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Frugal Friday 26th May 2017: How has your week been?

Frugal Friday is a good day to think about this week’s frugal accomplishments. I returned home from holiday on Tuesday to find quite a bit of food sitting around – darling daughter didn’t appear to have eaten much whilst we were away! I hate food waste. There was a lot of fruit hanging about so I thought I would tackle that first.

Frugal Friday achievement no 1: Banana loaf and fruit salad

We had a large bunch of black bananas that I couldn’t just dump. I considered putting them in the freezer to make something later, but I decided to bite the bullet and use them up straight away. I also had quite a few oranges and a bag of walnuts, so it had to be Delia Smith’s super frugal  banana and walnut loaf. The recipe asks for lemons as well as oranges, but since I had none I just doubled up on the oranges. You only use the peel in the recipe so I shredded that then cut up the fruit to make a fruit salad with some grapes and apples that needed using. I made two loaves, one to eat now and another for the freezer.

Frugal Friday achievement no 2: Excellent value on holiday

Fabulous pic of the Caves of Drach taken by Mr S!

Our holiday turned out to be excellent value for money so I can add that to my Frugal Friday list. Because we went fully inclusive we barely spent anything. We did have a delicious meal in a restaurant for Mr S’s 50th, however. It was a beautiful place overlooking the port on a gorgeous sunny evening. The food was excellent quality and well worth splashing out on. We also had a trip to the Caves of Drach in Porto Cristou. They were truly stunning and I highly recommend them if you ever visit Mallorca. Other than that, we had a very relaxing time, walking, swimming and sunbathing (oh, and eating and drinking far too much!).

The hotel very kindly delivered a bottle of fizz and two glasses to our room for Mr S’s birthday. We saved this for the following day and sat decadently drinking it on the beach!

We had to catch the coach to the airport at 7.30 am on Tuesday, so we shot into the restaurant first and grabbed some coffee and breakfast and also made up some cheese and ham rolls to have on the plane with some fruit. Well, we were fully inclusive and our frugal tendancies got the better of us!

Frugal Friday achievement no 3: A frugal shop

As I said yesterday, I restocked a few things in B&M, as they are excellent value for money. I nipped into Sainsbury’s too for some Lactofree milk and yogurts as they aren’t available in Aldi or Lidl. It would save me so much money if the discount supermarkets stocked Lactofree products. I plan a bigger shop once I have used up what we already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

Frugal Friday achievement no 4: excellent eBay sales

I was very pleased that I sold several items whilst I was on holiday. As my daughter was at home and works shifts, she was able to package them and take them to the post office for me. I have done the best ever in my 60 day total. I hope to list some more things at the weekend.  This is a really useful extra income stream for me.

So, this is my frugal Friday, and this is what the cat thinks of it all!

Bargain-hunting and a freebie

Darling daughter kept my plants alive!

Fresh back from my holiday, I need to be mindful of my spending. I have therefore gone straight into bargain-hunting mode.

I had to go and get a few essentials because lots of things had run low whilst we were away. First stop was B&M. I pop in there occasionally to stock up on cat litter as this is the cheapest place for the wooden pellet variety that I prefer.  £5.59 for a large 30 litre bag, which is so much cheaper than elsewhere.

I have a lot of birthdays coming up so I stocked up cards. These were mostly 99p each which is pretty much the most I will ever pay, since they end up in the recycling anyway! Home Bargains is even cheaper for cards but I thought I may as well get them whilst there.

More bargain-hunting in the toiletries aisle. I bought my hair dye as I always do my own. This one was only £3.49, which was a good price. I treated myself to a moisturising foot masque for 99p because my feet feel very dry after walking around barefoot on the beach. My daughter has tried it and said it is nice. The makeup was a revelation in B&M. More bargains! I bought a bronzer to keep my holiday tan going. Only £2.99! It seems very nice and I used it today.

What a beautiful day it was yesterday. It felt even hotter than Mallorca, although I suppose I was rushing around doing laundry and shopping rather than lying on the beach sipping a gin and tonic 😀😀. No more showing my all inclusive arm band and getting everything done for me!

I managed to get three loads of washing done and dried, doing my my usual trick of giving each item a big shake before hanging them on the line and folding them up as soon as they were dry to minimise the ironing. There is enough to do without a massive ironing pile.

Free Manufacturer’s vouchers

A nice little gift arrived recently: £10 in vouchers from Purina. I wrote and told them how much my cats were enjoying Felix and they were obviously delighted to receive the compliment. I was very pleased because I had heard that companies sometimes send you vouchers if you contact them but I had never tried it. It was worth the effort! I might write to a few more. Has anyone else done this?

This meant I got the cat food for free as 48 sachets of Felix were only 9.99. I wasn’t lying – my cats really do enjoy Felix!

So a good day for bargain-hunting! I will make this month’s money last 😀. As a plus, darling daughter had watered all the plants and the garden is looking green and lush. Mr S will need to get the lawnmower out.

Save Time: 10 Ways to Achieve More in your Day

If only it were possible to actually make more time! The things we would all achieve! As a busy full time working mum, I frequently lament my lack of time and wish I had more. It’s true that my full time job uses up the best hours of my life, but still there are tricks I have found to make me feel I have a few more precious hours. If you can’t make extra, you can save time at least.

There are things that I like to do rather than need to do, such as yoga,  gardening, blogging and making extra money on the side such as going to boot sales and selling on eBay . If I want to do these things and have time to spend with my loved ones, I need to be organised and not waste any! These are my favourite tricks to save time:

1. Do the cleaning as you go along. 

I used to spend the whole of Saturday cleaning the house. Now I clean a room or two a night during the week, which gives me a whole extra day a week! I also get the family to help – I don’t make the mess by myself.

2.  Stop being house proud.

This relates to number 1. If you insist on perfection you will spend a lot of time trying to achieve it. This is unless, of course, you can afford a cleaner, in which case you can be as obsessively perfect as you like!

3. Train your family to be tidy. 

If they put their clothes away on hangers or in the wash bin, tidy up their games, toys and books when they are done, rinse out the shower, make their own beds and wash up their cups and plates as they go then you won’t have to.  We make a rod for our own backs when we let our families develop into messy monsters.

4. Batch cook. 

If you are making a casserole, chilli, tomato sauce, quiche, meatloaf, etc, why not double or triple the quantities and freeze? It is really very little extra effort to make a large batch rather than a small portion of  anything you can freeze.

5. Freeze your leftovers.

Not only does this reduce waste and save you money, freezing leftovers saves you time. You will have a frozen ready meal or two for when you need to eat and run.

6. Invest in a slow cooker.

Another money saver, as they cost very little to run, your slow cooker can also save you time. Throw some meat and veggies in before you leave the house in the morning and you will be rewarded with a delicious meal ready to hit your plate when you arrive home.  You can find some yummy recipes, but it’s not rocket science and I tend to chuck in whatever is available.

7. Set up direct debits for all your bills.

There is enough paperwork to do without having to sit on the phone or go to the Post Office to pay your regular bills. This is also good for your budget as it ensures the essential bills are paid on time.

8. Give up ironing

This was an easy win for me as I HATE ironing! When you hang your clothes out to dry give them a really good shake. Hang or fold them as soon as you get them off the line. If you use a dryer they will tend to come out pretty much crease free anyway. All but the pure cotton garments will be good to go; I still iron these but deliberately buy few garments that are likely to get very creased. Don’t buy linen if you don’t want to waste time ironing it. Back to the perfectionist issue: underwear, towels and sheets do not need ironing!!

9.  Plan your week’s meals in advance then do the shopping in one trip.

Repeated visits to the supermarket take lots of time and are likely to cost you more on impulse buys.  Alternatively do your shopping online and get it delivered.

10. Use your lunch hour to keep fit.

A brisk walk or run at lunch means less time (and money) spent in the gym or exercise class. Freshen up with some baby wipes if you manage to work up a sweat. Alternatively, could you get up half an hour earlier and do a quick workout to set you up for the day? This is my preferred way to keep my fitness regime on track and save time.  I go to work relaxed and full of energy as well, which is a bonus.

There are many ways you can save time. I hope you find my suggestions helpful!

Five Fabulously Frugal Things I have Done this Week: 19th May 2017

As mentioned, we are on holiday in Mallorca this week and having a lovely time on this beautiful, sunny little gem of an island. Going on holiday isn’t a fabulously frugal thing to do in itself, of course. We could have stayed at home and had a staycation, but this blog isn’t about never spending any money, it’s about having the best life you can with what you’ve got. We love a holiday and it’s Mr S’s big 5-0, so we put money aside to allow us to come away.

However, just because we are spending money it doesn’t mean we are wasting it. The first fabulously frugal thing we have done is to make the most of the all-inclusive facilities here. So far we have had all of our meals at the hotel, taken advantage of the free bottles of water to carry out with us and made full use of the free bar (hic!).

Today we are off to visit the Caves of Drach in Puerto Cristo. To save money we have found out about public buses to get to there rather than paying for an excursion. This will cost us 14 Euros each for the bus and entrance instead of 30 Euros each. 

I have saved money using Boots three for two offers on sunscreen and fake tan, as explained here.

We were fabulously frugal on the plane here, Packing up sandwiches, fruit and snacks rather than purchasing expensive airport food. We found cheap bottles of water in the duty free section to keep us hydrated, which meant we only bought one cup of tea each during the flight. 

We will take some fruit and water from the restaurant on our trip today plus Aldi’s version of Nakd bars – raw fruit bars – to give us energy whilst we are out and about.

We have bought spending money with us, of course, but so far we have barely touched it and will be taking a lot of it home with us I think!

I’m linking up with Cass,  Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.  Check out their frugal achievements this week!

Yoga for fitness: getting fit and healthy for less

Yoga for fitness

I am as guilty as the next office bound worker of letting things go from time to time with my fitness programme. By the time I have done the nine to five, fought my way home through the traffic , cooked the tea and cleared up there is little time or energy left for fitness.

However, I am stuck in an office at my PC for much of the day. I know how important it is to work at your fitness. Sedentary jobs zap your mental energy. They can also leave you with aching neck and back, tight shoulders and poor posture. You can feel physically exhausted without doing anything remotely physical.

I am a fully qualified yoga teacher. There are no good excuses for not exercising when you have studied how the human body works and understand the benefits of keeping active! It doesn’t matter how shattered I am, half an hour on my yoga mat will revive and re-energise me, both physically and mentally. I know how great yoga makes you feel and yoga for fitness is a good choice for many people.

Fitness is important at any age, but as you hit middle age it really is a case of use it or lose it. As you age, it is harder to get back to full fitness once you have let it go.

The benefits of yoga for fitness

Yoga is a great activity for any age and fitness level. It also has the hugely positive side effects of relaxation and stress relief. Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can reduce blood pressure,  ease anxiety and depression and improve your balance (leading to fewer falls in old age).

It has benefits too for those struggling with conditions like ME, fibromyalgia, cancer, MS and arthritis. If you look at the British Wheel of Yoga website you will find specialist classes alongside general ones all around the UK, as well as interesting articles on yoga. It is also a great exercise during pregnancy.

But this article was headed ‘getting fit and healthy for less’, so how to learn about yoga with no money?

The great thing about yoga is that you really only need a non slip mat once you have learned some basic principles and postures (I prefer the sticky sort). Depending on where you live, classes tend to be cheaper than, say, pilates. If you belong to a gym already you might get a few yoga classes thrown in. Before you do them, check to see if the teacher is properly qualified through the BWY or one of its accredited partner organisations. If your gym doesn’t offer yoga, ask them why not? They might start them if there is demand. You might as well get value for money! Yoga is a great exercise to do alongside running or the gym.

Yoga books for frugal fitness

However, if money is really tight, start with some books. Your local library will usually have a decent selection. Once you know what you like they are worth buying as you will come back to your favourites again and again. Here are my recommendations on great books for yoga for fitness.

The Easy Yoga Workbook by Tara Fraser

This is a nice book for a beginner as it’s not intimidating and you don’t need to be a contortionist! It is well explained with good illustrations.

Yoga for You, by Tara Fraser

Again, lots of nice, clear images to follow alongside the explanations, plus a bit more background on yoga.

Yoga for the stiffer body, by Craddock and Bunyard

Does exactly what it says on the cover – great for those who think they aren’t flexible enough to take up yoga. One for your Kindle at a great price.

Yoga over Fifty, by Mary Stewart 

I bought this when I was about 40, so ignore the title! It is a book for anyone with an interest in yoga. It is insiring to see older people in advanced positions but some are quite advanced. I like the sequences in this one so come back to it time and again.

Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit, by Donna Farhi
A really comprehensive book for the keen yogi, with very well explained postures and great emphasis on correct alignment. This is an interesting read! I find this very inspirational to dip into when I am planning a yoga class.

Yoga: the spirit and practice of moving into stillness, by Erich Schiffmann

Another very full and comprehensive read, with instruction on yoga alongside meditation. For the serious student of yoga.

I could go on – I love reading books on yoga and have a whole shelf full of them. There are so many great books out there to start you off on your frugal fitness journey.

To get you started, I have a nice easy yoga sequence here.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon UK. If you choose to purchase anything through one of my links I will earn a small commission. Many thanks!

Frugal holiday essentials – sun protection and fake tan 

We managed to move room yesterday and now have one away from the noisy entertainment bar with a sea view. It definitely pays to ask if you’re not happy about something. 

My favourite sun protection cream

There are lots of very sunburnt people here. I don’t understand this. It’s so dangerous and bad for your skin. Too much and you soon look like a piece of old leather! Not attractive! You can get good sun protection very cheaply. I really like this one from Boots as it isn’t greasy or highly perfumed. I am using SP 15 but probably need 20. I am putting lots on frequently.  It cost  £4, plus you get the Boots points, of course! 

I drink a lot of water and wear a hat as well. I am quite fair and I don’t want to get sunstroke. 

Faking it

And if you really want a tan, you can always fake it! That’s what I do 😀😀. I have found this one pretty good, Soltan instant gel – Boots again. I use a mitt to apply it and get Mr S to do my back. He doesn’t need to worry about getting burnt and already has a tan. I think he looks like a handsome Simon Cowell lookalike! Boots sun products are three for two at the moment so I got my mitt for free.

We are sitting at the port of Cala D’or having coffee and looking at the yachts. It’s very pretty here. We also had a walk up the coastal path yesterday which gave us absolutely stunning views of the sea. 

All in all, it is perfectly chilled. It’s nice not to be rushing around and I am surprisingly good at doing sod all 😀.

Off for another wander. Have a good day.

All-inclusive in Spain: the pros and cons of the package holiday

So this is what we work all year for! A holiday in the sun. We are having an all-inclusive week in Cala D’or in Mallorca. We fancied some sunshine and that is exactly what we are getting! The views are also stunning here, with clear blue sea and bright blue skies. Gorgeous. Check out the face in the rocks in the pic below!

As with anything we buy, we searched for a good deal before booking. We found the best price on Teletext Holidays. I didn’t know they still existed! Incredibly, when we looked, the all-inclusive was a cheaper price than half board. How can that be? It seems holiday pricing structures move in mysterious ways.  

We flew with Ryanair. The flight was absolutely fine with no problems or delays. However, I found the online check-in process frustrating and misleading. They wouldn’t let you check in more than seven days in advance unless you paid, and you couldn’t reserve seats until you had checked in, which they also charged for. I wanted to make sure we sat together so we had to pay more – around £50! I think this could have been reduced or avoided but, as I said, it was bewildering. We also had to pay a 15 Euro local tax when we arrived, which we weren’t expecting. We had a cup of tea on the plane but  brought some fruit and baguettes with us to save a bit of money on food whilst travelling.

I have never been on an all-inclusive holiday before. I usually like to self cater to keep my budget low. I wasn’t sure how the food would be, but so far it’s pretty good. Lots of salads, fruit and veg, free wine or beer, and you can have as much or as little as you fancy. However, this hotel is busy and so is the dining room, so not the place for a quiet meal. 

As well as your meals, you can have drinks and snacks throughout the day as part of the all-inclusive deal. We will be putting on weight!

The room is good, clean and basic, but there is no kettle! We couldn’t find a cup of tea anywhere when we arrived yesterday – something of a crisis for us tea swilling Brits 😀. We did have a very strong coffee at the hotel beach cafe in the afternoon but there was no tea there or in the restaurant. Apparently we had to find the sports bar, but we were too tired. Having been up to catch our flight at 3.45 am it had been a long day. 

Which brings us to our next problem: our room overlooks another bar, where there was loud entertainment until midnight. This will be ok when we are out in the evenings, but not when we want to relax in our room. I guess they intend you to chill in the sports bar with your evening cuppa! We are going to ask them to move us today. But it seems quite full so I’m not sure if it will be possible.

So, off to breakfast. If I don’t find tea, there will be trouble!

Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

It is a gorgeous day.  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days. We always grow our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.



I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

A birthday celebration

Such a busy day today! We are going away for Mr S’s birthday on Tuesday, so thought we would have a few friends and family round for dinner today. He said he didn’t want a fuss, but you’re not 50 every day so I had to give him a little  bit of a treat 😀. 

I have been cooking all day – an Indian themed dinner, as it is easy to feed a crowd with curries and rice. I have made a chicken curry, lentil dahl, saag aloo and a chick pea curry, with some naans, poppadums and dips. I have three vegetarians and a coeliac amongst the guests and Indian food is frequently vegetarian and gluten free anyway, so it seemed a good choice.

A friend at work made a birthday cake, a splendid lemon and lime extravaganza with piped meringue and buttercream. I hope it tastes as good as it looks. I have also made a gluten free chocolate cake using the Betty Crocker mix I found in Aldi the other day. It looks nice so I shall be interested to see how it tastes. 

I have made enough to feed a small army so I hope they are hungry.  I will let you know how it goes!

How to get your five a day on a budget 

We eat very cheaply here at Shoestring Cottage. However, not at the expense of our health, so we always eat our five a day. In fact, we eat a lot more than five portions of fruit and vegetables. I have around eight most days because I eat a lot of fruit. This has become easier since I gave up sugar. (Well, I have had the odd lapse but I have eaten very little, but that’s a post for another day!).

Check out your local market

It isn’t difficult to eat your five a day cheaply. There are so many ways to get some extra fruit and veg into your diet without breaking the bank. In the past when I was saving money I purchased from the greengrocer’s stall at the local market. If you have a good market and the time to get there this is still brilliant value. Now that I work so much I have little time to go into town, so I tend to get my fruit and veg from the discount supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. Their specials are excellent. I also look out for yellow sticker reductions if I can get to a store later in the day. I always freeze these or use them up straight away. 

Canned, dried and frozen count towards your five a day. This includes canned tomatoes, sweet corn and pulses. We always have these in the larder. Canned veg such as peas, mushrooms and carrots are really inexpensive and quite good in casseroles.

Pulses can replace some of the more expensive meat in dishes like bolognese – who will notice a few lentils thickening the sauce? Or you can leave the meat out all together and have a mix of beans in a chilli sauce over your rice. How about a can of chick peas in with your chicken curry?

Canned fruit can be more expensive, but fruit cocktail and peaches are reasonable and make a nice dessert with a bit of custard. If they come in syrup I tend to wash this off -too much sugar!

Dried fruits are also worth considering in small quantities . A little pack of raisins in your lunchbox can be nice if you fancy something sweet and I have them on my porridge instead of sugar.

Another small treat I enjoy that count as one of my five a day is an Aldi Foodie Market Raw fruit bar. They consist of cold pressed squished fruit and are around 90 calories a bar. I love the black currant and cherry flavours particularly. They cost £1.49 for a box of five. Much cheaper than a chocolate bar and so much healthier!