The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: May review

orchard and kitchen gardenThe radio is my lifeline. They key resource for finding about the world outside the cottage gates. If I’m working outdoors, which I have been for quite some time, I move in a mute world news wise. Danny fills me in with key events but loads of things pass me by.

Last week I was working inside so tuned to BBC Radio4 to catch up, in depth. Apart from the slump in the housing market, the news was full of rising prices and horrible murders.

Oil prices affect everything from the cost of a handful of peanuts in the pub to a tank of petrol. As I painted away, I forced myself to listen to each programme, from in depth analysis of the situation and its impact to the comedy programmes at the other end of the spectrum.

Initially I felt depressed by the end of the week I was planning for our future and far more fired up than I’ve been for months.

Our 2008 challenge – trying to save 25% of our over the counter spending – has demanded a lifestyle change. It demands that we are bit more resourceful and get the best possible return for the money that we do spend.

The key stepping stone was cutting our meat consumption and finding the brilliant food cooperative in Cambridge. This combined with suggestions from visitors to the blog and a bit of imagination has made the challenge interesting and fun. Kay’s suggestion of one store cupboard and one allotment meal a week was inspirational. I started to think of these two areas in a completely different way. A good larder and vegetable plot could be the key to our simpler living future.
We are lucky. We have a large garden. We can grow a lot of the stuff that we eat (vegetables and fruit). We can up our stock (chickens and bees) and produce more to sell and swap for things that we cannot grow. We are now making good home cured bacon, salami and The Chicken Lady and I have linked up and have finally developed our secret recipe – pork pies to die for. We have resources that could be developed from hobby to a more productive future with good planning and just a few extra hours each week.

We also live in an area filled with trees. These do not live for ever. The road sides are littered with fallen branches. We could stop and pick these up. We could also investigate turf fires (a lot of the northern islands are turning back to these as a source of fuel).

Living in a rural area, Jalopy is essential. Since January, I’ve been much more careful to get the benefit of the ?3 round trip into Newmarket and try to combine several stops on each visit.

We can do nothing about the rising fuel prices but I could target my business to be even more local. Once my equipment is in situ I could even travel by bike!

We met the over the counter spending challenge this month. Saved just over 35%. It meant a bit of ducking and diving and some weeks we ran out of things but that is far better than throwing away a surplus that has gone off.

I was concentrating on growing rather than cooking things this month but I did invent a vegetarian recipe for the first time last week on a wet chilly day. Tired of adding cheese, tomatoes and peppers to most veggie dishes I made a dish that has none of these but lots of voomf and the filling is fat free. The recipe for Comfort Pie will be posted next week.

After my week with the gloomy radio I could be depressed. But I am feeling chirpy, we are at the start of a brand new adventure. Saving money by being resourceful and realising the potential of what we already have.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kay

    Thanks so much for this recipe!

    It will be a godsend and sounds so much more tasty than the commercially produced drinks.

  2. Dear Fi

    Here you go:


    Two organic lemons
    1.5/2 litres fizzy table water (17 pence in Sainsburys)
    200 g organic sugar (any kind but unrefined gives the nicest colour)
    Culinary lemon oil if you have it

    Halve and squeeze the juice from the lemons, set aside. Cut squeezed halves in half and put in a saucepan with about a pint of water and the sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, squashing down the lemon quarters from time to time with a wooden spoon to release more flavour. Allow to cool.

    Strain the juice from the lemons and the cooled syrup and mix (add six drops culinary lemon oil if you have it). Divide between two one l litre glass bottles with screwtop lids and then top up to about two thirds full with fizzy water. Put on lids, invert bottle and taste, if strong, add more water, it rather depends on the lemons and whether you used oil or not. Will keep in the fridge for two weeks but never outlasts 48 hours in our house! Remember to invert bottle before pouring as this is non-stabilised and all the good stuff sinks to the bottom.

    Calorie wise, should that concern anyone, I reckon a litre of Cloudy Fizz comes out about the same as a litre of orange juice.

    Can be made with oranges (use three) or limes (usually also three but rather variable) or mixed citrus fruits.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda

    The pork pies are very tasty! It™s fun developing a recipe with TCL. Soon we are going to try making sausages!

    Hi Sylvie

    I™m having fun with this challenge.

    Hi Jane

    We live just 15 miles from Cambridge!

    Re the blackfly on your runner beans “ have you pinched out the tips? The blackfly love these and removing them usually does the trick. Are you organic on the allotment, if you are spray the plants with soapy water. If not try a systemic spray “ Scotsdales has a large range (this means that you will probably only have to spray once to get rid of them).

    I haven™t read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Must put it on my list! Thanks for the tip.

    Hello Penny

    I have found amazing bounty in our larder too! So pleased that you are enjoying the blog.

    Hi Kay

    Organic lemonade for 43p a litre! Do you have the recipe to share?

    I must get back to making my own bread “ last year™s poor harvest has really affected the price of the decent loaves.

    Hi Organic Viking

    The food cooperative is just off the King™s Hedges Road and is called Daily Bread. Most of the stuff is much cheaper than buying from any supermarket.

    I am looking forward to developing more veggie recipes in the future.

    Hello Charlotte at Great Big Veg Challenge

    I enjoy your blog too!

    Yes, I agree, most people that I know are looking at ways of changing the way they eat and live. I reckon that a lifestyle change is the only way to save significantly.

  4. Charlotte at Great Big Veg Challenge

    I think everyone I know is making some kind of adjustment or reassessment of how they spend their money, how they chose to eat.
    It is a worrying time but it is also an opportunity to make change. Really enjoy reading your blog.

  5. The Organic Viking

    As another Cambridgeshire resident, I’ll definitely be investigating the Food Cooperative. Thanks for the tip, and good luck with your efforts! In my experience, veggie recipes start to invent themselves once you get going – I look forward to the pie.

  6. Well done you! That’s an amazing saving. Looking forward to reading your recipe

    We’re doing much the same thing as you. This year I’m aiming to make our own lemonade instead of buying expensive organic drinks (the men in my house both respond badly to sugary fizzy drinks, so we had been buying the premium ones like Appletise and Schloer, but actually I can make organic lemonade for 43 pence a litre and non-organic for even less!) and nearly all our own bread, only buying sliced bread for the toasted sandwiches the Rock-God-In-Training eats on school nights as a protein boost.

  7. Penny

    I’m also trying to cook meals from my store cupboard rather than head for the shops. Its amazing what I have lurking at the back in there. I’ve just discovered half a packet of sun-dried tomatoes which will star in a meal next week. Your blog keeps me going – thank you

  8. Hi, I’ve just come across your website and blog. It looks really interestign and the fact that I live i nCambridge makes me even more interested. I was looking for advice on black fly and broad beans as I have a real infestation at the allotment?
    Also wanted to share that I have just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- I’m sure you will ahve read it already but if not I think you would love it,
    best wishes and I look forward to reading your diary again in the future

  9. Sylvie

    You are a big inspiration! I’m looking forward to the recipe.

  10. Amanda

    Well done Fiona – absolutely brilliant! 35% is a fantastic achievement. I can see Cottage Smallholder pork pies being sold nationwide!

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