Archive for March, 2013

Might be a bit quiet for a week or two…

March 31, 2013

… because 1) DS3 is coming home – hip-hip-hooray! – from his 9 months studying in Chile, and 2) I’m going to have some “premises” again, for a while at least. I’ve taken a small stall at Molly’s Den, a nearby vintage/retro warehouse, where I hope to have some of my less-portable wares on offer 7 days a week, without tying myself up in knots trying to run a shop, restock it and run workshops too! So I’ll be tied up with sorting, pricing & preparing the space for a bit. I’ll see how it goes, but it will cost me just £5 a month more than a storage container, with the benefit that my stuff will not just be dry & safe & out from under everybody’s feet here, but it’ll actually be on sale too, and potential customers will be able to try things out.

To celebrate, I think I might organise a bit of a giveaway, inspired by Frugal Queen’s Bank Holiday giveaway; it won’t be as big as hers, but I do have rather a lot of small, interesting bits & bobs in need of a good home that isn’t shared with 4-6 other people & 3 cats! So, watch this space…




March 11, 2013

One way in which I keep our family food budget as low as I can without compromising on food quality, is by using up leftovers. With our young people at the ages & stages that they are, we don’t always know how many people will be eating any given meal. So I tend to over-cater rather than be caught short; OH usually takes a portion in to reheat at work the next day, but there’ll nearly always be some left over.  Sometimes there’s a lot and sometimes there’s a little… A few of the cheaper things I cook really don’t reheat well & go to the chickens next morning (please don’t tell DEFRA!) but at least we get some return on those in the form of lots of lovely eggs & excellent compost. But most leftovers can be reused if they are chilled as soon as they’ve cooled down & stored properly.

In the last week or so, we have polished off the remains of a spaghetti bolognaise, cunningly disguised in a lasagne along with a light cheese sauce & layers of (cheap) courgettes. And the lamb left from Sunday last week’s roast went into a lamb tagine. Thus there were meat meals on two days that I didn’t have to buy anything for. There was a little of the tagine left, which went into the freezer as soon as it was cooled, which will be added to some leftover lamb shoulder from tonight & made into a slightly spicy moussaka tomorrow. We often seem to have pies towards the end of the week, filled with whatever hasn’t vanished into other dishes. And I’ve been rediscovering 1970s cuisine, happily reinventing the classic recipes like goulash, bourguinon, chasseur & stroganoff by using leftovers rather than buying fresh new meat to make them. But it’s definitely better to find & use an authentic 70s recipe book, rather than using celebrity chef versions; the 70s recipes use fewer exotic (and expensive) ingredients, and the tastes are all the sharper & clearer for that!

As customers sadly seem to be deserting our local market, I’ve also been able to pick up some exceptionally cheap vegetables lately, and on Friday I got 3 big aubergines for just £1 to go into tomorrow’s moussaka. I usually can’t get down to the market before noon on a Sunday, by which time the stallholders are packing up to go home and veg is down to 50p for a pot of anything that won’t last until next Friday. See what £4.50 bought me yesterday…


Those carrots are enormous, by the way, at least 30cm long each, and very tasty; the cucumber is a perfectly normal size! And last week I was given a carrier bag full of tomatoes which wouldn’t last, which made a huge pot of delicious tomato soup that made lovely lunches for all of us who study or work from home, all week.

The interesting thing is that last year, when I was running the shop, I couldn’t summon up the energy or imagination to use up leftovers or gluts and sadly a fair bit went to waste, or at least to the chickens. And I found myself wandering helplessly round the supermarket after work, unable to think straight, fair game to pick up whatever they were pushing and feed it to the ravening hordes. Though technically the shop did make a small profit, I rather think that was cancelled out by the extra I spent on food. I don’t think my dehydrator went on for a whole year – that’s what I’ll do with most of the Scotch Bonnet chillies, by the way; even this household can’t get through that many in a week – and hardly any jam or jelly got made. Which was OK, as we already had a garageful to see us through, but made me rather miserable when I realised that I’d completely missed the chance.

Not a day goes by when I don’t thank Someone Up There that I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where we can afford for me not to work full time, so that I have the time & energy left over to save money…

Isn’t it time we got over it?

March 11, 2013

Two posts going up today, I hope – that’s what happens when you leave it too long between posts – too many ideas mulling over at the back of my mind!

I followed a link last week & read about a family in the States who are managing to live on what looks like to us a very low income. More power to their elbows; none of it seemed exactly revolutionary to me, as somehow we’ve managed to raise 5 kids and pay off our mortgage on one fairly ordinary salary & the little part-time jobs I’ve managed to hold down between ferrying assorted offspring around. But what did stop me in my tracks were some of the comments underneath… you would think this unfortunate couple were condemning their kids to a living hell by buying them “thrift store” (i.e. charity shop) clothes, giving them home-made  food, and, crime of all crimes, making some of their clothes!

Several comments were along the lines that, by making them “different” from other kids, they were bound to be making them targets for bullying. Well, excuse me, but the basic fact is that everyone IS different! And it isn’t being different, in itself, that lays people open to bullying – which isn’t confined to kids, by the way – it’s feeling bad about those differences. Feeling somehow ashamed of them, which you might well if people make negative comments about them, and thus not reacting with vigour when the bullies start to pull you down… and anyone who stands by and mutters words to the effect that they brought it on themselves, or that they blame the parents, is legitimising bullying and making it far, far worse for the victim. Is a bully themself, in fact, by allowing it to happen & by making excuses for vile behaviour. Are we no better than the chickens in my chicken run, that we seek to bring down anyone who stands out in any way, in case they attract unwanted attention to our flock? Or should we finally realise that there is indeed strength in diversity, and make the bullies stop, rather than giving them tacit approval?

We are rapidly entering a time when it simply will not be possible for everyone to wear “new” clothes all of the time, as fuel becomes too expensive for t-shirts made by child slaves on the other side of the world to be sold for pennies any more, and thrown away after a couple of uses because they won’t wash well. Where home-made food may once again become “the norm” rather than an oddity, if only because people don’t want to find they’ve been eating something other than what it says on the packet. Where accruing debt just because everyone else is doing it, just to have what everyone else has got, may come to seem rather stupid. It’s more than possible that the family featured in that article are actually ahead of the curve, rather than the eccentric oddballs some of the commentators seem to think they are. Those kids may grow up with attitudes and a skill-set that will allow them to break free of the wage-slave-debt trap.

By the way, I am asserting that everyone is different as the wife of an identical twin. Yes, they look very alike, enough alike that our neighbours regularly talk to my brother-in-law without realising he’s not my husband. And no, they are not at all the same…! And I am making a point about home-made clothes because it is entirely possible to make clothing (and other things) that is good enough for other people to want so much that they’ll actually buy it, with nothing more than an old sewing machine, some cast-off old clothing or curtains or similar, the odd old book or magazine (Golden Hands, for example!) and a head full of ideas. If my pillowcase pinnies, scrap-yarn shawls and denim aprons haven’t convinced you, have a look at Raggedy’s site.

And please, help those who haven’t realised this yet get over the idea that everyone has to look the same, buy the same things, think the same things, and that anyone (and their kids) who doesn’t live according to their narrow worldview is fair game for negative comments and worse…