Monday, 26 March 2012

Mould-stained fabric - any advice?

Hello everyone.  This blog post is a request for advice more than anything else! 

My sister very kindly gave me her old car seat and pushchair today.  She'd offered to give me these as she was just going to take them to the tip... the tip!!  Now they are only about 2 years old, and for the last 18 months they have been shoved at the back of the garden shed.  Suffice to say that they were in need of a good clean but otherwise barely used at all!  I was hopeful that I could recover these items with a bit of elbow grease and restore them to their former glory.  I was certainly up for the challenge!

After much agonising with a screwdriver and a dinner knife I managed to loosen the "removeable" washable covers and popped them in the machine on a 40 degrees wash to freshen them up.  They've come out smelling lovely and looking much better - except for the mould stains which haven't shifted.  I've tried scrubbing at the stains with some neat washing up liquid and an old toothbrush but this is having no effect.

I haven't tackled the buggy yet - but it's in a similar way.

I'm stumped now - should I soak them?  I didn't think bleach would be appropriate as the colour may be affected (beige and black).  I've seen "mould and mildew" remover in supermarkets - does this work and would it be appropriate on fabric?

If any of my lovely readers have experienced this type of issue, managed to overcome it and can offer any advice that would be greatly appreciated!  These mould stains are all that stand in the way of my lovely Graco travel system for my baby - for free!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spring has sprung!

Spring has well and truly sprung - and what a joy!  Along with the arrival of spring comes the flurry of activity as we bring our outdoor living space back to life.

It's lovely to see green shoots popping up everywhere!

The first step was to give the back patio a deep clean with a power washer, which my mum kindly loaned to us. 

What a difference the power washer makes!  At 27 weeks pregnant, I'm excused from hard work like the above - for this spring at least!  Mr Frugal took care of the manual labour.

The leaves and debris were collected up for recycling.

Little helpers were only too keen to lend a hand!

Everything was tidied up and cleared back.

The neighbours arranged for the tree surgeons to make a start on takling the overgrown trees in the garden next door.

It's fantastic to get outside in the fresh air and spend time with the children doing something together.  We love our outdoor area - it's nothing fancy, but we do have plenty of space, for the washing, to grow vegetables, to eat, to sit, for the children to run around, to hide, to play football... in a society that revolves around computer games, TV and entertainment on demand, it's refreshing to go back to "old style" ways to spend time together as a family.

I hope you've all enjoyed the weather and had the chance to spend some time in your outdoor living space.

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Meal plans and shopping for the week!

Firstly a warm welcome to all my new followers!  It's lovely to have you here - thanks for joining in!  I look forward to reading your comments and ideas.

Before I write my shopping list, I review the contents of the fridge and freezer to check what we have in, and compile meal plans for the week ahead.  As last week was the run-up to pay day, the freezer stocks were pretty low, although my store cupboard still has lots of possibilities.  As such, the meal plan for this week is as follows:

Friday: Chilli con carne
Saturday: Chicken pie
Sunday: Homemade pizza and chips
Monday: Sausages and mash
Tuesday: Spaghetti bolognese
Wednesday: Omelette and chips
Thursday: Pasta with bacon and tomato sauce

The shopping list was written and my lovely husband went off to Aldi and Tesco to buy everything.

Shopping for the week ahead

  • Fruit
  • Veg
  • Bread
  • Crisps
  • Chicken breast
  • Carrots
  • Beef mince
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Mozzarella
  • Oven chips
  • Sausages
  • Potatoes
  • Ham
  • Bacon


  • Milk
  • Honey nut cornflakes
  • Rock salt

My husband never deviates from a list; he isn't seduced by BOGOF or multibuy offers!  So the total spent in Aldi was £25.53 and the total spent in Tesco £6.64.

Chilli con carne
This will last us the week, for breakfast, lunch and tea (including ingredients we already have in).  In fact, the shopping will last us probably closer to two weeks; for example, I made chilli yesterday, and from the pot of chilli there was enough for last night's tea as well as two more dinners for the four of us.  These are in the freezer for another day.

I left the option of "fruit and veg" at Aldi at my husband's discretion - Aldi often have offers on selected items for 39p or 69p, and I'll use whatever we get and incorporate them into the meal plan.  So the veg he picked up was 1kg onions, a 4-pack of baking potatoes, and a swede - all at 39p each.

Veg for soup
I made a pot of soup - lentil and root vegetable soup.  I added onions, potatoes, swede, carrots, red lentils, beef stock cubes and seasoning, simmered until soft and mashed with a potato masher.  The remaining carrots and swede were peeled, chopped, bagged up and added to the freezer for a later date.  Soup for lunch yesterday and today, as well as a tub of soup for the freezer for next weekend.

Lentil and root vegetable soup
The remaining veg, chopped up and ready for the freezer
The pack of four baking potatoes were cooked in the oven along with my zingy lemon cake.  These have been bagged up and added to the freezer too - I'll take them with me to work for lunch, heated up in the microwave and with beans or cheese as a topping.

Baked potatoes for packed lunches
My shopping for next Friday should be a "top-up" shop, rather than a full shop as we did this week.  I'll still meal plan and base what we're having on what we have in!

Do you plan your meals and shopping to help save money?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Friday, 16 March 2012

The most delicious, moist, zingy lemon cake - ever!

I follow Frugal Queen's blog and on reading about her sticky lemon cake earlier in the week, I decided to have a go at making a gluten-free version of this cake.

Gluten-free lemon cake
One word - WOW!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have stash of Jif lemons to get through... so lemon cake was always going to be easy using the ingredients I have in.

Here's how I did it!

10oz gluten-free white mix
8oz sugar
8oz utterly butterly
4 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
lemon juice

I measured all the ingredients together in a large bowl and whizzed together with an electric hand mixer, adding lemon juice as I was mixing, to achieve the right consistency.  I then poured the mixture into an 8" square cake tin, that I'd greased with butter and base lined with baking parchment.  I'm not keen on zest in cakes, and I didn't have any fresh lemons - so there's no zest here!  But you could add zest to make the cake even more lemony!

I baked the cake at 160C until it looked ready!  Now, I'm guessing this was about 40 minutes... but I was pottering around cooking chilli con carne at the same time, so it may have been slightly more, or less!

The cake was left to cool slightly, then I added the topping - which was made with several tablespoons of suger mixed in a bowl with the juice of a Jif lemon.  I then drizzled the sugary mix over the top of the cake before leaving it to almost cool completely in the tin.  After that, I transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.

Well, I say completely.  Actually, I cut into the cake fairly quicly after that point, as I was desperate to try a slice - it smelled so good!

As you can tell from the photographs, I was eating as I was going...

I cut the cake into quarters as Frugal Queen suggested, wrapping two in foil and stashing away in the freezer for another day. The rest has been slowly but surely demolished over the last 24 hours - not just by me - my family helped, too!

This is a real winner and one I will definitely be making again!  Next time I might try this recipe as cupcakes.

Just a wee note on the weight ratios in my ingredients list.  I find when making gluten-free cakes, that the normal 4-4-4-2 ratio is too "wet", so when converting non-gluten-free recipes to gluten-free, I always add extra white mix.  This helps to make my cakes lighter and rise better.  If you are giving this a go with normal flour, I'd use 8oz self raising flour instead.

Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

I never let a Best Before date stand in my way!

I tend to ignore Best Before dates on food packets and I'll often take advantage of supermarkets selling off goods that are approaching their "best before" dates and snap up the yellow-sticker bargains.  Not only that, it's a great way to indulge in "fancier" treats that you wouldn't normally buy at full price!

A couple of weeks ago I picked up several boxes of gluten-free stuffing mix that were reduced from £2 a box to 10p a box, as they were best before February 2012. 

Reduced price stuffing mix, approaching Best Before date

Last week we had roast chicken for tea and our meal was bulked out with a box of stuffing mix, made up as per the instructions and served alongside the chicken with potatoes, vegetables and gravy.  A small chicken fed the four of us and there was enough leftover chicken and stuffing for Mr Frugal's packed lunch sandwiches for most of the week too!

Roast chicken with stuffing and gravy
Do you ignore best before dates, too?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Spring cleaning!

Now that the seasons are changing it's time for me to spring into action, literally, and tackle the spring cleaning jobs around the house.  With three months to go until my baby is due, I'm keen to get the big household jobs out of the way before my bump starts to get in the way!

The latest big job I've done is the cleaning of the kitchen windows.  These have been hidden behind venetian blinds for most of the winter and I knew the windows underneath were going to need a good blitzing - we don't pay a window cleaner so the windows are cleaned by me!  We inherited these blinds when we bought are house - and those of you who have venetian blinds will know that they are a nightmare to keep clean and dust-free!  When I received some high street vouchers for changing gas and electricity supplier, I bought new roller blinds for the kitchen to replace my high-maintenance venetian blinds.  Before I ask Mr Frugal to put up the new blinds, I needed to clean the windows inside and out to sparkling standards - so the cleaning commenced!

Yuck!  The grubby windows before cleaning....
Super clean windows afterwards
Total cost = free!  All that was needed was some effort and some elbow grease!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

An eBay listing frenzy!

This morning I began tackling the "eBay pile" which had been accumulating in the wardrobe.  Consisting of items that I regularly add to the mountain, thinking "I could get money for that", or "I'm sure that would sell".... collated over the last eighteen months since we moved into this house!  Deciding it was definitely time to have a clear out, I spent this morning sorting, photographing, calculating postage, and listing my items for sale on eBay. 

Now all I have to do is sit back and keep an eye on my listings over the next week, and keep my fingers crossed that I get a good price for the items I've listed and make some extra money. 

I'll give you an update next week!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Baking days!

A friend at work regularly buys bananas but refuses to eat them once there's even a hint of blackness or bruising on the skin.  She'll often give these "over-ripe" bananas to me, as I'll always find a way to use them up!  After the success of last week's banana muffins, I decided to whip up another batch this weekend - but I made all of these ones banana and chocolate muffins, with hidden chocolate buttons in the middle!  Muffin-sized cakes for the adults, and fairy-cake sized for the kids. 

Banana and chocolate muffins
These will keep for a few days in a tin (if they last that long!) but they also freeze really well too.

Home baking to see us through the week!
Three lonely wee apples at the bottom of my fruit bowl were starting to look a bit on the wrinkly side so I turned them into Eve's pudding.  I peeled and chopped the apples and stewed them gently for a while, then layered them in the bottom of an oven dish.  I made up cake mix using 4oz flour, 2oz sugar, 2oz marg, 1 egg and some vanilla essence and milk - whizzed together and spooned over the top of the apples.  I baked in the oven for about 25 minutes at 160C and the finished result was Eve's pudding!

Eve's pudding
I love baking cakes and treats for my family at the weekend.  It's great to be able to add something nice and tasty to packed lunch boxes throughout the week - using up the ingredients we have at home to make treats that would cost a fortune to buy in the supermarkets, especially the gluten-free variety!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

A surprise free sample!

I sign up to lots of free samples and trial products.  It's a great way to try out something before you decide to buy, or for luxury you wouldn't normally buy - e.g. fancy shampoo and conditioner.  I also complete product trials for Tesco Home Panels and Bzz Agent.  I find it enjoyable - and of course you get to keep the products!

It's not unusual for me to receive a surprise package that I wasn't expecting, and yesterday I received a sample pack from Glutafin, with white loaf and fibre roll samples inside!

Free sample pack from Glutafin

With the white bread I promptly whipped up cheese on toast for lunch and very tasty it was too!  Normally I opt for Glutafin's fresh brown loaf but I may consider the white loaf in future, for a change!

Gluten-free cheese on toast
Tasty, gluten-free, and an (almost) no cost frugal lunch!  Thanks!

Do you sign up for free samples and trial products?

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Meal plan for the week - including frugal chicken kebabs!

My food shopping last week was done at Aldi for £24 - I find their fruit and veg offers are a great way of aiming for our 5-a-day without costing an arm and a leg. 

Our meal plan for the week consisted of the following:

Monday: roast chicken
Tuesday: chicken kebabs
Wednesday: beef casserole
Thursday: pasta with tomato and bacon sauce
Friday: chicken curry
Saturday: spaghetti bolognese
Sunday: a "freezer" tea

Chicken kebabs

The chicken kebabs on Tuesday consisted of peppers, onion, mushrooms... and one chicken breast!  I made six kebabs; three for Mr Frugal, two for me, and one for my 6 year old daughter.  I find that with all the chunky veg on the skewer, you don't notice that there's not a huge amount of meat on these kebabs.  Once plated up, these make for a filling meal, without costing too much.  On this occasion we had the chicken kebabs with oven chips and coleslaw.  I made the kebabs the day before and left them in the fridge - all I had to do on the Tuesday was pop them in the oven along with the chips and in less than half an hour, dinner was cooked and on the table!  Perfect after a hard day at work!

Chicken kebabs

You'll notice from my meal plan above that Sunday was "freezer" tea - this is where we have a "lucky dip" of any bits and pieces in the freezer that need using up to clear space.  As I only have room in my kitchen for a small under-counter freezer, I have to be quite strict with management of my freezer contents!  Very often the four of us end up each eating something completely different on a freezer tea night - but as any leftovers are saved for another time, there's regularly small portions of meals kept in the freezer, e.g. enough chilli for one person, or two lonely fish fingers in the bottom of a box.

As I am trying to steer clear of the shops now until pay day (Thursday) - there will be plenty more freezer teas this week!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

A cake made for me - what a lovely treat!

Last week I celebrated my birthday and my lovely husband baked me a delicious birthday cake!  A victoria sponge, filled with fresh cream and wild berry jam, and topped with icing sugar.  It tasted absolutely delicious, was gluten-free of course, and everyone loved it.  The children had a great time "helping" to make it... although I suspect the most enjoyable part was being able to lick the spoons!  It was so nice to have someone else make me a cake for a change - I tend to make all the cakes in our family!

My delicious gluten-free birthday cake!

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day; it was great to see all my friends and family and to be spoiled rotten.  I received lots of lovely gifts and have been enjoying pampering myself with bath treats I wouldn't normally buy for myself, and munching my way through gorgeous gluten-free chocolates!

Turning 31 was a lot less exciting than turning 30 - no party and big celebration this year!  Being pregnant, no red wine was involved either!  Having said that, I still had a fabulous time and it made me appreciate all the great things happening in my life right now.  One very happy frugal wife!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Monday, 5 March 2012

Banana muffins...

Normally I turn over-ripe bananas into Banana Loaf Cake but I decided to give something different a go this time.

Banana Muffins
I made the mixture as normal but instead of using a loaf tin I poured the mix into individual muffin cases to make banana muffins.  Once cooled I put half the muffins in the freezer for packed lunches at a later date.

Chocolate and banana fairy cakes
I still had some mixture left so I poured this into fairy cake cases for the children.  I popped a giant chocolate button into each cake before baking,

The children loved the chocolatey surprise hidden in the middle of these cakes!  I left these plain on this occasion but next time I might add some melted chocolate to the tops too!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rocky Road!

Rocky Road
Usually when I feel like baking, I open my baking cupboard and decide what to make based on the ingredients I have in.  I'd bought some glace cherries from Approved Food the other week, so today I decided to make Rocky Road.

Here's how I did it:

5oz of margarine
Two 100g bars of Tesco Value plain chocolate
2 1/2 oz syrup
vanilla essence

All of the above melted in a pan over a gentle heat.

Then I added a small tub of glace cherries, chopped in half (100g), 50g mini marshmallows, chopped in half, and a 200g pack of biscuits that I'd crushed with a rolling pin.  I used Glutafin biscuits - you can use any kind of rich tea or digestive biscuit.

I mixed everything together until combined, then spooned into a baking tray lined with tin foil.  I left this to set in the fridge for a couple of hours then cut up into squares.

Sometimes I add an extra layer of melted chocolate as a topping, but as I was a bit short on chocolate I gave that a miss on this occasion.

Now I have to try to stop myself from eating a piece of this from the fridge each time I go into the kitchen!

Best Wishes
Frugal Wife