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!

Five frugal things: 16th July 2017

five frugal thingsAs I was on holiday last week you may be surprised to learn that I have easily achieved five frugal things.  Our week in our lovely Welsh retreat was a bargain vacation after all!!

Frugal achievement no. 1: Eating in

It would be easy to eat out a lot on holiday. We rarely do, usually allowing ourselves just the one restaurant meal. We had a delicious one when we went to Anglesey and I was more than happy to pay for the lovely food and excellent service. The rest of the time we treated ourselves to yummy meals in, buying Welsh lamb a couple of times as it really is excellent quality. Not cheap, but much more so than eating out. We had new potatoes and home grown vegetables we had taken with us alongside whatever we bought.

Frugal achievement no 2: Picnics all the way

five frugal thingsEvery day we made ourselves a flask and some sandwiches to take out with us. A couple of times we found some yellow stickered reductions and took those out with us the day after. I know people get nervous about going over best before dates, but it was only a day and we kept everything cold in the fridge and the cool bag. I think if you use your common sense and the food looks and smells fresh, it is usually perfectly edible and delicious. One day we got our picnic for less than £1!

Frugal achievement no 3: Kitting myself out for work

I find it hard to pass a charity shop and we went into lots of them in Aberystwyth. Poor Mr S was running out of patience with my by the end of the holiday! However, as well as finding some bargains to resell on eBay, I found two skirts and a top for work. The grand total? £6. You can’t do much better than that for a bargain.

Frugal achievement no 4: Finding free trips out

We did pay for some days out whilst we were away, most notably the wonderful Plas Cadnant Gardens in Anglesey. However, we also found lots of free attractions. The Museum of Modern Art in Machynlleth was very interesting, when the sun shone we went to the beach and the RSPB South Stack nature reserve also cost us nothing. A walk along the beach or in the woods is always a joy and you get both for free.

Frugal achievement no 5: Using the library

One very wet day in Wales we went and sat in the library where we took advantage of the free wi-fi, magazines and newspapers on offer. I am all for using libraries wherever and whenever possible as the more people that do, the less likely the local authority is to close them. It was really interesting to see the range and number of people coming in to borrow books and use the computers.

Now we are home I need to think about some post holiday money saving so may need to find more than five frugal things each week! We may have had a frugal week compared to other people on their holidays, but Wales is a long way from us and the petrol cost a lot, we bought a few gifts for the girls and spent more on food than we normally would. So, this week, we will mostly be eating…..courgettes!

How about you? Have you managed five frugal things?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop over to their sites to see their five frugal things and the other bloggers taking part this week.

 

 

 

Five Frugal Things I have achieved this week, 30th June 2017

Thanks for all the comments on my last post about frugal holidays. I loved the idea of a monastic retreat, as suggested by Kirrie, and Julia’s information about university accommodation. I can see myself trying both of these.

Five frugal things

I guess it’s time for the weekly frugal round up – five frugal things. So what have my frugal achievements been?

No. 1: Getting creative with courgettes

Courgette season is well and truly upon us here at Shoestring Cottage. The veggie patch is looking very productive and healthy, even though we did scale it back this year.  So far we have eaten them fried in butter with garlic, as a ratatouille with tomatoes and peppers and spiced with some cumin. Tonight we had courgette surprise, the surprise being we had broad beans instead .

No. 2: Preserving our fruit

Another crop that is doing well is the currants: red and black. I am picking and freezing them for now and have 2lb so far. When I get to 6lb I will make a batch of currant jelly. I love this!

No 3: Eating from the larder

We ate from the larder all last week as part of my no spend week. As we still had stocks of food,  this continued over the weekend until Monday, when I finally went shopping. However, I still want to clear some foods that have been hanging around a bit. Darling daughter works at the Co-op, and frequently brings little yellow stickered treats home. She sticks them in the freezer and seems to forget about them! I have been working my way through lots of sandwich thins for lunch and little brioche buns for breakfast.

No. 4: Home made stock and soup

I made chicken stock using 3 carcasses from the freezer, then turned this into a hearty chicken and veg soup. This was prompted by my lodger, who roasted a chicken and was about to throw so much of it away because she couldn’t be bothered to pull all the little scraps of meat off. I could! It also gave me a reason to use up all the veg in the bottom of the fridge.

5.  Frugal exercise

I have been getting up half an hour earlier to make sure I have time for my morning yoga before work. This makes such a huge difference to how I feel and allows time for all the other things I have to do after work, like the garden! It costs me nothing to unroll my mat and do a few salute to the suns! Who needs an expensive gym membership?

Have you managed five frugal things this week? Maybe you have achieved even more! Please share.

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

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?

Need to save money? How about a no spend week?

no spend week

Beautiful Wrabness

Yesterday kicked off our latest no spend week. Earlier in the year we did a couple of no spend months. We only spent money on essentials such as food and petrol (plus the usual household bills, of course).

As well as being helpful for the bank balance, not buying anything is strangely liberating. Setting myself strict limits on what I can purchase takes away any temptations! There are no internal debates on whether I can afford something, I am just not buying it because I am on a no spend period. I get on with enjoying stuff that is free and using what I already have.

Why we need a no spend week

no spend week

Life’s a beach

As we have had a lot of expense this month,  a no spend week is a good idea and will take us up to pay day without going overdrawn or dipping into the reserves. 

The rules are the same as for no spend months.  We will only spend money on essentials.  Next week we shouldn’t need to spend anything at all, not even on food. We have plenty in the cupboards that needs to be used so it will be an eat from the larder week. We have milk, bread, cat food, tea bags and petrol, as well as plenty of food in the fridge and freezer.

A day out for free to kick off no spend week

no spend week

Mr S takes a dip

Yesterday we had a free day out in the sunshine, bar the cost of the petrol. We had to drop my daughter at a friend’s in Mistley for a barbecue, so we drove across to Wrabness after for a walk on the beach and a swim. The water was so calm, clear and warm, we could have been on the Mediterranean somewhere.  The beach huts at Wrabness are rather luxurious – more like chalets than beach huts really and it looks as if people are allowed to sleep in them. I bet they cost an absolute fortune! But we took some drinks and snacks and spent no money at all. Days out don’t need to cost an arm and a leg, especially when the weather is so hot. We are very lucky to have so many beautiful coastal areas within half an hour’s drive.

 

Is anyone else on a no spend week (or month)? Do you do regular no spend days? How do you motivate yourself and what do you do to stop yourself spending?

Five Frugal Things I have Done this Week 16th June

Five frugal thingsI haven’t spent too much this week, in preparation for next week. This will be strictly NO SPEND. I intend to buy nothing except essentials. I won’t even be doing a food shop, apart from cat food, loo roll and some vegetables. It has been an expensive month overall, so I need to do at least five frugal things every week!

Frugal thing no. 1

I popped into Sainsbury’s after 9 pm one evening to check out the yellow stickers. They didn’t have much that I wanted but I did buy some reduced mince and some bread. There is no point in purchasing yellow sticker items if you then waste them! Both have been frozen. I find that my freezer is essential when it comes to money saving, not just for freezing bargains, but also leftovers, batch cooked meals, poultry carcasses for making stock, left over bread for puddings and breadcrumbs, the fruit and vegetables that we grow in the garden and home-made soup.

Frugal thing no. 2

I have listed a ton of stuff on eBay and Facebook and sold 5 items this week. A nice gent came out to take the old cross trainer that has been sitting unused in the shed for 2 years. I let him have it for free so it didn’t generate any income, but it did save me the petrol and hassle of getting it to the tip! He was very happy with it. Generally, I am finding Facebook is more useful that the local Freecycle group at getting rid of stuff lately and easier to use. Selling on eBay is becoming a regular in my five frugal things round up!

Frugal thing no. 3

We have been carefully tending our veg patch and greenhouse. It has needed watering most days as it has been so hot and dry. The watering and weeding is paying off now. We have black and redcurrants just ripening and should have courgettes and broad beans ready for next week. That will bring the shopping bill down. I love eating our own produce!

Frugal thing no. 4

When I was a polling clerk the other week I carefully kept the cardboard backing and excess paper from each book of ballot papers. This caused some amusement and bemusement amongst my colleagues, but I explained that they would come in handy for writing notes and shopping lists. They really have. This week I used a couple of them to write my meal plan, the shopping list and a to-do list for darling daughter, who has been at home a lot. I hate throwing things away when they could be useful!

Frugal thing no. 5

We needed to find a good deal on the house insurance. I did some research on the internet to find a company that would be happy to insure us for buildings and contents even though we have a lodger. A surprising number won’t consider it although I got some very high quotes from a couple of companies who were happy to. However, the best deal was with Quote Me Happy. It was quick and easy as it was all done online instantly. They allow up to 6 lodgers. I am happy with just the one! it is always worth shopping around.

I am getting a bit of frugal inspiration for my no spend week by re-reading How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly (my affiliate link). I intend to add this to my Frugal Bookshelf next week. Such a great book! I borrowed it in paperback form when I originally read it years ago, but now Amazon have it on Kindle for only £2.08. Bargain!

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

Why you Should Make a Meal of Leftovers

LeftoversI was shattered when I got home from work yesterday, so I was happy to have a quick and easy dinner planned. Jacket potatoes with leftovers from the freezer; in this case some bolognese sauce and/or beef casserole. It may sound an odd combination but it was filling and tasty. A can of Smart Price sweetcorn ensured at least one of our five a day. With a little planning it is so easy to make a meal of leftovers.

How to make a meal of leftovers

I rarely throw food away. Even small amounts of mash or veg can be frozen to use to thicken soups and stews. Wrinkled apples make an excellent puree to mix with yogurt or serve with custard. Bread pudding is better made with stale bread (and I use the crusts). I also whizz up slightly stale bread into breadcrumbs and leave a bag in the freezer – you never know when you might need these. If yogurts are getting near their use by date I freeze them – when the kids were small I would put a lolly stick in the bottom of small fromage frais pots for a treat on a warm day. If I roast a chicken I usually deliberately get a larger one than I need and turn the excess into curry or make a creamy chicken pasta sauce. The carcass goes back into the freezer and when I have a couple I make stock.

Ignore best before dates

I ignore best before dates (and frequently buy from Approved Food, which sells food near or past its best before date at a hugely reduced price. In addition, I use my eyes and nose before chucking anything out that has a use by date. If you use my referral link I will earn a small commission.

I shop with a list and always have at least a week’s meal plans, so I don’t buy food that won’t be used. I do a regular stock take of my fridge, freezer and larder to see what needs using up, then plan meals around what is there. If I am working late, my plan will take that into account and I will either throw a meal together in the slow cooker or defrost something from the freezer. This way I am never tempted to get a take away when I get home late and tired. We will also eat something healthy.

I never guess how much rice or pasta to cook – I always measure 3 ounces of pasta and 2-3 ounces of rice, depending on how hungry we are. Sometimes I cook too much on purpose so that I can take some for lunch the following day.

Love Food Hate Waste

It is shocking what people throw away, not just because it is a waste of money, but because it seems immoral to be so cavalier about food when so many people in the world don’t have enough. There is lots of information, guidance on how to avoid wasting food and recipes at Love Food Hate Waste.

If you have stale bread to use up, here is my favourite bread pudding recipe, from my trusty and ancient Cranks Recipe Book. They don’t sell this fab book any more but Amazon has the one below, which according to the reviews has a fab selection of classics from the original (disclaimer – this is an affiliate link).

Spiced Bread Pudding (I always double up this quantity – it gets scoffed very quickly)

Stale bread, 8 oz (225g); half a pint of milk (284ml); mixed dried fruit 4 oz (100g); grated butter 2 oz (50g); brown sugar 4 oz (100g); mixed spice 1 tbsp (15ml); 1 egg; 4 tbsp milk (60ml); pinch of ground nutmeg

Break up the bread and place in a mixing bowl with the milk. Leave to soak. Add the dried fruit, butter, suga and mixed spice. Beat well. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the bread mixture. Turn into a greased shallow ovenproof dish, level the surface and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Bake at 180 C (350F/Gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes, until set (in my fan oven 35 minutes will do). Really delicious!!

There are more ideas for how you can make a meal from your leftovers, here, here and here.

 

Meal planning and how it saves me money

The pros of meal planning (there are no cons!)

There was a time long ago when I never considered meal planning. I would wander around the supermarket grabbing things that looked tasty and with only a vague idea of what we already had at home. This lack of meal planning lead to the following scenarios:

I came home with too much food for the week and it got thrown in the bin.

Items I already had were bought again and added to the stockpile, some of which would also end up in the bin.

Insufficient food was purchased and we ran out halfway through the week.

I forgot to buy items that we actually needed to make the meals I was vaguely planning as I went along, such as pasta or rice.

I had to return to the supermarkets mid week when I then got distracted by stuff I hadn’t actually gone in for and spent more money than I intended to!

It only takes a few minutes

Sound familiar? I am sure we have all done this from time to time. I have found that spending 10-25 minutes each week meal planning and writing a shopping list really pays off and saves me a lot of time and money.  If you need to reduce you food budget, I guarantee that you will when you start meal planning.

I go through the fridge, freezer and cupboards first to see what we already have and to ensure we have enough staples like pasta, tinned tomatoes, teabags, potatoes etc. Our meals are planned around what needs using up first. I frequently discover that I don’t need to buy as much as I thought at this point!

Where to find inspiration

I use my large shelf of cookery books for inspiration – and the Internet, of course. If you type in ‘what can I do with cabbage/bacon/ chorizo’, etc you will have a list of helpful suggestions for meals using them.

Today, I have a bag of sorry looking carrots in the fridge. The potatoes from last week are starting to sprout. I have two peppers. I also have some apples that are turning brown in places but are still usable. These will be built into my menu planner for the next couple of days so that I don’t waste them.

In the freezer I have some fish that I bought in the reduced section last week and for some reason I have masses of frozen spinach.

I also know that we are out one day and that I will be eating alone one night so I will factor that in.

This week’s menu looks like this:

Here are the recipes for Saturday’s carrot salad and Friday’s Spaghetti cheese casserole.

I have written the shopping list so that I only purchase what I need for the week. Now I’m off to Lidl!

Are you into meal planning and, if so, what are you eating this week?

 

Five Fabulously Frugal things I have done this week, 2nd June 2017

Another week gone, and a muggy one at that. It has been expensive in some ways,  I have a lot of family birthdays in May and June. So I need to at least achieve five fabulously frugal things!

Frugal thing no. 1

Last night I did a small shop in Lidl. We didn’t need that much as there is a lot in the cupboards, but I did intend to splurge on some steaks and salmon as we have a family meal tonight for my daughter’s birthday.

I was pleased as I found some marinated salmon with Lidl’s orange 30% off stickers, so bought a couple of packs along with a reduced chicken, some mince and a couple of the chicken Kievs as an easy tea for my daughter, who works shifts. Unfortunately no reduction on the steaks but I only needed two of those. I was surprised at the total as I was in a discount supermarket and had done quite a small shop for the week. I checked my receipt and – get this – the cashier had charged me £26.70 for a box of six eggs!! Because she was too busy chatting to her colleague rather than concentrating on the job in hand she somehow hit x30 after the price. Sigh! It’s a good job I am on the ball.

They cannot be serious!

Frugal thing no. 2

I remembered the amazing deodorising properties of bicarbonate of soda to combat my kitchen bins. They had become a bit ripe in the heat, especially the food waste one. It has so many uses that every home should have a big bag for frugal cleaning, personal care and getting rid of smells. I blogged about this yesterday.

Frugal thing no. 3

On Sunday I went to the boot sale. I got some great finds to resell. I am doing quite well at the moment and it is a really useful income stream for me. This prompted a blog post on How to Present clothes on eBay. So many people go to the trouble of listing items but the photos are so poor potential customers can’t really see what is on offer!

On a similar note, I met up with fellow blogger Faith Archer on Saturday in Hadleigh in Suffolk. Faith runs the More With Less blog. We had a tour of the lovely charity shops in Hadleigh and I bought a top for work and a couple more items that I will list on eBay.

Frugal thing no. 4

I mentioned my darling daughter has a birthday today. She asked for a jacket from Nasty Gal (no, I hadn’t heard of them either!) so I checked on Top Cash Back to see if they were on there and they were – with a generous 8.4% cash back on purchases. I only recently signed up with this site and have made just three purchases. I already have £34.50 on my account! This is a good habit to get into when making online purchases I think. If you join using the link above I will receive a small referral fee.

Frugal thing no. 5

Ages ago I mentioned that I had bought a copy of Gardener’s World Magazine because it had a 2 for 1 card on hundreds of open gardens around the UK. We have used it once but used it again for a return visit to the beautiful Helmingham Hall in Suffolk. As well as getting money off the entrance price, we packed a good, frugal picnic and a flask.  I have so far saved £16 by using this card; well worth the cost of the magazine!

I’m linking up with this 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! What frugal things have you done?

 

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!

Amazing Aldi

If you are a regular reader you already know that I love the discount supermarkets. They save me so much money on groceries – I found I reduced my bill by about £30 a week when I started using Aldi or Lidl rather than the larger, traditional supermarkets.  That’s a saving of over £1500 a year without even trying!

However, they are also great with their special deals on various home and lifestyle products.

Gluten free

This week Aldi has done particularly well. If you or one of your family have a problem with gluten, they have a whole shelf of interesting looking deals on gluten free food, including this Betty Crocker cake mix. I am having a dinner party on Saturday and one of our guests is a coeliac so I will make that for her dessert. They had lots of other yummy looking things too. As the cashier told me, these products move fast, so be quick if you are interested.

Baby savings

Aldi also have a fantastic range of baby and nursery stuff currently. Amazing prices! A high chair for £19.99, a changing mat for £3.99, some very cute bean bags for £16.99 and reusable nappies for £9.99.

I spent £50 on the week’s shopping for the three of us. I will add cat food and Lactofree milk to this total, but I think that’s pretty good going. I bypassed the plants and garden deals. They are so good I can’t resist them and I have spent enough on the garden this month.

What about you? Have you tried the discounters yet and which do you prefer?

Saving, spending and making money in April

I had quite an expensive month in April. I spent the holiday fund and a bit more on Mr S’s 50th celebration trip to Mallorca. Very excited about this but holidays don’t come cheap. I have also spent some money on clothes to take, which is unusual for me! I normally raid the boot sales but, although I have found some good things to resell, there hasn’t been much that I wanted to keep for myself.

As mentioned before, I bought some items from Everything5pounds.com –  4 at £20! These should arrive today so I will report back on those. I managed to get the postage free using Money Saving Expert’s offer code too. I have also purchased 8 items second-hand on eBay. Sadly, four of those were too big so I just re-listed them. One has sold already for a £5 profit 😀. I really must stop buying size 14 clothes as I appear to be a 12 now. I put this down to almost completely giving up sugar since the end of February. 

I discovered TopCashback and did a £25 Asda shop through them to get £15 cash back. I will be exploring that a lot more and we are looking at booking our airport parking through them. I am going to look at some of the other cash back sites too and will report back.

I have sold quite a lot on eBay this month which will positively impact the bank balance. I am going to look at sourcing stock from auctions as well in the future. 

My MOT is due this month so I have my fingers crossed that I won’t have to spend much on that.

So April was a good month! May has kicked off with a lot of wintry feeling weather but I am sustained because I know we will be off to the sun in two weeks! This is what the moneysaving is all about 😀.

When is cheap a waste of money?

‘You get what you pay for’, so the saying goes. But is this always true? Does spending more guarantee better quality or are you wasting your cash? Will you live to regret buying cheaply?

When it comes to new furniture, I think it is likely. Cheap flat packed stuff rarely stands much family wear and tear. However, good quality second hand items are a whole different ball game. An old but solid wooden wardrobe can be painted to fit in with your decor, chairs can be cleaned or re-covered, and a sanded pine table can be a thing of joy to last and last. 

I frequently pick up designer dresses to sell on eBay and I have been shocked at just how shoddy some of these are. When you consider that they cost hundreds of pounds new they should be top quality.  I buy basic vests and t-shirts from cheap shops and market stalls sometimes but they don’t wash well or last long. I prefer second hand decent quality finds from eBay, charity shops and boot sales. I go for Marks and Spencer, Monsoon, Phase Eight and Laura Ashley if I can find them as they are well made with good fabrics that wash well.

With food you get what you pay for up to a point. I don’t like really cheap baked beans, but I’m happy with supermarket own brands. However, the vegetables I can buy on offer in Aldi or Lidl don’t taste any different to the more expensive ones in the bigger supermarkets. My taste buds aren’t sophisticated enough to to detect the difference between decent supermarket teabags and the premium brands. 

I have written many times about the racket that is the makeup and toiletry market. With the most expensive brands I really believe you are paying for the marketing and packaging. Sprinkle a bit of pseudo-science in an advert and some people will believe anything. Really cheap shampoo is usually a mistake, but again the supermarket brands are pretty good. 

It is always worth trying cheaper when you are on a budget but you don’t have to give up on quality.  What do you think? Is expensive always better?

My frugal bookshelf: Delia Smith’s Frugal Food

If anyone ever doubted the awesomeness that is Saint Delia (as I call her), think again. This book is a classic with good reason.

First published in 1976, At a time of inflation, rising prices and world food shortages. Sound familiar? Those problems persist,  but add to those our current issues around austerity, benefits cuts and  the uncertainty around Brexit and you realise that hard times and financial pressures are an increasingly common reality for many people.

This book, with its reliably cheap and tasty recipes, is still relevant. It was actually republished in a glossier format in 2008 but I have a copy of the original, with yellow pages and spillages to testify to its regular use.

There are some recipes I wouldn’t class as frugal. I think meat and fish may have been cheaper when the book was written so I don’t cook lamb or beef much. However, there are lots of recipes for those on a budget.  My favourites include pork sausages with cider sauce, spaghetti with tuna and olives, bean and lentil chilli, souffle’d jacket potatoes and liver casserole. There are some great puddings too. Classics like bread pudding and spotted dick alongside blackberry cheesecake for the forager.

You can still pick up various versions of this book secondhand, but if you use my link to Amazon to make a purchase I will receive a small commission.

Happy NOT to be in vogue

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

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

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

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

What’s your best money saving idea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your top money saving tips for the newbie?

Should you ever buy branded groceries?

I quite enjoy the adverts on TV for Aldi, where they compare an expensive brand of coffee, tea or whatever with their own version. The message is that theirs is just as good, but cheaper!

When I initially started trying to save money on my grocery shopping the first thing I did was dump the brands wherever I could. I tried all of the supermarket basics first. Some we liked and some we didn’t. Value/Smart Price baked beans were a definite no-no, unless included in a veggie stew. Loo rolls didn’t last as long but were worth buying as they were so much cheaper. Value bacon may not look as good but it tastes pretty similar. The kids ate the biscuits even if they didn’t arrive in fancy packaging. I now wouldn’t dream of buying anything other than a basic fruit juice either.

Where we didn’t enjoy the basic products, I moved up to supermarket own brand. Most we liked, but occasionally we still resorted to a branded product.

With the advent of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, the situation has improved even more. Most of their own products are very good quality and as cheap or even cheaper than the old style shop own brands. I have found them to be better overall. 

I might consider something from a range such as a Tesco Finest if it is on offer but I have found some of these are disappointing. I think they are a marketing ploy and another way to squeeze a bit more money out of their customers. 

Generally speaking if I buy a brand it is because 1. I really like it more than the alternatives (such as my Millicano coffee mentioned in yesterday’s blog post) or 2. It is a really good price. I don’t need to pay for a company’s expensive branding – they pay marketing people a lot of money to work out how to make us spend our wages. I bet at least half the time if people did a blind test to decide which product was branded and which was a supermarket’s own brand they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, if you really want to save money on your groceries chuck out the brands and try some supermarket own labels!

Saving money on coffee

It was a madly busy day at work today, followed by a visit to the hospital to see my mum. She was in a lot of pain today, although she did manage a little walk along the corridor on her frame with the physiotherapist.

Luckily my daughters had sorted dinner when I got home – Quorn bolognese, as one of them is vegetarian. 

I hardly drink coffee at all as I can’t do too much caffeine, but I do enjoy one decent cup each morning. I usually buy Millicano. I try to find it on offer as it’s not cheap, so I was interested to try this Alcafe Barista Moments coffee from Aldi. It was a pretty nice cup actually, not quite Millicano but not bad at all. It cost £2; Millicano is usually at least £4.30. I might mix the two to save a bit of money!

Anybody else tried this? What did you think?

I’m hoping to go and collect Mum tomorrow and take her home but we will have to see what her consultant says. Fingers crossed!

Another Goode Book

Reader Rosemary reminded me of this one for my frugal bookshelf.  The Goode Kitchen was written by the late Shirley Goode to accompany her BBC series of the same name in 1986.

Shirley had a precise and logical approach to saving money in the kitchen, which has barely dated. In fact her approach to her kitchen decor (open shelves and a mix of charity shopped mixed crockery) seems positively on trend . Think shabby chic! She believed in spending more on the essentials, such as some quality knives and pans.

I first read the Goode Kitchen years ago and clearly absorbed this approach to cooking. Shirley can take a lot of the credit for much of my kitchen behaviour now – reusing yogurt pots and margarine pots to freeze soup or store leftovers, keeping old bread bags and making stock from bones and chicken carcasses.

She takes an interesting approach to budgeting that makes me think she was an influence on Jack Monroe, carefully costing her ingredients to easily calculate the price of any meal and adjusting ingredients to always get the best possible value.

The recipes are straightforward, nutritious and tasty. They use ingredients likely to be in most cook’s store cupboards or easy to find in a supermarket. For example, you will find recipes for fish chowder, Somerset rabbit casserole, poor man’s jugged hare (actually made with beef) and pauper’s pottage (a healthy vegetable stew) – great, no frills family food.

It is sadly out of print now but you can still find the odd copy secondhand on Amazon, as I did. If you see it at a reasonable price, grab it! There is a link below but you may have to go through and do a search.
goode kitchen

 

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?

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!

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!

Counting out the pennies

I have been completely useless at the penny challenge. I don’t find it a convenient way to save money systematically at all. I don’t remember to put the pennies in or, if I do, I don’t have the cash available. It is far easier for me to simply transfer money from my current account into my savings when I get paid, so that is what I am focussing on doing. 

We have been throwing our coppers in a jar in a less organised way, however, and today I took about half of them to Asda to use their Coin Star counting machine. You just feed them in and get a voucher out to take to the tills. It’s not free though -there is a 10% charge – but it saves having to count them up and finding time to get to the bank. I had almost £15 worth today and I think there is more silver in the next lot so I expect at least £20 when I take that in. I will put it towards this week’s shop!

I am still spending very little on anything except essentials so February is proving another extremely frugal month. The emergency and birthday/ Christmas/holiday funds are a bit less empty. It hasn’t been quite no spend month but it has been low spend. I did buy a new electric kettle in B&M as our lodger was struggling with the stove kettle. Too strange and old-fashioned!

Are you saving pennies? What are you saving for?

The fine line between order and chaos…

The front room currently looks like a furniture store with three sofas in it, including one on its side waiting for the charity collection van. It feels cluttered and makes me uncomfortable. Despite my efforts to minimise stuff and declutter I still feel we have too many possessions generally and will continue to streamline. Having an extra sofa feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I feel sure that many people have far more than we do. I wonder how they cope – maybe they have more space? Although I think the more space you have, the more likely you are to fill it with stuff!

It is another good reason to keep up my no spend February. I don’t need anything else!!

I continue to be as frugal as I can possibly be. Before I buy anything I make sure I ask myself some essential questions: Do I actually need it? Do I really want it? Can I afford it? Could I get it secondhand? Could I find it cheaper elsewhere?  Unless it is something essential I give myself some breathing space. If it can wait a couple of days the chances are I won’t bother 😄.

In my experience, impulse buys are rarely wise buys. So I will try to avoid them?

How about you? Are you a minimalist or awash with clutter? Do you give into those impulse buys and regret them later?

Still not buying it and getting stuff for free…

So…this morning we have the engineer to look at our boiler,  which has been misbehaving. It randomly refuses to come on. Most of the time we persuade it but yesterday it simply refused. The engineer is confused. This is the third time he has looked at it but can’t work out why it is going wrong. It doesn’t appear to be anything too major, but as I said a few weeks ago, this is why we need an emergency fund!

I would normally be in Aldi or Lidl first thing, but I bought quite a lot last week so I am going to make it last. I have plenty of pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, chicken, pulses and some Quorn. DD2 is coming to stay for a couple of days and she is vegetarian, so we won’t need much meat anyway. I am planning spaghetti and cheese casserole and cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. She does tend to guzzle lots of milk so that is all I need to buy, along with cat food for my furry princesses. 

I did buy some vitamins for DD3 as she hasn’t been well and is very run down. Apart from that I am still buying nothing unless absolutely essential.

Sofa anyone?

Honestly having a second super frugal no spend month is oddly liberating. I don’t worry about what I can’t have – I already have so much! 

Sometimes the things you would like just fall into your lap if you are lucky anyway. I was hankering after a new sofa as ours (secondhand from the charity shop) isn’t as comfy as it could be. My friend James and his wife decided to upgrade their still rather smart and very comfortable cream leather one so offered it to us. He helps me when WordPress leaves me confused and confuddled as it does on occasion, so he is very familiar with the theme of this blog and my thrifty ways. 

Today we will go and collect it. I am now frantically trying to get rid of the old one for free on Gumtree and Freecycle. One charity shop doesn’t want it as they have enough furniture and another can’t collect it until the end of the month. It is too good to send to the tip so I am hoping to find it a new home. 

Sofa anyone? Anyone else on a super frugal no spend month?

There is no shame in bagging a bargain!

From time to time I  see acquaintances when I am shopping in one of the discount shops I like to use. Some of them look embarrassed and make silly comments. Yesterday morning a work colleague I saw in Lidl looked sheepish and said, ‘Let’s pretend this is Waitrose.’ I said ‘No – all the clever people shop in here now!’ I could have said, ‘You’re kidding – I wouldn’t be seen dead wasting my hard earned cash with their prices!’ I will save that for next time 😀.

Why are people embarrassed about shopping smart and bagging a good deal? There is no shame in being sensible with your money, even if you are loaded.

If people compliment me on something I am wearing and it was secondhand on eBay or from a boot sale, I tell them. If I can get a really nice work outfit for £8 in decent condition instead of £40 new, why wouldn’t I?

I love getting a bargain. I got quite excited when I found big blocks of cheddar on offer in Lidl for £1.99 yesterday. I bought two as they have a use by date in May. If you are passing, pop in and grab some! 

I have a plan for my money which means squeezing every bit of value out of what I have. So I will do my shopping wherever I get get best value cheapest. 

If you are a bargain hunter, and carefully watching your bank balance (however large or small that might be), don’t be ashamed – be proud! 

Haggling down the cost of your utilities 

I was listening to Chris Evans on the radio recently and he was relating the story of a woman who spent two hours on the phone to her utility companies threatening to leave and negotiating a better price with each. She eventually saved herself £2000! That is a good use of two hours of anybody’s time 😀.

I have never actually done them all in one go but I do shop around every time something is due for renewal, such as car and house insurance, to get a good price. However, I read reviews and if people are complaining about them I look elsewhere.

One thing I don’t intend to change is my energy provider, Good Energy. I switched to them after a horrific experience with First Utility, who tried to overcharge me by thousands. Their levels of customer service when I tried to get it sorted were appalling. Never again! Good Energy charges reasonable prices, produces all its energy from renewable sources and its customer service is the best I have ever experienced. I’m going nowhere! Sometimes the cheapest sounding deal isn’t worth it. I really recommend this company and, no, they haven’t paid me to say that! 

A year ago my water company offered me a great deal on emergency plumbing insurance, £6.50 for the whole year. At that price, why not? Last week I got a renewal letter and the price was £96.48 for the year, £8.04 a month. I didn’t think I needed this, so rang to cancel. I was then offered a reduced price of £75 for the year. When I refused again this went down to £55 for the year, or £45 if I had a £50 excess. The poor salesman had his work cut out with me and finally accepted I was cancelling. It did make me think though! Never accept the first price you are given!

Have you saved money by haggling down the price of your bills? 

No spend January update 

When is a need actually really a want? My no spend January has raised a couple of tricky questions around this. For example, I ‘need’ some hair dye. I am getting a badger stripe across the top of my head that I am really not happy to face. 

I know if I was on a seriously low income I wouldn’t buy hair dye. If I was living on benefits I would let my hair grow long and grey and focus on keeping a roof over my head. 

In the event I have decided it can’t wait until February. I have bought a pack from Home Bargains for £3.65 and that will do two lots of root retouch up so will last into March. My hair could do with a trim but that can definitely wait!

As I blogged yesterday the girls paid with their Christmas vouchers to take us to the cinema. To thank them we bought cheap snacks from the cinema. Again, not an actual necessity, but as the film started at 1 pm we didn’t bother with lunch so I feel justified in spending £6 on this for the five of us. 

So I suppose strictly speaking I have already failed my own challenge! But I’m not down about it. I am loving being able to say to myself and others, ‘No, I don’t need that. I am on a no spend month’. If I have the odd small failure I’m not going to be discouraged!

Are you on a no spend month? How is it going?

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …

Proud to be frugal

I don’t mind being a penny pincher. In fact I am quite proud to be someone who is taking control of my finances by all possible means. I am happily telling people I am on a no spend January. Most of them totally get it as they are all feeling the pinch after Christmas as well!

I am not mean. If I was, then I wouldn’t have spent so much in December. If I go to the pub (which I don’t very often and definitely not this month) I will happily buy my round. I like to buy presents for people as much as I like receiving them!

But you are more likely to find me buying my clothes in a charity shop  or at a boot sale  than getting them from new. I will shop around for anything I need to spend out on rather than pay full price. If I am too tired to cook I will eat egg on toast in front of the TV rather than go for a take out or ready meal. 

You won’t catch me buying a cappuccino from Costa on my way to work every day as some of my colleagues do and I always take in lunch. I don’t heat the house hot enough to walk around in a t shirt but I don’t sit and freeze either. I don’t own a tumble dryer and prefer to dry my clothes on the line.

I don’t drive a fancy car but make do with a small, very old Toyota Yaris that gets me from A to B. I am not booking a hugely expensive holiday I can’t afford in the hope I will be able to pay the balance by the time summer comes. We will have a holiday I expect but will need to save a bit first. Life is for living after all!

I try to remember to be grateful that I have everything I need even if I can’t afford everything I want. One day I hope to be able to be less frugal but until then I am quite enjoying the challenge! How about you? 

Bargain of the week

Yesterday I said I don’t rely on yellow sticker bargains. I did, of course, take a peek in the reduced sections when I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday but there was nothing I wanted and the reductions weren’t that great. I only go in there for the cat food and my Lactofree milk anyway so trudged over to the pet aisle and was amazed to find this:

That is my idea of a yellow sticker bargain, 48 sachets of cat food for 99p! I don’t know why it was reduced so drastically. The box was a bit damaged but nothing major. I was chuffed and so were the cats!

I spent £45 for the 3 of us in Aldi for the week, which wasn’t bad at all. Last night we had a delicious chicken tray bake. I already had a pack of peppers that needed using and some olives. I adapted the recipe to use what was in the larder: green olives instead of black, dried thyme instead of fresh and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. The chorizo in Aldi was in huge packs for almost £2.50. I bought pepperoni instead at 89p and will use some of that today. I am making paella to use up some rice. I also added a 15p can of Aldi potatoes to make it more substantial and served it with canned sweet corn. It was lovely. The original recipe is here. I got it from the BBCGood Food website, which is a great resource when you need a little inspiration.

What are you cooking this weekend? Do you adapt recipes to suit what you have or what you can afford?

Soup, soup, wonderful soup!

I love soup at any time of the year, but it is particularly satisfying when it is cold and dark, you are broke and hungry and you want something comforting. I tend to go for vegetable soups so they are really healthy – you drink a couple of your five a day!

I plan to try Margaret’s yummy looking pestou soup here, which looks like a meal in itself. I very often just chuck whatever I have in the fridge into a pan with onions and stock and it always works out delicious, but I have some favourites I enjoy too.

Here are some of the recipes I like:

Carrot and coriander

Courgette and celery

Minestrone (another meal in itself)

I can recommend investing in some Sistema microwave cups if you like taking your soup to heat at work. They don’t leak and heat up really quickly, although they are prone to stain if you like tomato soup 😀. I will get some of the batch I made over Christmas out of the freezer for lunch today. 

I dredged the bottom of the freezer for last night’s dinner and found a pack of Quorn sausages that needed eating. These are not my favourite – I won’t buy them again -but they cooked up a treat in a sausage casserole. I used an onion, some garlic, a pepper, half a jar of pasta sauce, a tin of tomatoes and the end of a bottle of red wine with some herbs chucked in and it was nice with sweet potato mash. 

This morning I will top up what I have in the cupboards with a small shop at Aldi. I have my list at the ready. Have a great weekend!

How I’m keeping my food bill low

It’s so easy to overspend on food and end up wasting some. I do my best to avoid this – I don’t want to throw money in the bin! There is a lot of temptation in the supermarket when I am tired and hungry so I am planning all our meals and writing a list, which I stick to unless I see a huge bargain. I tend to shop straight after work, which isn’t the best time for a good yellow sticker bargain  so can’t rely on them, but if I do spot something I change my meal plan to accommodate it. 

I am using up what I have, which means eating up tins and packet pulses. These are a cheap form of protein and good for you too. I always have some tinned tuna and sardines in for the same reason. Some tinned veg is handy to have: tomatoes, obviously, but also potatoes, sweet corn and maybe mushrooms. 

I buy frozen quite a lot. Vegetables tend to be cheaper this way and there is no waste. Frozen meat is also cheaper. We eat a lot of chicken as that is good value I find. Generally we are eating less meat though. I dig out my old vegetarian recipe books for inspiration. I might buy and use some cheaper meat like braising steak and put it in the slow cooker.

I am no chef but I can cook, so we don’t eat ready meals. However, I don’t object to the odd short cut as I work full time so usually have a jar of casserole sauce lurking. I have got these from Approved Food in the past massively reduced so will be checking their website over the weekend. If there is anything good I will ask DD1 if she wants to share an order and split the delivery charge.

I quite often batch cook things like soup, casseroles and pasta sauces for the freezer. These are great for a quick dinner if we get home late. 

I also have eggs in for a quick omelette dinner or eggs on toast. Egg and chips is one of my favourite meals and so cheap!

So this is what I will continue to do to save money on the food bill. What about you? Are you trying to stick to a low food budget post Christmas?

Frugal steps: it’s the little things!

I think to anyone who isn’t into a frugal lifestyle some of the things we do to save money here at Shoestring Cottage must seem like a lot of effort for very little reward. But believe me, they all stack up to make a huge difference to making the books balance at the end of each month. It’s the little things!

I am having to really focus this month so that I only buy absolute  essentials. I have repaired a pair of ankle boots I wear quite a lot. Why throw out a perfectly good pair of boots or shoes because the sole or heel are coming away? It’s easy to repair them with some strong glue. 

As mentioned in previous posts, I am using up as much as I can in the larder to keep the grocery bills low. We will be eating less meat and fish than usual. I have some Quorn in the freezer and some cans of chickpeas that will make several meals. I have been making soup using home grown frozen veg and fruit purée with apples, blackberries and currants that we grew or were given. I have been baking already and will do some more for those moments when we need something sweet – I have flour, sugar,  nuts and dried fruit to use for this. 

When I do go shopping I will take a list and stick to it, unless I spy some good yellow stickered bargains, of course.

I always take a packed lunch, snacks, tea and coffee to work so I don’t need to spend money at the corner shop or in the vending machines.

I am conserving petrol by driving like a granny! Slowly and smoothly – whizzing along and screeching on the brakes at junctions used up a lot of fuel.

DD3 has her birthday next week. We will celebrate with a nice dinner and a home made cake. I am buying her a few small presents and giving her some money as she is saving for a new laptop. I would love to take her out to a posh restaurant but that would bust the budget and none of us are that bothered.

If I get any invitations out I will make my excuses this month. It’s more important to balance the books than socialise right now. 

What little things do you do to save money?

Got the L plates on!

So, I am now a driving instructor! Not a qualified one – it is Mum’s Driving School. DD3 has been out several times with her instructor but this was the first with me and, once she got used to the clutch, she did well. I’m going to take her out at least once a week so that she can get through her test as quickly as possible.

My friend at work brings me food from time to time – I don’t know why, maybe I look under nourished! His mum is a great Jamaican cook and he has given me Jamaican patties a couple of times now. They are delicious, like Cornish pasties but with a kick. The pastry is also spiced and golden yellow. This is good frugal food with a difference and worth exploring I think. He is promising me rice and peas next which sounds right up my street. I am going to check out some recipes.

I am off to London tonight on the train to see my old college friends. I don’t enjoy going into the city much but I am looking forward to having our annual catch up. Should be fun! I shall report back…

This and that

DD3 is fond of Heinz tomato soup. She prefers this to my home made (cheek!). However it is expensive I think. I tried the Lidl version this week and it is pretty good, I am having it for lunch. 39p! Bargain. Let’s hope she enjoys it.

I really don’t read enough these days. I rarely seem to have time to get involved in a meaty novel so usually read non-fiction. However, I do love Kate Atkinson books and have read them all. I was pleased to find her latest, A God in Ruins, in our Children in Need book sale last week. I hope it is good. 

Still no luck with finding a tenant for the room. I have dropped the price a bit to try to tempt a few more people round. I suppose it’s not the best time of year to move. I have also put it on Room Buddies as well as Spare Room. I hope I find someone or it will be back to the language students.  I might even put a card up in my local Co-op.

Fingers crossed I find someone soon!

More reasons to save

So, I put money away for Christmas and holidays but unfortunately not quite enough. I need to up the amount next year! We had one more holiday than we anticipated at the beginning of the year, which was our choice. That’s what saving and being frugal is for – to stop the worrying and allow money for the fun things in life.

I would also like to greatly increase the amount we have in our emergency fund next year. The boiler playing up has made me realise that. It is still not right despite two visits from the plumber. but he doesn’t think it is terminal. Let’s hope not as it is now very cold in the mornings and evenings and I need some heating!

The ad has finally gone on spareroom.com. I have already had a conversation with a nice lady from America who is coming over in January to study, but we have agreed I will keep the ad on for now as I had hoped to get a lodger sooner than that. I am not convinced we are close enough to the university to be ideal for her so she may find something more suitable anyway. 

I read a very interesting article about the new government Lifetime ISA coming in next year. If you are under 40 you can put your savings in and at the end of the financial year the government will give you a bonus of 25% of what you saved. This sounds great so what’s the catch? You can only take money out without penalties if you are buying your first house ir flat, or for your retirement at 60. 

If you are struggling to save to get a foot on the property ladder this appears an excellent way to do so. Similarly if you are nearing 40 and worried you haven’t saved enough for your retirement this could be a good deal. 

I have told my daughters to consider this and I hope they will. More information can be found here.

50 top tips to save you money

I was really interested to read that to celebrate its 50th birthday the Daily Mail’s finance section has published 50 money saving tips to make you richer

Many I have come across before, but I didn’t know about the police auctions website, Bumblebee Auctions, so will be checking that out later. I had a quick peek and it seems a good place to get a decent bicycle! I also wasn’t aware that online prices can change according to the day of the week and they you are more likely to find a bargain on a Monday! I thought the point about using pound shops was valid. Not everything is cheaper and it is easy to come out with a huge basket of ‘bargains’ rather than the one or two items you originally went in for.

Point 47 is interesting. There are organisations that can find missing money you may have forgotten about in old savings accounts and pensions. I am 100% sure I would not forget but others would!

I think this is a good article and worth a read.

Interesting comments on my last post about charity collections at work and some different perspectives. It seems to be a slightly thorny subject and not as cut and dried as I thought!

Moroccan rice with chicken and sausage

What to cook when you have just returned from holiday and don’t have much food in? A search of the freezer found a couple of small chicken breasts and 4 sausages. In the fridge we had onions, peppers and a few slightly wrinkled mushrooms. I thought I would make a kind of poor man’s paella, but only had normal rice, so came up with this! It serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

10 oz rice
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper, any colour, chopped
100g chopped mushrooms
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken stock cube
4tsp Moroccan seasoning (I used the Asda one)
2 chicken breasts, sliced
4 sausages, chopped into chunks
Olive or vegetable oil
2tsp dried mixed herbs

Cook the rice in boiling water with the stock cube. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the chicken, sausage and onions, frying gently until the meat is almost cooked through. Put the garlic, mushrooms, pepper and Moroccan seasoning in the pan and fry for another five minutes or so. Add the canned tomatoes, mixed herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook through. Drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir well and serve with a green vegetable and maybe some crusty bread. 

We were tired when we got back from Devon yesterday, so it was great to find my eldest daughter, who had been looking after the cats, had kept the house tidy and made us all dinner. I still had a ton of laundry to do today though! Luckily the forecast rain didn’t materialise so at least some is dry. Work tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to the 100’s of emails I will find in my inbox, but that’s the price to be paid for my holiday! Have a good week. 

Find a penny, pick it up…

I have been thinking of other ways to put money aside and have started the penny challenge. You can find lots of information about this online. It seems everyone is at it!

I already have a penny jar. Every now and then, when the coppers are making my purse heavy, I chuck them in the jar. So the first thing I need to do is take them out and count them.

The aim is to add a penny on day one, two on day two, three the next day, increasing the amount you place in the jar each day by 1p. If you do this for a year you will save around £670. The most you will add to the pot on any single day will be £3.60. Some folk calculate the weekly amount and save weekly in case they don’t have the change. Others start with the £3.65 amount and work backwards. I am skint right now but have plans that will bring in a little more income so I am starting with a penny.

You can see a really good table showing exactly how this works plus a great explanation from Saving Mummy’s Pennies here.

It’s not entirely painless. At midpoint in the year  the total monthly amount will be £43.26 and as you reach your total you will be putting aside £90. However it does provide structure and gets you into the savings habit. 

It would be good to start this on Boxing Day to save for the following Christmas. I am starting today to add to my general savings rather than for a specific goal. I like to have a contingency fund.

Has anyone else attempted this? How did you get on?