Thursday 31 May 2012

Wee dogs

I used to run the Nearly New shop at my son's school.  I sold mostly blazers and sports kit but there were some things lurking on the rails that used to be part of the uniform when it was a boarding school.  All girls had to wear a proper kilt to church on Sunday.  So there was a small selection of 100% wool kilts but no one wanted to buy them as they were in teen sizes and no self respecting teenage girl would be seen dead in a kilt!!  So I bought 4 of the lesser moth eaten ones for a fiver.  3 blue to make cushions and this red/pink/green one.

Girls kilt age 14

It's actually more red in real life! 

I unpicked the pleats (about an hour's work) then cut off the waistband. I popped it into the washing machine and washed it at 90 degrees to felt it.  I ended up with about 1.5 metres of lovely felted tartan wool.

I played around with some scottie dog shapes until I found a few I was happy with.

I cut out 2 shapes from the same template then hand stitched them together using blanket stitch.  I left an opening big enough to add stuffing and finished it off.

This wee one is about 8cm by 10cm

The bigger one is about 22cm by 20cm

I'm really chuffed with my efforts.  Again they've cost nothing to make as I had all the materials.  There's plenty of felted tartan left so I can make more.  I think I'll try a cat and an elephant next.  If I can make them quickly then selling them might be an option :-)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Making birthday presents

Handmade gifts aren't always appreciated.  People look at them and judge them on the cost of the materials not the time and expertise it took to make them.

It's my mum's 65th birthday next week.  My sister is treating her to a trip to London to see a Westlife concert.  I know she'll love it and have a great time.  But I can't compete with that so I'm not even going to try. 

So I've made her some knitting accessories as she's a prolific knitter.  She also sews so she will appreciate the effort I've put into her gift.

Stitch markers made from Swarovski crystal hearts in a wee recycled mints tin.

A needle roll to store her circular needles.  Appliqued irises on the front and a large pocket on the inside.

Rolled up and tied safely with a ribbon.

Total cost zero pounds and about 7 hours of time.  Everything came from my craft stash.  Over the years I have acquired many items for my many and varied hobbies.  Now I mostly knit and sew but I have supplies to make cards and jewellery.  I have all the tools and equipment so will be making good use of them all during my challenge.

But the biggest challenge of all will be finding good gift ideas for people who aren't really into handmade stuff!  Suppose I should start planning Christmas now!!!

Tuesday 29 May 2012

2 more days

Just 2 more days until the challenge officially begins.  But I've worked really hard over the last few weeks to stick to a budget that feels realistic but has a bit of wiggle room for emergencies.  I may even start June with a few extra pounds to start off my savings and emergency funds.

I've been doing as much research as I can by reading blogs, forums and books.  Living frugally isn't about being cheap or denying yourself pleasure.  It's all about making your money go further and enjoying all the pleasures you want without going into debt.

Fortuitously, Channel 4 are repeating their Superscrimpers series.  I watched the recent series but missed some of the previous one so I'm picking up more good tips.  I've stuck it in the planner to watch at my leisure and sit down at night with a coffee to learn from the experts.  I'm pleased to see that a lot of what they're suggesting is stuff I already know how to do.  I just haven't been doing it!!

So 8 days ago I only had £35 left in my budget. We've had almost a week of bare minimum spending and I've got a few pounds left. I'm so excited to know that I can do this. So meals have been created using what's left in the bottom of the fridge, freezer and my storecupboard.

Last night's tea was eggy noodles.

I stir fried some onion, red pepper, garlic and ginger.  Then added 2 beaten eggs to sort of scramble.  Then added some egg noodles.

A good splash of soy sauce and a filling nutritious meal for 2 was served.

Friday 25 May 2012

Plan B

My 14yo complained the other day that he has no clothes.  Of course he does, my ironing basket is full of them!  What he actually meant was that he has no clothes that fit him.  Gulp!  At 14 he's already 5' 10" and still growing.  With 2 older brothers over 6' tall he was always going to be a big lad.

But this means I need to buy adult sizes at adult prices as few stores stock decent stuff for mid teenage boys.  Luckily he has an older cousin with a penchant for designer labels so sometimes we get his unwanted designer gear.  And up to now he's been ok ish with some second hand stuff.  But it's the shoes and specialist sports gear that's going to break my budget.

So last night I had a little wobble about setting myself up to fail.  I'll never reach my goal if I keep having to buy new clothes for a growing boy, replace my broken freezer and all the other unplanned for expenses that are surely going to happen over the next 4 years.  I almost convinced myself that this will never work. 

But after a decent night's sleep and much thinking I've created my own Plan B (see heading at top of blog). Of course I'll have to spend money on bigger items from time to time but as long as I do it wisely then I'm still on track towards my target.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Chicken casserole

Once upon a time I only bought organic chicken and vegetables.  I was lucky enough to have a lifestyle that could support buying luxury ingredients without thinking about the cost. Now I don't have the budget but still believe in eating well.

Sainsbury's are currently selling 500g bags of frozen chicken breast pieces at 2 for £5.  That's 1kg of chicken breast for a fiver!! And it's British chicken.  I thought it was worth investigating.  I also picked up a pack of reduced veg with Jersey Royal potatoes, Tenderstem broccoli and Chantenay carrots for £1.25.  So I created a chicken casserole for well under a fiver that feeds 4 :-)

Chicken Casserole

500g frozen chicken breasts, defrosted and cut into large chunks
1 pack mixed veg
1 onion, chopped into large chunks
1 red pepper, chopped into large chunks
500ml of apple juice
hot veg stock

Chop the pepper and onion to roughly the same size as the potatoes and carrots so they cook evenly.

The chicken comes in fairly big pieces (not a whole breast) so chop them into big chunks so they don't fall apart in the cooking.

Brown the chicken in a large non stick pan (I use a wok) with a tiny drop of oil.
Put chicken into a large casserole.

Add a little bit more oil to the pan and add all the veg except the broccoli.  Gently fry for a few minutes until the veg is well coated and sizzling.
Add the apple juice and bring to the boil.  You could also use cider (I didn't have any!!)

Carefully pour everything into the casserole. 
Add enough hot stock to make sure everything is covered in liquid.
Put the lid on and put in a hot oven for 45 mins.
Check veg is tender and chicken is cooked through.
Remove from oven.

Add the broccoli and replace the lid for 5 to 10 mins.  Don't put back in oven. Let the broccoli steam in the casserole's own heat.
Serve with crusty bread.

I can confirm it reheats beautifully the next day.

Friday 18 May 2012

Cash for old CDs

Nowadays there are websites for selling just about anything.  I've spent a few days going through my collections of CDs and DVDs.  I've already uploaded my music to my iPod so they were genuinely sitting gathering dust.  Same for the DVDs.  I'm just too busy to sit and watch a film these days.

So 114 items listed makes a grand total of £51.50.  Not bad for stuff that was no use to me any more.  And a courier will collect them from my house free of charge on Monday.  Hopefully the cheque will arrive and be banked for the official start of my 4 year challenge.

Wednesday 16 May 2012


Hello and welcome to my new blog.

Over the next 4 years I want to save £40,000.  I will record all the ways that I will save money and make money.

I know this won't be an easy journey but I find myself in a position of needing to travel this road.  I hope it will be a rewarding one in more ways than just financial.