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.

 

 

 

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!

Still not buying it and getting stuff for free…

So…this morning we have the engineer to look at our boiler,  which has been misbehaving. It randomly refuses to come on. Most of the time we persuade it but yesterday it simply refused. The engineer is confused. This is the third time he has looked at it but can’t work out why it is going wrong. It doesn’t appear to be anything too major, but as I said a few weeks ago, this is why we need an emergency fund!

I would normally be in Aldi or Lidl first thing, but I bought quite a lot last week so I am going to make it last. I have plenty of pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, chicken, pulses and some Quorn. DD2 is coming to stay for a couple of days and she is vegetarian, so we won’t need much meat anyway. I am planning spaghetti and cheese casserole and cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. She does tend to guzzle lots of milk so that is all I need to buy, along with cat food for my furry princesses. 

I did buy some vitamins for DD3 as she hasn’t been well and is very run down. Apart from that I am still buying nothing unless absolutely essential.

Sofa anyone?

Honestly having a second super frugal no spend month is oddly liberating. I don’t worry about what I can’t have – I already have so much! 

Sometimes the things you would like just fall into your lap if you are lucky anyway. I was hankering after a new sofa as ours (secondhand from the charity shop) isn’t as comfy as it could be. My friend James and his wife decided to upgrade their still rather smart and very comfortable cream leather one so offered it to us. He helps me when WordPress leaves me confused and confuddled as it does on occasion, so he is very familiar with the theme of this blog and my thrifty ways. 

Today we will go and collect it. I am now frantically trying to get rid of the old one for free on Gumtree and Freecycle. One charity shop doesn’t want it as they have enough furniture and another can’t collect it until the end of the month. It is too good to send to the tip so I am hoping to find it a new home. 

Sofa anyone? Anyone else on a super frugal no spend month?

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
Oil
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.

My frugal journey: sources of inspiration

How did it all begin? At what point did being frugal become a lifestyle choice for me? I have been pondering and the truth is that it was foisted on me by circumstance of course. But I was brought up in a frugal household and have never liked waste, so living simply and frugally comes naturally to me. I don’t enjoy being short of money, but I do get satisfaction out of managing the money I have and using my creativity to life a life that is enjoyable. 
  The first book that gave me real inspiration was the absolute classic Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczin. It was published in the 1990s, but is totally relevant today. If you haven’t read it, it is worth buying.

There is an interesting interview with Amy here.

The second, which is aimed for a UK rather than a US market, was the Penny Pincher’s Book by John and Irma Mustoe. This is packed with useful tips and quite witty at times too. I notice it has been updated in recent years.

As I got more computer savvy and moved onto the Internet – this opened up a whole new treasure trove of inspiration and advice. Moneysavingexpert.com was the first site that I got into. It is massive! So many good articles and great advice from forum members who have experienced awful debt and have either got themselves back on track or are working their way towards that goal.

Frugal Queen was the next. That woman is great at giving you a good motivational talking to via her blog whilst getting herself out of debt and sharing her journey. 

There are so many good sites and blogs on saving money now. One of my absolute favourites is Life After Money. Ilona, who writes it, is a great character and very inspirational. She has become something of a celebrity, even appearing recently on a radio show in Australia!

I like Ricky on Skint Dad too – nice to get a male viewpoint. 

Where do you go for frugal inspiration?

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?

The week at Shoestring Cottage – catching up with myself

Well, the week has got away with me. I have no idea where it went, it was just one busy Christmas blur. And we still have almost two weeks to go!

I feel more on top of Christmas now. I have done most of my gift and food shopping, written my cards and started wrapping up the presents. I have begun having odd dreams  that suggest I still don’t quite believe I have control, however. Last night I dreamed I had somehow left the turkey out of the freezer and it was sitting in a bag under the tree, completely defrosted! We aren’t actually having turkey so I should feel reassured….

 

Christmas is here (and the cat doesn’t care)!

 Yesterday we decided to risk putting the tree up. I didn’t think it would last two minutes with the kitten but, to my surprise, although she was fascinated, once it was up she appeared to lose interest. The two year old tortoiseshell, Lola, gave the bottom branches a chew then also decided there were better things to attack. I got up and went to check this morning and the tree has survived the night!

Our student goes back to Angola on Friday. It will be nice to have the house to ourselves again but I will most certainly miss the income. Belts will need severe tightening until I get another and there is nothing on the cards at the moment. 

In the spirit of frugality I already have some stock on and will make some more thrift soup later (if you are wondering what that is see here). I have given most of the last batch to Mr Shoestring’s mum as she has the flu and doesn’t feel like eating too much at the moment. I also have lots of bananas that appeared to go from green to overripe in a day. I think this happens when they are stored at too low a temperature. I am thinking of making some of Jack Monroe’s  Peanut butter and banana muffins as they look pretty wholesome and perhaps also some banana bread for the freezer.

Speaking of Mr S, he has been struggling with severe back pain for a few months now and an MRI scan has revealed a ruptured disc and degenerative disc disease. We were both shocked by this. He is one of the fittest and most active people I know. So no lifting or strenuous activities for him at the moment. The physio has given him some basic back bends to focus on to get the disc back in place. Forward bends and twisting movements are likely to push it further outwards where it hits the nerve and causes the pain. We will also be taking regular walks and when he is a bit better doing some gentle yoga and Pilates to strengthen his core. I had a good chat to the physio. As a yoga teacher I am interested by exercise as therapy and how the body works. I would love to have the money to train in this area.

I found myself in complete agreement with Arnold Schwarzenegger this week – now, that’s a sentence I never thought I would type. He said that we should all eat less meat for the sake of the planet. He didn’t think many people would sign up to becoming vegetarian, but he did feel that they would support perhaps two meat free days a week. This is a good approach for the money saver too as meat is expensive. I tend to take this approach as my family do not want to stop eating meat but aren’t averse to the occasional veggie dish and we eat a lot of ‘ just a little meat’ type recipes where the meat is  a minor ingredient and there to stop them feeling deprived and to add flavour – a bit of bacon in a pasta bake for example.

I hope you are in control of Christmas and not getting stressed. I am off to do my yoga practice now to keep the turkey nightmares at bay 🙂