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!

 

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.

 

May 21

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Preserve Some Elderflowers And Make The Perfect Tomato Sauce

Week 3 – May 21st, 2018

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

Elderflowers are everywhere. Tree-sized weeds, squeezing themselves into parks, canal banks, wasteground, and anywhere else they can find a tiny space to send down roots – have you spotted any of their dinner-plate-sized frothy white heads getting ready to open? You probably have without even registering it, because they are so common. And right now they are getting ready to produce thousands of entirely free flowers somewhere near you – it would be a shame not to use some. All that’s required from your purse is the cost of a bag of sugar. Read Elderflower Preserves – Food For Free to find out how to use them to create jars of genteel jelly and bottles of boisterous bubbly.

While you are in the kitchen, why not batch-cook enough delicious Bacon And Tomato Sauce for a month without doing more than 5 minutes actual cooking? Follow the link for the recipe (does it count as a recipe when it barely involves any cooking?) and a bunch of ideas for using the sauce.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and more advice on budgeting.

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.

 

March 20

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Your Own Rhubarb Gin

Week 3 – March 19th, 2018

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

In fact, this is as good a time as any to remind yourself why you are reviewing your spending at all – and why storing all your receipts is a vital part of that process. Click here for more information. It is impossible to be truly in control of your own money if you don’t actually know where it is going so I consider these to be two of the most vital thrifty habits. At one point we even had a counter-top device for storing ours, split into categories. To be fair, this was not so much because we needed to be that thorough, as because we had found an old theatre ticket dispenser and needed an excuse to use it. The old ticket holders were just the right size for receipts and it looked lovely sitting in our kitchen. These days I keep them rammed into an old pencil case in a kitchen cupboard. And – quite honestly – some months I don’t even do that. I have been at this for so long that I can get through a month or two without watching it too tightly. If something changes in our circumstances though (moving house, changing job, major illness, going on holiday…) I get right back on it, because those are the times when our regular spending habits drift. When I find that our spending is unaccountably high one month I go right back to storing every receipt and reviewing our spending to pinpoint where our money is leaking from. If you are just setting out on your journey towards being thoroughly thrifty, don’t skip these ones!

This is also a good time to make rhubarb preserves, as pink stems unfurl vivid green leaves in forgotten corners of garden up and down the land. I have an enduring passion for rhubarb. In my childhood it was quite normal in springtime for children to be handed a cup of sugar and a stick of rhubarb as a sweet treat. We would dip the sharp rhubarb sticks in the sugar and then bite off the frosted stem tip – a divine mixture of sour and sweet that was wonderful on the taste-buds but terrible for teeth. It has been almost forty years since I last tried this, and my mouth is still watering just thinking about it. If you want a slightly more sophisticated (and long-lasting) way to enjoy sugary rhubarb, try turning it into jam with the River Cottage rhubarb jam recipe or make your own rhubarb gin with The Craft Gin Club’s recipe. It is incredibly easy to make and requires no cooking or specialist equipment. If you want something more savoury, try Delicious Magazine’s idiot-proof rhubarb chutney recipe.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to buy happiness.

 

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.

 

February 19

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – The First Preserve Of The Year

Week 3 – February 19th, 2018

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

I truly hate February. I live in Glasgow so the bright skies of a snowy winter happen rarely and are replaced most days with a grey sky so low you almost bump your head on it. By February I am over Cosy and longing for the freshness of spring. So I was delighted last week to see the vivid green and pink of rhubarb shoots flinging off the soil in my garden like a toddler’s duvet in the morning. (For the record, I was usually a lot less cheerful about my toddlers doing the duvet-fling.) Rhubarb shoots don’t just promise the eventual end of winter they offer crumbles and jam in the very near future.

But not now.  Now, if you want to start packing your pantry with thrifty preserves, you are going to have to think beyond fresh seasonal produce, meet February on it’s own terms, and bottle up some Disgracefully Drunken Prunes. Do it now, and they will be perfect for gifting next Christmas, for guzzling by November and for adding gravitas to your gravies and stews by the time spring is giving way to summer.

Take time to make up some labels for them too – read Glam Your Jam for an easy way to label like a pro.

As for the rhubarb… all in good time. Next month I promise to post recipes for rhubarb jam and gin when the first seasonal produce of the year is big enough to pick.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to be thrifty when you can’t be bothered.

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.

 

February 12

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Free Greens On Your Windowsill

Week 2 – February 12th, 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.

I loved the Ladybird Rapunzel book as a child but one aspect left me truly bewildered. At the beginning of the story a pregnant woman gazes out of her window, day after day, with a helpless longing for her neighbour’s… salad. Yup – the whole hair-tugging, tower-trapping tale stems from a longing for greens. As a child I found this incomprehensible. The message that lettuce leads to trouble may even have coloured my childhood refusal to eat the stuff. Maybe.

Now I get it though. Late winter sees me longing for crisp green leaves and sharp flavours. Happily I can buy them, bagged, from any supermarket, without having to rob a witch of her rocket. Unhappily, those bags are pricey. So I was pleased to discover that pea-shoots – a favourite of mine – are very easy to grow on your windowsill even in the depths of winter. So easy, a child could do it. And so thrifty it would be nuts not to. Click here for full instructions on how to grow them and how to make Smoked Mackerel And Pea-Shoot Gnocchi once they grow.

If pea shoots whet your appetite for almost free salad, take a look at Frugally Sustainable’s guide to growing greens on your windowsill. A couple of pounds for a packet of seed and some potting compost and you are set to save many times that. And your salads will be fresher. Maybe your neighbours will start to gaze with helpless longing at your greens too…

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a deliciously decadent preserve.

 

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.

 

January 22

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – We’re Jamming

Week 3 – January 22nd, 2018

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

Why is preserving one of my regular Thrifty Habits? You can buy preserves in supermarkets so why bother making your own?

I’ll be honest – if you are struggling to find enough time to fit in everything, then dropping Preserve Something will not destroy your finances forever. Jam is not an essential food group – you can live without it. And supermarket cheapest chutney is not the worst thing you could ever put on a cheese sandwich. So shopping value ranges or going without is easily as thrifty as making all your own preserves from scratch.

No, the reason I still try to make most of our preserves is because I like a little treat now and again. And I like my treats to be lovely – but not at luxury prices. I want artisanal preserves at Aldi prices. Making my own is the best way I know of getting that.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that making your own is always cheaper – it is not. Read Making Jam And Saving Money for some thoughts on when it is – and isn’t – worth making your own. And always keep The Thrifty Preserving Rules in mind.

Sadly this is too early in the year to actually start bottling up nature’s bounty. But that makes it the perfect time of year to start day-dreaming about what you are going to make later this year. Try Larder Love for mouth-watering inspiration. And it is never too early to begin saving jam jars.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and some soothing thoughts on budgetting.

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 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.