Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds….and closure

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Welcome to my third week of Thrifty Finds. I would love to hear about any of your Thrifty Finds over the past week – or things you didn’t buy (I hope you were more restrained than me in buying that £15 candle!)

This past week’s Thrifty Finds started with a rather large purchase. It came second-hand and was bought for a relative good price. It also ends a six week episode in our lives which has been rather scary…..

  1. Last weekend we purchased a new (to us) car. At the beginning of September my husband was involved in a car accident. Thankfully, he wasn’t badly injured but the car was a write off. As the other party admitted full liability the insurance process has actually been quite quick (or so I’m told as neither of us have ever been involved in something like this before). Of course, the payment didn’t match what the car was worth to us. Thankfully, we had some rainy day savings which we have had to dip into to fund the new car. Since the accident my husband has been driving a hire car and we only had one day without a car at all. This is something we’re used to (see my post here about not having regular use of a car). But it was still slightly unnerving to not know when we were going to get another car. In the end, a mechanic friend picked up a good quality car in an auction and delivered it to us last week. It’s the same make as our old car, but just slightly younger. The accident taught me three things: 1) you never know what’s going to happen to you; 2) how amazing my husband was throughout the incident, and how wonderful friends and neighbours were to us; 3) thank goodness for (some) rainy day savings. The purchase of the car has now (hopefully) bought closure to this awful period in our lives.

 

All my other Thrifty Finds seem quite small in comparison but..

2. I made my own blackberry cordial which I am rather proud of:

blackberry cordial

3.  We resisted to urge to get fish & chips on one evening, and instead cooked at home. I continued to bake bread and even had a go at making a fruit cake in the breadmaker, which turned out well.

Fruit cake made in breadmaker: Thrifty Finds from secondhandtales.wordpress.com

4. I went to a fundraising coffee morning and picked up a wonderful raspberry and coconut cake for £2.

5. I mended an item of child’s underwear, rather than throwing it away – which would have been far easier.

mending

 

What were your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Five ways to make do (without replacing your appliances)

Five ways to make do without replacing your appliances

When I look around our house I realise there are quite a few things that are broken, or have developed some quirk that only we know how to operate.  I’m sure we are not alone in having appliances that don’t quite work how they should do, or have given up the ghost completely.

One of the mantras of minimalism/frugal living/being environmentally aware is to do without those things we think we need. They cost our hard-earned pennies, use precious resources to make, clutter our cupboards, and require time (and money) to clean and maintain.

I think it’s a combination of this philosophy (plus a smattering of ‘can’t be bothered/don’t have the time’) that explains why we have learned to do without certain appliances in our home.

Instead of rushing out to the store to buy a brand new replacement we have tried to make do. From personal experience these are the five things I have learned about making do with troublesome equipment – or managing without:

1) Adjust to its quirks

I wrote here about our broken-down oven. To summarise it stopped working and when I called out the engineer he suggested replacing it with a brand new one rather than paying for a replacement part. I chose to go with the latter and, nearly two years later, it is still working. However it is not very warm. So I have learned to adjust to this by automatically increasing the gas mark temperature by one (GM4 becomes GM5 etc) and also being generous with the cooking time. Also the gas hobs only work by using a separate lighter or matches to ingite. Until we move house/have money to buy a new one this is how we are cooking and it, sort of, works.

Solution: we all have temperamental appliances. If you have visitors who need to use the equipment (ie babysitters) write down instructions for them – but make sure the appliances can be used in a safe way.

2) Is there an alternative that I can use?

Do I already own something – or can I purchase something smaller and cheaper – that would do a similar job? We have struggled for many years with second-hand  vacuum cleaners that haven’t been quite up to the job. Bea from Zero Waste Home manages without a vacuum and relies on a broom. She believes it saves time (no plugging, unplugging and carrying the hoover from room to room). I’ve now got into the habit of using a brush to sweep our hardwood floors although this isn’t a solution for carpets. My parents, however, keep a simple, old fashioned carpet sweeper upstairs to clean their bedroom floors as it saves carrying a heavy vacuum up the stairs.

Recently we had a (brief) power cut which made me dig out our camping kettle to use on the gas stove (ignited with a match remember!). The electricity came back on but the kettle is staying in our kitchen as our electric one is playing up.

Solution: check around your house to see if you have an alternative. Do you own a travel iron or hairdryer that could be used to do the same job? After all what’s the point of buying something that is only used for a couple of weeks every year? Make these ‘holiday’ appliances work for their money!

3) Can I live without it?

Two years ago our (second-hand) dishwasher stopped working. We have been hand washing dishes ever since and it works for us. I believe that, from an environmental standpoint, a modern and efficient dishwasher would be better. However washing dishes by hand has many benefits. It involves the whole family (the children learn to wash and wipe up). We also had saucepans that couldn’t be put in the dishwasher anyway and now, when we need a utensil, we can wash it up straight away rather than waiting to fill the machine.

Making do with what yo have: washing up by hand

Solution: why don’t you try living without the appliance for a while? Some people use the ‘frozen credit card’ system (literally credit card frozen in ice) to help them delay making a purchase. If your car has broken down can you try using your bus service for a while, or book online deliveries? Can you enlist the help of family and friends to undertake tasks ie getting the kids to wash up.

4) Is there a free or cheaper substitute?

I have posted here and here about our second-hand bread makers, purchased for a small amount from the charity shop’s electrical appliances store. However if we’d been unable to find our second replacement we could have tried baking by hand. Like many people we’ve also been able to pick up appliances for free from Freecyle or Facebook sites (and in turn offered our unwanted goods).

Making do with what you have: second-hand appliances

Solution: Can I pick up a free substitute by putting a request on freecycle? Is there a free part I could pick up that could be used to mend my broken appliance? 

5) Can I borrow another one?

As I mentioned in my recent post about lending and borrowing we plan to borrow a tent from neighbours when we go camping this summer. We don’t have the budget to buy a new tent and as we are only camping for a couple of nights it doesn’t affect their holiday plans. It also means we don’t have to find space to store a five-person tent permanently.

Making do.. without buying a new tent

Solution:try borrowing websites such as Streetbank or  ecomodo . Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family if you can borow an item; there may be something you can lend out in return.

..but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy a new one. For years we struggled without a heating control device. Instead we manually switched the heating on and off from the boiler which was ineffective and led to a very cold house when we were away. We finally bought a new control pad and our house is heated so much more efficiently now. It’s just a matter of deciding what does need replacing, and what you can manage without…

 

Breadmaker Part Two

About eighteen months ago I blogged here about our new second-hand breadmaker that we had bought for £10 from the local Dorothy House electrical shop. The breadmaker was an unusual make (Bellini) and came without instructions but made a decent simple loaf.

However a couple of months ago it stopped working and we were unable to fix it. I had just started to get fed up with eating store-bought bread again when my mum picked up this fantastic second-hand Breville breadmaker for £15.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

It came from the British Heart Foundation electrical store in Chippenham and, this time, it has an instruction book. This model seems more sophisticated than the Bellini as we can make different size loaves. So far we’ve baked some simple bread but I hope to be tackling Italian bread and fruit loaves soon.

I love these electrical appliances shops and I think they’re a great tip for finding second-hand kitchen accessories, such as coffee makersand food processors. All the electrical items are PAT tested and my breadmaker came with a six month warranty. Not bad.

Our new (to us) Breadmaker!

I always thought that you couldn’t donate electrical goods to Charity Shops. However I have recently discovered the Dorothy House Furniture and Electrical shop in Chippenham, and the British Heart Foundation shop across the road. Both shops stock donated furniture (sofas, beds, desks, wardrobes etc) and electrical items. All electrical goods have been PAT tested and are in good condition.

For a while we have been thinking of buying a breadmaker because as a family of five we seem to get through the stuff SO quickly. After a quick trip to Chippenham and browse through both shops (kettles for £8, a Dyson hoover for £40!) we picked up a Bellini Breadmaker from Dorothy House for £10. Although it was without instructions I have been following a very easy recipe from the web and, after a couple of weeks’ use, it has proved indispensable to our family.

our new (to us) breadmaker

our new (to us) breadmaker

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I really like the idea of extending the life of electrical appliances by finding new homes for them. There were a lot of gadgets, such as coffee machines and food processors, on the shelves at both shops. I wonder if some of them had been barely-used presents or bought on a whim and then never used. According to a recent survey (okay it’s by Direct Line insurance company who probably had a publicity motive) the least used kitchen appliances are toasted sandwich maker, food processor and slow cooker. (Although we get a lot of use from our toastie maker and slow cooker). Apparently 10 % of kitchen gadgets are never used. Although this is a sad reflection of our consumer society if the appliances are donated to charity shops, or freecycled, then a second – or third- life means that someone’s loss is another person’s gain.

Tomorrow we have a visit from both a washing machine engineer AND a repairman to look at our gas cooker. Both appliances are on the blink but I am very reluctant to replace or buy new. We may be taking another trip to the Dorothy House Homeware shop very soon….