Tag Archives: frugal living

This month’s achievements in our frugal garden: May 2017

As we head towards the end of May, it is time to look back at our  achievements in our frugal garden.

It is always hard to accomplish exactly what we want in the garden. We both love getting out in the fresh air to plant, cut back and keep it looking tidy. Time is limited because we have to do that boring going to work thing! If only we could stay home and tend our garden it would be our little piece of paradise!

We also don’t have endless cash to spend. This can be frustrating as we know what we would like but can’t always justify the expense. But it’s easy to have a frugal garden as well as a beautiful one if you are creative and put in some time.

Managing our time

This year, we decided on a little and often approach. Rather than being intimidated by the amount of work to do in the garden and waiting until we have lots of time to do it, we have been focussing on one task at a time. Weeding a single bed, cutting the hedge, sowing the vegetables, etc. We might only spend an hour or two in our garden over a weekend but it makes all the difference. Even 10 minutes in the evening helps.

Seeing the fruits of our labours (literally in the case of the redcurrants) encourages us to do a bit more. I might pot up a few plants after work, Mr S will whip round with the lawnmower, etc or attack the weeds on the patio.

Flushed with success

Yesterday it was a boiling hot day but I was determined to sort the greenhouse. It needed to have some compost dug in and the tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers planted. We were sweating like pigs by the time we had finished but it’s all done. A heatwave wasn’t perhaps the best time to choose for this task!

I managed to pot up half of my geraniums, purchased as plugs when they were on sale in Wyevales recently. Because they were cheap we ended up buying loads. These will make a lovely display. I will finish the others over the next couple of days. Little and often!

Ways to save money: growing from seeds and cuttings

To save time and money we are focussing on planting flowering shrubs in the beds. We have grown some of these from cuttings, such as beautiful wallflowers and spreading geraniums. They fill a space in no time and cost literally nothing. Others have been purchased very cheaply in places like B&M, Home Bargains, Lidl and Aldi. These stores are also good for bags of compost at very reasonable prices. We  grew sweetpeas from seed and these are beginning to grow in pots up wicker frames that I picked up for a fiver.

Look in the reduced section

We managed to find trays of violas and pansies for just a pound each recently on the reduced section at the garden centre. These are all over the place now and looking fabulous. It is often worth looking as the reductions are often substantial and you can coax plants back to their best with a little love and attention.

Growing your own food in the frugal garden

It’s a win-win. A pack of seeds costs a pound or two and you can use half and reseal the pack for the following year. You can have top quality fresh produce on your plate ten minutes after it has been picked!  We have cut down a little this year but the veg patch still has rainbow chard, broad beans, runners, courgettes, pumpkins and Jerusalem artichokes. We haven’t grown stuff that will be cheap in the shops. This, on top of the produce in the greenhouse, should save a lot of money over the summer and give us some exercise too.

What have you achieved this month in your frugal garden? Do you find it saves you money or do you spend a fortune in the garden centre?

Home spa! Giving myself a treat 

I had a late night yesterday as my friends were round for dinner, followed by an early start with my daughters at a boot sale, so I am a bit knackered!

I thought I would give myself a cheap treat, so I have nicked some of my daughter’s posh products and some of my own for a lovely home spa.

I started with a deep bubble bath and washed my hair, then put on a hair mask – I used an organic avocado and honey one, which was lovely and not at all expensive.  Next I applied a snail face mask – sounds gross but was actually quite nice! I used some of the gorgeous Body Shop shea butter body scrub I had for Christmas. It leaves your skin so soft. I had a good soak then rinsed it all off and applied somebody Body Shop shea body butter. Bliss!

Then I used my Ped Egg on my feet to get rid of all the  hard skin and some nice foot lotion, did my nails and I am currently chilling with a nice glass of white wine.

You need a treat every now and then, but it doesn’t need to cost much.

I got more bargains at the boot sale to list tomorrow. It was a bit grey and I thought it might rain but it held off. The girls all bought loads of clothes but none of them spent more than a tenner. I love a boot sale! I am going to have a lie in tomorrow though!

What cheap treats do you enjoy?

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?

Using it up to save money

My food shop was minimal last week. I haven’t really spent anything on groceries apart from £8 on some yellow sticker stuff I found in my local Co-op.  We seemed to have quite a lot of food and it makes me more creative when I have to use up what we have.

We used the fish cakes for tea on Saturday with some salad. They were delicious but I wouldn’t have paid the original price.  On Sunday we had the chicken pieces, roasted up with some of the carrots and lots of fresh veg that was hanging around plus half a tin of potatoes that needed eating. We had this one tray supper with the spinach and it was lovely!

The kiwis still aren’t ripe – I just can’t think why they were reduced at all! We have apples and oranges to use up anyway as well as frozen berries.

I am saving the whole chicken as we will have a roast over the Easter weekend. I will need to get some shopping before then but I do intend to go to the supermarket on Saturday evening to see if I can get some big reductions before Easter Sunday 😀.

So I  am saving money on my food bill by finding bargains, not wasting fresh food and using up what we have in the cupboards and freezers. How about you?

Not buying it: Fifteen things I don’t spend my cash on

I’m frugal, not a cheapskate, but there are some things I just won’t spend my money on any more. I don’t miss them! Perhaps I will relax and shell out for some of the goods and services on this list in the future, but at the moment I am happy to do without and I don’t have any sense of deprivation. 

1. Plug in air fresheners

Yuck! Indoor air pollution. Just open a window.

2. A tumble dryer

I don’t have a tumble dryer! I line dry everything outside in the summer. Winter in the uk can prove trickier for drying laundry, so I use a dehumidifier or a heated airer if I need to. Both are much cheaper to run than a dryer.

3. A cleaner

When I got married years ago and had more money than sense, I employed a cleaner for a few hours each week. I wish I had done my own cleaning and put the money in a high interest savings account!

4. A gardener

I love doing the garden. Fresh air and exercise – you can’t beat it for stress relief.

5. A car wash

It really only takes 15 minutes to wash my little car so I save myself a tenner.

6. Hair colouring

I always do it myself. I invested in a little pot and brush and mix up half a pack of dye at a time. It costs about £2.50 tops.

7. Newspapers and magazines

You can get them online. I do beg old ones from work colleagues to line the cat litter trays though.

8. Branded goods (unless they are second hand)

I can’t afford to pay for a marketing campaign. Designer clothes really don’t appear to be better quality much of the time.

9. Salon beauty treatments

I go for a DIY approach. I don’t pay to get my nails done. I am a gardener so what would be the point?

10. Gym membership

I have done this in the past but now I just walk, do yoga and dig the veggie patch.

11. Painting and decorating

We have learned some skills over the years and Mr S is particularly handy. However, if I had lots of extra cash….

12. New furniture

I have purchased used items almost exclusively for many years. You can get quality items this way at a fraction of their purchase price new.

13. Expensive moisturisers

I always use one as I have dry skin, but I haven’t found any difference between my £2 pot from Aldi and the expensive stuff they sell in department stores.

14. Furniture polish

I use a mix of white vinegar and water, which does the job very effectively without nasty chemicals.

15. Pricey greetings cards

I am often stunned at the price of birthday cards, for example. £4 for a card that will end up in the recycling in a few days?? I have been known to make my own Moonpig type affair using print outs of photos, but when I don’t have time I pick them up in bulk from stores such as Home Bargains for 29p to 99p a card.

What do you refuse to buy?

Showing love on a budget ❤️ 

A friend told me proudly how her lovely son had taken her to London on Mother’s Day, with tea in a posh hotel, followed by some sightseeing and a meal in the evening. He is clearly a kind and generous son who loves his Mum, but it must have cost a fortune!

As I said in yesterday’s post, I had the loveliest Mother’s Day but I am sure it cost a fraction of the price of my friend’s day. It got me thinking. It is easy to have fun and show somebody that you love them without breaking the budget.  With a bit of planning and creativity you can help friends and family celebrate any event without them thinking you are a cheapskate!

Bake a cake: give a home made cake, cookies or sweets. This works for birthdays, anniversaries,  Christmas, house warmings – even weddings if you are an ace baker and offer to make the wedding cake as your present, as my friend did for me. 

Make your own gift: if you knit, sew, paint, make soap or candles or even if you grow stuff, many people appreciate a thoughtful home spun present. How about a hamper of home grown produce, a couple of pots of delicious home made jam or some potted plants grown from seeds or cuttings?

Keep a present box: It is also useful to buy gifts on offer and keep a present box so you always have a present to give. The January sales are great for this when retailers are keen to shift excess stock after Christmas.

If you are seriously skint, offer a service: gardening, babysitting, grass cutting, car cleaning. Design a voucher and put it in a card,then make sure you keep your promise! This works well if your child wants to offer a present for a relative.

Host a meal: have your loved one round for a special meal. Get out the best tablecloth and china, put flowers or candles on the table and don’t let them wash up!

Take a tour: have a look in the tourist information centre for the free attractions locally and take your loved one on a guided tour . Pack a flask and a posh picnic for a midday break: salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, hummus and crudités, etc, and perhaps even a bottle of fizz.

Have a date night: if the celebration is for your other half, cook a meal and add a massage and/or a film.

Spend your points: I love collecting Boots Advantage Card points to spend on gifts, but you can do the same with your Sainsbury’s Nectar Card or Tesco Club Card.

There are so many ways to show you care that don’t involve spending much money and won’t break the bank. For me, the thought really does count!

Keeping 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? 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.

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. I hope they help! And don’t forget to check out my frugal recipes.

Back tomorrow hopefully if I have time between work and hospital visits!

A Simple Supper

I have been visiting my mum in hospital after work and my daughters have been great at organising dinner. Last night darling daughter no 2 made a really tasty lentil and vegetable stew with crusty baguettes. She adapted it from a Nigel Slater recipe to suit what she could find in the fridge, as follows:

2 onions
2 tbsp veg oil
2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots
4 parsnips
2 sticks of celery
125g mushrooms
2 small sweet potatoes
150g red lentils
2 tbsp plain flour
750ml hot veg stock
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Large handful of spinach
tbsp wholegrain mustard

Chop all the vegetables and fry up in some oil until the parsnips are starting to turn golden. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock to the pan with the herbs and lentils and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the spinach, mustard and redcurrant jelly and stir then leave for a further ten minutes for the spinach to cook. This would be good with rice but we enjoyed it with some ready to bake crusty baguettes from Aldi.

I was able to take my mum home today. She has a lot of cramp in her new hip joint, but other than that she is doing well. My dad sorted her tea and I left her in bed as she didn’t get much sleep in hospital so needs to catch up. One down, one to go – my dad’s op is on Sunday.

It was a glorious day today with daffodils and primroses everywhere. I love spring! Until tomorrow, bye for now.

Cheaper groceries? I Approve!

Every now and again I have a look on Approved Food and get a few mega bargains. Last night, since I have my new bank card (the other one was used and abused by some scumbag and it was blocked), I decided to take a look and see if there was enough to tempt me to justify the £30 minimum order charge plus £5.99 delivery. As soon as I saw that there was the Felix cat food that my cats like (only £2 for 12 sachets), I knew it would be. I avoided all of the yummy looking sweets and chocolates, as I have given up sugar for the month, and focussed on purchases that would really save me money – items I either need now or soon would.

In case you haven’t come across them, Approved Food sells goods that are past their best before dates at huge discounts. The items are still perfectly good to use. The company doesn’t just sell food; as well as the groceries, they have alcohol (I took advantage and ordered some wine), pet supplies, toiletries, household goods and gifts.

You can’t do the week’s shop on there. There are some staples (I bought orange juice, teabags and Marigold vegetable stock), but no bread, milk or eggs. If you like branded goods such as washing powder and fabric softener you will really make massive savings. I bought a big tin of Vanish carpet spray (constantly clearing up cat sick in my house!) for £2 instead of £4 for example. There are often very cheap cook-in sauces as well for quick and convenient after work meals.

If you want to try Approved Food and you place an order using my link, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Try Approved Food

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?