Thursday, 29 November 2012

Frugal breakfast - homemade instant oats

I have noticed at lot of people in my office bringing in sachets of ready oats and tubs of instant porridge - expensive sachets and tubs. Even the own brand ones are extortion over a bowl of homemade porridge. I do understand though that even if you have access to a microwave at work, it is quicker and easier to use the instant oats. I made the mistake of using the microwave during my 15 minute break to make regular porridge and ended up wolfing down a bowl of scalding hot porridge with two minutes to go.

Having said that, instant oats are far cheaper than my recent habit of buying food from the canteen or express shop. Buying food at work to eat at work so that you can earn money is one of those habits that I know is really really really dumb and yet I still do it far too often.

So I have made my own instant oats. Half a cup of oats, 1 level desert spoon of sugar (soft brown would have been preferable for that golden syrup taste) and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon per portion. Simply pulse blend the oats until they are somewhere between cous cous and pudding rice in grain size. Put them in your lidded container with the sugar and spice and give them a good shake. That's it, until you get to breakfast time.

So, enough boiling water to cover, a quick stir, and a splash of milk to cool things down. Breakfast is served, at less than 15p a serving using good quality oats not bought on special offer. If you leave out the sugar and spice, it's less than 10p and still perfectly delicious. The leading brand sachets work out at about double that, which doesn't sound much until you work out that that is an extra £36 you are spending on porridge over a full time working year. Not to mention the 240 carboard tubs or foiled sachets and numerous carboard boxes that are going straight in the bin. I could do a lot with £36.

As it is so heartwarmingly cheap I might try and bling it up a little with some chopped fruit or nuts. Perhaps even cocoa occasionally. I have made enough for three weeks worth, each week is packed in a takeaway container, small enough to stay in my desk drawer; after that its crazy flavour open  season on porridge at my office.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


For the last fortnight I have been following Flylady to get my housework done. I have tried this before and couldn't get on with the system at all. Three years later with a greatly decluttered house and slightly older children we are making progress - almost flying, you might say. Much of it is gold - housework is so much easier when you have someone telling you exactly what needs to be done in manageable bitesized chunks; and it includes a daily inbuilt decluttering regime if you require it. However...

I find the main Flylady site a little unwieldy (especially on my phone) and the pace a little plodding. You can adapt the routines as you see fit, but if it's anything like my attempts at meal planning, then I will be writing and rewriting my plan come February. And then I remebered one of my almost forgotten favourite haunts and the helpful folks who have had a FlyLady weekly thread running for some years now. Everything is written out in the first post, there are different levels of domestic mastery to attain on a daily basis and by the end of the week your house will be looking much better. By the end of the month, gleaming, I imgaine. So from next week I will be following that plan. This will do nicely until my work rota is simplified in January and I can come up with one that is all my own.

This is giving me an excuse to lurk around the Old Style MoneySaving board over at Money Saving Expert, which delights me no end. I frequented that board often back when we were taking small, frugal steps and really wish I had more time to spend there. If I am going to procrastinate over my domestic duties, there are worst places to do it. The whole board is geared up for home produced frugality, homecooked meals and also a great thread about prepping for TEOTWAWKI on a budget. What's not to like?

So, does anyone fly with FlyLady? And I know there must be a few MSE Oldstylers out there amongst you?

Sunday, 25 November 2012


One other reason that I haven't been blogging so much...

This arrived back in August. The month before I had almost signed up for a two day spinning course at the Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex. I then realised that the fee for that course plus travel and lunch each day would be better invested in my own wheel...and so it was.

This is an Ashford Traditional wheel from the early 1980's, probably one of the most popular spinning wheel on earth. It was one of the most pleasant eBay experiences I have ever had and I conversed back and forth a little with the seller. She was selling it on behalf of her mother, who now in her nineties, is physically unable to spin anymore. I like second hand objects even more when they come with a backstory, but this made me a little sad. This is already a much loved object in my home and to have given it up after all of those years must have been a sad moment. Still, I was assured that my money would be put to good use and a rare family get together was to be had. Money can sometimes buy happiness.

I decided to name my wheel. I don't know why, but our car has a name (Miguel), my sewing machine has a name (Marlene - another eBay bargain worthy of a post of its own), and so the wheel gets a name - Freya, if you hadn't guessed. We are getting on well enough. A bag of undyed British economy wool, a few hours of book reading and trying to follow instructional videos later and I have just about got the hang of things. It is very relaxing once you get into the rhythm of it.

Like most things, it is great if you have someone to teach you, but unless there is inherent danger in whatever you are trying to pick up, it is usually better to invest in your own equipment and practice practice practice than to splurge on tuition and not have the raw materials to practice with.

The plan for this year is to spin all the yarn that I need for any knitting and crochet I manage to get done. There is so much to learn, so much equipment to acquire as thriftily as possble, so many hours to invest, but it is all a good productive use of my time. Colourful yarn filled adventures...hmmm.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Busy busy...

The great pumpkin/haribofest of 2012 has been and gone, birthdays, anniversaries, bonfires, barbeques (yes, you can get away with that sort of thing down here in October), fireworks, playdates, commitee meetings and more overtime than I ever care to do again.

Most of these things are good things. I literally look forward to halloween all year. Electronic zombie door chimes on sale in August? Well there's a form of gratuitous consumption everyone should get on board with! I like bonfires and fireworks too. But good god did it all get a bit much these past few months. I feel like I have lurched from event to housekeeping crisis to event to work crisis, day in and day out since September. The clocks going back just after a run of night shifts brought things to a head and I still haven't quite recovered my rhythm. The ridiculous thing about all this? It was partly by design.

Money is time for most people, me included. For every hour of overtime I do, the wispy threads of my daily routine snag and break. The rest of life falls apart. I have written entire posts over at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op encouraging others to manage their time wisely and to see that paid work can actually cost money not only  in terms of transport and other overheads, but how much you spend trying to catch up on all the cooking, cleaning and domestic productivity. 10 days straight and I am spinning, and not in a nice producing yarn sort of way. £40 in taxi fares where I failed to wake up at 5am and get my rear into gear on time for the bus. £15 in nice comforting food for my shifts, beacuse I sure as hell couldn't turn my bodyclock around enough to prepare anything from scratch.

Still, I can do better; and in the light of all of these fails, I am grateful. I have  job to go to, many others don't. I have a job where I can take on a few extra hours as needed, again many people would dearly love that opportunity. I have family and friends still with me whose birthdays and anniversaries are to be celebrated whilst we are all still together on this earth and for that I am truly grateful. This past halloween, I lit candles for the few who have left us during this past year; and those who vanished long before whose influence reverberates down the years as is they have merely stepped out of the room for a moment - and once again my habit of losing touch and not quite getting round to sending that email has left me smarting. A lesson for this year.

For those of you across the pond who are celebrating  Thanksgiving, I wish you a lovely day and hope you have much to be grateful for. I hope the same for all of you home here too.


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