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I am a huge fan of  Tawra and Jill of  Living on a Dime, and had a hissy fit earlier this week, when Tawra was accused basically of being a hypocrite for not living in a shack. For goodness sake, they don’t live in a shack but in a very nice house (I so wish I lived in America, houses seem to be so much cheaper than in England) simply BECAUSE they are frugal in other aspects of their lives.

But there is an aspect of their frugality that bugs me. As far as I can see, and I’ve been happily reading them for a good while now, they don’t buy books, DVDs or CDs, nor do they seem to have “making” hobbies.

I’ve been as great a fan of libraries as anyone in my time, indeed at one point I seriously considered a career as a librarian, but I do read and re-read my books constantly, and admittedly like to know that a book is “mine”. Years ago, I stopped lending to anyone at all, as the hassle involved in getting them back is just not worth it – but if you happen to be a neglected former friend – give the books back and I may forgive you!

But much as I love to own my books, I almost never buy new or full-price anymore. Sorry, writers, but I just can’t afford it. Charity shops (I’m sure there are equivalents in other countries) are brilliant. Sometimes the books even look unread, but can be picked up for around £1 for paperbacks. Hardbacks, for some bizarre but delightful reason, tend to be even cheaper proportionately.  My favourite ever buy is the Oxford Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide. This is one massive hardback, and is currently selling second hand online for £23; I paid £2 at a charity shop for a wonderful source of nerdy Englishness.

Supermarkets are another source if I really can’t wait too long: £3.64 for a best seller paperback from Asda. I love you Asda!

And for crafty cheapos, I refer you to Eccentric English Rose for knitting; for my beloved patchwork – yes, I do it by hand every inch of the way – then look for bedding items in charity shops, as well as obviously re-using any fabrics that you have at home.

It IS possible to be thrifty and DO things!

 

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I have soup simmering as I write.

I hate waste, so it’s a Princess concoction. I found a courgette, a red pepper and  a carrot languishing  in the fridge. I always have onions, and there were two rather tired-looking baking potatoes in the veg basket. Further exploration found a jar of passata and a can of cannellini beans that expire next month, so soup is on the menu!

I chopped two onions and the pepper, peeled and chopped the two  potatoes and the carrot, and cooked gently  in an ounce of olivio for five-ish minutes. When they smelled yummy, I added the chopped courgettes,  the rinsed and drained beans, the passata and two Knorr vegetable stock cubes. It all looked way too thick at this stage, so I poured in boiling water until it looked soupy, and it is now simmering. I’ll tell you later how it tastes, but it smells heavenly!

Mmmm, doesn’t the house smell good when you have a good cooking session? I’ve made lentil vegetable soup, bread and a yummy lemon “cheesecake”. I put that in inverted commas because it isn’t like any other cheesecake I’ve ever come across. So thank you, Joyce Niven.

The said Joyce Niven is a lady I have never met. She was the friend of a friend’s mother, and  having tasted this lemony confection I begged for the recipe. I have been making it for more years than I am going to tell you, and it’s always popular. For many years I was begged to make it at Christmas, but it’s cheap and easy enough to make any time of the year really.

The lentil soup is adapted from various recipes, so as far as I’m concerned it’s mine. When Daughter was small and addicted to the Winnie the Pooh books, we named the soup Eeyore Soup and so it remains to this day. With a liberal helping of garlic croutons (sadly these were bought) and hunks of fresh warm bread, it’s a very satisfying dinner.

It was quite an easy experience really. I made the cheesecake base yesterday and left it to set in the fridge overnight; and I measured out all the dry ingredients for the bread then too, and left them covered in the kitchen.

The soup was cooked yesterday afternoon too – it tastes so much better when the flavours have 24  hours to blend together, so all I had to do today was use my stick blender on it.

If I was in full thrifty mode, I’d have costed all this out. Maybe next time. The only expensive item really was the double cream for the cheesecake – which I only made because Daughter noticed that there was a pack of soft cheese in the fridge that was nearing its use-by date. What a wonderful excuse to have a creamy lemony indulgence!

Should you want the recipes, leave a comment!

One might ask how frugality can raise fury in this Princess’s mind. Surely frugal is good, right? And indeed it is, and one of my Favourite Things, but many of the current crop of media frugalistas really annoy me.

This goes back some years in a small way. I subscribe to various frugal e-newsletters (of course only the free ones, don’t be silly!) and read their tips avidly, but all too often come away thinking: “But doesn’t everybody do that?” I could have sent in many tips over the years, except that if something is second nature, it never occurs to me that other people may not do it or even think about doing it.

Who doesn’t wash cooking foil and re-use it? Why on earth would you wash a towel every time you use it? – Don’t you get yourself clean when you shower? Of course you cut up all the tired veggies in the fridge, add a can of tomatoes, stock and lentils or beans, and make a delicious soup. You do, don’t you? Stale bread (not that we often have any long enough to even think about it going stale) can be made into breadcrumbs and frozen for making stuffing and other yummy delights, or made into bread and butter pudding. Do people really need to be told to do these things?

So imagine my frustration and fury when I was searching Amazon for a sewing book the other day, and followed their kindly links to other things I might like. And guess what? People are making good solid shiny pennies writing books on how to recycle old clothes and other fabrics into new items. One of these women admits that she doesn’t actually do this herself, but has ideas and farms them out for other people to make the items (I think it was bags in this case, but the scarlet film floating across my vision made it quite difficult to read), then somebody takes pretty photographs, lazy woman writes a few words and gets her name on the cover and the money in her bank.

Cutting down old clothes to make children’s clothes, using furnishing fabrics of the sturdy variety to make bags, making curtains out of sheets and clothes from curtaining. Surely these are the frugal/thrifty basics?

I have made, worn, and had admired by others, dresses made from cotton curtaining, summer trousers made from curtain lining, skirts made from second-hand dresses.

For years I wore a beautiful jacket that I made from one of my father’s old tweed coats. When my much-loved beige corduroy coat started to look too tired even by my standards – well, it was 10 years old – I made a skirt from it, and dyed it to perk it up. It carried on for several years in its new incarnation. I made a bag for carrying my library books from an old pair of jeans.

I have never made a rag rug, but that is only because a) I don’t know how, and b) I have quite enough to do really. Though it is tempting, I admit.

The point being, yes there is one, how are these people getting away with it? They re-hash ideas that have been around for ever, and make a living writing them up, to be published in beautiful shiny editions that are not frugal at all!

Mmmm, I’m starting to feel better! I shall go and put that beautiful duvet cover I bought in the charity shop into the washing machine. I feel a summer dressing gown coming on.

btw: I haven’t been procrastinating since May, I’ve been very busy. Honest!

One of my favourite literary characters is one of Beatrix Potter’s Two Bad Mice: Hunca Munca. She had a “frugal mind” and so is a heroine to me.

There have been times in my life when frugality has been a necessity, but it’s ingrained really. I hate to waste anything, and am notorious for looking at items in shops, and meals in restaurants, and announcing firmly, “I could make it cheaper (and often better)  myself.” This could of course make for a limited life, and maybe in some respects it does. I hate to pay full price for anything, and am always inclined to make it myself if at all possible.

My  real (non-frugal) weaknesses are books and movies. The movies are fairly simple:  go to the cinema on Orange Wednesdays, in the afternoon when it’s cheaper at our local Odeon anyway 🙂  The only exceptions I have made in recent years have been for the premieres of the three Lord of the Rings films, and for a couple of the Harry Potters. But it hurt, dear reader, it really hurt.

Books are another matter. Yes, I know: use the library. But you haven’t been to our local library. It contains virtually nothing that I haven’t read or would never read. It is the greatest advert for the abolition of libraries ever, and I don’t like that. I haunted the local library ( an old building full of the most unlikely and wonderful books) in my childhood  and teenage years and even worked there during vacations for several years, but this glass-and-concrete box has less soul in its content that even its exterior has. So that’s out. The two local second hand book shops closed.  So now all I can do is buy paperbacks half-price at the supermarket, or buy from Amazon for anything more demanding. There are occasional bargains at the wonderful PDSA and Cancer Research charity shops, but when you really really want a particular book, it’s hard.

For entertainment of a crafty nature, I’ve drifted back to knitting. It occupies my hands just as much as my beloved cross-stitch, but I have something to wear at the end of the process, rather than yet another picture which I can’t bring myself to pay to have framed :S

My tastes in food are simple, luckily for my pocket and frugal inclinations. Give me a variety of vegetables and some cheese and you’ll get no complaints from me. And cooking is always a pleasure, especially if the ingredients were a bargain! For instance, a 3 kilo bag of bread flour cost £1.72 yesterday. Now, I’m not a metric person, but the wonderful internet informs me that 3 kilos = 6lbs 9 oz. So for that price I can bake four batches of bread. Add in the cost of yeast, a little salt, and a little butter, and we can have delicious bread that will last us 4/5 days for 50p. How cool is that!

I abandoned using my bread-maker (no I didn’t buy it, it was a gift) because I actually like kneading the dough, and making it myself. So satisfying, and the whole house smells delicious. Which reminds me, today’s batch should have finished its second rise by now…

No really, I do. I started to write this about six hours ago, but life intervened. Later….

I prove the aptness of my name! Still, three  months is quite good going for me; after all I only just completed a task from my to-do list of April 2009, and that itself was positively speedy when set against the collection of cross-stitch UFOs lurking in that box under my bed. It’s not that I’m lazy you understand, just easily distracted by my huge range of interests, not least the hundreds and hundreds of books that the world generously provides which are just waiting for me to read them. And of course I do procrastinate – why do something today when you can leave it till next week?

So, what can you expect if you have found your way here? Mystery! After all, if I don’t know, how can I tell you? Just be warned that I am not only extremely opinionated but also very changeable, so if you ever feel like taking me to task over anything, don’t bother – I’ll probably have changed my mind before you get your comment written 😉