Friday, 28 December 2007


This may sound very old-fashioned in today’s consumer society – and particularly at this time of year – but do you really need to visit the sales? Here are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t bother!
  • Much of what is “on sale” is actually bought in rubbish stock to bulk up the small amount of genuine sale stock in the shops.
  • Most of the sale goods probably wouldn’t have interested you when they were full price – so be honest – why would you want them now?
  • You are expecting a large credit card bill for your Christmas purchases.
  • You are one of the 4.4 million people in the UK still paying off debts from last Christmas (2006).
  • Last but not least, you don’t actually need anything.

There is only one good reason to go to the sales and that is if your ‘fridge, washing machine, T.V., cooker, DVD, or whatever, has actually broken beyond repair and must be replaced – this would then probably make now, the best time to replace them, but even then – do your research, look on-line first, compare prices and make sure that the store “sale” price does actually beat any on-line prices you can find!

Sunday, 23 December 2007


Now this is really frugal! Don’t throw away all those outer leaves from your Brussel sprouts when you prepare them for Christmas dinner – use them to make sprout soup! Yes - it may sound strange – but it tastes lovely! Here’s the recipe:

15g (½ oz) butter or 1 dsp olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
1 level tsp sugar
300g sprout trimmings, checked over and rinsed in a colander (or you can, of course, use sliced sprouts – not so frugal, though)
1 vegetable stock cube, made up in a jug to I pt (500ml) with boiling water


  • Melt butter (or heat oil) in a saucepan and add the sugar and onion, cook gently over a gentle heat (covered) for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is a pale gold colour. Do not brown or allow to catch on the base of the pan.
  • Add sprout trimmings to the pan, stir and continue to cook gently for 4 or 5 minutes until they have softened slightly.
  • Add the vegetable stock to the pan, bring back to the boil, reduce heat and cover the pan, leaving to simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Purée the soup, either in a liquidiser or with a hand blender.

This makes a reasonably thick soup and could be diluted a little with more stock or water.
Serves 2 generously as a lunch and will freeze well.
If you want to dress it up a bit you can use stale bread, cubed and fried in oil to decorate and then add a swirl of cream (not so frugal!) or milk and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.



I’m finding it’s getting increasingly hard to find stocking fillers and, in my house, a stocking filler is a gift around £1 or £2! Okay, we all know that the pound shops have some bargains and I try to buy brand name goods and as my stockings are all for boys (my sons aged 24, 22 and 19 years!!!!) I often buy a very acceptable brand name eau de toilette for men at £1 (and it doesn’t smell like toilet cleaner!). I even managed to buy cans of WD40 this year and at £1 each that has to be a bargain – always useful just look here for 2000 uses!

But if you’ve exhausted the pound shops, start thinking about BOGOFs (buy one, get one free) in the supermarkets. But you may have to start long before Christmas! You can often find hair gel, shower gel, deodorants, chocolate, socks – sorry, I mainly buy for men as you can tell! You can also buy a lottery scratch card as a gift – may not cost much, but just may be the one that wins a lot!

If you start in early November you can also pick up some great bargains in the charity shops. I recently saw a mug, decorated with snowflakes and with a small snowman soft toy inside – still in original packaging for just £1 – pity no-one I know needs any more mugs! But I did pick up this little Christmas tree (pictured right) – which is actually a pair of men’s socks – from Marks and Sparks, no less, for 50p and the accompanying Santa monkey for 80p – who works out the pricing in these stores????

There often pretty candle sets and incense sticks and holders to be had, but I wouldn’t buy sets of smellies (and there are often a lot of them available) as you don’t know if any has been used out of them or how old they are! If you know someone who likes ornaments then there are plenty in the charity shops, but be choosy and check for chips and cracks. Pretty glass dishes can be filled with sweets on a paper doily and bagged up in cellophane and mugs (again!) can be filled with chocolate, sweets, pens, novelty rubbers, socks, lip gloss or travel size shower gels and body lotions.

Happy hunting!

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Well, Christmas, because it’s got cranberries in it I suppose! And it is slightly reddish looking! Tastes great with any cheese selection, is lovely in cheese/ham toasties and makes a great gift – particularly for those difficult to buy for men! It’s quite frugal – the cost is around a very frugal £1.63 a jar (I worked out the priced from Tesco ingredients). The most expensive ingredient is, of course, the cranberries, but to cut costs down further you could substitute up to half your cranberries with sultanas. This will bring the cost down to approx £1.17 per jar, but does change the taste a little.

You will need 4 or 5 jars, more if they are small. The smaller the better – if you have any empty pickle or chutney jars – often they are prettier shapes - these are best, especially for gifts. You need to sterilise your jars – the easiest way to do this is to put them on a tray in a pre-heated oven 160º/Gas mark 3 for 10 minutes. Allow to cool a little before filling.

Ingredients (Makes approx 4 x 250ml (7 fl oz) jars.

700g (1lb 9oz) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into pieces (roughly ½ cm).

250g (9oz) dried cranberries

2 red onions, finely chopped

350 ml (12 fl oz) apple cider vinegar

200g (7 oz) muscovado sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on a reasonably fast boil (covered) for 45 minutes or until the chutney has thickened. Spoon into sterilised jars. Tighten screw lids whilst still warm to make a good seal.

Keeps well, but once opened store in the ‘fridge. If you have no lids, cover with circles of greaseproof and plastic jam covers. For giving as a gift, you can trim with circles of fabric cut out with pinking shears and fastened on with rubber bands. Finish off with a decorative label - you can hand draw these or design them on your computer.

This is so good you may find yourself making another batch in the New Year!

For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Start early for next Christmas by buying in the January sales – in fact some shops start reducing stock even earlier, in the last 2 or 3 days before Christmas. Look out for Christmas cards, crackers, decorations, presents, labels and wrapping paper. Don’t buy any chocolate, food products or smellies – these will deteriorate over the year, particularly in the summer heat (if we get any that is!). However, do look out for bargains in perfume etc (that are not obviously packed in “Christmas” packaging) if you have any birthdays to buy for in the first few months of next year. Crackers will keep well – but make sure they are stored somewhere dry.

Be a saver on Christmas Day as well – I draw the line at ironing out wrapping paper to use again, but I do re-use bows - carefully remove the self-adhesive square they are stuck on with, then it’s easy to slip a strip of tape over the end piece under the bow in order to attach it to another gift.

Gift bags can be carefully opened and any sticky tape can usually be removed easily. Make sure you do this before folding them flat and putting away, as the tape will leave marks and be almost impossible to remove by next year! Check for any folds and creases – and bin those that don’t look perfect.

Come 12th night, have a quick look through your cards before you send them to the recycling bin. Many can be cut up and used for next year’s labels. Draw round a small glass to make round labels or look for suitable pictures to make rectangular ones, use a hole punch to make a neat hole in one corner and thread with small lengths of gift ribbon ready for next year.

Check on your decorations before you put them away and replace any that are damaged as soon as you can after Christmas when there are good reductions in the New Year sales– especially in the big stores.

Monday, 17 December 2007


You can make this Winter Pimm's in a mug (for one) or in a jug for more!


1 part Pimms
1 part brandy
3 or 4 parts apple juice

Warm (but don't boil!) in your microwave.
I've heard this costs £3.50 a glass in the pub!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 16 December 2007


If your collection of wine glasses is, odd, chipped or suffering from the cloudy effects of your over zealous dishwasher and you need something better to put before your guests at Christmas – get round those charity shops – quickly! You can often find “sets” of 3 or 4 glasses that match odd ones you already own. If you are lucky, you may even find more - I bought 6 of these wine glasses (pictured right) for £1.50 recently. And the cute little reindeer was only 50p!

Alternatively if you really can’t find the right amount of matching glasses for your number of guests, just buy the same size, make sure they are alternated around your dining table and then pop in a neatly folded serviette and your guests may think you intended it!

Friday, 14 December 2007


Make some money by spending some money! For this you need to be very strong willed as it involves using a credit card - rather a lot of times! If you get yourself a cashback credit card or one like mine that gives high street vouchers for points (I save mine all year to use in Waitrose to buy Christmas food and presents in December) you can have a ready made fund at a very expensive time of year. Using a credit card like this needs discipline – but if you use it to buy everyday things that you have to have anyway, e.g. petrol and weekly groceries, for every week of the year and pay it off each month when the statement comes, (and that’s the hard bit) you have, in effect got money for nothing. But don’t be tempted to think of cashback cards as a “discount” and then buy more stuff than you really need – that’s what the credit card companies want you to do - no-one wants to start the New Year in a huge amount of debt – or still be paying off this year’s credit card debt next Christmas.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


You will need 5 small baked bean cans for this. Lightly grease them with butter and line them with doubled greaseproof paper. If you’re not sure how to do this take a look a quick look at this excellent video.


100g (4 oz) butter

100g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar

340g (12 oz) dried fruit (ready mixed or equal amounts of raisins, currants, sultanas and mixed peel)

10 glace cherries (halved)

130g (5oz) sieved plain flour

1 level tsp mixed spice

2 beaten eggs

To decorate allow 25g (1oz) each of marzipan and ready made icing.

(makes 5)


  • Beat the butter and sugar together, then stir in all the remaining ingredients
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the five tins and cook at 100 º c/Gas mark 2 for 2 hours (or when a skewer inserted through the middle of the cake comes out clean), check after 1½ hours to ensure the tops are not burning. If they are, just cover with foil until the end of cooking. Allow to cool in the tins.
  • When the cakes are cold, carefully remove greaseproof paper and brush tops with jam (apricot is good, but otherwise just use what you have) and rollout the marzipan and icing to fit the top. Trim to closely fit the cakes. You can personalise these cakes by rolling out scraps of icing to form an initial or you can stick on a small gift bow with a small ball of icing.

These make great little gifts for small families who wouldn’t normally bother with a huge Christmas cake and they would sell well in Christmas markets/boot sales.

For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!


Just an idea to make a little Christmas money (or even a wonderful Christmas present) – I recently read an interesting article about a lady who spent the summer at auctions and boot sales buying up damaged, old and scruffy dolls houses and refurbishing them and filling them with furniture, then either selling them or giving them as gifts. These “toys” are highly sought after and not just by children.

Of course, you need to have the skills to do something as specialised as this, but still, we all have something we can do, whether it’s knitting a pretty scarf in eyelash yarn (pattern to follow), making mini Christmas cakes (recipe to follow) as gifts or to sell at markets and boot sales or cooking up jars of Christmas Chutney (recipe to follow). Get making!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


Well, you may think it's a bit late to start planning your frugal Christmas - but be positive - there's plenty of time to start planning for Christmas 2008!
Frugal is not mean, miserly or miserable - it's being wise with your money to make it stretch further in the direction you want it to. It's a kind of game and if you're up for the challenge - you can get a bit of a buzz out of your bargains and your wheeling and dealing. But it's all in the planning -"Failing to plan is planning to fail" as one of my old teachers used to say, so if you're one of those people who are running amok with your credit card in a flat panic at 5 o'clock on Christmas Eve - you may just learn something to your advantage. Even if you think you know it all - well, you might just learn something new (or be able to tell me something!).