Archives for posts with tag: frugal

… make chocolate & lime cupcakes. I made these chocolaty delights yesterday after finding the recipe on the BBC Good Food website. The recipe is for ‘easy chocolate cupcakes’, I added the lime twist based on the old-fashioned sweets Chocolate Limes. This recipe is extremely easy to follow, but I felt it was just a little too chocolaty for me so made a few adjustments. If you love bitter chocolate then go for the higher measurements on the cocoa and plain chocolate, if you like your chocolate sweet, then use the lower measurements or switch to milk chocolate instead of plain. My adaptation is as follows:

20110803-112110.jpg

Preheat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. This mix makes approx 10 muffins or 24 cupcakes.

For the cakes:

  • 100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content)
  • 200g self-raising flour (a little extra may be required)
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa to taste (I used 4 tbsp of Green & Black’s cocoa and it was VERY chocolaty!)
  • 150 ml sunflower oil , plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100 ml soured cream
  • 2 eggs (keep ’em free-range folks!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1-2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
For the chocolate topping:
  • 60-100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content, adjust to taste)
  • 3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp sour cream
To finish:
Sieve the flour and cocoa and add the sugar. Beat the eggs and add the other wet ingredients (sunflower oil, vanilla extract, lime juice & zest and sour cream) then gradually fold into the dry ingredients. Add the blitzed chocolate chunks and mix well. At this stage I found the mixture a little bit too runny so I added about 4-5 tbsp self raising flour. The consistency should be sticky rather than runny; it should spoon into the cupcake cases rather than pour. Pop on the oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when you can insert a cocktail stick into them and it comes out (just about) clean. Leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Gently heat all of the ingredients for the chocolate topping in a small saucepan until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour a teaspoon of the topping onto the cupcake and sprinkle the crushed chocolate limes on top. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find chocolate limes in the shops, so I used lime zest to decorate instead. There are a number of online retailers that sell chocolate limes, including chocolatebuttons.co.uk.
I have made a stash of these for a birthday party this weekend, which brings me to my little money saver this evening. My good friend Janine is celebrating her 30th birthday on Friday, and rather than having an expensive bash, she’s invited a few of her nearest and dearest to her favourite spot in Scotland, a little village called Findhorn, on the north east coast for a beach party and camping. Okay, maybe it isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but camping out makes weekend trips so much more affordable and flexible. My husband and I are heading up for one night, whilst others are there for a long weekend.
Luckily I love camping, and might just borrow this idea for my own birthday celebrations. And when life hands you lemons…

20110731-120433.jpg

Evening all! And a beautiful evening it is too. The sun has been shining on Edinburgh this week, but sadly I have been indoors with the fluorescent lights instead.

I’ve been getting hair envy from reading Fluff and Fripperies, a blog from the beautiful Emma. Now, my hair has been in need of some tender loving care since I let the hairdresser douse it in bleach when I kissed goodbye to being a redhead. I’m loving the colour (blondest blonde), but I am most certainly NOT loving the condition.

In my efforts to save money (Kiehls and Shu Uemura are seriously over budget for me), I decided to go a little bit old skool and make a home made hair mask. I have a friend that swears by a mix of egg and olive oil to nourish and revive tired and damaged hair, so that’s what I did.

I mixed 2 eggs with about 20ml olive oil and 30ml argan oil, which I had left over from my trip to Marrakech earlier this year. I then smothered the mixture onto my damaged tresses, covered it in cling film (to minimise dripping) and left it to work its magic for 20 minutes. I then rinsed the concoction out of my hair and shampooed as with Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Shampoo followed by Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Conditioner (left on for 2 minutes before rinsing). I used a little Moroccan Oil through the ends of my hair before blow drying.

I have to say, I am very happy with the results, my hair definitely feels smoother and stronger. There are lots of variations on this mask and other home made conditioning treatments available online. I looked at Daily Glow and Girls Love Style before mixing up mine. I think I might try the avocado or banana mask in a few weeks!

20110728-012217.jpg

I’m writing this post from the Spiegel Garden, which is part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. The atmosphere here is buzzing; lively crowds of twentysomethings sitting in scattered groups on the (plastic) grass, whilst others sit at picnic benches chatting intently with the sound of the bass coming from one of the three performance tents. The excitement of the Edinburgh festival is creeping in, happily egged on by five days of sunshine.

This is far from my most frugal evening. We’re seeing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play later, and at £16 a ticket, this is definitely more pricy than a cheap evening in front of the telly with a frozen pizza in the oven, but it is definitely possible to enjoy the jazz festival on a budget. As I look around me, there are plenty people with a drink in their hand, but there are quite a few without too. It’s free entry to the garden, and if you’re happy not to drink, or to nurse a half pint like I am, then it’s actually a pretty well priced (or even free!) taste of Edinburgh Jazz.

It’s the same scenario during the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s great fun (and free!) to just wander around town, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the street performers, perusing the stalls… and on a lovely warm evening like tonight, it’s perfect.

Sadly my iPhone battery died before I could finish uploading. The gig was awesome, I will post about it tomorrow. G’night!

So we didn’t catch any fish on Saturday night. We did, however, see a gorgeous sunset over the Firth of Forth and observed some colourful characters, who you wouldn’t usually associate with a quiet night of fishing…

I’m sorry I deserted you yesterday. It was, in fact, a perfect day, filled with sunshine, sea, family, friends and music. We took a boat trip out to an island in between Edinburgh and Fife called Inchcolm. I hadn’t been out there since my childhood and had forgotten how beautiful it was. We were lucky to see some seals (probably the reason we didn’t catch any fish!) and some birds, mostly gulls.

Later, we had a barbecue and then headed to the Speigal Tent in Edinburgh to soak up the atmosphere at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival (for the price of a half pint of cider, which I nursed for a good half hour!).

20110725-103622.jpg

Back to work today. This evening we watched The Lovely Bones on TV. I read the book a few years ago and was extremely dubious about the film. I really struggled to understand how this magical yet tragic book could possibly be made into a movie. I feared that it would seem gimmicky and the sentiment would be lost somehow. For this reason, I didn’t ever make the effort to watch it at the cinema, nor the DVD. Until now.

I was truly touched by the adaptation. It broke my heart all over again. It managed to capture all the frustration, anger and confusion that Susie’s family experienced, alongside her own grief and fear. The scenes that I feared would be gimmicky actually achieved the feeling of the surreal that I thought would be lacking. In fact, I think it was better, in some ways, than the book.

20110725-103806.jpg

I realise that this post is not exactly ‘money saving’. What I mean to illustrate, is that you don’t have to go to the movies and pay the entry fee. There are plenty of movies for free, or even for just a fraction of the cost on DVD. And you can watch them as many times as you like.

Morning! So I’ve got that Friday feeling, which only happens to me once a month as I work alternate weekends (and on my other weekend off I’m off the Friday as well – yay!). I’m pretty excited today as I’m going to a friends house after work for dinner and movies and gossip! There will be five of my oldest friends, we’ve known each other since before high school so there’s always plenty to catch up on.

My husbands always moaning that he doesn’t have enough money to meet up and hang out with friends. He seems to think that he MUST meet his friends in the pub and that he MUST order several beers. I disagree. Some of my favourite days/nights socialising in the last year have been at home or at friends houses.

My friends and I have revived ‘the sleepover’, and could happily spend the night chattering away, watching movies, and, of course, eating junk food! I should state now that we are all in our late 20s (very late, 30 is looming!), so we probably should have grown out of sleepovers by now, but we would all argue that it’s one of the cheapest and most relaxed way of socialising around.

We’ve done pot luck dinners (everybody makes a course so there’s plenty for everyone and nobody has to shell out on the cost), ladies that lunch (we all got our glad rags on and made lunch and afternoon tea – it was awesome!), barbecues, even breakfasts! It’s all been at someone’s house, on the cheap!

Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out too! But there’s nothing worse than going on a night out when your skint, worrying about spending money you know you shouldn’t be spending, especially when others are egging you on – ‘Go on, have another drink!’. Frugal times are best spent with frugal friends at home!

In other news, I have started reading the Harry Potter books again from the start (the end of the movies has left a huge gap in my life, until the box set is out of course!). Also, and this is the best thing, I think I might get paid today. Here’s hoping! Will check my balance on the way to work. It’s been a tough month money-wise, so this pay-check is most welcome!

I have spent £1 today. Mainly down to working a 12 hour shift, taking food to work and only taking 2 out of the 3 breaks that were due to me (2 coffees @ 50p each = £1!).

During my coffee break I chatted to an intern during about supermarket shopping and how easy it is to spend more than you planned. She told me she usually shops in the convenience stores ie. the ones that hike the prices up just because they’re in a busy area. She does this because she doesn’t have a car. Isn’t that ridiculous?! She has to get 2 buses to the nearest supermarket so instead she just accepts that she has to pay more for her groceries than everyone else- crazy talk.

Before we had a car, my husband and I would catch the bus to the supermarket and rush around trying to get everything we needed before the bus home. Most of the time we’d end up missing it as we’d get distracted by products on offer or freshly baked cookies… Or anything really. Supermarkets are clever. They make you spend money that you don’t want to spend. They make you buy products that you really know you shouldn’t (hands up who’s bought Ben & Jerrys ice-cream because it was on offer or it was conveniently placed? Heck, I have 3 packs of Sugar Puffs at home just because they were in offer, buy 1 get 2 free?!? Go figure.).

Have you thought about buying your weekly shop online? The idea seems quite indulgent. Choosing all your shopping online and then someone else selects it for you, packs it and delivers it to your door. Yes, there is a delivery charge, usually about £3. Chances are, if you get a bus to the supermarket and back you’ll already have spend close to that anyway. The intern I was speaking to told me it was £5.60 for her & her boyfriend to take a trip to Asda. Not so indulgent now, huh?

There’s another reason why online supermarket shopping could save you money though, even with the delivery charge. If you shop in the supermarket, you might go with a list and a budget in mind. Inevitably, you’ll leave with extra stuff and having spent more than intended (you might even forget to pick up stuff you wanted but going home with things you didn’t need – how annoying!). If you get to the check-out and the nice lady say £38.70 but you only planned to spend £30, you don’t put things back. That would be awkward, especially with the people in the queue sighing, huffing and giving you the evil eye. Instead you just accept that you have overspent. We’ve all been there.

Online you can pick up what you want, but also put back as much as you like! It’s never embarrassing because you can faff about as much as you like at the check out. Nobody’s watching! Everything is easy to find and its not a problem if you change your mind. You can be as frugal as you want and nobody’s looking over your shoulder as you count those pennies back into your purse. Try it, you might just surprise yourself as to how sensible you can be!

I’m so proud of myself today. I spent exactly £1.36 today. That. Is. All.

I did a little shopping yesterday to pick up breakfast food to take to work this week so breakfast consisted of:
2 broken up ryvita biscuits with Greek yogurt, muesli (on offer for £1, usually £2.46) blueberries (£2, large punnet) and cherries (£1 on offer). Yum yum, very filling and healthy too!
I had a coffee from the machine at work for 50p (no Starbucks or Costa!).

My husband made a big batch of soup on Saturday and divided it up into little portions and popped them in the freezer (clever hubby!). So I grabbed one of them for lunch, it had thawed nicely by this point and I zapped it in the microwave for 2 minutes. I bought a slice of bread and a portion of Philadelphia Light for 36p from the canteen and another 50p coffee from the machine. (we have free water at work from the coolers so I had a few glasses throughout the day)

I’m so pleased about not spending anything! It’s such a great feeling!

Evening all! I’m a little bit off topic today with only a snippet about my budgeting efforts at the end of this post. I’ve mentioned the new Potter movie a couple of times in previous posts so I’m going to let you know my thoughts. I went to see the movie on Saturday night with a group of friends who are all HP enthusiasts. I thoroughly enjoyed the finale of Harry, Ron & Hermione’s adventures. In fact I’d say it’s the best one yet.

My only issue was the scene in which Harry ‘dies’. Even in the book this scene annoyed me a little, but right up there on the screen it was most cringeworthy. I realise it was necessary to have a scene between Harry & Dumbledore but that level of brightness was extremely harsh on the eyes and was a bit too much like heaven’s gates – just too cliché.

If it was me in JK’s position, I would’ve set the scene in a more mellow location, perhaps a table at the Three Broomsticks or Madam Puddifoot’s or even Dumbledore’s office at Hogwart’s. It could have still been shot in a hazy, pseudo-reality way, but it would’ve been easier on the eyes and maybe a bit less cringy!

I loved Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall in this movie. Mrs Weazley (Julie Walters) is great too, especially when she calls Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) a bitch when she goes for Ginny: ‘not my daughter, you bitch!’

In other news, my intentions to save money have been fairly unsuccessful today; I took a zip-bagged home made soup (with father-in-law’s allotment grown onions and courgettes) but stupidly forgot I had it and left it in the fridge at work. I have a day off tomorrow so plan on sleeping late and I might make some bananas that are about to go off into banana bread. I’ve also promised my husband I’ll do a large roast chicken for dinner & sandwiches for work on Wednesday. Very domesticated for me – wish me luck!

My Sunday mornings are usually a bit slower to start than other days, even when I’m working. I work alternate weekends and my typical working Sunday starts with a visit to Starbucks. I know, I know, they’re ridiculously priced but I love a good Caramel Macchiato (grande, skimmed with an extra shot!).
Now, this morning, I was particularly sleep deprived, having been at a late night screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (most excellent – I might post a bit about that later), so a pint of strong sweet coffee would have been most welcome! However, in interests of saving money, I woke up early to have a coffee at home (and a tasty bowl of Tesco branded cheerios).
Admittedly it was missing the syrupy goodness of Starbucks coffees, but it saved me at least £5, as I probably would have treated myself to a muffin or a breakfast panini.
At lunch time I went for the cheaper option of a pizza slice with coleslaw and cucumber on the side, a bargain at only £1.50. I managed to resist a trip to Waitrose on the way home from work (another Sunday tradition!) as my husband told me his dad had given us some lettuce and tomatoes from his allotment for dinner (a good hearty salad with leftover Moroccan curry with turkey & apricot from last night – pictured)
So it’s been a very reasonably priced day!

20110717-101154.jpg