Friday, 29 June 2012

Food Waste Friday - A healthy vegetarian recipe?

Since discovering Food Waste Friday,  I cast my mind back every week on a Friday, to see if there have been any major food throwaways, and I do a quick stock check of the kitchen to see if anything needs throwing out or using up.

This week the health of the Everyday Life On A Shoestring kitchen is in pretty good shape!  Last week's mackerel mountain was successfully eliminated in a kedgeree, a dip and sandwiches.  Only one small mouldy mandarine had to be composted; it looked like it had been sitting in the fruit bowl for a very long time.

That meant there was good cause to celebrate!  How better than with a tray of Tiffin!

Earlier this week, creativesavv invited commenters to share their suggestions for using up leftovers.  Her own list was pretty comprehensive, but I was able to suggest a way of using up those bits of biscuit that get left at the bottom of the biscuit jar (even though it usually necessitates buying an extra packet of biscuits).  Tiffin!

Tiffin is Indian-English for a light, in-between meal snack, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, it can be anything from chappatis and dahl to vegetables and spicy meats.  However in the UK,  the word is also used to refer to an afternoon tea sweetmeat made with crumbled up biscuits.  Daughter's first birthday party was the occasion of my initial foray into Tiffin making.  It then became a regular, and popular feature at every birthday tea for a few years, but children grow older, and we seem to have moved on from teas with Tiffin.

Today sees the return of the Tiffin in this house.  Having mentioned it on creativesavv, I saw no reason why I should not steal my own suggestion back for this blog!  I'm not usually prone to having an inflated sense of my own importance, but a quick glance in the biscuit jar revealed a small collection of broken rich tea fingers, just ripe for a batch of Tiffin, so why not bask in the brilliance of my own idea! We wouldn't want those biscuits becoming food waste now, would we?

I dug out my Tiffin recipe from the Baby and Child Vegetarian Recipes cookbook.  (Don't worry, the Tiffin recipe is the very last recipe in the book in a small section entitled 'Festive Foods', and comes after pages full of healthy recipes like Lentil Sambhar and Barley Pot.  I have to confess that the Tiffin is probably the most-used recipe in our copy of the book; when the other recipes say things like "Although the list of ingredients does seem rather daunting, this paella is extremely easy to prepare..." I'm afraid I don't get much beyond reading the 17th ingredient...)

Anyway, back to the Tiffin...

Did you know that a Tiffin's favourite party game is Blind Man's Buff?  I didn't!  

You probably can't read the ingredients from the photo, but they are:

225g digestive biscuits, crushed
150g raisins
100g butter
25g brown sugar
45g cocoa powder (3 tablespoons)
60ml golden syrup (3 tablespoons)
225g milk or plain chocolate

Click here for a blogpost on which provides a guide to converting from metric to US cups.

You melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa powder and add to the biscuits and raisins.

Press it into a 20cm square tray or similar and leave to cool down.  If you really have no respect for your health, you melt the chocolate and pour it over the top but we've always found it to be perfectly sickly enough without the added chocolate!

Cut into squares.

Making the Tiffin served a double purpose; as well as using up the broken biscuits, Son needed to take a 'cake' with him to Cub camp this weekend, so there it is in an icecream tub all ready to take.  In the excitement of seeing the little chap off, the Tiffin got left behind.  I don't feel too guilty; with a rucksack bigger than himself to carry, that tub of Tiffin might just have been the straw that broke the camel's back, so we're left with no alternative but to eat it up ourselves.  What a hardship!

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

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

When the frugal left hand doesn't know what the frugal right hand is doing!

Can you guess what those twiggy things are that are in the terracotta pot in the foreground?  They're blueberry plants!  Until the weekend, I didn't know that either!  Husband bought them in Poundland several weeks ago without me knowing, and planted them in the stoneware pot that's behind the terracotta one.  At the weekend I saw what I thought were twiggy weeds in that stoneware pot, removed them and planted a lovely pink Osteospermum in it instead.  And another Osteospermum in a nearby pot.  And a lovely little Lavender bush.

Then I called Husband to come and see how nice my miniature patio looked, and wasn't it great that the whole thing could be considered a frugal gardening success because I had persuaded our friendly local greengrocer to do me a discount for buying several plants?  (Who needs to visit a big garden centre that sucks you into buying more than you need to?  Not me!)

Husband looked a bit crestfallen.  Where had his frugal gardening success, the blueberry bushes, gone?

Despite nearly 17 years together, the communication in our relationship clearly needs a bit of work.  I had no idea that he had been nurturing a fruit bush nursery right outside our back door for the past month or so.  He may have been atoning for the time that he accidentally strimmed over some blueberry bushes in the allotment.  (They had been a thoughtful present from my sister (sorry Sister!), and were just about reaching maturity and were probably about to start providing punnets full of fresh blueberries.  (*Sighs!*) )

Thankfully, I was able to rescue the infant blueberry twigs which have survived being cruelly abandoned for an afternoon.  Phew!

May they take heart from our Acer.  It was bought 9 years ago, as another tiny twiggy thing, from the aforementioned greengrocer's bargain 'plant's* that are about to die' section, for £1.50 by Granny.  So far it has weathered Husband's rigorous strimming, and any marital miscommunications, to become a big, beautiful, healthy specimen.

Do you have any more frugal gardening tips for people like me, who are a bit behind, this season?!

*That is a greengrocers' apostrophe , not mine!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Where's Sarah?

I'd like to re-declare the lucky winner of the 1 month blogiversary reader giveaway!  It was, Sarah, who might have missed the last announcement of the winner a couple of weeks ago.  If you are the Sarah who entered the competition, please email me at , with your address so I can send you your Seeing Green book!  If you know Sarah, please send her my way!

I guess it's a little confusing because some of you may have noticed that I'm also called Sarah.  Although my giveaways don't attract vast numbers of entrants (I promise to make the next giveaway more fun and exciting than a packet of vegetable seeds and an earnest book on green issues), I am not yet desperate enough to enter my own giveaways, let alone win them (although Son had a good go at railroading my first reader giveaway)!  Even though it would have been tempting to make it look as if there were three entrants in the giveaway, rather than just two, it just wouldn't make frugal sense to post myself a book of which I already have a copy, and an alias would probably be a good idea if I was to go down that route (which I'm not, of course!)

So other Sarah, please step forward and claim your prize!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Piscine Ponderings and Cod Psychology!

When I wrote about my glut of smoked mackerel and yogurt on Friday, thanks to Husband's big shopping trip, I had some great responses about what to do with it.  From being rather overwhelmed with the prospect of having to use it all up, double quick, I went to being reassured that it really is OK to take a cavalier attitude towards use-by and best-before dates; I learnt that you can freeze yogurt, and I was given some good recipe tips.

What struck me most about the comments though, was Jane's response, "I would freeze either of those to have when I really want a treat.", because she had revealed something to me; I wasn't looking at that smoked mackerel as a treat, I was looking at it as a fishy nuisance.  Therein lies the problem of the BOGOF or the Twofer (the price of one).  It creates a culture of abundance, where what used to be a treat, becomes expendable.  I even  recently posted a link to an article in the Daily Mail about just this issue, and yet Husband still fell prey to the seductive lure of the Twofer. People in the UK succumb to an average of 6 such food offers a week, many of which get thrown away as they go past their expiry date, and that was about to include us.  Thanks to my readers, the mackerel did transform into a treat rather than a nuisance; it has already been nearly used up and enjoyed.  It wasn't so hard after all.

But it set me thinking: what else is there in my life which I perceive as a nuisance but which is really a treat?  I like to think that with my frugal mindset, I'm good at appreciating the joy of small things, but a quick look at my weekend shows that, like the mackerel, that's not always the case!  Gardening in the rain?  Well yes, it did seem rather a nuisance.  Er, no!  I spend a lot of my life indoors, so actually any opportunity to be outdoors is a treat!  Haircut?  Bit of a nuisance to have to spend more than I'd like and use up an hour of my Saturday morning? (If anyone can tell me a way to frugally maintain my short hair that doesn't involve Husband and his clippers, I'd love to know!) No!  The Hairdressers at my little salon are great fun, and it's an enjoyable way to spend time, if not money.  Giving up our living room so Daughter and friend can have a sleepover on the sofabed?  Husband definitely thought this one was a big nuisance!  Well actually, no! There is life beyond the living room.

So treat mentality became my focus this weekend!  Reframing or putting a positive spin on things never hurts, and if I'm blessed enough to have 400g of delicious smoked mackerel sitting in my fridge, life can't be bad.  (Although I will be avoiding consumable BOGOFs and Twofers in the future, unless I can be sure they'll be eaten.)

If you'd like more cod psychology, this whole fish debacle reminded me of the professional development course that Husband went on a few years ago, where he learnt about (and for all of about 5 minutes, was quite inspired by) the Seattle Pike Place Fish Co.  You can find out more about the four components: Be there, Play, Make their day, and Choose your attitude, here.  I guess my treat mentality is not so far away from 'choose your attitude'.  HOLY MACKEREL!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Food Waste Friday - Flying by the seat of my pants!

I haven't quite got back into the menu planning groove since our holiday, so there have been a few near misses and failures this week.  A wilted salad, that wasn't salad material any more, was reassigned to a pasta sauce.  Frankly, this was a hopeless exercise - salad is mostly water so it shrinks to nothing when cooked and as you can see, almost none of it is visible in the final product, other than stringy bits of stalk (which got stuck in the throat when eaten)!

A couple of bananas were saved from the compost bin and made it into a banana cake, just in the nick of time:

but this cabbage-y stuff was left too long and became too yellow for human consumption, so was boiled up for the chickens instead:

What a waste!

Husband did a food shop this week, and he bought me some of my favourite things:

That's a lot of yogurt (best before date Sunday!) and smoked mackerel (best before Thursday!) to use up, especially when I'm the only one who particularly likes smoked mackerel!

Let's save these poor guys from becoming next Friday's food waste!  Any ideas for how to quickly use up a pot and a half of natural yogurt, and two packs of smoked mackerel (preferably in a way in which the mackerel is kind of disguised!)

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

Never Seconds, the blog of a Scottish school girl who blogs about her school dinners (which I mentioned a while ago), was in the news again last week.  Argyll and Bute Council wanted her to remove her blog, but there was a public outcry and their decision was overturned.  The blog has raised an amazing £96,824,00 for Mary's Meals, a charity which sets up school feeding projects in the world's poorest communties.  Don't underestimate the power of blogging!  If you want to donate, you can find a link to Never Seconds' Mary's Meals fundraising page on the NS blog. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

10 recycly and reusey things!

This week is Recycle Week 2012 in the UK, although obviously EVERY week should be Recycle Week!  So, as today's been a 'chores' day here, I've taken a few pictures on my journey around the jobs, to show you some of the recycly and reusey things we do in our house.

This year's Recycle Week highlights the plastic bottle.  5 million are used every day but only 50% make it into our recycling bins. According to Recycle Now, if they were all recycled it would be the equivalent of taking 73,000 cars off the road.  

1.   We have some stainless steel drinks bottles but plastic bottles do sneak into the house (all recycled here though, thanks to our card and plastics wheelie bin): 

At the Behaviour Management course I went on last week, the problem with chemicals (pthalates and bisphenol A) leaking out of plastic bottles was discussed.  Not only are these chemicals hormone disrupters (affecting children and adults), but it is believed they may affect behaviour too.  After reading Frugal Girl's recent post on plastic bottles I had resolved to cut down, but this encouraged me even more.

2.   Having emptied the dishwasher, it was time to wash the kitchen floor:

With Son's old pyjamas!  (No mop required - the kitchen floor's not very big).  In this house, old textiles get reused as rags, or get recycled in our black box.  

3.   The good stuff goes to charity or gets handed down to nieces and nephews:

(This pile is currently sitting by the front door on its way to the charity shop.  It appears that Daughter is through with stripes this summer!)  In one year, discarded clothing in the UK would fill the Wembley Stadium, so it's important to reuse it.

4.   Of course glass is easy to recycle, but I like to give jars a new lease of life through jam and marmalade making:

or as storage:

They're also good for storing leftovers in the fridge, and bitty bit children's toys.  Sometimes the empty jar storage situation gets a bit out-of-hand; when they start taking over an entire kitchen cupboard Husband gets ruthless and they end up in the recycling box.

5.   Our rubber band stash lives in the kitchen drawers, as they often come in handy in the kitchen.  I always pick up Royal Mail rubber bands when I see them, then wash and reuse them.  Britain's postmen are well known for wastefulness when it comes to rubber bands (this recent article in the Financial Times on the subject makes an interesting read), but round here the posties are improving, and I find less rubber bands strewn around the streets these days (or is it just because the beige ones that they have started using are harder to see than the cheery red ones?)

6.   In the dining room, I'm always happy to see my 'reused' green cushions, bought from our local secondhand shop for a pound each:

(Yes, that is a school sock under the chair (it's that discarded clothing issue again!).  I hadn't got as far as tidying UNDER the table at that point!)

7.   Then it was upstairs to make the beds:

(Cotton double bedding, £4.95 from a Sue Ryder charity shop.  Also, note Everyday Life On A Shoestring's minimalist approach to ironing - eco-friendly and time-saving at the same time!)

8.   My small and not very valuable jewellery collection lives in the bedroom too; I always end up with odd earrings who've lost their partners, and was pleased to find a way of recycling them recently, via Traidcraft.  The unwanted jewellery will get reused in projects overseas:

9.   The bathroom's another good place to cut down on plastic bottle usage.  I discovered this way of using up soap ends recently, which reuses the bag from some tangerines as well.  Double whammy!

10.   This afternoon I was going to go shopping (with my reusable shopping bag of course), but as it's officially midsummer in the UK, it's pouring with rain, so maybe I'll go tomorrow...

Monday, 18 June 2012

From ketchup to the Dalai Lama!

Where does a life of pasta and ketchup get you?  To Manchester to see the Dalai Lama, that's where!  

It probably seems that we've been gadding about a lot recently, and don't really live a frugal life in Wiltshire at all.  Although the shoestring part of Everyday Life On A Shoestring still pertains, life has been anything but mundane and everyday.  May/June 2012 has seen the convergence of two special family birthdays involving the numbers 4, 7, and 0 (twice), (Happy Birthday today Mum!) and also the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the UK.  All of these things have necessitated trips north of the M4, a rare occurrence for us (honest)!

Unlike Mum and Sister, the Dalai Lama didn't specifically request that I go to Manchester to see him, so it wasn't truly a necessity, but for me, it was too good an opportunity to miss.  All three events, the birthdays and the DL's Manchester visit, are the kind of thing that make all the scrimping and saving, the eating pasta with ketchup, and the Ebaying worthwhile.

And if anyone inspires me to live a simpler, greener way of life, it is the Dalai Lama.

One of the themes of his visit to the UK has been about inspiring young people to be the change in this Century; it is their generation that can bring about greater peace in the world and take better care of the planet.  To this end, his talk on Saturday was aimed at young people, and Russell Brand (who has been very supportive of the Tibetan cause) was MC.  (I wasn't the only one to be surprised at this pairing!  But having seen the pair in action, I think it was a very shrewd move on the organisers' part; you might even call it 'skilful means' (a Buddhist concept that I think involves adopting an unusual stance in order to get the message across).  Not only did the involvement of Brand generate far more publicity than the event might otherwise have garnered and give it a distinctly informal flavour, but it demanded that we set aside our judgements and preconceptions (which for most of us will have been media-fed), and see him as 'just another human brother or sister' (to quote the Dalai Lama).  The DL exhorted us to be honest and open, and Russell Brand is certainly extremely honest and open about his demons, and from what I have read he is confronting them, and using meditation to help him in this.)

Where on earth do I begin!  I've seen him on TV, watched DVDs, and read some of his books, but I was still not prepared for the humble Dalai Lama's sheer humanity, humour and wisdom.  How refreshing to listen to someone who has celebrity status but none of the trappings - no voice coaching, no special body language, no personal dresser, no special effects, no audio visual aids.   I could write at length, but instead I give you, in true blog style and in no particular order, my favourite Dalai Lama 'things' from the weekend:
  • We are all human brothers and sisters.  The other labels we give ourselves are pretty meaningless.
  • Your negative emotions will end up damaging yourself rather than others, so cultivate positive emotions and optimism.
  • Violence always has unintended consequences.
  • Condemn the action not the person.
  • NEVER give up hope!
  • Be honest and truthful!
  • Be sceptical.
  • Pay attention to and cultivate inner values such as compassion and warm-heartedness.
  • We have created these economic and environmental difficulties, so logically, we can also create solutions.
  • Moral ethics must be included in modern education.
  • This planet is our only home, so we must take care of it and all do our bit.  Little things matter. The Dalai Lama (like me!) showers rather than baths, turns lights off and takes other small actions when he is staying in hotels.  Ecology should become a daily habit!
  • A materialistic way of life has little value, and with problems such as obesity we are seeing that a luxurious lifestyle doesn't equate with a healthy lifestyle.
  • The DL goes to bed at 7pm and wakes at 3.30am, like clockwork, even when he travels, which is more than can be said of his bowels!  ("Too much information!" said Russell.)
  • That Dalai Lama chuckle!
  • The Dalai Lama's warmth.  He hugged, held hands or pressed foreheads with all those he shared the stage with, and in the case of Russell Brand, tugged his beard!  When he leaves the stage, he leaves slowly and mindfully, greeting all the sound engineers and security staff.
On the way home, we shared our train carriage with someone who'd been there and bought the T shirt, which quoted the Dalai Lama:

Be kind, whenever possible
It is always possible

on one side, and:

Remember that NOT getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck

I don't think everyday life will get this exciting for ELOAS for quite some time, so normal service will resume, no more gadding about for a while, just gardening, knitting, pasta and ketchup, all with a warm heart.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Food Waste Friday - Can I have ketchup with my ketchup?

Things have gone awry this week.

We came back from holiday to find that we hadn't cleared out the fridge properly before we went.  That's fluffy white mould in there and green mould too - yuck!

In my defence, after disposing of the mouldy rice affair, we managed to get by from Saturday (the day of our return) to Wednesday without going shopping, by adopting the 'use up what's in the freezer and cupboards' approach.

Most of the time I menu plan for anything up to 5 - 7 days ahead (Over the years I've tried various methods - a month's menu planning, planning 2 days ahead, but 5-7 days is what works for me) :

You all know the frugal benefits of menu planning, but for me a menu (positioned in full view of all the family) means that:

  • you get to use up what you've got by basing meals around what's in the house
  • if there's nothing in the house then you plan meals before you go shopping, so you only buy what you need
  • there's none of that sinking, "What am I going to cook tonight?" feeling
  • if people under 11 don't like what they see on the menu then at least they have time to prepare themselves in advance, thus eliminating the whining, "But I hate xyz!" at the table.  (Somehow the whining isn't so bad when it's in front of a whiteboard instead of a plate of delicious food you've just slaved over for at least an hour).
  • other family members can come up with ideas for the menu (Daughter can now come up with a decent menu for a week - which is probably a good learning process for her) and get involved with cooking
  • you can make things sound so much more appetising on a menu (pasta napolitana and bruschetta sounds waaaay more exotic than boring old pasta and tomato sauce with crusty bread!)
I'm not perfect - menu-planning doesn't happen all the time, and it's not set in stone, so if a particular meal (in this case the Thai Prawn Curry) doesn't happen, it gets rolled over to the next menu plan).

Anyways, this week, post-holiday, there was no plan and a real lack of ingredients, so we've ended up with some rather odd meals, and on Tuesday, we had what my friend calls 'naughty' pasta.  We love 'Slut's Pasta' (Pasta Puttanesca, by its real name: pasta with tomatoes, basil, black olives, anchovies, capers, chilli and garlic), but 'naughty' pasta is even easier.  It's just pasta and tomato ketchup.  Yep, that's really it - that's really all!  Obviously you stir in the ketchup to disguise it!  And cover it in grated cheese.  I did an even better cover-up job by throwing in some tomato purée with the ketchup and bunging in some herbs and black pepper.  In fact it was such a good cover-up job, that one of the boys I cooked it for asked if he could have some tomato ketchup with his pasta...

Do you have any 'naughty' recipes?!

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

Professional Development On A Shoestring!

Do I take my frugal hat off when I shut the front door behind me and leave for work in the morning?  Hell, no!  Aside from being part of the reason I'm thrifty in the first place (don't put part-time work in learning support at the top of your list if you're hoping to make a fortune), my frugal choices follow me to work.  The frugal childcare system involving four different sets of neighbours, the lift-sharing, the very 'capsule' work wardrobe (with several charity shop gleans), and the packed lunches, all keep the costs down.

And professional development has also been a frugal affair of late.  I've worked in the public sector in various capacities for most of the 20+ years of my working life.  In the Nineties, an array of training courses to choose from was one of the perks of the job.  In the Noughties there were still plenty of courses to choose from, but 'pay for it yourself' also became a recurring theme.  Nowadays, having a job in the public sector is a perk in itself!  I exaggerate of course; staff training is still very much supported in the school I work at, but there is a trend towards much more in-house training, often drawing on the expertise of staff or 'cascading' knowledge.  So when a flyer advertising FREE day courses dropped out of the monthly magazine I receive from my union, it was too much of a temptation for the frugally minded Teaching Assistant.  I couldn't resist this one:

It's been so long since I went on any training that my kids were fascinated by the concept:

Son: "Why don't you just read my Boy's Book of How to be the Best at Everything? Then you won't have to go all the way to Bristol."

With that, I scoured the Contents for the pages on "how to manage challenging behaviour in adolescents", but although the Boys Book is the book for you if you want to know how to mummify an ancient Egyptian, how to play pooh sticks or how to tie three essential knots, it is rather lacking in the behaviour management department!  I await the publication of the Boy's Book of How to to be the Best at Behaviour Management with interest.

Daughter: "Are you going on the course so that you'll know what to do with me when I get angry?" 

I don't know what she is planning for her adolescence, but to date her behaviour doesn't really warrant a whole day course!

Husband: "Does that mean I have to get back from work early?"  (He always takes a keen interest in my attempts at self improvement).

At work, my colleagues took more of an interest than Husband.  Training courses that include a fancy lunch have become such a rare treat that it was as if I was going on an exotic foreign holiday; they were impressed at the location (a Mercure Spa Hotel), and I had to promise to bring back souvenirs (rubbish biros and hotel notepads) and write postcards.

Yes, I know, I made up the 'postcards' bit, but if I had written them a postcard, it would have said:

"Dear Colleagues, I am happy to report that there is such a thing as a free lunch!  ATL treated us to a top quality day; the lunch was delicious (and the training wasn't bad either).  I think there's a real benefit to be gained by stepping back and reflecting on one's professional practice, away from school, and you know what? The networking with staff from other organisations was as invaluable as the training itself.  I know that schools have been hit by 'austerity' measures as much as other parts of the public sector, but the compassion and commitment of support staff is awe-inspiring.  See you on Monday, (with biros of course)!"

Have you got any frugal work or frugal professional development top tips?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Yarn Bombing!

Knitted goldfish outside a local art gallery.
There's nothing like a bit of 'yarn bombing' (graffiti or guerilla knitting) to cheer you up when you have a spot of the post-holiday blues, especially when it's so dreary, grey and cold.  Just when I'd been thinking that I really ought to take up my knitting needles to create something for my newest niece (currently still in utero!), we find our town transformed by wool.  (Don't you just love how having a frugal mindset seems to mean such frugal treasure just falls into your lap sometimes!)

More of the goldfish!
Yarn bombing is new to me, but this rather quirky art form really floats my frugalista boat.  Inspired by a local resident, our town was dressed in knitting as part of its annual Art Festival, all made with donated yarns.  Locals could join in at Knit and Natter workshops.  And the whole project coincided with international Yarn Bombing Day on Saturday 9 June.

Entrance to one of our local pubs!

There are more fantastic yarn bombing images from around the world on the blog,, from knitted picnics and yarn bombed bikes, to the Queen and Prince Philip.

Happily I work with several enthusiastic knitters, so I only had to put the word out today and the baby clothes knitting patterns should be filling my pigeon hole by the end of the week. I've blogged it now, so I have to do it. Watch this space!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Results of the 1 month blogiversary reader give away!

There were the same number of entrants in the 1 month blogiversary giveaway as there were for the 1 week blogiversary giveaway!  A resounding...TWO!  Daughter and I wrote the two names on paper and drew the winner...who was...Sarah!  Congratulations!  Please could you email me ( with your address Sarah, and I will post you your prize!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

You win some, you lose some! But hey, it really doesn't matter!

Last Sunday I posted about all the frugal things I hoped to do on our extended-family holiday.  But being on holiday is the very best time of all to ditch the to-do list and live in the moment.  All the more reason to do so if you are holidaying in the north west of England, where the vagaries of the weather tend to dictate activities, on an hourly basis!  Although I kept my frugal things in mind (sleeping, reading, long baths, family meals, playing board games - all done - yay!), it didn't matter that not everything else was ticked neatly off the list.  Especially when there were other frugal things to enjoy, that I hadn't anticipated:

Aunt had made a cake for the children to decorate, Jubilee style!
Monday 10pm at Latter Barrow, - Jubilee beacon ready to be lit!
10.15pm - Jubilee beacon lit!

So what if we somehow managed to miss seeing ANY of the
sculptures in Grizedale Forest!  Cycling was fun enough in itself!

Rowing is especially fun when you get stuck in the mud
and need a tow to get out!  Who needs to go to a theme park!

I'm an inveterate list-maker, so this week was a powerful reminder to be mindful of looking for the positives when things don't go according to plan, of the magic to be found off-list, and of the ceaseless wonder of the elements: fire, earth, air and water!  (And such huge gratitude to parents that still organise holidays for their 40-something children!)

May your summer holidays be filled with fresh air and frugal fun too!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Food Waste Friday - Carrot Guilt

This week I am feeling guilty...

Poor carrots - you serve us so well, day in, day out.  You are always there for us, appearing daily in stews and sauces.  We cut you into crunchy sticks for lunch boxes.  You can be grated into salads and your beta carotene never fails to brighten up our winter soups.  You don't even complain when we tart you up beyond all recognition into a carrot cake.

And yet, we went on holiday this week and I'm afraid you were ignored completely.  Yes, we took you away with us but whilst we were out walking and cycling you were left on your own back at the apartment, festering at the bottom of the veg box:

You stood by and watched while we chomped our way through locally produced Cumberland sausages, celebratory Jubilee fruit cake and that enormous bar of chocolate that kept us going on a long hill walk.  You even had to suffer the ignominy of watching our holiday romance with this jar of frivolous fun:

(Oh, how the jar was scraped clean!  No sticky toffee sauce food waste to report!)

Carrots, I know we can get our relationship back on track.  I thank you for sticking by me and my family; you with your Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium.  Grown year round in the UK, you are no one night stand.  promise this will be the last time you ever feature in a Food Waste Friday blog post and I will never treat you this way again!

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

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

1 month blogiversary - reader give away!

As promised, here is the Everyday Life On A Shoestring 1 month blogiversary give away!

My siblings can always be relied upon to give me a good reality check.  A month ago, when one of them read the Welcome to Everyday Life On A Shoestring post, they laughed and called into question my claim to have been interested in simple living since the 1980s.

Dear readers, you know I would never lie to you!  My journey to a greener, simpler, lifestyle began when I read Seeing Green by Jonathon Porritt in 1986.  To thank you for sticking with me for a whole month, I would like to offer one of you the chance to read the book that was so life-changing for me.

When I looked for the book on Amazon, I saw that Caroline Lucas, who is the UK's only Green MP and leader of the Green Party for England and Wales, also cites this book as being a major factor in her green conversion.  (I can imagine more laughter from my siblings , "Look at what SHE went on to do after reading that book!"  To which I would reply, "it takes all sorts!") Read an interview with Caroline here, where she says, 

"Then in 1986 I read a book by Jonathon Porritt called Seeing Green and it was one of those books that completely change your life within the space of time it takes to read 250 pages."

Despite being written in the 1980s, I think the book still holds its own in 2012.  There are parts that are clearly dated, such as discussion about the Cold War, but the sections on green economics seem highly prescient, given the current global financial situation.

The minimum criteria for being green that Porritt lays out may be idealistic to some, but still make interesting reading:

a reverence for the Earth and all its creatures
a willingness to share the world's wealth among all its peoples
lasting security to be achieved through non-nuclear defence strategies and considerably reduced arms spending
          a recognition of the rights of future generations in our use of all resources
an emphasis on socially useful, personally rewarding work, enhanced by human-scale technology
          protection of the environment as a precondition of a healthy society
an emphasis on personal growth and spiritual development
          respect for the gentler side of human nature
open, participatory democracy at every level of society
          recognition of the crucial importance of significant reductions in population levels
harmony between people of every race, colour and creed
          a non-nuclear, low-energy strategy, based on conservation, greater efficiency and and renewable resources
an emphasis on self-reliance and decentralized communities.
prosperity to be achieved through sustainable alternatives to the rat race of economic growth
a rejection of materialism and the destructive values of industrialism

Hear, hear! 

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a secondhand copy of this book, you have until midnight on Sunday 10 June.  Please comment below!  I am happy to post it abroad.  Have you ever read a book that changed the course of your life?

Both Jonathon Porritt and Caroline Lucas have their own websites and blogs which are full of interesting green things:

Sunday, 3 June 2012

10 Frugal Things!

10 frugal things I will be enjoying on holiday in the Lake District (just because we're on holiday it doesn't mean that the frugal fun has to stop!):

1.   Binge reading!  I never have time to read as much as I'd like during term time, so I enjoy catching up during the holidays.  On my bedside table will be Goldie Hawn's autobiography, A Lotus Grows in the Mud, which I am half way through.  Embrace Mindfulness introduced me to the idea of Goldie as something other than an actress playing slightly ditsy roles, by drawing attention to her recent book 10 Mindful Minutes.  The Hawn Foundation runs MindUp, a programme which has been taking mindfulness into US schools since 2005, and 10 Mindful Minutes focuses on some of the programme's techniques.  As part of my day job involves running social skills and anxiety and depression prevention groups for teenagers, I read the book with interest.  I then found Goldie's autobiography, A Lotus Grows in the Mud, in a charity book sale, and although I'm not a great autobiography reader I am enjoying her life story.  Despite being a Hollywood star, her philosophy on life has much to offer the simple-liver. Also stacked up in my book pile is one of my Christmas presents: Singing for Mrs Pettigrew: A Story-maker's Journey, by Michael Morpurgo.  Morpurgo is well known for his children's stories, especially with the recent release of the film War Horse, but this is a collection of short stories interlaced with essays about the art of writing.  As an aspiring writer I shall be taking notes!  The Lake District is famous for its poets and with my current poetry renaissance, while I am on holiday I shall try and find some Wordsworth or Coleridge to read too.  

2.   Binge sleeping! Despite knowing that life is much better on 7.5 - 8 hours sleep a night, my night owl tendancies get in the way of this sometimes, and I'm ALWAYS ready for some sleep catch-up on holiday!  Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project is BIG on getting enough sleep - check out this post if you would like some tips.

3.   Binge drinking! JUST KIDDING!          

4.   A luxurious bath! I rarely take a bath.  Showers win over baths for me, for ecological and time reasons.  On holiday I shall soak up some of my birthday bath bomb backlog.

5.   Family meals! We are on holiday celebrating another special family birthday (Go Granny!) with 7 grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, so we're looking forward to some quality family time.

6.   Rowing!  The holiday house we are staying in boasts its own rowing boat, and the oldest member of the party loves nothing better than to get behind the oars (Go Grandad!)

7.   A full moon on Tuesday 5 June!  Although it maybe well known for its spectacular scenery and walking opportunities, don't forget that the Lake District is also famed for its dark skies, so we're hoping for good views of Tuesday's full moon.  (Check out a post I wrote about the new moon a couple of weeks ago if you would like your own lunar calendar.)

8.   Grizedale Forest! We can't wait to explore the sculpture trail in Grizedale Forest:

9.   Board Games! Cranium and Uno were big hits at Christmas, so we shall be taking them with us.

10.   Walking! It's a no-brainer in the Lake District, but it has to be on the list.  We have borrowed some Ordnance Survey maps and a book of walks to get us going.

Any more ideas for frugal Lake District holiday activities or holiday activities in general?