Five frugal things I have done this week, 8th December 2017

At this time of year, when most of us tend to be spending more than usual on Christmas presents, five frugal things feels like quite a feat! However, the potential for rampant consumerism means that it is  even more important to save money when you can.

1. Packing a great frugal lunch

five frugal things: pumpkin soupOne of my daughters is staying with us at the moment. As she has to commute to work each day she is keen to save her pennies. I always take a packed lunch to work, but get lazy and uninspired. Sometimes a sandwich is the easiest thing to throw together but not the most appealing. So we have been taking it in turns and so far she has made a delicious Greek salad, which lasted two days. I made some pumpkin soup. Today we have leftovers from a sweet potato curry. Delicious!

Because she is home I am making more effort and enjoying my lunch each day. If I was to buy a salad, some fruit and a drink out I think I would easily spend £6 or £7 each day.

2. Reflecting on my Christmas budget

I have almost finished my shopping – just a couple more gifts to find. I set a budget for presents and one for food. We don’t need decorations or a tree so there is no budget for those.

Of course, there is no point in making a budget if you don’t review it regularly and make sure you stick to it. So far we are coming in a bit under, which is good news. If I have money left over it will go straight into the savings pot for next year.

3. Cooking more vegetarian

Five frugal things: sweet potato curryI have been enjoying digging out my old vegetarian cook books, as well as finding new recipes to try online. BBC Good Food seems like a great resource. We all enjoyed the satay sweet potato curry I mentioned earlier. It was easy to make but I varied the ingredients slightly to make use of what we had in the cupboards. I added a sad looking carrot and a courgette that needed using up. Dried ginger did the job just as well as fresh. I find when I buy fresh half of it gets wasted as we don’t use enough of it.

I also rather like the look of paneer with broccoli and sesame, if I can find somewhere to get the paneer locally.

Veggie food definitely saves money, even with a few more unusual ingredients.

4. A visit to the food bank

Ok, not really one of my five frugal things, but I have to mention it! As I have written on several occasions, the UK Money Bloggers have all been taking part in a reverse advent campaign for the food banks. I ran this at work and, thanks to the generosity of my colleagues, we collected a whole carful. We visited the food bank yesterday to hand it over.

five frugal things: trip to the food bankThis was such a worthwhile exercise and we will do it again next year. I feel reassured to know that there are such great organisations around like the Trussel Trust to help look after people if they are unfortunate enough to hit hard times.

5. It’s the little things

It’s amazing how much toothpaste you can squeeze out of what appears to be an empty tube. Because I thought we had some I didn’t buy any this week and keep forgetting to pop in and get some on the way home from work.  Surprisingly we have had several days worth. I really do need to buy some now though!

five frugal things: 1001 ways to save money bookI got a great gift on the secret Santa at work, which lists a lot more than five frugal things – 1001 Ways to Save Money. They know me too well! I will read it carefully to see if there are some good frugal tips for next time.

If you need to save money at Christmas, have a look at my ideas here, here and here.

I’m linking up with Cass Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week linky. Hop on over for more money saving inspiration.

What five frugal things have you achieved this week?

Cheap and easy vegetarian

Ooh, should I call myself a ‘cheap and easy vegetarian’? Sounds dodgy!

Cheap and easy vegetarianNow that I have given up meat and gone back to being a veggie, I have been digging out some of my old vegetarian cookbook favourites. They are well thumbed as I never stopped using them. Even when I was eating meat we always had vegetarian food twice a week.

Going back to the greats

Many of my vegetarian cookbooks are practically vintage. The one that provoked the title of this post was Cheap and Easy by Rose Elliot. She was THE veggie food writer when I first gave up meat  in the late seventies. This one appeared in 1988.

I was having a browse through it last night with my vegan lodger. There are many very good recipes in there which, as the title of the book suggests, are cheap and easy vegetarian food and  quite a few vegan recipes as well.

Some old favourites

Some of the corners of the pages are turned over where years ago I marked dishes that looked particularly interesting. I am going to give some of these old recipes a try.

Glamorgan ‘sausages’, made with breadcrumbs, cheese, onions and lots of herbs appear promising and I remember eating lentils and mushrooms au gratin a lot (we called it lentil slop, but it was really delicious!). Vegetable rice with roasted nuts is a kind of veggie paella and easy nut burgers will be worth making in batches for the freezer.

Rose Elliot on the Internet

Finding this old book made me wonder what happened to Rose Elliot. I was delighted to discover that she is still going strong and has her own website.

She still sells lots of books but Cheap and Easy seems to be unavailable there, along with another  favourite, Not Just a Load of Old Lentils (which I have lost). However, she does have a promising looking collection in the Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian . If I am lucky enough to get vouchers for Christmas I am going to buy it!

In the meantime, I had a look on Amazon and found Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, so bought it for a mere £3 including postage. Bargain! If you fancy it, Cheap and Easy: Essential vegetarian collection is on there too from 1p plus postage.

I am really happy to have rediscovered this great writer. Her books will help me to be a cheap and easy vegetarian on a budget.

Does anyone else have recommendations for interesting vegetarian food writers?

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. If you link through and purchase an item it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission.

Save money on your heating bills: Some easy ways to keep warm this winter

save money on your heating billsThe current early cold snap in the UK has been rather a shock to the system! The heating has been on a lot at Shoestring Cottage. With the prospect of larger bills looming now that winter is upon us, how can you save money on your heating bills?

Dire consequences

I am not going to go radical and tell you to turn it off all together and wear a hair shirt. We tried the no heating/lots of layers approach and it had dire consequences. We ended up with damp walls and mould growing all over the house.

Unless you are on an extremely low income (in which case, see if you qualify for extra help here), you are better to set it to come on for a period morning and evening, and then top up as you need it.

I find even if the house gets really cold my modern boiler soon gets it warm. If you can work at keeping the heat in, you won’t need to have your heating running constantly.

Insulating to save money on your heating bills

It is so important to insulate your house as much as you possibly can to keep the heat in. You don’t want to heat the house just to feel it disappearing through the roof.

We have a thick layer of insulation on our roof space. We also had the wall cavities filled. We were fortunate that at the time we were with British Gas, who were running a scheme giving both to customers for free. Some energy providers are still offering this for nothing, so check with yours. Money Saving Expert has an interesting article on this – in some cases you can also get a new boiler for free.

Thermal curtain linings

Our windows are double glazed but it is very old glazing. Replacing all of the windows with state of the art triple glazing, or even just better double glazing, is not an option. We have found that using thermal linings on our already thick curtains makes a huge difference.

A door curtain can also help to keep the draughts at bay. We have three  sets in our chilly back room – 3 external doors in one room!!

Insulated wallpaper

We also did something in the back room that has made the most amazing difference. Insulated wallpaper. It really keeps the heat in. I wasn’t sure that what is basically lining paper with polystyrene stuck to it could do the job but it does.

It is a devil to cut and almost made me cry when I papered the small downstairs loo (you can see what we did here). So awkward! Well worth it though. It has another useful advantage if your plaster isn’t great as it covers up all the lumps and bumps.

I can’t recommend this stuff enough and I am sure it will help you to save money on your heating bills.

Foiled again

save money on your heating bills photo of a wood burnerRadiator foil is inexpensive and helps push the heat back into the house rather than out through your walls. We put this in the cold back room too and will use some more in the lounge when we redecorate in the new year.

We are hugely fortunate to also have a wood burner in place this winter. It is lovely! If it is just us at home we cosy up in front of that and don’t bother to heat the rest of the house. I think this will make a difference to our heating bills, although it was expensive to buy and fit.

So, Shoestring Cottage is pretty warm and cosy. We do still have our layers and slippers to hand. I refuse to have the heating blasting out whilst everyone is walking around in shorts and T-shirts! We also have blankets and throws on all of the sofas in case anyone is feeling chilly.

What are you doing to save money on your heating bills?