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.
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.

 

May 17

Elderflower Preserves – Food For Free

Elderflower Preserves

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

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

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