I’ve had to buy stuff again…sigh

Oops, forgot to post a new recipe yesterday. I don’t have time today, but above is one I’ve already put up. Has anyone tried it? I’m not sure you can buy old fowls any more, but an ordinary chicken would do! And the veal knuckle could be replaced with a ham hough. Hmmm, delicious. Might give this a go over the weekend.

So, I have not been good in my ‘no buy’ challenge as I have once again had to buy stuff for the kids and for the house. The boy lost his pencil case, or it was stolen, more likely he lost it, so had to replace all of that. The girl needed toiletries and I had to buy a chain saw (small, cos they are normally really heavy) to do some work in the garden. That’s it, though. No more buying stuff. I don’t need it. My house is groaning with stuff – admittedly a lot of secondhand stuff as I try and buy it when I can – but stuff. I don’t need any more!

I also need to get out of the habit of treating myself to books and other tasty wee treats when I’m feeling fed up. Being a single mum isn’t easy, especially as my daughter has hit her teens, and I often cheer myself up with something purchased from Ebay or Amazon. I need to stop this too. I need to find something else to distract me from feeling fed up. Hmmm, challenge accepted.

On a more positive note, I have been cooking from scratch and actually got up the confidence to use my pressure cooker (I’ve seen too many pics on FB of exploded pressure cookers and was scared) and it was easy. Yesterday, I made Pulled Pork in the pressure cooker (which we will have for dinner tonight) and a sausage casserole with mash for dinner. Delicious. It feels good getting back to properly cooked meals. I came away from it because my daughter refused to eat anything I cooked (and still refuses) and that, in turn, encouraged my son to turn his nose up too. It was really soul destroying, so I stopped cooking healthy meals. However, I’m back into it and making them eat the dinners I cook, which, by the way, are delicious and healthy. I make them eat it by threatening to take away their access to Spotify and, if they still don’t comply, their phones. Sounds harsh, but my kids don’t eat enough good stuff and I don’t want them growing up unhealthy.

Right, I am going now. Speak soon.



Old Timey Wimey Tip #1

Keep your wood stove sparkling using these great old tips.

For those of you with wood stoves, here’s a great tip I got from here. You can wash your fireplace tiles with a mixture of vinegar and water – rinse off with plain water and give it a wipe to dry. Then take some of the ash (cold ash!), dip a damp cloth in it and then wipe the wood stove window with it. Rinse with clean water and buff with old newspaper. To give your stove a beautiful shine, wipe with vegetable oil (you can also use vegetable oil or baby oil to clean dirty marks off your stainless steel appliances).

NB you can also use ash as a compost enricher – just sprinkle some before putting the compost down. Don’t use too much though!


Why buy when you can make?

In today’s post I’m going to share an old family recipe for sponge cake. It’s really easy to make and only takes about 40 minutes all in.

I am always shocked at how much supermarkets charge for cakes and, more importantly, birthday cakes. Especially as they NEVER taste as nice as home-made ones. So, here’s the family recipe for you to try and I’ve costed it all out for you too!

Okay, when I say family recipe, I mean my mum got it from a magazine or the back of a flour packet or something many years ago (we’re talking the 70s – I remember making this as small child, that’s how easy it is). Oh, and it’s in imperial weights, but I’ve rather kindly put the metric equivalent in as well (I haven’t tested it in metric as being the aforementioned 70s child, I had to learn weights, measurements and coinage in both to be able to understand what my parents and grandparents were talking about – I learned everything in metric, having started primary school in 1975, but they were still talking in feet, inches, ounces, pounds, ten bob etc).

You will need:

four large eggs – 56p

8oz (227g) of self raising flour – 8p

8oz (227g) of butter (I like lightly salted in this recipe, but unsalted is good too) – this needs to be soft and at room temperature – £1.30

8oz (227g) caster sugar (not granulated) – 30p

vanilla essence – 5p

two cake tins

icing sugar (500g) if you want to ice it – 75p

some strawberry jam – 10p

Put your oven on at a medium heat (around 180 degrees for a fan oven, 250 degrees for electric, or 1/2 for gas). Place the eggs, flour, sugar, butter and a few drops of vanilla essence in a food mixer. Blend until smooth. Put batter in greased cake tins (I use the rest of the butter to grease the tins) and place in oven for approximately 25 minutes (depending on your oven, it might take less time or longer to cook).

Test by poking one of the cakes in the middle with a metal skewer or knife. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If not, leave in for a bit longer. If you think your cakes are getting too browned, turn the oven down a little and cover with a little tinfoil.

When ready, take out and leave to cool. Once cool, place some strawberry jam on the top of one of the cakes and place the other one on top. Then mix some icing sugar with a little water – you want it to be about the consistency of toothpaste – and smear over the top of the cake. Get a knife, cut yourself a slice and enjoy with a cup of tea.

This cake goes well with custard (without the icing) and makes great fairy cakes.

And the total cost? £3.14 (excluding the cake tins) – all costed today by choosing the cheapest ingredients from ASDA’s website. Compared to ASDA’s own cakes, which admittedly are beautifully decorated, that’s a saving of a minimum of £3 (their cheapest cake is £6 for a mega Madeira cake) or £10 (if you go for a celebration cake which is £13).

Why you should make your own cakes in future:

  1. more personal
  2. tastes much better
  3. you know what’s in it
  4. you can eat it warm out the over with some custard

So, there you go. A delicious cake recipe that you can use for afternoon tea, birthday cakes or fairy cakes for the school fete.

Dawn x


Why I’m loving this old cook book

Bought this little beauty on Ebay recently. It’s The Doctor in the Kitchen by Mrs Arthur Webb and it’s a cookbook of wholesome food to feed to people recovering from illness. Not sure when this book was printed, but I believe it was first brought out in the 1930s. My copy could certainly be that old.

The reasons why I love this book:

  • great recipes that are cheap to make and good for you
  • recipes I remember from childhood such as Blancmange and Coddled Eggs (who has these dishes nowadays? I used to love blancmange and coddle eggs or Eggy Cup as we used to call it)
  • there’s information at the back about making poultices, medicines and periods of incubation for illnesses such as scarlet fever and whooping cough (I had the latter as a child, horrendous illness)
  • the historical information contained within it

I may try making blancmange and see how it is. Or the Apple Fool. Mmmm…yum.

Dawn x

PS I bought this before I decided to have a sabbatical from book buying. And it was cheap. So, sticking to my guns here. 😉


I have failed miserably already

I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve had to order stuff of Amazon over several days this week. I have an event on Saturday that I needed things for, then there was stuff for the house…argh! Jeezo, I was really trying to cut down my spending too.

Then I saw this lovely top on eBay that I missed out on last time and it came up again, so I had to have it. Does that count? Okay, I know it does, but I’m just trying to make myself feel better!

On a plus note though, I did put some books I wanted in my Wish List rather than just buying them. So, I’m heading in the right direction. And I have made most meals from scratch, with the exception of an M&S pizza which mean and the kids had for lunch the other day.

Right, this week, I will endeavour not to spend any more than I absolutely have to. I will continue to make things from scratch. Plus I will use on of the gadgets I have in my kitchen that have never been used. Watch this space for more!

Well, I never said this was going to be easy. Needs must and all that, but so long as I keep on trying to cut down, I will eventually get there!



Let’s get started

The first thing I want to do is think about how I can make changes to the lifestyles of me and the kids to achieve all the goals I want to. So, I’ve put together this short, first list as a start:

  1. I need to stop impulse buying. I have tonnes of unread books, I don’t need anything for the house (we have everything we need) and there’s nothing the kids need except for new clothes every now and again. Okay, so challenge 1 for this impulse buyer is to stop impulse buying.
  2. I’ve got out of the way of cooking from scratch every single day. My husband’s death side swiped me for a bit and in the months following his death, me and the kids lived on carry outs and ready meals (such as breaded chicken and oven chips). We’ve gotten out of the habit of eating at the table as a family. So challenge 2 is to cook from scratch for 90% of the time and to eat at the kitchen table.
  3. I have a big garden and could be growing some of my own produce. Challenge 3 is to sort out the garden and plant some winter crops.
  4. I mostly meet up with friends for lunch, but we could be doing this more cost effectively. Challenge 4 is to socialise with friends on a smaller budget.
  5. We produce a lot of rubbish in this house and I have tackled it before. However, we’ve gone back the way. Challenge 6 – my main priority – is to cut down the amount of rubbish we produce going to landfill.
  6. I need to get some more income coming into the house, so Challenge 7 is to use my talents to bring in some more income.

Okay, so that’s not bad for a first list of challenges. Starting today, and for the next year, I will endeavour to meet these and any other challenges straight on and improve our lives for the long term.



Hello and welcome to my blog

Hi. My name is Dawn and I’ve started up this new blog specifically to keep me focussed on improving how my family live, reducing waste and saving money. I’m a busy working writer with two growing kids and three dogs, so my time is pretty used up. However, I’m also desperate to live a greener, healthier life that has less impact on the environment and saves me money too.

So, why the new blog? Well, it’s simple, as a single parent (my husband died of cancer in 2016), the onus is on me to ensure we live within our means. However, we don’t. There are things I could and should be doing to stop this happening, but I one of the worst offenders! I am a book addict and if I see a book recommended to me online, I immediately go and buy it without a thought about whether or not I can afford it or not. I am also bad at organising meals well enough so that when it comes to dinner time, I cook the meal right away without resorting to buying carry out because I’m too tired to cook (we don’t eat carry out every night, maybe once a week, but it’s expensive).

So, here goes. I’m doing this blog as part of a challenge to myself to become more environmentally friendly than I already am, to reduce the amount of crap we buy, and to save money.

So, today, August 2, 2019, I declare that this is the first day of a year long challenge to improve how we live. Along the way, I shall share some of the things I’ve done to do that and any challenges I’ve come across. Wish me luck!

Dawn x