Friday, 31 August 2012

Food Waste Friday - Cake, cake and more cake.

A rare civilised moment this week at Everyday Life On A Shoestring.  My annual afternoon tea for all the lovely neighbours who help me out with child care during the school year.  This is also a covert operation to promote the correct way to eat a cream tea.  (Which is of course, the Devon way - homemade scones, then clotted cream first, jam second!) 

There are rather a lot of cakes and scones left over but everyone seems to like that kind of food waste...

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

How to make a funky chicken card if you're a non-arty person!

When you keep chickens, you need a good team of chicken sitters to look after them when you are on holiday.

When you have a good team of chicken sitters, you need to keep them happy, so that they will keep chicken sitting for you.

The supply of fresh eggs keeps them very content, but we like to supplement that with a little something, and a thank you card never goes amiss either.

Have you ever tried to find a 'how-to' guide for making a chicken thank you card that doesn't involve Easter chicks popping out of eggs? It's not as easy as you'd think.  Especially if you are as artistically challenged as I am!  Music making and writing are more my thing. 

We had to create our own card idea, with a little help from Google Images.  We made them entirely by using and reusing bits and pieces that we already had in the house, so they cost us zilch.  Here's our idiot-proof guide to making a non-Easter chicken card.  Skilled greetings card makers and crafters can turn away now!

Step 1:

Find something to use as the card.  We found some sturdy recycled paper.  Draw an egg shaped body in pencil, and paint it the desired colour of your chicken!

Step 2:

Pencil some wings and paint them too.  It really doesn't matter if they look a bit rough because you can disguise a multitude of sins with a black highlighter pen at the end!

Step 3: 

Cut out beaks, wattles (the dangly bit under the beak) and combs from red and yellow card, and stick these onto your chicken.  You only need the tiniest amount of card for this.  We reused some old birthday cards.

Step 4:

Add some yellow or orange legs to your chicken!  We used a felt-tip pen.

Step 5:

When the paint is dry, outline your chicken and all its bits, with a black fineliner pen!

Step 6:

Ignore any comments from other adults in the house who might say, like my husband, "Aww, did you all go to playgroup today!"  These chicken cards are way better than a kindergartner would produce and are actually quite cute, especially to chicken lovers! (And don't worry, he took all his mean comments back very quickly, once he realised what works of art these cards truly were!)

I love reading your comments.  Just click on 'comments' in the grey box below to have your say, respectfully, of course!  I read and try and respond to each and every one.  Don't feel that you have to be a blogger to write something; feel free to use just your first name, or even comment anonymously.  Thank you!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

This little piggy went to market. Part 2

Farmers' Markets float my boat environmentally and ethically.  Local producers selling their wares directly.  Low food miles.  Less packaging.  Encouraging sustainable farming practices. Bringing back life to town and city centres.

Bath Farmer's Market Photo 1

So why am I so disorganised about remembering exactly whether it's the second or third Saturday of the month that the Farmers' Market is in our town?  If I'm totally honest, it's cost.  I associate Farmers' Markets with premium products, but premium prices.

This summer I had the chance to challenge my assumptions.  I got to hang out at the Bath Farmers' Market on a couple of Saturdays, providing the acoustic entertainment with my little band.  This Farmers' Market is big and bustling (unlike my town's smaller version), with lots of stalls; in fact it was the first Farmers' Market in the UK in 1997, so it's well established.  The Market pays musicians a small variable fee, depending on how busy it is and how many stalls there are.

What did I discover?
  • It's not as expensive as I thought it would be and it's not all premium price organic food.
  • There's enormous variety from fruit and veg, fresh fish and antiques to Vietnamese takeaway food, Portuguese egg custards and fairtrade Kenyan crafts, with everything in between.
  • You get to meet the producers direct, or if not the producers then sellers who really care about the product they are selling.
  • I love the single product stalls - just strawberries, just mushrooms or just truckles of Cheddar cheese.  One quality item on a stall is really refreshing to see, compared to the thousands of product lines we have to choose from in the supermarket.  When you pay more for an item, it's because it's really good quality and you appreciate it all the more. 
  • It makes shopping a pleasurable experience: the smells, the sights and the tastes (lots of opportunities to try before you buy).  And of course the sounds!  Where else can you hear quality music while you shop...keeping music live has got to be a good thing, surely?
  • There are obviously some loyal customers who return every week.
  • Surprisingly the large supermarket next door has a symbiotic relationship with the market.  Shoppers will visit both, which enhances sales for all concerned.
  • When shopping is this much fun, you need lots of self-discipline to make sure you don't overspend (or in my case, spend all the money you have just earned playing at the market!).
When I wrote about markets last week, Lili at Creative Savv commented that when she occasionally shops at the Farmers' Market she thinks of it as "real entertainment value" and noted that "an afternoon at the farmers' market is far cheaper than an afternoon at the movie theater!" and I agree.  I probably wouldn't go once a week but I will definitely make more of an effort to check out our local monthly market.

Do you shop at Farmers' Markets, or do you think they don't fit into a frugal lifestyle? 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Recipes for the week before payday!

Times have been spendy recently at Everyday Life On A Shoestring.

Daughter starts secondary school in September and there is a looooong list of required uniform and PE kit.  Even for the most frugal, when the school insists on polo shirts embroidered with the school logo, sweat shirts with the school logo and PE kit with the school logo, you have little choice but to go to the school uniform shop and let them name their price.

When we went to buy the school shoes, the kids wouldn't even let me treat myself to Delia Smith's Frugal Food going cheap in a remaindered bookshop, as my reward for all that trundling around the shops.  They're only too glad for an opportunity to give me a taste of my own medicine:  "We've spent too much money already and that's just NOT frugal, Mum!"

Fortunately we're good at frugal food, with or without Delia.

Especially the week before payday.  We've been eating Homity Pie regularly for years, and with its simple ingredients I'd always assumed that the word 'homity' meant something like 'with humility'.  It doesn't.  Although the pie dates from Second World War austerity, 'homity' is a made-up word, possibly with local meaning somewhere in England.

This won't be the first blog to reference Homity Pie, and it probably won't be the last, but maybe this will serve as a reminder of how delicious it is!

We made mini pies this week, using half-wholemeal shortcrust pastry.

I don't use a recipe, but my pies are loosely based on the Cranks version (recipe below), with a filling of potato, cheese, and onion.  This time I added spinach, and sometimes I add peas or tomatoes for variety.

Put a bit of grated cheese on the top, and once they're baked, that's that.

If the oven's on, then it's always economical to stick a batch of something else in while you're at it.  I tend to think that soft fruit were designed to be eaten as nature made them, raw and healthy, but as we had a couple of punnets of blueberries sitting in the fridge, and I keep salivating at the sight of Simply Being Mum's naked muffins, I made some little fairy cakes with blueberries in.

And then I defied the kids, and bought Delia's Frugal Food on Ebay for half the price of the already-very-cheap remaindered bookshop price!  This blog deserves it!

Homity Pie Recipe

300g shortcrust pastry (200g plain flour, 100g butter or margarine, approx 3 tbsp water)

350g potatoes
450g onions
100g grated cheese
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp milk
salt and pepper to taste
15g parsley

Boil the potatoes. Chop and saute the onions. Combine with the potatoes and the other ingredients, saving half the cheese to put on top of the pies.  Bake at 220 degrees C (400 degrees F, Gas Mark 6) for about half an hour.

Blueberry Fairy Cakes

100g butter or margarine
100g sugar
100g self raising flour (or plain flour plus 1 tsp baking powder)
2 eggs
A couple of generous handfuls of blueberries

Beat the margarine and sugar together.  Add the eggs and fold in the flour.  Put a couple of teaspoons of the mixture into the cake cases and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

Friday, 24 August 2012

No food waste this Food Waste Friday!

It's taken eighteen Food Waste Fridays, but we finally have a week where there are no mouldy carrots, soggy courgettes, baking disasters, stale loaves, surplus mackerel or dried up oranges!

Yes really!

No photos of decaying vegetables.  Nostalgia is setting in already.

I am cheating slightly here, as keeping chickens ensures that some of our food waste is recycled into fresh eggs. A little leftover pasta and rice headed in Ginger and Yoko's direction this week.

If you've got the space and the inclination, chickens could be a great way to make sure your leftovers (as long as they haven't come into contact with animal byproducts) don't end up in landfill.  In fact the French village of Pince is offering all inhabitants a couple of chickens to combat food waste; they estimate the chickens will save participating households 150kg of waste per year.

No photos of food waste can only mean one thing; time for another Muppets video!  Camilla and Friends (one of whom looks suspiciously like our Yoko) sing "Forget You"!  Enjoy!

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

National Zero Waste Week 2012

There's less than two weeks to go until National Zero Waste Week 2012!

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2012

If you're not familiar with the concept of Zero Waste, it's a term that is used globally to describe the aim of encouraging waste reduction, reuse, repair, recycling and composting so that ultimately there would be 'zero waste'.  It's a challenge for all stages of a product's life, from manufacturing and retail to its consumption.  

As individuals we have our part to play and National Zero Waste Week 2012 is focusing on improving our recycling habits.  The theme is 'one more thing'; the idea being that if we all recycle just one more thing than we are doing already, the amount that is recycled in England alone, could rise to three quarter of a million tonnes.

Participants are invited to decide on an activity and make a pledge.  You can click on the logo above to find out more, if you would like to get involved.


We're very keen on recycling and reusing here, so we've been discussing the 'one thing' we could add to our list, for Zero Waste Week and beyond.  After going round in circles with food packaging for a while, we checked Wiltshire Council's recycling webpages and found that Tetrapaks (the material used for fruit juice cartons), which I thought were currently non-recyclable in our area, can actually be recycled at Household Recycling Sites, from where they are sent to Sweden to be processed.

A while back, the only way to recycle Tetrapaks was to save the empties up and post them to a processing plant in Scotland, which I did religiously, until the plant closed.  We clearly haven't kept up with Tetrapak recycling, as it seems several local authorities have been recycling them for some time and even better, they will soon no longer have to send them abroad, as a Halifax mill is going to start processing them in 2013. You really need to keep your eye on the ball where recycling is concerned! 

As well as trying to reduce our Tetrapak consumption, we shall be cleaning out any that we do buy, and squashing and storing them until we have enough for a worthwhile trip to the Recycling Site.

Is there anything that you don't currently recycle that you could add to your list of recyclables?

I welcome comments.  Just click on 'comments' in the grey box below to have your say, respectfully, of course!  I read and try and respond to each and every one.  Don't feel that you have to be a blogger to write something; feel free to use just your first name, or even comment anonymously.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

This little piggy went to market. Part 1.

The six week summer holiday offers up a whole new world of weekly shopping for me - the Tuesday town market.

During term-time I'm hard at work four miles away while the market vendors are peddling their wares, and the party's over by the time I'm back home.  This doesn't mean I miss out entirely on their best deals.  My frugal friend gets me a big block of mature cheddar every fortnight:

At £5.00 for 1.1kg, and lasting us for a fortnight, that is a GOOD deal, and it is delicious.  But grateful to my friend though I am, there's nothing like ferreting out those market bargains for myself.  If like me, the small things in life make you happy, you will have some idea of the excitement I feel every holiday Tuesday when we set off with our empty shopping bags, and the ensuing disappointment when we discover that if business is slow, your average market seller won't hang around waiting to clinch that one cut-price cheddar deal.  They're gone.

This week, we weren't going to be caught out and were up there bright and early.  What sort of bargains did we find? The fruit and veg is good quality and there were lots of the 'two punnets for £2.50' kind of deal, and the very first English apples of the season were also cheap.

The cheese stall too, offers good deals.  As well as our favourite cheddar option, there's a fantastic '3 pieces of cheese for £1' deal, and we've grown rather fond of Caprice des Dieux this summer, France's first oval cheese.  It's a creamy cheese that's firm and has a taste of fresh mushroom and nut (well it does once you've read the description on the website). Dieu que c'est bon!  Especially at £1 per packet.

I try never to let myself be seduced by packaging but you can't but love these little cheese cupids.  It's those small things again.

Our market is not big, so it pretty much ends there for us.  If this little piggy ate roast beef more often, then we might avail ourselves of the meat stall.  

So all well and good? Ah, I didn't mention the olive stall.  That's why it's always more frugal to be the piggy that stayed at home and to send a frugal friend to do your shopping for you.  She won't come away with three tubs of different sorts of olives that weren't on the list.

Markets definitely have a place in the frugal tool kit, as long as you have steely self-control!  But don't overlook the fact that there are myriad other benefits too: shopping outdoors, not under those dreadful fluorescent lights, less gratuitous packaging and all that chatting to the stallholders and trying-before-you-buy. It's hard to put a price on that.

Look out for next week's blog post on Farmers' Markets.

Markets - do you love 'em or hate 'em?

I welcome comments on my blog.  Just click on 'comments' in the grey box below to have your say!  I read and try and respond to each and every one.  Don't feel that you have to be a blogger to comment; feel free to use just your first name, or even comment anonymously.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Food Waste Friday - It's all about the carrots...again...

Carrots again...back in May I promised I would never treat them badly again, so I'm trying really hard.  A couple of weeks ago I turned a blind eye to a few carrots with a light dusting of black mould.

It wasn't black mould this week, but a touch of fluffy white mould.  It really is just on the carrot tops, so we're not giving up on these carrots yet.

And there's one soggy courgette, but we'll gloss over that.  Let's stick with the carrot pampering session.

We'll chop those snow-capped peaks off and scrub the remaining carrots.  Looking good already!

Chopped, they're looking even better.

Stir fried, and that white fluffy mould is but a distant memory...

A positive attitude towards food waste is all it takes!

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.

How to look after your toothie pegs, save the planet and save money!

The few 'real' people that I have told about this blog are great at sharing their own frugal ideas for things I should write about.  The first toothie peg tip comes from my mum.  It's so simple and so obvious that I'm very embarrassed to admit I haven't been doing it!

When I stayed at my parent's house recently, I was ushered upstairs for a step-by-step demonstration of what Granny does when the toothpaste tube appears empty.

Notice the nifty hair slide fastening mechanism!

It is cut open at the bottom, which reveals lots of extra toothpaste, especially near the cap,  that would never be squeezed out, however hard you tried.

Needless-to-say this week I was most excited to find that one of our toothpaste tubes had reached the point at which I would normally throw it away!  Out came the scissors, and four days later I am still using that tube, and I estimate that there are a few more days left in it.

OK, so it's a small saving.  I haven't done the Maths but say that worked out at one toothpaste tube less to purchase per year; it's hardly going to mean that we can retire early. But it makes me think of that phrase: "How you do one thing is how you do everything". If you're taking that much care over the toothpaste, chances are that you are taking care of other things in your life, especially as brushing your teeth in a frugal fashion provides a daily reminder to do so. Cumulatively those little things might actually make a bigger difference. And that's just at a personal level.

If more people were managing on fewer toothpaste tubes per year, that's a lot less plastic tubes going into landfill.  (From what I can tell, toothpaste tube kerbside recycling is a grey area although Mrs Green suggests that you can recycle toothpaste tubes via the Philippine Community Fund.  Also read her blog post for information about eco-friendly tooth brushes.)  So that little bit of toothpaste saving is starting to look even more worthwhile.

If you want to bypass the whole toothpaste tube issue the second toothie peg tip is to make your own toothpaste.  We thought we should have a go at this.  Surprisingly Son was very keen: "Have you ever read the ingredients of toothpaste, Mum?" he said. "Some of those words are impossible to say!"

Looks like toothpaste but does it taste like toothpaste?

We combined the elements of a couple of toothpaste recipes (but left out the vodka which appears on the ingredients list of some) and this was the Everyday Life On A Shoestring trial version:

1 teaspoon) sea salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil (for its antibacterial properties and it gives the toothpaste a nice consistency)
3 drops essential oil of peppermint (optional - you could also use spearmint, cinnamon or cloves)

The results were as follows:

Daughter: "Eeeuuughhhhh! Disgusting! Please don't make me ever take this on a sleepover!"

Son: "Yuck!"  (But this was downgraded to "Acceptable" when we added more peppermint oil).

Husband: "I could get used to it" and "My teeth feel really clean!"

Me:  "It's very salty tasting but that's OK because it reminds me of swimming in the sea!"

We had all the ingredients in the cupboard.  Some recipes include a natural sweetener such as xylitol or stevia, which might make it taste better but seems to me to be defeating the point of toothpaste!  There is no fluoride in the recipe either; I don't want to go into the pros and cons of fluoride here, but it would seem that it is certainly not without its cons.

Cost-wise, again, I haven't worked it out but it surely must be a no-brainer, as salt and soda are dirt cheap.  Essential oils are not cheap, but one bottle lasts for a long time, would make a LOT of toothpaste, and there are plenty of other things you can do with peppermint oil.

It goes without saying that once you have started making your own toothpaste, mouthwash must follow. (We haven't tried it yet but when we do, we will use this recipe: 2 drops peppermint oil, 2 drops tea tree oil, half a teaspoon of sea salt and half a cup of warm filtered water.)  And don't forget to ditch the gum - parsley and mint leaves make good breath fresheners!

So thank you to Granny for prompting us to audit our dental hygiene practices!  We'll certainly be using up every last gram of toothpaste and some of us will convert to homemade toothpaste (although I won't force Daughter to take it on sleepovers!).  Next on the list is to check out some of Mrs Green's environmentally friendly tooth brush options and to give some attention to floss (what to do with those little plastic boxes?)

If you're already a toothpaste maker or eco-toothbrusher I'd love to read your top tips in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified dentist!  This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for getting professional medical or dental advice!

I welcome comments on my blog.  Just click on 'comments' in the grey box below to have your say!  I read and try and respond to each and every one!  Don't feel that you have to be a blogger to comment; feel free to use just your first name, or even comment anonymously!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The more you give, the more you get...results of the reader giveaway!

"For it is in giving that we receive" - St Francis of Assisi

I love my reader giveaways!  Because I haven't got involved with product reviews or blog sponsors and I have no books or e-books I've written that need promoting, the giveaways are of my own creation, rather random, and not especially popular...(all three have resulted in a whopping two entrants every time). 

But they have all been great fun for me.

Ainsley Harriot, celebrity chef.  He may not have known it
but he became involved in the Butternut Squash giveaway!

Take the first one, for example (the butternut squash planting kit).  This resulted in me accidentally gaining from the giveaway when Son opened it and planted it before it could be sent.  It continued to progress in unexpected directions; on my way to the Post Office to send the replacement butternut squash kits, I found that none other than Ainsley Harriot (the popular UK TV chef) happened to be cooking up sausages in our high street. He was filming for his latest TV series about British food, which is coming out in the autumn. That's a very out-of-the-ordinary event for this sleepy Wiltshire market town, so of course I stopped to watch for a while.  If it hadn't been for the giveaway I would have missed out on all the excitement.  Since then, I haven't bumped into any more celebrity chefs but I have enjoyed getting the odd update from the lucky squash seed recipients, and every time I look at my own butternut squash plants I think about their butternut squash cousins and their owners elsewhere in the UK.

The second reader giveaway (a copy of Jonathan Porrit's book, Seeing Green) was equally thrilling in a different way.  The winner disappeared for a while, and I had fun trying to track her down; emailing subscribers who I thought might be her (but weren't and were probably rather confused by the emails), and pondering the nature of blog readers.  Just when I thought the winner had disappeared for good, she popped up again.  Phew!  Whenever I look at my copy of Seeing Green on the bedside table waiting to be re-read, I think of her and wonder if she's doing any better than me.

Daughter about to choose the lucky winner!
The third and recent reader giveaway, was the Tala measuring cone, which will enable the winner to cook by volume rather than weight. Choosing the winner was a nail-biting affair - the names of the entrants, all two of them (including one previous winner), were put into the measuring cone, and Daughter drew a is the way with draws, the previous winner got lucky again!  I'm sorry, Emma @ HertfordshireMummy.  Better luck next time!  

The moral of the story is twofold.  Firstly, it really is well worth entering my strange giveaways in the future as you stand a very good chance of being a lucky winner.  Secondly, St Francis is right; in giving, we do indeed receive.  Being frugal certainly doesn't mean you have to stint on being generous.  And you just might get back more than you give.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Ten Olympic memories...

Today I was going to write a fascinating blogpost about toothpaste, but it's not every day that we get to experience the morning after the London Olympics!  If you've come here for a little frugal respite from the post-Olympics analysis you are going to be disappointed.

Like many other Olympic doubting Thomases in the UK, I changed my tune, but at least I did so early.  Remember when the Olympic torch passed by, not so far from here in May?

I have enjoyed the whole spectacle, but as much as I've relished the grandeur of the opening and closing ceremonies, and the glory of the Team GB golds, my enduring memories (and memories cost nothing, so there's the frugal link!) may be the smaller and less reported Olympic snippets, that weren't necessarily all about the sport:

1) I'm happy that this is the greenest Games ever, from the building construction to the free public transport for ticket holders, although there's still room for improvement in future Olympics.

2) There were some great stories behind the sporting face of the Olympics, such as the warmth of the British audiences and the 70,000 wonderful volunteers.  I enjoyed a radio interview I heard with the designer of the 4,400 Olympic bouquets.  They were made with British-grown flowers and herbs: roses, lavender, rosemary, mint and wheat.  And they had to look good from the bottom, as there's a lot of bouquet tossing at the Olympics.

Olympic Bouquet

3) In a similar vein, although fashion really isn't my thing, I saw Stella McCartney interviewed on her design of the Team GB kit.  After that, I took note of the different outfits more carefully and we enjoyed playing 'Spot the red bit'.  I smiled at this Guardian fashion journalist's take on the kit.

4) I didn't get to London during the Olympics but I sent some representatives; my siblings and their children went to soak up the atmosphere at the big screen in Hyde Park.  What a shame that the airline-style security wouldn't let my peace-loving family in, due to the weapon potential of Nephew 2's scooter (but how reassuring to know that security was taken seriously)!

5) The BBC Olympic commentary was great, but I loved how we adults also suddenly became armchair experts in sports that we would never contemplate trying for ourselves; think diving and gymnastics!

6) My kids however, were more than armchair experts.  They were inspired to get out there and do those sports for real.  Son made his own weights and took up power lifting for a couple of days. 

7) Daughter had had some tuition in race walking from an Olympic coach at school, and she is pretty good at it.  She tried to pass on her knowledge to Grandad and me; I won't forget our laughable attempts at race walking!

8) Having become race walking afficionados, and having seen the Dalai Lama in June, we were keen to see Tibet's first Olympic competitor (in the Chinese team) walk the women's 20k, but we couldn't find any live coverage.  She achieved a Bronze medal and a smile to match that of Jennifer Ennis.

Qieyang Shenjie
Choeyang Kyi as she's called, in Tibetan.
9) The musicians in the family had fun trying to work out what was going on with the arrangement of our national anthem.  I'm afraid I'm with the stick-in-the-mud Grumpies on this one; I would have preferred those four quavers to have been included...

10) For the last memory, I decided to ask if anyone else here had anything they'd like to share.  Daughter thought for a minute and then said of the whole thing, "It was very brilliant and really, really amazing to see Britain do so well in it." We've worked out that if she's very lucky, she may get to see another Olympic Games in the UK and maybe she'll be able to tell her grandchildren and great grandchildren, "I remember when..."

Do you have a favourite Olympic memory? 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Food Waste Friday - The Canine Edition

You might have thought we would return from a camping trip with all sorts of odd food waste.  But that's not the case.  We had considerable help in achieving zero waste camping leftovers from a furry creature rather like this one:

File:Black Labrador Retriever portrait.jpg

My new top tip for campers is to make sure that your food storage is dog-proof!  I returned to our tent on Wednesday evening to find a guilty looking, black labrador in our 'kitchen' area. Whilst we had been chatting to his owner elsewhere on the campsite, he had been enjoying a tasty snack of an entire pack of cheese, half a packet of ham and a whole pat of butter...

Unfortunately the zero waste holiday leftovers situation was short lived.  On our return home, possibly due to the lack of black labradors in our house, I found a few pre-camping minor food waste fails.  The most surprising of which was the end of a white loaf of bread. Stored in its paper bag, it was dry as a bone (I did warn you this was the canine edition!) but had not a single speck of mould on it. I started harrumphing about the ingredients of shop-bought loaves.  In this warm weather, what on earth could have been put in it that it would last this long?  Husband, however, reckons it is all in the storage.  And this WikiHow on bread storage might support his argument.  What do you reckon?

(And don't worry, I may have overstepped the mark with the mouldy carrots last week but I really won't be feeding 10 day old stale bread to the family!)

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

It's a measuring minefield out there! And an exciting reader giveaway!

Please note that Everyday Life On A Shoestring is on holiday until Friday 10 August!  However, don't go away!  During the week why not browse some older posts and please feel free to enter the amazing reader giveaway below.   Normal service will be resumed on Friday!

Our adventures in measuring began when Daughter decided she’d like to bake some Peanut Butter and Oat bars that she had seen on Frugal Girl’s Baking with Lisey blog.

Great idea!  We’d got most of the ingredients, bar corn syrup (we couldn’t find this locally and settled for rice syrup instead). I’d noticed that American recipes are in cups, but surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to convert?  After all, my own measuring system is very idiosyncratic. 

I learned to cook in the days when metric measurements were just starting to be used in recipes at my school.  I can swap ounces for grams easily, but rely on a decent measuring jug for converting fluid ounces to millilitres. 

I also get by with a certain amount of scooping and measuring by eye.  For instance I know that a matchbox sized piece of cheese or butter approximates to an ounce or 25g, and a heaped dessert spoonful of sugar or flour is also roughly an ounce or 25g. 

So we thought the Peanut Butter bar recipe would be easy.  Wrong!  For a start, I found that none of my recipe books includes a conversion table for ‘cups’.  Online, I discovered that ‘one cup’ has a different conversion depending on what you are measuring.  For instance, ‘one cup’ of rice is 225g whereas ‘one cup’ of flour is 115g.  We needed to measure decided to work on the basis that a cup of oats would fall somewhere between 115g and 225g.

Sugar should be easy, yes?  No! ‘One cup’ of brown sugar is 180g, whereas ‘one cup’ of granulated sugar is 225g.

Butter? The recipe called for ¾ cup of  butter, but the conversion table I was using only talked about sticks of butter…so now I needed to convert from sticks to cups to grams…

By this time I was getting a headache. Especially when I read that if I ever want to cook an Australian recipe, they also measure in ‘cups’ but their ‘cups’ are different to American ‘cups’!  Despite metric measurements supposedly having swept around the world after the French revolution, the reality seems to be that things have not moved on much from the days when measurements were defined locally, according to the size of the King’s thumb or big toe.

We found some conversion charts online, but not all were thorough enough and listed the ingredients we needed.  The most useful charts we could find were at The Metric Kitchen.  There are also online conversion calculators such as, where you stick in your ingredient and it will convert the amount for you.  This is a little tedious to say the least!  My lovely blogging friend Lili at Creative Savv and I discussed measurements and she has also written a great ‘measurements’ blog post today which includes some conversion charts.  She has kindly started including metric measurements in the recipes which she posts on her blog.

My own conclusion is that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!  The US will probably still have ‘cup’ measurements for some time to come (even though metrification is now complete in most countries except the US, Liberia and Burma), so if you are frequently going to be using American recipes, the best thing you can do is to acquire a set of measuring cups or a Tala cone.


In the interests of fostering transatlantic recipe relations, I have one fabulous secondhand Tala measuring cone to give away to UK readers! (I did promise that my next reader giveaway would be something exciting and things don’t get much more exciting than a secondhand measuring cone!) If you would like to be in with a chance of winning, please leave a comment below.  Just your name will do. If you'd like to subscribe to the blog too, that would be great but I'm not going to force you to! This competition will be open until midday on Friday 10 August.

Meanwhile Lili thinks it’s very quaint that in Wiltshire I measure everything out so precisely, and I imagine her in Seattle scooping and splashing away, rather like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Food Waste Friday - How mouldy would you go?

Sometimes I should take my own advice!  Ignore the better weather's higher temperatures at your peril, I warned last week, for food waste shall surely follow.  This week I left four nectarines on the sunny kitchen window sill to ripen, and two days later they were lovely and soft but also rather rotten! Boo hiss!

The carrots were also following the nectarines at a rate of knots.

When is mouldy too mouldy, I wondered?  But peeled the whole bagful and boiled them anyway.

Fortunately Rebecca at Doggone Thrifty provided the answer with a great blog post on what you can and can't eat, where mouldy food is concerned!  (I only wished I'd read it before I scraped a little bit of mould from the yogurt pot lid and poured the yogurt on my breakfast...)

Where do you draw the line when mould is involved?!

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A recipe for happy camping.

I enjoy family camping trips once I get there.  But I don't enjoy the packing and preparation for a family camping trip.  Next week we're planning a few days camping and cycling and my heart's already sinking at the prospect of getting everything ready.

Wouldn't it be good if I had a list? I thought. Instead of the half-lists I have in the back of old diaries. (You know how much I love a good list).

Light bulb moment! If I stick a camping list on the blog I'll always know where to find it and I won't have to search through old diaries ever again.

So this one is for me. A sneaky little blogpost all for the benefit of myself (and you never know, maybe someone else might find it useful). What have I forgotten?

Happy camping recipe:

Ingredients (adjust the quantities depending on length of camping trip)

Clothes: underwear, socks, PJs, jeans, shorts, jogging bottoms, T shirts, tops, jumpers, hoodies, fleeces, waterproofs, gloves, hats.

Footwear: walking boots, trainers, wellies.

Beach stuff: towels, wetsuits, swimming stuff, goggles.

Toiletries: add according to personal taste but must include toothbrushes and toothpaste.  

First aid kit: including Calpol/paracetamol/antihistamines and insect repellent.

Entertainment: camera, phones, charger, ball, books, kite, paper, pens etc.

Cleaning: teatowels, washing-up bowl and liquid and sponge.

Eating: matches, stove, gas cannisters, kettle, frying pan, pans, mugs, plates, bowls, cutlery, skewers.  TIN OPENER (we always forget this one)

Food:  a few basics to get started such as teabags, coffee, cereals, bread, sugar, pasta, tins, sunflower oil, water

Sleeping: tents, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, airbeds/camping mats

Cycling: bikes, cycling shorts, gloves, helmets, pump, puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, oil, tools.

Essential (because it will be sunny won't it?): sun hats, sun cream, sun glasses

Misc: candles, torches, maps, campsite details, Scruffy Ted


1. Write or print out the list.  

2. Begin accumulating all the stuff WELL BEFORE your departure day.  Tick things off the list as you go.  

3. Get increasingly tight-lipped with your partner or children (if you have them) as the preparations intensify, because it will probably seem that they aren't doing half as much as you are to get this trip off the ground.  

4. You know you have reached maximum boiling point when on the morning of departure, you want to have a 'quick' tidy-up and hoover before you leave the house, so that you don't return to a bomb site, but the rest of the family just wants to get on the road!

5. If you have made it this far and everything is ticked off your list then the hardest part of the whole trip is over!  Well done - you can relax and enjoy.  When you get to the campsite you will have forgotten something but don't worry, there will always be a happy camper who will lend you a tin opener!

And if this puts you in the mood for reading more lists, take a look at the todolist blog !