preserve Something. Nature is not exactly bountiful in February so how about a big jar of Disgracefully Drunken Prunes? The ingredients are cheap, the effort minimal, and – if you leave them alone for months – the results are delicious. It’s also the week to dig out all your receipts and bank statements and find out how in control of your spending you are this month…

Staying Thrifty In February

How are your plans for a thrifty 2017 working out? I find January is usually an excellent month to start some new thrifty resolutions – any thriftiness at all seems like a stellar effort compared to the excesses of the previous month. Plus, sales shopping gives a certain thrifty veneer to spending more money, because it’s not really spending if it’s a bargain, is it. (Is it?) And, given the state of most people’s bank balances in January, it’s not so much a lifestyle choice as a dire necessity. So a frugal new year seems entirely do-able in January.

February though… The shine has come off your new thriftiness – it is no longer fun. Or an interesting challenge. And, with a new month’s pay in hand, it seems less urgent. You start to forget your new thrifty habits. But habits – thrifty ones included – thrive on repetition. The more often you repeat them, the more likely you are to keep on repeating them.

So, no pressure, but if you started out on a new journey to take control of your finances last month, this month is crucial. Keep your new thrifty habits up through February and by March they will be well on their way to becoming second nature. If you do fall off the wagon, just hop straight back on. And remember to give yourself little treats to keep your morale up. Good Luck!

 

September 25

Free Printable Weekly Packed Lunch Planner For Autumn 2016

The Tartan lunch boxes have been a bit of a haphazard affair so far this term. I was still waiting for summer to start – the end of the summer holidays came as a shock. I have cobbled together a freezer full of pre-made lunches but they are a bit… repetitive. There’s a limit to the number of variations on a ham sandwich we can eat in a week. Time for a new packed lunch plan…

What's For Lunch September 2015 - Tartan Thrifty

 

Ready to start batching lunches with me? Click here to download a copy of the planner or  click here to download a blank planner to fill in with your own packed lunch plans. Happy packing!

Monday

Autumn Lunch Planner - Monday - Autumn Lunch Planner - MondayA recipe for Cheese Scones is available here and you can find Leek And Lentil Soup  here. Make a potful and have it with your main meal on another day to get double value out of your cooking time. No baking is required for the Apple Crumble – chop up dessert apples, add a spoonful or two of water, and a shake of cinnamon before stewing slowly over a low heat. When the resulting puree has cooled pour it into ice-cube trays and freeze. When it is time to transform your cubes of frozen apple puree, pop a few cubes into a lidded container, top with low-sugar ready-made custard and sprinkle a handful of granola over the top – instant apple crumble! A portion of fruit and a dollop of calcium-rich custard with marginally less fat and sugar and more dietary fibre than a regular crumble. Lunchtastic!

Tuesday

Autumn Lunch Planner - Monday - autumn lunch planner TuesdayMini calzones are an excuse to provide a little bready parcel of veg and a calcium-rich portion of cheese. It’s health food through the medium of pizza – especially if you make the dough with half-and-half white and wholemeal flour for added fibre. Click here for a how-to and add the veg of your very own picky eater’s choice. (Mushrooms and olives here in Tartan Towers, but not for the same people. And yes, that is an unhealthy level of pandering.) Picnic eggs are widely available but if you want to have a go at making their big brother, the Scotch Egg, try this recipe.

Wednesday

Autumn Lunch Planner - Monday - Autumn Lunch Planner WednesaySmoked mackerel dip gives you and yours a healthy serving of omega 3 oils at an even healthier price. Use plain smoked fillets or your choice of flavoured fillet – personally I don’t think you can beat simple peppered fillets. Throw them in a food processor with some cream cheese and a little natural yoghurt. (The yoghurt is optional – it makes a slightly dippier dip, and adds a gentle tanginess. If you want tang-free pate instead of tangy dip, leave it out.) Process until smooth. That’s it – spoon it into small containers and freeze. Defrost overnight and give it a quick stir in the morning if it has separated slightly. Add some bought or home-made bread sticks and you are good to go. Home-made bread sticks freeze nicely, by the way.

Cranachan is what you do if you live in a Scottish croft, it’s summer, your cow’s milk is at it’s creamiest, the bees are a-buzzing and there are wild raspberries all around. It is a sort-of-trifle made with whipped cream, toasted oatmeal, fresh raspberries, whisky and honey. So simple, so cheap, so sweetly, creamily delicious. Great for a treat, but a bit too sweet, high fat and alcoholic for a kid’s lunch box.  So instead fold a little honey, toasted oatmeal and frozen raspberries into greek yoghurt. Sadly it doesn’t freeze but it is quick to stir together and toasted oatmeal lasts weeks in a jar. Spread oatmeal on the base of a dry frying pan over a low heat. Give it a little shake every ten seconds or so until it gives off a lovely, nutty smell. Watch it like a hawk – it will burn if you give it the chance. Frozen raspberries can be folded in straight from the freezer. Their deep red juices will ripple through the finished cranachan as they thaw.

Thursday

Autumn Lunch Planner - Monday - Autumn Lunch Planner ThursdayClick here for my cheese and ham muffin recipe. Ideally, make the chicken and cannellini bean salad with leftover bits of chicken, stashed in the freezer after roasting a bird. No handy chicken carcass to pick over? Buy chicken breasts and griddle them before cutting them into small chunks. Or you can buy ready-cooked chunks of chicken – much more expensive than home-made  but still cheaper than buying ready-made sandwiches. Simply drain a tin of cannellini beans and toss with the chicken, some leaves from a windowsill pot of herbs and some dressing. The dressing is up to you – a squirt of mayo, a bought dressing or the cheapest option – vinegar, seasoning and oil shaken up in a jar.

Friday

Autumn Lunch Planner - Monday - Autumn Lunch Planner FridayThis lunch cannot be frozen, alas, but is quick to make and, if you make double it will also fill baked potatoes for your dinner. Two birds, one stone. Or two fish, one hook? Anyway. Open a tin of pink salmon and mash it with a fork and a spoonful of mayonnaise. Fold in a drained tin of sweetcorn. Aside from a portion of protein and omega 3 oils, the tinned salmon is a rich calcium source because of all the bones that are softened to edibleness by the canning process. Dollop it into the middle of your wraps and fold or roll them up. The fizzy juice is simply an own-brand diluting juice (our personal favourite is Aldi’s Orange Squash if you are interested) diluted with fizzy water.

Here’s the thing about buying water. Sparkling water – sometimes sold as “sparkling table water” is, quite simply, tap water that has been carbonated – no spurious claims to originate in a highland spring. Just fizz, costing pennies not pounds. If all you want is a glass of water, it is a waste of your money, because you already have water on tap. But if what you want is fizzy juice, it is a very cheap way to transform squash into pop. Tartan Boy loves it and at well under 10p for 300ml of fizzy juice it is a very affordable treat. Fill bottles in the morning – the water will have gone flat by lunch time if you fill them the night before.

 

 

March 15

Preserve Something

If Life Throws You Lemons, Make Lemon Curd

three jars of mulled apple jellyWhy did I introduce Preserve Something as a monthly habit? Traditionally, preserving was about making a seasonal glut last through leaner times. Preserving is still about taking advantage of things when they are freely available – or even available free. What could be more thrifty than that? In my case it was largely to supply Tartan Towers with frugal treats – artisanal preserves at Aldi prices. Something nice for (almost) nothing. I figured that, if life throws you lemons  windfall apples, you might as well make spiced apple jelly.

strawberry glam jarsSadly, there is not much freely available at the very end of winter/start of spring (although you could get in an early batch of Disgracefully Drunken Prunes this month), which makes this the perfect time to get all your supplies ready for a year of frugal preserving. That way, when you get cheap strawberries at a pick-your-own farm you can turn them into Strawberry Glam right away. I have been known in the past to throw fruit out, mouldy and unpreserved, because I never did source enough jam jars. This year will be different. I am going to start stock-piling jars now, and buy my fresh lids, cellophane disks, etc today so I don’t have to dash out to the nearest (most expensive) supplier mid-jam-session next July. Why not join me this week in getting your preserving supplies in order, ready for this year’s bounty?

The Thrifty Preserving Rules