Frugal habits to keep up with the cost of living

I heard on the news today that the cost of living in the uk has risen by 2.3% in the past year. Food itself has gone up by 1%. This is ok if your salary keeps up with it, but I have had a paltry 1% increase this year. Heaven knows how larger families manage. So, what can you do? What frugal habits will make a difference?

Frugal habits to cultivate

How about a side hustle? There are some ideas for making extra money here.

You can save money on your grocery bill with a bit of careful planning and savvy shopping. Developing some frugal habits around your food shop can save you tons of money.

Then we have your energy bills. Some ideas that I have tried can be found here. You can also haggle down the cost of your utilities.

Running a car can be a huge expense but it is possible to be frugal here too. This is how I save money on motoring.

Do you spend too much on clothes? You can slash costs if you embrace the idea of buying second hand. I am a happy second-hand Rose.

Days out also don’t have to cost the earth. My tips are here.

This is just a quick compilation of ideas to help you develop more frugal habits. I hope they help! And don’t forget to check out my frugal recipes.

What frugal habits help you to cope with the rising cost of living?

No spend January 

I am avoiding the sales as there is so much I want to buy that I can’t afford. In an ideal world there would be enough left in the pot to take advantage of some bargains but there isn’t. The only exception will be Boots. I have a £25 voucher from Father Christmas so might take a peek at their reduced gift sets before the New Year. If there is nothing I fancy I will save it for toiletries and makeup as I need them. In the past I have bought Christmas cards, wrap and crackers at this time but I still have plenty to use for next year. 

To get the bank balance back in shape I am giving up spending  for a month on anything except food and essentials. No more snacking at work or sneaky coffees in town,  impulse buying books or any of the other things that can catch me out.

I would avoid town all together but have to go in on Friday to see the optician and change a jumper I bought for Mr S that doesn’t quite fit. So it will be in, parked and straight out again 😀.

The other weakness I have is for charity shops. Even if I go in with donated items I often can’t resist coming out with more stuff I probably don’t need. What are your weaknesses when it comes to spending? Anyone care to join me on my no spend month?

Unnecessary products

I just caught the very end of Supershoppers on Channel 4, where they promised to investigate cellulite vanishing tights next week. As if tights are going to get rid of your cellulite! It got me thinking about other totally pointless or at least unnecessary products. You may as well pop a fiver in the till and leave them on the counter for all the good they will do you.

Large companies employ clever  marketing teams and spend big bucks devising new products to persuade us to part with our cash. They are so good at this that soon we believe the hype and forget we ever lived  without them!

This list is just my opinion. You may well disagree or you might want to add some. 

Air freshners. They don’t and can’t create fresh air.  Open the window.

Tumble dryer sheets. Uh?

Shower gel – what’s wrong with soap?

Diet meals. Make your own low fat dinners.

Pills that claim to burn fat. Sorry. Don’t believe it!

Body firming lotions and bust lifters – unless they are made at Hogwarts 

Separate cleaners for your kitchen and bathroom. Ditto shower and oven cleaners. One multi surface cleaner will do the lot (or some bicarbonate of soda on a sponge)

Hand sanitiser (unless you are in hospital). Wash your hands with soap

Hand wash ( as above)

My daughters will disagree with this no doubt, but … skin primer? You put it on under your foundation to keep the foundation on, then put powder on top to keep the primer and foundation on ….! You will have more layers than an onion if you’re not careful.

Separate hand and foot creams

Fit Bits. If you didn’t exercise before I bet you don’t suddenly become an athlete just because you are wearing one.

Cellulite creams. They don’t work any more than the cellulite vanishing tights 

Any moisturiser that claims to lift your skin and diminish wrinkles. (Or do anything other than moisturise.)

Neck cream. It’s still skin,right? You can use whatever you put on your face!

Stretch mark creams. I tried these when I was pregnant and afterwards too and came to the conclusion that they don’t work. The only thing that reduced my stretch marks was time.

Which products do you consider a pointless waste of money?

Frugal recipes!

As I am on holiday and have some time and energy to spare, I have started something I have wanted to do for ages and collected some of the recipes I have featured on  the blog over the years in one place. You can find the page at the top. It is a work in progress so I will add a few more over the next few days. I hadn’t realised there were so many! So if you ar stuck for frugal inspiration, take a look.

It was such an interesting exercise as it meant revisiting some old blog posts. This site acts as a diary for me and I loved going through the old memories and pictures. It is a great hobby in this respect and I always enjoy comments and advice from readers.

Just a short post this morning as we are off out to RHS Rosemoor and out to the cinema tonight to see Bridget Jones’ Baby. See you later!

School’s out – forever!

Wow! Another busy week! Frustratingly though I don’t appear to have achieved much 😀.

Our new French student arrived on Sunday. He has proved really friendly and easy to host. He doesn’t eat breakfast, insists on helping me when he is here (the other night he mopped the floor!), goes out most nights and will be away in London the whole weekend.  He has also hit it off with my middle daughter, who has just finished university so has been home a lot. She has given him a list of the less obvious bits of London to visit and he, in return, has given her a contact at Vogue Magazine – she is desperate to get into fashion journalism so if that comes to anything it will be amazing.


Last day of school forever!

My other daughter is up to her eyes in A level revision so is stressed and tired. She officially left school yesterday, although will be in and out still for the next month for the exams. She works really hard and deserves to do well. It is tough for these youngsters though – so much competition for decent university places and good jobs.

Thankfully my eldest daughter is past all that and seems to be enjoying her job. She also moved into a new flat at the weekend. It isn’t very big but it has all she needs and is right in town. She was living with her dad but needed her own space.

So my children are all now adults and school is over! It is a weird feeling after so many years!

 We spent the morning on Sunday planting out the runner beans and brassica on the veggie patch and the tomatoes in the greenhouse. There is still lots to do so we will doubtless be out there again this weekend at some point. Not on Saturday though as there is a flower show locally so I have booked tickets. We will have lunch there and are meeting friends for a take away in the evening since its Mr Shoestring’s birthday.

There is always so much to do it seems. I started painting our reclaimed bench the week before last but still haven’t found time for the last coat. I will do that on Sunday too! Day of rest? Don’t think so 😀.

Stretching the chicken rations: warming smoky chicken with chickpeas

We had a lazy kind of day today. Up late, big breakfast, a drive for tea and cakes to my parents and then home for dinner. We watched The Durrells on TV as well – I love this and it has brought back happy memories of our holiday to Corfu last year. It is the most beautiful place and I would love to return. One day!
I had a couple of sad looking chicken breasts in the freezer. Not really enough for dinner, so I decided to stretch them with chick peas. I got a few ideas from the Internet, then cobbled this together. You could use ordinary paprika but I think the smoked variety added a lovely depth of flavour. I chucked in a bit of cooked spinach too as it needed using up but it isn’t essential.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, with a little salt
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1tsp cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp turmeric
400g can chick peas
400g can chopped tomatoes
Chicken stock cube
2tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil and sweat the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add the chicken and spices and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Dissolve the chicken stock in a quarter of a pint of boiling water and add to the pan with the tomatoes. Add the lemon juice and bring to the boil, then tip the chick peas in and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for another 10 minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice and bread. It
Serves 4.

Could you survive on food bank rations?

I have organised a big collection of donations for the local food bank at work and, as usual, my colleagues have shown great generosity. I just hope that it helps some needy families out over the festive period. Being so poor you have to rely on this kind of charity to feed yourself and your family, especially when you live in a rich country like the UK, must be soul destroying. At Christmas, when there is so much waste and excess, it is too terrible to contemplate. I hope I never experience it first hand.

The food bank requested the following items:

Milk (UHT or powdered), sugar, fruit juice, soup, pasta sauce, sponge pudding, tomatoes, cereal, rice pudding, teabags, coffee, instant mash potatoes, rice, pasta, tinned meat/fish, tinned beg, tinned fruit, jam, biscuits and snack bars. 

This got me thinking. What would I make with these ingredients? I would really need some onions, garlic, stock cubes, cheddar cheese and  dried mixed herbs to make some tasty dinners. I would hope their would be some beans amongst the tinned veg for some good protein. 

Risotto would be a good choice with chopped onions, some canned veg such as sweet corn and tomatoes. If I had canned tuna or beans I would add some of those too. Tuna or vegetable pasta bake with the pasta sauce or tomatoes would be a good option too with a little grated cheese on top. I could make a hash with corned beef but I would need real potatoes rather than instant I think. The addition of some pulses with the veg and some stock could make a warming hearty soup. Spam or corned beef fritters anyone? I haven’t had those since school but they weren’t too bad! I might make a mix of beans and veg and top with some instant mash for a kind of veggie shepherds pie, or make veggie curry and rice if I had some curry powder. I love tinned fish! If I was lucky enough to have sardines or mackerel in my bag I would be tempted to eat this as a simple but nutritious meal on toast, or mixed with a few chilli flakes, tomatoes and garlic to make a kind of Mediterranean sardines with spaghetti. Mac cheese with the powdered milk would be nice too.

It is possible to make your food bank food taste ok I guess but you still wouldn’t have much of it. I am grateful I have enough this Christmas.

What would you cook from food bank rations? Have you ever had to?