Thursday, 15 January 2009

Marie's Thrifty Thursdays

I've decided to start a new feature here at Oak Cottage, called Marie's Thrifty Thursdays. These are very uncertain times we are living in. People are losing jobs left, right and centre. The price of goods, petrol, heating fuel, etc. are going up, up, up! Many High Street shops are struggling to say afloat and some of our old stalwarts have already closed down. Imagine a world without Woolworths . . . who'd a thunk? Very scary indeed.

The idea of thrift is not something that my generation has really had to think much about. They say that this next generation of people coming up may well be the first generation of people that can expect to have to live a standard of life much poorer than their parents generation. We really have been living the high life for a while now. Most of us are using to having the newest gadget as soon as it comes out, and eating out, which once upon a time was considered a luxury, is now something a lot of people do at least once a week.

My church has long espoused the virtues of thrift and economy. Our prophet has been telling us for years now, to save for a rainy day, to stay out of debt and have in a food store for emergencies. 72 hour emergency kits are de riguer for any church member, as well as having a years supply of necessities. We've been long counseled not to go into debt for anything other than a car which might be necessary for work, or for a home.

We may be coming to the time when it will be necessary for us to grow our own vegetables again, to learn now to mend clothing and shoes ourselves, to mend our furniture, to re-use and re-cycle goods, to learn how to barter and swap our talents and belongings for things we need, to just "make do."

Each week I shall endeavour to pass on some measures of economy and thrift to you, always remembering of course that I am on a learning curve with this myself! It is something however, that we can learn together!

With us all being in the throes of winter and having to cope with exceptionally cooler temperatures this year, and with the cost of heating fuel skyrocketing, I thought this week I would talk about how to keep your heating costs down without freezing to death.

Here's a few tips I found that may well come in handy, if not this year, then next:

1. Plastic your windows. This can be done either on the outside or on the inside of your windows,and can help keep drafts out. On the outside stretch poly vinyl sheeting over to cover your windows, and staple to the top and bottom of your window's casing. Now do the same for the sides of your windows. Stapling one side and stretching and stapling to the other side. Any excess can be trimmed so as to make it look tidy and neat. On the inside you can do the same thing. Over in North America you can buy window insulation kits which involved stretching special sheets of plastic over your windows and then heating them with a hair dryer to make them tight. You cannot get them here in England to my knowledge, but you could still stretch plastic sheets over in much the same way as I have explained how to do the outsides. It does mean that you cannot open your windows all winter.

2. Invest in thermal drapes or, if you are handy with a sewing machine, line your existing drapes with fleece or other heavy materials. It may not look nice from the outside, but it will really help keep out cold air at night and on windy days. Secondhand flannel sheets or fleece lap blankets make excellent drapery lining, especially if you can find them in solid colors. (Remember, dark colors absorb more heat and lighter colors reflect it, so dark greens and blues or even black will give you double bang for your buck on this!)

3. Turn the thermostat down and put a sweater on. Wear socks and slippers.

4. Apply the use of draft dodgers on doors and windows. You know those snakes of stuffed fabric that you lay in front of drafty doorways and windows. You can even attach them with velcro so that you don't have to keep moving them back into place every time someone goes in or out.

5. Hang a heavy curtain over doorways that can be pulled across to keep out the cold air in the evenings. This is especially handy on doors that lead outdoors.

6. Close off doorways to rooms that are not in use. By closing off doorways you keep the heat in the room being used - not drifting through hallways and stair cases.

7. Close off the heat in your bedroom and use thicker blankets and comforters. It's much healthier to sleep in a cooler room anyways. Wear warm PJ's to bed, or sweats or long johns, instead of some thin short nightgown. Wear socks to bed, or at least until the bed feels like it has warmed up. Heat one of those wheat bags up in the microwave, or several of them and throw them into the bed to warm it up while you are brushing your teeth.

8. While sitting at the TV or computer, cover up with a comforter. Or, several family members on the sofa can benefit from sharing an electric blanket.

9. Make sure all windows are closed tight. Lock them to be sure, a window that is open if even a tiny bit usually will not lock.

10. Open the curtains and drapes when the sun is hitting them. Close them back when temps start to drop and the sun moves on.

As they say, every little helps!!

Soups and stews are very warming and a very economical way of making a little stretch a long way. I made this tasty stew yesterday that was most delicious and quite cheap. You could feed a family of six for under a fiver with this tasty recipe, especially if you buy one of those stew packs of vegetables to use that the local grocery shops often have on offer.

*Hearty Meatball and Vegetable Stew*
Serves 6

A colourful mixture of vegetables combine with pork sausage to create this robust and flavourful stew. Steamed cabbage wedges arranged around the edge of the serving platter help to compliment the stew and are very tasty!

1 pound of bulk pork sausage
2 TBS oil
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp of summer savoury, optional
1 cup water
10 3/4 ounce tin of condensed chicken broth
3 carrots sliced
2 stalks celery sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups of cubed swede (rutabaga)
(cut into half inch cubes and parboiled)
for the cabbage:
2 cups water
1 medium head of cabbage, trimmed and cut into
8 wedges

Shape the pork sausage meat into 25 - 30, one inch balls. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the meatballs in the heated oil, turning to brown evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Drain off all but 2 TBS of the oil. Add the onions and other vegetables. Sweat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the flour over all and then gradually stir in the 1 cup of water and the chicken broth. Return the meatballs to the pan. Season with some black pepper, the summer savoury, and salt if needed. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the stew is thickened, stirring occasionally.

For the cabbage, place the cabbage into a large skillet or saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil, then cover and steam for 8 minutes, or until crispy tender. Drain well.

Arrange the cabbage wedges in a ring on a serving platter and fill the centre with the stew to serve.

*Note - you can make this stretch even further by serving it with some boiled potatoes. If you have bought a stew pack containing leek, onion, swede, carrot and parsnips, just peel, chop and use these vegetables in place of the ones suggested above.


  1. Wonderful post Marie. Your tips are so smart. I have been really bundling up this winter to keep warm. I heard that people have saved a lot in energy bills by unplugging appliances and lights that are not in use.

    Your stew looks delicious. I love making soups in the winter. I hope you have a wonderful day today!


  2. The tips you've shared with us are good ones. They should reduce any ones heating bills. I wish that we needed to use them a bit here. It was 90 yesterday and 88 today. Now you may be thinking that I am daft to be complaining about this warm weather....maybe I am....but I am sick of the heat....and if it is so hot in Jan. ... what will it be this spring and summer???

    I know....with so cold... I should not complain about warm weather. OK...sorry... I'll stop.

    That stew looks so good.
    have a good day

    I send love as always, Lura

  3. Fantastic post, Marie! I eagerly await next week's thrifty news and tips, and look forward to more of this new and very useful/educational feature here at Oak Cottage. :o) Electric heat is our main source for household warmth, but we also have a fireplace and an oil stove. The cost of using the oil stove and electric have come to be about the same as price for each--oil and electric--have risen here in recent years. So we are using our fireplace more. For two year now we've been using a draft guard in the entry hall, and this has help since our old entrance doors has a small gap. Replacing the doors and framework is something we can't do right not--so making do! :o) I'm going to make thick curtains for the entry as well--on the look-out for materials. Steps in the right direction, but we could always to more. So your post is a great reminder to keep thinking...And your stew is a thrifty wonder. Nothing like soups and stews to stretch the food budget. This is great as I make up my week's menus on Thursdays and to the shop on Friday, so I look forward to more thrifty and tasty meal ideas here on Thursdays! Thanks so much! Hope you're having a great day, dear friend. And that we get to talk soon! LOVE YOU!! ((BIG HUGS))

  4. What a great post, Marie. I am definitely going to give a couple of your suggestions a try. And that stew looks so good I can't wait to make it.

  5. What a great weekly feature. It is so good to have these principles retold to me as I need help doing better. The stew looks wonderful too!

  6. Thanks so much for this timely endeavor. I look forward to visiting each Thursday. We definitely are keeping our themostat lower and I'm wearing more clothes. As you say, about every little... Blessings! Carolyn

  7. Thank your for such a good entry today. I appreciate the tips and the recipe too. Keeping warm is hard to do right now for sure.
    'On Ya'-ma

  8. Excellent tips for keeping our homes warm and they work well for keeping our homes cool when it become A/C weather. If you put the plastic on the inside no one will be the wiser and when the wind blows it wont become tattered. It is the coldest here than it has been in 5 yrs I was told yesterday. The high today will be around 29 the weatherman says. Really like the idea of the old fleece blankets for window lining. I am an old seamstress but never thought of that.

    I really loved the yummy looking stew. I was eating my morning oatmeal and thought mmmm would rather be having a bowl of that delightful stew.mmmm.

    Blessings to you all,
    love and hugs,
    Ruthanne oxox

  9. Nice tips marie, many thanks, xxxGloria

  10. Hi Marie

    Love your tips for keeping warm - it sure has been cold here in New England...brrrrr!

    I love the stew too - so much so that I'm going to make it tonight for our dinner. I don't have any sausage but I do have some boneless pork chops that I already took out to defrost, so I think they will make a good substitue.

  11. We have a plug in gadget which turns off the standby of all our tv/video/dvd paraphenalia. We also turn off every other gadget that has a standby on it. Switching off the microwave and electric oven timer and switches can be a big saving.
    I so enjoy a good casserole in the winter. Real good stick to your ribs stuff..just like your recipe today. Yummy!
    Stay warm and well Marie
    Jeanie xxx

  12. Great tips! I am not a fan of winter so staying warm is a must for me!! The stew will do the trick!!

  13. Oooooo...this looks yummy! I wonder if it would work with chorizo instead of pork sausage...I might try it tonight!

  14. Really good tips Marie, Thanks. I rushed right down my hallway and closed all the doors, several, so I think it will make a difference. I have started wearing socks 24 hours a day and it has really helped. I'll be making soup tonight.

  15. What a really helpful post. I am pleased to say we do most of your tips on keeping the house warm, and trying to cut down on certain costs. Your stew looks just perfect to eat when it is bitterly cold, and we are thankful to be in our warm house :) x

  16. Marie, that stew sounds great and I'm looking forward to all your handy tips for saving money.

  17. thanks for the tips! these weekly posts will come in handy with my new calling(the ward food storage/family preparedness specialist) i'm scared about this calling!!!! i don't have a year supply of food or even a 3 month one probably. i don't sew. i just feel really inadequate. i guess this calling will force me to get my booty in gear. :) i know every calling is a learning experience and i know i'll learn a lot!

  18. All great tips especially in this frigid weather! -33 today with windchill.
    The stew sounds delicious.

  19. I love your thrifty idea's! I am going to apply those in my home. The recipe sound great...think I'll try it this weekend. It's suppose to be cold all weekend here in Texas. Blessings.....Julie

  20. You have some great tips Marie. I appreciate you putting them on here for us. We live in an older home and nothing is tight any more - the windows or doors. The expense of new windows is just too much in these uncertain times. I keep the blinds closed at night, of course, but I just may hve to keep them closed in the daytime too. That makes a difference. blessings, marlene

  21. I love Thrifty Thursdays Marie, great idea. My mother is 74 yrs old and she said this past summer some of her friends had Victory Gardens.

  22. Great tips Marie. Don't forget to weatherstrip the doors going outdoors too. The recipe looks wonderful, if only I had a cook to make it for me...(Oh, that's right our goal is to save money!)

  23. Most of these are already applied at my little abode Marie LOL!!.It's been so cold everywhere hasn't it.Roll on spring.Love the look of the recepe just the thing for these cold days.Take Care God Bless Kath xx

  24. Great tips! I wish I had a big fleece blanket to put on this sliding glass door in my family room!

  25. What wonderful ideas! It is amazing how much the small things make a difference.

    One of our biggest issues (and I am sure a lot of folks in the US have the same issue) is our vaulted ceilings and open rooms. We don't have a lot of doors in our house, it is very open and with the vaulted ceiling in the living room it can get pretty cold in our living areas. We did put new lined curtains over our patio doors and that made a huge difference. We also have a fire in the fireplace most evening which helps immensely!

    We got new windows a few years ago and saw a big difference with that as well but the most effective is putting on a sweater and socks! :) We also have four blankets on the couches in the winter!


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