Friday, 26 December 2014

Things I learned about frugality this Christmas

Christmas is the time of year most of us have a blowout. Then in January we suffer from withdrawal symptoms; alcohol-free January, diet January, how-on-earth-will-the-money-last-the-month January.

But I did manage to cut a few corners this Christmas, spending-wise.
  • Make your own Christmas pudding and adjust the recipe to whatever needs using up or is on offer. I made a 'tropical' pudding with dried pineapple, mango and papaya we'd got at a bargain price from Aldi, instead of the usual raisins and mixed peel, and it worked really well. And I have seven more puddings in the freezer for next year. (You can tell I like Christmas pudding.)
  • Make your own Yorkshire Pudding. Very, very easy, and frugal not just because you're using basic ingredients that cost relatively little (okay, it does use quite a lot of eggs), but also because if you've roasted a bird or a joint, you use the already hot oven right at the end of cooking to bake the pudding. (I also like to add two egg yolks to the recipe to make it even richer.)
  • I discovered that leftover Yorkshire Pudding goes just as well with bacon and maple syrup, or marmalade, or jam, as it does with beef and gravy!
  • Roast vegetables don't have to be boring, and are incredibly easy compared to trying to boil sprouts, peas, and so on. This Christmas I had parsnips and carrots tossed in olive oil with cumin and honey, as well as roast potatoes. (Boil them for ten minutes - no more - to get them started before you put them in the oven, and you'll get nice fluffy soft insides.) But you can roast anything - tomatoes for instance, courgettes and aubergines... it's a healthy way of cooking and brings out intense flavours.
  • I'd bought quite a few people gifts at car boots and charity shops through the year. That sounds awful, but if you know people well, you can often find nicer presents that way than in the high street shops. For instance, a relative who has a collection of spinning tops got a sweet hand-made top that we picked up at  car boot, and my father nearly always gets a second-hand book on boats or local history (though I have to phone him up to check he hasn't got it already). And one of the presents I was most pleased with was a friend who was decluttering and gave me a lovely leather biker jacket.
  • We had Asti spumante instead of champagne, for once. It's not as high in alcohol, which was popular with the drivers, and it's sweeter which was popular with quite a few people, and it has just as many bubbles.
  • Home made sweets can be a much nicer gift than store bought. Chocolate tiffin cake is easy to make and can be nicely decorated; I used white chocolate to drizzle across the top. You just need to make sure you have a little tinfoil container to hold it, and wrap it nicely, and it looks really impressive - the art of presentation is important. Home made jam is also a nice present as long as, first, it's good jam, and secondly, it's nicely presented (a circle cut out of cloth with pinking shears, and a ribbon to tie it over the jampot lid, make a huge difference).
  • We cracked the walnuts and hazelnuts we scrumped from the hedgerows. We forgot to get any chestnuts this year (there's a wonderful place where sweet chestnut trees line the road, and you can pick the nuts off the tarmac, but it's a few kilometres away and we didn't get there in time), so we had to buy some.
  • We drank our home made liqueur after dinner. It gets better the longer it keeps - we have some two year old limoncello that has really developed, and a five year old vin de noix.