Category Archives: Health and Beauty

Releasing the purse strings

After two no spend months, I finally released the purse strings a tad and bought some cushion covers. We are planning a budget lounge makeover over the coming months. I am going to buy a few small bits each month to spread the cost. We will replace some of the wallpaper, paint everything and get new curtains, throws cushions and a rug. We won’t spend more than a couple of hundred pounds. I’m going for an ethnic, Indian feel. You don’t need to shell out a fortune to brighten up your home.

Mr S has fitted the new wood burner, built a hearth and added a shelf. We now need to employ someone to line the chimney – this is the expensive bit! It may have to wait a bit. In the meantime I will continue to spend as little as possible!

I finally got around to buying some sharper hairdressing scissors at the weekend. I say ‘buy’ but they cost me nothing as I got them with my Boots points. Got to love Boots! The points on the loyalty card are really worth having and cutting my own hair continues to save me money. I will get a professional cut next time I think but won’t bother with the blow dry to save a bit of cash.

Tired this week. Thank heavens it’s almost the weekend. Until tomorrow 😀.

Veggie food and a sad lack of exercise

I finally got around to publishing my new page (you will find it at the top of the blog), My Frugal Bookshelf. I will be adding to it as and when I review a book so it will be regularly updated. 

I almost missed doing a blog post altogether yesterday. Usually I write it last thing at night to be published the next morning, but time ran away with me and I didn’t manage to do that. Still, I did publish one eventually, at about 9pm! I have kept up that new year’s resolution anyway. My resolution to get more exercise is failing miserably so I must make a bit more effort. I am hoping that the weather will improve soon and I will get some more energy!

I did a nice gentle yoga session last night at least. If you are interested I have a sequence that is great for an achy back here.

My daughter sent me the link to a lovely collection of cheap and healthy vegetarian dinners. They are from around the web and many of them look delicious – quite kind to your wallet as well. We all agreed we would try the Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes first, a vegan delight from the Minimalist Baker.  I also like the look of the veggie loaded breakfast casserole, although I would be more likely to eat it for lunch than breakfast! Check out the recipes here.

I am still sugar free and have found it very easy so far, apart from yesterday when I had cravings all day. I eventually ate a sweet (but sugar free) dried fruit bar from Aldi that I found in my locker! Thank heavens I keep a larder at work!

I am sweet enough

My lovely daughter decided to experiment with a sugar free cake for me yesterday, and made a chocolate sponge. She used half gluten free and half ordinary flour (just to use the gluten free stuff up) and it works surprisingly well. Otherwise the ingredients were the sort most of us would have in the cupboard. It does contain a little honey as she didn’t realise that I wasn’t eating it, but no refined sweeteners. I don’t want her to think I don’t appreciate her kind efforts, so I am eating it anyway. It is really quite nice – I think I may try some more sugar free cake recipes, perhaps using some mashed banana or stewed apples to add sweetness.

She is her mother’s daughter. She found a recipe online and adapted it to what we had in the cupboards. This is it:

Half cup of cocoa powder
Quarter cup of gluten free self-raising flour (can use ordinary flour)
Quarter cup of plain ordinary flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Half tsp cinnamon
6 eggs
Half a cup of honey
Half a cup of olive oil
Half a cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones and whisk well. Pour into a 9 inch greased and lined cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. Test at 50 minutes as you don’t want it to be dry. If you aren’t avoiding sugar you could ice it, but we have eaten it with a little Lactofree cream and chopped banana and it’s very nice.

I was hoping to lose a few pounds, but I have discovered another unexpected benefit of cutting out refined sugar. I am a lot less bloated! Without going into unnecessary detail, I suffer from IBS and know that it is mostly caused by what I am eating. Over the years I have identified dairy products (not hard cheese, which is fine), soya, onions, beans, leeks, cauliflower and cabbage as trigger foods. Luckily Lactofree milk, yogurts and soft cheese are now available  (more expensive than the usual stuff but taste just the same), I use celery where a recipe calls for onions and the other stuff is easy enough to avoid.  However, it never occurred to me that sweet things caused an issue. I am not saying I would give them up altogether, but perhaps only eat small amounts at any one time or on any single day.

I managed to sell 6 items on eBay this week, mainly clothes that my daughter was getting rid of. Not huge amounts of money, but every little helps! I have spent very little on anything since I was waiting on a new bank card, but since I buy practically nothing these days anyway it didn’t cause me any stress! I did need to pop to Lidl for some groceries for the week but other than that I haven’t spent anything at all. 

I checked my bank balance this morning and my statement looks very uncomplicated. There isn’t much on there that isn’t a direct debit or standing order against a particular bill. I need to do a spring clean and have a long, hard look to see if there is anything I could get rid of. I would like to wave goodbye to the TV package I have with Virgin but I have a year on the contract. I am determined to buy a Freeview box when the contract expires and just stick with the channels on there plus Netflix.

I am working on a books page for the blog now, to be titled My Frugal Bookshelf. There are so many inspiring books out there and it is good to share. If you have any you can recommend, let me know and I will try to get hold of a copy to review.

Have a happy Sunday!

Giving up the drug…

The drug in this case being sugar! It being Shrove Tuesday, we had our pancakes with lashings of lemon, sugar and Nutella last night. 

But today is the day – I’m going sugar free for a month. I am a bit nervous as I think I am going to find it really hard! I rely too much on a mid afternoon  biscuit or a bar of chocolate when I need a boost. 

I popped to the supermarket and bought some savoury bits and bobs to take to work: poppyseed crackers, breadsticks, cheesy oatcakes, hummus and soft cheese. I am terrible for snacks so  I need to be prepared. Hopefully I will lose a bit of weight but not if I snack too hard on the savoury stuff. I will have fruit and vegetable sticks too. Honestly. Talk about first world problems!

Some swine has been at my bank account. They got hold of my bank details somehow and went on a spree at Boohoo. Fortunately the bank spotted that this is not normal for me and stopped the card quickly, but it’s annoying as I now have to go to the bank in person when I need cash. I got some cash out at the weekend just before my card was blocked but not enough. Let’s hope the new card arrives soon. In the meantime this will focus my attention and keep my spending to a minimum. I have had two no spend months, so will carry on as before!

I hope whoever cloned my card enjoys their new clothes. Hopefully everything will be just a little too tight or very itchy 😀. Have a good day!

It doesn’t take much to make me happy!

Really! It doesn’t. I was in the middle of a busy work day, craving chocolate but determined not to give in and spend 80p in the vending machine, when I suddenly remembered I had a Daim bar tucked away in my handbag. It had been in there for weeks. Like I said, it doesn’t take much 😀.

I don’t eat that much chocolate but could do with cutting down a bit. I am considering doing a sugar free March actually as I still haven’t lost the extra half a stone that makes my clothes a bit tight. It will be cheaper to lose it than buy new ones!

On the news yesterday they were reporting that we should all be aiming to eat TEN portions of fruit and veg every day, rather than the five we have been told to aim for. I am one of the few people I know who does manage five. I take three prices of fruit to snack on at work and have two lots of veg with my dinner. Sometimes I have more, but even I would be pushed to eat ten. Perhaps I will try this when I cut out the sugar. If I have a glass of juice and a banana on my porridge, take three pieces of fruit to work with vegetable soup or a salad for lunch that makes six, three portions of veg with dinner and more fruit for pudding I might make it but will never stop eating!

I think poorer families are likely to think eating ten portions a day is too expensive. I don’t think it needs to be. If you replace some meat  with cheaper pulses, eat more tinned and frozen and buy from the discount supermarkets or, even better, a real market stall it would be possible. Maybe we all need to go vegetarian? 

How about you? Are you seduced by chocolate or would you rather have an apple? Could you eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day?

Thanks for all the comments yesterday on my post about whether money can buy happiness, some really interesting ones I thought. 

Beauty products that last and last…

Last April I blogged about buying a solid deodorant bar from Lush. Ten months on, it is still going strong! I have occasionally used a roll on deodorant on hot, sticky days but other than that I have used the Lush one. Not bad for a £5.50 investment. I will definitely be purchasing another one of these when it eventually runs out.

It made me think about other health and beauty products that seem to last forever. One I tried and really wanted to get on with (but didn’t) was a Mooncup. I love the idea that these produce no waste and, after the initial investment, cost nothing. However, I didn’t find it comfortable to wear. I also tried washable sanitary pads and these lasted quite a long time, but were awkward when I was out and about so I eventually gave up on those.

I make my hairdryers last for years – in the past I have gone through them in under 12 months. Now I make sure I buy one with a two year guarantee and never use it on full power, as this is what makes them blow. My current one is four years old but I hope it will keep going for a while yet. I do blow dry my hair every couple of days so work it quite hard.

I have had the same plastic hairbrush for ever – easily 15 years I should think. I remember brushing my daughters’ hair with it when they were younger. It’s practically a family heirloom!

I make other things last too. I have been known to water down shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, I squeeze the last drop of toothpaste out of the tube by snipping the top off and the same with foundation. I found that putting a little baby oil on the mascara wand as it neared the end made it last ages longer. 

Do you have any products that are reusable or that just seem to last and last? Do you dilute products to extend their use?

Cutting my own hair

I am getting so into this no spending lark I couldn’t quite face booking myself in for a £30 cut and blow dry. I haven’t even been that happy with my last couple of haircuts. But my locks were looking a little lank and frizzy so I thought I might have a little snip myself. After all, I have witnessed many haircuts over the years. I have watched how my layers have been cut by pulling sections of hair up and cutting them straight across. I always cut my own fringe as hairdressers tend to take it too short.  How hard could it be?

I had a look at some of the many tutorials on You Tube and decided not very, especially if you have long hair and want to add a few layers. Mine isn’t that long so is perhaps a little more complicated. I decided to divide it into four sections with a fifth section at the top of my head where the shortest layers are. I pulled this section up towards the ceiling and cut an inch off. I took the side sections and pulled them horizontal and took an inch off those too, then pulled the back sections out and up on the diagonal and snipped those. 

I was cautious as it was the first time I had attempted to be my own hairdresser but it seems to have turned out OK so I will take a bit more off next time 😄. At least the dry ends are off!

Anyone else cut their own hair?

We got our new (to us) freebie sofa yesterday. It needs a throw but is really comfortable. I also got a call back from the British Heart Foundation to say they can collect my old one after all on Wednesday. Until then our sitting room looks a bit like a furniture shop but we will cope! 

How about you? Any good freebies? Have a good Sunday everyone.

Can’t afford a gym membership?

Me neither! I have joined gyms in the past but since I have been working full time I find it hard to find the time to make the best of my membership. 

Along with many people, the start of a new year has made me pledge to get fitter in 2017. I know from experience that I need to find forms of exercise that I can easily fit round the general busyness of life or I won’t keep it up consistently. It also needs to be free! I am on a no spend January and aiming for a low spend life generally to increase my savings.

I am a trained yoga teacher so no excuses not to practice yoga regularly (except for general laziness,  of course!). I love a good walk, as does Mr S, so we just need to get ourselves organised to get out for a nice long one every weekend. That’s the plan. Yoga most days, a good walk every weekend and a few little walks during my lunch break too. Ilona over at Life After Money is running her 1000 mile challenge again. I am not sure I can quite manage that far but I am keeping a tally to see how I get on. Four and a half miles and three yoga sessions so far this year! If you want to join Ilona see here.

An autumn walk


I was listening to the Simon Mayo Show on the radio on the way home from work which featured a fitness expert. She gave tips on using any small amounts of time you have to exercise, such as pulling your tummy in for a count of ten whilst waiting at the traffic lights or clenching your buttocks. I often do my pelvic floor exercises whilst stuck in traffic so will add these to the list! I also always take the stairs rather than the lift at work. 

What do you do to keep fit that is either free or costs very little?

Do diets work for you?

It’s that time of year again! We over indulge at Christmas, but it’s ok because we will go on a diet on January 1st….

I am rubbish at sticking to diets and find that following a strict regime tends to be expensive. I buy foods I would never usually buy and often can’t find what I need at Aldi or Lidl, my supermarkets of choice. I end up feeling hungry and hard done by and hit the chocolate from the machine at work during my mid afternoon slump. 

So no, I won’t be joining a slimming club or digging out my old Rosemary Conley books. But I would quite like to lose a few pounds so I will be avoiding lots of sugary and fatty foods and eating smaller portions. I will also be increasing the amount of walking and yoga I do. 

I will keep an eye on my weight by joining in the weekly weigh in at work and if I lose 1lb a week I will be happy. 

As I am keeping my food spend as low as possible and buying nothing that isn’t essential during my no spend January, I won’t allow myself to buy snacks from the machine at work. To keep me going I am taking in some rich tea biscuits and some sweet rice cakes for when I need some sugar!

I am not doing dry January, as many others are. I will aim for dry-ish January instead! I do like a glass of white wine at the weekend and as I won’t be spending any money on nights out I think this is ok. 

Anyone going for proper weight loss, or just being healthier and cutting back a little?

Chillax!

I had a really interesting and relaxing day of yoga on Sunday. I am obliged to attend two teacher training days a year to keep my teacher’s status and insurance up to date. They always seem like a lot of hassle to organise but I usually thoroughly enjoy them and wish I could fit in more! 

I am not teaching at the moment but I will be taking two special sessions of yoga for my work colleagues next week. I am looking forward to this. They know me as the Jane who sits at a desk and organises people. This will give me the chance to show them a completely different side of me – yoga Jane!

If you are interested in yoga, try to find a teacher who has been trained by the British Wheel of Yoga or with an affiliated organisation. The training is really thorough, lasting at least three years. There are some exercise instructors out there who do a couple of days training and call themselves yoga teachers! Avoid!

The Wheel also has a great offer on at the moment where you can join for free for a year. Even if you don’t join you can find a properly qualified teacher in your area be searching the website, but if you join you can attend special yoga events and get the excellent Spectrum yoga magazine quarterly, among other benefits. Check it out here. They aren’t shouting about this enough in my opinion and it is hidden away, but choose the option to join online and under subscription type tick the ‘TRY BWY – first year free’ box. This is for a limited period only.

You will feel so much better for some exercise and yoga is a great choice 😀.