Friday, 28 September 2012

Food Waste Friday - Another rookie food waste error!

I wasn't going to fall for last week's rookie food waste error (forgetting to refrigerate leftovers until it was too late).  Surplus sausage casserole was refrigerated.  Then a different rookie food waste error occurred.

Either put your leftover sausage casserole at the front of the fridge or put it in a transparent food container, so that you will remember it's there. It may have been said many times before on other frugal blogs, but it really is true.

Whatever you do don't put leftovers in an anonymous container like this and hide them at the back of the fridge.

Otherwise, it's been a very good usey uppy week including four poppadoms that had been sitting in an opened packet in the cupboard for ages. I'm not even sure where I bought them.

Now, I'm not a fan of plastic food packaging, but I'm prepared to let these particular poppadoms off the hook.  Every now and then, I develop a fondness for food packets! I fell in love with the cheese cherubs on our favourite cheese of the summer's box, and when I noticed the wild-eyed pink rabbit on this packet, she or he caught my eye. A poppadom-eating pink rabbit? Now there's a thing!  

After wondering what the writing said (my Gujurati's not too good, but I'd hazard a guess at 'plain poppadoms', or 'poppadoms - plain'?) I noticed the yellow emblem at the bottom. It says 'Symbol of Women's Strength'. Now, I definitely am a fan of symbols of women's strength and thanks to BBC Spotlight Radio, I can tell you that that little symbol belies a much bigger story.  

The poppadoms are made by a co-operative of women called Lijjat ('Tastes Good' in Gujarati and ijjat means 'Respect' in Hindi.) From 7 women in 1959, it has grown to 45,000 women who make the poppadoms by hand (machinery would result in women being made out of work), and benefit from education and loans organised by the Co-operative. The Co-op has the model of the family at its core, with love, concern and trust being central values: 'The organisation is never just a place to earn money - it is a place of worship. This is true for the member sisters, workers and supporters. It is a place to devote one's energy. This is not for his or her good, but for the good of everyone. In this organisation work is worship.'

Thank you to the pink bunny for drawing my attention to the work of Lijjat! I like their tasty poppadoms, I like their philosophy, and if my small poppadom purchase helps one of my 45,000 Indian sisters, then I like that too.

The cheese cherubs; friends for the pink bunny?

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it. This week you can find Food Waste Friday hosted by 
Simply Being Mum.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Keeping it real!

I'm afraid I'm not superhuman.

It's not always blue skies and cream teas 
and days out, and fun, fun, fun here...

Most of the time it's what it says on the tin - 
Everyday Life On A Shoestring!
Keeping the family healthily fed (mushrooms on toast if you're wondering),

and warmly clothed,
and in the right place at the right time, along with going to work, and attending to friends and extended family, all takes time.  I wouldn't have it any other way, but sometimes something has to give.  This week is a week full of even more everyday life than normal, so the blog is going to be ignored until later in the week, in the interests of maintaining balance!

I'll be back with something more exciting soon!

Are you like me; do you forget that you're not superhuman sometimes or are you good at knowing when you've got too much on your plate?!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Food Waste Friday - Pease Pudding Hot, Pease Pudding Cold!

Pease Pudding Hot,
Pease Pudding Cold,
Pease Pudding in the pot, 
Nine days old.

This week a couple of rookie food waste errors occurred through not refrigerating leftovers quickly enough.

The remains of a split pea and vegetable curry had to be discarded, as it had sat in a pan on the top of the cooker for just too long.  Not quite nine days old, but getting there!

In an attempt to appease the god of split peas, I used up the rest of the packet by making some Pease Pudding (or should it have been called Appease Pudding?)

On our trips to the North East we always enjoy Pease Pudding, which is readily available in all the local food shops, and we bring a tub back with us. But there's really no reason to wait for a foray up North to indulge, as it's easy to make, and super healthy and frugal.

Finest Pease Pudding,.
A souvenir from our May visit to the North East of England.

It's been eaten in Britain for centuries; in the past the British preference was for 'pease' over other pulses. (Mediterranean puy lentil pudding hot, Meditaerranean puy lentil pudding cold, just doesn't have the same ring about it somehow.) It also pre-dates the potato as a starchy accompaniment.  It was traditionally eaten with bacon or ham, and still is.  The salt of the bacon, ham or gammon offsets the blandness of the Pease Pudding nicely. The 'Pudding' part of the name comes from the fact that it was cooked in a cloth in the same pot as the meat.

We ate it hot with sausages mid-week, and I had it cold for lunch today.  We didn't leave it until it was nine days old! (Some sources suggest that by then, it would have started fermenting, and may have been eaten for its miso-like quality.)

Finest homemade Pease Pudding cold, 2 days old. A leftovers lunch.
The mediaeval  equivalent of houmous, perhaps?

Pease Pudding recipe

  • 300g/10oz dried yellow split peas
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • freshly ground black pepper

  1. Soak the peas overnight in cold water.
  2. Fry the onion, thyme and bay leaf until softened.
  3. Add the peas and bring to the boil with 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) water.
  4. Simmer until the peas are soft (25 - 30 mins).
  5. Blend to a puree, and add some more butter, the egg, the nutmeg, and season to taste.

(Note: This is the official recipe; I use vegetable oil instead of butter, and I left out the egg.  It tastes just as good.)

Bonus pease pudding fact! There is a village in Sussex called Pease Pottage.  There are several theories as to why: pease pudding or pottage may have been fed to convicts on their way from London to the South Coast, and from East Grinstead to Horsham, or it may have been that the muddy ground in that area was rather like the consistency of pease pudding.

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

Thursday, 20 September 2012

More frugal stuff by an Unbeautiful Blogger!

beautiful blogger award? Someone wanting to know seven things about me? There must have been some mistake, I thought!

A couple of weeks ago, some of this blog's regular readers who are also bloggers themselves, Creative Savv, Economies of Kale and Doggone Thrifty nominated me for a Beautiful Blogger award.  And this week, Living Simply Free nominated me for a '7 things' award.

My initial reaction was surprise and perplexity! The art of blogging is such that these lovely bloggers have never actually met or seen me. They don't know that I'm not really what you'd call a beautiful blogger. I have short, mousy brown (ignore the grey) hair.  I'm not very interested in fashion. I lead an ordinary life. My garden has plenty of weeds and my house is full of piles of laundry and paperwork.  This blog is not a thing of great beauty either, compared to some; the layout is a simple Blogger thing that I spent all of five minutes choosing, and photography is definitely not one of my strong points.

I investigated a little further, and all became apparent.  What a relief!  I wouldn't have to pay for a beautiful make-over or buy a beautiful new outfit, after all. This type of blog award gets passed from blog to blog, as a bit of blog promotion for all involved. You link back to your nominators, share some information about yourself, and link forward to a few blogs. There are so many of these chain-letter type awards that many experienced bloggers declare themselves Award-free or Tag-free.  

Conversely, the unscrupulous blogger could easily swipe a few Award linkys from Google Images, and plaster them all over their blog.

As I'm neither inundated with awards nor without scruples, this time I would like to honour the kindness of the nominators.  I appreciate their support and the time they take to read and comment here.

If you're really interested, here's some stuff about me, frugal stuff, of course!
  • Favourite frugal treat? Anything with ginger in it! Gingerbread, ginger wine, crystallised ginger, ginger biscuits, ginger tea...
  • Favourite frugal exercise? Walking. The only time I've ever set foot in a gym was to walk through one to get to the swimming pool.
  • Frugal vice? Acquiring second-hand books.  As fast as I get rid of a bag to the charity shop, new ones seem to appear.
  • Current favourite frugal read? Not Buying it by Judith Levine. (There should be a 'frugal summer reading' blog post coming your way soon, if I can ever get round to it.)
  • Favourite recent frugal purchase? A new metal pencil sharpener, and it's a real goodie! Worth every penny of the 60p I paid for it. I'm working my way through sharpening all the pencils in the house; what a grounding activity that is.
  • Top frugal heroines? The Grannies.  My Grannies were instinctively good guardians of their resources, and they managed it without reading a single blog on the matter! My Mum, who also classifies as a Granny, follows in their frugal footsteps, and is an inspiration.  Although we all know you can't teach a Granny to suck eggs, she kindly reads this blog.
  • Anything else beginning with 'f'? Flapjack. I have to go and make some for the packed lunches tomorrow.
For my seven blogs that I would recommend? Well, I don't want to overwhelm you with too many links in one post. I try and link to other blogs in the course of day-to-day blogging, but do go and check out my four nominators, check out these two below, and as for the lucky seventh?  Choose any blog from the 'Blogs I like' section on the right hand side, or from the blogs I follow on my profile! They're all award-worthy!

Rationing Revisited Having already downsized quite drastically, this family of five have given themselves the challenge of living on World War 2 rations to see if they can save money and become healthier.

Hertfordshire Mummy Although I don't live in Hertfordshire, and my children are older than Emma's, I always enjoy her blog posts, which are about her local area, parenting, and relevant products.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A fab frugal family day out!

What do you get when you put together:

loved ones,
a beautiful part of Devon,
a train ride and a ferry ride to get there,

a two hour wait near the finishing line. with a crowd in good spirits despite the fact
 that the nation's favourite cyclist, Wiggo, had a tummy bug and was out of the race,

the Tour of Britain Mascot,
clear blue skies and television cameras
the winner Pablo Urtasan.

and all the other cyclists including Mark Cavendish, 
our Team GB road cycling Olympian,
and the winners' podium?

You get a fab frugal family day out, that's what!  Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain, free-to-view, ending in Dartmouth.  The Olympic spirit lives on!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Food Waste Friday or Happy Habits #2

By the end of the summer holiday breakfasts had turned into a feral affair in our house.  Each person hunting down their own cereal from the cupboard at a different time, and scorching a piece of toast a bit later.

With the return to school, order has been restored.  The breakfast 'buffet' is put out the night before and whilst husband leaves for work at an unearthly hour, the rest of us eat our cereal and toast more-or-less at the same time.  We add one more breakfast item for an extra happiness boost: this week, Monday - tinned grapefruit, Tuesday - banana smoothie, Wednesday - kiwi fruit, Thursday - poached eggs, Friday - pancakes. (Can you spot which three days of the week I work?!)

That's the happy habit, but where's the food waste?

On one of the days of the week, I didn't have time to clear breakfast away myself, so I gave instructions (more than once!) for the person who was leaving the house last, to please put everything back in the fridge...You can guess the rest!  Some work on the 'clearing up breakfast' habit is needed.

Left over kiwi fruit for the chickens it was, with some other peelings and four yogurt-coated strawberry flakes from later in the day...

What's your favourite breakfast food?

This week I loved Karen Maezen Miller's 7 tips to destress your home blog post; breakfast must surely fall into the 'Observe ritual' category.  If you are anything like me, there will be more than one tip on her list that speaks to you!

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it.  This week you can find Food Waste Friday hosted by 
Simply Being Mum.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A bedtime story with a happy ending and lots of frugal lessons.

Back in mid-May I wrote about a week of frugal wins and loses, and I promised you a blog post about how we reduced our energy bill...this week the last pieces of the jigsaw fell into place, so here it is at last!  Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!

Once upon a time, a long time ago in the Autumn of 2011, Sarah and Husband heard all the news about gas and electricity prices rising by 40% and thought they should do something about their fuel costs.  They scratched their heads, did some online research and ran around in circles.  It was all very confusing and rather time consuming and if they're honest, they found it a little bit boring.  In the end they did nothing and forgot all about it.

Frugal lesson no. 1: Don't bury your head in the sand where personal finance and energy saving is concerned!

In November 2011, the friendly meter man came to read the electricity and gas meters.  Remember how Sarah has to stand on the kitchen cupboards to read the meter? (That was one of Everyday Life On A Shoestring's very first blog posts, and a bit of a blogging experiment, but Sarah can't bring herself to delete the chocolate bunny!) As well as doing the computery meter reading stuff, this particular meter man has noticed all the musical instruments in the house and always likes to have a chat about music and song writing. He even hoped Sarah might be able to solve the conundrum of whether it would really be possible to play the piano upside down like Keith Emerson; probably not.

This time they also had a chat about energy suppliers (he works for a meter reading contractor not the Everyday Life On A Shoestring energy supplier) and he said a lot of customers were recommending Cooperative Energy, although nothing was done with this piece of useful information. 

Frugal lesson no. 2: Single-tasking is superior to multi-tasking! ALWAYS.  When meter reading, read the meter and don't chat at the same time!

Spring 2012 was cold and miserable, but imagine how even more cold and miserable Husband felt when he was checking his bank statements, and found that the energy bill had gone up to £345 per month.  Husband was distraught. Maybe all that welding the 1966 Morris Minor had used up more electricity than he had anticipated. 

The couple chastised themselves for not having sought a cheaper energy deal when they had originally thought about it, but even so, realised that a price hike of £200 per month was much more than any rise they had been expecting.  Something was wrong!

Frugal lesson no.3: Always reconcile and check your bank statement for anomalies!

Sarah immediately phoned the energy supplier; one of the UK's 'Big 6', and thankfully, once it was established that the family don't live in a 5 bedroomed mansion with underfloor heating and a hot-tub in the garden, the customer adviser on the end of the line could see that something was awry.  He suggested a new fixed tariff, which brought the monthly amount down to £195 straight away.

Frugal lesson no. 4: Even if you don't have time for lengthy price comparisons for the utilities and supplies you pay for, it's always worth speaking to your current provider to make sure you are getting the best deal!

After delving into the situation a little further, it transpired that two digits in the November meter reading had somehow got transposed, with the result that the family's energy consumption appeared to have trebled.

Frugal lesson no. 5: In future Sarah will double check the digits when she reads the meter, and will cut out the middle man, especially as she's the one doing all of the work by climbing on the work surfaces anyway!  The readings will be regularly entered, online. That way, all 'estimated' readings will be eliminated.

The company promised to review the account, and after a few weeks there was another another price drop in the monthly figure paid.

This week, Sarah and Husband were contacted with the news that a considerable refund will be made to their bank account, and that the monthly direct debit will decrease once again.  Hurrah!

Frugal lesson no. 6: Although they got there in the end, Npower was very slow in sorting this out; the couple's money was sitting in the company's bank for longer than it should have been.  You need to keep on the ball with these big companies, and they should have been chased up sooner, however infuriating it is to sit in their telephone system.

While all this had been going on, other ways to reduce energy consumption and bills were being investigated by Everyday Life On A Shoestring.  Gas and electricity prices certainly aren't going to get any cheaper in the years to come.  Although the loft is insulated, it was about time Sarah and Husband invested in cavity wall insulation too and they happily planned to use some of the Npower refund to pay for it and to finish installing the woodburner that had been bought a while back.

Black and White Piggy Bank
Image courtesy of www,

This story truly does have a happy ending.  As well as Npower inadvertently becoming the family's mini 'extreme savings plan' for a few months, they discovered that due to the age of their property, it qualified for free cavity wall insulation, and that has been booked for October.  Once the house has cavity wall insulation,  there may be other grants available to help with further energy efficiency measures.

Frugal lesson no. 7: Keep up-to-date with Government energy saving programmes and book your cavity wall insulation quickly before installers get busy during the winter months!

And Sarah, Husband and the little Everyday Life On A Shoestrings lived warmly and happily ever after!


Monday, 10 September 2012

Happy Habits #1

"Your brain evolved a negativity bias that makes it like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. Therefore, a foundation for happiness is to deliberately weave positive experiences into the fabric of your brain and your self." (Rick Hanson, Neuropsychologist)

Very occasionally the planets align.  Today was such a day at work.  The sun came out for 30 minutes after lunch.  I was on the east side of the building.  I happened to look out of the window at just the right moment.  The light was hitting the white horse at just the right angle.  And so for a minute, I caught a glimpse of one of Wiltshire's eight remaining white horses, carved into the chalk hillside, 6 miles away.

That made me happy!

Cherhill White Horse
  © Copyright victoria lee and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 

This is what it looks like, close up.  (Photographed from a distance of 6 miles, it wouldn't look too impressive, and besides, it might appear a bit odd if I started snapping photos out of the window when I'm supposed to be working with a class of adolescents.)

What little thing made you happy today?

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!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Food Waste Friday - Using up the leftovers and mustard mayhem!

Extra vigilance is in order this week as it's National Zero Waste Week!

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2012

Apart from a small amount of wilty lettuce and a little dry bread which was fed to the chickens, there were some good food saves.

Having watched the Hairy Dieters' make skinny pies, which Rationing Revisited then replicated, I was inspired to make a leftovers pie. Left over veggie chilli, beefed up (or quorned up!) with extra quorn mince, onion, a turnip, a couple of potatoes and gravy, was topped with a homemade pizza dough crust, and declared a huge success by all who consumed it.

Some about-to-go-out-of-date yogurts were rescued from Mother-in-law. (Yes, I am even looking out for food waste beyond the four walls of my own home now.)  When the kids decided they didn't want to mix the fruity bit into the yogurt, it was commandeered for embellishing a pineapple upside down cake (which was already using up some pineapple left over from pizza-making).

Because the food waste has been under control this week, I've had time to check out what is going on with longer shelf-life items in the fridge.  I discovered THREE jars of mustard in the fridge!  What can I do with all that mustard?!

Our actual pledge for Zero Waste Week was to recycle our tetrapak containers and I'm happy to report that only one has been used so far this week.  

Have you had any Zero Waste Week successes?

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

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Marmite - love it or hate it?

With the return to school this week, there's been a lot of talk about packed lunches in the blogosphere.

There's no question that taking your own lunch to school or work, will save you a lot of cash in the long term.  Sandwiches, salads and last night's leftovers are all popular midday options with frugal blog commenters.

They're popular here too, and although we deviate sometimes, our packed lunch formula is generally:

sandwich/pitta/wrap/roll + tomatoes/pepper/carrot/cucumber + fruit 

+ one treaty thing such as flapjack/yogurt/crisps/small cake

If you're going to save even more money on lunch, then frugal sandwich fillings will be on your mind, and top of that list for me, is yeast extract (also known as Marmite or Vegemite to some)! We like it on its own, or with cheese or cucumber.  And a PBM is good too!

For those of you unfamiliar with the black gold that is yeast extract, it's the substance that results when yeast is broken down into its constituent components.  It's rich in B vitamins, particularly B12, which has made it a godsend for vegetarians, and it has a rich, salty, savoury flavour, that stimulates the savoury or 'unami' taste receptors.

The brand Marmite is produced by Unilever, and is well known for its 'Love it or hate it!' slogan, and bright yellow packaging.  

Marmite: Marmite Union Jack Yellow Mug

They've transformed Marmite into a celebrity with its own mechandise, spin-off food stuffs containing Marmite, such as bread sticks, rice cakes and even chocolate, and of course it has a website.

Personally I prefer to stick with the own-brand yeast extracts which are usually cheaper, or the whole food alternatives. Meridian and Natex both produce low salt options, as well as the usual version.

Meridian Yeast Extract No Salt 340gNatex Original Yeast Extract 225g

Additional benefits of yeast extract are:

  • a jar lasts forever; it may cost £2 or £3 but you only need a very thin scraping on your bread and butter.
  • it's a local product - a by-product of the brewing industry, it's made in the UK
  • it comes in a glass jar, so is eco-friendly
  • it can be used in all sorts of other dishes; I stick a judicious amount in gravy, pies and sauces.
  • the vitamin, niacin, which is contained in yeast extract, may help ward off hospital superbugs such as MRSA, according to new research.

As with any food product these days, there is a flip-side.  In Denmark, Marmite was banned last year, due to its high vitamin levels.  It also contains naturally occuring 'glutamate', which perhaps explains why it is so yummy.  Monosodium Glutamate as a synthetic flavour enhancer, is perceived as a baddie, due to its health effects, however free glutamate also occurs naturally in a number of common proteins, such as dairy products, meat, mushrooms and tomatoes.  It may be that factory-produced MSG has a more negative affect on the body than glutamate in its natural forms, as it is used in higher and more concentrated amounts, when added to commercial food products.

Marmite or yeast extract, has been my constant companion through life.  One of my earliest memories is of my granny spreading it thickly onto toast for breakfast (I suspect Marmite had the same status as malt and cod liver oil), and it kept me healthy through my student years and various hitch-hiking trips around Europe, where marmite, bread and tomatoes were the staple diet.  I note the health issues, regarding salt and glutamate, but I think that thinly spread, the benefits of yeast extract probably outweigh the potential concerns.

If I haven't convinced you that yeast extract is a good thing, then perhaps Martha Stewart will in this blogpost!

And David Mitchell challenges the love/hate marmite advertising campaign in this video!


Are you a Marmite lover or hater? Or do you 'not mind' it, like David Mitchell!  And what's your favourite frugal sandwich filling? Maybe you've been affected by Marmageddon in New Zealand? (Apparently there have been yeast extract shortages in New Zealand due to the producer's factory suffering earthquake damage).

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

I wasn't remunerated by any of the companies named above.  I just really like yeast extract!

The Ecologist and The Independent provided useful information for researching this blog post.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Irish Blessing for A Child Starting Secondary School

May your pencil case always be full.

May you do your homework on time, or at least come up with a plausible excuse when you don't.

May you steer clear of the smokers and dog poo in the alley on the way to school.

May you not lose your phone, your sweatshirt or your PE kit.

May you not get bullied.

May you have good friends and be a good friend to others.

May you work hard and try your best even when it's not easy.

May you keep your smile and your sunny disposition.

May you do all that you need to do so that you can travel in the direction of your dreams.

May you be happy and healthy.

And may you always return to a warm home and people who love you at the end of the school day.