Thursday, 25 April 2013

Homemade quiche

Quiche isn't something I think about very often, even when I've got eggs that need using up.  I just forget all about it as a recipe, like I do with omelette!  To make amends and to use up some leftovers, I've made one today.

The recipe calls for shortcrust pastry - the amount needed depends on the size of your dish, but for mine 4oz of pastry is just right.  I make mine from scratch, but you could always use ready mixed and just add water, or buy ready-made pastry.

Once the pastry is rolled out, line the dish with it and bake blind (without anything in it except perhaps some baking beans [I don't bother!]) for about 6 minutes.  While this was cooking, I fried up a few slices of bacon, chopped some left-over chicken, and grated some cheddar cheese.  I also beat 6 eggs, ready to pour into the dish.  Of course you can substitute pretty much anything, or make a vegetarian version.

All the bits and pieces were thrown into the dish, and the egg was poured onto it.  There wasn't quite enough egg, so I beat another 4.  With the dish filled, it was back into the oven for 35 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.  I'll be eating the end result for tea tonight, and any that's left will make a handy lunch-time snack.

Chicken, bacon and cheese quiche
How do you use up leftovers?

Until next time.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Happy day

Oh happy day!

Today is the day I became debt-free, with the credit card balance finally paid off and now standing at a big fat  £0.

Now, apart from my mortgage, I owe absolutely nothing to anyone.  All future purchases will be saved for and paid in full, and if I can't afford something, it won't be bought.

Living a frugal life doesn't mean being cheap - quite often if you buy something on the cheap, you end up regretting it as the old adage "You get what you pay for" is very true.  No, being frugal means being sensible, buying the best you can afford, saving up for things and living as I was brought up to live, which was to only buy something when you could afford to buy it.

The credit card debt came about due to circumstances I won't bore you with, but suffice to say it's been a heavy burden that's taken a long time to pay off.  But it's done, and I sincerely hope I never have to go down that road again.  It's extremely tough sometimes to live with very little money, but it can be achieved through planning and budgeting.

I am a very happy bunny today.

Until next time. x

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Saving the pennies

I've posted quite a few times about going chemical-free, particularly when it comes to things like cleaning and laundry products, and personal care products.  The reasons for this decision are mainly:
  1. it's much, much healthier
  2. it's better for the environment
  3. it's far cheaper
In these tough times, when even the minister for farming is encouraging us to grow our own food telling us we need to "dig for survival", it's all the more important to save the pennies wherever we can.

I can honestly say I used to spend a lot of money on cleaning stuff, toothpaste, mouthwash and the like.  Knowing what I know now about the ingredients in most commercial products, I don't particularly like using my stash of Molton Brown et al, but waste not want not and I won't simply throw them out, I just won't acquire any more.

When I went out shopping, I'd put another couple of boxes of toothpaste in the trolley, or another bottle of spray cleaner, or a bottle of fabric conditioner, just because they were on offer.  It got to the point where things were getting a little ridiculous and I'd got about 20 unopened boxes of toothpaste in the bathroom cupboard.

Since I stopped shopping like this and stopped using commercial products, not only has my family been healthier due to removal of a lot of the toxic chemicals from our lives, our funds have improved a bit more too.  This can only be a good thing as there are a few more pennies to go towards food instead.

In the last 6 months, I've spent nothing on shampoo/conditioner and nothing on fabric softener.  My washing powder costs me about £1.70 for 20+ washes and my cleaning products now consist of two old spray bottles filled with a vinegar/water mix with a few drops of essential oil added.  A single 48p bottle of Asda's white vinegar lasts for absolutely ages.

I don't colour my hair at all, or use make-up very often, and I make my own cleansers, toners,  face creams and body butters.  I'm slowly using up my stash of toothpaste, and have also started making my own fluoride-free tooth cleaner, which looks totally revolting but actually tastes great and leaves my teeth feeling like they've just been polished by the dentist.  I also make my own mouthwash, storing it in a recycled commercial mouthwash bottle.

I'm sure we've all been brainwashed into believing we need all this stuff, when really we don't.  My house smells clean and fresh without being artificially perfumed, we're definitely benefiting health-wise from less dangerous chemicals , and my pocket definitely appreciates the lack of expenditure on items that are largely unnecessary when you can make your own cheaper, healthier versions.

What do you do to save money?

Until next time.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

One pot sausage casserole

I'd planned the rare treat of a fry-up for tea last night.  Digging around in the freezer, I found a bag containing 14 sausages which I'd stupidly not separated into two lots before I froze them. Duh!  The only option was to defrost them all and wonder what to do with the other half of the sausages.

The answer?  Put the sausages for the fry-up back in the fridge for tomorrow and make a sausage casserole out of the others.

One pot sausage casserole
I found a recipe in my "One Pot" cookbook which called for:

8 sausages
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
some tomato puree or pureed sun-dried tomato
1 tin of canelloni beans (which I didn't have)
3tbs olive oil
pinch of mixed herbs (optional)

Method:  Brown the sausages in the olive oil and cook on a low heat until they're cooked through.  Meanwhile, chop the pepper (de-seeded), the onion and the garlic.  When the sausages are almost cooked, throw in the veggies and the herbs.  Cook until soft, then throw in the tin of chopped tomatoes.  Add some tomato puree (or sundried tomato puree) to thicken, put the lid on and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

Sausage casserole with boiled rice
The original recipe suggested serving with mashed potatoes, but I didn't have any spuds left so I substituted boiled rice.  When you consider I dislike peppers and don't like rice all that much, the end result was surprisingly delicious!  And cheap, as there's a portion left to go into the freezer for another day, with the added bonus that no money has been spent today. :)

Until next time. x

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Phonics fun

Small decided it was time he learned to read - he's not quite 4 - so we've been busy practicing with a variety of synthetic phonics books and games.

One of his (any my!) favourite websites is Starfall, which is an American site.  He's had great fun playing on this site since he was 2, and apart from a bit of initial confusion over the letter "Z" (Starfall says "zee" and we say "zed"), he's thoroughly enjoyed the site.  He enjoyed it so much I bought a year's membership, which was about £18, and gives access to the whole site.  You don't need membership for the learning to read section though, as it's all free.

We've had fun learning to read phonics-based stories such as Zac the Rat, Peg the Hen and many more.  We've also used some of the Usborne First Reader books, which are also phonics-based, and the popular Oxford Reading Tree "Biff, Chip and Kipper " series which are used by a lot of primary schools.  The companion website, Oxford Owl, has lots of free e-books to read too.

The wee fella's had a bit of trouble with word endings, such as "an", "et", "am", getting muddled up between his pet and his pat, or his jam and his jet.  To help, I downloaded a free phonics game for him to play.

The object of the exercise is to put the shamrocks with the relevant word ending into the appropriate envelope ...

It took a few attempts, but he eventually got the hang of it and it's helped enormously with word recognition and working out word endings.

You'll need to download all 6 pages to get everything you need; you won't need to bother downloading the first file as it's not actually part of the game.

Have fun!  Until next time. x

Friday, 12 April 2013

Strep throat remedy

The main reason for the lack of blog posts during February and all of March is illness.  Small and I were unfortunate enough to succumb to what the doctor referred to as the "winter bug" back in the autumn and the damned thing seems to have gone round, and round again, ever since, leaving me with very little in the way of energy or inclination.

During the later part of March, I felt yet another sore throat coming on, at the tail end of a very long cold which left me full of mucous and with very painful sinusitis.  Small had been similarly afflicted, and had been thoroughly bunged up for almost four weeks, and we both developed swollen tonsils.

Fortunately we already had an appointment with the doctor, as after a couple of days, the tell-tale white goo of strep throat appeared, and we both ended up on antibiotics.

Now I don't really like taking antibiotics.  Sure, they do a great job of getting rid of bacterial infection, but they have been hugely over-prescribed in the past, with many patients with viral infections - for which antibiotics have no effect - being prescribed them unnecessarily.  Additionally, too many courses of antibiotics can themselves cause complications as they destroy the "good" bacteria along with the bad.

Anyway, after only 24 hours, the yucky mess had cleared up and I finished the course of treatment, only to develop another sore throat which turned yucky within 24 hours.  I certainly didn't want yet another course of antibiotics, so I searched the web for a herbal or home-remedy alternative.

While some of the concoctions sounded downright awful, one that kept appearing again and again for both sore throats and strep-throat was gargling with dilute apple cider vinegar (ACV).  It was 11pm when I read about this remedy, so I  decided to try it and see what happened, gargling a couple of times before I went to bed.
Apple Cider Vinegar gargle
I continued gargling hourly the following day, and within 24 hours the strep goo had gone, although my throat was still very sore.  After a further 24 hours of hourly gargling, my throat finally felt considerably better and the inflammation had gone too.

I should probably have carried on the gargling for another day, as although my throat felt much better, it was beginning to feel a little sore again by the evening of day 3, so back to the gargle I went!

The remedy does seem to have worked though, and although the vinegary taste is a bit of a shock to the tastebuds at first, it's not unpleasant and I was able to use quite a strong solution, probably 1/4 vinegar in a half-full tumbler of warm water.

If you decide to try it for yourself, do remember to rinse your mouth out after gargling, with either clean water or a mouthwash, as the acid in the vinegar is not good for tooth enamel.

Another tip I read about is to eat probiotic yoghurt.  Some claim this alone can cure a strep throat - which amuses me as the yoghurt I have contains a good Streptococcus bacterium, whereas the one that causes strep throat is a bad Streptococcus bacterium.  Ho-hum. Nature is a weird thing!

Whether the yoghurt actually does any good against strep throat on its own or not, I do not know.  I've been eating it anyway as it's recommended as a restorative measure to replace the "good" bacteria killed by indiscriminate antibiotics.  And Ann Forshaw's probiotic yoghurt, which I picked up at Tesco the other day is definitely very yummy, which is saying something when you consider I'm not a big fan of yoghurt.

Until next time. x

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Washing powder revisited

Back in November, I blogged about my first attempt at homemade washing powder.  Since then, I've slowly been tweaking the mixture until I found one I'm completely happy with.

Now, rather than buying a separate box of Granny's soap flakes, I simply grate up two bars of soap; one Palmolive (green), and one Knight's Castile (white).  I've found this adds a slight but not overwhelming fragrance to the mix and leaves no soap residue whatsoever on the laundry.  I do though, recommend removing the soap bars from their packaging and leaving them out in the open air for a few weeks prior to grating.

Put half the grated soap in a bowl with half a 500g pack of Borax substitute, and around half a 1kg bag of soda crystals.  Using a rubber gloved hand - remember soda crystals are mildly caustic and can irritate skin - mix all the ingredients together, pinching out any lumps so you end up with a nice smooth mixture.  Keep the rest of the grated soap flakes in an old tub or jar for next time.

I remembered to take photos just before I put the last bit into the storage container, so this is only a small portion of the mix!

For reference, the scoop I use to measure out my laundry detergent is out of a tub of Vanish powder, and I use one level scoop per load.   Pour or scoop the mixture into a storage jar, and voila.

My jar of laundry detergent
I got several of the storage jars from Home Bargains and I use them for all sorts of dry goods, from sugar to bicarbonate of soda and washing powder.  This load of mixture made enough for 20 washes, and cost ± £1.70 to make, which is considerably less than a small box of commercial washing powder such as Bold or similar.

I think my homemade version smells better to.  My clothes smell fresh and clean, but they're not sick-makingly perfumed.  Since I stopped using proprietary laundry products, I've really started to notice just how revolting clothes washed in said commercial products really smell.  I used to quite enjoy walking down the "smellies" aisle at the supermarket, now it makes me want to gag and sets off a huge coughing fit :(

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Relax and enjoy

After a day's gardening, the old muscles and joints were complaining vociferously this evening.  A relaxing soak in the bath was definitely a must!

I usually throw some Epsom salts - rich in magnesium, something our bodies are lacking these days, which is absorbed through the skin - into the bath water, along with a few drops of essential oil.

Tonight, I accidentally created a blend which not only has theraputic properties that specifically target aching muscles, rheumatism and arthritis, it also smells great.  I blended 5 drops each of four different oils: Bergamot, Benzoin, Black Pepper and Clary Sage, and I must say the achy bits aren't nearly as painful post bath as they were before.

Definitely a blend I shall make up again.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Natural - not likely!

How do you con the consuming public that a chemical known to cause health problems is safe to consume?  Change its name to something innocent sounding, and market it as "natural" of course!  And that's exactly what the makers of known toxin aspartame have done.

In the face of growing public concern about the damage caused by aspartame, products are instead being labelled with the prettified name "AminoSweet" which is marketed as a natural product.  Yeah right.  Those who carefully scan ingredients lists for the crucial ingredient are perhaps lulled into a false sense of security when they fail to see the "A" word.

Don't be conned people, wake up to this marketing ploy and continue to do your health, and your children's health, a big favour.  Avoid aspartame, and its pretty-sounding namesake Aminosweet, cos it's the same awful thing.

Originally, aspartame was developed as a potential anti-ulcer drug, and we all know that drugs can have damaging side effects.  It was also found to have a sweet taste, so rather than pursue the stringent testing that goes with having a pharmaceutical drug approved, the makers applied for approval as a food instead.  Bingo!  Side effects?  Who cares!  It's a calorie-free sweetener folks, and money in the bank for the manufacturer.

Aspartame is a toxic product, known to cause brain damage, cancer and endocrine disruption.  Indeed as far back as 1976, it was proven to be unsafe for consumption, but it seems concealing the evidence about such things is ok and the ghastly concoction is included as a sweetener in just about all "sugar-free" products sold across the globe.

If you want a really pure, natural sweetener, try honey, or use unrefined natural sugar.  As part of a balanced diet, sugar isn't necessarily bad for you anyway.  If you want the sweet taste without the calories, or you have a health-related condition - eg diabetes - which means you can't use sugar, try Stevia, which is derived from plants and has a great, sweet taste.

For more on this big aspartame cover-up, see an article published by Natural News.