The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: March review

winter pansiesWe have finally broken through the barrier and saved 25% on our over the counter spending! We are delighted.

I had a lucky break. I have been drawing out cash to pay for the weekly shop. This means that I have to keep a mental tot as I circle the town. The wad of notes slims to nothing so quickly. This certainly clips one’s wings spending wise. I’ve also used my sister Sara’s trick. I’ve asked myself “Do you really need this?” The scary thing is that at least 20% of foodstuff has been returned to the shelf. One Saturday I forgot to take my bank card to town. Loathe to spend the extra petrol returning to house to fetch the card I did the weekly shop with the cash that I had in my pocket. We didn’t starve and I had cash in hand to invest in other things.

I have been buying stuff on offer (loo rolls etc.) I’ve twigged that these offers are cyclical. If you are canny and have a bit of storage space, a lot of things that we regularly use can be bought for half price and used all year round. With foresight you could never pay full price again for household items.

Part of this month’s savings have been reinvested in onion sets and vegetable seeds for our garden. Last year I bought most of my seeds from Netto, with variable results. This year I have invested much more and have bought top quality seeds. We want good yields this year. It would be satisfying to cook some of our veggie dishes using our very own dried beans and peas.

I had a busy month so haven’t tried out and tweaked any new veggie recipes. We were eating a lot of veggie dishes that I had semi precooked in February. Loads of veggie dishes take time to prepare. Precooking is a boon. Slapped together with the fresh vegetable elements these are quick and simple to bring to the table.

You can pre cook and freeze the core elements for Emma’s Vegetarian Moussaka, Delia’s Vegetarian Shepherd’s pie and probably a vast plethora of veggie dishes. You need to be organised. This has been a steep learning curve for me. When the dishes are in the freezer I have clocked exactly how I feel. Very good. I hate to admit it but I also feel a bit smug when I reach for a pack to defrost for supper. If you can remember to soak your beans and dedicate an evening or a few hours at a weekend you will be at the tip of producing great veggie food for the next month without having to return early from work or wake your household when the dish is finally ready.

This month we concentrated on cheaper dishes that included meat. Highlights include
Boston Baked Beans (slow cooker/crock pot recipe). Delia has a good version that is much quicker here. I am not a baked bean fan but love these. Spicy and nutricious. Good hot or cold.

Frittata – Having eaten cold rubbery omelettes in packed lunches 25 years ago in Majorca I have avoided making anything that will put its hand up when someone calls “Spanish omelette”. Then I sampled Anna’s delicious frittata. The first nose twitching moment had me agog. Now we eat these regularly. Quick, simple, delicious and cheap.

Coleslaw – our best recipe to date is here. I used to buy this occasionally. Now we feast on our own. It works well with every veggie dish that we make. A great way of eating a lot of vegetables without tears.

Stuffed Breast of Lamb. This is a very inexpensive, delicious option for a Sunday roast. Stuffed, rolled and cooked slowly it’s heavenly. If you want to save money and still eat well try to find an old WW2 cookbook. Add herbs, garlic and ingredients that were not available at the time you probably will produce a stunning dish for next to nothing in terms of cash.

Cutting back on spending should never mean shaving enjoyment. We are experimenting and eating better than we ever have.

Home cured bacon is our key discovery for March 2008. We searched for years for great bacon. We found it at a price, six slices often costing more than the Sunday roast.

I felt cheated when I discovered that proper old fashioned home cured smoked bacon is easy to make if you have patience and a good chimney. There are two key elements. The first is finding a good butcher (such as Fred Fitzpatrick, Exning Road, Newmarket) who will supply you with premium meat and sound advice. The second is achieving a good smoke from the logs – a small dry wood fire under a large damp log seems do the trick.

We used to just eat green (unsmoked bacon). I have since discovered that the commercially produced ‘smoked bacon’ is bacon dipped in a ‘smoky taste’ brine.

I’ve recently discovered that the smokiness from a proper smouldering wood fire adds massively to the flavour of the bacon.

I know that bacon is not at the top of the list of beneficial foods. Most people eat it in moderation. But everyone that I have met loves great bacon. If you can master the art of home curing and smoking you have a great resource for bartering. And that’s what self sufficiency is all about. Grow your own, raise some stock if you have the space but ultimately produce something delicious to swap for the things that you don’t have the space or time to nurture.

Good bacon is like gold dust. We are just beginning to build a mini market for our streaky, back and lardons. I am already looking at building an outdoor smoker for fish. It’s not rocket science. Producing our own home cured bacon is easy and fun and just makes sense.

Meanwhile from our kitchen garden we are enjoying white sprouting broccoli and Swiss Chard (great in a white sauce).

March has been a good month. We’ve saved 25%, had fun and discovered so much.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Claire

    Thanks for this great tip!

  2. Claire

    If you put the loo rolls in the microwave for 20 seconds it kills the bacteria!!!
    (I read this on the grow your own forum)

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    I don’t know whether it does make a difference. The fungicidal inhibitors have put me off using them.

    I use little pots made out of newspaper which seem to work well. Danny gave me a paper pot maker a couple of Christmases ago.

  4. samantha winter

    Hi Fiona

    I think they are Andrex aloe vero. Don’t know if that makes a difference

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    The old adage is right – sometimes you have to spend money to make money! If paninis are your thing you have made a wise investment. You’ll easily be in profit in a matter of months and I bet that they taste better!

    Sometimes it is so good to make a frivolous investment too! If you are saving money regularly, why not indulge yourself every once in a while, even if it’s just a Mars bar.

    I like toast made from ultra fresh bread. You can’t beat it.

    What make of loo rolls do you use? Clearly they don’t contain the same fungicidal inhibitors as loads of others.

    Thanks for the updates. Much appreciated

  6. samantha winter

    Hi Fiona
    Me again

    The blog is great; I wonder how do you go about starting something like this??

    On with the money saving. I’ve bought a panini (not sure how you spell panini)maker. I know it’s a lot of money but I do like to lunch out a couple of times a week and at least once a week I have a panini.

    So today I™m making a loaf of bread to have home made toasties and yes I know toasting fresh bread is a hanging offence.

    However I have some strong Welsh cheese I purchased from a food fair at the weekend called the Black Bomber and some bacon or maybe onion.
    Food of the Gods! I shall use my little espresso maker for the base of my home made latte.

    I spend about £5.50 each on a panini or toasty and coffee, so even if the costs are £2 a time then after 28 paninis and coffees it will be paid for ¦¦

    Also my loo roll holder peas and beans have sprouted and are going mad. I wonder if certain loo roll makes are better than others??

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this recipe. I can’t wait to try it out as I know that it will be scrummy.

    BTW there is a rumble about the additives in cardboard inhibiting the growth of seedlings – check out this post on Purple Podded Peas

    Thanks again for the recipe!

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