Saturday, 13 December 2014

SENSIBLE, FRUGAL CHRISTMAS PRESENT GIVING!


It's nearly Christmas and there's any amount of gifty type stuff all around us in the shops, but what's the point of it all? Most of these "ready made" gifts show how little thought the giver has put into finding something just right for the recipient! 
I heard someone say on TV this week, that this is "tit for tat" giving and when you do tit for tat giving, then you all just end up with tat! Very true - you know what I'm talking about- expensive cardboard boxes with two or three very small (and very expensive) bath "smellies" gifts or a boxed handkerchief with a pair of nail clippers or a key torch - need I say more? I think it's time to stop this type of giving, spend less and think more, so I've come up with an idea to help us all. 
We all like a little parcel to open on Christmas day, so my idea is to buy a relevant small gift (even if it's only from Poundland - in fact, preferably if it's from Poundland!) wrap it beautifully and supplement it with an amount of money roughly equal to what you would have spent on the "tat" present!
For example find out what kind of chocolate someone likes - look for it in a pound shop (Toblerones, Maltesers, Walnut Whips, etc) and wrap a fiver around it! Done! Don't just look in the "Christmas gift" sections, but check out the whole store. You can find notebooks with pretty covers, car accessories, beaded trinket boxes, bike pumps, puncture repair kits, pretty hair clips and hair brushes, or perhaps you could buy a nail varnish in a suitable colour for your recipient along with a gift of the "folding stuff" - it seems more practical and instead of packs of socks or handkerchiefs, they'll have some money to buy what they really want - even if it's just their own choice of a magazine! 
Happy frugal Christmas!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

43 DAYS TO CHRISTMAS!



43 days to Christmas- that's 43 days to save £43! You've got to be able to save/make a pound a day! Not much perhaps - but actually better than nothing!
It'll buy you some Christmas food, pay off a bill in January or add to your savings in the brand new year.
But how? Well, money not spent is the best way. Spend half an hour looking at your bank statement NOW! Cancel any old subscriptions to magazines or gym memberships that you no longer use.
Walk or scrounge a lift instead of taking the bus/car if it's at all possible. Take a packed lunch and never, never buy takeaway coffee until you know you're a millionaire! 
Don't start celebrating too early - work Christmas lunches or after work drinks will suck away your money quicker than you can knock back that pre Christmas Bailey's!
Sell anything useless that's laying around your house/garden/wardrobe - particularly if you have any festive items like Christmas jumpers, unwanted gifts, party wear, shoes - and do it NOW! You still have time to list it, sell it, post it and get the cash.
Cut back on food treats now - both your wallet and your waist will thank you. Give the chocolate buying a rest, stop sending out for pizza and don't buy those choccy biscs! Leave buying (and eating) those mince pies until at least Christmas eve!
Use any points you have on loyalty cards to either buy groceries, necessities or Christmas gifts/food. 
Do online surveys - not quick money but you may just scrape up enough for an e voucher for Amazon, Marks & Spencers, John Lewis etc. Try valuedopinions.co.uk. Make sure you go through a cashback website for all your online purchases and use a credit card that will also give you points/cashback.
None of this will make you exceptionally rich - but you'll be better off than if you hadn't done it! 
Happy Frugal Christmas!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

CHRISTMAS IN JULY!

It's only July and I don't normally resurrect my Happy Frugal Christmas blog until at least October, even though there only 150 days to Christmas! But my viewing stats are telling me that you frugal people are already out there thinking about how to plan to afford a great Christmas! And what a great idea that is - planning always saves money and leaving all our Christmas buying to the last minute always, always costs us more. 
If, like me, you love charity shop browsing, start now especially if you're away on holiday! I often get great bargains when I'm away from home and these go into my "Christmas gift drawer". 
I never leave home for a charity shop day without my Christmas pressy list (which tells me who I've got to buy for and who I already have bought for) and there are often many brand new bargains to be found. 
However, don't just leave it at buying a new, unopened item - if you can sew, look out for fabric remanants (I've just found a beautiful piece of Liberty silk!) or large curtains and patterned duvet covers - these can made into scarves, bags, quilts, cushion covers, soft toys etc and no-one will ever know, saving on the horrendous cost of new fabric from the craft shop! 
Happy frugal Christmas planning!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

HAPPY NEW FRUGAL YEAR!

I hope you all had a wonderful (if frugal) Christmas! It's nearly the New Year and as we usher in 2014, with all the grim price rises at our back, we know we still have to fight the spending and stay frugal!
It may seem like doom and gloom, but we have faced (and still will do) wage freezes, rising utility bills and soaring food bills. The only way to keep afloat is to plan, to change a lot of things - even if in a small way, and budget, budget, budget!
Look forward to the spring - think about having a go at growing your own, asking for free stuff to help you (on your local Freegle and Freecycle) and you may soon find others to fight the frugal fight with you! If you can't get an allotment, perhaps offer your help to someone who has, in exchange for some produce - or perhaps help someone who has a garden that's too big for them to manage, where you can grow veggies for you both! 
Perhaps offer your skills in something else in exchange for something you need, lawn-mowing in exchange for jam making or a haircut in exchange for window cleaning. Try to put yourself outside of the "money system" - being frugal is much more about thinking creatively than being miserly!
The Happy Frugal Christmas blog will be taking a break until Autumn 2014, but stay with us at Happy Frugal Year for year-round money-saving ideas and money-making tips, and if you need to lose some of that festive weight gain, take a look at the frugal 5:2 diet tips - no fancy foods, diet plans or books to buy and no expensive diet club subscription! 
For those of you who are already planning for Easter we have lots of  Easter Free Knitting Patterns on offer- or if you are a long-term knitter and planner start gift knitting for Christmas 2014 at Free Christmas Knitting Patterns!
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

GREAT FRUGAL GIFT BOX IDEA!


 cup-box
This tutorial for a great gift box idea is a real find. Make a small gift container for your home-made cookies, sweets or tiny gifts from a cardboard cup and decorate. You can close the top with a paper label or if you cut down lower into the cup, you will have a smaller (or non-existent) hole.
Really frugal!

SHORTBREAD RECIPE!

I'm a strong believer in the idea that a home-made Christmas gift is wonderful, but it shouldn't cost the maker any more to make than it would to go to the shop and buy it - we are talking about a frugal lifestyle after all!
So this shortbread recipe is plain and simple and can be made with cheap ingredients, but still be a "luxury". My biggest tip is to use real butter- shortbread never tastes so good if it's made with margarine and a block of unsalted butter bought from a supermarket is often no more expensive than margarine! 
For example, I have found today Tesco Everyday Unsalted* block butter at 98p, Aldi Greenvale unsalted block butter 98p and Asda Smartprice also 98p. Plain flour and caster sugar are also widely available at budget prices, check out the prices on mysupermarket.co.uk.
*You may want to use salted butter as this adds about the right amount of "saltiness" to your shortbread.

Anyway, to get to the recipe!

Shortbread recipe
Ingredients
4ozs block butter
2ozs caster sugar
6ozs plain flour

Method
Oven temperature 150C/Gas2
Beat the butter and sugar together until well mixed and smooth (this is easier if you take the butter out from the fridge for a couple of hours first).
Gently stir in the flour to form a dough and turn out on to a floured working surface to roll out to 1cm or half inch thick.
If you have any Christmas cutters (stars, hearts, trees etc) cut out the shapes, but rounds made with a tumbler or rectangles are fine if you don't have cutters.
Place on a baking tray, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (watch them carefully as you don't want much colour - just a pale gold colour with no brown edges!).
Cool on a wire rack and pack in an airtight container for up to a week.
You can half dip your shortbread in melted chocolate if you have it, and wrap it (with labels stating ingredients) in cellophane squares or bags, if you have those - what a lovely gift!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!


QUICK LAST MINUTE GIFTS TO KNIT!

If you are cash strapped this Christmas and can knit, you are in luck there are lots of small, quick gifts to knit at the Free Christmas Knitting Patterns blog!
There are dozens of small items that you still have time to knit up from your stash! For example, there are small toys, small items of clothing  (gloves, headbands, hats and scarves) and much more!
Happy Frugal Knitting!
Check out my growing collection of patterns for crochet and  knitted gifts!

Monday, 16 December 2013

DIY PAPER CHRISTMAS SPIRALS

DIY Christmas Spirals
Pretty paper spirals from the dreamsiclesisters to make yourself - leave plain or decorate with sparkle!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

FREE PRINTABLE PAPER DOLL AND CLOTHES

paper_doll
A paper doll and her wardrobe of outfits - just print off, cut them out, put in a pretty box or tin and you have a free and unusual stocking filler! No-one can buy this in the shops! Your little girl can mix and match the outfits for hours.
The doll and her clothes are all downloadable* and free - and they are just beautiful!  
*Don't miss the extra links at the bottom of the post for more clothing items.

REALLY, REALLY FRUGAL RETRO PAPER CHAINS!

Retro vintage style decorations are really popular now and what can be better than if they cost you next to nothing (or nothing!) to make and keep the children occupied for ages! 
These home-made retro paper chains in the picture are made from strips of old comics (not valuable ones of course!), but if you want your chains to look even more festive, use pages from Christmas gift magazines or pages of adverts - look for pages showing decorations, gift ideas or fashion features and get them from free supermarket mags that are available at this time of year or Sunday supplements which always show beautiful red/gold, silver/blue Christmassy colours on their pages at Christmas - these are free and readily available. Don't worry about the reverse side showing too much - it won't and certainly not once the chains are hung up, no-one will notice!
To make your chains (I do this in batches of 6 or 7 pages at a time depending on thickness of paper) mark one page with a pencil every 5cm (2 in) down one long side. Stack all your 6 pages together and cut through all pages together across your pages at the marked intervals, leaving you with your bundles of strips to start making the chains*.
Curl one strip round to to overlap by about 1cm (half inch) and glue or staple in position. Stapling is less messy and may hold better than glue (depending on the glue type) as the heat in rooms may dry glue out, but if you don't have a stapler, use glue and if they come apart during the Christmas period, it's simple to stick them back!
*at this stage you may like to add some glitter glue if you have it. Allow it to dry before joining strips.
Happy Frugal Christmas Crafting! 
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Friday, 6 December 2013

CHRISTMAS FOOD AT POUNDLAND!


I've been trying to get some inspiration for small gifts ahead of actually going into town tomorrow- and no I don't want to go - the crowds, the parking, the queues - and I've seen an amazing amount of Christmas food opportunities at Poundland! 
Mmm, I was a bit sceptical at first, but there are some big name brands in there and if you can brave the shops at this time of year it could be well worth it!
This is what they are advertising and all for only £1!:
Mr Kipling Mince Pies iced or plain 6 pack (but Tesco is selling them at BOGOF for £1.80 per pack - for a limited time though).
Hoppers Mince pies 9 pack (never heard of this brand, but could be worth it if you don't need many and aren't really a fan - check the ingredients list).
Huntley & Palmer Christmas Pudding 2-pack (small ones, but ideal for 2 people).
Ambrosia Custard 400g tin 2 for £1 (Tesco is selling 3 for £2 now).
Festive Fayre Christmas Pudding 350g (an own label, but may be good, check the ingredients).
Jacobs Biscuits for Cheese 250g box (£1.50 in Tesco).
Various Premium fruit & nut mixes in 150g bags.
Oxo Stock cubes, 18 and 12 pack depending on variety.
Aunt Bessies Gravy Granules 300g pack (good value as Tesco is £1 for 170g).
Fox's Brandy Snaps.
Milk Chocolate Yule Log 300g (again, check ingredients list -you may not like it).
A great assortment of chocolates; Maltesers, Thorntons, Cadburys, Guylian and personally, I would stick to brands when buying chocolate in Poundland - some unbranded chocolates can be uneatable - I know- I've been given some as presents in the past!
As always, do your research, if you can - use My Supermarket  to check prices - Poundland charges a pound and many of its items can be had for less in the regular supermarkets.
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

FRUGAL MAKE YOUR OWN HAMPER GIFT IDEAS


You can really make a thoughtful, frugal gift in the form of a hamper - just think outside the box! 
First get your container!
Now, when we think of "hampers" we think of those old style, rectangular wicker baskets - and they're beautiful, but very expensive, so think of something else that will be relevant to the person you are giving the gift to. For example, if you know the recipient is studying, or setting up a home office, then your gift could be a basic waste paper bin full of useful bits and pieces - students always need chocolate, A4 file pads, post-it notes, pens etc, and a home office worker may like a file box (these can be bought in really funky colours and patterns now- try to match their room colour) also full of similar useful stationery and chocolate - Poundland is wonderful for items like that.
 
Poundland also have hanging plant baskets for, yes, £1 and you could buy one of these for a keen gardener and fill it with seeds, gardening gloves, garden twine, small tools or pots. 
Look out for baskets or pretty boxes in charity shops now and get collecting your gifts to fill it - bear in mind it may take some time to find all the themed little gifts you will need to fill it. 
Tip: don't buy a huge container as you will struggle to fill it- better an overflowing small container than one with a few lost-looking items in the bottom.
Pad your container out with shredded paper - I plan to shred loads of that brown packing paper some companies fill their packing boxes with! If you can afford some clear florist wrap to tie round your hamper gift with a bow, then that will look fabulous. Otherwise, wrap in ordinary gift wrap or get a large gift bag from Poundland like the one here.
Final tip:Think about bogofs and other similar offers if you plan several hamper style gifts - this could save you a lot of money. 
If you can make fudge, chutney, marmalade, jam, pickled onions, shortbread biscuits or any other goodies, then a "hamper" of eatables is the ideal gift, expecially for someone who seems to have everything! 
Happy Frugal gift giving! 
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

PINE CONE CHRISTMAS DECORATION

http://www.giverslog.com/wrapthegift/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/08-11-06-truluxe-pinecones.jpg
An almost free decoration with a real folksy feel! The high winds in our area have brought down a few cones this week - I'm picking them up and leaving them somewhere warmish (anywhere indoors will do) so that they open up a little. Then when they are ready, I glue pom-poms on them (as pictured) - or if you don't want to buy anything, have a rummage through your button tin for tiny buttons and glue on - if your buttons are just plain white shirt buttons, then paint them with any nail varnish colours you have! Alternatively, use any old beads you may have for a real vintage look!
These will look great lined up along the mantel piece, on the hall table or any windowsill.
Happy frugal Christmas!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

MY RECIPE FOR CHRISTMAS PICKLED ONIONS!


This is my first attempt at pickling some (very small) onions and shallots we grew on our allotment. There is a mixture of two types of shallots - you can just see the pinker type in the photo.
I hunted everywhere for a simple recipe without too many ingredients or too much faffing about, so this is a combination of several recipes and methods. Some people added water to their pickling vinegar, come people put all the pickling spice in the jars with the onions, some strain all the spices off and others added decorative spices to the jars, like star anise. 
However, I wanted a fairly ordinary sweet and spicy vinegar that would appeal to pretty much everyone - well, everyone who likes pickled onions that is! Quantities are somewhat imprecise when pickling as I always find I have spiced vinegar left over, but it keeps in a screw top bottle in the fridge and can be used for pickling beetroot as well. So here is my recipe for two large jars of pickled onions:
Ingredients
About 1 kg small pickling onions
Salt
1 litre of malt vinegar
4 tsps of mixed pickling spice (the easiest way to get a range of spices, cheaply, I found)
300g granulated sugar (less if you don't want a sweet vinegar)

Method
Put the peeled onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with an even covering of salt (about 30g should be enough) turn the onions over a little to distribute the salt, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. This is to draw out some moisture from the onions so that they don't go soft when pickled.
Rinse onions thoroughly, leave to drain and sterilise a couple of large pickling jars (very hot water is fine).
Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a large stainless steel pan and warm gently,  stirring regularly to prevent the sugar sticking anywhere or burning. No need to boil, you just want to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat when done, cover and leave to cool - this will allow the spices time to infuse their lovely taste into the vinegar. When the vinegar is cool strain it through a sieve into a large jug to catch all the spices and then discard them.
Pack the onions as tightly as you can in the jars and pour the vinegar in as near to the top of the jars as you can. Try not to have any onions sticking up out of the vinegar. Seal and keep in the dark for at least 3-4 weeks. The jars do not need to be in a fridge, just somewhere dark and cool is fine.
The you can eat them - just in time for Christmas!


Sunday, 20 October 2013

CHRISTMAS GIFT BUDGETING!


I'm starting my gift list now in order to help me budget - saving money takes time - unfortunate, but true and we can't buy all our Christmas gifts from one pay cheque- well, I can't anyway! 
If we leave our present buying until the last minute it will cost more - I've just found that out the hard way, as the huge Christmas tins of choccies I usually buy for nieces and nephews have already been on offer and then gone back up in price!
Anyway to get back to the list - always have a list! I am taking ideas for presents from close family - they know how much I'll spend! Then, as for other relatives, I'm keeping my list with me - and when I spot a suitable bargain I'll get it, then cross them off my list. 
For families, I'm thinking of buying a large gift bag (hope Poundland will have some) and filling it with chocolate (still got to bargain hunt that), wine (ditto), nice shortbread biscuits (hoping to make those), fudge, chutney (definitely making that), and marmalade or jam (ditto).
Happy Frugal Gift hunting!
 Check out my growing collection of patterns for crochet and  knitted gifts!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

THE HUNT FOR MY FRUGAL CHRISTMAS PUDDING INGREDIENTS!

 
My hunt for store cupboard ingredients for my frugal Christmas pudding is done! I am still torn between making the 2 puddings quantity in my recipe or making just the one pudding and saving some outlay on ingredients (not that I need much). Of course we could eat 2 puddings- or rather my other half and I could - but should we? No.
Inevitably, the size packets of ingredients as bought, e.g. almonds, will give me some leftovers as making one pudding will require half of them! 
What a dilemma! Trouble is, I've lost over a stone this year on the very frugal 5:2 diet (no club to join, no fees, no special foods or recipes) and I know a month of Christmas pudding eating will undo much of that loss!
Anyway, to get back to the pudding ingredients - I have found that I only need some almonds, suet, candied peel, a lemon, an orange, a few cooking apples, 225g currants and 275g raisins - not bad as that is only going to cost me around  £7 (with quite a few amounts of some things left over) and I don't believe I will get a good Christmas pudding (actually 2!) for that price. I know you can buy puddings as cheap as £1 each, and I have cooking costs to factor in, but I will know what's in mine and it will be bigger than most on the market!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

MY FRUGAL HOME-MADE CHRISTMAS PUDDING!


I've dug out my very old Christmas pudding recipe to start hunting through the cupboards for ingredients, but more of that in a bit.
My Christmas pudding recipe is a little out of the ordinary, because it's not steamed in the conventional way - its cooked in the oven in a deep roasting pan of water for 3 hours (more of that later too). 
So, brilliant - no steaming up the kitchen for hours!
Anyway to begin - here's the list of ingredients for my Christmas Pudding which makes two 2 pint (1.2 litre) puddings. Just halve the ingredients if you only need one pudding.
Ingredients
225g/8oz cooking apple grated
350g/12oz sultanas
275g/10oz raisins
225g/8ozs currants
100g/4oz blanched almonds, chopped
100g/4oz dried apricots, chopped
50g/2ozs candied peel
100g/4ozs glacé cherries
grated rind of one orange
grated rind of one lemon
100g/4oz plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice


½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
175g/7ozs vegetable suet
100g/40zs dark muscovado sugar
100g/4ozs fresh breadcrumbs
3 eggs, beaten
250ml/8fl ozs brown ale
2tbsps brandy

Phew! I'm now off to root out, weigh and put aside any ingredients I have and make a list of those I don't have - we'll see just how much I can save myself!
Back soon with the rest of the recipe!

Method
1. Grease the basins and line their bases with a circle of greaseproof paper.
2. Sift the flour & spices into a large mixing bowl and mix in the sugar, breadcrumbs and suet. Add the chopped almonds, candied peel, cherries, orange & lemon rind, dried fruit, apple and apricots. Mix well.
3. Add the ale, eggs and brandy and stir well.
4. Fill the basins with the mixture and smooth the tops. Cover the basins with two circles of greaseproof paper, pleated across the middle and tie with string.
5. Put both puddings in a large roasting tin and pour 5cm/2" boiling water in. Cover with a double layer of foil and seal tightly around the edges of the tin.
6. Cook for 3 hours at 150c/300F/Gas 2, topping the water up halfway through cooking time.
7. When cooked, allow the puddings to cool completely, cover with fresh greaseproof paper and tie tightly. Store somewhere cool and dry, but do not put in an airtight container.
To serve, heat individual slices in a microwave for a few seconds. Take care not to overcook as the pudding could ignite!




Thursday, 26 September 2013

IF YOU KNIT - GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!

 

I know it's not possible to give everyone a knitted Christmas present (not everyone would want one!), but if you knit, you should take a look at Free Christmas Knitting Patterns!
This is a growing collection of Christmas knitting from around the web and has a huge range of ideas for decorations, Children's patterns and gifts!
Even the Christmas sweater has passed into the realms of irony and party - going! So you may well decide to make someone a gift of a lovingly hand-knitted Christmas sweater after all! 
Check out my growing collection of patterns for crochet and  knitted gifts!