Saturday, 15 February 2014

FRUGAL VALENTINE'S GIFT!

Valentine's Day comes around quicker than ever and catches me out with not an idea in my head as to what to buy (make?) for my other half!
Chocolate is always a popular choice with us both, but in previous years, shop bought offerings have been a bit, well - mediocre. You know what I mean - a red or gold shiny box, a red bow, a red foil covered small, hollow heart inside that is made from 100g of cheap chocolate and all for around a fiver!
So, I racked my brains, looked at the confectionery aisle in my local supermarket and came up with this home-made offering!
This is a solid plain chocolate heart, measuring about 21cm (around 8") across, studded with Maltesers around the edge, a few chocolates in the middle, sprinkled with white and milk chocolate cake decorations and drizzled with the scrapings out of the bowl - yum! (and yes, I did leave myself some to lick out!).
The whole thing weighed in excess of 250g and my other half says it is delicious!
It takes:
150g plain chocolate for the base (use milk or white if your recipient prefers)
Around 20 Maltesers
Small bag of chocolates (mine were Thorntons, £1 from Asda - 9 in the bag but one shape was duplicated so I ate that with my coffee, all in the name of artistry!)
Small heart shaped cake decorations (had these in the cupboard left over from another recipe)
Here's how I did it:
Print out a heart from MS Word Autoshapes, cut it out and then cut round it on greaseproof paper or baking parchment. lay the heart shape on a tray. (You can skip this if you have a suitable heart shaped mould or cake tin).
Break up your base chocolate into squares and melt in a basin over a pan of hot water (I often use the microwave instead, but you must do it in small bursts or you can overcook it and ruin the chocolate).
When your base chocolate is melted and smooth, pour it onto your heart shape slowly- keep it mostly in the middle and spread out gently with a palette knife or back of a spoon to the edges of your heart shape. I thought it would run everywhere and all over the edges, but it was quite easy to control!
Gently press on your Maltesers, hearts and chocolates and then use a small spoon or piping bag to drizzle over the scrapings of chocolate from your bowl (give the bowl a quick burst in the microwave if the chocolate's cooled).
Leave in the fridge to cool completely, peel off the backing paper, wrap in cling film (or shiny cellophane if you have it - I only had Christmas stuff with snow flakes on it!), trim with a red ribbon (mine came off a Christmas card!) and you're done!
Of course, you can choose your own combination of chocolate, decoration and size of heart, too. Mine cost £3.50 (excluding the tiny hearts I already had) and all ingredients were from Asda (including Asda's own plain chocolate which we know is good, as we use it for Rocky Road!) - but it is really huge and heavy. Slightly smaller and it would still be great!
Happy Frugal Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

MAKE YOUR OWN FIRELIGHTERS

In common with many people lately, we've just acquired a wood burning stove and so I'm looking at ways to make "free stuff" to use with it! 
First up, as with any fire, you need firelighters and I've had a go at making my own (see pic) - sorry if it looks like someone's had a bad accident in an egg box, but all will become clear!
For these firelighters you need 3 ingredients: empty egg box, scrap wax and fluff from a tumble drier filter (my son offered to donate his belly button fluff, but I think not!). 
I realise the use of a tumble drier is not seen as free or even cheap - I don't use my tumble drier except in extreme circumstances so I'm going to run out of fluff, but I have a plan for a substitute* - more of that later. You may want to ask friends and family for fluff donations - from their tumble driers of course!
My wax here is the covering off Baby Bel cheeses (don't use the opening tape - it won't melt) hence the red colour, but I'm also collecting bits of old candle wax from burnt out candles (ask friends and family for these too). As I collect wax, I just pop it in to an empty baked bean can until it's full. Then I make my firelighters as follows:
  • Take an egg box and fill each section with fluff, press down firmly. 
  • Tear off the lid of the egg box and stand your fluff-filled section in it on a heat proof surface. 
  • Heat the wax in its can in a saucepan of water until it has melted - take care when you lift the can out, using a cloth or glove. 
  • Pour just enough wax on each section of your egg box to cover the fluff then allow to cool completely. Any spare wax can be left in your can for next time.
  • Cut up your firelighters into sections leaving the points you will get from each upstanding piece between the sections - these can be lit when on the fire.
We have found 2 of these firelighters are plenty to light the fire with kindling and small logs!

* I realise I will eventually need a substitute material as fluff will eventually be in short supply in my frugal household, so I'm going fir cone hunting near where I live. I usually pick these fir cones up for Christmas decorations, but my plan is to pick up those cones that may have been damaged or squashed, dry them well either around the fire or out in my porch and put those (or pieces of them), in the egg box sections instead of fluff.

Friday, 7 February 2014

MILK SAVING HACK!

RANDOM MONEY-SAVING TIP NUMBER 43
If you are making a recipe that requires milk and you don't have any or enough, then just use plain or vanilla yoghurt diluted with water - 50/50, mixed well.

RANDOM MONEY-SAVING TIP NUMBER 42

 Image result for baking powder uk

Baking!

If you need self-raising flour for a recipe and find you only have plain, then just make your own by adding baking powder and salt to the plain white flour. 
To every 100g plain flour add half a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt - easy!