Blackberry Season ! – Jams & Fruit Crumble

•August 25, 2013 • 1 Comment

It is a very good year for blackberries. I have a cupboard full of empty jam jars and bottling jars and last week I bought extra sugar, in anticipation. All this because pretty soon I will get bored with blackberry crumble (recipe below) – even though hey, it’s food. So here’s what I do with a glut of fruit.

1. Make fruit crumble. Crumble topping is dead easy to make, (4 flour, 2 marg or butter, 3 sugar or to taste) or you can find 30p packs of crumble topping in Tesco – currently on offer.

2. Bottle for future crumbles. Or freeze, except that I don’t have a freezer, but if I did I would pack up a lunchbox with berries for a few weeks time when the apples are in season. Bottling is slightly more tricky- a bit like jam making but with less cooking and less sugar, and to compensate I keep the jars in the bottom of the fridge.


3. Jam. Is really easy once you pick the right fruit, or combination of fruits, to get the jam to set. I’ve made up a small pot of strawberry jam – see pic – but strawberry alone makes a runny jam and you are unlikely to have free redcurrants. Blackberry and apple makes good jam: 4 lb blackberries with 2 lb of cooking apple and when they are cooked and soft add 6 lb of sugar; or smaller quantities in the same proportion.
Full instructions on bbc website here and more briefly here

A word of caution here – never get hot jam on a ceramic hob. I’m told it eats through the glass and I love my Tricity hob to bits, so I can’t tell you if it does.


Charity shop finds – crockery treasures

•August 24, 2013 • 1 Comment

What do you eat off when there’s no money ?

Here’s some china – the more interesting because it was mostly found for £1 a piece -or less- in local charity shops. Not all at once, obviously, and not on every visit – but snipped up when the pieces slipped through the net that registers value. If you are interested in the patterns -and mercenary details- you can click through to the big picture on flickr.

Crockery #1

Like many of the unemployed: treasures, destined for the scrap heap unless someone recognises their worth or appreciates their usefulness, or both.
So much good stuff is just thrown away.

For instance, see the 2 flowery cups on the right ? When I first saw the full 4 place setting for £4 I couldn’t afford it (& I didn’t need it) and I felt sure it would make a nice surprise for someone. A week later it was still there, and the staff said it would go in the bin if not sold. That was a while ago, but the plate in the foreground – equally valuable, and even more rare – was just last month.

I suppose the message here is not to rush down to your local charity shop & snap up a bargain – but that you can have beautiful things even when your budget (or lack of it) suggests otherwise.

I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours.

£10 Budget Food shop

•May 20, 2013 • 1 Comment

Here’s my food shop for this week – I did very well thanks to some reduced items at Tesco – but for each of these one-off reductions I will also say what I would normally buy instead. The total food shop shown here cost less than £9. Remember this is a ‘rolling’ week, so I still have several items in the cupboard from previous weeks i.e. tea and/or coffee, salt, spices, possibly butter. I will have onions and eggs left over for next week – the eggs are a big bonus for me as they are breakfast.


£10 food shop - week 1

The noodles, pastry case and milk are all full-price items: my treat last week was lemon pie filling but I didn’t have the eggs or pastry case.

Good reduction on the onions, otherwise I would have only had 2. The green beans –whoa 445gm! – come out of my budget of £1 that I would usually spend on broccoli. Noodles with greens and/or thin-sliced carrot make a very reasonable supper or the veg part of a dinner.

Black grapes reduced too, and the pack was full when I bought it! but almost as good are Tesco Everyday value green grapes. I would have omitted apples if they hadn’t been reduced, but these were too good a bargain to pass up. At other times of the year I collect apples and other fruit for free. Fruit loaf, also reduced, is this week’s treat on account of the extraordinary savings made today. My daughter and grandson are both happy to eat fruit loaf on its own but it is excellent with jam.

Eggs are where I made the best saving. I’ll keep them in the fridge and have one or two (fried) for breakfast every day. They go well with home-baked potato wedges. I’ll easily have one box left for next week which means I’ll be £1 ahead.

The chicken is not just a chicken! Cook carefully and you can save the fat for baking, such as potato wedges mentioned above, or frying eggs. Chicky makes 5 portions and the scraps go into a noodle meal. If you really can’t live without them, Tesco do 2.5kg potatoes for £1.20 (this week at least) which will round up your total spend to £10.


•January 1, 2012 • 2 Comments

I thought I’d try this month, to post a photo each day illustrating how I save money.

Here is today’s offering:

that unwanted present...

I received a gift set of 3 body scrubs over Christmas, and nice as they are, I don’t use body scrub.  Body Shop (UK) very kindly allowed me to change them for the equivalent value in glycerine soap. These lovely soaps are also currently on offer at 3 for 2, so I scored 6 soaps. That’ll keep me going for a while.

Today’s tip : change it for what you do want.

Expenditure: nil; Saving: £8.

Subsequent photo tips will be hosted on flickr and tweeted from my Twitter account.  Click here for the next in the series.


•December 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

I am sipping wine as I write this, surrounded by boxes. Christmas has come early for me and the cat, in the shape of a snowball competition on Vouchercloud. I won week 2. There is one more competition you can enter this week, if you are interested. Meanwhile, I have been happily preoccupied with arranging deliveries and unpacking boxes, and very happy to be home. 2 hours creative problem-solving has never been so rewarding !

I am well pleased with the prizes, more so because this was a skill-based competition, not a random draw. It leant itself to analysis, and required patience and attention to detail: skills that were once valued in the workplace. The jobcentre say I should mention the achievement on my cv. There is life in this old dog yet!


•November 14, 2011 • 1 Comment

October – where did October go ? I blinked and suddenly the fireworks are over and it’s the run-up to Christmas.  My bag situation (see last month) might be sorted – I have been promised a new bag for Christmas – but I am still half-inclined to fix up the old one.  Thwarted in my mission to splurge on a new bag, I couldn’t resist treating myself to this :

Enchanted Christmas card
I am smitten with the Papermania Enchanted range for making Christmas cards.  If you decide to have a go you will also need sticky pads from poundland.

But the singular advantage of this post being so inexcusably late is that I now have the link for Jacquie Lawson’s animated Advent Calendar : another treat (sigh) and one I hope will enchant my grandson.

Advent Calendar c 1997I will also be sharing with him our family Advent Calendar (right) but whether it will survive the ordeal – who knows? Good job I have a couple spare 😉

I’m finding new delights on my Sony Ericsson Xperia phone- the most significant of which is synching it with my Google+ calendar.  I’ve never had (used) a calendar on my phone before and this is something of a new experience for me.  Thankfully the phone doesn’t count the days to Christmas…

November’s Challenge, just in case you were wondering, is to find enough space in my living room to raise a 5ft xmas tree. At the time of writing, my living room looks very much like Santa’s workshop in the rush hour.

Want to join in ? Nip along to the link below!



•October 7, 2011 • 4 Comments

September was fun- far too much fun for me to get any work done. I did a bit of sewing, that’s all. Distracted ! I should say. Hot on the heels of the Amazon win, Sony Ericsson drew my name for a sparkly new Xperia X10 phone. I had barely enough time to upgrade the sim card before being whisked away on a private yacht (only slight exaggeration) for a glorious week afloat with a good friend.

October 2011

Back home, it is time to admit that my trusted companion of the last 30 years has expired.  I’ve mended this, my favourite bag, twice but this last is truly beyond me.  I don’t know what will replace it.

I have two bags in a similar design but neither are leather, and I’m not sure I even need such a big  bag any more (especially since the style is now fashionable). Mine had just 2 zip compartments, one inside & one under the flap, and room for a pair of shoes (just). I can’t bear the thought of a twee grandma bag with pockets everywhere and ubiquitous magnetic catches. Maybe I should take a class in working with leather …

October’s challenge therefore, is to sort out the bag situation.

Nip along to the link below and join in.