Before we get to the festive frugality, we have to mention the 120 mile an hour winds we’ve had here, the extended power cuts and heavy snow. A huge tree came down over our polytunnel but happily no damage occurred. We were very glad of our well stocked pantry, gas hob, hot water bottles and log fire!
Remember what really matters in your life. Look after yourself.
You’ll also find gift ideas, decoration advice and Christmas recipes. See the page here
Festive Frugality: Gifts
Everything5Pounds have a great range of clothes and homewares. All for £5, sometimes less. Designer items end up in the mix too. The Works are fantastic for selling sets of books for the price you would normally pay for one, so great if you have lots of kids to buy for (or adults!).
House sitting and/or pet sitting can be cheap ways to holiday. TrustedHousesitters have owners registered in over 130 countries, from townhouses in London to renovated farmhouses in Tuscany. For all our advice on holidays, days out, railcards, motorway secrets and more go here!
This Red Dragon Pie was inspired by a recipe in the classic book Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen (BBC cookery series). Topped with creamy mash, the base is a rich mix of aduki beans – traditionally said to give you the strength of the dragon – and brown rice in gravy.
Red Dragon Pie Ingredients (serves six)
Aduki beans, 200g dried and soaked overnight or two tins of cooked ones
200g of rice (brown is best)
4 sticks of celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs (or fresh, lots of parsley is great)
Potatoes, mashed with margarine and milk of your choice, for topping
Red Dragon Pie Method
Soak beans overnight if using dried ones. Place in a large pan, cover well with water, bring to the boil and let simmer for a couple of hours until soft. Throw in the rice about half way through cooking. Add more water if needed. Once it’s all nearly cooked add the vegetables and boil a pan of potatoes for your mash topping, quantity up to you. We do like a nice thick layer of mash.
Frugal Potato Tip
Leave those skins on! It saves waste and money to not throw away a section of potato. Just give them a good scrub and cut any gnarly or bad bits off and you’re good to go (compost those gnarlies!). The skins are rich in both fibre and vitamins too. For mashing we cut them up quite small to save having large bits of skin in the mix; they also cook faster that way, saving cooking fuel.
As the beans and potatoes cook , add the herbs, puree and yeast extract to the bean mixture. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir well. Drain and mash the potatoes with marg and milk. Place the bean mix in an ovenproof dish, if not already using one, and top with the potatoes. Easier if using cookware that transfers from hob to oven such as a Cast Iron Casserole – and bake in a hot oven (200C/400F) until nicely browned. Running a fork round the top of your mash gives it lots of nice little crispy bits to brown.
Thompson and Morgan have a seed sale on for the next 48 hours (time of writing 22nd October 2021 but they usually have good deals on)! Stock up on seeds for next year for £1. See the selection here and use code TM_TN2468W for the cheap price.
THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic while FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen.
The blend of dark events and romance in these stories is perfect for Autumn!
Food glorious food. We want it. Nay, we need it. And obtaining our food has all gone a little bit strange in the last couple of years, from only being allowed out to buy essentials during lockdown to facing empty shelves in the supermarkets in 2021.
It’s good to keep abreast of changing ideas and new concepts as they pop up in these strange times.
This is our wee rundown of alternative food purchasing/obtaining methods from a buy now pay later supermarket to groceries on bikes, short dated shops and a free food app.
Buy Now Pay Later
Flava is the UK’s first and only Buy Now Pay Later Supermarket. Everyone gets £100 credit and there are no fees, no credit checks and 0% interest is charged. This is not a discount store but there are always some special offers available for pennies. Well worth a check!
£10 off your shop with code FREE10!
Cheapest: Short Dated Food
Old favourites of ours, Low Price Foods and Approved Foods sell clearance and short dated food and household products. Many items do actually have quite a long date on them. This is a great way to stock up the cupboards.
Fastest: Gorillas on Bikes!
If you live in one of the areas Gorillas cover (at the time of writing: London, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading, Southampton and Cambridge), you can get a grocery delivery bicycled to you in 10 minutes! Standard retail prices.
SAS sell direct to the public in packs of 6. Prices offered are at discounts of up to 50% off either price marked products or RRP. SAS stands for Share and Save, encouraging customers to work with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to save money together.
Food Glorious Food for Free: Olio
Olio is an app that you can download to your phone to share food in your local area. It does have a desktop version too. People share things that they can’t use up in time from their fridge, or cupboard items that they no longer want. Food Waste Heroes (which you can volunteer to be) collect yellow stickered or surplus food from businesses and then share it on the app.
A new bulk food ordering website – SAS – has launched. This on-line Grocery Wholesaler deals in food, non-food, health and hygiene products and soft drinks. They sell direct to the general public in packs of 6. Prices offered are at discounts of up to 50% off either price marked products or RRP. SAS stands for Share and Save, encouraging customers to work with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to save money together.
In these changing times of supply issues and food shortages, it’s good to know of many different places and ways to shop such as bulk food ordering.
There is a £50 minimum charge with free delivery on orders over £75.
At the moment there’s a free gift of 3 bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup 570g valued at £6 for every new customer.
This apple chutney was inspired by a recipe from The Cranks Recipe Book, but we changed it a bit to our liking! It’s great for using up windfall apples in the autumn. The combination of flavours here make for a delectable chutney, completely delicious, and better than any you could buy.
Sometimes old railway lines have apple trees with fruit for the taking due to people throwing their apple cores out the train windows in the past. Parks and other public grounds often have the trees too. Look out for them in your area!
Apple Chutney Ingredients
These quantities fill about 3 medium jars. We doubled up and made 6 this year!
750 ml. cider vinegar
675g. molasses cane sugar (or any very dark sugar)
3 bay leaves (make little tears in them)
1 kg. cooking apples, peeled and chopped
100g onions, chopped quite finely
100g of raisins or sultanas
100g of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
a little seasalt
Slowly dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan. Add the bay leaves. Prepare the apples, onions, garlic and ginger and add these also with the salt and raisins. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring frequently, until the excess liquid is gone.
Cool and jar. Gorgeous in a cheeze and pickle sarny, as part of a ploughman’s lunch or just with some crackers as shown above.
Growing your own food forest does not have to be hard work, nor do you have to own a massive garden to achieve it. You work with what space is available – you can even make a mini ‘forest’ of herbs and sprouts on a windowsill – and do what you have time for.
We’re gradually changing the grass/food ratio in our own garden. We built some raised beds out of old roofing tiles.
Kale is one tough cookie. It does well here in Northern Scotland and continues to produce leaves for two years.
A cheap packet of lettuce seeds from Lidl was sprinkled all over this (non-raised) new bed this year and two courgette plants were popped in among it. They’re doing really well. We use the lettuce in a ‘cut and come again’ way as you get a higher yield that way. It just keeps going.
Potatoes are a really easy crop to grow. This year we planted mainly shops ones that had sprouted at the back of the fridge so they really didn’t cost anything and they have produced well. Admittedly, the Pentland Javelins we bought as seed potatoes have been somewhat more abundant.
Potatoes can also be grown in containers or even a bag of compost. We know one lady who threw some old sprouted ones into a half used bag of compost and left them all summer to find masses of lovely new tatties in the autumn.
We like to mix things up and plant a few flowers between. They’re good for attracting bees. Nasturtiums are also edible. Pallet bench in background…
Fruit bushes and trees are well worth the initial investment as they go on giving forever more and create shelter and the ‘foresty’ aspect of your food forest. Birds seem quite good at ‘planting’ the blackcurrant seeds; we’ve had some new ones come up in odd corners of the garden. They’re very low maintenance.
‘How to Grow Your Own Food: A Week-by-week Guide to Wild Life Friendly Fruit and Vegetable Gardening’ by Dirty Nails. This fabulous book takes you through the year, detailing what you can be planting, preparing, harvesting etc. each week. Humorously written, lots of information on wildlife is given throughout such as facts about badgers, woodpeckers and cuckoos. The book is very well indexed and has some lovely fruit and vegetable recipes too. A user-friendly title that’s sure to help you maximise your garden’s food production. Buy UK
‘Forest Gardening’ by Robert A de J Hart. Here the author details his garden – a miniature forest filled with an abundance of things to eat. This is low maintenance gardening once established with trees, bushes and perennial plants which provide both shelter and food. Included are recommended plants for different regions of the world – this book is a huge resource of information and inspiration. Buy UK
Creating a Forest Garden: Forest gardening is a novel way of growing edible crops – with nature doing most of the work for you. A forest garden is modelled on young natural woodland, with a wide range of crops growing in different vertical layers. Unlike in a conventional garden, there is little need for digging, weeding or pest control. Buy UK
2 cups of porridge oats
1 large tablespoon of vegetable margarine
1 banana, mashed
a handful of raisins
a splash of unsweetened soya milk
Melt the marg in a pan and then stir in the oats. Mix in the banana and raisins, add the soya milk and stir well. Press the mixture into a flat cake tin or oven proof dish (10×10 inch did well) and bake for 10-15 minutes in a hot oven. Score while still warm, leave to cool and cut into squares.
If you would rather have a more traditional sugar laden flapjack, add a tablespoon of golden syrup to the mix, but really, they’re delicious without it!
Chocolate variant: add two heaped teaspoons (or more!) of cocoa in with the banana and raisins 🙂
Recipe inspired by Lucy who always adds banana to her flapjacks 🙂