Tag Archives: thifty

The Good Things #2 – Charity Shops

There is another Good Things Linkfest thanks to MargotandBarbara. My last post on this was here but today the Good Thing I want to talk about is the Charity Shop.

I think these shops are the staple of the sustainable, frugal, green lifestyle.  They are such an important part of the whole cycle of buying and decluttering I don’t know what I’d do without them.  They are the places I send things I no longer need when I declutter, they are the places I go to get reasonably priced clothes, household items, books (and now toys) and every time I buy something there it is secondhand (so recycling) and my money goes to charity!  Win, Win, Win!  I think in America these would be called Goodwill or Thift stores?  In Australia are they the “op shops”?

Today we went to visit R’s Granny who lives in a very good charity shop area (much better than here) and I made a point of stopping by.  Granny (and on my side Grandma and Auntie V) are brilliant at getting amazing things from charity shops but today was my lucky day.


This was my major find.

For anyone who doesn’t have children or isn’t in the UK these are the Teletubbies.  They were a huge children’s tv show in the mid ’90s and as of today a brand new series started with the same characters. This is a complete set of interactive soft toys which cost me £1.60 in total.  They are about to become really popular again with the pre-school crowd (i.e. R’s age group) and I’m so lucky I can get ahead of the curve.  No waiting around for R to pester me for a Teletubby toy.  He will already have a set (and he won’t know that they were from a charity shop – well he won’t know until he can read this.  If you’re reading this R, sorry!)

I did look up the same toys on Ebay and they were £16.99 each!

I also managed to get a 1970s style vacuum yoghurt maker (just like my Mum had) for £1.95.  This will be very important in helping me during No Plastic July as I mentioned here.

The Good Things


A Frugal, Green and Self-Sufficiency Round Up

How have we been Green, Frugal and Self-Sufficient this week?

1. Wellies* for R – a kind lady advertised a pair of wellies size 18-24 months on freecycle (and other assorted bits – but it was the wellies that caught my eye!) She was pregnant and about 5 days off her due date.  How that feels in a hot June is very fresh in my memory so I took over some of my homemade Black Forest Brownies as a thank you present for the wellies.

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

(*Wellies is a UK slang term for waterproof rubber boots, that is because in the UK such boots are called Wellington Boots.)

2. Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly – I’ll do a proper write up of this later.  But inspired by Dawn of Doing it For Ourselves making Elderflower Jelly and the birds having eaten most of our Gooseberries, I decided to make up a Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly recipe. That saved me a job of topping and tailing as well.  Doesn’t it look fabulous!

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

3. Birthday Bunting – I finished making bunting to decorate the house for R’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  It is re-useable (I’m going to keep adding to it each year until it is a huge family joke) and has no packaging and it looks bright and silly.  Perfect!

4. Comfrey – we don’t have any in our garden, but it is the best of all the Green Manures and a staple of permaculture nutrient design.  Luckily my Father Out-Law has a huge amount with pretty blue/pink flowers.  As always I only have to ask for a cutting or a bit of root and he is back with a spade and a pot before I know it, generously dividing some up for me.  That saved me from buying some seed/plug plants from a garden centre. We also took our tetrapaks over to put in their kerbside recycling scheme (they are on a different scheme to us and we can’t recycling tetrapaks easily) and I went home with some spare jam jars – which came in handy for 2 above.

5. Straw from the Pig Pen – The straw we get for our pigs is a waste product from a local farm.  After it has been used as pig bedding it goes in the hot composter and the cold composter as important dry, woody material. I am so pleased we get two uses out of something which would otherwise go to waste.


What is in the cake tin?

Recently we seem to have been buying a lot of cake – I’m not sure why. Probably because chasing after an excited crawling baby is a tiring business; it makes me (and Josh) want to eat cake.

As you know I’m in a constant internal battle on how much we use the mini-tesco over the road.  One day I’ll probably set myself a challenge or something and blog about it but today I’ve just resolved to make more cake so that we always have a cake tin of treats to be eaten rather than resorting to buying cakes.


Ready for the oven...

Ready for the oven…

This will be cheaper in the long run (I think, I’d better cost it up!) will involve less packaging, taste nicer and have things like free range eggs (i’m sure the average cake from Tesco’s don’t use free range eggs although I am pleased that Mr Kipling does) so should be all round greener.

Finding myself with some unexpected baby-free time I set to work making these Black Forest Chocolate Brownies from the Pink Whisk.

Let’s try costing it out:

200g Dark Chocolate (Bournville) – £2.00

140g Butter – £0.56

225g Caster Sugar £0.34

2sp Vanilla Extract £0.47

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk £0.48

85g Plain Flour £0.03

200g Frozen Berries £1.00

33g Dried Cherries £1.00

£5.88 for 900g of Black Forest Brownies

Buying a similar weight of average quality Sainsburys Brownies would cost £4.00 on their current offer.  So not cheaper but the difference in quality is huge – So I feel like I’m not comparing like with like here.  Any ideas for a better comparison?

Surely this is better than a Sainsbury brownie.

Surely this is better than a Sainsburys’ brownie.

I’ve made the Black Forest Brownies before with my homegrown blackcurrants and they are just perfection.  This time I used frozen fruit as the recipe suggests because we are long way off the blackcurrant harvest.  As usual I “adjusted” the recipe –  but only by adding a good handful of dried sour cherries to give it an extra black forest vibe.

If I take all the berries and cherries out of the recipe (because the Sainsburys brownies don’t have any in them) the price is £3.88 for 900g which is a bit cheaper than buying from Sainsburys and it is still a million times nicer!

So frugal does win the day after all – what a relief.


Ham Hock for Dinner

I’ve never made Ham Hock before and I think I’ve only eaten it once before and it was called a pork knuckle.

So knowing we had a homemade Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock in the freezer begging to be eaten sent me running to the internet for inspiration. I expect you could buy a hock from a good butcher, but I haven’t ever seen one in a supermarket and it isn’t a cut I am very familiar with.

Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock Perfection!

Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock Perfection!

It is a tough cut of meat with lots of tendons and ligaments but as you know these are perfect for long slow cooking.  I remember when cuts of meat like this use to be considered thrifty but I don’t think they are anymore.  For example lamb shanks (which is the same cut on a lamb) can be quite expensive.  At £10 a kg they are still cheaper than chops (about £15 a kg) but it isn’t like lambs’ liver at £2.22 a kg!

I believe in paying for good quality meat with the highest ethical welfare standards and that comes with a higher price tag I’m prepared to pay (and then eat lentils for the rest of the week).  But formerly thrifty cuts of meat have become very fashionable here in recent years and that seems to be driving some of these prices increases (not an increase in welfare – although lamb is much better than pork in that regard) which is a shame.

Finally these cuts of meat that require long, slow cooking aren’t as thrifty anymore because of rising energy prices.  A while ago a read a great article on A Girl Called Jack’s blog (I think) which pointed out that energy prices are now so high that many people can’t afford to have the oven on for 3 hours to cook a tougher cut. A very good point!

I do think there are two short cuts to the last problem.  Firstly slow cookers if you have one – they use a fraction of the energy.  Secondly a haybox – which continues slowly cooking the meal on residual energy.  I’ll be using a slow cooker for my meal here and I’d like to look into hayboxes as well. But I do accept that both these solutions might require resources/skills which many people wouldn’t find easy to come by – so cheaper cuts, still not as thifty for most people as they used to be.

Back to the cooking and away from the ranting.

This was the most useful starting point: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1341/ham-hock-and-lentils.

Partly because I already have a half box of Puy Lentils to use up.

After reading a number of recipes I decided to slow cook the hock in the slow cooker for 3 hours until it was falling off the bone and making lots of lovely stock, then use that stock to cook lentils and shred the ham on top.  I don’t cook a lot of whole meals in the slow cooker because it seems to make everything taste a sort of pallid pale brown.  But I do use it to help me cook bits of meals – dried beans, stock and pulled pork are where the slow cooker really comes into it’s own. This is one of those occasions when it will be vital, I need to cook the meat for a long time but I don’t want to constantly checking on it.

Slow cookers use considerably less energy than the oven or gas hob would for the same purpose. So this will save me money as well.

The lentils are cooked with onion, carrots and the dreaded celery* in the stock from the Ham and then served shredded on top.

*Dreaded because whilst I don’t like it, I don’t love it and sometimes it feels like there are painfully few ways of using it up.  Probably fodder for a future blog post.