Monthly Archives: February 2017

More with less

Ages and ages ago, I bought the More With Less cookbook by Doris Longacre. I read the introduction, loved the ethos of the book, but none of the recipes appealed to me much so I put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it. I thought it was time to revisit it!

It was commissioned by the Mennonite Central committee in America as a reaction to the extreme overconsumption of food and an obesity epidemic at a time when people in other parts of the globe were going hungry.

It preaches a more simple approach: eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and processed foods. It was first published in 1976 and my copy is the 25th anniversary edition. The current popularity of veganism might suggest some of the rest of the world is finally catching up with the health message, but the obesity epidemic is even worse and people still go hungry.

So, the message is still relevant, but what about the recipes?

There is nothing fancy in the presentation or the content. Many are vegetarian or use just small amounts of meat. Many of them will seem quite alien to the UK or European reader, but others are quite international. The measurements are in US cups – I invested in a set of these some time ago from Lakeland, and they have proved their worth. You will need them if you follow the recipes in this book.

It is a classic text and I am making a resolution to try some of the food in this book. It totally fits with my frugal approach to eating!

Has anybody else got this book? What do you think of it?

Twenty+ purchases that will actually save you money

I know I tend to encourage people towards frugality and NOT buying things, but I was looking around for some new hairdressing scissors and it got me thinking about other purchases I have made that have saved me money in the long run.

Because I save about £30 each time I don’t go to the hairdresser, this can be first on the list, although they are in no particular order:

Hairdressing scissors – and clippers for short hair. Mr S hasn’t let me cut his yet but he might, in which case I will invest in some clippers to go alongside the scissors.

Bread maker. You can buy cheap bread, but if you like it fresh and crusty it is cheaper to make it yourself. Plus you can make dough for pizza. Ok, lots of you will say you make bread without a bread maker but if you are super busy they save time as well as money.

A freezer. This offers so many moneysaving possibilities. You can batch cook or just save left overs to eat instead of ready meals, you can freeze bones for making stock, you can make big batches of soup to freeze for lunches, you can buy yellow sticker reduced items and store them, you can buy gluts of fruit and veg cheaply in season and preserve it. I could go on.

Tightwad Gazette. I know I have mentioned this book a lot of late but it is so inspiring! Available here: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

A slow cooker. These cost so little to run and are a good way to use cheaper cuts of meat to cook them very slowly until tender. You can make things like porridge and rice pudding in them too.

Heated airer. I got mine from Aldi but Lakeland do a better one I think. Tumble dryers are expensive to run and these are a good alternative. If you can’t afford a heated one then just an airer – try to site it near a radiator or wood burner.

Car-washing stuff. Buying a sponge and bucket and using a squirt of soap can save you £10-15 a time if you usually pay to wash your car.

A spade and some seeds. If you have room for a veg patch and can grow your own you can save loads of money (growing your own is another good reason for having a freezer).

A drill and basic toolbox. Learn a few DIY skills -these really can save thousands.

Some decent cookbooks. Frugal Food by Delia Smith, A Girl Called Jack and Save With Jamie are three of my go to books for budget recipes. If you can’t cook you will spend vast amounts on convenience food and takeaways.

Freeview box. Although you can beat the cost down, Virgin, Sky, etc are still expensive. You can pause, rewind and record with the newer boxes too. Combine this with Netflix and you probably have all you need.

A tent. Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Invest in a tent and some camping gear. There are some great value family breaks to be had under canvas and kids love camping.

Bicycle. Still a super cheap and reliable mode of transport.

Food processor. I use mine mainly to liquidise soups and bake cakes, both of which save money.

Pet insurance. Ok, you could do without and save money, but vets costs are astronomical. If your pet needs ongoing medical care you will wish you had insurance.

Low energy light bulbs. They last a long time and cost less to run.

Radiator foil, Thermal curtain linings, Polystyrene backed wallpaper. If you insulate and keep out the draughts you can turn the heating down.

Soup carrier/ lunchbox. A leakproof, airtight container is essential for moneysaving work or school lunches.

Reusable carrier bags. You only save 5p a time by not buying a bag at the till but every little helps and it’s good for the environment too.

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. If you buy these in quantity you can clean pretty much your whole house. You save money and don’t live in a smog of nasty chemicals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, more a starting point. As ever, of you do make any purchases, shop around to get the best quality for your money and buy secondhand where you can.

What would you add to the list?

A frugal day out

We had an impromptu day out yesterday to St Albans. Darling daughter 3 needed a lift to South Mimms services on the M25 to meet her friend so that they could drive together to Sheffield. They have gone to see an old school mate at university. 

Since we drove an hour to get there we thought we might as well make a day of it and head another 20 minutes into St Albans. It is a very interesting place, a Roman town like Colchester, where we live. 

It has a fabulous cathedral and a fantastic street market – absolutely huge! Honestly, it went on forever and sold practically everything. I wish we had a good market. Ours is better than it used to be, but is still pretty mediocre.

As I am still on a no spend month I didn’t buy anything and just browsed. I also avoided the charity shops – far too much temptation. We did pack some coffee and a picnic, but after walking round for a few hours we were starving and gave into some Pakistani street food – chicken tikka in a wrap. It was really filling and delicious so it did for dinner. 

We had a quick walk around Verulamium Park, but the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t see it at its best. I imagine it is rather lovely in the summer. 

The cathedral itself was stunning with some wonderful stained glass windows and ornate wooden and stone carvings everywhere. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

So, a pretty cheap day out. All it cost was the petrol, £4 to park, a donation to the cathedral and £6 each for dinner. I’m glad we went. I love moseying around new places. Anyone else got any interesting trips planned?

Frugal Friday 

Having fallen asleep in bed at 8.30 on Thursday night (almost unheard of) I actually had some energy after work yesterday. I picked up DD3 and we went to Lidl to get the week’s groceries as it isn’t usually crazy busy and it’s easy to park. We only spent £44 but will need to get some bits from elsewhere over the weekend. Hopefully I can keep to a £50 budget.

Dinner had to be as easy and uncomplicated as possible so I stuck some sweet potatoes into bake whilst we were out. We cooked up some omelettes and veggies when we got home for a speedy frugal supper. I am a fan of simple food!

Our lodger is proving to be extremely easy to live with. It is a Monday to Friday arrangement so we have the weekends to ourselves, but even during the week we don’t see much of her. She makes her dinner when she gets back from work and we have a little chat in the kitchen then she either goes out or disappears to her room for the evening. Last week she was only here Tuesday to Thursday – I feel guilty taking her rent!

I wish she was staying longer but at the moment she plans to go to Camp America in May and I will have to readvertise. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Does anyone else have a lodger? How are you finding it?

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. 

Can money buy happiness?

The Beatles said money can’t buy love, but can it buy you happiness?  We have all seen enough miserable celebrities with lots of the paper stuff who seem doomed to miserable, even tragic lives to know that having wealth is no guarantee you will be happy. Think Amy Winehouse, Howard Hughes or Princess Diana. 

The most contented rich folk seem to be those with a sense of purpose, who love what they do.  Maybe it just happens to make them money. I am thinking off the top of my head now: Richard Branson, J K Rowling, Paul Newman. All have (or have had in the case of Paul Newman, who died in 2008) wealth and success but also a social conscience.  They also all seem to have good family relationships. Paul Newman was married to wife Joanne for 50 years. All are considered philanthropists.

Equally there are many people of limited means who have wonderful happy and fulfilled lives, but I doubt the same can be said of someone living in grinding poverty, who is working for pennies on a tea farm in India and sleeping on the floor of a shack with no clean water or decent sanitation. 

We don’t need to be hugely wealthy to be happy but we do need to have our basics covered to stand a chance. Somewhere decent and warm to live, enough to eat, clean water, access to medicines. After that I would say we need something useful to do, people to love and love us back, the opportunity to have education and to learn. 

In this country and much of the western world most of us have all we need in material terms, so why do we seem so miserable? Is it because we want more? We are certainly prepared to get ourselves into debt to have a new car, fantastic foreign holidays, designer fashions and the biggest home we can manage. We can then appear to have the perfect life whilst losing sleep over the mortgage payments and credit card bills.

I would love to have more money. £10,000 would be enough to sort out a few things around the house and install a new kitchen. Another £10k would buy me the camper van I am dreaming of. It would be nice to have a pay rise to make things a bit easier every month. However, it doesn’t make me unhappy that I am where I am. I look at the people who live in slum areas in places like India and I am so grateful that I have a house, a job, enough to eat, NHS medical care at the end of the phone, a lovely partner and children who have been to good schools and are all employed. I don’t have much left at the end of each month but I don’t hanker for a bank account the size of J K Rowling’s. In fact,I would need to do the same as she did and give half of it away! She no doubt recognises that once you have enough plus a bit more on top to have fun with that is all you need – any more on top doesn’t bring you more happiness, it just means you have to spend more on accountants!

What’s your view? Can money buy you happiness?

Another frugal classic: the Penny Pincher’s Book

I discovered the Penny Pincher’s Book at about the same time as the Tightwad Gazette. I would say it is the UK equivalent. Like the Gazette, it was born from a newsletter, the Penny Pincher Paper.

John and Irma Mustoe are not preaching an austere and joyless existence. Rather they are saying that saving money gives you more choices and more control. ‘Spending money must be a skill at least as important as earning it’ – a great quote and one I agree with.

It is full of tips to save money, some to save pounds and others that will make a few pennies difference. Making do, mending, reusing and repurposing in creative ways form the basis of much of the advice. There are many suggestions for wringing every last drop of value out of all your purchases. Some may not be worth the effort (reuse the free envelopes in junk mailings by turning them inside out and carefully regluing it is one I wouldn’t bother with -I’d sooner stick a label on top of the address) but others are genius. For example, bicarbonate of soda can be sprinkled on a flannel and wiped under the arms as a deodorant. I know this works as my long lasting Lush one is basically bicarbonate of soda with some essential oils. Dilute shampoo by a third and it will last longer and lather better. Turn down your heating by one degree to save around 8% on your heating bill. Take care of what you have – ‘maintenance works’!

Just because you cannot do all of a job it doesn’t mean you can’t do any of it. This is Mr S’s philosophy for sure. He is currently fitting our new wood burner. He has removed the old fireplace and laid the hearth, fitted a mantle shelf and plans to clean the chimney. Once we have paid a professional to line the chimney he will fit the burner. 

It’s a great book that you can pick up and read a few pages of every now and again to get some inspiration, but you will easily read it through as it’s an interesting and absorbing read. I have the original book from 1995, which you can still pick up secondhand, but I notice that Amazon is selling an updated version, the Penny Pincher’s Book Revisited, published in 2007.

So, another classic on my frugal bookshelf. More to follow!

Making money and saving it too

I spent the whole evening listing clothes for eBay last night. Quite a boring task but hopefully my efforts will prove fruitful. I currently have 40 odd items for sale 😀.

Dinner was chicken wings marinated in a bottle of Nando’s sauce that appeared from nowhere – I think my darling daughter must have bought it and it was forgotten about in the back of the cupboard. In my opinion chicken wings are very under-rated. There may not be lots of meat on them but what’s there is very flavoursome. Great value too. We had them with a baked sweet potato and some salad for a thrifty dinner. The marinade was nice but it would obviously be cheaper to make it yourself.

It was a gorgeous day here in Essex yesterday. I wish I had known it would be then I would have got the laundry outside before I left for work. I love to see it hanging out there, and it’s so much better than having airers all over the house. Today doesn’t look promising so it is indoors. Roll on spring! 

I refuse to waste money buying and running a dryer. People  are forever asking me why I don’t get one. Firstly, there is no space in the kitchen, secondly even the AAA rated ones cost a lot to run and thirdly not having one is better for the environment. I managed to raise three kids without a dryer so I think I can carry on without one now they are grown up. I swear I am considered rather eccentric to take this stance! 

What about you? Are you a line dryer or do you rely on the tumble dryer?

Why are you always broke?

‘I don’t know, I hardly buy anything!’

Some people are broke because they genuinely have very little money coming in each month. Maybe they live on benefits or have to support a large family on the minimum wage. However, in my experience there are many people out there who claim they have no money and can’t save who have decent jobs and salaries.

I knew a woman who lived in a large house with two family cars and sent her children to private school. She told me she never had any money and they were struggling. The pleas of poverty did not ring true, even when she once had the debt collectors at her door. It doesn’t take a genius to see that her lifestyle was too extravagant for what would to many of have been a fantastic income! She was more concerned about keeping up appearances than she was about the state of her bank balance. 

So, before you say your money never lasts and you have no savings ask yourself these questions:

Could your accommodation be cheaper? This is likely to be your biggest monthly expense. If you have over extended yourself buying or renting it will hurt. Could you move to more modest accommodation or rent a room out?

Can you travel more cheaply? Cars are a huge expense. If you have more than one car consider whether at least one of you could take public transport instead. If there is only you, could you downgrade to a motor scooter or cycle?

Could you holiday more cheaply? I hesitate to say give up on holidays, although many people do enjoy the odd ‘staycation’. However, if you go skiiing every winter and to Disneyland each summer you will need a very full wallet.  Could you invest in a tent for some cheaper camping holidays instead? Some of our most enjoyable family vacations have been under canvas.

Do you smoke? I have little sympathy for people who literally burn money whilst putting their good health at risk. Nuff said!

Do you insist on buying everything new? From clothes to furniture, whatever you need you can almost certainly buy secondhand if you really want to save money. And reusing can help save the planet!

How much do you spend in pubs/restaurants/cinemas/theatres each month? If you are in the pub three times a week your bank balance will feel the strain. 

Do you enjoy a regular takeaway? How much would you save if you knocked this habit on the head and cooked from scratch instead? Even if you don’t waste money on takeouts, do you use a lot of convenience food?

Do you love a brand name? If you can wean yourself off designer clothing (or at least buy it secondhand) you will save yourself a packet. When you are in the supermarket, try some supermarket own brands – the big names make you pay for all of their advertising and fancy packaging. 

Do you have too many clothes? If you buy a new outfit every time you go out the answer will be yes. 

How much does it cost you to look that great? There are so many ways to waste money on hair care and beauty products and treatments, but if you are short of cash you probably don’t need to get hair extensions or your nails done every month and could knock the designer perfumes and makeup on the head in favour of some cheaper versions. 

How often do you use your expensive gym membership? If you don’t use it then cancel it ASAP! If you are a gym bunny and there every night then good for you, but could you get it cheaper elsewhere?

Do you have hundreds of TV channels you never watch? You could save a lot by switching to a cheaper package or cancelling it altogether and investing in a Freeview box.

They are obvious questions really but people are very good at sticking their heads in the sand. Don’t be an ostrich. If you live from pay cheque to pay cheque and have no savings but you walk around in designer gear then you only have yourself to blame! 

Save-it Saturday 

I took Mr S’s coin collection to use the Coinstar machine yesterday afternoon. Despite all the comments about how I could avoid the 10% service charge, it is still the most convenient way for me to cash it up as it’s hard to get to the bank during their opening hours. However, if I had realised that he had put so much silver in there I would have taken that out first! He had £10.40 in 20ps! 

I came away with over £34 to spend on the week’s grocery shop. I actually spent £45 in all in Asda, but the £13 that I cashed in from my own penny collection meant that our pennies paid for the lot 😀. We will keep throwing in our coppers and small value silver coins and use whatever we collect towards Christmas. 

I made a frugal favourite for dinner last night – my version of cottage pie. I like to fry the mince up with lots of veggies (in this case celery, mushrooms and carrots) and cover with a mix of mashed potato and swede, with some grated cheddar to give a yummy topping. Cheap and filling food that doesn’t take long to make.

I had to pop to the post office before it closed to post a couple of things I had sold on eBay so that was another £30 for the pot. My daughter had a mega clear out of her wardrobe as well. She has so many clothes crammed in her bedroom I don’t think she knows what she has. I went through to see what could be listed on eBay and what needed to go to the charity shop. She had one top that still had the label! She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to money much of the time but clothes are a weakness. She does buy a lot secondhand though thankfully 😀. I will try to get some listing done in the week. (Incidentally my post How to Make Money Selling on eBay has proved one of my most popular so I have given it a page to itself 😀).

It was a beautiful day yesterday  and pottering around listening to Joni Mitchell and getting myself organised put a smile on my face. I am hoping today will be equally lovely and warm so I can get outside. I hope you have a lovely Sunday!