Wednesday, 31 December 2008

LAST FEW CHRISTMAS MONEYSAVERS!

Well, there are only a few "days of Christmas" left - so here's my round up of Christmas moneysaving:
  • as you take down your cards, put aside those that can be cut up into neat rectangles and hole-punched for next year's gift labels
  • as you pack away your decorations check any that are tatty or worn out - get round the shops quick to buy new ones reduced in the sales (but only if you can really afford it)
  • check out the sales for next year's gifts (again only if you are not in debt for this Christmas)
  • make a list of birthdays coming up and see if there are sale bargains to be had for gifts
  • buy crackers, paper Christmas cards etc while it's cheap - who knows how hard up we may be next Christmas? Today I've bought three 8metre rolls of Christmas wrapping paper for £1.94 and a box of 12 good crackers for £3.50- and a set of 3 photo albums in a slip cover (new and still shrink wrapped) from the charity shop, for 50p!
  • as you tidy up all your Christmas gifts - put aside those you know you will not use and either sell them on ebay, recycle them as gifts for next Christmas (but make a note of who gave them to you!) or send them to the charity shop.
Lastly, if this Christmas has been a financial nightmare, start thinking about next year - and save, save, save. Clear your debts as soon as possible, if you don't have one, start a savings account (ISA first) and put something (however small) into it every month.
Make this the year you achieve whatever it is that you want to - lose debt, lose weight, save for that bigger house, get the new job whatever it is - give it a go and, most important of all have a
Happy New Year! and keep up with more moneysaving, frugal ideas all year round at Happy Frugal Year.
See you all in Christmas 2009 (well, sometime in November anyway!)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

THE HAM IS COOKED!


Well, for those of you who may be interested in my salty ham-soaking, curing saga - it's all done! Check out the picture! Washed (and no it didn't smell off!), soaked in fresh water, boiled, then roasted in muscovado sugar and Guinness - yes, may seem strange, but mmmmm! - don't knock it 'till you've tried it! We have yet to slice and eat it - but we have cut off a small slice "to taste" - well, somebody had to check it was edible! It tastes like ham, is very, very good, but does not have that bright pinky red colour that ham or bacon has when it's pumped full of "curing chemicals"! So, we may just be trying this out again. I would sooner do it my way (or rather Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's) than eat more of those dreaded chemicals! Incidentally, half our cured pork joint has been frozen for later!
HAPPY FRUGAL CHRISTMAS!

Don't forget that now the festive season is nearly over, you can keep up with my frugal activities all year round at Happy Frugal Year! or sign up to my regular newsletter (starting in the new year) in the blue box down on the left.

Monday, 22 December 2008

WAIT! DON'T THROW THOSE SPROUT PEELINGS AWAY!

Yes, that's right don't throw away all those Christmas sprout peelings - not even on the compost heap! They make delicious soup - even for those sprout haters! As you peel your sprouts, just pick off the worst, brownish, bits and throw the good outer leaves and any stalk that's good, into a bowl to keep. If you can't make the soup straight away, wash and drain the peelings and keep in a bowl in the fridge for a day or so until you are ready to use them. The only other ingredients you need are an onion, a stock cube, sugar and some butter or oil.
Yesterday I spent what seemed like hours, peeling sprouts for Sunday dinner and then even more to blanche and freeze for Christmas lunch. I would normally buy sprouts on Christmas eve and cook fresh on the day, but I was lucky enough to get some really good, cheap sprouts on Friday and so that they could be eaten on Christmas day, I had to freeze them.
So, I've just made my sprout soup this evening, and even though I didn't quite have the 300g of peelings that the recipe calls for, it's made 4 portions anyway - 2 for lunch tomorrow and 2 to freeze for a quick lunch with garlic bread sometime over the holiday.
Here's the recipe for sprout soup - give it a go!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

OVER 100 FRUGAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO MAKE NOW!

Even though we are only 9 days away from the big day, if you have an evening or two to spare (HaHa!) then you have time to make a frugal Christmas gift. My recipe for Christmas Chutney is quick to make - it's the peeling and coring of the apples that takes the most time! The chutney can be made right at the last minute, although of course it improves with keeping.
If you have a little more than a couple of evenings to make something, then have a go at knitting some cute little toys with yarn from your stash or perhaps a pair of these wrist warmers. I'm not very quick at crochet, but I know it can be a bit faster to make something crocheted than something knitted, so if crochet is your thing you should be able to create something from this collection of hand warmers, scarves and slippers in one or two hours!
Now, I know I just said knitting takes longer, but it all depends what the project is. I've seen loads of hand knitted hot water bottle covers in shops and on-line this year and some of them are very, very expensive. They don't take much yarn, and if you need a few evenings where you just want to sit in front of the telly and relax with your knitting, these cute hot water bottle covers could be just the thing to get clicking on.
If you really think you've got no time at all - then the simple ideas for these gifts in a jar could be what you need or even these slightly more elaborate recipe type gifts in a jar. Make a list of the ingredients and when you're next at the shops, pick up what you need. They really only need minutes to assemble. Perhaps the hardest thing is thinking up what to put in them!
Talking of being short of time, if you have double-sided tape and thin card then these printable stocking fillers are even quicker to make - and you won't even need to leave the house!
Of course- if you're all organised and have a couple of days to make some more gifts, you could make some of these mini Christmas cakes! They will need a day to cook, a day to marzipan and then a day to ice, but you do still have the time!
Happy Frugal Gift-making!
For more frugal gifts to make click HERE!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

CURE YOUR OWN HAM FOR CHRISTMAS!

I'm just in the process of curing our own ham for Christmas dinner. It's a 4 kilo (probably much bigger than we need) half leg of pork tunnel boned from our butcher. We have it steeping in a salt solution containing crushed, dried juniper berries, cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns. It must soak for around 3 -4 days per kilo, so you still have time to do a small piece now.
When it's finished soaking in brine we have to soak it in fresh water for 24 hours then boil it. We are then going to roast it with muscovado sugar and Guinness afterwards - we'll let you know how it turns out after Christmas!
For the recipe and much more all the year round frugality, visit
Happy Frugal Year!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

REALLY GOOD, VERY FRUGAL TREE CHOCOLATES!

Last week on my Friday shopping trip, I was looking for tree chocolates. I don't buy very many, and I do like good chocolate so I usually buy Lindt Lindor chocolate truffle tree decorations. The trouble is, there are only 6 (3 bells, 3 baubles) in a packet - not really enough to put on my tree! So I usually buy 2 packets - getting pricey now, and now this year they are really expensive - £2.99 for one packet which has 120g of chocolate in total! I hesitated and then saw almost right next to them, a box of Lindt Lindor assorted truffles - these are just the same chocolate, are slightly smaller, round and wrapped like a sweet, but cost a more frugal £3.99 for a total chocolate weight of 337g! And there are 29 in my box, in gold, red, copper and black foil wrappers. Therefore the price per 100g, for a cost comparison, is:
  • Tree chocolates £2.49
  • Boxed chocolates £1.18
Now I'm going off to tie each one up with gold or silver curling ribbon and hang on my tree!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

EASY CHRISTMAS DECORATION

A really easy Christmas decoration requiring no special equipment, glue or tools! Make it with whatever you have in your decorations box.My Christmas decoration was made with a plain everyday vase (given to me a previous Christmas, filled with pot pourri!), just filled with gold baubles, tinsel and tree beads. You can just pile them in, pretty much anyhow, but try to keep the bauble loops in towards the centre (especially if they are broken or chipped glass ones)and let the beads spill over like jewels spilling from a casket. This is useful for using small lengths of "tired" old tinsel as, when it's all piled in, it still looks good. I've seen collections of cheap Christmas baubles and beads in the charity shops recently, but it's easy to just use what you have and make up your own colour combinations. My other one in a different room is a glass terrarium filled with all silver and blue baubles and tinsel, along with white satin baubles and pearls sprinkled in. You can also use any shallow glass dish, or a glass cakestand to hold your baubles and tinsel - and the joy of this decoration is that if anyone knocks it or the beads slip out - all you have to do is pile it all back in!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

MAKE YOUR OWN TOASTED SEED NIBBLES FOR CHRISTMAS

These seeds are tasty, look shop bought and are really frugal. They are great for parties, pre dinner drinks or just to nibble in front of the telly and - they’re good for you!

All you need is equal amounts of sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds mixed in a bowl (if you have any other favourite seeds then throw them into the mix as well). Use a large frying pan to gently dry fry the seeds on a low heat (you may have to do this in smallish batches, depending on the size of your pan) and keep turning them over with a spatula until you can see the pumpkin seeds have turned more brown than green. Take off the heat and sprinkle generously with soy sauce, stir well until all the seeds are evenly coated. Leave to cool, store in an airtight container and serve in small bowls, dotted around your room, or on the drinks table.

These are very moreish, so I don't make them until just before they're needed - as they can very quickly disappear before the guests arrive!

Enjoy!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

FREE CHRISTMAS STOCKING FILLERS - frugal gifts to make 8

Just print out these great little toys and parcel them up with some double-sided tape and you’ve got your stocking filler! All you need is some thickish matt paper to print them on. Choose from pirates, monsters, cute animals and people – or download them all! These are all PDF documents so you will need Acrobat reader (free here) if you don’t already have it.


These little gifts are not only frugally free, they may just buy you some peace and quiet as you snooze after your Christmas lunch!

Friday, 28 November 2008

CHEAP QUICK MEALS FOR OVER CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR

Once the big day is over and everyone is thoroughly sick of cold turkey, hot turkey, turkey curry, turkey stew, turkey sandwiches, and you’re tired of cooking, what you need is meals in minutes from the freezer and this is how you do it.
Start in November by picking up reduced garlic bread and garlic flatbreads from the cold cabinet in your supermarket. They are cheap, (I paid 37p recently for a tasty garlic flatbread to serve 2 people) they freeze well and cook from frozen in around 10-15 minutes. While you’re looking at the reduced counter, pick up small tubs of pasta sauce, fresh pasta and tubs of fresh soup. All these will freeze well and will cook from frozen or defrost in your microwave.
If you really want to make the effort, you can serve the pasta in sauce with any salad that you may have – or fry an onion and throw into the sauce with any left over chopped veg or cold, sliced sausage, heat through thoroughly, then serve with garlic bread.
Soup is, well, soup, but look out for flavours that can be put together in case you have to serve more people e.g. mix a carrot soup with a vegetable soup, or a tomato soup with a minestrone. To soften up any stale, left over rolls or bread to accompany the soup (if you’re sick of garlic bread) just buzz it through the microwave for 10-15 seconds (depending on the power of your microwave).
Garlic flat breads and naan breads also make a good stand in for pizzas and can be taken straight from the freezer to use – just lay on a tray, spread with some of your pasta sauce (or plain old ketchup if that’s all you have) sprinkle on a pinch of dried thyme and slice on tomatoes, any olives left over from your Christmas buffet and slices of all those different bits of leftover cheeses from your Christmas cheeseboard! Cook at 200ยบ for around 10- 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling. Serve with salad.
Enjoy!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

FREE CHRISTMAS CROSS STITCH PATTERNS for Frugal Christmas Gifts 6

For those of you who are great with a needle these free cross stitch patterns can be used for all sorts of projects like pictures, pin cushions, Christmas cards, bookmarks, hanging decorations, Christmas stockings etc.
Choose from the many pretty designs in the links below.

Christmas Bells, Holly leaves, Christmas ornament, Merry Christmas greeting, Noel design and Christmas Angels.

Two Santas

Computer Santa, penguin, angels, candy canes, Christmas Sampler.

Angels, wreaths, gingerbread men, snow scenes, stockings, bells, tree and a Victorian Noel sampler

Cross stitch Santa Bookmark

Just loads of angels!

40 Christmas designs, too many to name!

Cute Angels, Merry Christmas, Joy, Noel

Snowman with slogan

Candles, robin, carol singer, candy sticks, Rudolph, Holly

Poinsettia

Lanterns, hedgehogs, snowmen, shortbread, trees, florals, holly & ivy and so much more!

Happy Frugal Stitching!

For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!

Monday, 17 November 2008

MAKE YOUR OWN 3D SNOWFLAKE DECORATION

Make this lovely, professional looking snowflake decoration from 6 A4 sheets of plain old white printer paper. It measures about 54 cm across the widest part and costs very little. All you need is paper, scissors, stapler, sticky tape and a length of thread or parcel ribbon to hang it up with. Of course you can make it out of any sort of paper you like, for example, paper backed foil sheets in gold or silver, but – it is a snowflake – so plain white is just fine! It looks complicated but that's the great thing about it - it's really not!

Click HERE for simple clear instructions, photos and a how-to video and get frugal crafting!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO MAKE 5

Whoops! I think I’ve gone knitty mad! I really, really want some wrist warmers, so I can drive and be warm – I’ve found so many, I don’t know which to knit (that’s if I ever get any time to actually do any knitting!) At the moment I’m like those people with flashy kitchens who get their cooking rocks off by watching Jamie on TV but never do any cooking! I just drool over knitting patterns and gorgeous yarns!

Anyway here they are, some free patterns for whatever you may call them – wristwarmers, gauntlets, fingerless gloves, armbands - whatever!

Get knitting!

Small wristwarmers with a tiny twisted cable.

Really long gauntlets with a large cable.

Longer, lacy rib wristwarmers

Short fluffy,leaf patterned hand/wrist warmers

Frilly, beaded wristwarmers

Slither- long, long, buttoned up arm warmers!

Leopard print wristwarmers!

Fairisle pattern wristwarmers- worked from a chart.

Wristwarmer pattern generator- enter your wrist size, gauge and needle size and generate your own pattern!

Easy, ribbed wristwarmers beginners’ project

Braid cable wristwarmers


For more frugal gifts to make click HERE!


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

FRUGAL GIFTS TO MAKE 4

Beer mug gift for the men

Buy a pint beer mug from the supermarket and fill with wrapped chocolates – something like Roses, Celebrations or Quality Street, then wrap in cellophane and trim with ribbon. For example, Argos are selling a pack of 4 Guinness glasses for £7.49 – useful if you need to make four gifts, then buy your sweets in bulk in a huge tin (they’re often on offer this time of the year as well) and you can save even more. Cellophane wrap can be expensive, so try to plan and use it for as many gifts as you can.

Gift in a mug – for anyone!

This can be a very personalised gift, or a sweetie gift. Buy a largish mug, suitable for your recipient and fill with wrapped chocolate truffles – if you can make chocolates, so much the better. Or you can go retro and fill the mug with old-fashioned sweets from an on-line shop such as www.aquarterof.co.uk.

If sweets are not appropriate, fill the mug with small gifts like lip balm, nail polish, eye shadows etc for ladies, tiny notepads, rubbers and pens for kids or travel size shower gels, shampoos etc for the men. It can be a bit of a challenge to find small enough stuff, but it can stick up out of the mug and still be wrapped in the cellophane.

For more frugal gifts to make click HERE!


Friday, 7 November 2008

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO MAKE 3

I think the idea of a "Gift in a Jar" may have originated in America, but it certainly seems to have gained in popularity now. These gifts can be tailored to suit the recipient exactly - your only difficulty may be getting the right size jars! Remember to start saving them for next Christmas! They are great for kids to help with and could make a lovely teacher gift.
I think the secret is, as always, in the presentation, you need clean, shiny jars, beautiful ribbons, or fabric scraps and good, professional looking labels. Some of the free ideas in a jar I've found in the links below, even provide you with printable recipe labels! Go for it!

M & M Cookies in a jar.
Almost every kind of jar gift you can think of (mostly food).
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies in a jar.
Chocolate Brownies in a jar

Some non-food ideas! These are for the crafty people in your life and as the component pieces are all small, you only need tiny jars!
Easy to make flower bead and ribbon necklace - just put the components in a small jar with a copy of the instructions!
Funky chunky bead bracelet.
Crochet wire bead necklace.

You can make endless variations to the crafty jars and once you get started - your own ideas will probably come thick and fast.
Happy Frugal Christmas!
For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

FRUGAL CROCHET GIFTS TO MAKE 2

For those of you who can crochet I've found a few free patterns for frugal Christmas gifts.! I can only manage a granny square or two and as for following a pattern, well - I've never managed it! But still, if you can, these gifts mainly only take a small amount of yarn, so shouldn't be too expensive - or take too much time!
Take a look at the links below and get crocheting!
Gorgeous love knot lacey scarf takes just a 40g ball of double knitting yarn.
Prettty mohair handwarmers with flower trim.
Cute sock slippers
Pointy slippers
Sleepy Sarah Amigurumi doll
Filet crochet scarf
A fabulous collection of all kinds of vintage crochet patterns
For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!

Check out my growing collection of patterns for crochet and  knitted gifts!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO MAKE PART 1

As we’ve still got time to make some Christmas gifts (very frugal and very much in the true spirit of Christmas) I’m busy hunting up ideas right now.

I want to make gifts that look good, and are better and more personalised than anything I could get for that person in the shops (and cheaper!).

My first find is for the knitters amongst us. I've recently seen lots of hot water bottle covers in the shops - they seem to be popular right now, so I think I'll have a go at one! Knitting is very “in” at the moment and hand knitted gifts are popular. You don’t have to be an expert, experienced knitter, just pick a pattern you know you can do - better a simple pattern, beautifully knitted in stocking stitch or garter stitch and perfectly finished off, than a poorly produced complicated Aran cable with mistakes or lace with poor tension.

I like to choose a good quality yarn not just the correct ply (aran, double knitting, chunky, 4-ply etc). If I’m making something special that does not require a fancy “fun” yarn – I try to use a good quality wool-mix, machine washable yarn. If I’m making smaller items (scarves, wrist warmers, mitts etc) it hopefully, will not be too expensive. Look in your stash – I had a good look through mine yesterday (after dragging the huge storage box from the back of my wardrobe!) and now have a good idea of what I have and will choose my patterns accordingly. Luckily, most of my stash comes from charity shops, great yarns that I’ve picked up over the last couple of years. Much of it is still in original plastic bags and with the ball bands. I like to have these for the correct washing instructions and to give me the detailed fibre make-up of the yarn.

There are of course, cheap versions of hot water bottle covers to be had on the high street, but they are usually acrylic and cost anything from around £8-£10. But look for a good quality one and they cost from £25 (Cath Kidston) to £55 (cashmere, but not hand knitted). To get some inspiration for customising your patterns have a look here.

So – on to the (FREE!) patterns in the links below. I am thinking I may knit one of these hot water bottle covers and then personalise it with some wool embroidery or crochet flowers. Get Frugal - get knitting!

Classic cover with one centre cable and “polo” neck.

Cable rib cover knitted in the round with eyelets to thread with ribbon and gather up.

Plain hot water bottle cover with button fastening.

2 colour patterned cover with drawstring i-cord fastening.

A lovely decorated cover in crochet.


For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!