Tag Archives: Saving Money

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?

Bargain-hunting and a freebie

Darling daughter kept my plants alive!

Fresh back from my holiday, I need to be mindful of my spending. I have therefore gone straight into bargain-hunting mode.

I had to go and get a few essentials because lots of things had run low whilst we were away. First stop was B&M. I pop in there occasionally to stock up on cat litter as this is the cheapest place for the wooden pellet variety that I prefer.  £5.59 for a large 30 litre bag, which is so much cheaper than elsewhere.

I have a lot of birthdays coming up so I stocked up cards. These were mostly 99p each which is pretty much the most I will ever pay, since they end up in the recycling anyway! Home Bargains is even cheaper for cards but I thought I may as well get them whilst there.

More bargain-hunting in the toiletries aisle. I bought my hair dye as I always do my own. This one was only £3.49, which was a good price. I treated myself to a moisturising foot masque for 99p because my feet feel very dry after walking around barefoot on the beach. My daughter has tried it and said it is nice. The makeup was a revelation in B&M. More bargains! I bought a bronzer to keep my holiday tan going. Only £2.99! It seems very nice and I used it today.

What a beautiful day it was yesterday. It felt even hotter than Mallorca, although I suppose I was rushing around doing laundry and shopping rather than lying on the beach sipping a gin and tonic 😀😀. No more showing my all inclusive arm band and getting everything done for me!

I managed to get three loads of washing done and dried, doing my my usual trick of giving each item a big shake before hanging them on the line and folding them up as soon as they were dry to minimise the ironing. There is enough to do without a massive ironing pile.

Free Manufacturer’s vouchers

A nice little gift arrived recently: £10 in vouchers from Purina. I wrote and told them how much my cats were enjoying Felix and they were obviously delighted to receive the compliment. I was very pleased because I had heard that companies sometimes send you vouchers if you contact them but I had never tried it. It was worth the effort! I might write to a few more. Has anyone else done this?

This meant I got the cat food for free as 48 sachets of Felix were only 9.99. I wasn’t lying – my cats really do enjoy Felix!

So a good day for bargain-hunting! I will make this month’s money last 😀. As a plus, darling daughter had watered all the plants and the garden is looking green and lush. Mr S will need to get the lawnmower out.

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!

Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

It is a gorgeous day.  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days. We always grow our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.



I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

Free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday

No money? Wondering what to do this fine bank holiday weekend? How about these ideas to keep you and the family entertained?

Get the April issue of Gardener’s World magazine. They have a 2 for 1 offer for over 400 gardens around the uk. Plus you have a great magazine to read when you get home😀.

Go to the park and play on the swings (preferably take a child with you, lol), or take a football or cricket bat.

Play rounders! I have excellent memories of family holidays doing this when I was young.

Go for a walk at a fast pace and you won’t need to bother with the gym. Do it with a buggy and you are resistance training!

Check your local museums and art galleries – some will be free.

Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, ideal for a family walk: www.visitparks.co.uk. It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Go find a bluebell wood. This is a good time to go! You can find some listed on the Woodland Trust website here.

Check out your local wildlife trust. They have all kinds of activities going on, from a family pond dip to an twilight bat or owl walk.

Go to the garden centre. We have several locally that have so much to see for free, and the kids love their displays. However, don’t be drawn in to the café, and don’t buy anything unless you need it and it is a good price.

Visit your relatives and friends. They are an under-rated and often under-valued form of entertainment and support.

Find a boot sale and get yourself some bargains.

There are lots more family ideas at dayoutwiththekids.com as well as great offers and deals at  Moneysavingexpert.com.

We will be meandering around a garden I should think. Maybe see you there! 

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?

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.

How to save money on clothes

I wasn’t surprised to read in Good Housekeeping that the average UK woman spends around £600 a year on clothes. I know quite a few who spend a lot more than that! I was quite shocked to find in the same article that women’s wardrobes also contain around £300 of clothes that never get worn. I addressed this in my Great Wardrobe Challenge post a few months back. 

I don’t spend anything like this amount. Last year the items  I purchased new were as follows:

 One pair of leather boots, reduced from £60 to £14.40.

Several vests in assorted colours from Primark, about £15.

3 long sleeved black tops, also from Primark, about £12.

A Wallis top, my one extravagance, bought with a 20% discount for £25.

One pair of black suede loafers, £20.

Some socks and underwear, around £25.

Mr S also  bought me a pair of Next jeans as part of my Christmas present, but I won’t count those towards my total.

A blue lace blouse from eBay, £6. 

I honestly can’t remember buying anything else new. I did make several second-hand purchases, including some tops, skirts, a cardigan, shoes and more jeans from charity shops and boot sales. I would estimate I spent about £40 on these, so a grand total of £111.40. I never look like a tramp – I’m sure my friends would tell me if I did 😀. If you need to save money you can easily do so by hitting the boot sales – the time to do this in the UK  is right now! Boot sale season is underway.

The article also said that families are spending more than ever before on their children’s clothes: an average annual figure of almost £800 per child! I was fortunate in that mine were more than happy to wear used clothes and hand me downs, and never demanded expensive designer brands. Now that they are all independent they all buy far too many clothes in my view, but are still savvy bargain hunters!

We also all sell items we no longer use on eBay if they are in good condition.

If you are trying to budget and save money, first take a long look at what you have. If you don’t wear it, sell or donate it. Then consider what you actually need. Don’t buy stuff just for the sake of it, even if it is secondhand. Consider quality used items of clothing rather than new. If you have to buy new, take advantage of the sales. 

It is also worth checking eBay for new items. I wanted a Zara coat a few years ago. It was £120 in the shop but I found  exactly the same one for £70 brand new. The same with some leather Hotter boots. £135 in the catalogue: I got mine for £50 online!

Finally, look after your clothes and footwear. I keep mine for years. I don’t launder them every time I wear them unless they are actually dirty as they diminish with each wash, and I keep my shoes and boots clean and polished. 

How much do you spend? How do you save money on clothing?

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?

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!