Tag Archive | Homemade Gifts

A Week Of Organising…..

This week has been a busy week in the ‘Thrift’ household for me.  It has been a week of catching up with some of the jobs that I just haven’t had time to do over the last few months.

The first Snowdrop at my allotment

The first Snowdrop at my allotment

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As I said previously, the last few months have been quite stressful for myself and Mr Thrift and unfortunately my usual routines have gone out of the window and leading up to Christmas, I felt exhausted.  This has certainly had a knock-on effect, as I have noticed we have spent more and more money at the supermarket on products that I would usually make myself.

I bought washing powder for the first time in ages (and my goodness isn’t it expensive) and more dishwasher tablets than I would usually buy.   I have also been buying vegetables that I would normally just go and dig up from my allotment over winter (cabbages, carrots, leeks, kale, brussells etc) and I have been buying bread and pizza’s to save time…..but this has all had an effect on the bank account and I’ve got to say we also started to get out of the routine of sitting down as a family for our meals.

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“So onwards and upwards”…. it’s time for a change!

So I decided it was time for me to establish a new routine (as best I can at the moment) and start to go back to basics again.

I started this week by making my own laundry liquid.  It took just 15 – 20 minutes to make and it will last me approximately 70 washes and last time I worked it out, it cost me just £1.75 to make (far cheaper than buying it).  The recipe is here if you are interested in how I make it.

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I then set about making some dishwasher liquid using the soap nuts I have in my cupboard.  Again it is cheap and quick to make and it washes well.  However, I do use a supermarket dishwasher tablet every third wash as I find this stops the grease from building up inside my dishwasher.

Again the recipe is here if you are interested in making it.

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I then gave my food cupboards and pantry a really good clean and tidy and discovered that I have more things in them than I remembered:

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I even found some Christmas cake that needs eating up , that I had completely forgotten about:

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I also took stock of what I have left in my freezers too (this took quite some time as I have three large freezers).  I found I still have a lot of fruit and vegetables still to be used up, which is good news.

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One of my three freezers

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I then looked at my stored crops and I found I still have a big pumpkin and lots of butternut squashes to use.  As it’s January and they have been stored a while, I will need to think about using them up soon:

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Outside in my vegetable storage boxes I also still have potatoes waiting to be used and a few apples are left too:

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So I have discovered that we still have lots left to eat in my cupboards and storage.

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I then decided it was time to keep organised and on top of things:

Firstly at the end of last week I started to hang my washing out in the morning on a regular basis again.  It seldom completely dries outside in winter (unless it is windy), but it does partly dry which means I can usually just air it inside to finish it off.  This saves money as I don’t need to use the tumble dryer so much.

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An Organised Shopping List:

A long time ago I typed up a big list of products I regularly brought from the supermarket, so I could compare prices (this was before Mysupermarket.co.uk existed, which now does the hard work for you).  I decided to update this list and print out a few copies to hang on my pantry door.  This way I can quickly mark down which products I need to buy when I next go to the shops.

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Batch Baking:

I then set about batch baking some chocolate brownies ready to freeze for my daughters lunchbox (it’s easy to just pop a frozen brownie in her lunchbox each morning and it will be defrosted by lunchtime):

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 I also made some rolls for the first time in ages and they tasted so delicious, they were eaten up really quickly.

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Meals From Scratch:

This week I have finally started to cook my meals from scratch again.  We have also started to have some nice puddings too (even though they were very quick to make, especially the microwave chocolate sponge) :

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So all in all it has been a good, positive week for me at home.

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Other bits and pieces:

After my blog post last week (Problems With Our Rescue Dog Judy), I had some lovely comments – thank you all for your kind words and encouragement.

Mrs Yub said something that stuck in my head:

“Your wee doggie has a different look in her eyes in the last picture from what she had in her first! I can see the difference. It’s a calmer, more confident look”

So I dug out a photograph which I took of Judy when she first arrived home with us in October from the RSPCA and compared it with a photograph I took this week.  I can really see how much she has changed and how she looks so much better now, so thank you for pointing this out to me as I just hadn’t noticed this.

  In the first photo she looks very thin……

Her first week with us in October

Her first week with us in October

….but I am glad to say that Mrs Yub you are right…I think she does look a lot happier and healthier in the photograph that I took this week:

This week

This week

Her training is still going well and I am starting to have some nice, longer walks with her now she isn’t reacting quite so badly at other dogs.  However, the walk to and from the park is still hard with her as she is still so scared of the buses, motorbikes and lorries on the main road outside the park……but we are working on this slowly with lots of treats.

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Finally I want to show you something my daughter made.  It was her friend’s birthday and she wanted to give her something special, so she made her some cup cakes and iced them beautifully.  She didn’t have a box to put them in so she used wrapping paper to decorate an empty sweet tub too:

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I think it looked great and I would love to receive this birthday present.  I was very proud of her!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

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Strawberries And Cake

I thought I would start with a look in my greenhouse at home:

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The tomatoes and cucumbers are doing well and I have my first fruits forming.  I will now start to feed my plants with a high potash comfrey feed.  You can see from the photo above that I use old Blood, fish and bone tubs as pots for my plants.  I just drill a few holes in the bottom and use the lids as saucers to catch the excess water.

I am also still removing the side shoots from my tomato plants as they form.

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The hanging baskets that I planted up myself at home are starting to flower well too and I will also be starting to feed these this week, with the same high potash feed that I use for my tomatoes and cucumbers.  Soon the flowers will cover the sides of the baskets and you won’t be able to tell that I used a ‘compost bag’ to line the basket.

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As the weather has been lovely here this week I have managed to finish planting the majority of my vegetables at the allotment.

I planted some beetroot that I started off in newspaper pots:

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  I remember reading that beetroot doesn’t transplant very well, but it is fine when I grow it in newspaper pots as there is no root disturbance when I transplant them, as I plant the whole pot into the ground and it just decomposes.

Just in case anyone is unsure if this will work, below is a photo of some beetroot that is growing at my plot that I planted last month in a newspaper pot and as you can see it is growing well.

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In front of my beetroot I have planted my parsley plants.  I keep hearing that parsley is hard to grow, but again I never have a problem.  I sow a pinch of seed in newspaper pots filled with compost and they germinate well.  I just remove any extra seeds that germinate and then I transplant them again when they are big enough (I plant the newspaper pot into the ground as well).

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This week I also planted my swedes, kohl rab’s and turnips.  Again I’ve read swedes don’t like to be transplanted, so get around this by using newspaper pots and I have great success this way.

The birds love to eat these so I have built my usual cane and bottle cage around them:

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I also planted my perpetual spinach plants.  I think perpetual spinach is such an under-rated plant.  It doesn’t ‘bolt’ like ordinary spinach does in the summer and it lasts for months and is hardy so it can be eaten in winter when there isn’t much else around….but most importantly it tastes nice like spinach and can be used in exactly the same way.  I love adding small, new leaves to salad and the larger leaves are great to cook with.

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Also at my allotment, the pansies and violas are looking stunning now at the front of my plot.  These were all reduced a few weeks ago from Tesco and I paid just £3 for all of them.  I don’t usually like these plants and I only bought them to fill a patch before my own bedding plants were ready, but I think I have finally been converted as they look stunning:

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This week, I picked my first broad beans.  I love to open the first pod and eat the beans raw.

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I gave the above beans to my ‘in-law’, as they absolutely love broad beans too and I must say there are loads more nearly ready to harvest.

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And we are having salads nearly every day now, as I have so many ‘webbs wonderful’ lettuces in my polytunnel and I have mixed salad leaves in my greenhouse at home, which is great.  I am also picking radishes and spring onions from my polytunnel.  I particularly like to add coriander to a bowl of salad, which I have also been growing in my greenhouse too.

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My strawberry harvest is going well too this week.  On Wednesday I managed to pick a whole carrier bag of strawberries (and I probably ate another bag while I was picking them lol).  There really is nothing like freshly picked juicy strawberries, that are warm from the sun.

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While I was wondering what to do with all the strawberries, I decided to try some of them with the homemade vanilla ice cream I made this week and it was delicious!…

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….And a few hours later my eldest daughter made this cake (which was even more delicious)….

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I felt like a queen, having a cake made for me.  Though I am going to have to stop eating all these lovely things if I don’t want to end up enormous!

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Finally this week I made some ‘Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles’ and some ‘White Chocolate, Apricot and Brandy Trufffles’ for fathers day.  The recipes can be found here.

I think they make super presents and I would love to receive them.

“I always say a homemade present comes from the heart and not just the bank account and thats what makes it special” 

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So over all, it has been a productive week from the ‘Notjustgreenfingers’ household….and it’s been one of those weeks that I am glad to live the way we do.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Have a good week!

Save And Plan For Christmas 2014

I thought I would start by saying a big ‘Happy New Year’ to you all!

I had a lovely Christmas and I hope you did too.

I don’t make New Year resolutions as I never keep to them.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been determined to lose weight over the years and I’m still the same size and this just leads to disappointment!  I now prefer to make a list of new things I fancy trying out, knowing that if it’s a bit of fun then I will be more likely to have a go and succeed.

The Christmas cake my daughters decorated

The Christmas cake my daughters decorated

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Save and plan for Christmas 2014:

So many people find that January is the time of year when Christmas bills hit hard, as credit card statements drop through letter boxes and the real cost of Christmas hits home…but it really doesn’t have to be like this.

Christmas happens at the same time every year, on the 25th December….and yet some people seem generally surprised that they have ended up with high credit card bills, which they can’t pay in full in January.  Yet with a bit of organisation, this can be avoided, together with the high interest charges that come hand in hand with unpaid credit card bills.

January is a good month to look at finances and start afresh, so today I’ve decided to talk about how the ‘Thrift’ household starts to budget for Christmas in January.

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This is how we save for Christmas in the ‘Thrift’ household:

We have a list of everyone we will buy a present for next Christmas.  We then work out how much we want to spend on each person and add this up.  If this exceeds our total budget for Christmas spending,  then we cut back on whom we buy presents for or how much we spend on each person.

When we are satisfied that our Christmas list doesn’t exceed our total Christmas present budget, we literally divide our total budget by twelve months and we save this amount in a savings account each month.  The money goes into a savings account straight after my husband’s payday, this way the money doesn’t get spent on other things first.

If I see something over the year that is either in a sale or just something special for a particular person, then we now have the money to buy it and when January comes we don’t have any unexpected bills that we can’t pay….it’s as easy as that.

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Birthdays:

We also save for birthdays in the same way, except we now save twelve months in advance for them.  This then gives us the money in January for the ‘whole years’ worth of birthdays for the family, which enables me to buy lots of things in the January sales.  This is a great way to save money on presents or if you prefer, it means you can get a better present for the money you have budgeted for a particular person.

Incidentally, my birthday and Christmas list stays in my handbag, so it is at hand if I see a bargain.  This way it really is easy to see who I need to buy presents for and how much I have budgeted for each person.  This stops me from buying duplicate presents and overspending.

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My Top Tips for Budgeting for Christmas 2014:

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Consider making homemade gifts.  I make gifts to put into family hampers e.g. jams, pickles, knitted dishcloths, mini Christmas cakes, etc. etc.  These take time to make but are really lovely gifts to give and show a lot of thought.  I always think homemade presents come from the heart rather than the bank account and I love to receive them.  However these take time to plan, so now is the time to decide what you would like to grow or make.  Don’t leave it all until December either, you have twelve months to prepare.

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I have a separate monthly budget for food and I save a small amount of it every month to use in December.  This way I can buy some Christmas ‘goodies’ to enjoy e.g. a turkey, nice cheeses etc. without worrying about the cost.  I also use this money to buy the ingredients for my Christmas cakes, Christmas puddings etc. when they are on offer (for the last few years, Tesco has had a ‘3 for the price of 2’ offer on baking goods sometime around the end of October / early November, so this is when I stock up).

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Don’t forget, if you buy your Christmas puddings and mincemeat (rather than making them yourself), buy them now if they are reduced at your local supermarket, as the best before dates are usually well over a year away.

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And finally, I buy Christmas cards and wrapping paper in the sales now…Our local Tesco has some great bargains at the moment.  I purchased five packs of silver tissue paper from there on Saturday for just 25p each (it was well over £1 each before Christmas).  This will be enough for me to make lots of homemade crackers over the next few years.

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I wonder if anyone else reading this has any other good ideas to budget for next Christmas?  If so please leave a comment as I would love to hear from you.
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Thank you for reading my blog today.
I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

Homemade Gifts And Easy Homemade Truffles

I love homemade gifts as they are all unique and they take time and energy to make them.  It shows the person who receives the gift, how important they are to you.

I think a homemade gift, is a gift that is given from the heart and not just from your bank account.

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Yesterday, I made homemade truffles for my friend’s birthday.  I bought a lovely little gift box and lined it with tissue paper and tied a nice ribbon around it.  I was very pleased with how it looked and I would have loved to receive it.

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Tomorrow I am on Radio Leicester, on the Tony Wadsworth show at 10am.  I love going into the studio with Tony, as he is so welcoming and always makes me laugh.

One of the things I wanted to talk about is homemade Christmas presents.  So I also bought another gift box and filled this with truffles for the Radio Leicester crew to share.

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In the box, I placed a little label which describes each truffle:

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There are two different truffles in the box:

White Chocolate, Apricot And Brandy Truffles and Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles.

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I am really pleased with these and I think they demonstrate that homemade presents can look really good too.

Below is the recipes for each truffle.

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White Chocolate, Apricot And Brandy Truffles

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¾ cup madeira sponge cake crumbs

¼ cup icing sugar

¼ cup ground almonds

½ cup finely chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons double cream

50g white cooking chocolate

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

½ cup desiccated coconut for coating

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Mix together the cake crumbs, ground almonds, icing sugar and apricots in a bowl.

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Quarter fill a pan with water and heat until boiling.  Turn the heat down so the water just simmers and put a heat proof bowl over the pan.  Melt the white chocolate in the heatproof bowl and then stir in the cream.

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Add the chocolate and cream mix to the cake crumb mix, together with the brandy. Mix it  until combined.

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Roll the mixture into balls and then roll the balls gently over the desiccated coconut, to coat them. Place on a paper-lined tray or mini cake cases and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

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These truffles will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles

¾ cup madeira sponge cake crumbs

¼ cup icing sugar

¼ cup ground almonds

1 tablespoon rum (or 2-3 drops rum essence)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

50g dark cooking chocolate

2 tablespoon of pouring cream

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The Icing:

1/3 cup sifted icing sugar

2 tablespoons butter

30g cooking chocolate

2 teaspoons rum (or 1-2 drops rum essence)

¾ cup chocolate sprinkles

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Mix the cake crumbs, ground almonds, rum and lemon juice in a bowl.

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Melt the chocolate in the heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Pour the melted chocolate into the cake mixture and add the cream.  Mix until the ingredients are all combined and then roll the mixture into small balls.

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Put the balls onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow them to harden in the fridge for approximately 4 hours or overnight.

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Next make the Icing:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir in sifted icing sugar and rum and stir until it is all combined and smooth.  It should be the  consistency of runny cream.  If it’s too thick add a little bit of warm water from your kettle.

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Insert a cocktail stick into the truffle and coat it in the chocolate

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Straight after, dip it into a bowl with the chocolate sprinkles in.

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Put the truffles on greaseproof paper and put them in the fridge for another two hours to chill.

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These truffles will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.