Loaves and Laundry

imageI really needed a dry sunny day today, as I had so much laundry! However it was drizzly all day so instead I used DD3’s room as the drying room – luckily she is at university again and I have no student at the moment. I hung it everywhere I could and stuck the dehumidifier on for a bit to help it along.

I managed most off the cleaning, made two delicious banana and walnut loaves, got my hair cut and rang to try to sort the mortgage, or try to anyway. It is a work in progress!

imageMr Shoestring even persuaded me out for an early evening cycle ride to finish me off.

The banana loaf recipe is a Delia one and brilliant with over ripe bananas. You can find it here:

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/banana-and-walnut-loaf.html

 

 

Jobs for the Weekend

Still trying to ignore the sore neck today as I have a busy weekend ahead. I don’t think I can actually fit it all in, but here’s what I need to do :

1. Food shop at Aldi

2. Give the house a thorough clean

3. Catch up on the laundry

4. Make banana bread – got black bananas I don’t want to waste

5. Submit my online meter readings

6. Research a new mortgage deal

7. Plant some more seeds

8. Give in and go to the hairdressers as I am currently looking a bit like Worzel Gummidge

9. Go see some bluebells before they are finished

10. Drink wine 🙂

Well, I need some recreational time! Ok, none of it is very exciting, apart from the wine and bluebells, but I have to stay on top of things. What are your plans?

 

 

Like brands, but cheaper!

So we heard yesterday that Tesco’s profits are down 6%, this apparently due to the success of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I started using Aldi when it arrived in town about 3 years ago, and was amazed by how much money I saved – around £30 a week on average. It doesn’t sell absolutely everything I need, and I have to get cat food and one or two other items from Asda on my way home, but I find I actually plan my weekly menus around what Aldi are likely to have in stock. If they do the odd offer on something like dishwasher salt, which they don’t always sell, I will stock up on it.

I like the fact that the shops are small and there isn’t so much choice – I can get in and out with less stress than a Tesco mega store and without succumbing to buy their specials which are so tempting but bust the budget. However, my local Aldi is now so successful its car park isn’t big enough, so I go as soon as they open on a Saturday morning and I am in and out before a lot of people are out of bed.

I have found the quality of the food generally very good. You do have to check the freshness of the fruit and veg properly though. I buy a lot of plants for the garden as well!

I am a fan and it annoys me when I bump into people I know in there who feel the need to apologise and say they have just come in for the beer or chocolate and don’t usually shop there – I am not ashamed to shop in Aldi. I think it is brilliant. I tell them I am getting my whole week’s shop as well as my beer and chocolate 🙂

On the Up

imageI was just driving into work enjoying the sun and the fact there wasn’t much traffic because it is the school holidays here. Quite cheerful for a Tuesday morning, and better than I was feeling a few months ago.

My finances are usually pretty much on a knife edge, but they were getting worse. I lost child benefit, maintenance and tax credits when DD2 went off to university, then I found out I was getting a pay cut. I did have some moments when I was very low, but being generally positive I knew I had to find ways to bring in some extra income.

Now the plan appears to be coming together! Having two months of paying no council tax has helped – it is paid over 10 months and you get February and March ‘free’. My new yoga class is doing well now and I have had two language students. Tonight we have someone coming to check us out from an agency which places students on a longer term basis with host families. They stay up to a year and attend the local school. Having another teen in the house suits me better than getting an adult lodger, which was the original plan. I am hoping we will get someone from september.

So, times have been tough but things are definitely looking better. I will be able to make my mortgage payments and loosen the belt maybe one notch

🙂

Make do and mend

I am pretty rubbish at needlework. I would love to be able to run up a pair of curtains or make a cushion, but I don’t even own a working sewing machine and haven’t attempted to make anything for years. This will be something I might have a go at when I retire! However, I can mend an item of clothing and hem a skirt. This morning I found a small hole in a favourite cardigan so I mended that. It’s not exactly invisible, but it is good enough to make it wearable 🙂

image

So that’s one frugal thing before I even left for work! Let’s hope the rest of the week follows suit 🙂

Why am I frugal?

Beautiful Wales

Beautiful Wales

A friend at work discovered my blog by accident the other day. She is another frugalista because she is naturally that way inclined and also because she is saving towards her wedding. She wondered why I hadn’t told her about it and the truth is I don’t really advertise it. I have had too many people make assumptions in the past that being frugal means being a skinflint or ‘tight’.

It isn’t about that for me. If I had lots of money and could afford to be generous I certainly would be. My reality, like many of you reading this, is that I don’t have lots of money so I have to budget and be careful with what I have. It means sometimes having to say no – I don’t really need that night out, item of clothing, haircut, holiday and I can’t afford it. I need to attend to the essentials first and then see if there is any left over. However this does not mean that I don’t get new clothes. I buy lovely things that I like but they might come from eBay, a boot sale or a charity shop, or if I am really lucky they might be reduced in a sale.

It also doesn’t mean I can’t have nice days out, get a good bottle of wine or socialise with friends, I just cut costs by taking picnics, cooking and sharing food rather than going to fancy restaurants, and food shopping at the discount stores. I can have a holiday too, maybe not in a fancy hotel but in a cheap caravan in a beautiful location. Last summer we did just that in Wales and it was lovely.

I save money wherever I can and earn extra at every opportunity so that I can have a few little luxuries every now and again.

So, perhaps I shouldn’t be embarrassed and worried how others will judge me. I should be proud of my efforts 🙂

Sorting out the Finances

I need to get a bit focused and go through my finances with a fine toothed comb. I usually check every payment in my statement but have let this slip over the past two months, just keeping an eye on the balance. Now I have found that my dear daughter has over spent on her phone and I didn’t spot it. She was using too much internet instead of finding some free wi fi.

So tonight I will be going through everything to make sure there is nothing amiss!

I also need to find a new fuel supplier and try to get a fixed tariff. I don’t know if I have mentioned this but I have had awful problems with First Utility and found their levels of customer service absolutely appalling. They may be cheap but it has been so hard dealing with them I would rather pay more. For this I will take advice from the marvellous moneysavingexpert.com, which I can’t recommend enough. I am sure you have discovered this already, but if you haven’t then take a look.

And the big one: my three year fixed mortgage deal will expire this summer so, with the likelihood of interest rates going up here in the uk next year, I hope I can find another good deal.

So, if you have any recommendations I would love to know 🙂

Time Management Part 2

Yesterday’s post got me thinking. I rarely have enough time to do everything, so what can I do that I’m not doing already? I think I am good at managing my time, but am I?

What can I do to save time? Some of these things will involve an investment of my time to start with, but should save it in the end. The following is a lecture to myself. Feel free to join in!

1. Iron as few clothes as possible. I already do this – I shake out my laundry and hang it really straight, then fold it or hang it straight away. There are a few cotton items that crease quite a lot that I do iron, however.

2. Don’t spend too much time on the internet! It is very tempting, so I am trying to allow myself about an hour a day tops. Half an hour of that goes on my blog, which I usually do at work in my lunch break.

Save time3. Plant up perennials in the garden, preferably those that spread a bit. This will cut down on time spent weeding! This is a work in progress as I can’t afford to spend lots of money on plants, and I am still learning what is good to plant and grow from seed cheaply.

4. Do less laundry. I used to throw everything in the wash at the end of the day, even if it wasn’t really dirty. Now I check, sniff and put it away if it can do another day. I need to make my daughters do the same as sometimes they seem to change every half an hour and stick their barely worn clothes straight in the wash bin!

5. Batch cook – make double the chilli or bolognese, casserole or pie and freeze half for another day. I definitely need to do this more as I don’t like ready meals.

6. If you are going out for an errand, think about what else you can do whilst you are out. This has the added bonus of saving on fuel and cutting down on  journeys. I need to work on being more organised for this one.

7. Cook from scratch if you can, but cheat whenever you need to!! I am thinking here of Knorr’s marvellous Flavour Pots, which very quickly make a nice meal out of meat and some veg, but also Aldi’s stir fry sachets, the odd bolognese sauce jar, Chicken Tonight casserole sauce, etc. I don’t use many convenience foods as they are expensive and full of rubbish, but there are some notable exceptions that are definitely worth a try.

8. Lower your standards! You don’t have to clean the skirting boards every week, for goodness sake. As long as everything is basically clean, that is good enough.

9. Tidy up as you go along. It is so much quicker to do a brief clean if you don’t have a load of clutter to clear up first.

10. Get the family to help you. A woman’s work never is done if she has to do it all herself. I am the worst for this – I get so fed up with having to nag the troops into action I figure it is easier to just do it myself. BIG MISTAKE.

11. Don’t waste time procrastinating. If it needs doing, just get it done. I have to give myself a good talking to on this one 🙂

12. Plan all your meals and be ready with something suitable for those nights when you know you will have no time. Make a shopping list based on this plan, and buy everything you need in one trip a week to the supermarket.

13. Stick to your shopping list and don’t get waylaid by ‘bargains’. This saves you time AND money.

14. Research and grow plants that need little maintenance and watering.

15. If you need to go to the supermarket or the shops at the weekend, go early, beat the crowds and save time waiting at the till or to get into or out of the car park.

16. Create a folder of healthy, quick and tasty dinner recipes. As Shirley Conran used to say, ‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’!

17. Have a routine. If you know what you are doing when, you don’t waste time trying to work out what you need to do next 🙂

18. When you are watching TV, do something else as well. File your nails, pluck your eyebrows, mend an item of clothing, answer your emails, knit or crochet something.

That is all I have time for….I would really welcome your time saving tips!

Sunshiny Day

I didn’t think I would be topping up my Tenerife tan here in Essex this week, but I am sitting here in blazing sunshine in my lunch break.

imageIt is a beautiful day; all the blossom is out and the birds are singing. However, it is about too warm for the 1st April and it makes you wonder whether it is yet another strange weather event caused by climate change. I will enjoy it for today as it is all beyond my control at this moment in time.  Happily it also gives me the opportunity to catch up with my laundry!

We are expecting another language student this weekend – a young lady from Switzerland. So I need to give the house a good clean and plan some appropriate menus for next week. She will be with us for a fortnight and we are looking forward to it!