#ThriftyThursday: Charity shop haul

I have a confession to make. I watch haul videos. And not ironically.

I know I shouldn’t. But there’s something about super rich, super peppy American teenagers unloading bags of clothes and make up that cost more than my monthly rent that I just can’t switch off from. It’s late night car crash web viewing.

I took myself out shopping this afternoon for a bit of a charity shop scour. Our town is blessed with plenty of charity shops – some good, some bad and a few seriously overpriced. You have to be willing to dig. And dismiss 95% of what you see. And avoid static build up so as not to set off a spark and send rack upon rack of polyester up in mothball scented flames.

But it is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two, and anything you buy is doing some good: money goes to charity, you keep something out of landfill and at worst, you decide you don’t want it and then give it back to be sold again.

So here comes today’s charity shop haul…

In a fair world, it’d be me rocking this coat. It’s so swishy. A genuine wool double breasted dress coat with an extra flouncy skirt and brass buttoned epaulettes on the shoulders. Originally from Next, and including a jazzy polka dot lining.

Sadly I no longer wear an age 11-12, so this is my daughter rocking it. A meagre £1.49.


Today she lucked out with the books too. She’s only become a vociferous reader in the past few months, so I’m trying to introduce her to as many new and wonderful kiddo books as possible. Ok, so the Choose Your Own Adventure is probably a bit grown up for a seven year old, but we can read it together and I still love them!

All of these were 20p each.


Ahhh, onto books for Mummy.

Traditional Farmhouse Fare is a collection of recipes from the readers of Farmer’s Weekly. Most recipes are submitted (in my imagination) by ruddy faced kindly West Country farmer’s wives with a brood of starving/strapping farm hands arriving at the Aga at tea time.

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Nothing slimming here folks. This is the food that’ll sustain me until Spring.

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In complete contrast, I was also introduced to the Candy Kittens. Apparently it’s a camp-as-Christmas sweetie emporium in the West End. Their goodies are stocked in Waitrose now too. This book is complete fluff – and includes a recipe for marshmallow fluff – but I can see kiddo and I making quite a few things from it on rainy afternoons.

On this charity shop haul, grown up books were 40p a pop.

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And finally… some tat. Monkey and bunny cable ties for 20p each to tidy up the chaos under my desk. Tiny kawaii gift boxes that are just big enough to fit about 3 sweets and have already been nicked (30p). And quirky reuseable shopping bags (again 20p each) that fit in the bottom of my handbag so that I might remember to take them out with me.

I just realised I haven’t photographed my best find – these Next jeans. BNWT. In my size. £4.

All in all, a very successful trip. Less than £10 spent, goodies galore, and a good deed done.

PLEASE comment if you’d like more charity shop haul posts like this… I’m never sure who is reading. Thanks!

Cooking with Kids: Unicorn Poop

If you weren’t seduced by the title, you will be by the list of ingredients for these delicious nuggets of sugary goodness.

IMG_0403On our last visit to the library, we were pleased to find out that my daughter’s copy of Hope and Greenwood’s Life is Sweet had finally come in. We’d been watching Sweets Made Simple on iPlayer and as soon as she got the book home she was determined to start churning out pounds of fudge and marshmallows and gummies. I don’t think even the most competent six year old should really be fooling around with sugar thermometers on her own… and on a Sunday morning, I’m not really in the mood either.

So we compromised and made Unicorn Mallow Pops. Except I had no popsicle sticks, so they became Unicorn Poop.

Kids love anything with sparkles and poop, right?

The gold lustre spray is available from Dr Oetker but in no way necessary. Although it can be very handy to have gold spray in the cupboard to make any food look like it was crafted by fairies.

Fairy green beans anyone?IMG_0408

Unicorn Poop

Serves: Well, as many as can clamour in the kitchen to scoff them. They don’t keep very well, so plan on eating them all immediately.


1 bag of microwave popcorn, sweet or salty (we prefer salty)
200g of marshmallows (any colour or shape, you’re melting them)
50g unsalted butter
Gold lustre spray, optional

1) Microwave the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag. You won’t need all of it, so eat a bit.IMG_0404

2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Still on the heat and stirring occasionally, toss in the marshmallows until you have an unctuous sweet gooey mess that is all too tempting to stick your fingers in.IMG_04063) Turn off the heat and stir in the popcorn. Then leave the kitchen for 30 minutes to let it cool.IMG_04074) When the mix is cool enough to handle, form it into small balls. Or huge ones. Or whatever the wee ones fancy. Place on greaseproof paper to set. Spray them with gold spray until they resemble something that has fallen out of the bottom of a mythical creature.


Magical Midweek Mince: Kid Friendly Keema

By midweek, my cooking mojo has begun to drain. It seems a long way til Saturday when we do our weekly food shop and the contents of the fridge is far from exciting. BUT THERE SHALL BE MINCE.

Despite being one of my least favourite sources of protein, it has earned a permanent place in my fridge due to the fact that children rarely turn their nose up at it. This means that I am only ever half an hour away from a meal that won’t get fed to the dog, which suits me just fine.

Having exhausted the traditional stalwarts of bolognese, chilli con carne and cottage pie (which I despise, but more on that in a minute), this spicy kid-friendly keema has become a regular fixture in our house.

It works best with lamb mince, but I have subbed in beef, turkey or even pork without really changing the outcome. It borrows heavily from Nigella Lawson’s hangover cure in Feast but I felt it was ripe for a family-friendly makeover. Add a few more veggies, tone down the spice and add important tips to make this as quick and painless as possible.

* Chop nothing. Whiz it all in the food processor. Except the pepper, which needs to be a little chunkier really. In fact, you can bung in stray courgettes, carrots and other lingering fridge veg. Wilting some spinach in at the last minute works well.

* The freezer is your friend. I keep chillis and root ginger in the bottom drawer and use them straight from the freezer, extending their life to infinity.

* Buy those vacuum packed naan breads and keep them in the cupboard for dinner emergencies. And don’t bother turning on the grill to cook them, as they fit in the toaster for a reason.

* Lime juice in a bottle works fine here.


Kid Friendly Keema

(serves 4 ish)


600g lamb mince
A large onion
A thumb of root ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 bell pepper (you choose the colour), diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
300g of frozen peas (about 2 mugs full)
2 generous tablespoons of balti paste
A splash of lime juice

Naan breads, to serve (see above)

1) Whiz up the onion, ginger and garlic in the food processor.
2) Pop the mixture in a large frying pan with a splash of oil and allow to cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Meanwhile, dice the pepper and add in. When everything begins to soften, add the mince.
4) After 5 minutes, everything should be beginning to smell yummy, so add the balti paste and tinned tomatoes. Allow to bubble along cheerfully for about 15 minutes, until everything is cooked through. Add in the peas, giving them 5 minutes to heat through.
5) Just before serving, stir in a splash of lime juice. You can add a verdent covering of fresh coriander if you like as well.
6) Taste. If it’s not punchy enough, add some chilli, or if you’ve overdone it with the balti paste, add a dollop of yogurt or even just milk.

Leftovers are delicious eaten straight from the fridge, but if you want to be extra fancy, double the recipe, top the second half with mashed sweet potato and crisp the top in the oven for possibly the finest cottage pie ever.