Monday 28 September 2015

Frugal hero(ines) 4

Down a generation for my next hero.  Grandad and Grandma's son-in-law.  In other words, my Father.

My sixty fourth birthday is approaching and my Father would now have been over a hundred years old so for some of my readers he is old enough to have been their grandfather or even great grandfather - maybe even great great grandfather but that makes me feel very old myself.  He was born just after the outbreak of the Great War and was the eldest child of a family of eight.

My paternal grandparents are not as vivid in my memory as my maternal ones but they must have been truly devoted parents.  Their youngest child had severe epilepsy which was regarded with great suspicion in those days.  They were urged to commit him to an institution but grandma was adamant that she was the best person to care for him which she did until he died aged fourteen (quite a while before I was born).   Of the remaining seven three went to Grammar School which was impressive for a steelworks labourer's family in those days.  My father was one of the lucky three.

Daddy left school when he was about seventeen and became an apprentice on the steel works but he was a hard working man and he steadily worked his way up to become general manager of those same works.  His salary was good and I didn't understand for years why we always lived in rented houses.

The reason?  He still took a lot of responsibility for his parents and younger siblings and he bought the house in which my grandmother lived until she was well into her eighties.  He would not commit to a mortgage on a second house until the first was paid off.  

He abhorred debt.  If you could not pay for something you didn't have it.  You saved a cushion for emergencies and you planned your spending.  

So the frugal example of my Father was two fold.  First and obviously, you do not get into debt.  I didn't always take this to heart when I was younger but these days I like a good night's sleep.  The second thing might not seem so much frugality as ethics but it is this: you take your financial responsibilities seriously.  Daddy was grateful for the sacrifices his parents had made and after making sure that my mother and sister and I were OK, he continued to help them until their deaths

Sunday 27 September 2015

My frugal hero(ines) 3

Ah dear, sweet Aunt Alice!

If my grandmother's life was hard, Great Aunt Alice's was even harder.  At only 47 she was left the widow of grandad's younger brother.  They had eight children but two predeceased their father.  Their youngest son was only six when the children were left fatherless in 1939.  The family lived in a cottage on the farm and doubtless were helped and supported by the extended family but I think it is fair to say that Aunt Alice had  very little.

I can't remember much about Aunt Alice's time on the farm as by the time I can remember she was living in an old person's bungalow in the village.  For a rather greedy little girl that was great!  You see, we could walk down to the village-shop-cum-post-office for some sweets then call at Aunt Alice's in the sure knowledge that she would feed us home-made cake.

To be fair to myself I continued to visit long after the cake was a major attraction and indeed until I was grown up but there was a small ordeal each time I went.  I had to have a cup of tea.  Despite having spent most of my working life as a Christian minister I am not a "more tea, Vicar?".  I loathe tea.  I would rather be thirsty!  However, there was no way that I would hurt my dear Aunt Alice, so when I went to her I made sure I had some peppermints in my pocket to take the taste away.

For Aunt Alice, offering a  cup of tea was one of life's pleasures.  Out would come a pretty cup and saucer and a lacy tray cloth.  The cake would be on a dainty plate which probably didn't match the cup and saucer but it was nevertheless cherished.  Chatting about the little things of life whilst sharing a cake and a cuppa which she had made was something to be treasured.  After I had left she would wash up, still thinking about me.  Later still she would make another cuppa and drink it remembering the things we had talked about, the news which I had brought.

And that is the example of frugality which she taught me.  It was actually a very lavish frugality.  In terms of "things" Aunt Alice had very little but what she had was to be cherished and shared.  In terms of a heart, Aunt Alice's was as big as a bucket and she showed me that the simplest of things can be pleasures and when done with love, they are priceless.

Saturday 26 September 2015

My frugal hero(ines) 2

Grandma was married to Grandad.  No surprises there!  

Grandad was also an amazing role model for a youngster to grow up with. He had left school as soon as he could (about ten or twelve years old) so that he could contribute to the family purse.  However, he was an intelligent man and made the most of every opportunity.  I think he always wanted to be a farmer but as a youngster he had to work as a joiner.

He was one of three brothers and eventually the three set up in business as farmers.  Farming was not very profitable and indeed it must have been very hard work.  However, Grandad took every opportunity to learn more and more.  Not for him Oxford or Cambridge or even the Open University - his education was in the University of Life.  He could do most simple construction jobs.  He was the cattle man in the farming partnership but he was also involved in the arable side of the business and at lambing time, he did his shifts in the pens.  His regular reading was The Farmers Weekly but he read much wider than that.

Grandad did the most beautiful copperplate and I still have some samples of his handwriting.  He did the admin for the farm, keeping the books, paying the men, and doing the thousand-and-one paperwork jobs which needed to be done.

So how do I see him as a role model for someone aspiring to be frugal?  Well, like most people of his generation he wasted nothing but the special inspiration for me is that he wasted no opportunity.  He had few advantages.  His schooling was curtailed but he learnt many skills, including book-keeping, by whatever means he could.

I think I follow his example most especially when I do MOOCs, Massive Online Open Courses.  Like grandad I do not believe that education comes to an end when the school door closes, rather that is when true education really begins.  I had far more opportunities than grandad did and sadly I wasted some of them but that won't happen again.  I want to be like my grandad.  

Friday 25 September 2015

My frugal hero(ine)s (1)

If you read my other blog you may remember that earlier this year I wrote quite a lot about my dearly loved grandma who died well over thirty years ago.

Grandma lived in a big old-fashioned farmhouse which looked very elegant from the outside but was cold, inconvenient and rather uncomfortable to live in.  She had an amazingly hard life but for all sorts of reasons she is one of my frugal heroines.

Grandma had more than enough to do, running the farmhouse and doing quite a bit towards the running of the farm but she always kept a few hens.  Looking back with rose-coloured spectacles it could seem idyllic but those couple of dozen birds caused a lot of work.  Grandma had to let them out in the morning and shut them up at night, often searching for a hen who had gone broody in a very inconvenient place.  Egg gathering sounds lovely but mucking out hen houses was not so much fun.  The fox was a constant enemy.  Grandma had to cope with delicate day old chicks and had to wring the necks of birds whose time had come.  The birds would come to the back door but when they left they would also have left poo behind them.

All in all the hens were hard work but there were beautiful fresh eggs for the farmhouse and grandma would always give me one or two to take home for my tea during the week.

The surplus eggs would be sent to the egg packing station.  They had to be buffed clean, sorted and packed into trays and seeing to that was sometimes my job.  Just a few dozen eggs would be sent each week and some weeks there would be very few to send,

Whatever money there was from the eggs was grandma's own, not "farm money" and she used to squirrel it away along with butter money.  Once a year she used to treat grandad and herself to a week at the seaside, staying at a guest house in Skegness.  

A few days ago I mentioned to a friend that I earn about £60 to £70 a month doing on-line surveys and she said, "Ooh, over a year that's enough for a holiday!" 

And I thought back to grandma and her hens.  I'm not pretending that the surveys are anything like such hard work but they can be very tedious and the only way to get anything like £60 a month is to be very constant in doing them.  The money doesn't go directly to my holiday budget (I'm usually paid in Amazon vouchers) but it does free up money to enable my holidays to be taken.

I think Grandma would be pleased with me.  I hope so.  

Sunday 20 September 2015

Job done

Wednesday evening
Sunday evening
I can't believe it's taken less than five days but I have finished the throw I started on Wednesday!  Actually Claire-up-the-road thinks she may have more raspberry yarn and if she has I may do a few more rounds, but even without that I've got a cosy throw ready for the winter.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Further decluttering

The reduction in messy places goes on-and-on-and-on-and on!  

I wonder what decluttering means to you?  Is it just a case of unwanted stuff leaving the premises, in other words working towards minimalism?  Or do you see it more as an exercise in tidying and organisation?  I suppose for most of us the answer lies somewhere between the two.  

The problem with stuff just leaving the premises is that it may still have its uses within my home.  The part of me that longs to be more frugal wants to make the most of what I have got, even though another bit of me wants just to run through the house with a big black bag and then hire a skip whilst ignoring the part of me which hates landfill.  My problem is finding that fine line between frugal keeping of stuff and just plain hoarding.  I doubt if I am alone in that predicament.

About a third of a lap blanket
As I have gone around the house I have found quite a lot of knitting yarn which I have now collected in a designated drawer whilst thinking of how to use it up or pass it on. This week I have had problems with my eyes which have meant that I don't want to do any sewing so I got my crochet hook out and I have started on a lap blanket.    It's nowhere near finished but it has satisfied my need for something to do which doesn't require good eyesight, my need to do something with various small quantities of yarn and my fast approaching need for extra warmth over the winter.  Not just win:win but win:win:win!

The trouble is that I may feel like a decrepit old granny when I use it

Monday 14 September 2015

Remember me?

  • It’s a whole week since I wrote on this blog so I think I ought to report in.
  • The dehydrator is again full of tomatoes.  This is the third batch I have done.  Most I have semi dried and then frozen but I filled a jar with some along with a few capers and some olive oil mixed with crushed garlic.  The main problem is keeping my paws off the jar.  They are totally delicious!  I bought a jar of dried tomatoes in Lidl yesterday to compare with my home made stuff and mine knock the commercial ones to a cocked hat.  OK, maybe I’m prejudiced!  I don’t know if mine would keep as well as the Lidl ones but I see no need to find out.
  • My MOOCs are both going well.  The Nutrition and Wellbeing one technically finished last week but I haven’t finished the material yet.  I’ve been enjoying it so much that I did far more than the minimum and have hardly started the final week’s materials yet.  The one on Falls I am actually enjoying even more. 
  • My holiday is in three weeks so I’m turning my thoughts to preparation.  Quite honestly, I prepare more for coming back home than I do for going on holiday!  I like to leave the house extra tidy, as many jobs as possible done up to date and my life ready for me to step back into it.  

Monday 7 September 2015

Another MOOC

This is just a quick post to alert anyone who is interested to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which starts today on the subject of falls.  Go to

I know some of my readers are carers for people who have a risk of falling and others are at risk of falling themselves.  This course is on risk management and strategies and is run by the University of Newcastle and Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals' Falls and Syncope Service.  It's free and takes only four weeks.  I normally allow about three or four hours a week for a MOOC but that does not have to be in one big chunk - I sometimes watch a video while I'm having a coffee .  

Signing on to a MOOC is easy. If you don't like it you can drop out with no fuss made.  If the subject is interesting and relevant to you - have a go!

Friday 4 September 2015

Dried tomatoes

I left the tomatoes in the dehydrator all day yesterday and this is the result.  This little pile weighs just under ten ounces.  I put about 3½ lbs in yesterday.

The semi dried fruit is lovely.  Leave it until it is totally dry and it’s not so good.  I shall pack some into screw top jars with a few capers and cover with an olive oil and garlic mixture.  These will be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

The remainder I will freeze.  I know it is possible to dry them thoroughly and just keep them in a cool dry place but I don’t like them over-dried as I don’t think they soften up thoroughly if they have been allowed to get too crisp.  For safety’s sake therefore I will freeze them but they take far less space in the freezer than fresh tomatoes and they taste much more intense.

I’ll try and report back as I eat them over the winter

Thursday 3 September 2015

Another unused gadget gets a temporary reprieve

Another gadget I found whilst decluttering the cupboards was my food dehydator.  I bought it years ago when I had a large garden but I haven't used in a very long time.  Things can  be dried in the oven but as I have the dehydrator this is a cheaper method to use.  

At this time of the year I have a glut of tomatoes, tomatoes are cheap in the shops, tomatoes can be bought from wayside stalls, and friends are anxious to give me tomatoes.  That is a lot of tomatoes.  I slow cook some and make a tomato sauce for pasta but I decided to have one last go with the dehydrator.  What I am hoping is that if I add a few dried tomatoes to slow cooked foods they will absorb some of the excess liquid.  Dried tomatoes also have a very intense flavour which may enhance some dishes.  

We shall see.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

It's that MOOC again!

I'm about half way through the short course on nutrition and well-being which I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago.  I'm really enjoying it and have been learning about macro and micro nutrients as well as the effect of my dietary habits on the planet.

One of the activities this week is to develop a healthy recipe so I decided to look at the minced beef recipe which I cook about every six weeks or so.  I suppose it was originally some sort of Bolognese sauce but I doubt if any Italian would recognise it now.  Anyway I decided to look at how I could make it low fat, high fibre and tasty to boot.  I recorded what I put in it and investigated the nutritional values and as this is called Frugally Challenged, I took on the costing challenge as well.

750 grammes mince (I used Tesco less than 5% fat mince)
2 tins Everyday value chopped tomatoes (I drained off some of the juice)
3 tbsp Worcester sauce
about 20 grammes garlic
350 grammes mushrooms sliced (again I used Everyday value)
500 grammes frozen mixed vegetables (see below)
500 grammes chopped onions
1 tube tomato puree

I used Tesco vegetable mix for Bolognese because it's on special at the moment at 50p but I think I would normally use any mixed veg.  I cooked this first then pureed it.

Brown the mince and put it in the slow cooker.  Bung in everything else (semi drained tomatoes, Worcester sauce, garlic, sliced mushroom, vegetable puree, chopped onions and tomato puree).  Cook on high for four hours then switch to low and remove the lid until it is the consistency you want.

The total cost was £8.10, the total calories 1920.  This meant it cost 68p per portion and had 160 calories.  I won't bore you with the carbohydrate, salt, fat and sugar figures but they were pretty good as well.

And the sauce was scrummy!

Tuesday 1 September 2015


As I have scrabbled through my cupboards bemoaning my lack of discipline, I have found quite a lot of gadgets which I have acquired over the years.  Some were gifts, others were purchasing errors but some have real use.

This burger press came to me as a present several years ago and has done sterling service and will continue to do so for many years to come.  I dearly love a good quality beef burger but sadly they are not easy to find.  I've often been appalled that the huge burger I put in the pan turns out to be a minute blob swimming in a sea of fat.  

That never happens with my home made ones.  I buy "not more than 5%fat" mince and get to work with my press.  Really it isn't necessary to use a press - just pressing mince firmly with your hands will do - but as I have the press and I rather like using it, it gets used.  If I became more limited for space it would probably go.  Today 750 grammes of mince made six very generous burgers so they cost 84p each.  Not the cheapest burgers but worth that to me.

And I used a gadget which I've never used - the camera on my tablet!  (Only because I can't find my "real" camera!)