Vintage Linen is too Good to Part With…

Whilst sorting through our stuff (yes, this process is taking forever) I decided I really should do something about my endless supply of vintage linen. Doilies, place mats, napkins, handkerchiefs, the list goes on and on and I just didn’t think I’d be able to use all of it. I’ve already sold a lot of my lace trims, and I’ve given other stuff away, but what about these larger items? We used a lot of them for our wedding, so I was struggling to part with them. I was laying them out on the table to go through them when it occurred to me that they would make a great patchwork, and as we don’t have a tablecloth, it seemed like the ideal thing to make!

I positioned them all out on the table and pinned them together. I then ran them through the machine, zig zagging them together. This probably wasn’t the correct way to do it, there was a bit of buckling and ruching, but hey! I’m still learning! The result is a little rough around the edges, but I like it that way, and more importantly, I used my linen for something genuinely useful!

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Sugar free Jelly Worm Recipe

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Sugar is a big no no in our house. Don’t get me wrong, I have an obscene sweet tooth, but if the toddler so much as walks past the sugar bowl she becomes possessed by some sort of hideous toddler demon that is out for your soul! For a while I worried about ADD or hyperactivity, but it soon became clear that it was the sugary treats that was turning her into the very epitome of the terrible twos. Once I started to cut out pure fruit juice, chocolate, commercial ice lollies etc. we had our lovely happy daughter back. That is, until she goes to her grandparents and comes back kneed deep in marshmallows and chocolate buttons!

Of course, I don’t want her to miss out. Her diet was already slightly limited by her peanut allergy, so no sugar knocked even more items off her possible treat list. I started doing some research and found a wealth of recipes online. Unfortunately, the ones that replace chocolate recipes usual include peanut butter, so that’s a no go, but I did find one for jelly worms. She does love a gummy sweet, and she also loves worms, so I thought I’d give them a go. They were super simple and went down a storm. Now all I hear is “Can I have 1 wiggly red thing please mummy. No, two wiggly red things!”

 

Ingredients

  • 2 packets of sugar free jelly crystals
  • 3 packets of gelatine, or 3 leaves
  • 1 cup of water

Soak the gelatine leaves if you’re using them. Bung all of the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until everything is dissolved. I then lined a lasagne dish with clingfilm and poured it in there. It should be a 1cm approx layer across the bottom of your container. Then out it in the fridge. It sets pretty quickly, I think it was in there for barely an hour. Then turn it out carefully and cut into strips. Hey presto, jelly worms. AND no more toddler tantrums! Bonus!

Saving money with LED lighting – a review

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It is no secret that I love a bargain, so when the lovely Jen at MyMakeDoandMendYear  featured an article about LED lighting with a giveaway I was pretty excited. We switched to energy saving lightbulbs when we moved into our current home, and although they have saved us money, they give me the most chronic headaches. The yellow dim glow just isn’t good enough, which means I don’t really put the lights on very much. This leads to Jamie constantly announcing that it is ” like a morgue in here” (which is ridiculous, as outside of horror films, I imagine them to be brightly lit, but anyhoo)…

So I commented on how I was looking for alternative lighting and would love to try an LED bulb out, and I was promptly sent one to try. I asked for a narrow lamp fitting, as I wasn’t sure what light fittings were available in my new house, so thought it best to get one I could bring with me. I tried it out and I wasn’t dissappointed, the light was immediate instead of being a slow build up as with the energy saving bulbs, and it has a nice cosy glow, instead of the dim yellow one that makes my head hurt so much.  Most important of all, I was amazed to read about the savings I could make by moving to LED lighting. As our new house has some halogen light fittings I think it’ll be well worth an investment. Just to show you those savings, here is the infographic that accompanied my new bulb

Won’t Cost the Earth – An infographic by LightBulbs-Direct to promote the Benefits of LED Bulbs for ‘Big Energy Saving Week’. To view the full image click here.

 

Disclamer, I was asked to review this bulb in exchange for a sample.

A cheaper kind of birthday

The toddler’s birthday is fast approaching. I’ve tried to keep costs down for the last two birthdays and Christmases, but this year she’s 3, and that means she has asked for presents! Luckily her lists of demands haven’t be too much. She asked for a Lalaloopsy doll. However, these are £30 each. That’s about 3 times what I was planning on spending on her whole birthday this year! I put a call out on Facebook and fortuitously someone came straight back to me with a second hand doll for £5. I nearly snapped her hand off! I found some patterns on Ravelry for clothes for her, so I will be making her a few accessories.

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I also managed to get a new box of Playmobil for her. I will go into the story of all our newly acquired Playmobil another day, but I was particular pleased with this. I also found this on Facebook, and it hasn’t even been opened. Again it was £5, and it’s around £30 new.

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Having spent the amount I wanted to, I will have to do anything else for free. That means I shall be making things. Not a new concept for me, granted. However, I haven’t done much in the way of amigurumis, and I have set myself the task of making the three Totoros from My Neighbour Totoro, quite possibly her favourite film. So far I have managed the two smaller ones

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I still need to do the big Totoro, her favourite and also the most detailed. I’m also planning on making an amigurumi Ponyo for her, her second favourite film. Aswell as this, I want to crochet her a dinosaur Island. Chances are this will end up being made for Christmas, a long with the dolls clothes I’m planning on making her. It’s a lot to do, but I’ve given myself a couple of months. I’m going to embrace it whilst she stills wants toys that mummy has made for her. I don’t know what I’ll do when she starts wanting clothes and dvds for her birthday. Run and hide probably!

Homemade Coffee syrup

I don’t like shopping at Sainsburys, some of their prices are ridiculous, but it happens to be the closest supermarket to my house, and if I need to pick up a couple of bits and don’t want to walk into town, I grit my teeth and go. I’ve been going more often recently, as they are the only shop that sells the Japanese ingredients I have been using.

On one of my recent trips, I noticed a few bits on the reduced section. They are usually very stingy with their reduced food, and they never reduce fresh food, which is suspicious. I did see that they had some baking goods, in particular cinnamon sugar, reduced from £2.99 to 39p.

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Ordinarily I’d whinge and moan about how I could make cinnamon sugar myself at home, but this time I bought it. I had something in mind. I had recently won a competition on Twitter and been sent a lot of coffee samples. Now, I like coffee, but I have a really sweet tooth, so when I saw this, I decided to make coffee syrup from it.

It was so quick and easy, I just added the sugar to the pan, and then used the pot to measure out the same amount of water, then I heated it on the hob until the sugar had dissolved. I then used this cut glass jug I got from a charity shop to store it in.

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Now I have delicious coffee shop grade drinks at an absolute fraction of the price. The syrup should last for quite a while, and it cost the same price as a shot of syrup at the coffee shop!

Extreme Food Planning

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Even though we are usually very careful with our money, we had a bit of a bad time with bills last month.We had an extra water bill, nearly £400 is gas and electric, car tax and I also started an online teaching assistant course. Nearly £800 all in all, is a pretty sizeable amount to pay in one month, whatever your income. As we only have one income it made things a little tight for us!

The only thing we really spend money on is our food, and it occurred to me I had been a little frivolous with our housekeeping money recently. I did the same shop every week whether we needed it or not. It’s not a massive shop, or an expensive shop, but we could do without it. I started worrying that we had no money to live on and we wouldn’t be able to buy food. I took my notebook and decided to do a full inventory of what we had, the fridge, both freezers, cupboards, pantry (read shelf) and dry food rack.

Well, we have a LOT of food. I mean A LOT!!! I seem to be a bit of food hoarder. We have soooo many packets of dried food, stock, sauce packets, loads of tins, freezers full of food. Suffice to say, once I realised I could have sushi once a week for the next 6 weeks without going to the shop, I started feeling a little less sorry for myself! We can comfortably eat for a while without doing a real shop or starving.

The whole thing made me think, we don’t waste any of this food as it can all be stored, but it’s so easy to bulk buy and shop out of habit, I can see how easy it is for people to buy so much food that they end up wasting it. I don’t want to become one of those families that throws away food because they just can’t eat it all! So, we decided to make a meal list of everything we can cook with the ingredients we have, and we have set ourselves a budget of £15 a week for bits like milk, bread, eggs, and fruit and veg. It helps that the toddler is now fully toilet trained as we are saving money on her nappies. We also gave up alcohol for lent, so this is saving us a bit too. Hopefully this will save us the money we need to get on track, and free up a bit of space in our kitchen!

Earl Grey Tea Muffin Recipe

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Sometimes you just need a little something to make it through til lunch, or perhaps a little pick up mid afternoon to see you through til tea time. My two favourite things to turn to at such times are earl grey tea and a muffin.  Whilst finding recipes for our latest bento adventures, I cam across this outstanding recipe for Earl Grey Tea Muffins! My favourite things in one yummy package. At 120 calories for a standard sized muffin they are the perfect break time treat. Not only that, but they’re very cheap to make. Please check out Just Bento for this recipe and lots of amazing Japanese and non- Japanese bento recipes, but I have included the recipe here

Recipe: Earl Grey Tea Muffins

The dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups minus 3 Tbs (230g) all purpose or cake flour (with cake flour they will be lighter, but AP flour works too)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 Tbs. Sucanat (see notes) or light brown sugar or raw cane sugar or regular sugar
  • Pinch of salt

The wet ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs canola oil or light olive oil (or other flavorless vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/3 regular low-fat milk + 1 Tbs. vinegar)

Plus:

  • 1 tsp. or 1 teabag fine Earl Grey tea leaves. If your tea leaves are on the coarse side, grind them up a bit in a mortar and pestle, or just crumble them up by rubbing the leaves between your fingers.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 360°F. Grease or spray non-stick spray onto your muffin tins if needed.

Mix or sift together the dry ingredients.

Beat together the wet ingredients until blended.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, using a spatula. Don’t overmix. Add the tea leaves.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes for mini-muffins, 25-30 for regular size muffins, until the tops are browned and a skewer stuck through a middle muffin comes out clean. Note: these muffins will puff up quite a bit.

Take out of the muffin tins and cool on a rack

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I didn’t have buttermilk, so used the milk and vinegar and they were delicious, they taste just like a cup of milky earl grey. The toddler approves of them too!

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Tips for reducing your food bill

Everyone knows that times are getting tougher, and most people are finding ways to reduce food bills as well as many other household costs. I wanted to share this particular shopping trip with you, and tips as to how I keep our weekly to shops down to around £30.

On a Monday morning I go through the fridge and the freezer and find what meals I can make with what we have. If I need a couple of ingredients then I make my list of ‘make up’ ingredients which turns what we already have into meals. Planning is a huge part of keeping your shopping costs down, and it’s not just about planning meals necessarily, but also knowing exactly what you have so you don’t duplicate or buy things you can’t use.

I leave pretty much as soon as the shops open, ensuring that I get the pick of reduced items. They are reduced more later on in the day, but a lot of the items are gone by then. Although it isn’t practical for most, I visit certain shops for certain items. For example, I go to Morrisons for reduced meat, but Aldi for fruit and vegetables  We live in a small town with lots of supermarkets. Even though I don’t drive, I have 5 supermarkets and several discount shops within walking distance of our house.

Even though I write a list for what I need, this doesn’t mean that the list is set in stone. The key to getting a cheaper shop is to be flexible with ingredients, and to have a large recipe repertoire (or to be handy on Google). If your recipe calls for chicken and £4 for a pack, but turkey or pork is reduced, then it makes sense to substitute.

This is the best Monday morning shop I’ve had

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Almost everything you see here was reduced or on offer. This shop came to a total of £28.34, which is a steal as there are multiple packs of branded items and large cuts of meat. The wraps were reduced to 29p a packet, and the hobnob flapjacks were 12p a packet. I didn’t go out planning to buy them, but they’re things we use everyday, so it makes sense to buy in bulk at that price. The packet food actually came from the discount store BnM. I used to work in a store like this before becoming a full time mum, so I know that the food they receive is usually food from supermarkets that is short dated and they wouldn’t be able to sell in time, or a product that isn’t selling very well at full price. The food is exactly the same quality as the supermarkets, just the price is often greatly reduced.

Of course, we do spend more than we should sometimes, and it’s taken us quite sometime to get in to a shopping habit that suits our budget, but this basic routine means that we always have at least a weeks worth of meals and other staples in the house on a modest budget.

Easy, thrifty sandwich filling

Just before Christmas, my parents brought us a mass of reduced food. They have a habit of doing this, and we’re usually inundated with things we struggle to use up. In this assortment was some sandwich fillings. Now, I’m not usually one for these shop bought fillings, but I have to say they were absolutely delicious! However, I wouldn’t dream of paying full price for them! I have been experimenting ever since, and this is what I’ve come up with (not rocket science I admit): Continue reading

Brussel Sprout Surprise

It is SO much tastier than it sounds! Honest! I had a look in the fridge for something the toddler could have for lunch, and this was all I could find.

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