on being thrifty

So food prices in New Zealand have increased by 28% in the past year and they’re set to continue rising. Here in the so tread softly house, we’ve always tried to watch our spending. Each week – usually a Sunday morning – we sit down, plan our menu and write a shopping list. We started doing that about 8 years ago as we found that at the end of each week, we were having to throw out good food. Since planning our meals, not only have we saved money on the weekly shop, but we very rarely throw anything away.


Now we’re about to embark on, what could be, if we’re not careful, a pretty expensive building project (more about that at a later date) and were thinking of areas where we could be a wee bit more thrifty. Each day Mr TS takes a couple of biscuits to work in his lunch box and so he has decided to make his own in a bid to save a few cents, that, as we all know, soon add up. This afternoon he made a batch of Tiffin Cake (a recipe from my Mum) but it tasted so good that there’s not a great deal of it left for the weeks lunch box!


This afternoon I’ve been curled up on the settee reading this book about the cotton farms in Alabama throughout the last century. Women then didn’t have a rubbish bin in their kitchen purely because of the fact that they didn’t have rubbish! The food scraps were given to the pigs and the flour, grain and sugar sacks, all of which were made from pretty printed cotton, were made in clothing, pillowcases and quilts. Thread was a real luxury so they used to unpick the cotton sacks very carefully and use the strands. If you happen across a quilt from the beginning of the last century and it’s sewn with red thread, this was probably unpicked from the tobacco pouches and re-used. Quite amazing!

I’m determined to be more thrifty. We were pretty much self sufficient throughout the summer regarding vegetables and salads and our food scraps were turned into fabulously rich compost, but I will certainly think twice in future, before putting anything into the rubbish bin.

Now were did he hide that tiffin cake?…

Update: It seems that the increase in food is a worldwide issue looking at your comments. Thriftiness is on many of your minds. Mr TS’s auntie wanted you all to know about a smell free composting method that you can use in your home. Here’s the link. She uses the system and swears by it.

Keriann wanted the recipe for Tiffin Cake as she tried it once in the UK. It’s so not good for you but we all deserve a treat every once in a while!

Tiffin Cake

6 oz plain biscuits

4 oz marg or butter

1 tablespoon of golden syrup (although Mr TS tells me he sneaked in 2!)

2 tablespoons of drinking chocolate

3 tablespoons sultanas

1 dessert spoon on caster sugar

Cooking chocolate to cover

Melt marge/butter, syrup, drinking chocolate, sultanas and sugar in a pan. Crush biscuits and add to melted mixture. Press into a greased swiss roll tin. Cool slightly and pour the melted chocolate over it. Allow to set and then cut into squares.

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  1. I don’t know the official percentages, but our grocery prices here in the US have risen drastically this past year, too. Recently, it seems each week that we shop, the same items are higher than on the shopping trip the previous week.
    To combat the inflated prices, we’ve been shopping at a time of the day and week when our local grocery store has more items on the markdown rack. We get fresh fruit and veggies that way, as well as meat. The meat can always be stuck in our freezer until we’re ready to eat it, but the fresh fruit and veggies generally require being eaten quickly. I try and work menus around whatever discounted foods we got that week. If we get lettuce on the markdown, we eat alot of salads that week, etc. 🙂

  2. A good post! I’m also trying to live a little more thrifty, which also translates into simplicity. Theres a pumpkin loaf in the oven right now for lunches this week!

  3. The rising cost of groceries seems to be a popular topic of conversation wherever I go at the moment. I try to work out a weekly menu and then shop for it and it is the way to go. Of course it has all gone to pot during the school holidays but tomorrow will be time to get back into the routine. What is tiffin cake? Is it like an unbaked slice that you make with crushed biscuits or am I guessing totally wrong?

  4. Sweet Mary

     /  May 4, 2008

    Hello – I have been reading your blog for a few months now, ever since I came across your gorgeous handmades in a Greytown shop. I once had the delicious tiffin made by a mum at a small, village primary school in Nth Yorks where I worked. She wouldn’t part with the recipe – would you? I fully understand if you don’t want to – Keriann. PS – we are trying to be thrifty too.

  5. I’m really hearing you here. It’s the same for us, but my desire to be more thrifty has evolved from a need to be more green. And in alot of ways this has led to money saving, not to mention being more environmentally friendly. For example: trying to use my fabric stash rather than buying more (this is a HARD one), making my own skin and hair care, shopping locally and seasonally, growing my own veggies, food scraps go to the chooks or compost, baking my own goodies – from bread to cakes etc and refashioning. So much potential for thrifty living and environmental consciousness. I could rant on forever about this so I’ll leave you alone now…great blog btw 😀

  6. I always find the same when we make snacks for the week.They never seem to last long enough so sometimes it works out cheaper to buy in. Especially if my daughter Maisie makes her flapjacks or lemon bars!
    We very rarely throw food away but we started recycling recently and are amazed out how empty our bin is every week.We used to be forcing stuff into it and jumping on the rubbish to close the lid.Now we can go 2 or 3 weeks and it still isn’t full.

  7. I think you need to make Greg a man apron:)

  8. As petrol, fuel and food prices have risen so much recently I am being thirifty too – the bag of pasta I usually buy has gone up from £1.00 to £2.97! I am menu planning and shopping with a list to try and avoid impulse buys. I’ve also been reading down—to—earth.blogspot.com/ which is full of great advice for simple living.

  9. we started with the menu thing and it’s amazing how you do save money. ANd it saves the ‘oh what shall I cook tonight’ stress…

  10. Mrs CanterburyTales

     /  May 5, 2008

    I loved that post Al! I have told you about the Bokashi composting, haven’t I?! For your readers, I shall put a link onto my next post – read it guys and gals, it is a wonderful alternative to a smelly compost heap, especially if you don’t have the room in the garden for one. Oh, tell my wee nephew how much I would LOVE a man in the kitchen!!! You go Mr TS. Love Ya both – waiting to hear about secret squirrel building plans!!!

  11. prices are soaring here in california as well.
    thanks for the info on the book – it sounds interesting.

  12. juniorwashbourn-canterburytales

     /  May 5, 2008

    2 things Mrs TS – thought I should add my blog address, but can’t work out how to link it to my comment for your readers, and also I totally agree about the planning ahead for food thing – have done that spasmodically, but learning to do it more now. Ciao

  13. lovely blog, i wish my Mr was interested in making his own snack, would save me a squillion.

  14. We live in CA in the US, and we have been hit hard here too: esp. since Jan. meal planning works well for us too; its kind of nice in some ways to just get back to only getting what you need, and helping those that need help just getting food on the table.

  15. good on you! Have you tried the home made cleaners from my blog? Cleaning prods are sooo pricey (and smelly!).

  16. Jo

     /  May 7, 2008

    Thats fab – will be looking into that bokashi link, thanks. We are be ‘forward planners’ with food. Like thinking what we can turn leftovers into (roast chik:chicksandwiches:chickquiche:3 meals!) and on it goes. Another good link is the original destitute gourmet book by sophie gray, lots of good ideas and recipes if anyone is interested:

  17. Very pertinent post :o) You have a lot of great thrifty ideas! The Tiffin Cake looks delicious – thanks for posting the recipe! xox

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