Category Archives: General and rants

Showing love on a budget ❤️ 

A friend told me proudly how her lovely son had taken her to London on Mother’s Day, with tea in a posh hotel, followed by some sightseeing and a meal in the evening. He is clearly a kind and generous son who loves his Mum, but it must have cost a fortune!

As I said in yesterday’s post, I had the loveliest Mother’s Day but I am sure it cost a fraction of the price of my friend’s day. It got me thinking. It is easy to have fun and show somebody that you love them without breaking the budget.  With a bit of planning and creativity you can help friends and family celebrate any event without them thinking you are a cheapskate!

Bake a cake: give a home made cake, cookies or sweets. This works for birthdays, anniversaries,  Christmas, house warmings – even weddings if you are an ace baker and offer to make the wedding cake as your present, as my friend did for me. 

Make your own gift: if you knit, sew, paint, make soap or candles or even if you grow stuff, many people appreciate a thoughtful home spun present. How about a hamper of home grown produce, a couple of pots of delicious home made jam or some potted plants grown from seeds or cuttings?

Keep a present box: It is also useful to buy gifts on offer and keep a present box so you always have a present to give. The January sales are great for this when retailers are keen to shift excess stock after Christmas.

If you are seriously skint, offer a service: gardening, babysitting, grass cutting, car cleaning. Design a voucher and put it in a card,then make sure you keep your promise! This works well if your child wants to offer a present for a relative.

Host a meal: have your loved one round for a special meal. Get out the best tablecloth and china, put flowers or candles on the table and don’t let them wash up!

Take a tour: have a look in the tourist information centre for the free attractions locally and take your loved one on a guided tour . Pack a flask and a posh picnic for a midday break: salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, hummus and crudités, etc, and perhaps even a bottle of fizz.

Have a date night: if the celebration is for your other half, cook a meal and add a massage and/or a film.

Spend your points: I love collecting Boots Advantage Card points to spend on gifts, but you can do the same with your Sainsbury’s Nectar Card or Tesco Club Card.

There are so many ways to show you care that don’t involve spending much money and won’t break the bank. For me, the thought really does count!

Such a perfect day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mummies out there! It was a gorgeous spring day here today and I was desperate to get out and do some tidying up and to plant some little shrubs we picked up in B&M last weekend. They are quite good for plants. They don’t have a huge range but what they do have is very reasonably priced. We decided on a hebe and an azalea. At £4 each they were a massive bargain.

Whilst we were out fighting with the weeds, cutting stuff back and mowing the lawn, my daughters were making a delicious roast beef lunch. We were so ready for this after a few hours in the garden. We had it with a £5 bottle of cava from Lidl and strawberries for pudding. They even cleaned it all up. Fantastic! What a lovely bunch of girls.


Mr S found a very pretty Portmerion tea set in the charity shop on Friday for £25. We looked on eBay and found the teapot alone going for £75! This lot has to be sold on as we could make a handy profit. I should start getting up early and perusing the bootsales soon to see what else I can find to sell on. This could be a useful bit of extra income. 

We went to visit Mum and dad yesterday. He is quite frail and tired still but this isn’t surprising as he has undergone a serious bit of surgery. It’s hard to keep him out of his garden on a sunny day but we need to for now. I will try to get round to help in the week.

What could be better than sunshine, fresh air, exercise, home cooked food and family? It was a perfect day to set me up for a busy week. Mother’s Day or not, I hope you had a super Sunday.

Red nose fundraising – and a bit of good news

We had a bad taste dress down at work today to raise funds for Comic Relief. It was hilarious; people turned up in some hideous outfits! We also donated raffle prizes and baked cakes. I bought some as I had no time to make any, but I didn’t eat any cake as I am still not eating sugar. 

We were pleasantly surprised yesterday when my dad was sent home from hospital. He had a good night last night but we are all keeping a close eye. I will pop round tomorrow with some groceries and to water his plants. I don’t want him straining his staples trying to do this.

So nice to see them back home together, even if they are the walking wounded!

Are any of you fundraising for Comic Relief?

Happy NOT to be in vogue

I am just having a little laugh idly reading an old copy of Vogue someone left in the break room at work. It is a ‘more dash than cash’ special issue. Hidden amongst the pages and pages of adverts for designer handbags, jewellery, clothes and makeup is an article on DIY couture, in which designers make dresses out of cling film, latex gloves (‘When layered up, the gloves look like silk’) or cotton wool balls. I must add this to my Fifty Ways to Save Money Now article 😀😀.

They also suggest ways to customise some clothes that look more likely to save money, as long as you don’t spend £125 on a denim jacket to perform this transformation on, as they did. There are other gems of frugal wisdom like the suggestion that spending £50 on a designer headband can save money on blow dries, how to update last season’s dress by spending £240 on earrings, shoes and a clutch bag, or buying a £27 bottle of foundation as it contains an anti aging serum so you won’t have to buy one separately. The most confounding piece of advice was that ‘lipsticks are the new it-bags, so ensure yours has a big, prominent designer logo’. Uh?

No wonder people are in trouble with money! This is why I always advise people who are trying to save cash or pay off debts to avoid glossy magazines. They are trying to sell you a lifestyle and, unless you are on the big bucks, it is simply not realistic or achievable. I would add ‘or desirable’ but this magazine is clearly not aimed at me, so what do I know? It is a different and totally alien world to me.

I can laugh as I am not taken in, but I worry for those who are. What about you? Are you a fan of glossy magazines?

Keeping up with the cost of living

I heard on the news today that the cost of living in the uk has risen by 2.3% in the past year. Food itself has gone up by 1%. This is ok if your salary keeps up with it, but I have had a paltry 1% increase this year. Heaven knows how larger families manage.

So, what can you do? How about a side hustle? There are some ideas for making extra money here.

You can save money on your grocery bill with a bit of careful planning and savvy shopping.

Then we have your energy bills. Some ideas that I have tried can be found here. You can also haggle down the cost of your utilities.

Running a car can be a huge expense but it is possible to be frugal here too. This is how I save money on motoring.

Do you spend too much on clothes? You can slash costs if you embrace the idea of buying second hand. I am a happy second-hand Rose.

Days out also don’t have to cost the earth. My tips are here.

This is just a quick compilation of ideas. I hope they help! And don’t forget to check out my frugal recipes.

Back tomorrow hopefully if I have time between work and hospital visits!

The Waiting Game

Yesterday was the longest day! We were initially told dad would be going to theatre at 10. My sister went to sit with him until then and was advised to come back at three, which she duly did. He didn’t appear and the nurses seemed unable or unwilling to find anything out so she waited and waited. At 5.30 the hospital called mum at home at my dad’s request to say he was fine and in recovery, so she waited again thinking he would be back any moment. My other sister joined her after work and they waited and waited….we were all on tenterhooks wondering what on earth was going on, when he finally arrived back at his bed at 8 pm!

It seems he hadn’t had his op until the afternoon in the end,  although why no one could tell the family this is beyond me. We wouldn’t have known anything at all if dad hadn’t made the nurse ring mum. Let’s hope their medical skills are better than their communication skills anyway. 

I did an hour’s yoga and drank a large G&T as my own form of recovery. It is stressful this hospital lark and I wasn’t even there!

We are off to see him after work today so hope to see him rallying. Have a good day. 

A gem on our doorstep

I often think that people love to spend a fortune jetting all over the world yet don’t take the time to explore what there is on their doorstep. We often get out and about in the local area and I think I know it well. However, this morning I found something wonderful to see five miles down the road!

We went for a walk in the village of Copford, not far from Colchester. We wandered down to the lovely old church and discovered some very old painted frescos on the walls inside. They are fabulous! It is a lovely church with a wooden frame and some gorgeous stained glass. The roof and walls were restored in the nineties. What a great find.

Outside there was a sea of daffodils, absolutely stunning. It was a very windy day but sunny and we had walk past Copford Hall and into the woods. I recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

We came home and went straight outside again to do a bit of pruning and tidying and to dig the second veggie patch. I worked up quite a sweat. Gardening is such good exercise and cheaper than the gym!

Keeping busy is stopping me worrying about my dad. My brother and sister took him to hospital today and they waited hours whilst they tried to find a bed for him. This makes me cross – it’s not as if they weren’t expecting him. He finally got a bed when they opened up a day centre as an extra ward. Here he is having his dinner. He won’t be able to eat after this as the op is tomorrow afternoon. 

I think the NHS is wonderful but gravely under funded at the moment. Let’s hope they do a good job and we get him home safe and sound. 

Back soon – have a great week.

Feeling grateful

I went to see my parents again today, partly to check on my mum and partly to see my dad before he goes in for his op tomorrow. My mum is doing really well with her new hip. Tough as old boots, that one. Her younger sister is staying with them to help out whilst my dad is in hospital. We could have done without both their operations coming within 10 days of each other, but what can you do? All the family is pulling together to support them, which is exactly what families should do. I am so grateful to have such lovely relatives!

My parents have always been so supportive so all of us so now it is pay back time 😀. 

I made a quick mushroom quiche and took it round for lunch, with new potatoes and salad. I don’t know why I don’t make pastry more often. It’s easy peasy really. We had some lovely strawberries from Lidl for dessert. I would have bought some of their gorgeous pastries to take but I am still off the sugar.

I have been catching up with myself all afternoon but now is time to curl up with Mr S and a glass of G&T. We are wild on a Saturday night! Whatever you are doing, have a good one!

What’s your best money saving idea?

I belong to a few Facebook groups whose focus is frugality and the question that comes up time and again when people join is ‘How can I save money? Where do I start?’ It seems many people are still struggling to get from pay day to pay day and looking for money saving advice and inspiration.

My first piece of advice is to have a long, hard look at your outgoings. Go through your bank statements and see what you can cut. Have you an insurance policy on an item you no longer own? Are you paying too much for your utilities? Shop around. Can you save money on your mobile phone or your tv and internet package? You need to check if there is a penalty for early cancellation but sometimes it is worth paying, or you could stay with the same provider but downgrade your package. Do you have a gym membership you barely use?

Make a budget and stick to it. I use Budget Brain from Money Saving Expert. Check your bank balance regularly so you know how much is in the account and when you need to rein in your spending.  

It is interesting to see how much cash can drip out of your account in the form of small purchases on lunch, coffees, newspapers, etc. £10 withdrawals here and there can soon add up to hundreds of pounds. You can save a lot of money by anticipating these small expenses in advance and organising yourself. For example, take your own coffee, teabags and milk to work rather than buying it. Take your own packed lunch. 

Avoid temptation. If you know you are prone to impulse purchases, window shopping is not the pastime for you!

Food shopping is often a great place to save money. You can save loads if you stop buying branded goods and use cheaper supermarket own brands, buy your fruit and veg at a local market, minimise convenience foods, plan your menus, make a shopping list before you hit the supermarket, eat less meat…I could go on. There are so many money saving ideas.

Look at your heating and hot water costs. There are plenty of ways to insulate your home cheaply, you could turn the thermostat down a notch, get the family to wear more layers of clothing, etc. More ideas here.

What about transport? Could you car share? Leave the car at home and walk or cycle?

Do you have a garden? If so, how about growing some of your own food. Digging is as good as a gym session 😀.

What are your top money saving tips for the newbie?

A Simple Supper

I have been visiting my mum in hospital after work and my daughters have been great at organising dinner. Last night darling daughter no 2 made a really tasty lentil and vegetable stew with crusty baguettes. She adapted it from a Nigel Slater recipe to suit what she could find in the fridge, as follows:

2 onions
2 tbsp veg oil
2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots
4 parsnips
2 sticks of celery
125g mushrooms
2 small sweet potatoes
150g red lentils
2 tbsp plain flour
750ml hot veg stock
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Large handful of spinach
tbsp wholegrain mustard

Chop all the vegetables and fry up in some oil until the parsnips are starting to turn golden. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock to the pan with the herbs and lentils and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the spinach, mustard and redcurrant jelly and stir then leave for a further ten minutes for the spinach to cook. This would be good with rice but we enjoyed it with some ready to bake crusty baguettes from Aldi.

I was able to take my mum home today. She has a lot of cramp in her new hip joint, but other than that she is doing well. My dad sorted her tea and I left her in bed as she didn’t get much sleep in hospital so needs to catch up. One down, one to go – my dad’s op is on Sunday.

It was a glorious day today with daffodils and primroses everywhere. I love spring! Until tomorrow, bye for now.