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!