Category Archives: frugal

Mending – a Radical Act of Value

Another Vlog post is up.

Josh (having listened to my rants on long journey’s far too often!) suggested that I talk about some of our values and philosophy behind our choices.

So I did…

 

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.

 

 

I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Continuing my Flurry of Crafting

So my energy levels have continued to stabilise – I’m still not able to bend over but luckily knitting and the projects in The Creative Family don’t really require it. It does mean I’m mostly bloggin’ crafting stuff since I don’t have the energy for gardening or other projects.

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Rainy Day Square

I read the whole of Amanda’s book as soon as it arrived. I am pacing myself but the lure of her wool felt projects was too strong. Whilst I was online popping 100% wool felt into my shopping basket for the Wild Things Birthday Crown Project, I decided that the project for a Wool Felt Block would be a perfect welcome present for the Baby.  (In addition to the 3 cardigans, the hat, the carefully chosen and painfully orange plushie fish from her big brother etc.)

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A Carrot – something I can reliably draw and it always looks right.

But sewing these felt squares is so tactile and so fun and I think 100% wool felt is my new craft crush.  I can  really appreciate the Waldorf philosophy of giving children good quality, natural crafting materials and toys.  Whilst R probably has more plastic than I’m comfortable with there is a solidity to his wooden toys which I think he enjoys and I certainly do.

It isn’t quite as portable as knitting but easy to knock a square out at 6.30am when my hips hurt too much to sleep and my brain is too tired to work on writing projects. And it uses up my stash of embroidery threads – so really it is a good thing.

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Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Plus there is something compelling about getting artistic in such a minimalist space.

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I can even use up my button stash!

Stay tuned for the last two and the final product!

p.s. you do not want to know how long it took me to get the photos the right way round for this post. One day I’ll get a decent camera… one day.

 

A bit of meal planning

We do a lot of meal planning at Westwick.  Mostly evening meals as breakfast and lunch are more flexible but we always have bread, jam, marmite, porridge, cheese, pasta and fruit in the house.
Thought I’d pop down some of our meal planning so you can see our thought processes. Although I’m always working to refine our methods, cut waste, cut costs, cut packaging.  At the moment we’re a bit out of our routine so I haven’t been as on top of the waste, costs and packaging as usual.  But we always meal plan which means we are a good chunk of the way there every time.
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Homemade Chai (It’s been a cold week!)

 (Initials indicate who is cooking on that day)
Friday: (J)   Baked potatoes with sour cream, chives and cheese
Put Bread on overnight ready for breakfast in the morning.
Take bacon out of the freezer and soak.
Saturday: (J) Bacon, Leek and Macaroni
Guests for lunch – they are bringing main meal, make apple and blackcurrant cobbler for pudding.
Take Lamb out of freezer to defrost in morning and Marinate Lamb overnight for Sunday.
Sunday: (B) Roast Leg of Lamb Iraqi Style with cous cous and vegetables.
Mon: (J) Rosti Shepherd’s pie
Tues: (B) Hbari Maqli  (Gaza Style Fried Calamari) with pitta bread, hummus and Gazan Butternut Squash salad (Imtabbal Ari’)
Weds: (B) Chicken/Goose and Mushroom Casserole with dumplings
Thurs: (B/J alternating) Pasta Puttenesca
Starting the week on a Friday this time because we’ve been visiting family earlier in the week.
We bought 1/2 a lamb from local smallholders a while ago and are still working our way through it.  This Iraqi recipe will be an interesting new twist on a leg of lamb (normally we prefer shoulder) so I’m very hopeful! Also it will count towards one of my goals to cook 5 recipes from the Iraqi Cookbook this year. Similarly there are two Gazan recipes in there which will count towards my cook from the Gaza Kitchen challenge!
The Shepherd’s Pie then uses the leftover lamb from the roast.  We’ll be making a double portion and then freezing it in preparation for Babygeddon in May when we will struggle to cook for a week or two.
This week has a couple of more expensive ingredients such as the lamb and the squid.  Squid used to be fairly cheap to get hold of but not so much anymore.  But the lamb will probably stretch to 6 adult meals and 3 toddler meals.  The squid is just an indulgence, because homemade deep fried squid is delicious!  I’ll be shopping around to see if I can get it cheaper next time though.
But I’ve paired it with pasta puttanesca and a baked potato meal which are very cheap and a chicken/goose casserole which will use up some of the carcasses stored in the freezer and the odds and sods left in the veg drawer.   Dumplings are really tasty, super easy to make and very filling and it is a shame you don’t see them around much these days!

Zero Waste Week: Use it or Lose it

This week has been zero waste week, I’ve been remiss in marking it on the blog but not at all remiss in observing my part of it at home

I think I might even be an Ambassador for ZWW which makes my shame all the greater.  Quick go over there and check out the cool stuff I keep forgetting to blog about!

The view from our local park.

The view from our local park.

I chose to focus on food because whilst I work hard to reduce waste there are always things I could do better and new tips and tricks to try out. This culminated in an ultimate Zero Waste Meal that I am incredibly proud of because almost all the ingredients were grown or made by me!

The meal was Potato and Kale stew and my ingredients looks liked this:

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Shallots (grown by us)

Garlic (grown and preserved by my Dad)

Cavelo Nero (grown by us)

Potatoes (grown by us)

Borlotti Beans (grown by us)

Parma Ham (grown and made by us)

Leftover shredded chicken (remnants of 4 chicken carcasses I used for stock)

2 cubes of chicken stock (made by me, reduced until concentrated and frozen in ice cube trays)

1.2 litres of whey (leftover from cheesemaking I used it to rehydrate the stock cubes)

Smoked Paprika (shop bought)

Olive Oil (shop bought)

The method was pretty simple after that..

Fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until softened and add the potatoes and ham.  Then add the paprika, chicken, whey and stock cubes and simmer for about 20 mins or until the potatoes are done.  Then add the cavelo nero (destalked and roughly chopped) and the beans – cook for another 10 mins.  Voila!

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It was incredibly flavourful and highly nutritious with all the extra protein from the whey and of course that Superfood darling – Kale!

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Growing your own food is really waste saving in so many ways, there is no packaging and no air miles, you only pick exactly what you need so nothing rots in the veg drawer and any trimmings can go on the compost heap to be put back into the soil.

Over the week I’ve been looking out for more food waste saving tips to pop down here:

1. Chillis – my chilli plants failed this year so I’ve had to buy them from the Supermarket.  I always get more than I need in a pack.  So I read online that you can just throw chillis straight in the freezer in a container and when you need them, get them out and use them as if they were fresh.  I have about 4 chillis in the freezer right now!

2. Milk – I over ordered milk recently and ended up with double what I needed.  I froze one of the bottles and use the other to make Paneer Cheese.  I used this blog post and the final recipe in it is for Queso Blanco which (as it turns out) is the same as paneer!  I used some of the whey in the above stew instead of water and the rest I’m freezing in portions for baking.

3. Preserving – as a Gardner with a lot of fruit trees at this time of year I am rushed off my feet trying to preserve the harvest.  Currently I’ve made two plum cakes, 7lbs of Damson Jam and nearly 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial.  There is much more to come this weekend.  There are lots of good jam and chutney recipes online and if you use homegrown or foraged produced they will often cost pennies.  Our 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial cost under a £1. I can’t bear to see blackberries rotting in the hedgerows near to a supermarket where they are being sold at £1.75 for 150g!

4. Pizza Sauce – I love this idea by A Girl Called Jack for making pizza out of leftovers.  I often have a couple of tablespoons of veggie stew, chilli, bolognese leftover and nothing to do with it.  How come I didn’t realise I could use it as pizza sauce!

The Art of Recipe Substitutions: Hummous.

I’ve been writing my use it or lose it posts for some time now – long enough that they have their own page!

When I write a use it or lose it recipe I try hard to come up with something that doesn’t need you to buy a lot of extra ingredients.  To me that defeats the purpose – when I realise I need to use up some yoghurt I don’t want to have to go out shopping and buy lots of new things just to use something else up before it goes off, that is an inefficient use of my time and might lead to more waste.

To me Use it is or Lose it is about making a complete meal or most of a meal, or something you can put in the freezer

But there are times when instead of building a quick store cupboard recipe around a Use It or Lose It item I just substitute something I have that is about to go off for something else.  I want to use up the tiny bit of leftover yoghurt instead of opening a brand new pint of milk.  Once I’ve opened the milk the clock starts running before it goes off, so I want to put that off for as long as possible. And if I don’t the yoghurt up now I’ll probably have to throw it away.

Sometimes we have a guest who is vegan, gluten free, or has a dairy allergy and substitutions need to be made.  It is fairly easy to substitute a part of a meal on a plate swopping out pasta for potatoes if someone is gluten free.  The tough challenge comes when you are substituting an ingredient like eggs, or you have some sour cream about to go off and you are about to make a recipe with a more complicated set of chemical/biological processes like bread.

The key to substituting is understanding the role that the ingredient plays in the recipe and then choosing something (or a combination of things) that will do the same job.

I think there are 5 ingredient roles:

1. Flavour (e.g. garlic, cheese, herbs, spices)

2. Texture (e.g. lentils, potatoes, pasta)

3. Structure (e.g. gluten)

4. Binding agent (e.g. eggs, chia seeds, sometimes just water/milk)

5. Raising agent (e.g. bicarbonate of soda + acid, baking powder, eggs)

(This is a theory in progress, I’m sure I’ll end up changing this list. If you think of anything then let me know!)

I’ll show you how I do it with a very simple case study: Hummous

Hummous – this is a great one for substituting and an easy starting point.  Here is the basic recipe with the ingredients broke down into roles.

A) 1 tin of Chick Peas (Texture, Flavour, structureA)

B) 1 tablespoon of Tahini (Binding and Flavour)

C) 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Flavour)

D) Olive oil to blend until required consistency (Binding, Texture and Flavour)

E) Seasoning to taste (Flavour)

F) Clove of garlic (Flavour)

Put all the above in a food processor and blitz until you get your desired texture.

Here are the ways you can substitute. You can pick almost any combination of these as long as the flavours work together and you use the same  – it might not be true “Hummous”, but it will be a tasty, homemade recipe that will be nutritious and enjoyable and hopefully avoid waste or an extra trip to the shops.

Substitute Hummous

A) Any tinned beans like butter beans, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans (not baked beans or anything in a sauce), dried chickpeas or beans (soaked and cooked), defrosted frozen broad beans/peas or cooked fresh broad beans/peas.

B) Any nut or seed butter e.g. peanut butter, almond nut butter etc. Here is my recipe on how to make your own nut butter so you could go a step further and substitute this step just with nuts and oil as long as you make it into nut butter first.

(bonus tip: you won’t have to wash the food processor in between!)

C) Any fruit juice that is a bit sharp (but not orange or grapefruit – that would be too weird a flavour with the garlic) I’ve used pear, apple and pineapple with great results but you could use water in a pinch. (Thanks to Free Our Kids for this tip – everyone loves the apple juice version!)

D) Any oil.  I’ve use Rapeseed with great results.  I also think this is a good place to use up the fancy oils you buy for a recipe that needs 1 tsp and nothing more or the oils you get bought in those posh salad dressing gift sets.  Because of this I’ve tried walnut and hazelnut and they have both been lovely!

E) Pick herbs and spices that go with the juice and beans you have chosen, we have a low salt diet because of R at the moment so instead of salt I’ve used lemon rind and fresh coriander, fresh mint and smoked paprika.

F) this is the garlic bit, you could substitute a garlic flavoured oil at D above, or add garlic chives or even just chives.  But in a worst case scenario leave it out.

Obviously how the above combine will matter. If you make a “hummous” with peanut butter, chick peas water, olive oil and no garlic it will taste completely different than if you use broad beans, lemon and mint.  You do need to develop a sense of which flavours go together and I started to do that by just switching out one ingredient at a time and seeing what worked.

Also use your imagination if you can imagine the combination of garlic and orange tasting pretty unpleasant then it probably will be (at least it will be to you!)

Some of the substitutions might just stick.  Now I make Hummous with almond nut butter and apple juice as standard because everyone prefers it that way here at Westwick.

The Undisputed Champion of using up food and making substitutions is of course the amazing Jack Monroe from A Girl Called Jack.  She is one of my favourite bloggers and has such a great mind for thinking sideways and using ingredients really creatively. Go and check her out!

Knitting with Leftovers

I knit a lot and virtually every day.

Some of my knitting uses thrifty, frugal options, but some of it includes luxury handspun alpaca. It is my hobby and whilst I do try to source eco-friendly alternatives (I never buy standard cotton for dishcloths because it’s eco-footprint is so bad) I have bought some wonderful expensive and luxury yarns for my hobby over the years. I’ve even bought a few and had them posted from the US because Socks that Rock is really the best sock yarn I’ve ever used and you can’t buy it in the UK (I’m weaning myself off this habit though and haven’t bought any yarn for over 6 months – I’m pleased you agree that is a REALLY LONG TIME!)

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post... far too many colours to make that a reality :(

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post… far too many colours to make that a reality 😦

But I never throw any yarn away.  I am a master at stretching out yarn and finding ways to use up the leftovers once a project is done.  Like with food and garden prunings there is no such thing as yarn waste.

This post is a list of my 3 tips for using up yarn and 3 patterns which are really good at making the most of every scrap.

1. The Beekeeper Quilt –  by Tiny Owl Knits. This is a paid for pattern, but it is worth every penny. Not only because I love this design, it is modular and therefore easy to knit whilst out and about, but of all the patterns I’ve ever knitted, this is the best pattern for using up leftovers.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

Firstly it is made of tiny hexapuffs knitted in sock yarn.  In my knitting career I’ve knitted about 90 pairs of socks (I know!) that is a lot of leftover sock yarn.  Some of my leftover sock yarn went into darning but darning doesn’t use it all up.  This project is perfect because I can knit hexapuffs out of all my fabulous colours put them all in a basket and only start to make up the blanket afterwards at which point I can pick the colours and place there where I want to.  I’m not limited in placing colours next to each other in the order in which I complete my original projects that generated the leftovers!

Not only do I knit with the leftover yarn but the teeny tiny scraps of yarn which get snipped off after sewing in the ends… they get used to stuff the hexapuffs.

AND… I fill some of the hexapuffs with dried lavender from my garden to give the blanket a lovely smell and keep the moths out.

This is the ideal pattern for using up things and just look at how gorgeous it is!

A sea of little hexes.

A sea of little hexes.

2. The Oddball Spiral blanket – by Sarah Bradbury (free pattern). This is my current big project.  Up until recently I had a huge bag of leftover Aran weight wool and no idea what to do with it.  I tried to knit a stripey vest but I couldn’t get enough colour repeats out of the yarn I had left so I ripped it out for this blanket.  There are only 9 live stitches at any time and the pattern is easy to memorise.  You will end up with a giant blanket if you keep going (like me) and I’ll probably finish this in the Winter now as it is too hot to work on.  But if you don’t mind the blanket looking a bit mismatched then use long and short colour repeats where you have bigger and smaller partial balls of yarn.  I think because of the geometric design you can pull off irregular colour patches which only makes this pattern more brilliant.

The blanket is growing.

The blanket is growing.

3. Baby Trousers – by Mini Magpie (free tutorial).  This is not a knitting project.  This is what to do when knitting goes wrong… so horribly wrong.

Many moons ago, before I was as wise as I am today, I knitted a wonderful Hoodie in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.  The pattern was incredible and I will knit it again one day. The yarn was super soft… but that was the only good thing about it.  It pilled (went bobbly) and looked terrible after I’d worn it precisely once.  I kept wearing it because it was warm and I’d worked so hard on the amazing patterned cables.  And one day in a fit of helpfulness Josh washed it for me.  Pure wool, 20% cashmere in the washing machine.  I think you can imagine what happened (I won’t describe it for the delicate amongst you but let’s say it involved, felting, shrinking and a lot of swearing).

It is a testament to my stubborness that I’m still wearing it about 7 years later despite the fact it is clearly a couple of inches too short, everywhere.  The yarn cost a fortune, the jumper took ages to knit I wasn’t going to give up on it that easily.  But I think the time has come to say goodbye.

As I said above no wool is wasted.

I’m going to cut the (now felted) jumper up to create the trousers in the above tutorial (possibly even dungarees if I can work it out) and then cut up the rest to use as stuffing in the beekeeper quilt!