Thursday, 1 December 2016

Not a good start to December

Today is a day for kicking myself.  I went off to Brigg market and discovered that although I was in Brigg, my purse was in Caistor.  Fortunately I was meeting a friend for coffee so I used a credit card in Tesco then borrowed a little from her to do my market shopping.  She is a very good friend!

I am very ill prepared for Christmas.  I have two parcels almost ready to send to swap partners and I shall try and post those tomorrow.  I've got the fruit ready for Christmas pud but it should be made by  now.  The envelopes for the cards are addressed and the cards made but I need to get busy writing.  You get the picture?  So much is half done, nothing completed.

Anyway, today is a new page on the calendar so I shall make my Very Merry Berry Pudding.  It's not really a Christmas pud as it doesn't contain currants or raisins but I prefer it.  Here's the recipe.

Very Berry Christmas Pudding

100g (3½oz) sultanas
50g (2oz) each dried sour cherries, dried strawberries, dried cranberries and dried blueberries
50g (2oz) each ready-to-eat dried prunes, apricots and figs, roughly chopped
2tbsp fruit liqueur, 
100ml (3½fl oz) ginger wine
Zest and juice of 1 lemon  
Butter for greasing
75g (3oz) shredded suet
50g (2oz) self-raising flour
125g (4oz) fresh breadcrumbs
½tsp each mixed spice and ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch each of salt and freshly 
grated nutmeg
75g (3oz) soft dark brown sugar
2tbsp black treacle
1 Cox's apple, grated
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g (2oz) pecans, chopped (optional)

1 Put the dried fruit, raspberry liqueur, ginger wine, lemon zest and juice into a non-metallic mixing bowl. Cover and leave to soak overnight. Lightly butter a 1 litre (1¾ pint) pudding basin and put in a cool place. Put a 35.5cm (14in) square of foil on top of a square of baking parchment the same size. Fold a 4cm (1½in) pleat across the centre and set aside.
2 The next day, put the soaked fruit into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix together until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, pushing it down firmly, and level the surface. 
3 Put the pleated foil and parchment square (foil side up) on top and smooth down to cover. Using a long piece of string, tie securely under the lip of the basin, then knot. Bring the excess string over the top of the bowl and knot to the string on the other side to make a handle. 
4 To cook, put the pudding on an upturned heatproof saucer in a deep pan. Pour in enough water to come halfway up the basin, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4½-5hr, topping up as necessary. Remove pudding from pan and cool. Leaving it covered and in the basin, wrap tightly in clingfilm. Store in a cool, dark place for up to three months.  

To reheat Take off the clingfilm wrapping. Cook for 2hr, following the instructions in step 4, until heated through.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Hooray for Ziffit!

(Very) long time readers of this blog may remember that I have been trying to declutter.  I am not very good at decluttering.  However, I press on and slowly, slowly, bit by bit, stuff is leaving the premises.

Some is given away.  The Salvation Army, the Brownies and various friends have been recipients.

Some is ditched.  I try hard to recycle and I visit the local recycling centre to make sure as little as possible goes to landfill but sadly some things can have no other destination.

But some things can be sold.  Until recently my selling activity had been restricted to eBay.  I like eBay.  I use it for buying as well as selling but have to admit that buying is easier than selling as everything has to be photographed and described and then quite a lot doesn't get sold anyway which is frustrating.  

I have quite a lot of books to dispose of so this week I had my first trade with Ziffit.  All I had to do was to enter the barcode from the back of the book and Ziffit told me how much they would pay.  The prices were not wonderful but for an assured sale and very little effort I'm quite happy.  There is a minimum trade of ten books or £5 value.  

When I had completed my trade I did an internet search for a promo code.  I managed to get a 15% bonus!

The books then needed to be packed into a stout box, a label printed from the site and the books need to be taken to a Collect+ collection point.  These seem (mostly) to be convenience stores and they are listed on the Ziffit site.  I got a receipt for my package.

About a week later I was paid via Paypal but they will pay by BACS or a cheque.  I'm not only better off by £29.67 but I've got slightly less clutter in my home.  Can't be bad!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Water on my brain

I don't often give much thought to water although Wateraid is one of my favourite charities.  It's just that sparkly stuff which appears when I turn the tap clockwise.  However, this last weekend two things happened - first I got the annual water bill and secondly the drain which deals with water from the kitchen is not happy.  This has meant that I can't use the washing machine, the dishwasher or the kitchen sink.  Instead I've had to wash up in a bowl then carry the water outside to an alternative drain.  This is not my idea of a fun way to run my life.  

I decided straightaway to keep cooking to a minimum and to use batch cooked meals from the freezer when I am fed up with sandwiches.  Microwaving results in far easier washing up than does cooking from scratch.

However, I decided to look at my water bill in more detail than I normally would.  I have a metered supply and I pay £17 each month by direct debit so that's about 56p per day,  My bill tells me I use 37 cubic metres annually.  (The £17 is also surface water and waste water disposal.)

I consider I am careful rather than frugal with water.  I take navy showers; the loo often has yellow water in it, I make sure I wash only full loads in the washing machine and the dishwasher.  However, disability makes hand watering in the garden very difficult and I'm not keen on the other measures suggested on some other blogs.  One friend think's it hilarious that I bother with "if it's yellow, let it mellow" whilst another tells me there is no way that using a dishwasher can be economical with water no matter what the manufacturers tell us.

I wondered how my water consumption compared with the national average so I checked with the Consumer Council for Water.  The average water consumption for a single person household is 54 cubic metres.  My 37 cubic metres doesn't look bad at all.

PS I'd just finished writing this post when I got a phone message to say that the plumber is on his way.  Normal kitchen activity can be resumed!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Inexpensive kitchen equipment

The first thing I do each morning is to put the kettle on for a coffee.  No day starts without coffee here at Frugal Follies.  I don't drink tea at all so coffee is my go-to drink and each day I drink four or five mugs.  I have my favourite blends and they don't include any instants!

The problem with coffee is two fold.  Firstly it can be messy and secondly it can be expensive. When I use a cafetiere/French press  coffee grounds seem to get everywhere when I wash it.  I know that a machine would cause less mess but machines are expensive and those disposable pods are not exactly environmentally friendly.  I don't want another large gadget on my kitchen worktop either.

So I use a reusable filter.   This handy gadget is stored in a coffee mug in the cupboard and then I use a scoop of coffee in the filter in the mug.  It needs less coffee than a cafetiere and also less water.  It has handles to allow it to rest on the edge of the mug.  The grounds are kept in the filter to be tipped into the kitchen bin but nothing else gets thrown away. 

I still like to use cafetieres when I am entertaining.  They are more elegant and because I use them more rarely I enjoy the sense of occasion.  Will I replace my filter when it finally wears out?  You bet I will!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Kitchen equipment 2

Magimix 4200

When I retired all I asked for was a recipe book - but a very special recipe book.  I wanted people's favourite recipes, written out in their own hand so I had something very personal.  Someone then mounted all the recipes in an album and I have the most personal of reminders of the people in my old parishes.

But those lovely people also had a whip round and I got a cheque as well.  I decided to spend some of the money on a good quality food processor to help when making up the recipes.  I'd had cheap ones before but had hankered after something better so I bought one of these.  It's one of the gadgets which stays on the work surface all the time because I use it so much.  

Cheese is grated and frozen as soon as I buy it so there is less temptation to nibble.  Homemade coleslaw knocks the shop bought version into a cocked hat.  Soups are wondrously smooth.  (I have a hand held blender but this Magimix is much more thorough.)  Old crusts are made into breadcrumbs before freezing.  Items needing chopping whether it's to make stuffing or make Christmas pudding cause me no headaches.  Lemonade is a breeze.

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.  My Magimix is versatile, strong and valued.  It helps me use up tatty ingredients in soup, makes cheese and other ingredients "go" further, and generally is a great ally in the kitchen.  

Would I replace it if it broke down?  Well, part of its value is that I treasure it because it was part of my retirement gift so I will be sad when it can process food no more but I think it will see me out anyway.  If it breaks down before I do, I will probably replace.  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Kitchen equipment

I am told that I am a very difficult person to buy presents for but I suspect that could be said of most ladies "of a certain age".  We just don't want more "stuff", we get picky about toiletries, we don't want calorific treats - the list of what we don't want goes on and on.

All this means that if I express the smallest interest in something there is a real danger that someone will remember and I receive it for my birthday or Christmas.  I happened to mention yoghurt makers last year and this came in my stocking.  It's an electric model from Lakeland and it makes lovely yoghurt, about 500g at a time.  I've had a lovely time buying various live yoghurts and using them as cultures.  I've also bought Easiyo and some dried cultures.  

I like the dried cultures best.  I make a batch using UHT milk and skim milk powder, eat it, and use the last little bit as a culture for the next lot.  Some of the yoghurt gets turned into cheese and if one ignores the initial cost of the machine, it's very economical. 

But there's the rub.  I can ignore the cost of the machine as it was a gift.  I make a batch most weeks and I reckon it's about 20p per 500g cheaper than an equivalent natural yoghurt so over a year I will have saved £10.  I'd have to make and eat steadily at that rate for two years to break even and that ignores the cost of electricity.

I like my yoghurt maker.  I find it convenient and I enjoy the yoghurt and the cheese that I make.  Will I replace it when it breaks down?  I doubt it.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A September joy

It's sad when the runner beans come to an end.

It's sad when the curtains have to be drawn earlier and earlier each evening.

It's sad when lovely summer clothes have to be packed away to make room for warm jumpers.

But today I knew a special September joy for one of the joys of winter is to load the slow cooker before going out and then come home to the tempting aromas of a lamb casserole just waiting to be ladled on to the plate.

Maybe winter isn't so bad.