Monthly Archives: September 2014

Anyone for a mixed tape?

So, the new student arrived and seems a lovely girl. DD1 had to feed and entertain her last night as I was rushing off to my yoga class, but they seemed to get on like a house on fire. I had pre-prepared the veg so all my daughter had to do was cook some chicken to go with it. I had also made an apple crumble the day before, so dessert was sorted.

I tend to use Sunday as my prepare ahead day. When I chop the veg for the meal I tend to do extra for the following day to save time. I need to be prepared as my Mondays are always manic !

Dinner is usually something like a casserole in the slow cooker, so I can grab a bowlful before I shoot off to class. Last night it was cereal as I  got stuck in traffic so had to bolt it. Tonight will be a more leisurely affair, and I will have the chance to eat and chat with the student. I will make chilli and tacos with salad – this always seems to go down well with everybody.

We had a hilarious conversation over lunch as one of the girls has bought an old car with a cassette player in it so had therefore been scouring the charity shops to find cassettes to play on it. We were reminiscing about making mixed tapes and taping songs from the radio, and having to wait whilst you rewound he whole thing to the beginning. You have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate the whole cassette thing, which I am!

Anyone else remember cassettes?



Just gadding about!!

I have been a bit neglectful of my blog this week. I have been gallivanting!

On Thursday myself, Mr S and darling daughters 1 and 3 went to see the local youth drama society at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, performing Grease. It was brilliant – such fantastically talented young people –  we really enjoyed the show.

imageI blogged about this when I bought the tickets. I love going to see a good show, but it is just too expensive to contemplate going up to the West End as I used to. We managed to get 4 tickets for what we would have paid for one in London, and didn’t have to worry about the stress and expense of travelling there either.

imageI had the day off on Friday. I did some jobs and cleaning, then Mr S dragged me off to Walton for a walk along the pier and to blow away a few cobwebs. It turned out to be really warm. We went crazy and spent a few pounds on two take away teas and a chips to share, and sat on the front watching the sea and the (I think) rather majestic turbines of the off shore wind farm. This makes sense to me. I find them quite a lot less objectionable than the nuclear power stations you can see further  up or down the east coast.

As a yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga, I am required to attend some events each year that count as continuous professional development. The one that appealed to me the most happened to be in Norwich, a good two hours from me, and I did this yesterday. The darling daughters decided to come and needed to be dropped in the city, which was fine except that halfway there I realised I had forgotten the sat nav! I use mine very little, but they are useful things when you are driving on your own around an unfamiliar city. I managed to find my way to the yoga venue once I had dropped the girls off, but locating them afterwards in the rush hour was a challenge! It took an hour and I got very familiar with the one way systems…it was bit of a nightmare actually!

I feel a bit shattered today. We have a new student coming from Switzerland tonight, so there is a beef casserole in the slow cooker, her room is ready with clean sheets and towels, and the house is, for once, looking immaculate. I hope she likes us and we like her, as she will be our house mate for the next fortnight. I doubt I will have any more offered before Christmas though, so we need to make the most of the extra income whilst we have it.


Give me just a little more time

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, which meant I had a bit of extra time before I had to leave the house. What a difference an hour and a half makes!

imageI made a bolognese sauce for dinner, to serve with my bargain Approved Foods pasta which I have in large quantity. This was made with entirely home grown ingredients, apart from the beef. No room to raise cattle here! (Although it was yellow stickered and a bargain). I used home grown onions, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes and herbs. I love that!

I also chopped up and froze two big bags of courgettes to use in soups and stews over the winter, and picked the latest batch of tomatoes and runner beans. I need to freeze more of those as well as soon as I get the chance.

Then I sat in the doctor’s waiting room to write my blog. I am well ahead of the game! Still have the day job to catch up on though…

Becoming more self sufficient

My recent terrible experiences with a certain energy company, plus all of the political issues and unrest in those parts of the world that supply much of our oil, have made me think about how to become less reliant on thimagee energy companies for heating and lighting and become more self-sufficient.

We intend to install a woimageod burner in the sitting room. As well as being a lovely feature, they are great for drying off the laundry and reducing the need to put the heating on. People who have them have told me they seem to heat the whole house. I hope it will also help with the humidity so the dehumidifier can be switched on less. So, saving up for that!

We have already insulated the house as much as we can. As soon as we bought it we got a deal with British Gas to have the wall cavities filled and the loft properly insulated for free. Best kind of deal!! However, I could also get some reflective foil to go behind the radiators. The house is double glazed but the glazing is quite old. Replacing it is not an option, though – too expensive. I bought a lined curtain for the front door from Ebay a while back but haven’t got round to fitting it and buying a hinged door rail, so that is another job to do. Most of the curtains are lined. I would like to double line them all eventually but have no time at the moment, so that is a project for the future.

I am also looking at solar panels. Some companies fit them for free, or a very small charge. They get the feed in money from the Government for a few years, and after that period the household starts to benefit. There was only one company that had good feedback on, but unfortunately they don’t cover my area, so I am still searching. I would really appreciate it if anyone has had good experiences of this type of scheme that covers the East of England.

Other than that, I will continue to try to use power carefully, and encourage the family to do the same. I shower all the time rather than have a bath, I never use the tumble dryer, I use my slow cooker as much as possible, I boil only the water I need in the kettle, I put on several layers of clothing rather than put the heating on, I switch lights and appliances off if I’m not in the room, I don’t leave the TVs on standby, I try to cook more than one thing if I have the oven on…

Any ideas for energy saving ideas or self sufficiency?

Using up the leftovers and indulging in some curly veg

Watch out, they taste curly!

Watch out, they taste curly!

I have had a very productive weekend, although there are still a lot of things I would have liked to do. I did have a lie in this morning though – I made a point of it. What a luxury to chill out a bit on a Sunday morning!

I made some scrumptious banana bread. I always use the Delia Smith recipe here, but this time I substituted the orange and lemon peel for some toffee chips I bought a while ago to decorate a cake and it worked incredibly well – toffee and banana is a winning combination. I was also a lot easier than faffing around pulling peel off fruit and then wondering what to do with the fruit itself!

banana breadWhilst the oven was on I used the week’s bread ends to make bread pudding. Mr S took half for his Mum, and the rest will be used for lunches and puddings through the week.

For dinner I used Frugal Queen’s cheat’s meatballs recipe, which was very nice with home grown beans, carrots and chard. I made double for tomorrow’s dinner too. It was dead easy and certainly cheaper than a roast.

shedI sound as if I have done nothing but cook all day, but we did manage to get out and do a bit of tidying up in the garden, plus picking the veg for tea. I have no idea why the carrots turned out to be curly as we grew them in big pots so there were no stones. Still, they tasted nice! Mr S continues to make his sheds look fabulous, putting an old enamel sign he came across on the wall of one of them. I think he has plans for a woodburning stove and a veranda. He will be on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces next 🙂

To top it all, the new series of Downton Abbey started tonight. Brilliant as usual and an excellent way to finish the weekend. What did you all get up to?

Bring out the slow cooker

I haven’t used my slow cooker that much recently, although I really should. Even in summer you can cook a nice ratatouille in it.

imageI was very short of time the other day. I knew I would be late back from work, I really didn’t have time to prepare anything in advance and I had a whole chicken. I couldn’t roast it in the oven when I got home as we didn’t want to be eating at bedtime, and I didn’t have time before work to start jointing it and chopping veg to make a casserole. In the end I chucked it into the slow cooker whole with some white wine, chopped carrot and onion, and a bit of stock. DD3 did some mash and veg when she got back from school and it was marvellous, melt in the mouth and flavoursome.

The remaining chicken made a delicious curry last night, warmed through with a jar of sauce from Approved Food and served with brown rice. This is what  need when you work full time: quick, cheap and healthy!

Do you use your slow cooker? What do you use it for?

More small steps to frugality

Phew! This week is flying by! I feel as if I am running just to keep up with myself. It is easy to feel that I haven’t achieved anything sometimes, although I know that I have.


This is what happens when I go to get the washing in!!

This is what happens when I go to get the washing in!!.

I have a ton of laundry to sort – I have managed to keep on top of the washing and drying but not the sorting and ironing. Thankfully the weather has been mild and I can dry it outside.

I have just about managed to get in the garden a couple of evenings after work to pick the veg. It gets dark so early now and I have been trying to locate runner beans in the dusk a few times. I froze some beans one evening, but there are huge bags of tomatoes and courgettes that need processing in some way and freezing. I hope to do that this weekend, although I am teaching an extra yoga class on Saturday. I’m not saying no to any way to earn a few extra pounds at the moment!

So what have my frugal achievements been this week?

I bought a beautiful velvet skirt for £4 in a charity shop
I haven’t done a proper food shop for a fortnight – been living out of the larder and from the garden
All laundry has been line dried
I have picked and frozen some runner beans
I have picked lots of courgettes and tomatoes too for processing at the weekend
I worked overtime on Sunday for double time
I am covering an extra yoga class on Saturday

If only I could afford to work part time. I could do everything I need to with an extra day a week at home and could be lots more frugal. Mind you if I went part time I would need to be!

Just another manic Sunday

imageimageimageI spent the day doing a bit of overtime yesterday, earning extra money for Christmas. I was working on a stand at the Essex Country Show in Barleylands. I love doing these events. I get paid double time for one thing, but it is fun to meet lots of people and get out in the fresh air. I also got to have a look around for free!

As you would expect, I didn’t buy anything. I took my own flask and picnic, and tried lots of delicious tidbits of food in the interesting but very expensive food hall.

It was exhausting though and I collapsed on the sofa when I got home!

I still don’t gave my car back from the garage and I am not looking forward to the bill . Never mind, I can’t do without it, so will bite the bullet, and take every opportunity to earn more money!

One step forward, two steps back

Feeling a bit down today. I had been feeling great as First Utility had agreed to a huge rebate for all of the grief and stress they have given me over the past 6 months and it would be going in this week. Then the car developed a funny squeak. The garage said it was brake cable and back brakes and repaired it in Wednesday for £300. Never mind, I thought, I will still have enough for my Christmas fund and to pay off some bills. Then today it felt terrible to drive and was dragging me to the right as I drove to work. I dropped it straight at the garage thinking it must be a tracking issue. I have just heard it is too dangerous to drive and will cost me a further £380! I can’t believe it 🙁

At least I have the money. If it hadn’t been for the first Utility credit I would be stuffed.

I had to update this post to show you the damage. The mechanic wasn’t exaggerating when he said it was too dangerous to drive. The front of the car could have collapsed at any time! I am thankful that it didn’t and we are all safe!


So, back to small frugal steps…

The family always moan about crispy towels in my house. I actually quite like a crispy towel for a brisk rub down after my shower, but I think I am alone on that one!! A while ago I gave in and started to buy Aldi’s fabric softener. It didn’t seem to achieve much and the towels stayed crispy. I decided to try white vinegar as a softener instead to see what they thought. I have to say, it has left the towels a lot softer and there is not a hint of eau de vinegar about them! Vinegar is a wonderful thing. I use it for a lot of my cleaning  too. I bought about 6 bottles ages ago for about 60p each in Asda. I couldn’t find them the other day, so I need to find another source and stick up as I am nearly out. Cheaper than the big brand fabric softeners and more effective than a cheap one, that’s for sure.

imageStill loads of veg coming through. The tomato crop has been fabulous! Still loads of runner beans and chard too, with a steady supply of courgettes.

So we won’t starve even if my plans for the First Utility money have been scuppered! C’est la vie.

Cheap nights out?

It’s difficult to have a marvellous social life when you have no money.  I can’t afford lots of trips to the pub, theatre or cinema, and meals in fancy restaurants are a no-no. I certainly can’t afford to spend lots of money on ‘going out’ clothes that sit in my wardrobe unworn most of the time. So, how to counter this? I don’t feel the need to go out often; most of the time I am tired after work anyway and happy to have cheap days out and walks at the weekend. Sometimes, though, it feels as if there is a whole world of fun and entertainment passing me by.

I go through phases of inviting people round and doing a frugal dinner party. These are fun, although you can only be so cheap when you are doing this. A better option is a pot luck supper, getting everyone to bring a contribution. This is great if you know some like minded and impoverished souls but doesn’t work so well when your friends are mostly middle class high flyers, as mine are.

Tesco vouchers are very good for converting to cinema tickets and we have done this. However, I only use Tesco for my phone so it takes a while to build up the points! We have also had some good deals from – I really like Pizza Express and offers frequently pop up. Toby restaurants are really good value too if you like a roast (£6.99 per person): Our local theatre has a brilliant youth theatre group. They are doing a production of Grease this month. Tickets cost £14.50 for a pretty decent seat. Ok, it’s not the West End, but it is up the road, excellent entertainment and there are no West End prices or train fares to London involved. If you are Essex or Suffolk based, check it out:

I’m not a massive drinker; if we go to the pub it is usually just for one drink. It is likely to cost the week’s shopping budget if I stay in a pub all evening!! I would prefer a night in with a cheap bottle of wine and Downton Abbey, to be honest.

What do you do for a cheap evening out? All suggestions from you clever frugal folk gratefully received…