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!