Aiming for frugal health and fitness

I have felt my fitness levels falling over the past few years. With a busy life and a desk bound job it is sometimes hard to find the motivation and energy for a lot of exercise. I do practise yoga but I could do with exercising a lot more.

A new leaf

So today I have turned over a new leaf and am resolved to get fit again! I don’t want to spend money on a gym membership at the moment so it will be DIY exercise and frugal health and fitness at Shoestring Cottage.

Running is no good for me (got dodgy knees) so I have decided to do workouts at home. I started with this one in Women’s Health. The press ups nearly killed me so I clearly have some work to do. I also used the weights I bought in Aldi in the new year to tone my arms.

Some yoga stretches topped it off and I felt great after. I am going to repeat this workout three or four times a week.

I went for a 20 minute brisk walk at lunchtime and will repeat this three times a week as well.

Healthy eating

In addition I am cutting the carbs and eating really healthily. Today I ate porridge with fruit for breakfast, an egg salad with vegetable soup for lunch and fish with a vegetable stir fry for dinner. I am eating whatever I like as long as it is healthy so have also snacked on nuts, yogurt and fruit. None of these foods are very expensive and easily fit into my frugal health and fitness regime.

I have found some inspiration on Instagram from @healthybyfifty (pictured). She is a 47 year old super fit wonder woman. The workouts she does would finish me off I think! Still, if she can do what she does I am sure I can go a long way to improving my fitness. Perhaps I will aim to do this in a slightly less dramatic way. One of the things I like about her is that she exercises in her back yard with minimal equipment, rather than a fancy gym. She wasn’t overweight to begin with, but you can see the cellulite has melted away and her muscle definition has improved hugely. I will probably never be so determined  to be super fit as she is, but I will keep an eye on her anyway when I need some motivation.

What do you do to stay fit and healthy? Can you get fit without spending a fortune and what are your tips for frugal health and fitness?

Right on the money: Sensible advice to save you cash

right on the moneyI have been watching an excellent TV programme In the mornings recently called Right on the Money. It is usually on during the day when I am at work but seems to be repeated the following day at 6.30am on BBC2. I watch it whilst I am getting ready for work!

I have just discovered this but found it features really sensible advice and information for those who are looking for ways to save money.  Sometimes I find such programmes are rather patronising and aimed at people so clueless there is nothing to learn if you are already pretty careful with your finances. Right on the Money is different and interesting, with really original content.

So far this week I have discovered the following:

Property guardianship

You can save huge amounts of money on rent if you become a property guardian. This involves paying a reduced rent to live in a disused building in return for some maintenance duties. The downside is that you only get one month’s notice of your landlord wants the property back. Not a solution for families but nevertheless such a great idea!

Nocturnal shopping

There is something known as the ‘vampire economy’. There are a whole host of nocturnal Internet shoppers who relax by spending their time and cash on the sofa or in bed buying stuff. I know a lot of people shop for leisure in town or at the mall at the weekend but hadn’t appreciated this happened online so much. I tend to buy things because I need them, not for fun. I don’t have enough spare cash for that to be a hobby!

Beware contactless spending

It is very easy to spend a lot of money using contactless payments. A coffee, here, a magazine there, a music download…they can soon add up. Contactless is easy and convenient, but because it doesn’t feel as if you are spending real money it can be hard to track.

Young entrepreneurs

There are many kids out there earning excellent money running their own businesses. There is 15 year old Harvey, who started a business designing and selling tax disc reminders. He invested his profits in land to create a campsite but ended up selling it for millions to a developer! Fourteen year old Angel sells animal fashion accessories that she makes herself and owns two shops. Then there is 13 year old Henry, who writes books and designs a range of children’s products based on those. Amazing and totally inspiring! They did make me feel a bit of a failure though. Ho hum.

Right on the Money!

It really is a great programme and worth watching on catch up of you can. Even us seasoned money savers can learn something. If you can’t watch Right on the Money, check out the website for loads of hints and tips on saving your dosh!

Good news and bad: SHOMO Awards and bye bye lodger

We are back in Essex after our wonderful week in Wales. I was really pleased to hear that our hosts, Tom and Liza, had received some emails from readers of this blog expressing an interest in staying there. It is the most peaceful place ever! If you are interested in an eco friendly break in a beautiful location (at a very good price), more information is available here. We hope to return next year.

We packed a lot in, whilst leaving lots of time for reading books and resting. Highlights were walking the coastal path at Aberdovey, The RSPB South Stack reserve at Holyhead, a stopover in Bridgenorth and some fantastic charity shop bargain hunting. What a lovely week we had.

Bad news: the lodger is leaving

As well as many, many courgettes, cucumbers and runner beans, we came back to some sad news. Our lodger has a new job and will be relocating. She has been a great lodger and is now good friends with my daughters, so we shall really miss her.  As they all socialise I expect we will still see her from time to time.

This is not good news for the bank balance as we rely on the income. We hope to get a replacement in as soon as possible. I will be getting the advert back up on spareroom.com this week.

Great news: I am a SHOMO awards finalist!

Whilst I was away I learned that my blog has made the shortlist for the SHOMO Awards best frugal and thrift blog. I am really pleased! The SHOMO Awards celebrate and recognise the best UK money blogs. In my category I am up against such exalted company as Frugal Queen (my heroine), my friend Faith Archer with her beautiful Much More With Less blog, Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family (fab recipes and brilliant money saving ideas), Zoe at Ecothrifty, which I love – right up my street, and the amazing Emma Drew – originally of From Aldi to Harrods fame. I love her You Tube videos.

I can’t wait to meet all of them at the awards ceremony in London at the end of September. In the meantime, there is also a People’s Choice award, where you can vote for any of the 70 blogs nominated from 1st August.  I will remind you when this opens .

All of the categories and nominees can be found here.

Staying chilled

I need to keep my post holiday sense of relaxation going. No yoga on the grass in the Welsh countryside, but I will open the window wide and get my mat out in the lounge.

Still – I have a lot to do! I need to do a little shopping for the week, lots of laundry, list some of my charity shop bargains on eBay and perhaps do a little gardening. Luckily darling daughter has left the house clean and tidy so I don’t need to worry about that.

I hope you are having a relaxing Sunday. Back soon with some post holiday money saving ideas.

 

How to find the best boot sale bargains

I had a mixed experience looking for boot sale bargains yesterday. We went to two. The first was rubbish. Hardly any stalls and those that were there were mostly traders, selling old tools and out of date food.

Boot sale bargains

Boot sale bargains

 

We moved on quickly to the next, another small Saturday one. We often find boot sale bargains here and today was no exception. It is possible to buy really decent stuff at a Saturday or mid week boot sale, but Sundays or bank holidays are best. They tend to be much bigger, with more buyers and sellers.

I am trying my best to make a bit of extra money this month and my best chance is by selling on eBay. So I needed more stock. But how do you find the best boot sale bargains?

Find the real boot salers

I tend to look out for the real boot salers rather than the traders; those who have had a good clear out and just want rid. This is where you will find the best boot sale bargains! These tend to fall into two camps. The super keenies who arrive with the dealers at 6 am and those who turn up at 8 or after looking a bit confused and dishevelled.

You can tell the real boot salers straight away. They will be selling a true mix of goods rather than specialising in one thing, as the traders tend to.

Get there early

I do not join the greedy dealers who try to root through people’s bags as they are setting up. This is just rude! However, it pays to try to arrive early. You can get a good look at the early risers things and by the time you get through those the stragglers have set up too.

Identify the right kind of seller

Because my interest is mostly in ladies’ clothing I tend to watch out for younger female sellers. They often buy stuff they never wear and get bored with clothes quickly so I can get brand new or barely worn items from them. However, husband’s selling their wives things are good too. They can be clueless on price and often sell everything cheaply for the same amount, even if is is designer with the tags still on!

If I find a genuine person having a good clearout of their clothes it’s not unusual for me to spend a lot of time and money in one place.  Yesterday I spotted a lady with a stall full of great Marks and Spencer’s clothes, many still with tags. I bought 6 things for £20. The total value from the shop would have been £180 plus! I will get these listed and on eBay as soon as I can.

You will soon find the type of person to watch out for if you are interested in, say, children’s stuff or computer games.

Cheap household items

The traders stalls are worth a look for some items. You can find some well priced healthy plants, for example. Toiletries, cleaning products, bin liners, etc are also good value. Fruit and veg can also be worth a look, but with so much fresh produce in the garden now I didn’t bother.

Are you on the look out for boot sale bargains either for yourself or to resell at a profit? What are your best buys and your tips for finding them?

No spend week update – how was yours?

Broadstairs

On the beach at Broadstairs

No spend week hangover

We came to the end of our no spend week yesterday. I don’t find it difficult generally, especially when I am at work,  as there is little temptation. It really helps my bank balance. You don’t always spot the steady drip, drip of money out of your purse, even when you think you are being quite frugal!

Doing a no spend week or month tends to carry over. I find I get out of the habit of spending money. I do need to go and buy new smart sandals at some point. They fell apart over the weekend. I had to hold them on my foot with a hair band I found on the floor and hobble home! I have my walking sandals, which will do until I get round to it.

What the Dickens?

No spend week

Celebrating the end of no spend week!

We drove to Broadstairs on Friday night to pick up my parents and aunt. They had the most fabulous sunny week there and said they could have been abroad. We stayed in their rented house overnight and came back to Essex after lunch on Saturday.

It seems a rather nice town with a gorgeous sandy beach. They were fortunate in being there for the annual Dickens festival. They hadn’t planned this and were initially a bit confused that the local folk were wandering round in period dress!

We only had a few hours for a wander but it is a lovely bit of coast line with an interesting history (as well as the Dickens connection, it is known as Viking Bay). Broadstairs could be one to revisit I think.

Lunch ‘out’

My parents treated us to lunch to thank us for collecting them. I am obviously their frugal daughter though, as lunch out meant pie or fish and chips on a bench overlooking the sea! We retreated to the car when the weather broke and it started to rain. Typical English seaside experience.

Both my mum and dad had big operations earlier in the year, within two weeks of each other. My mum had a hip replacement and dad had a stent fitted on his aortic aneurism. It was all rather stressful and worrying at the time so it is nice to see them up and about now. Even though they don’t drive long distances as they used to, they don’t let anything get in the way of living their lives to the full.

Frugal soup

I rescued a chicken carcass with a ton of meat on it from my lodger in the week. She was going to bin it! I stripped off the chicken and froze it, then got another couple of carcasses I had saved from the freezer to make a big pot of stock. Today it will be transformed into a hearty chicken and vegetable soup. I hate waste! This will get another frugal week off to a good start.

I need to do a shopping list and meal plan for the week. I spent barely anything on food last week, less than £20. Now we have broad beans and courgettes ready in the garden so I won’t need to buy much veg.

Has anyone else been on a no spend week? How have you done?

Five reasons why you should teach your children to cook

Teach your children to cook and one day they will cook for you

Teach your children to cook!

Tonight my 19 year old daughter made me the most delicious dinner. I left her very vague instructions: do something with the pork and the apples in the fridge. She sautéed apple slices in a little butter then added the pork loin fillets and cooked them for 10 minutes. She popped in a heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard, about half a glass of white wine and salt and pepper. That was cooked up for a further 5 minutes or so. It was absolutely yummy! So the first reason you should teach your children to cook is that one day they will cook for you!

This got me thinking. There are so many reasons to teach your children to cook. If you cannot cook yourself, then I hope this post will inspire you to learn and then pass on the legacy. There is no good excuse not to. Great cooks share their skills all over the Internet these days. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube are awash with ideas and instructions.

Having fun and improving motor skills

My three daughters can all cook well. I started encouraging them to get involved from a very early age, getting them to chop up soft ingredients like fruit, veg and cheese with a knife (not a sharp one) from about three years old. They loved it! We baked and decorated cakes, made crumbles and biscuits, sandwiches, omelettes – anything and everything. They learned a lot about weighing ingredients, how to safely use a knife and other kitchen implements like a peeler, where ingredients were stored in the kitchen and, importantly, how to clear up!

Learning about nutrition

Another good reason for teaching your children to cook is that you can use it as an educational opportunity. As we went, I taught mine about nutrition. Which foods contained fibre, which were high in salt, sugar or fat and should be used sparingly, how items such as cheese and bread are made, and which foods contained lots of vitamins. I don’t mean I gave them a lecture; I mentioned this is passing. For example, ‘We are making our own oven chips as these are lower in fat that fried ones’. They may not all stick to it, but they know what a healthy plate of food looks like and how to have a well balanced diet.

Increasing independence

Two of my girls have already left home and the third is about to start university. I don’t have any worries about them living pale and undernourished on ready meals and takeaways. One of them frequently tags me in fabulous looking recipes she has found on Facebook and is about to try, one cooks for a couple of hours each Sunday for the week so she has a decent dinner when she gets back from work and the other…well, she is still at home and frequently cooks my tea! I have never forgotten dropping daughter number 2 at university and finding the freezer full of home made meals from one of her new room mates mothers. She clearly didn’t see the point of teaching her children to cook and was worried her son would starve to death!

Saving money

Home cooking is essential if you need to stick to a budget. Convenience foods and ready meals are so expensive. If you know how to pull together a quick casserole, pasta sauce and or roast dinner you are set for life. However, much or little money you want to spend on food, you will always be able to eat well. The more you cook, the more you can cook, so start your children early. As they grow, their skills and confidence will grow.  Look at recipes with them, write a shopping list and let them help you to do the food shop too, then they will understand how much the ingredients for their fabulous creations cost.

If you teach your children to cook, they will thank you for this amazing and useful life skill. It will help with their health, their bank balance and, very likely, their social lives!

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
Craig Claiborne

 

 

 

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for  a home made eco friendly cleaner such as this one.

home made eco friendly cleaning spray

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

A home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop. Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces.

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 39p and the oil and borax substitute came from Summer Naturals.

Does anyone have some tried and tested eco friendly cleaning spray recipes they would like to share?

It shouldn’t happen to a polling clerk 

Working as a polling clerk

Wow! What a fascinating election result! I am interested again.  I wonder what will happen next? But I won’t go on about politics in this blog. Might save that for Twitter 😀. Working as a polling clerk was an eye opener. I was stunned at how politically ignorant some people are. Several people looked at their ballot paper quizzically and asked why they couldn’t see Corbin, May or whoever. We had to explain that they were voting for their local MP and that if they won the seat it would be a plus score for the political party that they preferred.

Some seemed to think it was a local election, even though we only had one of those back in May.  One lady had a rant at us about everything that was wrong with the government and we had to explain that we weren’t political candidates, just clerical staff. She said ‘Well, you’re lucky I voted at all’ and flounced off, leaving is to ponder this great favour.

I was very pleased to see so many young people in, often voting for the first time. This election appears to have really caught their attention and increased their interest in politics.

I lost my voice….

I didn’t realise how much talking I would need to do. The polling station was very busy and I had to repeatedly explain the process as the voters came and went. My voice is shot to peices today! I am keeping my head down and being quiet at work today (for a change!). It was a long day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope we don’t have another snap election any time soon. It if we do I will be happy to volunteer!

Short and sweet today as I am dog tired. I have lots to do at the weekend too  – eBay listings, cleaning, sorting a meal plan and food shopping, plus a little gardening. Whoever wins a General Election, life goes on….

Watching the wheels of democracy in action  as a polling clerk

Tomorrow I am looking forward to being a polling clerk at my local polling station for the General Election. I have never done this before. I think it will be interesting and and I am quite excited!

As you know, I rarely refuse an opportunity to make some extra cash and this will go towards our week in Wales next month. It is a looooong day though: 6 am until 10 pm, so don’t expect a blog post! When I arrive I have to help set up the room and voting booths, get the signs out, then check voters in and give them a voting slip. Enough food is required to last me the day, so I popped into Asda last night as I pass it on the way back from work and bought a large salad, chicken drumsticks, some sausage rolls, juice and fruit. I also need to provide my own mug, milk and teabags. They do this stuff on the cheap!!

It’s another side hustle but, of course, this kind of opportunity doesn’t arise too often 😀.

Politically disengaged

I try to avoid being too political on this blog. Apart from working at the polls, I am finding the process quite depressing. I feel pretty disengaged for the first time ever and  have been avoiding the news and most of the debate. I have heard it all before! Truth be told, I’m not really happy with any of the potential candidates.

I will vote though. I think we have a duty. There are many places in the world where people don’t get a say. Democracy may not be perfect but it is the best option. So, if you can vote, make sure you do!

The power of self esteem

We went to see a friend’s daughter, who is not quite 14, sing at an open mic night in a pub the other night. As she stood alone on the stage looking entirely self composed, I envied her incredible confidence and self esteem.

As her lovely voice echoed around the room I thought about myself at 14. I was painfully shy at that age, throughout my teens and into my twenties. There is no way I  could have jumped on stage even if I could sing!  I had very little confidence and, looking back, I can see how limiting that was.

If you believe you can, you can!

What I have come to realise is that If you don’t believe that you can do something you won’t even try, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This might mean you don’t revise for exams – what’s the point if you ‘know’ you’re not clever enough to pass? That opportunity for promotion at work? There are loads of people who are better than you who will go for it. You have no chance. University? You will never be offered a place and you don’t think you will manage living alone.

How many super successful people lack self confidence? Do you think they don’t have knock backs and doubts? The difference between those who settle for an ok life and those who strive for more is routed in their self esteem. So, their big idea was rejected or didn’t work? They will put it to one side and try something else. They will keep going because they believe that they will get there.

Running a marathon

Self belief will get you started and then give you the motivation to keep going. Marathon runners have likely trained for the event but as they approach the end it is the encouragement of those around shouting them on plus the little voice inside their head that says ‘I can do this’ that will see them across the finish line.

When your internal dialogue is telling you that you can’t achieve something, try switching it to ‘I can’. My auto response was always to doubt myself . I was so terrified of failure that I could barely begin, let alone stay motivated to achieve what I wanted. When these negative thought pop up, I recognise them and replace the though

Overcoming self doubt

Age and experience have shown me that I can beat those feelings. When I thought about training to be a yoga teacher my over riding attitude was ‘I can’t stand up in front of a room full of strangers and teach’! By then I had enough experience to put those feelings to one side and give it a go. Fortunately, the teacher encouraged me to start a class as soon as I could and within six months I was teaching at the local adult education centre.

When I divorced my husband I was full of self doubt. How would I cope financially? Could I manage everything alone? I found that I could. This is where my frugal journey began in earnest and this little blog was born.

This all had a ripple like effect on other areas of my life. When I was younger I would never stand up in a meeting to speak. Now I do that regularly. I doubt I will ever find it easy but I know I can. I had to do a group interview for my current job. Many people find this kind of situation terrifying but I quite enjoyed it!

Learning self esteem

Although many of us aren’t gifted with natural self confidence from an early age that doesn’t mean we can’t learn it. We can overcome shyness and lack of self esteem. We can replace each negative thought that pops up to undermine us with a positive one. We can develop awareness of our negative and sel-limiting thought patterns and retrain our brains to think differently.

I may not have been able to stand in the spotlight at age 14, but I can do it now! I am a work in progress and still need to give myself a talking to on a regular basis, but I am getting there! How about you? Has a lack of self confidence stopped you achieving what you want?