Friday, 30 December 2011

Post Christmas savings?

After following the advice in this blog we hope you are in the enviable position above. We have found ourselves with several hundred pounds in the bank even after all that Christmas spending. And everyone was delighted with their handmade presents, cards,wrapping paper and handmade mulled wine and sloe gin.  We really enjoyed all that creativity and hope you did too.  We will be continuing to share our handmade, thrifty craft ideas in the forthcoming year. We would like to wish you a happy, creative and fabulous New Year!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Homemade mulled wine!

Mulled wine makes a delicious festive treat. Simply use two bottles of red wine, add 1/2 pint of orange juice, 1tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and a tot of brandy for a delicious treat. Heat steadily and serve with slices of oranges and apple. Why not give this a go? A merry christmas and a happy new year to you all!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Colander christmas centre piece!

If you are short of a centre piece for your table why not try this colander centre piece. Simply pick garden greenery and holly berries and arrange. Add a glass and candle and create a truly original centre piece. If you don't want to use your colander why not use a bowl for a smarter effect.Take care not to set fire to your greenery when lighting your candle but the glass should help you avoid this. Quick, easy and effective, why not give it a go?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Wrapping paper with a twist!

Now you have made all your beautiful gifts why not wrap them up in your own paper. Brown paper is often stronger than wrapping paper and much cheaper. Simply embellish with ribbon, cut out shapes, and make your own labels from old christmas cards. These gifts look absolutely fabulous and took seconds to jazz up with whatever I had lying about the house. What a lovely and individual finishing touch for all those hand made gifts you have been making throughout the year. Why not give it a go?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Handmade christmas decorations!

If your tree is looking a little bare this christmas don't automatically buy new decorations, why not make your own? Here I've used shiney card and foil cut into trees, angels and looped to make chains. Fix with ribbon, wool or twine.  I have also made cones which can be filled with sweets especially for the children. These are really easy to make, get the kids involved and brighten up your tree for a few pennies rather than pounds. Why not give it a go?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Make a traditional Christmas wreath

Here is a similarly structured christmas wreath using wire  formed into a circle and wrapping green foliage round. This can easily be fixed with  more wire. Add fir combs, red berries  either dried or beads.  Finish by adding  a large ribbon tied into a bow and you create a lovely festive wreath. You could add dried fruit, cinnamon sticks other beads, stars or ornaments depending on availability or taste. This wreath was made by trimming leylandi trees in the garden but you could use holly, ivy yew or any other abundant evergreen tree. I used a wire hanger and formed a circle shape but any reasonably strong yet pliable wire would do. Why not give it a go?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Make a lovely fruit garland.

Here is a lovely fruit garland. This has been made by drying oranges, apples and cinnamon sticks in the oven or over a radiator. When dry thread on to wire and form a circle. You could use a wire coat hanger . Add cinnamon sticks for extra aroma, a ribbon and there you have divine smelling garland for the festive season. Easy and effective-why not give it a go?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Hip and handmade carpet bag!

This carpet bag was made from a piece of carpet mat, lined and trimmed. Edging was knitted by casting on 6 stitches and knitting a lengthy piece using double knitting and size 6 needles. The strip was folded over and attaching to the edge like bias binding. Handles were made from covering sturdy plastic twine with knitted strips in a similar fashion. Overall the bag took about five hours to make. Magnetic fastenings were attached to secure the bag at the top. In all it cost about £6 to make but looks a million dollars! Why not give it a go? 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Knitted bag to make!

This lovely knitted bag was made by casting on 100 stitches, using size 6 needles and knitting to create a rectangle shape, sewing sides and stitching the top to each handle. Handles can be bought quite reasonably  for £1 or £1.50 from craft shops. This is a great way to use up scraps of wool as you can make up any pattern you wish.  This would make a great knitting bag to store all your wool , needles etc or would make a great present. Why not give it a go?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Another simple gift idea!

I decided to make some soap cupcakes for presents using the rebatching method mentioned in earlier posts. I used silicon cupcake moulds for the bases and added colour and essential for scent. For the tops I scoured shops until I found some cheap  plastic bubble bath containers and cut the bottoms off and melted the soap in the usual way. I left them to set and as the shapes are a bit complex I put them in the freezer to make them cool before gently pushing out the soaps. The tops shapes fit onto the bottoms by putting a teaspoon of warm water which melts the soap enough for you to place, they set as the soap hardens. So I made;
- chocolate and cinnamon (using real cocoa powder)
-strawberry and vanilla
- lemon and almond.
They smell beautiful and make a lovely gift. Why not give them a try?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lovely lavender soap and bath salts present!

I made some lavender bath salts by adding dried lavender to sea salt and placing in a small kilner jar. These can be purchased at 50p from large stores. This one has a lovely purple glass lid. The lavender soap was made using the rebatching method previously posted. Add some purple tissue paper and pink and purple flower for  decoration. All in all this makes a lovely gift with a total cost of about 80p and also smells delicious. Why not give it a go?

Friday, 11 November 2011

This bag makes a great present!

     Here's a photo of the latest thing I made. It's a bag from a pattern in the November issue of Craftseller designed by Cheryl Owen.  There's templates in the mag and very good instructions. I'd definitely recommend it. Happy sewing!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Knit lovely head band with flower decoration!

This lovely pink headband was very easy to make. I used size 6 needles, 14 stitches and basic stocking stitch with garter stitch at each side  complete with a crotcheted flower decoration. The flower decoration was made by chaining 4 stitches, forming a circle with a slip stitch and making six hoops and firming up each hoop by completing a row of double knit around each hoop.This turned out really well and would make a great present for a teenager. Why not give it a try- this can be easily completed in a couple of hours!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Another lace scarf to knit!

This is another lovely lace scarf. I used size 6 needles and 1/2 ball of cream double knitting so the cost is coming in at 75p. The pattern involves a repeating eight row pattern which is straightforward . The scarf grows easily and looks great. Yet another present idea or you might keep it for yourself.  Go to for more details and pattern. As you only have 22 stitches this scarf grows rapidly and is easily mastered comprising of lots of yarn overs for the delicate lace leaf effect. If you are thinking of making presents then you need to allow sufficient time and start soon!. Why not give it a go?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lavender and Citrus burst soaps!

Another easy method of making soap is rebatching. This involves grating a ready made bar of soap, melting and adding approximately a cup of hot water. This is a great way of turning bog standard soap into something original and posh!
I used Tescos basic soap which costs 30p for two bars. I grated one bar using a normal grater, placed in a glass jug , added 1 cup of warm water and placed in the microwave. I stirred repeatedly. This type of soap will not melt entirely but the little specs add to the handmade charm. The mass becomes gloopy. Add essential oils, lavender for the lavender soap and a drop of food colouring and dried lavender, pour into a mould and cool. When completely cool remove and slice and allow to stand to  cure for at least 24 hours.
For the citrus burst I added lemon essential oil and the zest of a lemon and a drop of yellow food colouring.
For some reason you do end up with more soap than you originally had- must be the water and air. I sliced the lavender into four chunky bars and the lemon into five. You could add all manner of other oils and plants ie peppermint essential oil and mint leaves, almond essence and decorate with whole almonds, rosemary, vanilla just about anything. These wrapped imaginatively will make great presents at a ridiculously low cost. Why not give it a try?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Bath bombs for presents!

Here's some bath bombs I made. They are very fizzy and smell great.
I  used 2-3 oz sodium bicarbonate
         - 1 tbsp citric acid ( got it from Wilkos in wine making section)
         - 4 drops essential oil ( lavender)
         - 4 drops another oil like lemon
          - a  pinch chopped flowers/herbs ( I used marigold, you  could use lavender or mint, whatever)
         then I added a couple of squirts of olive oil from a spray and a tiny drop of colouring. Then you squeeze the whole thing together. My powder seemed very dry but I pushed it into moulds ,  put them in the freezer, left them to set and they were fine. You could use the powder just as bath salts if you want too. Easy as pie. Happy bath bombing!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Easy rib scarf pattern to knit.

Here we have an easy knit rib scarf. I used double knitting in black and grey fleck, size 6 needles and a darning needle to weave in the loose ends.
Cast on 30 stitches and knit 3 ,purl3 and repeat to the end.  Repeat adding fleck stripe every 30 rows. When the desired length has been reached cast off, weave in loose ends and lightly press.
I made this in a couple of evenings and it will make a lovely, practical present. You can vary the colours and use different wool to create different effects. Why not give it a go.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Makes exquisite soap from soap flakes!

Here is my home made lavender soap. I used three cups of soap flakes , use either lux or dripak pure soap flakes, 200ml of water and 50ml of  olive oil. Place in a jug and microwave on full for several minutes until the soap is all melted and stir the mixture. Do not leave unattended and check on the mixture to prevent it bubbling over. When all melted, allow to cool slightly, add lavender essential oil and dried lavender flowers. Poor mixture into a a tray, or moulds and allow to cool. Leave until well set and turn out. This soap is beautiful and would make a lovely original present and can be wrapped imaginatively. You could use all manner of other items such a vanilla and honey, orange zest, orange essence, peppermint essence, different colourants and plants to create new and exciting combinations. These would make great presents. Why not give it a try!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Lace scarf in pink!

This lovely and simple lace scarf is based on the pattern previously noted but instead in pink. I used  half a ball of Woolcraft double knitting and it took a couple of evenings. The pattern is quite straightforward when mastered and the plain knitting on the edge gives it an extra special something. I  used size 6 needles and the double knit works really well. For further details go to and look up easy leaves scarf.  I think this scarf is beautiful and well worth the persevering with. It would make a lovely gift too. The double knitting cost £1.50 so half a ball equates to 75p!

Friday, 14 October 2011

How about jumpers for presents?

Here' a picture of the jumper that I've just finished. I got it from a pattern in November's version of Knit magazine, the All the Jazz jumper. I used a merino wool mix and the jumper is really warm and soft. I used about 11 balls of wool at £3.00 each which for a really luxurious item like this would cost ,I reckon, at least £60 in the shops. You can also use a half wool/ half acrylic mix , which  is cheaper about  £2 a ball  and you'd still get a good result.
The pattern, which is really easy stocking stitch is available on the mag's website Happy knitting.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Make an easy lace scarf!

Here is an easy lace scarf I made in a couple of evenings. The lace pattern was a little tricky at first but I persevered and the effect is really nice. The lace pattern makes it grow quickly but does require a little concentration but  is well worth the effort. I used a half a ball of black double knit and size 6 needles. I am looking for other patterns but there are literally loads of free ones on the net and lots of good magazines to inspire you whatever your knitting skill level. Again the internet caters for complete beginners to advanced knitters and there are really great step by step instructions. Most shops now sell wool such is the craft revival so why not give it a go? I was going to make this as a present but it is so nice I might just keep it instead!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Home made Christmas cards.

I made these cards using old christmas paper that has repeating designs of santa, snowman, angel, robin etc cut out the pic and mounted on tissue paper or arranged in a simple design as on the card on the left. They took minutes to make and have a hand made look which is very appealing.  Don't be put off by not having the correct envelope size as a packet of 50 white envelopes costs 99p and can easily be cut and glued to fit each design. If you dig out your old wrapping paper and try to use up what you have lying around then the possibilities are endless. Why not give it a go!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Boozy Treats Make Great Thrifty Presents

Now is the time to gather damsons and sloes to make damson or sloe gin which will be ready by Christmas.
Here's the recipe I use for damson gin and you can adapt it for sloe gin, perhaps adding a smidge more sugar.
You will need:
                700 ml vodka or gin
                 440 (ish) g damsons (stab with fork)
                350g caster sugar

Put into a sterile jar in a dark place for about 3 months. Turn when you remember! That's all there is to it.

For sloe gin you need to prick the sloes allover with  a needle. I used a safety pin and because the sloes are small you can leave this in a bottle.  A delicious treat. Pour into interesting bottles and give as Christmas presents. Chin chin!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Christmas count down!

It may sound odd but now the children are back at school and the nights are starting to draw in, this is the ideal time to start thinking about Christmas preparations. Preparing early will have the advantage of spreading the cost over the coming months and beginning any projects you may want to start ie hand made presents such as scarves, hats, cushion covers, christmas cards etc.
1.To begin with make a present list and start to think about what you can make, what is cost effective and what skills you might need to brush up on.
2. Begin shopping/making with presents in mind.
3. Consider making your own cards, see above. We will have some ideas in later blogs but do think about the cost. Handmade cards are lovely but if you spend more on them than bought cards then they may not be cost or time effective. The trick is to have a simple design and use every scrap of art materials to make it look good yet cost effective.
4. Consider making your own alcoholic drinks. My friend has a splendid damson tree and gathers the damsons and infuses them in gin to make damson gin which is absolutely delicious.
5. Pace yourself , set a budget and try and make or source several presents per month.
6. Consider people's hobbies and put something unique together for that person. My aunt loved herbs but was short on time and a garden. I bought several lovely terracotta pots, hand painted them with simple designs and arranged them prettily in a ribbonned box with herb seeds. These were very inexpensive and she was delighted with the result as she could grow her herbs on the window sill.
7. Similarly a good book, hot chocolate set and mug can make a really thoughtful present.
8. Online auctions can provide really reasonable stuff. If you love silver jewellery you can buy lovely pieces from China at a fraction of the cost you would pay in the UK. If you study the feedback and are sensible then nothing should go wrong and if you pay via paypal then you can claim your money back if there is a problem.
9. Amazon is also an amazing site not just for books but for all manner of items including clothes and jewellery.
10. With a bit of ingenuity and thought you can give great, thoughtful presents which will be a pleasure to give and receive. And remember that you can still give of your time and skills which are invaluable. If you can baby sit, decorate, cook, garden then make a handmade voucher  instead of a gift.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Help-I've got no dosh in print?

We have been contacted by a publisher wanting to publish a book of Help's blogs plus many more money savings tips. Apparently this is a growth area at present on account of the recession! So watch out for Help-I've got no dosh ebook coming soon...

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

More reasonably priced WeightWatchers products! Slim and Save!

Our neighbour contacted us about finding cheaper WeightWatchers products. Cathy longs to fit back into her favourite jeans that are now uncomfortably tight. Cathy went into her local Poundland to buy stationary for the kids and found that they stocked a large range of WeightWatchers products for a £1!
The crisps, cereal bars and biscuits on sale a WW meetings usually retail for £2.20 or so so why not pay a visit and stock up. Cathy also noted that Aldi stock lovely cereal bars which are only 78 calories per bar, at about 99p for 6 and low fat crisps and hot chocolate sachets for about 38 calories per serving. Aldi also sell good quality fruit and veg at very reasonable prices compared to the larger supermarkets. Cathy also mentioned a useful blog for slimmers. So slim and save!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cheap activities for kids!

See full size imageWell, the holidays have started and research shows that it can cost up to £2000 to keep the kids entertained which means that your pocket could take a serious hit! As a rule of thumb we recommend saving the activities as an incentive after other dull but essential tasks are completed  such as bedroom tidying, job applications for older kids, chores etc. Common sense but it can certainly help to plan your days in this way. Here's some activities which are either free or relatively cheap.  Jut use your imagination and that of your kids to enjoy yourselves without breaking the bank.
1. Visit libraries or museums. Some teens may hate this but perseverence  can spark interests. Many run activities over the summer so check them out.

2. Get arty.  You can buy artists materials relatively cheaply so spend the afternoon making cards, painting canvases and making portraits which you could frame and hang. 

3. Get active. There are loads of walks, swimming cycling, dance classes such as zumba which all the family can enjoy and which can help keep you healthy and sane.

4. Organise treasure hunts and collect feathers, stones, leaves and have fun identifying them.

5. Picnics weather permitting are great fun and easy to make. Take a frisbee and football and let the kids play whilst you catch up on the latest summer novel.

6.  Strawberry/raspberry picking. This is great fun and who doesn' t love strawberries and cream ? The leftovers could be made into delicious strawberry jam.

7. Learn a new skill such as knitting, sewing or crocheting. Craft is big news and who better to teach your kids than you or if you are a beginner then learn together.

8. Camping is also big news with all the  festivals. If you can't face getting into this why not let the kids camp out in the garden, properly supervised of course. A great way to cope with sleepovers.

9. Study the map and find places of local interest and research them. We spent many a happy afternoon at a local ruined abbey having researched the history on the net and with the help of Horrible Histories our kids thoroughly enjoyed imagining themselves in that time period.

10. For older kids consider the Lifestyle projects run by the local community police teams. Kids are encouraged to think of their own projects such as picking up litter, fundraising for various projects, volunteering at old people's homes etc. There are prizes on offer but the real winners are the kids and the local communities. This is a great way to encourage social awareness and can really give kids a sense of achievement.
Enjoy yourselves and have fun.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Easy pasta sauce

Place 2 tins of plum tomatoes, 1/2 chopped onion, basil, 2x chopped garlic cloves,1/2 chopped pepper, 2 sticks of chopped celery and one chopped carrot in a pan with half a pint of water, salt and pepper .Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour. Depending on your taste either liquidise or sieve to remove fleshy parts of the vegetables. Great as sauce for spaghetti bolognaise, or as a base for chilli, lasagne or spread over pizza base. You could also substitute fresh tomatoes depending on the season or add red wine to taste. This is very easy and so much cheaper and tastier than shop bought sauces which are increasingly expensive.Can be refirgerated and should be used within five days. Why not give it a try?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Home made pizza

I forgot to buy pizza in my weekly shopping and had spent over my budget to set about making my own using the following recipe. It was very, very easy and tasty too plus the kids could add their own toppings to suit  their tastes.
  • 375g flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 7g (1/4 oz) dried active yeast (I use Tescos fast acting yeast)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 225ml (8 fl oz) warm water (45 C)
Sift flour add salt, sugar ,yeast, olive oil and water. Mix into a dough ball. Leave in a warm place with a tea towel placed over the bowl until expanded to twice the size.  Grease a tray and press dough into the bottom. Spread tomato puree, cheese and other toppings of your choice. Cook until lightly browned in an oven at 180 C. Serve with salad.
This really is a fool proof recipe and tastes just as good as shop bought pizza but is far less expensive. Why not give it a go?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Home made pitta bread.

Pitta bread is cheap and surprisingly easy to make. I had run out of bread and pennies towards the end of the month but managed to eke things out with the help of these versatile breads. Approximate cost for 8 is 30p.
 Ingredients300ml/10fl.oz. Warm Water
1 teasp Active Dry Yeast  I use Tescos.
350g/12oz Plain Flour/ wholemeal whichever you prefer
2 teasp Salt
2 teasp Olive Oil, plus a little extra


1. Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the yeast and stir to dissolve.

2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl then add the yeast mixture and olive oil and mix to a dough.

3. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface, knead for 5-8 minutes until smooth and elastic, then form into a ball and place in an oiled mixing bowl, cover with tea towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour to rise to approximately twice the size.

4. Preheat oven to 220C, 425F, gas Mark 7. Turn the risen dough onto a work surface, divide into 8 pieces and form each piece into a ball. Roll into the traditional eye shape using flour to dust rolling pin and prevent sticking.

5. Bake for about 8 minutes until puffed and light brown.

6. Bread will have risen and when cooled slice at the top to make the pocket. Serve with houmous, chicken, lamb with salad to make a healthy and nutritious meal or snack.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Cards made from sweet papers!

These cards were made from sweet papers- Mingles. Simply smooth out sweet papers and fold into four. Cut small circle on the folded area to make the flower centre and then cut the remaining quarter into flower. Turn over to use silver side to contrast with flower centre and arrange onto card and glue.  For the vase I used one smoothed out sweet paper and cut into the shape of a vase. This is a really simple but effective idea to make totally original cards. And if you make a mistake you can always have another try and another sweet!  Other sweet papers such as Quality Street open up a world of possibilities too! Why not give it a go!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Home made playdough

2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
½-1 cup cold water
2 drops food colouring

Mix flour and salt.Then add water,ood colouring and oil. Mix then knead well. Store in an airtight container.
Use food colouring to create lots of colour and add vanilla or almond essence for a lovely smell. As ever try to avoid mxing together and making the browny mess! Lots of fun for rainy days and can be used to create almost anything!  Can be stored in cleaned yoghurt pots and covered with clingfilm.  Should be stored in an airtight container in any event. Costs pence rather than pounds and will give hours of fun. Enjoy!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Hello and welcome to our blog. We are mums with lots of children, limited budgets but loads of creativity and ideas to share and hopefully save money! We hope you will find it informative and useful and that you will share your ideas too!