Monthly Archives: April 2013

From the back of the store-cupboard


One of my new years resolutions was to try out more recipes. I think I intended to try at least one new recipe a month. I haven’t exactly kept track but I know I’ve tried far more new things than that, just by experimenting a bit! I’ve been using up some things that have been knocking around for a while.

I’ve had these two cartons of passata forever – so long that they were approaching their expiry date. They seemed so handy but I’ve always preferred chopped, tinned tomatoes instead. I made a sauce by dicing the onions and frying in a smidge of oil. I chopped and deseeded the tomatoes (which I’d given up all hope of ever ripening), a squirt of the garlic puree, the two cartons of passata and a couple of handfuls of lentils. I then made up a jug of vegetable stock and kept adding some when it seemed like the sauce was getting too thick. The lentils still weren’t soft after I’d used up the first jug of stock so I made up another and added that all. I popped generous portions into 6 plastic bowls and put them in the freezer. Husband and I had a portion each with pasta for dinner tonight and were really impressed. I’ll be making this again!


Half a packet of risotto rice moved house with us and it had been with us for a very long time prior to that. I wasn’t sure if my daughter would like it and it seemed like a lot of effort to go to if she didn’t. Fortunately she did! I’m also not massively keen on booze in food (it is great in certain dishes but mostly I’m not keen) and I don’t like parmesan (smells exactly like Husband’s feet) – both of these seem to crop up in most risotto recipes I’ve seen. I cooked the risotto with a pre-cooked, diced sweet potato and some onion and mushrooms – no wine, no parmesan, just a bit of cheddar (see bowl in foreground of above photo). It was great. The other bowl in the picture has some tomato and cannellini bean soup which I also made a batch of, mainly to take to work for packed lunch. It’s my current favourite ‘thing’ (next to apple and custard danish pastries which I am doing my best to avoid).

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that I’ve had for far too long. I’ll be hunting through the cupboards again this week!

Categories: Frugal food, Recipes | 1 Comment

Keeping pace

Another deeply domestic, local and low budget day here on Shoestring Alley. I wrapped my daughter up again, popped her in the pushchair and went for another walk. I used the map tools website again to plot the route in advance as I wanted to try to do another 3 miles. I decided to have a wander around a residential area that I’ve only ever driven through (I have lived in this town nearly 13 years!). I recognised a couple of houses that have been on the market in the last few years which would have been contenders had we been in the position to move. It made me really glad we ended up with the house we’ve got. The roads were eerily deserted and there was a really empty feeling to the place. I didn’t like it. Also I didn’t like how on top of each other the houses felt and the way that all of the houses and the roads looked the same. It would be really easy to get lost down there. I imagine that the estate (if that is what it is) all got built in one go and that’s why it all looks the same. I guess some people wouldn’t like to like on a main road like we do. I never used to like the road we live on. Actually being here is surprising though. All of the houses are set well back from the road and we barely ever hear a car. I’m looking out of the window as I type and there are zero cars. I like the fact that there are all kinds of houses on our road. Ours is a plain 1970s semi but within a few hundred yards are 1930s houses (where our friends live), a long rown of terraced cottages and a couple of houses so new that no-one has lived in them yet. I like the jumble!  Anyway, leaving small town suburbia behind us, we powered down to the seafront again.



The beach huts have been put out in the last couple of weeks. My daughter fell in love with this one with the fish painted on the door…



On the way home I undid all of my good work and bought buns in the bakers. I am unable to resist the bakers on our way home. It is the old fashioned kind that sells iced finger buns and other such loveliness. Very naughty. The financial cost was only about £1. The cost to my waistline is another matter…

The rest of the day was spent on cleaning, tidying, sorting and then batch cooking a huge saucepan full of bolognese sauce. I made so much that I used some of it to make two lasagnes – one family size and two individual portions. There was enough sauce left for tonight’s dinner plus two family size portions to go in the freezer. I find it tricky to work out costs per portion because my two year old eats roughly half an adult portion of a main meal. Basically I made four ‘family’ (ie 2.5 portions) meals and two adult meals and the total cost was roughly £11. I’ve had a fairly successful slashing of the food spending but that deserves a post of its own. I’ve managed to switch a lot of things down to Tesco’s everyday value range and am generally rethinking how I shop. More on this another time! My favourite bits of the day were the breaks between cleaning and cooking where I got to read a few sneaky pages of my book and dance around with my girl. Hopefully tomorrow will hold more hanging out and less cleaning!

Categories: Domesticity, Frugal food | 2 Comments

Bye bye cobwebs

The hankering to have a bit of a walk outweighed the lurgie lethargy this morning. I got the pushchair out and we walked to our bi-monthly toddler group at the library and afterwards had our usual stop off at the coffee shop with our friends (I had enough stamps on my loyalty card for a free coffee today – result!). Afterwards we stopped at the shop to pick up grapes, milk and a few other bits and then we were off. I decided on a walk along the seafront and down to the look at the boats in the little harbour. It was just gorgeous out. Still freezing but sunny and lovely. It was nice to be out even though I was so bunged up I can’t breathe properly.



I usually feel a bit guilty if I don’t let my daughter out of her pushchair so she can get some exercise too (any one who has been for a walk with a toddler knows that you never manage to get a decent speed up for yourself!). However, I didn’t have to worry about that today as she was clearly tired after her group and playing with her friend. She’s still not very well and has definitely lost some weight over the last couple of weeks while she’s been ill. I’m trying to feed her up this week as much as possible though her appetite is still up and down. Anyway, for today at least she was quite happy tucked up in her blankets and eating her snacks as I pushed her along. Out of interest, I used the website so work out how far we had walked this morning. In total it came to just under three miles which I was pleased with. I didn’t do it all in one go as there were several stops along the way. I’m going to get in the habit of checking out a few routes around town so I can try and get some more exercise and fresh air at the same time.

My fitness levels are worse than they have been in years. Walking is pretty much the only exercise I get (other than doing housework and running around after a toddler of course). The weather has been so wet and blah this winter I’ve ended up using the car far more than usual and we’ve been ill for the last few weeks while it has been freakishly cold and sunny. I’m hoping our health and the weather will improve over the next few weeks! Did I mention I fell over at work? Well I did. And no I’m not suing. But I did really hurt my foot and it is still not right. So that has also put me off walking. Until today I also forgot about the pain I’ve been getting in my hip when I walk more than a very short distance. What is that all about? I am 35 and falling to pieces. It really is time to look after myself a bit better I think!

Categories: Health | Leave a comment

Decorative recycling

I can’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about two of my very favourite pendants before…

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I bought the one on the left from Etsy about 4 years ago. It wasn’t very expensive and neither was the postage considering that it came all the way from the US. It is a recycled games tile with a vintage stamp lacquered on to the front. I’ve seen similar things since (though not as pretty as mine) but when I bought it it was completely unlike anything ‘out there’. The other pendant is also from the US funnily enough. A very lovely American friend of mine bought it for me at a craft fair. It is made from a piece of broken china. I’ve worn both of these in the last week in a further effort to make good use of everything I have.

My favourite plate got broken at the weekend. I confess to being really quite gutted about it. I had hankered after it for a long time and eventually bought it. It was a ridiculous amount to spend on one plate (£14.95 from Emma Bridgewater) but – do you know – I enjoyed that plate every single time I used it. It is – was -part of my daughters home landscape – ‘Mummy’s chicken plate’. I’ve kept the pieces with a vague hope that I might be able to team it with some other broken ceramics and fashion one of those plant pots that you used to see all the time. I can’t let go!

Husband offered to buy me a new one (he was the one wot done it) but the design has been discontinued. The only place I could find one was ebay and that was £29.95. I’d never dare use a plate that cost £30! Boo. I really, really loved the pattern.  Would a replacement be the same? Or should I/Husband splash out and get another ‘special’ plate in a totally different design? And why should I need a special flippin’ plate anyway? I;ve got perfectly good tea plates. Hmmm. I’ll let you know if I come to any conclusions!

Broken crockery aside, my daughter and I are still struck down with the lurgie. It’s been here for two weeks and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. I would really like to be able to say the letter ‘m’ again. I miss it.  I had to make arrangements over the phone at work today for things taking place in May. Except no-one knew what I was on about as even I could tell that ‘Id Bay, id BAY!!’ sounds very little like ‘In May’. Grrrr.

Categories: Frugal ideas, Make do | Leave a comment

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