Archive | September 2012

Saturday is ‘Bump The Blog’ Day

Today is ‘Bump the Blog’ day.

I pick a different blog each week, that I particularly enjoy reading.  I will then post a link for you to check it out, to see if it interests you too.

There are so many wonderful blogs out there, talking about subjects of all kinds.  Each person spends time and energy updating their blogs and it is lovely getting views and comments in return.

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Todays blog  is called ‘living our country dreams’

The author says the following about the blog:

From Sydney to Cootamundra, from city to the country. Living a simple life, being frugal, being more self-sufficient and kinder to the environment. Growing our own vegetables, raising our own egg producing chickens (even with a rooster that snuck its way into the flock) and making more food and cleaning products from scratch. Hopefully doing all this while finding more time to spend with each other.

You can find this blog here.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

Thank you for reading my blog this week.
I will be back again on Monday, at approximately 7.30pm.
I hope to see you then.
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Allotment Paths and Using Up Leftovers

This week I finished the paths around my dad’s bit of my allotment.

I managed to get bags of woodchip from our local council for £1.00 per bag.  The paths took ten bags of woodchip, so it cost me just £10.00 to do.  I know it would have cost an awful lot more if I had gone to a garden centre to buy the woodchip.

I am very pleased with the result and I think my dad will be happy too.

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I spent the morning clearing away my old peas.  I saved the seeds from the tall growing variety I had grown.  The seeds are an old variety called ‘Peashooter’ and they are expensive to buy.

I will put the seeds in an envelope and store them in a cool dark place, until I plant them next year.

Afterwards I dug manure into two of my beds ready for next year.  The manure is two years old now and it really is well rotted and great to dig in.

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Today I took a walk around my allotment.  I was very pleased as I thought the allotment was looking particularly beautiful in the afternoon sunshine.

The Michaelmus Daisys were still looking stunning and they were teeming with bees and butterflies, it was wonderful to watch.

The sun flowers were looking great too.

The birds will soon be enjoying these seeds.

The Crocosmia that my youngest daughter planted earlier in the year, is also flowering now:

The dahlia’s that I grew from seed are still flowering well too:

A nasturtium that self seeded over the summer is now trailing over my compost heap and it is flowering nicely.

I like adding the leaves to salads as they taste peppery and it’s just something a bit different in a salad.

The green manure I planted last month, is growing well too.  It is phacelia.  I will cut it back before it flowers and dig it into the soil.

You can read about green manures here.

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I also noticed my shark fin melons are just about ready to pick.

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.  I am looking forward to making soup with them.

I put my keys next to the other shark fin melon so you would be able to gauge the size of it from the picture:

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Using Leftovers

I try to use all our leftover meat and vegetables.  I really hate throwing good food away, it doesn’t make sense to do this.

Using your leftovers also saves money.

Previously I wrote about my ‘Use it up’ Vegetable Curry Recipe.  You can find it here.

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Remember the beef I bought on Sunday that was reduced from £14.14 to £3.54…  You can read about it here.  I made a lovely roast dinner for us all, but there was some roast beef left over.

The next day, I made a beef and vegetable pie with the leftovers.

It is a very easy pie to make:

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All I did was to reheat the beef and leftover vegetables in the microwave until piping hot.

I mixed them with a white sauce and covered it all with a layer of pastry.

I brushed the pie with a little milk and then cooked it in the oven for 20 minutes,

gas mark 6 / 400F / 204C.

I served it with homegrown vegetables.

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The beef and vegetables were all leftover from the day before, so again this was a very cheap family meal.

I know a lot of people reading my blog will know how to make a white sauce and pastry.  For those that don’t, I will show you how I make these things next week on my blog.

 If just one person learns how to feed their family more cheaply after reading my blog, then I will have achieved my aim.

 

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Budgeting Can Save You Money

Every month, without fail, I work out our money to make sure that we are budgeting correctly.

Some people think that budgeting means that they are going to have to stop spending money on all the good things they do in life.

In fact it can be the opposite, as it quite often can increase the money you have to spend on the good things in life, as it stops you from wasting money on the things you don’t need.

For example, if you buy a £2.50 takeaway coffee, on your way to work each morning, this adds up to approximately £587 per year!  I’m sure this money could be well spent on something better than cups of coffee.  You could quite easily get up a little bit earlier and have a cup of coffee before you leave the house, or even when you first get to work?

Looking at where your money goes to each month is a good way to stop you from overspending.

If you do overspend each month, then you can find yourself very quickly spiralling into debt and paying more and more interest every month on credit cards, bank loans, store cards etc.

There is no right or wrong way to budget and it’s important to find a way that suits you, but this is how we do it:

At the very beginning, when I first started to budget, I listed down all our outgoings.

Here is a list of the things we budget for monthly:

Mortgage

Council tax

Water rates

Gas and electricity

Buildings and contents insurance

TV licence

Food, toiletries, cleaning products, prescription charges

Mobile phone charges

Car expenses (incl petrol, breakdown service, MOT, services etc.)

School transport costs

Allotment expenses

Dental charges

Hair cuts

Clothes and shoes (incl. school uniforms)

Girl’s karate expenses

Christmas and birthday presents

Holidays

Spending money (for odds and sods, outings, etc.)

Absolutely everything above is budgeted for.

When I first made a list of outgoings, I hadn’t a clue what we spent on some of these things.  For some things, I needed to look back at old bank or credit card statements and other things I had to check old receipts if I still had them.   For example, I needed to look back at my last three months’ worth of food shopping receipts, so I could work out our average monthly spend.

I was lucky as I could work most of our expenditure out, but If you haven’t kept your receipts or statements, then it is a good idea to write down a list of every little thing you spend your money on for a whole month, so you know exactly where your money goes to.

This really is an eye opener and sometimes, even when you have been budgeting for years, it’s a worthwhile exercise to do again.

Afterwards, my husband and I looked at each of the things we spend money on and set a budget for them.  Some things we knew exactly how much we pay for each month e.g. gas and electricity and other things were harder to work out e.g. christmas and birthday presents.

We then looked at our monthly income and took it away from our monthly budget, we found out exactly why we were overspending every month, as our income was far less than the amount we were actually spending.

At this time, I had just had my eldest daughter and I didn’t want to go back to work, so things really had to change.  We sat down and scrutinised each and every category to see if the budget for that area could be reduced further.  It’s amazing what you can do if you try hard enough.

We switched gas and electricity suppliers, cancelled magazine subscriptions, re-looked at our food purchases, stopped having takeaways etc. and eventually managed to bring our outgoings down.

One of the areas we did struggle on, was reducing our spending on christmas and birthday presents.  Strangely enough, we did find it easy to spend less on each other and even the kids, but we have two large families and a large circle of friends and we did find it hard to reduce the amount of money we spent on presents for other people.

We did try and explain to people that we just couldn’t spend the same amount on people anymore and most people were fine about this and understood, but not all did, which hurt at the time.  Since then I’ve realised the opinion of the people concerned, really didn’t matter anyway.

I’m not saying it was easy at the beginning, as it wasn’t.  In fact, it is hard to cut back on your spending when you are used to buying whatever you want to, whenever you want, but in time your attitude towards money does change.  It can actually become a challenge each time you need to buy something and to spend less on it than you are expecting to pay.

Since we first made a budget, we have always kept a close eye on it and we have made changes along the way.  For instance, shortly after my first daughter was born, we worked out that we couldn’t afford another baby on the budget we had, so we needed to find something quite substantial to cut back on.  We decided our car was not a necessity, but a luxury, so we sold it!  It was hard to adjust at first, but after a while it didn’t seem so bad and I went on to have another beautiful baby girl.

Today, my daughters are nearly 15 and 13 years old, so budgeting is a normal way of life for us now.  We have our ups and downs with money still, but we are certainly more prepared for emergencies now than we were before we budgeted years ago.

I will be writing about our birthday and christmas money saving, in the future.  For the moment, you can read about ways to reduce your food shopping bills here and ways to reduce holiday spending here.

You really can still enjoy life on a small budget, you just need to look at things from a different perspective.  You don’t have to be the same as everyone else and keep up with the ‘Jones’, in fact it can be more fun to actually do things differently.

Finally, if you are struggling with debt in the UK, please do not contact a debt specialist that charges to help you to solve your debt problems.  There is a wonderful free website with all the information you need to know when you are in debt.  It gives details of people that will give you advice, free of charge.  It is called ‘The Money Saving Expert’ and you can find it here.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Spiced Green Scallopini (Patty Pan) Chutney and Bulb Planting

Today at my allotment I noticed that the grass seed that I planted last week has started to germinate.  After all the years I have been gardening, I still get excited when something I have planted grows.

I spent most of the morning planting Daffodil bulbs around the edge of my new woodland area, under my rather large plum tree.  The daffodil is my very favourite flower, as it is so simple and yet beautiful.

Afterwards I planted 75 English Bluebells underneath the tree too.

The idea is that it will look lovely in the spring time.  I hope it does.

I had a few spare daffodils, so I planted those in the grass area at the front of my fourth plot.

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After I had finished planting the bulbs I turned my attention to my polytunnel.

I cleared the remaining spinach and beetroot and unfortunately I have to admit defeat with my chickpeas and so I cleared them too.

Maybe our summer was just too cold for chickpeas?  Maybe I’ll try again next year?

This area will be used for my winter salad crops that are sitting in my greenhouse at the moment.

I’m having problems trying to get my winter lettuce to germinate at the moment, but I haven’t given up on it yet.

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I had quite a harvest today.  I picked plums, apples, blackberries, green patty pans, beetroot and a few raspberries too.

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When I got home I made some Spiced Green Scallopini (patty pan) Chutney.  I love courgette chutney and this is very similar.  In fact you can use courgettes in the recipe, if you don’t grow patty pans.

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My rather large green scallopini’s (patty pans)

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Spiced Green Scallopini (patty pan) Chutney

2 onions chopped

500g tomatoes chopped

500g scallopini’s (green patty pans or you can use courgettes), diced

300ml white wine vinegar

2 cooking apples peeled and diced

250g brown sugar

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 tablespoon of mustard seeds

Thumb sized piece of root ginger grated

4 garlic cloves crushed

 

Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring continuously.

Simmer for 2 hours uncovered, until it is dark and looks like chutney.

Pour into hot sterilised jars.

Leave for 3 weeks before eating.

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Thank you for reading my blog today

 

Little Savings That All Add Up, Roast Beef and Lunch Box Scones

Little savings that all add up:

Today I realised I do little things automatically, without even thinking of what I’m doing.  So I will try really hard to make a note of these things so I can share them with you:

When I washed up today, I automatically turned my washing up bottle upside down, as it was nearly empty.  This lets the last drips all go to the bottom, so I get at least two more washes out of it before I throw it away.

When I get a hole in one of my washing up gloves I throw it away and I am left with one glove.  I don’t throw the good glove away, I just keep it until the same thing happens to another pair.  If I end up with two of the same hand e.g two left hands, I just turn one of the gloves inside out and I have a brand new pair to wash up with.

Simple little savings that all add up

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Yesterday we had a lovely meal in the evening.

On Sunday I managed to pick up a piece of Tesco’s ‘Finest Beef’ for just £3.54.  It had been reduced from £14.14, so this was quite a bargain.

We didn’t have a Sunday Roast this week, so I decided to cook a roast meal yesterday instead.

I cooked the beef and served it on a plate with roast potatoes, roasted parsnips, roasted celeriac, roasted patty pans and onions.

We also had peas, french beans and cauliflower topped with a cheese sauce

It felt like christmas, on an ordinary Monday night.  The meat was such a treat and the meal was so nice.

What was even better, was I only paid for the beef, as all of the vegetables were homegrown and there was enough meat left for another meal this week.

I was very pleased.

Today I chopped up and froze my courgettes.  I don’t blanch them and they store really well.  I sliced some and I diced the bigger courgettes.

I open freeze them on trays and I will transfer them into bags tomorrow so they don’t stick together.

The courgettes are good to use straight from frozen in spag bogs, curries, omelettes and pasta sauces etc.

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My daughter takes a fruit scone to school for a snack each day.  On Saturday I made a big batch of them and when they had cooled down, I buttered and froze them.  This way, it is easy to take one out in the morning and pop it into her lunch box and it is defrosted by breaktime.

Here is the recipe:

Lunch Box Fruit Scones

450g self-raising flour

80g margarine

2 teaspoons of baking powder

3 tablespoons of caster sugar

100 grams sultanas

300ml of milk

A little extra flour for rolling

Preheat your oven Gas 7 / 425f / 220C

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Sift the flour and baking powder in to a bowl and then rub in the margarine rapidly, using your fingertips, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and sultanas.

 Mix in the milk a little bit at a time, with a round bladed knife.  When the mixture starts to come together, use your hands to knead the dough.  Add a little bit more milk if the mixture feels dry.

Roll the dough on a floured board until it is approximately 2 -3 cm thick.

Use a pastry cutter to make the scone shape, but do not twist the pastry cutter as this will lead to mis-shapen  scones.

Place the scones on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the scone.

They are lovely served warm with butter and homemade jam too.

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Thank you for reading my blog today

Green Tomato Chutney and Rainy Day Jobs

At the allotment at the weekend, I moved a pumpkin that was growing in my new woodland area.  The pumpkin wasn’t massive, but it was in the way, as I now need to plant some daffodil bulbs and some English Blue Bells in this area.

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The allotment is looking beautiful at the moment as my Michaelmas daisys are putting on a wonderful display.

(unfortunately the quality of this photo is not too good as it was taken on my mobile phone when it was raining)

The Michaelmas daisys serve four purposes on my plot:

  The first purpose is to divide my four rotational beds, which are potatoes, brassicas, onions and roots and finally legumes.

The second purpose is they always remind me of my grandad, whose birthday was on September 29th, which is ‘Michaelmas daisy day’.  I never met my grandad as he died before I was born, but my mum said he was a lovely man and has told me so much about him.

The third purpose is the bees.  I try so hard to make sure there are flowers for the bees in every season of the year.

And finally, the fourth purpose is….they just look stunning when they are all out in bloom.

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It was my father-in-laws 85th birthday at the weekend and my sister-in-law had arranged a tea party for him and we were asked to bring a cake and some scones,

(but not a sponge cake as his birthday cake was a sponge cake).

After much thought, I decided to make a Pumpkin and Orange Cake,  as I had just picked a pumpkin from my allotment.  This is different to a normal sponge cake as it tastes similar to a carrot cake.

You can find the recipe for the Pumpkin and Orange Cake here on my blog.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

I also made some Cheesy Courgette Scones, of which you can find the recipe here.

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It has been a very wet and rainy day today, so I decided not to go to my allotment and use it as a ‘catch up’ day.

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On the 6th August I hung my basil in my kitchen to dry.  You can read about drying basil here.

It’s not really been very warm lately and I have found my basil was just not drying quite as quickly as it should be.

As it was nearly dry, I finished it off in my oven by putting the basil on two baking trays.

This only took 1 hour on my lowest oven setting, with the oven door slightly open to lower the temperature even more.

When it was completely dry, I crushed the leaves and removed the stalks.

Just to make sure I had removed all the little stalks, I ran it through a seive.

Then I put it in a sterilised jar and labelled it.

That was another job out of the way, but one job I really needed to do was to sort my three freezers out.

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This is a job I do every payday, before I do a menu plan for the month.

I started by emptying each freezer in turn and then writing down the contents, as I put the items back in.

The above two photos show the contents of one of my three freezers.

It takes quite some time to do this, but it helps me to save money when I meal plan and nothing ever gets wasted.

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I was asked at the weekend if I have a good recipe for Green Tomato Chutney.  I never make this chutney as I always seem to manage to ripen my tomatoes on my windowsill.  You can see how I ripen them here on my blog.

However, my dad has been making it for years and it always tastes delicious.

He can’t really take the credit for the recipe though, as it’s from a little booklet by “Sarson’s”, called “Pickle More Than Ever Before”

This recipe makes approximately 1.5kg of chutney

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Green Tomato Chutney

450g green tomatoes, finely chopped

350g cooking apples, peeled and chopped

225g onions, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 ½ teaspoons of salt

450ml pickling malt vinegar

100g sultanas

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger or ground ginger

275g Demerara sugar

Place all the ingredients except the sugar into a large saucepan

Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until soft.

Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then simmer uncovered until the chutney is thick, stirring occasionally.

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

Label and store for a week before use.

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My lavender hedge at the allotment in July.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Saturday is ‘Bump The Blog’ Day

Today is ‘Bump the Blog’ day.

I pick a different blog each week, that I particularly enjoy reading.  I will then post a link for you to check it out, to see if it interests you too.

There are so many wonderful blogs out there, talking about subjects of all kinds.  Each person spends time and energy updating their blogs and it is lovely getting views and comments in return.

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Todays blog  is simply called ‘Mrs Yub’.

She comments regularly on my blog and is always happy to share information and tells me how things are done on the other side of the world.  This is what she said recently after I talked about child poverty here:

” I am a firm believer in living a simple life. This includes making all our meals, snacks, sweets and a lot of our cleaning products at home. We go to great lengths to keep our costs down, turning electical items off at the point at night, turning them off when we leave the room, water conservation (I have an awesome system of saving water in place that saves me nearly a hundred litres a day!) walking where we can, heat and cool conservation, gardening, the list goes on! But I get such a satisfied feeling over knowing that what we are doing is easy, fun, and is allowing us to send the children to swim and taekwondo lessons, that we otherwise could not afford! “

It’s lovely reading about her family life in her blog.

You can read her blog here.

Thank you for reading my blog this week.
I will be back again on Monday, at approximately 7.30pm.
I hope to see you then.