Mrs Williams

Thrifty Thursday – A Wedding Special

So, as mentioned yesterday, this week is mine and Matt’s wedding anniversary. It is crazy to think that a year has passed, and we have had TONS of fun!! We actually have two wedding anniversaries, as we got married twice (as you do)…so Monday just gone we celebrated our LEGAL anniversary, but next Monday is a year since our actual wedding. I love having two excuses to celebrate.

Anyway, our wedding was one of my best ever efforts in terms of thrift and creativity, and as its getting into wedding season, I thought I would use this week as a chance to share some of what I tried and learned, what worked and a little of what didnt…and a chance to show off some of my beautiful pictures! My parents are Salvation Army officers and despite their incredibly low income, they worked hard to save money since I was born to pay for our wedding, so we really wanted to make sure that the way we spent that money in a way that honoured how hard they had worked both to earn and save the money. So here’s what we did…

1) The Dress

I went dress shopping two weeks after we got engaged in a wedding shop in Brisbane. I was over visiting my parents for Christmas, spending a week at their home in Papua New Guinea and then a week in Brisbane. The dress was beautiful, and the fact that I found it with my Mum (bearing in mind that she wasnt able to be involved in any of the rest of the planning) made it ‘the one.’ The dress was AU$2200 and by a brand called ‘Essense of Australia’ so I wasnt sure that I’d be able to have it or get it. However, after some online research, I found that it was available in the UK and that a place in Basingstoke had it for £1200. That still seemed like a lot.

My very lovely friend Sarah got her dress second hand online and really pleaded with me to look around before spending that kind of money…literally the same day, shopping on preloved.com I found the dress in this shop, it was a shop sample so had been tried on a couple of times, and it was a size bigger than I needed, but it cost me £500!!! One of my bridesmaids found me a friend of a friend who did the alterations for £50, and I ended up selling the dress, again on preloved for £300 after the wedding, so my total spend was £250…a far cry from the original $2200.

           

The Centrepieces

We spent SO many hours trawling charity shops, but we managed to collect enough teapots to have one on every table filled with flowers.  We had different cream coloured flowers on every table. Another friend of a friend helped us with the flowers, so it really didnt cost us very much at all, and they looked wonderful. I have friends who have spent SO much on centrepieces, so this was a thrifty and cute option, and my Grandma reckons we can auction all the teapots now and make some money back!

     

The Favours

These were the best and worst bit of the wedding planning effort. Instead of a cake, Matt and I had three tiers of cheese, so I decided to hand make individual jars of chutney for every guest (100). A friend of my Grandma’s saved her baby food jars for me, and then my bridesmaid, Anna and I took over her Mum’s kitchen on three different weekends to sterilise the jars and make the chutney. We had 5 flavours. Apple and Ginger pickle was NOT GOOD…I mean, apparently it tasted ok by the wedding, but on the day we made it it just smelled awful and even after some time to mature, the smell was too similar and brought back memories that just made it impossible to like. We also made rhubarb chutney, caramelised red onion chutney and, the favourite, curried rhubarb chutney (its honestly one of the best things i’ve ever tasted). Then we covered them in Gingham, wrapped some parcel string around and added cardboard tags. The just looked awesome and totally added to our vintage country fayre type feel. And so quirky 🙂


The decorations

So Anna and I also made bunting using scraps of fabric we collected in the lead up to the wedding, we cut out the triangles, and her wonderful Mum stitched it all onto ‘bias binding’ to make it into bunting.

We then used Matt’s Mum’s old uni trunk for our table plan, and I made 60 cupcakes for our evening reception…that was actually the only bit I wished I hadnt done. Two days before the wedding, that was really just one thing too many for me!!

        

So there you have it. Our little handmade, thrifty wedding. A year on!

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Thrifty Thursday – A cross-continental comparison!!!

 

So, Lucy is after some blogs about Charity Shops for this weeks Thrifty Thursday effort. As previously mentioned, I’m pretty new to the Charity Shopping malarchy, but I am certainly enthusiastic. Mine and Matt’s Saturday afternoon wanderings through various New Forest villages used to centre around finding the best cream tea, but now it’s all about a good charity shop rummage!

However, whilst in the states (see previous post) I had the opportunity to go ‘Yard Sale-ing’ with my lovely sister-in-law Kari. We were also accompanied by Kari’s sister, aka Super-Mum…seriously, this woman has four kids of her own (one of whom is only 6 weeks old), plus fostering babies on a regular basis (we had a 6 month old foster baby with us as well as her four kids for this excursion) and she home-schools her adopted younger brother on a shared basis with Kari. And she does all of this without really breaking a sweat. Genuinely incredible.

ANYWAY, So yard sales are an American phenomenon that we don’t see here, I dont know if its a legal thing, or a dont-want-strangers-in-my-garage thing, but I’ve never seen it done in the UK. I guess our nearest equivalent is the trusty British car boot sale. Where we were, the whole neighbourhood had joined together so that around 30 houses all had sales on this day so we wandered for a couple of hours between different sales. These yard sales were awesome, there was tons of stuff and the prices were rock bottom! I got a ton of teeny tiny baby clothes for our soon-t0-be-born niece for $6, and Kari picked up a diaper genie for $3!! The kids all managed to get a new toy with their $3 yard sale allowance, and if I hadnt had a weight restriction on my suitcase for coming home we’d’ve come home with a ton of loot too!! It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the kids all seemed to stay pretty well entertained (partly because there was a woman visiting a lot of the same sales as us with a parrot on her shoulder…I never did get to the bottom of that one) so it was a fun trip.

However, it doesnt beat a charity shop, and I recognised that as we walked round but wanted to pinpoint why. I have three main reasons.

1) In a charity shop you’re not faced with the person who donated the goods!! So if something is hideous, you can point it out to your friend and have a good giggle about it without offending people! At a yard sale you’ve gotta keep your reactions in check because that cardigan with shoulder pads was what the house owner was wearing when she had her first kiss…or similar!!

2) British weather! So many weekends I’ve decided I’m gonna hit a car boot sale only to discover that when I wake up its pouring with rain and there’s not a chance I’m going to stand in a muddy field. Yard sales run this same risk and rely on decent weather. A charity shop works in all weather and is usually warmer than the average shop due to the age of the staff!!

3) And finally…and probably most importantly….I love that the money goes to charity. A £4 Monsoon cardigan feels like a double whammy of wonder when that £4 is going to help research into heart disease or to support starving children somewhere. I actually pay attention to the charities i’m giving money to, and try to actively visit some of the shops locally that support charities I believe in. Controversial or not, I’m more committed to people-charities than animal-charities (here, it seems I differ from much of the UK population as the RSPCA receive 3 times more in donations per year than the NSPCC…I have some issues with that) and am far more likely to offer a ‘keep the change’ in a charity shop than anywhere else. Somehow, despite still being utterly materialistic, shopping in a charity shop feels better, and for that reason, a yard sale just doesnt cut it!!

So I remain fiercely and faithfully committed to the good old British charity shop!! And plan to spend this bank holiday weekend feeding the obsession!

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Thrifty Thursday takes a break

So somehow in the last few weeks I’ve become part of a little corner of the tweetiverse with some excellent ladies who are all about being thrifty, crafty, creative and sensationally savvy, and in between their other things, they too do ‘Thrifty Thursday’ blogs, often much better than mine. However, last night the very lovely Lucy suggested that as today is International Women’s Day, we put our thrift on hold and write something related to this.

Now Lucy’s blog is much better than mine, go and have a look at it, now…go on! However, right before she tweeted last night, I’d been having some thoughts about women that I thought I would briefly blog for you today. I’d been texting a friend of mine who was feeling a bit crappy about herself, and had ended up having a conversation with Matt about the age old question…

WHY DO US WOMEN COMPARE OURSELVES TO EACH OTHER ALLLLL THE TIME?!

I think it drives him bonkers, I am basically seriously green with envy at some trait of pretty much every friend of mine. I have two super close girl friends, and a relatively large wider circle of gorgeous girls in my life too, and every one of them I look at and compare myself and find myself lacking in some way. I said to Matt that I think it’s because advertisers play on it. They show us a woman, and ask us to say ‘what has she got that I dont?’ so that they can tell us how we can get whatever it is she has (The answer usually being to spend crap loads of money on something useless!). So it’s wired into our brains to constantly compare ourselves to other women, to see what they have that we dont.

I suspect some of it is natural, and maybe we would do some of it if it wasnt for advertising. But basically I blame them. I blame them for making me think that if I’m bigger than a size 8, I’m fat. I blame them for showing me women who ARE size 8 eating food that would NOT let them stay a size 8 and confusing my brain. I blame them for suggesting that my clothes aren’t expensive enough, my skins not tanned enough, my boobs arent big enough and my shoes arent high enough. I blame them for making me want want want, when I already have SO much. I blame them for making my friends feel crappy about themselves, and when I see my friends comparing themselves to me and others. I blame them for telling young people that they should be having meaningless sex with as many people as possible and that if they’re not, they’re weird. I blame them for saying that if you cant afford something you should borrow money, at whatever cost, so that you can have it NOW.

It makes me very angry actually. I have been angry about it for a number of years, I went to an all girls high school, and it was around then that I started to notice the ways that marketing was affecting us all. I watched friends battle eating disorders and become promiscuous and I got angrier. I try now to avoid it where possible. I dont buy magazines because they mess with my head. I try to fastforward through adverts where possible, and I go out of my way to avoid going to the shops so that I dont end up wanting (too much!) I saw this last week and I just think it is fabulous

Having been brought up in church, and thankfully by an awesome, beautiful woman of God who is pretty tight with Jesus and who showed me what God can do through his women, I am so aware that God wants more for us than what we are sold. The bible says that a virtuous woman is worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10), Jesus spoke with women and taught women despite the societal views of them. So the bible values women, Jesus valued women, but most importantly, the bible has this whole different view of beauty. “Your beauty . . . should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit . . . “- 1 Peter 1:3,4 (NIV). We sing a kids song in church that says “Man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.”

Flippin heck, if only the media got us thinking about the beauty in our hearts, if only when I got together with my girlfriends we spent as much time talking about how to develop a gentle and quiet spirit as we do talking about clothes, hair, diets, exercise, make up, spots, blah, blah, blah!

So for International Women’s Day, Im going to spend some time thinking about how I can better become a woman of God, how I can develop that virtue that is worth more than rubies, and I’m going to try very hard not to compare myself to the other beautiful women in my life, but to value and treasure them.

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Thrifty Thursday is Back!!

I’ve been falling behind in my thriftiness, and in blogging it! In the last week I’ve spent more money than I have in any other week of my life excluding my wedding week…and we’re only renting our new house so it seems a little crazy! Plus our house, whilst being gorgeous and local to our church and a real ‘home’ for Matt and I, its a new build (I know, I know, gasp and sigh, from this lady especially I reckon), so lots of my dreams of thriftily re-inventing my kitchen or making beautiful vintagey artwork is going to be out of place here…sad times.

I also think it’s easy to believe that the thrifty things we do are just normal, and that everyone does them so they’re not mention worthy…However, lately I’ve been realising just how differently everyone manages things (This mornings discovery that Mel manages to buy food for 3 for £30 a week when my shopping bill is never less than £50 for example…) so I thought I’d get on my high horse about…FREEZER FOOD!!

Now, as previously mentioned, I have friends who manage their shopping a LOT more cheaply than I do, and I am jealous of that ability, however we also have friends who spend a shed load more than us, and from what I can see their food isnt as yummy or healthy as what we eat. I am married to a committed carnivore, which never does make for cheap meals and I happen to be a food fanatic, and love planning, making and eating great food…so we find ourselves in an expensive trap! However, I am a recent convert to the joys of making and freezing. I know some people have questions about food once it’s been frozen, but for us its just such a good way to have good food regularly.

So on Saturdays I make me up a big batch of soup which i whack in the freezer in 10 portions and Matt and I take them to work for lunch…come to think of it, making your own lunch instead of buying it is a whole thrifty blog of its own, because when I started dating Matt he was genuinely spending £20-£30 a week on lunches from the shopping mall next to where he worked, and now it costs about a fiver a week for the two of us! Two of my favourite filling lunch recipes are here

Minestrone

Chicken Noodle

Then, throughout the week, unless its a real basic meal like pasta, I make enough for 4 people. I have a massive Le Creuset dish which is ideal for whipping up mammoth lasagnes or moussakas, and my slow cooker is in regular use for excellent stews. Then, once we’ve had our fill, the rest gets put in the freezer. Provided I can dissuade Matthew from pinching all the meaty bits into his original portion, we then have another meal for another evening in the week. In fact, Friday night is usually Freezer Food night. Which is ideal as I’m usually too knackered to manage cooking much more than toast on a Friday.

I do find that frozen/reheated food doesnt QUITE taste as good as the original stuff, but basically it’s pretty great, and adding a drop of water during the reheat works wonders at restoring stuff to its former glory. As does adding a bit of grated cheese…cheese improves most things. I also work increasingly to avoid microwaving where possible, I reheat soup on a hob whenever I can and will pop other stuff in the oven for a bit as I just find anything thats been in a microwave tastes a leetle bit like aeroplane food. The main thing is that, as with everything, the bigger the quantity of anything you buy, the less you pay for it. You know how mince beef is £3.99 for 500g and £6 for a kilo in Tesco? So the more you buy, the cheaper it works out. (Just to be clear, I dont and wont shop at Tesco!!)

So, invest in some decent tupperware and get going!! Here are a couple of favourite freezable recipes to start you off

Mellow Meatballs

Delia’s Moussaka

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Thrifty Thursday: Food Co-Ops

So, this week I’ve been feeling a little unqualified for Thrifty Thursdays…not sure I’m doing enough thats thrifty.

However, one thing that I do pride myself on is cooking and baking most of our food from scratch. I dont think I realised that that is actually pretty rare, but I basically dont use ready made foods, and dont even use many (I’d love to say any, but i’d be lying) packet mixes or jars of sauce.

We’re moving house next week, and will be just a bit too far to keep shopping at the farm shop we usually go to, so I’ve been looking around for alternatives…and that is how I discovered food co-operatives. The concept being that if people get together, and then buy in bulk, they can get lower prices direct from suppliers. For people who want to buy organic foods, this is a good way to be able to do it in a…wait for it…yep THRIFTY manner!! These co-ops are run by the community for the community and operate on a not-for-profit basis

http://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoops/

This website contains a list of local cooperatives, including a few in our fair Southampton. Im not sure there is anything here that orders as regularly as we might need for lots of things, but bulk items and baking stuffs might well be doable. If not, we may have to look at starting our own.

Im so convinced by the concept of organic food, but Im also assured in my hatred of supermarkets. Selfishly I think this would be an excellent way for me to keep my tummy, pocket and conscience happy. But I also think there is something beautiful about people taking control of their food needs and know a little more about where their food comes from, and what a great community activity, getting together to box up your orders, or to split a massive bag of rice amongst five of you. wonderful!! I’ve contacted a couple of local people to see how we can get involved in this so will keep you posted…

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Thrifty Thursday: The Challenge

Previously mentioned gorgeously green friend Mel set a challenge this week to oust the oldest item in our wardrobe and talk a bit about why we still own and wear it.

I’m a little bit ashamed by this.

Last week I donated a ten year old denim jacket to charity shop (because every time I went near to putting it on, Matt would sing c’est la vie at me…)

SO this is the oldest item in my wardrobe

A spangly little number bought from Oasis for a Christmas party in 2006. I actually went into town the morning after a pretty horrible break-up, I bought this top, a set of straighteners, and a High School Musical DVD…all of them are still in use so I’m pretty proud of that!

I suspect that if it wasnt for the fact I bought it on that day, I would have binned it. I dont do well with keeping clothes for long. Its actually remarkably unflattering and makes my boobs look pretty pointy…which lets be honest, is never a good look!!

However, part of the problem is that I used to buy cheap, crappy, wear it twice clothes from almost-certainly-very-unethical places, trying to fit in with a trend and generally failing.

In the last couple of years I’ve tried to buy a whole lot less clothes and buy decent stuff that will last me a long time. I suspect that means I am slowly but surely turning into my Grandma, but thats ok :-). It is almost certainly much more Thrifty to buy stuff that will last…and I am also going to be following in the footsteps of other Thrifty Thursday girls and hitting up the charity shops a LOT more.

Lastly, proof that I still wear said spangly top…on honeymoon last year. Must have been early on as I am still the palest thing in the world (see what I mean about the pointy boob thing?!)

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Thrifty Thursdays : 5 uses for Coconut Oil

I dont like to be too much of a copycat, but my friend Mel (melwiggins.tumblr.com) and recent blog find and person i sort-of-know-through-other-people Lucy (lulastic.wordpress.com) do something on their blogs called Thrifty Thursdays, and I have found them to be super inspiring, challenging, and sometimes pretty funny…its amazing what we’ll try out to save a few pence.

However, in the name of trying to be eco-friendly, as well as being a student and needing to be bank account friendly, some of these thrifty tips have come in useful, and the whole idea of ‘make do and mend’ as well as making my own things appeals to me greatly!!

So, my very first Thrifty Thursday tip is…

I have only just discovered coconut oil…having seen it for sale in our lovely little farmfoods store, I finally bought some last week to make my own toothpaste (4 tbsps coconut oil, 4 tbsps bicarb, 10 drops peppermint oil). I mentioned it on twitter, and suddenly got a new follow notification from a wonderfully bonkers account devoted to promoting the wonder and usefulness of this creamy goo!

A jar of coconut oil is not going to be the cheapest thing on your shopping list, but boy is it handy. So far, these are the things I’ve either tried or had reccomended (not just by the bonkers twitter people)

1) Making toothpaste. This takes a bit of getting used to as it doesnt froth like normal toothpaste, but my chompers DO feel clean and my breath hasnt yet caused comment from Matt so I’m seeing it as a winnner

2) Hair conditioner/air freshener. My very cool and highly gorgeous friend Chloe whacks some of this stuff on her hair in an evening, sleeps with it on (you def need to put a towel over the pillow), then wakes up and washes it out to reveal beautiful shiny and strong tresses. Her hair is serious envy-fodder so as I write, I have a head covered in oil just waiting to be rinsed. Its not a great look while its oily, but it did make our bedroom smell gorgeous!!

3) Diet aid. There are a few people I know who swear by this. Basically, coconut oil is the good kind of fat (I dont know enough science to explain it properly) so eating a couple of spoonfuls of this oil a day can actually help you lose weight, and can cancel out your cravings for other stuff. Its also proven to lower cholesterol so sounds good to me.

4) cooking/spreading. It can basically be used as an alternative to butter, and with all the health benefits listed above, get it in your cakes/on your toast. Im not yet convinced it’d be a winner on a corn on the cob but apart from that, I’m willing to give it a try

5) Skin care. Its just a great moisturiser. I whacked a bit on my lips this week instead of skanky chemically lip balm. Its actually sposed to be really good for eczema, and totally safe for use on babies bums

Seems like miracle juice to me

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