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.




More decluttering

How odd! I published a blog post a couple of days ago and it didn’t appear. I checked to see if I had acccidentally deleted it but no – it has simply disappeared into the Blog Land ether.  So if I have been quiet this week that is why! Try again …

These were spilling over!

I cleared out yet more bags of clutter on Sunday, another 5. The charity shop loves me! I don’t know where all this stuff comes from! I never seem to buy much. I do sometimes keep things ‘ just in case’ but there has to be a limit. I cleared the three baskets above the linen cupboard in my bedroom and found about 20 toiletry and makeup bags. Some of them I don’t recall ever seeing. This is what happens when you have three daughters but two of them no longer live here so we don’t need 20! I also found various ancient hairdryers and hair curlers and some presents that I had bought for the emergency gift box and forgotten were there. I will use some of these at Christmas. 

I also cleared out a huge box of scarves, hats and gloves. We can only wear one lot at a time and I figure if I haven’t worn something for a couple of years I never will.

Mr S does not like the decluttering process as he is a bit of a hoarder. He is sure I will throw things away that will come in handy down the line. I am careful not to do that. He is great at remembering what he has and will have just the right piece of wood/ screw/ object for the job. So I won’t be touching the sheds unless he is there in case I get rid of ‘treasure’.

I find it quite cathartic to declutter, but it does mean I have been neglecting the garden. As I work full time my weekends get pretty packed but I am determined to spend a day out there this weekend. As ever, too much to do and too little time to do it!

Beach walks and charity shops in Devon

We are in North Devon! I wish I could say we are bathed in sunshine but that’s not quite the picture. It drizzled most of the day yesterday. We made the best if it and donned our raincoats to visit the historic pannier market in Barnstaple. It was rather disappointing. I suppose they don’t have the most interesting stalls there in a Monday morning and there was little of interest to any of us. We cheered ourselves up with a delicious cream tea with local clotted cream and then drove up to Ilfracombe. 

We particularly wanted to see Damian Hurst’s statue, Verity. Even in the gloom it looked magnificent on the harbour but is rather disturbing – a huge naked and pregnant woman, holding her sword proudly above her head but with the scales of justice behind her. Most disconcertingly, the skin and muscles on one side are stripped back to reveal her skull and the baby curled up in her womb. Opinion is apparently divided locally but we liked her. We liked Ilfracombe altogether actually and will go back on a nicer day. We had a walk through the town centre in the rain dodging from charity shop to charity shop and picked up a few bargains on the way. This is typical of us – the girls love a bargain just as we do!

It has been quite bright today and this evening the sun has been shining. We spent the day at Croyde Bay just up the road from our little wooden chalet. It was lovely. We had a good hike up to Baggy Point and a picnic on the beach, then drove to Braunton and hit the charity shops again. More bargains!

The chalet itself is perfect, on a very quiet and well maintained site. It is cosy but large enough for the four of us for the week and much better than a tent on those rainy days! I love not having to get up early for work, taking each day as it comes and spending a bit of time with the family. Tomorrow the plan is to visit RHS Rosemoor. We are members so will only have to pay for the girls to get in. We are hoping for a little more sun but will plan for all eventualities, as ever!

Designer labels? Only if they are in the charity shop

We have had a lovely last morning in Wales going round the RSPB Dyfi Osprey project just outside Machynlleth. There were cameras trained on the osprey chicks as they were fed sea bass by their parents. They are six weeks old now and will be flying soon. You can see them on camera at

We also saw a few common lizards looking for some sunshine as we walked along the boardwalks over the wetland areas and lots of tiny finches. There was even what looked like a red squirrel, although one of the staff said it was a young grey. It looks red to me!

Next stop was the charity shop in Machynlleth where I picked up some real bargains, including a Karen Millen top with the label on (saying £99) for £4! Who spends that much on a top and then doesn’t bother to wear it? Someone with more money than sense I guess. I also bought two Phase Eight dresses, a Monsoon skirt, an M&S sequinned dress and navy work skirt and a lovely wool blanket. Everything bar the Karen Millen top cost £2 each. If anything doesn’t fit or I don’t like it I will put it on eBay and make a profit. I don’t feel bad if I do this – a girl has got to make ends meet and I do give the charity shops a lot of my spare cash.

We will have a meander this evening and get the car packed and head back to England tomorrow. I could stay here forever! We will be back 😀.

A walk around the allotments

We had our usual Sunday walk at the weekend. It was amazingly mild! We had wander around the local allotments, which looked remarkably well tended and productive even at this time of the year. 

 We particularly liked one allotment. Its tenant had made a fantastic effort to attract wildlife, with a living roof on the sheds and various big boxes. 

  A few folk were having a dig and a tidy and we received lots of cheery waves and smiles. That is the other great thing about having an allotment: most sites have a real sense of common purpose and community. Seeds and produce are shared, tips and advice given and received and friendships are forged.

I love my large garden but I also miss my allotment. There are long queues for most council sites nowadays, so others appreciate the opportunities an allotment can bring. Fresh produce, exercise and fresh air amongst friends. What a treat!

  We also went to the charity shop and bought 10 CDs for 99p each, so there has been lots of music in the house since. I haven’t got into the idea of streaming music yet. I’m an old fashioned girl!

The French student arrived and seems very nice and easy to chat to. The cats like him as well, always a good sign 😀.

Using it up! Home made quiche and a bit of charity shopping

pastry mixI have another day off today, using up my annual leave. I love having a bit of spare time, just to potter and be a domestic goddess. This morning I decided to use one of the packs of pastry mix I bought some time ago from Approved Foods to make a quiche for tea. I have never used one before – it goes against the grain – but it was a massive bargain and I couldn’t resist buying a few.

quiche 3It was certainly extremely quick, so great for people who are in a hurry I guess. The pack said to mix the contents with 6-7 tablespoons of water. Well it took me 14 before it would stay together, and I ended up adding a tablespoon of sunflower oil too. This did the trick! This made one quiche base and a tray of jam tarts. I made a cheese, mushroom and tomato quiche – the tomatoes were looking a bit wrinkly so they needed using up too. The jam tarts were made with my home produced redcurrant jelly.

quiche 2The pastry was actually not bad at all. We have had some tarts with our morning coffee and will be eating the quiche for tea with some chips and vegetables. Yum!

I have two more pastry packs in the cupboard so that will feature in my next two week’s meal plans. I also have some batter mixes – I will use a couple of those tomorrow night, seeing as it’s pancake day.

jam tartsIt’s just me and DD3 at home today as she is on half term. We are planning a bit of charity shopping and I will treat her to lunch at that awful McFood place. She likes it and it won’t  break the bank so I am happy to make a very rare visit.

quiche 4Whilst we are at the charity shop she is going to talk to them about volunteering. I think this is a great idea to give her a bit of work experience and do a bit of good at the same time. I think it will look great on her university applications as well when she comes to do them.

Back to work tomorrow, but I have my last day off on Friday when I will be helping DD1 to move into her new house. The place will be quiet without her, although possibly a bit tidier :).

Whatever you are doing this half term, enjoy it. Hope you manage a bit of family time.

Hair by Shoestring Cottage!

imageMy daughter has an amazing amount of hair, really long and thick. This would cost a small fortune to get it coloured at the hairdressers, so yesterday she came to Shoestring Hair Artists. Nothing like getting your mum on the job in her dressing gown whilst watching TV!

We bought the hair colour from Superdrug as they were on offer at 3 for £14. She needs two boxes to cover her luscious locks and I will use the third. I always use a bowl and brush to get an even coverage. It took ages! But it does look lovely – glossy and gorgeous and it only cost a tad over £9.

imageI also hit the charity shop over the weekend looking for some bargains for my eldest daughter, who will shortly be moving out. I managed to find a nice little wok, a Pyrex dish, a saucepan and some kitchen utensils all for a fiver. I also found her a knife block, a cutlery set and some wooden spoons in the saver store next door, plus a few store cupboard items to get her started.

So not exactly a no spend weekend but it was at least a modest spend weekend, with lots for my money!

Bargains galore and more serious decluttering at Shoestring Cottage

Finally flopped after a busy day and found time to blog!



The decluttering continues. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out one cupboard every week. This feels so much less intimidating than setting myself a targeting of doing them all in one go. I think I will get around to it at some point but there is never enough time, whereas clearing just one can be done as part of my weekly cleaning routine.

imageToday I cleared the filing cabinet in my bedroom. I have 3 large boxes of files under my bed containing everything from bank statements to school reports. I don’t really need another separate filing cabinet, so I have removed it and replaced it with a solid bedside drawer unit that was spare for Mr S’s clothes. Much better!



I also gave the tiles in the bathroom a good scrub with bleach as they were looking pretty grubby.

We found time to visit my favourite charity shop too. The fact that it is open on a Sunday, is out of town and then sells all clothes at 99p makes it irresistible! Today I found two tops and two good work skirts: the labels say Gap, Per Una and Next. How could I not be happy with this? I donated some things too, still in the spirit of decluttering!

How about you? Anybody found any great bargains this weekend?

Scouring the charity shops – sorry, ‘vintage’ shops :-)

I had a day off today to spend a bit of time with DD3 on her half term holiday. We met DD1 from work and all had lunch together – a rare treat.

Then we decided to do a tour of the charity shops. It made me laugh as a couple of them have become ‘vintage shops’. They sell the same old stuff but charge £15 for a dress instead of £4! Anything that looks vaguely 70s is even more expensive. Who buys this stuff? I suppose I can’t blame the charities for trying to maximise their profits, but it is a bit annoying for those of us looking for a bargain without a lot of cash to spare.

Charity shop bargains!

Charity shop bargains!

Fortunately, there are still plenty of the old fashioned variety. We started at the upmarket end of town and worked our way through. DD3 was looking for an outfit for Halloween. We have gone a bit American these days. No witches or ghosts for the teens now – she is going as a zombie version of Cher from a film called Clueless, so she wanted to find a checked skirt and some form of tank top to go over a long white shirt. We found a long checked skirt, and she has already cut a chunk off the bottom and hemmed it! Success!

The thing I like about charity shop shopping is that, even thought they are more expensive than they used to be, there is still the opportunity to find something I could never afford new, and today proved the point. I found a lovely lined skirt from Laura Ashley for a fiver, a 100% silk cardigan from East for £5.50 and a really nice crochet top for £6. More than I pay usually, and a lot more than boot sale prices, but they are all excellent quality so I am pretty happy with my bargains.

Back to work tomorrow after my lovely long weekend and no more spending for the rest of the month if I can avoid it!

Second Hand Rose

I found myself looking at my outfit this morning and humming this to myself….I was wearing a skirt from a boot sale (£1), a top from Ebay (£2.50), a pair of boots, again fittingly from a boot sale (£3), a cardigan from the charity shop (£2) and my daughter’s old black coat (not trendy enough for her!!). My underwear was new to me once. I draw the line at second hand knickers, but would wear a second hand bra if it was in good condition. So, for the princely sum of £8.50 I was ready for the office, and I really don’t think my colleagues would have guessed (in fact I got 4 compliments on the top!).

When you know you can buy decent quality clothes in pretty good condition for a few pounds, it becomes difficult to justify £20 or £30 on a single new item, especially when you are strapped for cash.

Dress 2

The pix don’t really do it justice…it is a fab deep blue long velvet dress with a cowl neck

DressI think it is in my genes, as my mother is Queen of the Boot Sale and, as a pensioner, rarely buys any clothing from new. It becomes an adventure to see what you can find. I regularly come across great quality brands in the styles I like for just a few pounds – Per Una, Laura Ashley and Monsoon, to name a few.

By buying second-hand clothes, not only do you kit yourself and your kids out for next to nothing, you are recycling, supporting charities, or helping other cash strapped people by buying their unwanted stuff. Everyone’s a winner.

I would rather wear rags than rack up more debt, but fortunately I don’t have to. I am committed to being as frugal as possible in order to pay off my credit card and make my mortgage payments every month, so buying lots of new clothes is out of the question.

My most recent bargain was a beautiful blue velvet cowl necked dress, originally from Dorothy Perkins. I got it in the local hospice shop, reduced from £6.75 to £3.50. I am hoping for some invitations to a few Christmas parties to give me the opportunity to wear it now – what do you think? What have been your best clothing bargains?