Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ready, Steady, Go Frugal Cat!

Hello Bloggers and Blog readers!

It is Daughter here with a blog post about what we need for the kittens we are getting tomorrow. And whether we have done it frugally.  

We are now ready as we have got everything we need such as kitten food etc. And we have mostly done it frugally. 

Here is a list of the things we got and how much it has cost us.  

Nana got us the cat bed so 
i don't know how much it was. 
£3.02  for kitten dry food

£3.00  for 5 food bowls (one not pictured) 
from a charity shop and a pet shop
Cat litter - free as we got this off a friend 
whose cats don't use it. 
£3.00 kitten wet food.

Litter tray - it was free as we got it on Freecycle.

Scratch post - Oh dear £14 
but we are going to make a second one
for upstairs. 
£ 0.00 i don't know how much they really were 
as they were me and brothers
when we were little.

So that was all the prices for the things we need for the kittens and i am sure there will be plenty of pictures of the kittens growing and most probably when they are cats too.

Have you got any tips for caring for kittens and cats on a budget? What do you feed your cats and where is the best place to buy cat food? We have been told that it is best to buy a good quality cat food and a good quality anti-flea treatment that may cost more but save money in vet bills in the long term. Would you agree? Do you have pet insurance? Do you pay for every vaccination going or do you believe in building up your cat's immunity? And what is the greenest way to look after cats?

I would love to know what you think!

Thanks for reading xx

Friday, 27 September 2013

Tidy Friday - Putting your clutter all in one basket?

It's Tidy Friday with a vengeance. We're getting two kittens this weekend, so kitten proofing the house is high on the agenda. Fortuitously this seems to involve a fair amount of tidying. Daughter has read several library books and browsed countless websites so is now the official feline expert in the house. I've been ordered to dust under my bed and we've all got to tidy up things that they could chew/claw/choke on.

Basket of clutter for redistributing, monitored
by the (feet of) the feline expert.

One of my favourite decluttering/tidying procrastination tools is to pile clutter neatly in a pile, to be dealt with later, and then put off doing anything about it for ages. (Don't tell me I'm the only one). Even better is to pile it in a rustic basket. Clutter always looks more charming in a basket, right? But the imminent kitten arrival is forcing the distribution of misplaced things to their rightful homes in a more timely fashion and that's no bad thing.

On the food waste front this Friday, it's bread. More bread. When will we ever get the bread thing sussed? Packed lunch bread this time. Excuses for not eating? The reduced price ciabatta rolls were too floury, and Son didn't have time to eat his hammy pitta breads because there was urgent playing to be done outside.

And then there's the burnt toast. "Why's the sink full of bread?" asked Husband this evening. Because the toast caught fire this morning and I had to throw it in the washing up bowl full of water to put it out. Why else!

Is it frugal to not replace the toaster when it dies if you then end up burning the toast on a regular basis when you make it under the grill? I need to get better at single tasking in the mornings.

If you want some really good ideas for dealing with stale bread, instead of photos of old rolls and burnt toast, Sue at Our New Home in the Country has some great tips on her blog today as part of her Simple September series!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Repair Café culture comes to Corsham!

Before we participated in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Slim Your Bin project I had never heard of a Repair Café. I'm not sure of the exact chronology but some time during (or maybe it was after) the SYB project, Emma (the Wildlife Trust's Waste Minimisation Officer) and Jen (My Make Do and Mend Year) got a Repair Café up and running in Warminster.  The idea behind the Repair Café is to provide a free meeting place where people can come and repair things together. Tea, coffee, and repair specialists are all provided, as are tools and materials. Whilst the idea of sitting back with a free cup of coffee watching a volunteer repairer mend your hoover or put a new zip in your jeans might seem very appealing, this is NOT what the Repair Café is about!

Last weekend I met Kathryn Houldcroft who is an inspiring and seasoned anti-waste campaigner; she's already run successful clothing swaps (or Swishes as they are called) in her village, and blogs about green living and parenting at Knee High Tales and her love of all things recycled, upcycled and thrifted at Second-hand Tales.  No surprise then that she is the brains behind our town's very first Repair Café. She was able to enlighten me more on the Repair Café philosophy - it is one of DIY - people learning to fix their own broken items. Not only does this keep stuff out of landfill and save the precious resources used in making new products, but it encourages us to have a different relationship with our possessions - loving and looking after the things we've got rather than constantly craving the new and shiny. 

Kathryn Houldcroft busy preparing Corsham's
first ever Repair Cafe!

Knowing that we Wiltshire people are at the forefront of innovative environmental initiatives, I mistakenly thought that the Repair Café idea was solely a Wiltshire thing. Wrong! We are part of a much wider network that started in Amsterdam in 2007. At the same time that Corsham residents are beavering away on Saturday 28 September, there will be Repair Cafés running in the US in Bolton and Oak Park. How exciting is that! And if you can't make it to our Café or to those in the States perhaps you can get to Berlin-Kreuzberg or Berlin-Spandau for their Repair Cafés a few days after ours. (Check out the Repair Café website for details of all Cafés worldwide).

The Pound Arts Centre Cafe last Saturday in a lull between
customers - hopefully it will be a hive of activity on 28 September.

Visitors to Corsham's Repair Café on Saturday will find somebody to help them with electrical repairs, carpentry, bike repairing and sewing as well as a chiropractor (human bodies need repairing too, remember). Someone will also be on hand to answer gardening queries and while you're sipping a cup of tea or waiting to chat to a repairer you can peruse the reading table with its DIY books and manuals, and laptop for googling.  

Kathryn asked expectantly whether I could be signed up as a repair expert in any field but I had to dash her hopes on that front. I'm not sure my bodging approach to hand sewn repairs and darning is quite what the Repair Café is looking for. I am, however, hoping to provide a warm welcome for visitors and a friendly face at the event, along with much enthusiasm for the cause, when I turn up to volunteer on Saturday. The one thing I won't be bringing is my broken gas oven. Sadly, broken gas ovens won't be catered for.

Corsham Repair Café at The Pound Arts Centre, Pound Pill, 
Corsham, SN13 9HX
Saturday 28 September, 2 - 4pm
(Further info at

Devizes Repair Café at the Corn Exchange, Devizes, 
Saturday 28 September, 10 - 12pm

Friday, 20 September 2013

Food Waste Friday - meat free Monday muddles...

I have been watching from a safe bloggy distance as Jen from My Make Do and Mend Year writes about her participation in this week's Waste Less Live More Challenge which this year is focusing on Better Food For All.

It's almost a year and a half since I started joining in Frugal Girl's Food Waste Friday each week, and in that short time food and food waste has become a huge talking point in the UK, from all sorts of perspectives. The Better Food For All campaign draws together the environmental and social aspects of food waste.  In their own words:

"If we eat better and waste less food ourselves, society and the planet can benefit:

  1. The environment – food has one of the largest environmental impacts of any sector whilst still over 1/3 of food is wasted and even more never reaches a human mouth.
  2. People – much of the food we throw away is good for us – fruit, vegetables for example, make people feel happier.
  3. Society – the food thrown away in Europe and North America would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world three times over. Food waste increases food prices and increases the risk of food poverty."
Each day of this week had a different theme: Meat Free Monday, Try Something New Tuesday, Waste Less Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, Fruitful Friday whilst Share Something Saturday and Seasonal Sunday are still to come this weekend! I didn't specifically join in the challenge to the letter but I love the themes as they encapsulate my own approach to food - the growing, the buying, the cooking and the eating of - and I generally have one or other of them loosely held in mind whenever I'm shopping or cooking.

Our menu plan this week was almost entirely meat-free (fish fingers excepted) so Meat Free Monday was a breeze! We had Crank's Mushroom Stroganoff (recipe below) with broccoli and our own homegrown runner beans, but herein lay this week's food waste...

I had earmarked Monday's leftover stroganoff and rice (it's much tastier than the photo would suggest!) for my lunch at work on Tuesday (hurrah for the Learning Support microwave) and Monday's leftover dessert (sliced oranges) for my breakfast. Unfortunately I didn't communicate my lunch plans to the person clearing away after our meal and Husband mixed both nicely together for the chicken. (Yes, I mean the chicken, singular - her story to be blogged soon). Undeterred, I separated out the orange and still had stroganoff à l'orange and rice for lunch, but I didn't fancy orange au strogonaff for breakfast, so the chicken got the fruit. 

Another area where the chicken won hands down is in the runner bean department. We always end up with some stringy tough ones that have been left growing for too long before we pick them. Although I know in my heart of hearts that they will be inedible, every year I persist in the belief that I possess some special magical powers that will render crunchy, chewy, scratch-your-throat runner beans soft and delicious upon extended boiling. It never works.

And there was lettuce waste too. Lettuce acts as a barometer in our house. If there are a few leaves going slimy in the fridge then it means the weather's turned cooler and no-one fancies salad anymore. It's official - Autumn is here. The lettuce says so.

Mushroom Stroganoff

One large onion
4 celery sticks
350g mushrooms
50g marg or butter (I used sunflower oil)
15 ml flour
150ml water
1 tsp yeast extract
Half tsp thyme
140ml soured cream (I've substituted cream cheese or yogurt in the past)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to garnish

Sauté the onion and celery until the onion is transparent. Add mushrooms and stir occasionally over a medium heat. Stir in the flour, add the water, yeast extract and herbs. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes.  Off the heat stir in the cream (or substitute) and adjust seasoning to taste. Heat very gently to serving temperature. Serve at once on freshly cooked rice and garnish with parsley.

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 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Vegetable offal!

It was Zero Waste Week a couple of weeks ago and my pledge was to try not to waste any fresh produce that week. I haven't ever scientifically analysed my chief food waste offenders but I reckon that if I were to do so, fruit and vegetable waste would contend for pole position.

There was much potential for that kind of waste over the last couple of weeks; we were given a big box of vegetables from a friend's allotment, as well as having a surfeit of runner beans from our own. But by using up the most perishable items first, we've just about kept on top of it, bar half a soggy courgette.

The combination of being the recipient of a big veg box and it being Zero Waste Week inspired me to use up every edible part of those lovely vegetables including the vegetable offal. The bits that you might not usually think of using.

I have fond memories of this kind of offal; one of the treats at my primary school in the 1970s was that during playtime after we'd eaten our lunch, the dinner ladies would lean out of the canteen windows and offer us chunks of leftover cabbage stalk and there was always a throng of kids waiting their turn in the queue for a nice piece of tough cabbage innards to snack on! What a great way of avoiding food waste. Those were the days - now there'd probably be some health and safety or food hygiene issue prohibiting the distribution of waste cabbage. And maybe the 21st century child wouldn't find it so appealing.

I like to emulate the 1970s dinner lady waste not want not philosophy in my own house, and I will sneak celery and beetroot leaves (pictured above), broccoli stalks and those feathery aniseedy fronds of fennel into dishes when I can. How about you, what's your favourite vegetable offal?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Back online...

I broke a laptop, the internet router stopped working, and the new term has been busy and eventful, and brought with it some extra challenges.

But every now and then I've tried to remember to breathe and to look up!

September sunrise.