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!

Holiday preparations: brollies or sun cream?

What is going on with this great British weather? One day we have a heat wave and the next it is torrential rain and floods! As I sit here the sky is grey and threatening and it is blowing a gale. This is a shame as tomorrow we are driving en famille down to Devon to stay in a little chalet near the coast. I hope we don’t get this weather all week!

We shall make the best of it anyway, and take raincoats and boots as well as our swimming stuff and sun cream in case the sun returns.

I feel like I need a rest – I have been so tired this week. Work is relentlessly busy , which keeps it interesting (and I would hate to be bored) but there isn’t much time to pause and reflect. I plan to have lots of sleep,read some books,  get outside to walk as much as possible and do a bit of yoga, although I’m not sure how much space we will have with four of us in a chalet!

Lola is pretty relaxed about the whole thing

The cats will be taken care of by DD1, who is coming to stay with her boyfriend for a week. We prefer this. I don’t like leaving them in a cattery – they would hate it and it would be expensive for the three of them.

Our Italian student leaves today. She may be the last we have if we manage to find a suitable lodger. We have a few bits to finish such as the curtains going up in the lodger’s sitting room and a bit of painting in the bedroom and it will be ready. I will get it on in the next month.

Today I need to get up, get the cleaning and packing done and tidy up the greenhouse. We still have cucumbers but the tomatoes are finishing. On the veg patch the runner beans have finished but the chard looks fabulous and there are still a couple of courgettes. I have quite a few beetroots as well which need to be made into soup for the freezer, but that will have to wait until we get home now.

My next blog post should be from the beautiful Devon countryside somewhere near Ilfracombe. I can’t wait!

Incommunicado – almost

One thing staying in a very basic caravan in the middle of nowhere with no phone, tv or wi-fi tends to remind me is how little I really need these things. I think this is why I love coming here. It is so quiet and peaceful and the endless chatter and noise of every day life – the TV programmes, the lure of the Internet, emails, the radio – just don’t exist. We don’t have even a phone signal! I find I miss them very little, although we have had a fix of wifi on our travels most days for a quick check on Mr S’s business and have been able to text the kids and our parents.

It also reminds me how much time I waste online! Facebook, Instagram, blogs – and I sit in front of a PCs all day at work so you would think I would want to get away from technology when I am home. It’s never that easy, of course, as the world is run by the Internet these days and it is a wonderful tool in many respects. 

A root around the charity shops

As I say though it is great to have space from it. I remember a time before the Internet – yes, I am getting on a bit – when you went on holiday and your only communication to anyone at home was a postcard! You knew what was happening in the world by buying a newspaper. My girls would think that a bit antiquated!

We have another sunny day here in Wales so need to make the most of it. This is a quick stop for a coffee and a bit of free wifi in the library. But I’m throwing technology aside now – off for a blow along the beach and a root through any charity shops we come across. Yes, some things don’t change just because we are on holiday! 

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Well, me, obviously! I am not driven by money, but it would be so nice to have a bit more.

The BBC news the other morning was discussing the probability of winning the UK lottery and said we were more likely to be hit by an asteroid. I am sure the chances are minute. The only reason I play the lottery is because I belong to a syndicate at work. I couldn’t face them winning and skipping off to their yachts and leaving me behind!!

Back in the real world, because I know my chances of winning the lottery are so small I will keep focussing on my budget. I know what I want to achieve over and above ‘just getting by’. I need to get the new woodburner installed so that will be an expense and I am first saving for that. Then I will start saving to get the electrics done in the house – the lights and power sockets in some parts need a lot of work and I have had an estimate for £1200.

But I still want a holiday if possible. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I am more than happy to camp but Mr S is not keen. This is because the last time we did it, in Dorset, we came back to find our tent, pitched on a hill for a splendid sea view, was about to take off. A kind fellow camper was hanging on to it for us! Honestly, some folk are so easily discouraged! We will see 🙂 my lottery numbers might still come up…



Off on our adventures

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Very excited! We are off to the Lake District in the morning, leaving DD1 and her friends to guard the fort. My lovely cousins own a mobile home there and are letting us use it for a week. It was the location of many great holidays with my parents as a teenager so I looking forward to going back with my own teens.

It has been busy as usual this week, so tonight will be a mad scramble of last minute packing. We need to be prepared for all kinds of weather so we have waterproofs and jeans alongside our shorts and suncream!

I went to Aldi last night and bought some provisions: pasta, rice, sauces and a risotto mix so that we can make quick and cheap meals in the caravan; rolls, crisps and fruit for the journey, coffee, tea, cereal and juice so we are set up on the first morning, plus lots of sweets and drinks to keep in the car. We won’t be wasting our money in any motorway service stations en route, although we will take advantage of their loos!

I’m not sure if and when I will get any wi-fi connection. There, but will post when I can.

Back to Reality, back to frugality!

imageSo, back to reality – we fly home this afternoon – but I will be happy to see my girls and the cats, and I have the weekend to recover before I go back to my manic Monday at work.

I have had a lovely holiday and it has made me determined to continue to be as frugal as possible and to make extra money wherever I can so that we can do it again. It won’t be soon – I will have to pay for myself next time and would like my daughters to come with us.

I travelled a lot as a young woman but very little since I have had children because of the vast cost. I have no idea how people find the money to have a family holiday abroad each year as I have rarely managed it. We haven’t gone without a holiday though; just gone for cheaper options such as house swapping and camping. The expense of flights has meant that these vacations have tended to be closer to home. We have had some excellent cheap holidays in the UK and in France, but never with guaranteed sunshine. And there is something about a sunny vacation by the sea that relaxes you – Mr Shoestring says the sound of the sea gets into your soul :-).

Back to reality, back to frugality!

Would you swap your house (if only for a week or two)?

So, you would love a holiday but even a campsite seems too expensive? Or perhaps the great outdoors isn’t your thing and, if  you don’t have all the gear anyway, camping is only a cheap option if you plan to use it every year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love camping and had some brilliant holidays in the uk and France when the kids were younger.  However, sometimes a few home comforts are nice!

The other thing I have done for a cheap holiday is house swap. I know it sounds terrifying and many people would be nervous about letting complete strangers take over their house for a fortnight, but in my experience it can work brilliantly.

We had two lovely holidays in Brittany and one in Normandy. Another in Segovia in Spain didn’t work so well but that was more the weather than the accommodation. Nice apartment but no air con and the hottest summer Europe had seen in years (2003). We couldn’t come home because of our house guests! Fortunately we were able to  visit friends in Barcelona who had a pool to cool things down then more in France, which was still hot but you could actually move during the day!

breton houseAll were respectful of our home and left things clean and tidy, although one of the properties in Brittany was a bit on the grubby side when we arrived.

So, the upsides of house swapping:

The accomodation is free!
It is a real home from home – better equipped than any holiday apartment would be
You have someone looking after your home so that it isn’t left empty
You can even exchange pets! Our cats were fed and we became foster carers to some chickens!
You can save on car hire and exchange cars too, although we never did this
If you exchange with a family your kids get to play with all their kids toys (so you need to put away anything precious)
Your hosts will usually leave you lots of local tourist and bus information
You can exchange in the UK or abroad

The downsides:
It is a risk – although it is your interests and theirs that they look after your stuff you can’t guarantee that they won’t help themselves to your best silver
They can pull out even if you have already booked your travel
You need to give your house the biggest clean of its life so lots of work before you go
It needs to be in good decorative order

I would advise you to use an agency – there are lots on the internet. Be realistic about who you try to swap with; the proud owner of a villa with a pool in the South of France probably won’t want your three bed semi in Ordinaryville. Be honest about your property – you want your swappers to be truthful with you. Have a neighbour keep an eye and someone they can contact if there is an issue. We had problems with the plumbing at one place but our contact sorted it out.

When my house is in better shape I will definitely be house swapping again!

No Time to stop and Stare…

Do you ever get those weeks when you are so busy your feet barely touch the ground? Last week was like that, and this week looks to be going the same way.

I can’t understand people who say they are bored. I am busy and productive all of the time and, in truth, that’s how I like it most of the time. It’s a good job I have Mr Shoestring to make me stop and sit down, or go out for a walk or a bike ride. He says I am a machine! He can get a lot done in a short space of time, whereas I am more a tortoise than a hare; I just keep going!

Yesterday was typical. I had to get myself and DD3 to the dentist for 8.50, then take her to school and drive to work. We were crazy busy all day, then I finished at 6 and fought my way through the traffic to get home and change, stuck some washing in the machine then went off to teach my yoga class for an hour and a half. I drove home and was back by 9.30, had my dinner, cleared up and went to bed!

Fortunately the girls had made the dinner, but their efforts didn’t extend go doing the washing up sadly.

imageThis morning I am typing this on my phone waiting for a blood test at the local hospital and hoping I won’t be late for work. I need to do a bit of shopping after work, sort tea and then tackle a big pile of ironing with my name on it.

All incredibly humdrum I know, but actually my life is never boring. A bit of boredom would be a luxury! What I would like is a bit of time sometimes to just do nothing, but at least I am gainfully employed with my family around me so I consider myself fortunate.

As I have been waiting, I have had time to have a look at some pix on my phone from our holiday in Wales last year. We had a fabulous walk or two and, as you can see from the photo, the scenery was amazing and we did have time to stop and stare!

Does anyone else suffer from a lack of time?

Memories of a Lovely Summer

J and J Wales

With Mr Shoestring at Portmeirion

At this time of the year, when I arrive at work in the dark and leave work in the dark, I can understand how people feel who suffer from SAD. The lack of daylight is so unnatural! I am trying to combat this by having a walk during my lunch break – just 15 minutes or so – but even that has been tricky recently as it is hard to keep dry in driving rain when the wind keeps turning your brolly inside out!!

Nice to see you...

Nice to see you…

Seeing the awful flood damage in Aberystwyth on the news, I was thinking of our caravan holiday in the area last summer. We had the most amazing weather when we visited, including a fabulous day picnicking on Aberystwith beach and browsing the shops. We also had a trip to Portmeirion, and the photos look positively Mediterranean! It’s hard to believe that students at the university behind me had to be evacuated this week because of the high water levels, and that the promenade where we sat to eat our sandwiches has been so badly battered and damaged.

I hope the weather improves and that those who have been flooded out get the chance to clean up and move on. In the meantime, I will have to count my blessings and enjoy my memories of a beautiful and happy summer to keep me going through the winter months.