Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Well, the ham is soaked, boiled, roasted (see photo) and - yes we've tasted a piece - that was a couple of hours ago and we're still here to tell the tale! Tastes lovely, but lacks the deep pinky red colour of bought ham or bacon. I'm not too bothered about that - the main thing is we aren't going to be eating all those ghastly chemicals they list on the labels of bacon joints!

We have frozen half the pork joint after the soaking stage (we bought slightly too big a piece) and so we will have some more in the new year. If you want the recipe, it's HERE.
Happy Frugal Christmas!

More Frugal Recipes!

Friday, 19 December 2008


Well, we're nearly there - 5 more days for you to NOT spend your hard-earned cash! So hold your nerve (and your wallet) and think clearly. Don't run out to the shops every 5 minutes like a mad thing and spend another £50 or more!
Make a coffee, sit down, take a pen and pad and think calmly about Christmas. What do you need Christmas Eve? Once you've bought/made your presents and wrapped them, and if no-one is visiting, you just need a quick supper, a satsuma or 3, some chocolate and a stiff drink! (With a bit of good telly thrown in!). Of course, you could go down the pub and get legless - but that's not very frugal is it?
The shops are really only shut on Christmas day, so mentally check through your menu from Christmas breakfast to bedtime and list what you and your guests will eat and drink. Don't go mad with tea-time food - most people will still be too stuffed from lunch, to eat much in the evening. We are planning a games evening with some guests, with only a few crisps and nibbles and a few cubes of assorted cheeses and savouries. I think I've got enough of those, plus some drinks, nuts and fruit for Boxing Day and leftover Christmas lunch to munch on - and the odd mince pie.
Do not buy every expensive "Christmassy" offering in the supermarket, just in case one of your guests may ask for it! If Great Aunt Polly wants walnuts pickled in Madeira wine or whatever, well, that's tough - I'm sure you'll have plenty of other goodies to offer.
Look on the bright side - by the time you venture out to the shops on the day after Boxing Day, everything you need will probably be reduced anyway!
Happy Frugal Christmas!

Sunday, 14 December 2008


Well, I'm in the process of trying this out! It's a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which uses only salt water (brine) and some spices. Okay, you may say it's not frugal - but when I checked out the huge vacuum packed, chemical laden lumps of gammon in my local supermarket, a piece slightly smaller than mine (with bone in) was over £20.
I ordered a half a leg of pork from my butcher, tunnel boned (that means taken out from a hole downwards in order to leave the shape of the leg) and I told him I was going to salt it myself. He looked a little surprised - perhaps it really is very difficult and I just don't know it - yet! Our pork weighs about 4 kilos (and cost £20 but is enough for 2 Christmas dinners!) and so we have to salt it for around 16 days and we have it steeping in its pink (garden) tub in the corner of our cold kitchen! We checked it out today and it doesn't smell rancid yet!
We did hit a problem with the amount of brine and our bucket- the recipe says 2 litres and of course the pork must be covered when it is in the bucket - ours wasn't, so we eventually needed to do 5 litres!
Our ham is due out the day before Christmas eve, so I'll let you know how it turns out - find out more at Happy Frugal Christmas!

Thursday, 4 December 2008


However far you've got with your Christmas shopping, don't be tempted to overspend. Whatever the government says - we, as individuals, cannot spend our way out of recession and if you're anything like me, 2.50% off VAT will not do much to encourage you to buy something you can't afford anyway! Make sure that, whatever the new year has to bring, you do not have a staggering credit card bill to deal with. These are uncertain times and the three Rs (recession, redundancy, repossession) are already being banded about on TV, in the papers and on the radio. We will hear soon whether we are officially in recession - of course we already know the answer to that! But make sure, whatever you do, that you have as little ongoing debt as possible. Dropping interest rates will mean that any savings we have in banks and building societies will earn very little, so decide how much of your "nest egg" you can afford to use (keeping some rainy day money aside if you can!) to beat down your debts - then do it. Buy only what you need, save up for it - an old-fashioned idea, but, nevertheless, a good one and use credit only in an extreme emergency. Spending other people's money always costs us dearly.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Christmas is a very expensive time of year, even if you're a happily frugal person! So, have you checked the statements from your electricity, gas and water companies lately? If not, perhaps now would be a good time to take a look at them.
If you are like me (and thousands of other consumers) you may see a small note somewhere in the statement that says they have put up your monthly direct debit payment. British Gas has put mine up from £37 per month to £59! - and this has been done even though we are in credit - and have been since this time last year. These rises are being forced upon us despite the fact that wholesale prices are falling; the utility companies are not passing on their savings to the consumer.
An MP (Peter Luff, Mid Worcestershire) has noticed that the utility companies appear to be using these overpayments by the public, to aid their cashflow - a sort of interest free loan on a gigantic scale! He has suggested OFGEM investigate. OFGEM says it has had no complaints about misude of the direct debit system! But as of 1st October 2008, they are no longer the authority to complain to - the government is in the midst of organising another consumer watchdog type of organisation!
Many consumers are considering going back to quarterly payments as the small incentive to persuade us to use the direct debit system is being cancelled out by the amount of interest lost by the consumer on money they could be earning interest on in their bank accounts!
You have to ask yourself - just how many frail, sick or elderly people are not able to check their statements and are unaware that their direct debit payments are going up when they are in credit with their suppliers! The utility companies are dipping deeper and deeper into our bank accounts and many of our most vulnerable members of society are on fixed incomes. This is a recipe for disaster. Isn't it time we all took a stand?

  • Check your bill, if you are in credit contact your supplier and ask for a refund - it may just help with those Christmas bills!
  • If you are not very much in credit, check how much energy you've used in the past year, average out that cost over 12 months and make sure you are not paying too high a monthly amount.If you consider that the latest hikes in the DD payment are too high -contact your supplier and ask for the payment to be reduced- or at least kept the same.
  • Help any elderly friends, relatives and neighbours to do the same.
  • If you have no success with your utility companies- contact the Energy Ombudsman and complain!
MP Criticises Energy Firm Charges - read more HERE
1000 Mail on Sunday readers tell power bosses: stop charging us for gas and electricity we haven't used - Read more HERE

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Christmas is an artificial, commercial construction.
Yes, I know that sounds a bit "Bah! Humbug!", but I want you to stop for a moment, still your mind, quieten your surroundings and think carefully about what Christmas really is. Strip the whole concept back to bare facts and even if you're not particularly religious, our present day excesses at Christmas are unexplainable.
  • The 25th December (probably not the actual date, but never mind) is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
  • We buy gifts for each other (just don't ask why - I can't say) to represent the gifts he was brought at his birth.
That, to me, is the essence of Christmas.
Now let's think about the Christmas of present times;

  • works and office parties from November onwards (needing posh frocks, hairdressing visits etc., etc., much imbibing and buying of alcohol, lewd use of the office photocopier, dodgy activities in the stationery cupboard, home truths told to the boss in drunken, rash moments, dreadful hangovers the next day).
  • Christmas trees (a Victorian idea begun when Prince Albert was given a tree by the people of Norway - no link to the birth of Jesus), crackers (another Victorian invention), Christmas cards (ditto) and carols(ditto)).
  • Shops full of all sorts of goods, cheap and tacky or large and expensive for us to buy for our friends and relatives (often with money we don't have).
  • Boxing Day (traditionally a public holiday dating from Medieval times when a clay box was opened and money distributed to lower classes) appears to have nothing to do with Christmas.
  • Mince pies - well, they do have a tenuous link to Jesus ( the Crusaders brought back spices from the Holy Land and deemed it appropriate to eat a pie containing these spices, as they came from the place of Jesus's birth).
  • Nativity plays at school and Nativity scenes (although rare) are a reminder of what Christmas is all about.
  • Endless advertising on TV, in magazines, on the internet, bus shelters, billboards, buses - everywhere, to instruct us to buy, buy, buy and persuade us that a "stocking filler" really should be a diamond watch or a pair of Jimmy Choos.
  • Huge tins of cheap chocolates - NO!
  • Turkey dinners - dates from Tudor times as Henry VIII was the first person to eat turkey on Christmas day!
  • Bottles and bottles of booze, satsumas, nuts, pickled onions etc., etc. - sorry, can't find any connection to Jesus.
  • Christmas Stockings and Santa Clause have more to do with Jesus than you may have thought - they originate with Saint Nicholas in the third century selling his possessions and helping the poor (as directed by Jesus) and with gifts of gold coins thrown through windows that landed in stockings and shoes!
  • Christmas pudding - hmmm, I don't think so.
  • A White Christmas (Day) - two in 1938 and 1976. There are no meteorological records back as far as Jesus's birth - but I don't suppose, given the weather in the land of his birth, it was snowing at the time.
So, having run out of things to list, I'll tell you what I think really makes Christmas - and it's only one thing - being with people we love.
I'm not suggesting we don't give gifts, or have a drink or two, or eat a little more than usual - just that we curb our spending and think more about what we give. Spend time with your family and friends if you can or get together with neighbours or friends who may be alone at Christmas, if you can't.
Your children will remember the time you gave them, the hilarious games of snakes and ladders or monopoly, helping you make paper snowflakes and sticky paper chains, decorating the tree or leaving a glass of milk, carrot and mince pie for Santa Claus and Rudolph, not the perfect table setting and the 3 course lunch you cooked for 15 or the new carpet you felt you had to have before Christmas!

Happy Frugal Christmas!

Thursday, 13 November 2008


We still have time to make some gifts for Christmas. Small knitted or crocheted items take only small amounts of yarn and are reasonably quick to complete.
Take a look HERE at over 30 quick ideas for gifts to make for your family and friends this Christmas. There are free knitting and crochet patterns and other ideas for frugal gifts.


Here's something to warm you through on a damp, windy evening!
This soup is easily made a bit more frugal by missing out the bacon. You can sometimes buy packs of bacon offcuts from butchers and supermarkets, but as these tend to be huge, it may be easier to leave it out altogether.
Serves 4-6
1 dsp oil
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped (use smoked bacon if you like it)
1 chopped onion
2 diced carrots
200g (7oz) red lentils
400g can tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley (optional)
  • Gently fry onion, bacon and carrots in the oil for about 10 minutes or until bacon is golden and vegetables are starting to soften.
  • Add the lentils and stir. Roughly chop the tin of tomatoes and add. Crumble in the stock cube, add 1.50 litres (2.5 pints) of boiling water and stir well.
  • Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  • Add parsley if used and a couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper then liquidise, adding a little more water if necessary.
  • Freeze in containers and label. Keeps in freezer for up to 3 months.
More Frugal Recipes!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


It's time to hit those charity shops everyone! I've been out this morning to all my local charity shops and most of them have displays of Christmas goods. Get them soon before they're gone! Today I have seen:
  • a cream fleece cushion cover decorated with plush snowmen, gold sequins and beads in vgc- 99p (I had difficulty resisting that, but I did!)
  • a brand new Marks and Spencer's fleece hat, gloves and scarf set, still with all its shop labels and hanger - £2 (I stood for ages trying to think who I could buy this for - damn! There just wasn't anyone!)
  • a china snowman candleholder complete with silver sparkle and glass holder - £1 (I resisted, only because I have loads of candleholders already).
  • a brand new pair of Debenhams fleece thermal ladies' gloves, still with shop tags - £2
  • a set of Christmas fridge magnets - £1 (and no, I wasn't at all tempted!)
and there was much, much more in the way of Christmas decorations, candles and ornaments. I suppose it's all on show as we've now hit November, but I'm betting most of these items won't be on the shelves long. Make your lists now and get charity shop-ping!

Monday, 13 October 2008


No food is “cheap” but if you buy in season your fresh fruit and veg should be at least a bit cheaper! For example – don’t buy fresh strawberries at Christmas time – they won't have much taste and will have been flown half way round the world at great cost, both to the planet and you! Choose seasonal, local produce, from farmer’s markets if possible.

What’s in season NOW?

Apples, autumn lamb, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, chestnuts, courgettes, elderberries, fennel, kale, mackerel, marrow, main crop potatoes, mushrooms, oysters, pears, pumpkin, rabbit, radishes, squash, sweetcorn, turnips, watercress.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


This is a really quick, cheap, nutritious, low(ish)-fat meal which will give you a helping of your omega 3 fats. It basically consists of a dish of salad with one tin of mackerel fillets in brine per person.
All you need is enough salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, beetroot, radish - whatever you have in the way of salad - for each person. I use pasta plates (deepish with a small rim) and fill with the salad, drain the tins of mackerel and turn each one out on top of the salad. Serve with triangles of wholemeal bread (and butter if you're me!) laid around the rim of the dish. Done!
More Frugal Recipes!

Saturday, 27 September 2008


I overheard two women talking yesterday in my local shop and, although I caught only a few words, what I did hear absolutely astounded me! They appeared to be talking about washing and one of them said to the other "Oh no, I've put my line away now - I'm tumble drying everything now".

Probably the most electricity-hungry piece of equipment we can have in our homes is the tumble drier. Quite apart from the very "
un-green" aspect of that silly woman's statement - she obviously has no idea what her electricity bill costs every month (or is too rich to care).

I have a tumble drier, but I do everything possible
not to use it. Today is a beautiful September day- it is very warm, very sunny and only just a tiny bit breezy - and my washing is drying on the line. I will bring it in before the sun goes down and hang it carefully on the airer (I don't iron unless it is an absolute emergency!) so no electricity spent on drying that load of laundry! It smells better and costs less!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


91 days to go and money is tight - start planning now - it's not too late. Send e- cards, donate your money to charity instead, design your own.
More ideas at Happy Frugal Christmas

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


  1. Beware the BOGOF (buy one, get one free). Buy them only if you would normally use the item and, a) you can eat it soon, b) it’s freezable or c) it will store for a long time. Otherwise, you may just be buying stuff you will eventually throw away – not very frugal!
  2. Leave the kids at home. Pester power can cost you a whole lot more on your weekly shop and those mini supermarket trolleys for your kids to push around may get you some peace for a few moments, but it will come at a cost!
  3. Pay attention – the supermarket easy listening music is played to slow you down – a slower shopper looks longer and then buys more. Stick to your list and concentrate.
  4. Organise your cupboards, fridge and freezer and check them, list in hand, before you go shopping.
  5. Talking of lists – plan your weekly menus and stick to your list.
  6. Keep a record of what you are spending every week. If you are popping out in your lunch-break to pick up a few things, add it all up. The end of the week total may give you a shock. You can freeze enough milk and bread for the week (remember to defrost the night before you need it).The more times you visit a supermarket, the more you spend.
  7. Don’t always buy the biggest size if a smaller size is on offer (e.g. if it’s buy 2 for £2 instead of £1.50 each or BOGOF), check the price against how many grams you are getting and work out which size is cheaper- this is a good workout for your brain too (but take a calculator if you need it!).
  8. Check where all the reduced food is – and it’s not always in one place – it’s often left on its original shelf for a while until staff get around to moving it. Scan the store for the reduced labels – but again buy only if you will use the item. Buy reduced fruit and vegetables only if you know you can cook/eat/freeze them that night.
  9. Use coupons that you can cut out of newspapers and magazines. You can get info on where they will be from sites like
  10. While we’re talking about coupons, think about getting printable ones off the internet. Just Google for money off vouchers or coupons.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


Daily newspapers - read the news on-line, watch it on TV or listen to the radio. This could save you around £6 per week depending on which newspaper you buy. Saving per month £24

Coffee from the coffee shop – even just 2 cups a day will save you around £14 per week – depending on supplier, size and type of coffee. Take a flask from home – or if you can, get it free at work! Saving per month £56.

Sandwiches from the shop around the corner- make your own at home, with fruit, cake or cereal bars from the supermarket. 5 bought lunches (a sandwich, drink, cake, piece of fruit) is likely to cost you at least £20 per week. Saving per month £80.

New Clothes - yes the new autumn season’s clothes are in the shops – but you don’t need to buy them. Evaluate your winter wardrobe critically – make sure you have 2 or 3 outfits for work, check the condition of them e.g. rips, missing buttons etc., and do the mending. Only buy new if a key piece in your wardrobe is worn out or damaged beyond repair. Think carefully about whether you need anything new - perhaps for a special celebration, it’s understandable, but otherwise plan a capsule wardrobe from items you already own, only purchasing the odd small item or accessory, if you really have to, to make up an outfit. Before you buy, go round the charity shops with a list – you’ll be helping someone else then as well as yourself! Try to stop seeing shopping as a pastime or hobby. Only shop when you absolutely have to. Saving per month – anything from £20 to whatever!!

New Shoes – as above, check soles and heels, start polishing your shoes to protect the leather and check out how much it will be to re-sole or re-heel them at the menders if they need it. Do not buy a lot of cheap shoes that have easily breakable straps and heels or thin soles. Saving per month average £20 – based on a shoe habit of £40 per pair, 6 times a year.

Takeaways – they are expensive and high in fat and salt. If you need a pizza or curry “takeout fix”, buy it from the supermarket and heat it up yourself. But limit yourself to no more than 1 or 2 a month. Savings will be around £40 per month (at least).

Magazines – stop that habit of picking up several magazines with your shopping every week, do you really have time to read them all? Decide which one magazine you really, really enjoy reading and subscribe to it. This will save you money – especially if you use Tesco deals vouchers to pay for it (in effect it’s then free). Saving per month based on three £3.95 magazines a week, purchased from the supermarket - around £48.

Parking Fees – yes, that’s hard, but see if you can car share (and share the cost) or alternate walking to work (if it’s possible) with taking the car or sharing with a colleague - try registering for a car share with the Liftshare website. If parking costs you just £1 per day and you can halve that, it will result in a possible saving per month of £10 (and, I know, parking is usually a lot more than that).

Sweets and Chocolate – yes, that’s really tough, but they both make you fat and rot your teeth (which will result in higher dental bills!). Try changing the way you see these items, from just something you pick up each time you go to the corner shop or supermarket, to looking at them as rare treats to be savoured now and then, not just munched on the hoof. Buy good, high percentage cocoa solids chocolate and occasionally savour a couple of squares with a coffee at home in the evening. The stronger flavour of high quality chocolate means you’ll want less and it more than makes up for the slightly higher price. Saving per month on for example, a Mars bar everyday – around £11.

Smoking – just stop. You know all the health risks and the cost is ridiculous. The average packet of 20 cigarettes costs £5.60, so if you’ve been smoking a packet a day and you give up, that’s a saving of around £160 per month.

So if you cut out all of the above you will be almost £500 per month better off! That’s £6000 per year! Think what that £6000 could do for you – pay your credit card, overdraft or mortgage off quicker, allow you to get some savings behind you, start paying into a pension, pay for next year’s holiday, replace your old banger of a car…
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, 28 August 2008


We all know that when your debts are overwhelming the first thing you need to do is stop all unnecessary spending, but what happens when you’ve done that and still can’t manage loan or credit card repayments and pay for the basics?

The first thing to remember is – do not panic. Easier said than done – but at this point it is important to think clearly and not jump into more trouble. For example do not be tempted by those TV adverts that offer you an “easy” way to consolidate your debts – these loans will cost you far more in the long run, even though their “low” monthly repayments seem attractive. These companies are commercial and do not have your interests at heart.

When things have got so bad that your income won’t cover your utility, mortgage or rent bills and food and your minimum loan or credit card repayments, you need professional, impartial help. There are 2 main providers of this help; the Citizens Advice Bureau and the National Debt Line and the links below will set you on the road to a solution:

National Debt Line
just click the appropriate area (Scotland or England/Wales) on the left and take time to read or download all the advice.
Citizens Advice Bureau
this is the home page of the Citizens Advice Bureau and mainly, shows how and where to get advice and gives contact details.
Citizen Advice Bureau's advice site
this is the CAB’s advice guide site. Just click on one of the links on the left of the home page for a comprehensive range of advice to show you how to deal with your debts.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


Your car’s MOT test is expensive enough at £53.10, without adding in the cost of possible repairs, so learning to do even the simplest of pre MOT checks yourself will probably save you money. Even simple things like a worn wiper blade or blown brake light bulb will be expensive if your car fails on them and your mechanic decides to “help you out” by doing the work necessary to pass your vehicle and billing you for it. He will buy a wiper blade or bulb for you at trade price and then charge you more than you would pay at a spares shop, plus the labour costs to “fit” it and this could be anything from £25 - £100 plus per hour! If you keep your car serviced regularly, hopefully, it should pass on the under bonnet and under vehicle tests. So, whilst this list is not exhaustive, a few minutes spent doing your own simple checks may just alert you to any problems before your car is tested.

So here are 18 pre MOT checks you should try to carry out:

  1. Check the shock absorbers by bouncing the car in each corner. If it wobbles then you may need new ones.
  2. Check your wheels are not damaged and inspect the condition of your tyres – there should be no splits, cuts or bulges. At least 75% of the tread should be 1.6mm deep – this is the legal minimum, but in practice you would replace them before they got this bad. Check your tyre pressures.
  3. Look around your vehicle for any signs of serious rust deterioration – especially in important areas like suspension mountings and sills etc.
  4. Inspect all wiper blades for splits and any perishing or detaching.
  5. Check that all lights and indicators work (don’t forget your rear number plate light) and get someone to check your brake lights while you depress the brake pedal.
  6. Make sure the brake pedal rubber is in good condition.
  7. Make sure the car does not smoke excessively while running.
  8. Make sure your number plates (back and front) are securely fixed on, clean, not obscured by anything, or faded. The letters and numbers must be correctly formed and with the correct spacing. The vehicle Identification Number (VIN) must permanently fixed and clearly readable. You will often find it under the bonnet or on a door pillar.
  9. Check that all doors close properly and catches are in working order (both from inside the car and outside).
  10. Make sure that boot or tailgate catches are in working order.
  11. Inside the car, check that all your seat belts are in perfect working order (check the actual webbing and that they fasten properly).
  12. Check that your windscreen wipers and washers (rear as well if you have them) are in working order.
  13. Beep your horn to make sure it works.
  14. Check footbrake, steering wheel and handbrake for any excessive play.
  15. Look closely over your windscreen for chips and cracks.
  16. If you have axle stands and know how to safely use them you could put your car up and check underneath for any exhaust system problems and any fuel leaks.
  17. If you know how to, you could also check for play in the wheel bearings or suspension joints.
  18. Thoroughly clean the car inside and out (and underneath) – not only does it give a good impression, but a tester can refuse to test a dirty vehicle.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, 10 August 2008


The OU has a selection of free online courses on its website which are open to anyone, anywhere in the world. Its introductory 8-hour course, Personal Finance: debt and borrowing in its wider context, is well done and very informative. In my opinion it is (like all the OU’s work) excellent.

There are also free courses in Art, Computing, Law, Education, Business, Health, Modern languages, Mathematics, Science, Society and Technology.

Take a look here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


This site, will claim back money on your behalf if your train is late. Just register once with the site, enter the details of your season ticket and then when you need to, log in and enter the details of your late trains – they do the rest!

Get some of themoney back that you spent on your season ticket!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, 2 August 2008


Yes - it really is only 145 days to Christmas! This means that if you haven't started saving, buying and planning yet - you'd better get going. Here's some tips:
  • the charity shops are fairly quiet in my neighbourhood at the moment - so I'm looking for really new quality children's books for nieces and nephews. You can find them (especially board books) but you have to be fussy and check every page looking for marks or tears.
  • my plum tree is bearing fruit now - I may just start to make jam, put it in pretty jars and add it to gift hampers for those older relatives who always say they don't want (or need) anything!
  • a few sportswear shops seem to be having their everlasting summer "sales"- I've already bought several packs of reduced (but heavy quality) sports socks for my sons' Christmas stockings!
  • the supermarket just had some luxury hand wash on a buy one get one one free offer and I just couldn't resist - of course I know I shouldn't, but I'm keeping one for me!
  • Check your supermarket and chemist regularly for BOGOFs on things like shower and hair gel - all good stocking fillers.
  • I've just been to a charity shop that sells a range of new jewellery, key charms and hair ornaments and saw that they have the whole range reduced to half price - bearing in mind they were very reasonable to begin with, these are really great bargains for presents.
  • Lastly, don't get fed up and think it's miserable to have to watch the pennies - Christmas is just 2 days before which we spend too much, during which we eat too much and after which we wish we hadn't!
Merry Christmas Shopping!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, 25 July 2008


It’s very quick and easy (and cheap) to grow your own lettuce and you also have the satisfaction of knowing that it hasn’t been sprayed with any nasty chemicals, it is fresh (I pick mine 5 minutes before we eat it) and just outside your door! You don’t need a lot of space – it really can be done in a window box or on a balcony if you have no garden! If your containers are very small, just start off a new container roughly every 4 weeks. I used this blue plastic crate – chucked out from a supermarket, lined it with a carrier bag* pierced all over for drainage. I filled it with cheap potting compost, made 3 evenly spaced grooves down the length of it with a pencil and sprinkled in mixed lettuce seeds. These are very fine seeds and you need to take a small pinch at a time to spread them evenly along your grooves. I bought my seeds on a 3 for 2 offer in a supermarket in the spring – pays to plan – and you should have plenty if you sow thinly. Carefully cover your seeds up and water gently from a small watering can with a rose to sprinkle the compost. You do not want to flood your container with water. Keep moist and leave in a sunny spot – I propped mine up on two old bricks, and 2 weeks later, when I came back from holiday, the photo above shows just how quick they’ve grown! The sad little hole in the middle is, I’m afraid the result of over enthusiastic watering by my sons whilst I was away! Still, no matter, I am already eating the largest leaves as a way of thinning them out! Once they get to about 8 or 9 cm high and are a little better thinned out, don't pull the seedlings out, just nip leaves off when you need them.This is my second crop this summer - we have already eaten a whole crop I planted in an old kitchen sink in the garden, along with dwarf runner beans, chives and carrots. Another sink has already given us a huge crop of rocket - very expensive to buy in those tiny supermarket bags!

*I did not use a biodegradable carrier bag as I thought it may break down in the soil.

Look out for seed and compost offers in the deep discounting supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl use whatever containers you can find (as long as they have drainage holes in them). Boot sales and charity shops often have old flower pots and containers.

This a great activity for kids in the school holidays - get started early now and help them plant a row of mixed leaves and they will be up in 2 weeks - plant a row each week if you have room - get the kids to harvest them and eat them in salads and sandwiches.

More ideas for school holidays here!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, 12 June 2008


This cake is a traditional Bonfire Night treat (but great all year round!) and, whilst it couldn’t be considered low-calorie, it is fairly low in fat and very frugal to make, using only 1 egg and 55 g butter or margarine. It improves with keeping in an airtight tin, divides into at least 12 squares and is very cheap on ingredients. The taste is not too “gingery” – a lot less than gingerbread for example – and is enjoyed by the members of my family who don’t really like ginger.

I was going to post a picture for you, but - WHOOPS! – I just ate the last piece!!

225 g (8ozs) self-raising wholemeal (or white) flour
115 g (4ozs) brown (or white) sugar
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
115 g (4 ozs) Golden Syrup*
55 g (2ozs) butter (or cooking margarine)
1 medium egg
200ml (7 fluid ounces) semi-skimmed milk (or whatever kind you have)

* I stand the tin inside my scales pan then take out spoonfuls until the total weight is 4 ozs less than it was to start with – it’s less messy!


  1. Heat your oven to 150 deg. C, 300 F, gas mark 2.
  2. Line a 20cm (8”) cake tin with greaseproof paper (I use a small rectangular lasagne dish measuring around 9” x 7” as it’s easier to cut the cake into squares with no crumbly waste).
  3. Lightly mix flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and ginger in a mixing bowl.
  4. Slowly melt the syrup and butter (or marg.) in a saucepan.
  5. Beat the egg into the milk (I do this in the measuring jug)
  6. Remove butter and syrup mixture from heat and gradually stir into the flour mixture, stirring well. Add the beaten egg and milk and mix well until smooth.
  7. Pour the mixture into your lined tin and cook for 1 hour.
  8. When cooked leave to cool in tin, turn out and cut into squares. Store in an airtight tin.

This is a light spongy cake, not too sweet or sticky and is as good, if not better, 4 or 5 days after it is cooked (if it lasts that long!).

More Frugal Recipes!

Monday, 28 April 2008


This is a mild tomato-ey curry – and is delicious, filling and looks appetising on the plate. I serve it with brown rice, but it would be equally good with any rice you happen to have. It serves 4 and freezes well, so you can make double – even more money saving! It ‘s also great just on its own in a bowl, like a sort of chunky soup, if you have any left over – it reheats well in the microwave.

300g/10 oz dried butterbeans* (soaked overnight, cooked to packet instructions, drained and set aside)
3 tablespoons olive oil (or any other you have)
I large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 heaped teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon of flour (white or wholemeal)
1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée
1 400g tin of tomatoes, roughly chopped as you add them to the saucepan
Water (fill the tomato tin full up to measure it then it rinses out all the tomato juice!)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Stir in the coriander, curry powder, turmeric and flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Pour in the tomatoes, water, tomato purée, drained beans and black pepper. Bring back to the boil gently, stirring all the time to mix in the flour and spices. Turn down to a low heat and cover, simmer for 30 minutes and serve with rice ( I allow around 55g/2oz per person).

* If you don’t want to use dried beans you can use two 400g tins of ready cooked butter beans(rinsed and drained) – probably not so cheap, but then you save 1 hour’s worth of gas or electricity it would take to cook the dried variety!

More Frugal Recipes!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


  • The 3 rules of money management
Almost unbelievably, the average British couple will get over 2 million pounds during their lifetime – where’s ours then?! Of course the word “average” includes a lot of millionaires and a lot of very poor people – who may always be poor, but that being said, most of us will earn (or inherit) enough to have a fairly comfortable standard of living, own our own homes and raise a family – but, Rule No. 1, none of us will be able to afford to waste any of our money; we will need to save for that rainy day - Rule No. 2 and never, ever, ever borrow any money unless you absolutely have to and that means the only exceptions are a mortgage or an emergency -Rule No. 3.
  • Understand that debt is the enemy

Every pound you borrow will cost you to pay back anything from 6p to, well, it’s limitless – as the longer you take to pay it back the more you it goes up. This means that you are spending your future wages long before you receive them. So you’ll never have any money to buy anything and will have to borrow more – a never-ending cycle of debt which will only stop when you can’t afford the repayments any more and up in court or bankrupt.

  • Plan your spending

Yes, that means “budgeting”, which is just another word for deciding how much you have to spend and how much income you have in any given period of time. Even a ten-year-old with £2 pocket money a week must decide whether he or she wants to blow it all on sweets or plan out to have some sweets, plus a comic- or save some for each week to buy a toy! This doesn’t change, however old you are – the “toys” are just bigger!

  • Do your research

Whatever your “toy” is – do your research. Don’t just whiz out and buy the first thing you see with your credit (debt!) card. Find out what’s available, decide exactly what you want and use the internet and friends’ or relatives’ knowledge, to find your item for the lowest price. Save up for it – or ask for it (or money towards it) for birthday and Christmas presents. Unless it’s an absolute emergency (like buying a car to get to work when there’s no other transport to get there) do not take out a loan or use a credit (debt!) card.

  • Do your research 2

If you really must buy that car, bike or whatever, and you really must borrow to do it – do your research. Find the lowest personal loan you can – use the internet and local banks and building societies to find out just who’s charging what and for how much – the less you want to borrow the more expensive it can be. It is quite difficult to borrow amounts under £5000 without incurring horrendous interest rate charges. You may need to consider a credit (debt!) card. If so, try to get one with an introductory 0% interest rate. AND PAY IT OFF IN THE SPECIFIED TIME.

  • Learn about prices

Know the prices of things you buy every day, week or month, like bottles of drink, beer, perfume, tights, nail polish, A4 notepads, make-up, toiletries, chocolate bars, petrol, pens and stationery etc. Then you know when you’re being ripped off.

  • Know your tables and how to work out a percentage

Knowing these two things will enable you to compare prices and work out how good a deal a percentage discount is.

  • Ignorance does not pay

Financial literacy is essential in life. Financial ignorance will lead to a lifetime of working harder and longer for less. Arguments about money will take their toll on relationships and debt will cause stress and unhappiness. Where money is concerned, knowledge really is power.

  • Save regularly

Saving even a small amount per month is always worthwhile. Having to borrow to buy what you need has a double whammy effect; you lose out by being charged interest on your loan and then lose again by not earning interest on that money when it could potentially be invested.

And be happy! Take an interest in your own money – you earned it!

Thursday, 3 April 2008


This frittata is a changeable frugal feast – very frugal, because, to a certain extent, you can change the ingredients to match whatever you have and make good use of leftover vegetables. You can also hide veg in it so the kids don’t notice what they’re eating! It’s also a good way to use reduced veg bargains from the supermarket.
Serves 4
Takes 10 mins to prepare and 25 mins to cook.

1 large chopped onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tbsp oil
100g* chopped cooked carrots
100g* chopped cooked potatoes
100g* chopped cooked parsnips
100g* frozen peas (cooked)
100g* frozen sweetcorn (cooked)
100*g frozen green beans (cooked)
6 large eggs
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Ground black pepper
50g grated cheddar** cheese
100 g cooked chicken, ham or turkey (optional)

* this is a guideline – use whatever you have left over and/or supplement with frozen veg to make up to the same weight.
** Any grateable cheese that you like is fine, or use up different left over cheeses grated together.

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan for 5 minutes until translucent and slightly golden.
2. Stir in the vegetables (and meat if using) and sauté over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until hot through.
3. Beat the eggs with the ground black pepper and chilli flakes. Pour over the vegetable mixture in the frying pan and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Level the surface of the mixture then continue to cook over a low heat for around 6-8 minutes – check that the base is golden brown.
4. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then cook under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and starting to go slightly golden.
5. Cool slightly then cut into 4 wedges and serve with salad and crusty bread if you like.

More Frugal Recipes!

Saturday, 29 March 2008


This soup serves 4 and costs around 0.96p to make (pricing the ingredients from a supermarket). I often look out for a head of celery when my local supermarket reduces them. I find celery keeps well in the fridge, up to a week after the sell by date, so even if you don’t have the time to make it straight away, it’ll keep until you do.

1 chopped onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 head of celery
1 vegetable stock cube
Freshly ground black pepper

Gently fry the onion in the oil until it is translucent and soft, keeping the lid on the saucepan. Meanwhile slice the bottom off the head of celery (and the top leaves if it has any – these can be washed and kept to decorate your soup). Wash the celery and slice it across the stems in fairly small strips. Add the celery to the onion and stir well, replace lid and cook on a low heat for 10 mins. Add the stock cube, crumbled and stir in 1 litre of water*. Replace lid and simmer gently for 25 mins. Allow to cool a little, season with a couple of twists of black pepper and then liquidise and serve.

*If you have used the frugal chicken recipes here and have the chicken stock ready, you can use that instead of a stock cube and water.

For a special occasion you can add a swirl of cream (not so frugal!) and a celery leaf to garnish. This soup freezes well if you don’t need the whole quantity.

Friday, 21 March 2008


These little nests are a delicious treat for Easter tea (or any other time!!) and can be made for around 19 pence each (ingredients priced from supermarket). There are probably cheaper ready made alternatives on the supermarket shelves - but even if you make these with the cheapest dark chocolate, they will taste better!!!! (and have less "ingredients" in them!)

115 g Plain or milk chocolate, 4 crushed Shredded Wheat
50 g block butter or margarine, sugar coated chocolate mini eggs (around 36)

Put the butter (or margarine) and chocolate into a bowl. Melt in a microwave oven or over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not allow the mixture to become too hot. Stir in the crushed shredded wheat. When all the shredded wheat is covered in chocolate, spoon the mixture into cake papers (it's easier if the papers are rested in a bun tin, just until the nests are set). Roughly shape each one into a nest. Press three eggs into each nest while the chocolate is still soft. When cool store in an airtight box.

Makes about 12

More Frugal Recipes!

Monday, 17 March 2008


This dessert costs 88p and makes a huge bowl (or quite a few sundae dishes), serves 8-10 people and is made from 2 cheap ingredients; see picture – a jelly tablet and a large can of evaporated milk* (410g) previously cooled in the fridge if you can – overnight would be good, but it’s not that important. (any flavour you like) and
You can add decoration, fruit or cream to it (depending on what you have). See second picture. It is an old family favourite of ours and has been made every Easter, Christmas or on any old excuse for a celebration! It does need an electric beater – I don’t think it would be possible to beat the evaporated milk to the required consistency without one.
* Don’t use low fat evaporated milk – it will not thicken or increase in volume, however long you beat it for – it will just make a much smaller amount of milk jelly.
  • Open the can of evaporated milk and pour into the mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until the beaters leave a thick trail in the milk and it has greatly increased in volume – it should nearly fill up the average mixing bowl. This may take 10 minutes or so.
  • If you have a stand for your mixer and can leave it, do the jelly whilst the beating is going on. Break the jelly into cubes in a Pyrex jug. Pour over 2 tablespoons (30ml) of cold water – and, depending on the power of your microwave, boil for 1 minute (until cubes look melted). You can do this without a microwave, by tipping 2 tablespoons of boiling water from a kettle over the jelly cubes in the jug, but you must use a fork to continually beat the jelly until it is all dissolved.
  • When the jelly is dissolved in the jug, add 3 ice cubes and stir until melted. Allow jelly to cool a little – but not set! If you dip your finger in it (yes, a clean finger, I know!) it shouldn’t feel hot at all.
  • Beat the dissolved jelly into the beaten evaporated milk and once well combined (so that there are no coloured streaks) pour into a large dessert bowl or small sundae dishes and leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  • Lick out the bowl, the beaters, the spoons etc!!!!
  • When the jelly whip is set, you can pipe cream over it in rosettes, add grated chocolate, etc.
Although this dessert is great on its own, you can add to it whatever you happen to have. In the summer I slice 2 or 3 fresh strawberries over the top of a strawberry jelly whip and decorate with cream. At Christmas, I put a few tinned tangerines in the bottom of sundae dishes with a few drops of Cointreau, poured tangerine jelly whip over the top and when set, finished with grated dark chocolate, a rosette of cream and a tangerine (see photo). If you don’t have Cointreau, use brandy or leave it out altogether – it doesn’t matter!
The cost for the jelly whip is based on branded ingredients from Tesco. It can be made cheaper still with supermarket own brand ingredients.

Monday, 25 February 2008


We all know them as bailiffs, but they are now officially called Enforcement Officers (England and Wales) or Judicial Officers (Scotland), but whatever you call them – do you know what to do if they arrive on your doorstep? Here’s a brief summary:

Don’t confuse a bailiff with your creditor’s representative. A creditor’s* representative (or a debt collector) does not have authority from the court. Always ask for ID, but you don’t have to let them in or discuss anything with them. You can ask them to leave and call the police if they will not.
*the person or business you owe money to

If it is a bailiff, then it will be that your creditor has been to court and the judge has authorised a warrant for them to visit you and try to collect the debt. They should be quite reasonable and if you make some sort of arrangement with them to pay, they should listen. You should have had advanced warning** that they are going to call on you. If you happen to be out when they call they will leave a letter with contact details – it is wise to contact them with some sort of offer to pay the debt. If you are in you don’t have to open the door to them, you can just tell them to leave their contact details and that you will be in touch (in writing) with an offer of payment – then do so.
**to stop the bailiffs coming after this notification
is issued, go to your County Court and fill in form N245, making an offer to settle the debt, by instalments if necessary, but make it in an amount that you can afford and will be able to keep on paying.

A bailiff cannot force an entry to your home unless they are coming to evict you (for non-payment of mortgage or rent) or you owe some kind of Crown debt (a fine, for example, or tax to HMRC or you are behind with Council tax payments). They can also force entry if they are trying to collect unpaid magistrates' court fines. But otherwise, you don’t have to let them in. Should they force entry by pushing in past you if you open the door to them, this renders the whole process illegal.

Do not sign anything – they may tell you that if you just sign a piece of paper, they’ll go. This could be an attempt to get you to sign a “walking possession order”. Warning - signing this paper can give them right of forced entry at later date.

If you possibly can, make an offer of a small amount (even £2 or £3 per month) towards the debt. Don’t let them in and don’t sign anything. If you do give them any money make sure you get a written receipt for it. If you later get a court summons you should attend to put your case and the judge may even reset the amount you’ve previously offered to pay –hopefully to a lower amount.

Be aware of some tricks that bailiffs may use to get entry to your property-
they may just walk in open doors or climb in windows, or they may be chummy and ask if they can use your loo or your ‘phone. Apparently they have been known to take vehicles or look through windows to try to ascertain what you own that may be taken in payment of the debt, so don’t park your vehicle in your driveway and close your curtains.

In the worst case scenario, if bailiffs have gained entry to your home and have a court order, they are not allowed to take any essential items like your clothes, cooker, bedding or fridge. Most furniture is classed as essential, so they cannot take that, or tools that you use for your living (e.g. plumbing, carpentry tools etc.) but they can take the contents of any unlocked garages or sheds in your garden.

More help and information:

National Debtline

Citizens' Advice Bureau

National standards for enforcement agents

Community Legal Advice

Saturday, 16 February 2008


1. Don’t bother to be loyal to one supermarket and don’t be snobby about going to one over another. If you want to know who is cheapest for your usual weekly grocery items, visit, enter all your items and it will calculate the cost of them at the four main online supermarkets: Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda. You don't have to shop online, but it will give you an idea how much your shopping could cost elsewhere and where you can make the best savings.

2. Towards the end of the week do a stock check of your kitchen cupboards and try to be creative with what you find! Really look at what you have and write your list at the same time, planning some menus as you go – this should reduce your normal list and your spend for the week!

3. Try the basic ranges in the supermarket, in the main, it is often hard to tell the difference between these – and you could save upwards of 10%. Some of your favourites may, perhaps, be irreplaceable, but many could easily be exchanged for cheaper lines, which are often made by the same manufacturer and just packaged differently.

4. Always take advantage of the BOGOFs (buy one get one free) on your usual purchases, particularly if they are non-perishable items like toilet rolls, washing up liquid or freezable foods. Find out about the latest supermarket offers at

5. Look out for reductions on fresh and chilled foods. Many supermarkets will start reducing fairly early in the day, but better reductions can sometimes be had later in the afternoon. Meat and fish can be frozen straight away and fresh fruit and veg will often last another day in your fridge, if you can’t use it immediately.


After having some problems with my washing machine, the repair man advised me to use washing tablets instead of powder or liquid. What’s even better is that, although the tablets always come 2 in a pack, he said that it was really only necessary to use one tablet per wash! I buy the supermarket’s own brand and only use 1 tablet and it cleans as well as anything I’ve used before. Very frugal!


If you have ever have to ring a number beginning 08 – have a look at this site! With the exception of 0800 numbers (which I think are only free from landlines) all these numbers cost quite a bit more than regular call costs – and what’s worse - the company you’re calling is often getting a cut of the money charged for your call! This site lists many companies and their geographical ‘phone numbers for you to use.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Small amounts of cash (or other rewards) can be earned from completing on-line surveys. These can take anything from 10 -25 minutes to complete and can be done from anywhere; home, work, college or uni. They email you when there is a survey to do and all you have to do is just log-in to the survey site with your password and username and you’re away! They often tell you how long each survey will take - really useful if you are doing it in your lunch break.

These surveys are about all kinds of things; your shopping habits, new advertising campaigns, the kind of drinks you like, etc. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes not so interesting, but if you just keep doing them, the cash or vouchers can add up.

Firstly, here’s one just for all you students out there!

Opinion Panel Research (strictly students only)
Calling all students: Opinionpanel Research have teamed up with Amazon to offer giftcertificates in return for the completion of short web-surveys. You get £10.00 just for registering and a further £1.00 to £2.00 per survey thereafter. Once you've reached £25, you receive your Amazon gift certificates by email.

To qualify you must have a valid email address issued by your university (i.e. ending in The certificates continue to roll-in after you've graduated, as you are automatically transferred to the Graduate Panel when you finish your studies.

Click here to register.

Here are two others that I like:

You Gov
I’ve just done a really quick survey with them of half a dozen questions – took a couple of minutes and earned me 50 pence. Okay, it’s not a lot but, particularly if you’re time rich and cash poor, then when that £50 cheque* comes through the letterbox – it will all seem worth it!
*You Gov automatically pays out when your balance reaches £50.
Click here to register:

Sunday, 3 February 2008


Age Concern says that £4.6 billion of state benefits remains unclaimed and this is contributing to pensioner poverty. Here’s a quick rundown of what you, or someone you know, may be missing out on.

Over 60 years
Winter fuel Payment

Your household will normally automatically receive £200 if you are aged 60-79 and £300 if you are aged 80 or over. Moredetail HERE.

Free or half price travel on public transport - contact your local council for details.

Free Eye Tests – more here

Free NHS prescriptions – more here

Over 60 years
Pension Credit

If you have an income under £119.05 (single person) or a joint income of £181.70 (couple) then this payment will make up the difference between the stated figures and your income. Check here

If your income is too high to qualify for Pension Credit, you may still qualify for help with Council Tax and/or rent if you have less than £16000 in savings.

Other Pension Credit related benefits -If you receive Pension Credit it qualifies you for free NHS dental care, reimbursement of the travel costs for going to hospital for treatment, vouchers towards the cost of spectacles, free fabric supports and wigs and a Cold Weather Payment of £8.50 per week if the average temperature falls below 0ºC for a week, which is paid automatically for those who qualify.

You may also qualify for the “Warm Front Scheme” (England) which provides between £2700 and £4000 for insulation and central heating (depending on your needs and your property). More here

Over 60 for women and 65 for men
(But this is slowly changing – check your predicted retirement age here)

State Pension
You need 30 “qualifying years”* to get a full pension – check this here
Changes brought about by The Pensions Act (26 July 2007) will affect you if you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010.
*This a year in which you have paid enough National Insurance contributions (or qualified for them in some other way - e.g. by receiving a benefit of some kind, including Child Benefit).

Over 65 years
Savings Credit

This rewards you for having some savings. If your total weekly income (including income from savings, any investments and pension) is £167 or below (single person) or £245 or below (couple) then you can receive £19.05 (single person) or £25.26 (couple). More here

Over 65 years
Attendance Allowance

Between £43.15 and £64.50 a week.
For those with a mental or physical disability or a terminal illness who need help to dress and wash themselves. More here

Over 70 years
Free Home Insulation

As part of a Government scheme, British Gas will offer to install home insulation free of charge to anyone aged 70 or over, regardless of whether or not they're a British Gas customer. Contact your local council to enquire if they have any similar (or better) schemes. More here.

Over 75 years
Free TV licence
– more info here

Over 78 years
Free 10 year passport.
more info

For more general information go to the Age Concern website where you can download the More Money in Your Pocket booklet for free.

Monday, 28 January 2008


After a reluctant trawl around my local shopping centre yesterday (I badly need some comfortable shoes - didn't find any) I realised that, although we are at the very end of January, there are still plenty of Christmas gifty things in the shops - all reduced (although not as reduced as they should be in my opinion) and waiting for a good home. I have a theory that as it is soon going to be Valentine's day, the shops will want to clear out all their Christmas bits - so get down there quick and bag a bargain!