The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: February review

frosty gardenI am determined to cut our over the counter spending by 25% this year. I am also equally keen to make it fun.

Already it has taken us down undiscovered paths. The tasty vegetarian meals every other day and the real enjoyment of meat, when it comes. We are looking healthier, are losing weight (a steady pound a week for me) and feeling fitter. We have never pigged out on cream cakes and biscuits but I realise now, that our diet was very high in animal fats.

It’s satisfying. Although we have only saved 21% this month. I feel a bit crouchy about this. When we do manage to crack the 25% barrier it will be an amazing moment.

Vegetarian food is a completely new arena. I am longing to create my own veggie dishes but realise I need many more apprentice months before I can start to do this well. We chomped through a very dry disaster this month, that sounded great in my head.

Most vegetarian meals take forward planning. You can’t just slam a bean under the grill and run up a sauce. We’re beginning to crack it now by cooking and freezing large batches of dishes that we have particularly enjoyed.

The biggest surprise of all has been the discovery that most veggie dishes are all about wonderful combinations of flavour and texture. Complex stuff. I am amazed that an old carnivore like me is actually stating that, at their best, veggie dishes are delicious.

With the bit between my teeth I have been looking at all areas where we can shave costs and reduce unnecessary wastage but still have a good quality of life.

For example, the majority of our water bill is calculated on the sewerage use. We have finally filled half the cistern with some flint stones that a client donated a couple of week ago. I suspect that they had a rock garden in mind but what the hell. This is a subterranean rock garden with knobs on. It is saving us money. And it’s pretty if you lift the lid.

We’ve turned down the temperature of the immersion heater by a couple of degrees – it’s crazy to have to add cold to hot water for a bath or shower.

A fridge takes half an hour to regain its temperature when you open the door. Milk for daily use is now in a jug by the kettle – much more convenient. Similarly we are using the insulated ice bucket for cold drinks.

We are using the smaller oven rather than the big fan assisted one for baking and the slow cooker is assisting us on an almost day to day basis. This small crock pot can cook virtually anything. All it cannot do is brown a topping but the grill can do this in seconds.

We are now supplementing the chicken food (which has shot up in price) with a scatter of vegetable scraps. The feed hopper has to be refilled far less frequently.

The dogs are enjoying the vegetables left over from making stock as a topping on their biscuit rather than our previous all meat topping.

Top tips for February 2008:

  • Kate (uk)’s tip for ghee. Sold by most supermarkets under the name of Plough. Lovely nutty stuff for frying.
  • Emma’s suggestion to check out Prue Leith’s Vegetarian Bible. This is a wonderful vegetarian resource. I also like Delia’s Vegetarian collection but Leith’s is much more comprehensive.
  • Mildred’s tips for marmalade making are wonderful (in the comments section of our Seville orange marmarmalde post). She also includes a great recipe for grapefruit, lemon, orange and lime marmalade, that can be made at any time of year.

Top February recipes, reviews and cheap foodie ideas on this site:

Delia’s Vegetarian Shepherd’s pie with a tweak although we prefer our topping and now have a new one that Danny created – I will blog soon
Delia’s chick pea and coriander cakes with marinated red onion
Make your own yoghurt
– we are loving this. And it’s a great way to use a redundant jam thermometer.
Great recipes for leftovers: Summery spiced chicken curry recipe. No muddy flavours here, a handfull of chicken fed two hungry people with seconds!
Grow your own sprouting broccoli. If you set the seeds now you cold be eating this in the autumn
Skinflint soup we are still making this every week
Squash and summery vegetable soup recipe very tasty, pretty soup

Top February discoveries:

  • Even more great stuff at Daily Bread. Pappadums, unsalted cashews, herbs in bull sized packs
  • Stewed fruit for breakfast
  • Making stock in the slow cooker, using finely sliced (more flavour) vegeatables and bones begged from Fred’s. The best stock that I have ever made.
  • Garam Marsala is a condiment as well as a spice to add to a dish.

And that old chestnut. Looking at savings with an annual perspective rather than a weekly one. ?2.50 a week is equivalent to around ?120 a year.

Finally I negotiated the price of our oil tank refill. (It used to be 3 times a year and now it’s just twice. Global warming and tight wad queen at the helm has helped). I have used the same supplier for 25 years and I have enjoyed the relationship. This morning, the probable bill had escalated massively. I asked them for their best possible price and looked elsewhere. I just made 3 calls and saved ?30/$60. From now on I will ring round to find a competitive price for each fill up. I felt a bit sad this morning when my old supplier wouldn’t budge. But in time everyone will take a few minutes and find a better price. This is the way everything is heading now.

I’ve also looking on the internet for some save money ideas. There’s a very good article about saving money on food here.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Cornelius

    Glad that you found this post useful. Your site has some great ideas too.

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