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*
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
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.