Five frugal things to do in February

frugal things to do

As I type this, we have blue skies and sunshine outside. So weird when we had snow a week ago!  Climate chaos rules. It has made me think of getting outside again in the fresh air, so here are my ideas for five frugal things to do in February.

A bit of heritage

We usually have a membership to one organisation at a time that will give us interesting days out. As long as we we use them regularly they give us great value. We have done the National Trust, the RHS (a lot) and also English Heritage.

I love visiting old landmarks and houses, as you can see from my posts from Holkham Hall and Powis Castle. I was perusing English Heritage’s website and found this article, Days out for under £20.  You can save more money by joining though. There are some good places to go! You can join English Heritage here for £4.67 a month as an individual or £8.25 for a joint membership.

If you fancy joining the National Trust, you can currently get up to £8.40 cash back via Top Cashback (this is my refer a friend link). It is so worth checking Top Cashback for every online purchase you make. I currently have £115 sitting in there earned since I last cashed out in November.

Visit a wildlife trust

Another charity that we are happy to support is the Essex Wildlife Trust. They have all kinds of events locally, from a beach litter pick, to an eco jewellery workshop, family pond dipping, nature trails and bat walks. Generally, we just get our wellies on and have a walk around one of the reserves nearby.

You can visit even if you aren’t a member and pay a small fee. It makes a nice frugal thing to do in February, or any time. You can find out about your local wildlife trust and how to locate nature reserves in your area here.

Cheaper days out in London and beyond

frugal things to do

My parents bought Mr S a St Paul’s Cathedral visit for two for Christmas from They do a lot of different days out quite cheaply. One of my presents to him was a trip for two to Windsor Castle with a cream tea thrown in, which I also bought on Yes, you guessed it – I basically got two extra presents for myself! We are going to book them up once my neck and shoulder are better. There are some really good online deals, but remember to book your train fares up well in advance to get the cheapest deals. Otherwise they can mean it’s not such a frugal day out at all.

Find a good garden centre

This could end up NOT being a frugal thing to do if you can’t resist temptation! However, we love to take a wander around, looking at the plants, laughing at the exorbitant prices on some of the pots and furniture and just generally getting ideas for the garden.

A gorgeous one is Perrywood in Tiptree. It is so popular you even get coach loads of people turn up!

Visit a jumble or table top sale

It is too early in the year for a boot sale to be one of my frugal things to do.  However, if you are a bargain hunter like me, you will love a good rumble at the jumble!  But jumble sales are quite hard to locate these days and I thought they were a thing of the past. Recently I have discovered that a search on Facebook can yield good results. Scout groups seem to still run a good jumble.

Table top sales are more common, but are generally more for those interested in collectables, curiosities and antiques. A Google search will usually show a few, as well as Facebook.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas for frugal things to do in February! What are you doing?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

A free haircut and being frugal in February… #fivefrugalthings

Another week has gone by so quickly! I had the last of the block of 5 massages that my mum kindly bought me and I still have 3 acupuncture sessions to go. Being frugal, I booked blocks of each as they were cheaper. Both are helping my pain levels I think but the nerve is still well and truly trapped.  MRI scan is next week so hopefully I will soon find out what is going on to cause such pain. And, just as importantly, what can be done about it!

1# Charity Shopping

being frugal

My daughter has been dragging me around the charity shops every now and then to stop me going mad with boredom, as you may have seen in yesterday’s post. We have found some fantastic bargains, but some charity shops charge ridiculous amounts for tatty clothes just because they are a well known label.  Of course they want to get the most money for their charity, but they also need to use their eyes and common sense when doing the pricing.

Having said that, they are currently discounting a lot. I think they must have been inundated over Christmas or maybe everyone is doing a Marie Kondo clear out! I watched her show a couple of times on Netflix and it is interesting. However, I can’t see myself finding the time to fold all my clothes the ways she suggests and keep them like that. Being frugal to me includes getting rid of clutter and not buying stuff I don’t need anyway.

2# Not buying new glasses

I went to have my eye test at Boots, because my employer pays for an annual check there. My reading glasses are usually swinging round my neck (or I lose them!) but I now need glasses for distances, mainly for driving. I thought perhaps it was time to give in to varifocals and wear them full time. However, the price they quoted me was astronomical – £420!

I decided to take my prescription away and look elsewhere. I checked out a few online sites, including one called SmartBuyGlasses, which gives you 50% off your first pair if you sign up for their newsletter. This sounded promising and I thought I could always unsubscribe to the newsletter later.  I am still considering whether buying online is right for me and have emailed off a few questions to their customer service department.

If it means paying £420 I will stick with the ones I have for reading, and a pair I got for work which the optician told me were fine for driving. Has anyone else bought glasses online and saved money? Did you encounter any issues?

3# Entering competitions

I guess this is only money saving if I actually win something, but I have been using some of my time off sick to enter some competitions. One of the sites I like is as it has a straightforward format taking you directly to the competition. I have been on others where you have to answer sooooo many questions and they are clearly just trying to gather your data for spamming later.

On the Martin Lewis Money Show last week they talked to a lady who had won over £70k from competitions! However, she did enter A LOT. I think she said about 100 every week. It would be fun to win something like a holiday or a new laptop, but I don’t think I will be that obsessive.

4# Birthday cards on the cheap

being frugal

I think I have said this before, I like sending birthday wishes to people but, being frugal, I resent paying £3 plus for a piece of card that will only end up in the recycling. So I am always on the look out for cheap cards. Card Factory is one of my favourites for stocking up.  However, in the Sue Ryder charity shop they had these quirky cards for only 50p each. I think the designs are really witty and I love them!

5# Free haircut

I said last week that I had booked a free haircut at the training night at a salon in town. Yesterday I went to take advantage. The haircut was very good – the tutor checked everything and stepped in to do the tricky bits. However, it took almost 2 and a half hours! When you have a trapped nerve in your neck, sitting still for that long is no fun. Luckily I had topped up my painkillers about 20 minutes before I went in so I survived the experience. However, I’m not sure I want to sit that long for a hair cut again, even if it is free.

They do a full head of colour at the training night for only £10. When I am better I might consider that as normally professional hair colouring is so expensive. I usually do it myself  – I think I have only ever had one professional colour in my life. Such a skinflint 🙂

Anyway these were my frugal doings this week. Are you being frugal in February?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post may contain affiliate links.



Making money and saving it too #fivefrugalthings

Making money

As I said in my Monthly Money Wins post the other day, I pretty much sailed through my no spend January.  Despite being at home the whole month, I didn’t resort to surfing the internet buying stuff I didn’t need! Instead of spending it, I have been thinking about making money – and saving it too.

Finally got a water meter

I have been meaning to get a water meter fitted for ages! When we first moved here all three daughters were at home, which meant lots of hot water for baths and showers, at least one load of laundry each day,  more running of the dishwasher, etc. We decided it would be cheaper at that point NOT to have a meter. Now, with only one daughter living here just some of the time (she is at university) and a lodger who spends most of her time at her boyfriend’s, we use much less water.

Making money

I am trying to make the best of being signed off from work by catching up on all of these little jobs I never get round to. Today a nice gent came to check all was well and decide where to put a meter. The engineers will be out next week. He left us with this little water saving pack for the garden.  It contains lavender seeds, a water saving hose nozzle, some swell gel, a water retaining mat and water stick for our pot plants and lots of useful information. As we live in one of the driest parts of the UK, the guide to drought tolerant plants leaflet contains great tips for good plants for our garden.

Making money with eBay reselling

I have decided to get serious about my eBay reselling this year, and make it a proper business. Now is a good time to hit the charity shops as many of them have been inundated with donations before and after Christmas. There are lots of fantastic reductions to be found. Selling on eBay is a good way of making money.

Making money

I focus mainly on clothes as I know what will sell already and have spent about £90 on stock in the past week. However, I have started looking at the many You Tube videos on reselling to learn more about other items to look out for. That is for the future. For now, I am washing, ironing, photographing and listing my clothing purchases. I managed to find two Karen Millen silk dresses, one for £2.99 and the other for just £1. When I looked at what these are selling for I was amazed. At least £30-40, which would be a fantastic profit.

A good start to my efforts toward making money.

Festival time

Making money

At this time of the year, I need something to look forward to. We fancy a festival, but prefer a smaller, more chilled out affair with a few interesting acts, rather than a frantic and very expensive V Festival type experience with huge headliners.

For a few years I have wanted to go to the Green Gathering, so I contacted the organisers to see if they would give us free tickets for a review. They were happy to do this, so watch out for a post on this fantastic looking festival! It looks eccentric and fun!

Part time veganism continues

Regular readers will know that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat vegan two days a week. This has been surprisingly easy, as I already eat a lot of vegan dinners. I bought oat milk for my porridge, a nice Tartex mushroom from the health food shop plus hummus for sandwich fillings. Other than those things, I didn’t need to buy anything.

Making money

Being a part time vegan is making us try some different recipes. Eating less meat, fish and dairy is cheaper and healthier I think. I made a yummy aubergine and chick pea tagine and will post the recipe next week. We will be eating that again as it was really tasty.

Free haircut

I was going to book myself in for a cheap haircut at the local hairdressing college. They charge just £7.50 for a cut and blow dry. Then I remembered that a salon in town was advertising a student night and asking for models. I rang them and they charge nothing at all! The down side is that they are super booked up so I will have to wait a couple of weeks. I don’t mind this for a free hair cut.

So, that is the summary of my week of making money and saving it as well. What are your frugal achievements this week? Have you managed to save a few pennies and are you making money with any side hustles?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.



January is a long month! #Fivefrugalthings

January is a long month….

I saw this funny post on Skint Dad’s Instagram the other day, which rang true… January is a long month. Even on my no spend challenge it is dragging a bit!

no spend January

Regaining control of your finances with a no spend January

If you are feeling the pinch and still haven’t recovered from December it’s not too late to have a few no spend days or even weeks. The discipline of buying nothing except essentials is great. If you decide you are going to spend less, it is easy to just spend and it creeps up without you noticing … However, if you declare you will be spending nothing then that is clear cut. No shopping, no going to the pub, no buying stuff on the internet, no beauty treatments or hair cuts, no meals out. You pay your bills and buy your groceries. You get petrol and pay for any essential repairs, but that’s it.

That might sound depressing, but it’s actually the opposite. It is only for a limited time and you reap the benefits with greater control of your money. So what frugal things have I achieved for this week of my no spend January?

1# Going part time vegan

january is a long month

I don’t think I could sustain a completely vegan diet. Nevertheless I find myself preparing vegan meals quite a lot of the time anyway. If you avoid buying lots of processed vegan foods such as ‘cheese’ or burgers, eating vegan is actually extremely cheap.

I decided to eat totally vegan twice a week in my new year’s resolutions, partly for health reasons – less fat and more vegetables and fruit – and partly to reduce my environmental footprint.

It wasn’t difficult as I enjoy this way of eating. I even experimented with a vegan lemon drizzle cake. It turned out a little soft in the middle but was so lemony we ate it all anyway. My difficulty with the diet is having to either drink my tea black or to put non-dairy milk in it. The almond milk I purchased didn’t taste good in tea. Next week I am going to try oat milk.

2# Keeping warm with our wood burner

january is a long month

I mentioned previously that I am currently signed off work with a trapped nerve. As it has been just me in the house a lot of the time during the day, I have been sitting in the lounge with the wood burner on rather than heating the whole place.

Me and the cats love snuggling up in front of a roaring fire! Cheaper than heating rooms nobody is in.

3# A walk in the park

january is a long month

We are lucky to have a beautiful park in Colchester town centre. Castle Park is huge and always immaculately looked after, with lots of interesting things to look at each time we go. This time there were these lovely willow figures of men tending a war time allotment.  We had great walk round it in the cold sunshine. It was so cold the pond was frozen over. Fortunately some parts had broken and melted as it was full of swans and ducks.

january is a long month

There were lots of people in the park, obviously not put off by the freezing weather. This is great. With all the cuts in local government, it is really important to use facilities that we pay for with our council tax so that they can’t easily justify stopping the funding for local amenities like parks, libraries and museums. Use them or lose them and make sure your councillors know how much you value them!

4# A bit of bird watching

january is a long month

Mr S received a huge wreath made from bird food as one of his Christmas presents. We need to put it in the garden, somewhere the cats can’t get at so the birds feel safe feeding from it. I also plan to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch so have been online to get a free pack. Hopefully the wreath will draw the birds in and we can record a few feathered visitors. It runs from 26th to 28th January. Why not take part? It’s fun, it’s free, it’s educational and it’s useful!

I’m not great at identifying birds but Mr S is pretty knowledgeable. I have been looking at the RSPB website, where there are pictures and descriptions of the most common birds you might see in your garden.

5# Changing broadband provider

We decided to get a grip with our TV and broadband. We had the cheapest, most basic contract with Virgin, which was fine for broadband but pointless for the TV. We get more channels on Freeview! We decided to get rid and take out a broadband and phone only package with Now. I did it through Top Cashback and got £75 cashback! I use cash back sites for pretty much everything I buy now – they save me so much money! (This is my referral code, by the way.)

january is a long monthThe contract will only cost £25 a month, as opposed to the £44 we were paying with Virgin. So, £19 a month saved plus £75 in our pockets. Most of the TV we watch is on catch up, which we can get via the Firestick, and Netflix. I don’t think we will miss Virgin.

How has your week been? Do you find that January is a long month?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.



5 more free things to do on a no spend challenge

no spend challenge

How are your frugality efforts going this dark and damp January? I am still on a no spend month and doing really well. Honestly, there is very little to spend your money on when it is cold outside. January is a good month to cut your costs for this very reason. In addition, I am signed off work with continued pain from my trapped nerve, so I don’t feel much like going out spending. I could go crazy and shop online, of course, but I feel no need. I am enjoying  the thrift and frugality of my no spend challenge!

My one fail? A cup of tea at the hospital on Saturday. I had an awful allergic reaction to some painkillers and came up in a horrendous rash. It was so bad I had to go to A&E for blood tests and a blast of antihistamines and steroids. I will let myself off. We didn’t think we would be very long and really needed to buy a tea whilst waiting around.

I don’t normally show pictures of me in my pants on my blog, but I had to share! I was like this from my neck down. Shocking, ain’t it?

no spend challenge

It got worse than this!

You may have read last week’s post Five free things to do on a no spend month. As I have plenty of time on my hands at the moment, I have been thinking of more things you can do rather than spend money when you are doing a no spend challenge, or even when you are just on a tight budget.


Volunteering gives you the chance to do something useful, meet new people, increase your skills and improve your job chances. It also costs nothing! If you are bored but have no money to go out, how about looking at volunteering opportunities in your area? is a good website to get you started.

Change energy providers

I know it’s not exactly exciting, but doing a price comparison on your utilities is well worth the effort every now and again. A no spend challenge is all about saving money, so this is a good time to re-evaluate your spend on the essentials.

I have been getting a few quotes this week. I’m not just going for the cheapest, though. They need to have a good reputation for customer services too for me.

Have an audit of your makeup and toiletries

no spend challenge

I don’t wear that much makeup, but even I was surprised by the makeup items I had forgotten when I had a clear out recently. Two very nice lipsticks stashed at the back of my drawer, plus an unused mascara that someone gave me. If you don’t use them quickly enough, the oils in them start to turn rancid. They don’t last forever! Finding things you have forgotten about will hopefully stop you wanting to buy more, so a no spend challenge month is a good time for a clear out.

The number of toiletries has decreased since my youngest went to university, but we still have duplicates of things. For some reason, we have many bottles of shower gel – I rarely use this as I prefer soap and I am trying to reduce my plastic consumption. However, since they are here I am working my way through them. We also have lots of bath bombs that various daughters have purchased or been given as presents. Usually I wouldn’t use those either, but a hot bath and a good soak is good for my painful neck and shoulder.

Play board games

Most of us have a cupboard full of board games, but how often do we actually play them? Bring the family together for an old-fashioned, non digital afternoon of Scrabble, Monopoly, Cluedo or Pictionary.  It’s not a board game, but my favourite is still Boggle!

Clear out your books, CDs and DVDs

You can make a bit of money on this one! Declutter and have an honest look at the books, CDs and DVDs that just gather dust but are never taken off the shelf. If you don’t love them, will never read, view or listen to them, then sell them onto to someone who will.  If you decide on a proper clear out, you can sell these and all sorts of other stuff (old phones, tablets, gift cards and more) through Music Magpie.  I love a declutter, and a no spend month is a good time to make money from your old stuff.

Do some baking

no spend challenge

There is something incredibly therapeutic about baking, I find. If you aren’t massively artistic or creative, like me, you can still create something good with your hands by following some decent recipes. As part of my no spend challenge, I cleared out the larder. I wanted to keep our grocery costs low this month too by using up what we had. There are lots of things to bake with in my cupboard – flour, icing sugar, baking powder, dried fruit and more.

I made my daughter a chocolate birthday cake and have also made my easy fruit cake. Next I plan to bake some spelt bread again as I have both spelt flour and yeast!

So these are another five free things to do instead of spending your money! You can keep up with how I am doing with my no spend challenge by following me on Instagram and Twitter.

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

Five free things to do on a no spend month


free things to do

How is your no spend month going, if you are doing one? January can be a depressing time. It is cold and dark and you don’t feel like doing a lot. In addition, most of us don’t have a lot of spare cash after Christmas. To stop you dying of boredom, here are some ideas for free things to do during a no spend January.

Visit your library

Libraries are full of books that you can read for free! If you can’t find one you want, you can usually order it in online. I have done this many times. Even if you think you want to buy a book, it gives you the opportunity to try before you buy.

Libraries offer loads of other things too, including e-books, films and various community events. Ours does toddler groups, art exhibitions and book clubs, for example. You can go and sit in a warm library and read free magazines and papers. When my children were small, we spent many a pleasant hour sitting on the bean bags and reading books.

As reader Jo pointed out a few days ago, the library service in the UK is under threat from funding cuts. However, it will be a lot harder for local authorities to justify those cuts if the libraries are well used. Use it or lose it.

Discover your local parks

We are blessed with some lovely parks in Essex. There are huge country parks run by the county council as well as smaller play parks run by the borough councils. We often take a walk out and see them at different times of the year. To stop unnecessary spending, we generally take a flask, water and a picnic (or a snack at least), even in the colder months.

Do an internet search to see where the parks are in your region and go explore.

Go on a nature walk

Whilst you are out and about, how about taking a camera and notebook and recording some of the interesting things you see? Kids love this! You can borrow books from your library to help identify the wildlife that you see. Nature walks are one of my favourite free things to do. Mr S is a mine of information and can identify a lot of birds, butterflies, trees and flowers as we go along.

Check out free museums and galleries

Even small towns often have free museums and galleries to visit. Cities are even better for free things to do when it comes to culture. We have a toy museum, natural history museum and a big art gallery in our town so we are lucky. However, as these are all funded by the local authority they are another facility that it pays to use regularly to justify the cost of keeping them open.

Have a wardrobe declutter

Do you ever go through your wardrobe and find barely worn items you forgot you owned?  Yes, me too and I don’t even have many clothes. A no spend month is the ideal time for a wardrobe clutter.  You can rediscover clothes and remember why you bought them. It will also help you resist spending on new items.

I hope you enjoy my ideas for five free things to do during this no spend January. You can keep up with more of my ideas by following me on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter!

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.


Keeping up with the frugal life on the run up to Christmas

frugal life


How is everyone doing with their Christmas preparations? The festive season can be a huge drain on your financial resources. In the past I have blindly spent whilst feeling vaguely anxious the whole time and then dreaded the new year hangover. Because I never want to get like that again, I now put money into a savings account all year. When December hits I transfer it into the main account and can buy whatever we need – within our Christmas budget of course! It might seem impossible to have a frugal life when you are on a spending frenzy but it really isn’t if you are organised.

Avoiding temptation

I saved money by taking bottled water and a flask of coffee into town when I went Christmas shopping so that I didn’t get tempted into the coffee shops (where I would probably also buy a cake!). I do this most of the time – not just at Christmas. It saves a few pounds and probably also stops me putting on pounds round the belly too!

Not buying washing powder

Several months ago I purchased an Ecoegg Laundry Egg from Amazon. You use it instead of washing powder, so it is more eco-friendly. It also saves money. At around £20 for the claimed 720 washes, that is just under 3p a wash.

frugal life

I am pretty happy with the quality of the wash. However, I do currently still use fabric softener so the laundry smells nice. I haven’t found it effective on really dirty clothes, like Mr Shoestring’s work jeans, so keep a small box of powder for those. This is a good purchase for a greener, more frugal lifes I think.


frugal life

Well, acupuncture isn’t frugal in itself. It is my latest attempt to cure the relentless pain of the trapped nerve in my neck. By booking ten sessions ahead I got each session for £23 rather than £30. I think this was a really good deal. I have only had one session so far but came out feeling a little better. I need to wait until after Christmas for the next one though.

The idea of having needles stuck in your back may not appeal to everyone, but it didn’t hurt at all and was actually quite relaxing. There is quite a bit of research on the benefits of acupuncture and in some places it is also offered on the NHS. I am hopeful it may help where everything else has so far failed!

Using up the veg

I have been doing very little cooking – I just haven’t felt up to it. As a result we had a fridge full of veg that needed using. I decided that a nice easy curry was the way to go and made enough for two days, including new potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and peas. I used a jar of sauce that was lurking in the cupboard so it was super easy and super cheap.

Normally I would have had a nice big glass of white wine with mine. I can’t drink much at the moment though as I am on too many painkillers, so I guess I am saving money on alcohol too!

Home spa

frugal life

Secret Santa gave me a Lush bath bomb. I don’t usually use these as generally take a shower rather than a bath – quicker and cheaper. However, there is nothing like a really hot, deep bath to ease an aching neck and shoulder. I lay in it for 20 minutes, listening to an excellent programme on You Tube. When I got out I moisturised all over, plucked my eyebrows and gave myself a pedicure. It was so relaxing.

The bath bomb was crazily psychedelic though! It was the luxury Lush pud – if you look on the website you can see what happens when you put it in your bath!

A home spa is a cheap way to give yourself a little treat. When you live a frugal life you appreciate these small things.

Are you managing to achieve a few things toward a frugal life in the run up to Christmas? What small, inexpensive treats do you give yourself to keep your spirits up?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission.


Five frugal things in the run up to Christmas

frugal things

I have been rushing around doing some last minute Christmas shopping. This year my efforts have been severely hampered by a lot of pain caused by a trapped nerve in my neck (I have mentioned it a lot I know, but it’s hard to forget!). I am normally done and wrapped up at this point. I felt a bit better and took an afternoon off to go bargain hunting, so here are this week’s five frugal things including some of the offers I found.

A bargain shoulder support

A friend at work lent me a neoprene shoulder strap and it has been a Godsend. I have no idea why, but it has really eased the pain and enabled me to actually get on, concentrate and do some work. So the first of my five frugal things is this. These supports can be quite expensive – up to £30 – but I managed to find one quite similar on eBay for just £8. It seems to work just the same. Perhaps it won’t last as long, but I am hoping this problem isn’t going to be long term. Four months is quite long enough!

40% off at the Body Shop

I had to buy a present for someone’s birthday at work as I was in charge of the collection. She loves smellies and nice body butters, so I popped into the Body Shop to look at their gifts. They currently have 40% off individual items and 25% off gift sets. To get the best value I chose individual items and the lovely lady at the till put them in a gift box for me. I got £32 worth of stuff for just over £18! This leaves some money in the collection for some nice flowers.

I took full advantage of the offer and bought some stocking fillers for my daughters and another present for a friend. Bargains!

Free parking

As I was driving into the car park, a very nice woman gave me her parking ticket. She had paid for the whole day but was leaving early, so I parked for free. I know! Naughty, but handy as every saving helps at this time of the year.

Half price aftershave

My dad wanted some aftershave, but didn’t give me any idea what brand he fancied.  I popped into Boots and found this very nice smelling Lacoste one at half price. I don’t mind spending £33 on a posh aftershave, but I wouldn’t have spent over £67!

They had the usual buy two get one free offer on gifts in Boots. I didn’t need any, but I think they are worthwhile if you have a lot of presents to buy.

Bringing out the old tree

frugal things

I know that real Christmas trees are more eco-friendly than artificial ones. However, we have had our old one for years – maybe 12 now – so we may as well keep using it now. Mr S brought it down from the attic and we pulled out decorations that we have collected over the years to decorate it. This is one of my frugal things this week – I think we have got value for money for our tree. I can’t remember how much it cost but it wasn’t much!

There are so many things to spend our money on at Christmas. We have planned for this throughout the year, so we have no stress! Well, we do, but not financial :).

How is your Christmas shopping going? Did you manage your five frugal things?

If you want some ideas for presents that save money or eco-friendly gifts, have a look at my gift guides here and here.

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission.

The good things in life for less #5frugalthings

We have had a thrifty week. I have actually spent very little money generally, although I have bought some things for Christmas. You don’t have to spend a fortune and can easily experience the good things in life for less money.

Christmas booze

good things in life for less

We braved Aldi last weekend to buy some of their excellent Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, which has had some excellent reviews. It was on offer for £7.99.

We bought several bottles as our contribution to our Christmas celebrations, which will be hosted by my sister. Who says you can’t have the good things in life for less?

Slow cooker stew

good things in life for less

The slow cooker has started to be used a lot more now that the weather is getting colder. In last week’s meal plan I said we were having a slow cooked vegetable stew. It was really warming and delicious. We added a bit more stock to the leftovers and ate those as soup for a couple of days too. Home made soup is superior in every way to shop bought, even the fancy stuff in cartons. Super cheap too.

good things in life for less

Bargain books

I bought a few more Christmas presents in the form of books this week. I got them from the Book People. They are good value anyway but currently have a 10% flash sale on.

Eco-friendly bin liners

Who reads newspapers these days? I used to be able to pick up the old ones from work, but it seems everyone is reading online. Except for my old dad! He ambles to the shop every morning to buy his.

So I collected a big pile of his old ones to use as food caddy liners, rather than the compostable sort I have been using. It’s only a small saving, but every little helps. Newspapers are compostable too.

I am also using them to wrap up the old cat litter, before putting it straight in the dustbin. I was using nappy liners before, but am running out of those and I am keen to avoid plastic where ever I can.

Using it up

good things in life for less

I have made the last of my expensive foundation last a few extra weeks by cutting the bottom off the plastic container and scraping it out with my finger. There was loads in there! In the past that would have gone in the bin without a thought.

So, you can experience the good things in life for less. Have you managed five frugal things?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Five things to prepare for a frugal Christmas #fivefrugalthings

frugal christmas

December is upon us! I don’t mind admitting that, due to a long term pain in the neck (not Mr S or Brexit, but a trapped nerve) I am a little behind on my Christmas plans. It is hard to concentrate! However, I need to prepare for a frugal Christmas and stick to the budget.

We don’t all have wads of cash to throw around at this time of year. However , it is perfectly possible to have a fabulous frugal Christmas with a little forethought and planning.

This week’s Five Frugal things consists of five random thoughts towards achieving a frugal Christmas.

Visit the discount stores

Check out the Christmas aisles at Aldi and Lidl. They always have a great selection of Christmas food and gifts. Home Bargains, Poundland and B&M can also be good.

Shop around for your Christmas meat

I don’t eat meat so will be settling down to a vegetarian Christmas dinner. However, the rest of the family do. I am absolutely positive that the price of a roast goes up at this time of the year so it makes sense to buy early and get your meat in the freezer. Iceland do some good frozen meat joints.

If you are buying fresh do a price comparison online and check out your local butcher or farm shop as well.

Buy brown paper

frugal christmas

Consider buying plain brown parcel wrap instead of fancy foil covered (and unrecyclable) Christmas wrapping paper. It is much cheaper and looks very pretty with some ribbon or raffia ties. You could even keep your children entertained and get them to do some potato printed wrap!

Plan your food

I tend to harp on about meal planning, but it saves loads of money and prevents food waste. This applies just as much at Christmas. As it can be a time of over consumption and waste, perhaps even more! Plan all of your food over Christmas and only buy what you will actually eat. It is only a couple of days! Also plan what you will do with any leftovers.

I tend to buy as I go along over several weeks to spread the cost as well.

Bargain sites for a frugal Christmas

Don’t forget to check the online cashback sites before you shop online. I got 8% cash back buying my daughter’s Christmas present at ASOS by clicking through from Top Cashback, for example. I also check Quidco to see if they have a better deal.  Both of these are my tell a friend codes. If you click through and make a purchase via a the Top Cashback one you will receive a £5 Amazon gift card (you need to spend a minimum of £10). You also get £5 if you make a purchase via Quidco using my link.

I also like Bargain Crazy for its discounts on pretty much everything, but it is looking particularly good for frugal Christmas gifts at the moment.

How are you preparing for a frugal Christmas? Check out my other posts to help save money at Christmas here and here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

Off to London: Five frugal things

Blogger awards

Finally the SHOMOS have arrived and I am writing this on the train to London. I am so excited to meet lots of blogger friends!

In case you don’t know, the SHOMOS are the annual awards of the UK Money Bloggers. This group are very supportive and friendly. I have learned so much since I joined them.

Shoestring Cottage is up for Best Money Saving Blog, Best Frugal Food Blog and I made it through to the last six for the People’s Choice Award. I have to thank you for the latter as this is decided on votes from readers.

A frugal trip

One of my frugal things was booking my train ticket a few weeks ago, which made it much cheaper.

Another is to bring my water bottle and some snacks.

I also have my bamboo coffee cup with me. It won’t save any money but will avoid any disposable cups.


five frugal things

I have mentioned my efforts to reduce waste at Shoestring Cottage and to live a more sustainable life before. To this end we are switching from teabags, which contain plastic, back to loose tea. It tastes so much better! How did we all fall for the whole teabag thing?

I found loose PG Tips in a cardboard box with no plastic, which was great. Cheaper too.

As I drink decaf much of the time, a reader on Instagram recommended the Brew Tea Company. I ordered decaf black tea as well as some ginger and lemon.

This wasn’t as cheap as the PG Tips but seems a quality product. I will let you know how I get on but it does taste lovely!


five frugal things

How is it that I have three grown up girls who feel I should still buy them advent calendars? I relented this year because there were some Cadbury’s ones for £1.99 each.

Last time! If they ever produce grandkids I will get them reusable cloth ones.

Grape liqueur

five frugal things

We finally bottled up the grape liqueur that has been brewing nicely for a couple of months.

It smells of strong vodka, so I wasn’t hopeful. However, it tastes really nice! It didn’t cost much to make and used up some of our grape harvest.


I love hand crafted presents. You get a unique product without all the usual packaging and support local makers.

five frugal things

A colleague’s husband makes all kinds of things as his side hustle. I brought a lovely bright knitted bag for Christmas for a little girl I know. I think she will love it and it was only £8. I think this was a bargain.

Anyway, I will let you know how I get on at the SHOMOS. Have a great weekend!

What frugal things have you achieved? Have you had an eco-friendly week too? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

An eco-friendly week #5frugalthings

I am continuing to live a little greener with less waste. I find this saves money too. This has been quite an eco-friendly week.

Pumpkin muffins


As promised in last week’s Five Frugal Things post, I used the flesh from our Halloween pumpkin rather than throwing it away. First came a batch of muffins. I used this recipe from Aldi. It made so many! They must have been using giant muffin cases as they said it would make 12. It made 30 fairy cake sized ones. Some we have eaten and some are in the freezer. They are lovely and moist.

Pumpkin soup


Secondly, I used my home made vegetable stock to prepare some yummy curried pumpkin soup.  Again, we have eaten some and frozen some.

It makes me mad that people just throw away their pumpkins once Halloween is over. Why waste good food?

A more eco-friendly cuppa

I wandered into TK Maxx the other day. I rarely go in there – too much temptation! However, I was after a couple of Christmas presents, which they had. I was impressed that, amongst the general tat, there was  a nice selection of items to help those, like me, who are trying to cut back on single use plastics.


They had a lovely selection of glass water bottles, protected with silicone. Water tastes so much nicer out of glass, I think. I purchased a single cup tea diffuser with some black tea. Teabags aren’t made entirely of paper, as you might assume, but also contain a form of plastic. This means that they aren’t fully biodegradable. The tea and diffuser cost just £4.99.

I also splashed out on a bamboo lunch box for £8. It is a good size and, again, no plastic.

Trip to the food coop


As I mentioned in last week’s low waste meal plan, I had my first visit to a food coop I recently joined. I need to get my head around it as I have missed their monthly order, but they keep a stock of some basics anyway. I purchased refills of hair conditioner and fabric softener, some organic sultanas, plain flour and some nuts.  Only the nuts came in single use plastic.


I also bought, for just 87p, these scouring pads made from recycled plastic.

It is much cheaper to buy a lot of these things through a coop. I like that they sell a lot of organic items much more cheaply than I can find elsewhere. We don’t buy organic all the time as we can’t afford it, so any way to save money in order to achieve more organic is good news.

Shoestring Cottage in the news

I am working with the Money Advice Service on a new campaign called Talk Money Week. There will be a blog post next week when it starts. In the meantime, I was asked by a Daily Mirror journalist to be interviewed for a piece she was writing for the campaign. You can read it here. Luckily no embarrassing photos this time!

What frugal things have you achieved? Have you had an eco-friendly week too? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

Old fashioned thrift: this week’s five frugal things

old fashioned thrift

My inexpertly carved pumpkin lantern!

I love writing my weekly five frugal things post. It makes me appreciate the small things we do each week to stay on track and in control of our finances. This week we are going for good, old fashioned thrift.

This week I have been working part time hours. I love it! When I have time I do so many more of the little creative cooking activities that I enjoy. I haven’t been able to achieve as much as normal as I am struggling still with fibromyalgia and a trapped nerve in my neck. Not being hunched over a desk constantly has definitely improved the situation though, so hopefully I am on the mend.

Soup, soup, glorious soup

I love soup and will happily eat it on the warmest summer’s day. It is so comforting and nourishing. Now that the weather has turned chillier I am enjoying it even more. We are going for good, old fashioned thrift this week and our five frugal things are almost all soup themed!

Making stock

old fashioned thrift

I usually make stock with poultry carcasses. However, as I have now given up meat we don’t have as many bones kicking around. Incidentally, I do still keep and make them. I will eat something made with animal stock rather than waste it.

old fashioned thrift

This time, however, I decided to make vegetable stock. I have been reducing our food waste as much as possible and keeping all of our vegetable trimmings and peelings in old ice cream tubs in the freezer. Once I had two full ones I made my stock. It is super easy, but I plan to write a post on how to do it in the next week or so. Old fashioned thrift means wasting nothing!

Making croutons

old fashioned thrift

We don’t eat that much bread, and usually leave it in the freezer taking it out a slice at a time. But we found ourselves with a load left over from when we hosted our French student so I made some croutons. You can read how I did it here.

Butternut squash soup

old fashioned thrift

A neighbour of Mr Shoestring’s mum often sells surplus home grown veg at their front gate. This week they had butternut squashes and pumpkins. We bought a huge pumpkin for £2 and two butternut squashes for 50p each.

The pumpkin firstly became a lantern for the local kids. We always take part – I like seeing the little kids dressed in their funny costumes. This is now waiting to become soup, of course. I am not letting it go to waste.

old fashioned thrift

In the meantime, I made some delicious butternut squash soup. The two squashes made 12 portions. Again, I will post the recipe for this soon.

Halloween costume

We always dress up for Halloween at work. We need to keep our evil spirits up! I didn’t have lots of time to make a crazy costume or the money for anything expensive. I opted for a T shirt from Lidl for £2.50 and a witch hat from the charity shop for 50p. old fashioned thrift

This picture shows what a lovely bunch of crazies I work with.

Zero waste lunch box

old fashioned thrift

OK, this isn’t exactly old fashioned thrift. However, I was recently gifted this brilliant stainless steel lunchbox by &Keep, a brilliant zero waste online shop. Taking my own packed lunch to work every day saves me a ton of money and I can see myself using this one for years to come.

I would love to move towards a completely plastic-free life. This is a great little two tier lunch box with a separate small container, which I take my snack of nuts in.

I love going back to the days where old fashioned thrift was seen as an admirable and virtuous thing. It saves money and is good for the planet.

What have your frugal achievements been this week? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

A pain in the neck: Five frugal things

Well, this never happens. I have been signed off from work for the past ten days with this pesky trapped nerve. This has made me frugal whether I wanted to be or not, as I haven’t been in the mood to go anywhere or do anything! Five frugal things has been a piece of cake.  I am glad I chose an easy week of meals for my French student, so cooking has been uncomplicated and easy.

Hosting foreign language students

My student is the first of my five frugal things! If you have a spare bedroom (even if only some of the time, like me), hosting foreign language students is an interesting way to make a little extra money. You are helping a young person get to know another language and culture, and have the satisfaction of watching their confidence grow in a very short period. You make friends from other countries and learn about their culture too. And at the end of their stay you get paid! It is a win-win. I have a whole post on hosting foreign language students here.

Making my own raised work station

five frugal things

I have Access to Work coming to see me when I get back to the office to talk about adjustments to my work station. In the meantime, I have made my own at home! Even browsing the internet or writing a blog post has felt uncomfortable this week, but with this little arrangement I can type standing up. It makes a huge difference, as sitting down for long periods seems to be what traps the nerve in my neck.

It is honestly the most painful thing I have experienced after childbirth, although that mercifully didn’t go on for 6 weeks, as this has.

Finding an internet physiotherapist

I have an appointment booked for physiotherapy in two weeks through the NHS. In the meantime, I have been scouring the internet for advice and came across a great You Tube video with some very helpful exercises from Bob and Brad. I with I had found it earlier as after just two days, the pain has begun to ease a little. I am paying to have regular massage but can’t afford to pay for private physiotherapy too, so You Tube, along with the NHS, have come up trumps!

We may moan about the NHS but we are so lucky to have it and should never take it for granted.

New front door

five frugal things

OK, so a brand new door may seem an one to add to this week’s five frugal things. However, the old one was terrible. Not only did it look tatty, it let in the draughts so badly that the hall was one of the coldest rooms in the house.

We recently saved up for the back door and found the tradesman so good and reasonably priced we thought we would get the front door done too. Mr S had some investments mature and thought this would be a good use of his money. It will save cash on fuel bills for sure!

We are super pleased with it. Have a look at the before and after pictures.

five frugal things

eBay listings

As I have had this enforced period of rest, I have finally got round to washing, ironing, repairing and listing almost all of the items I had stored up to sell on eBay. Hopefully this will bring in a little extra money before Christmas.

It does take time to source, prepare, photograph and list things to sell online, but I think it is worthwhile. I have a guide to selling on eBay here and another about how to present clothes here.

Shoestring Cottage needs YOU

five frugal things

Another quick reminder as we are almost out of time. If you get the chance before 31st October, please vote for Shoestring Cottage in the People’s Choice award for the SHOMOS money bloggers award. I would be massively grateful. I am up against bloggers with huge followings so it would be nice to do well. The link is here. Thanks so much to those of you who have already given me their vote!

Have you managed five frugal things this week? Even if you have only managed one or two, please share in the comments below.

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

Saving money where I can: five frugal things I have done this week

Well, it’s been a funny week. I am still struggling with a stabbing pain in my neck and shoulder, which I had assumed was fibromyalgia. I finally went to the GP yesterday and it turns out it is a trapped nerve! That is exactly what it feels like as the pain moves around. It has made me feel quite sick at points and totally sorry for myself.  The doctor has signed me off for a week to get me away from being static at my desk. I hope it helps as I have been suffering for four weeks now and I have had enough! I am still saving money where I can. Frugality can’t stop because of a pain in the neck…

Saving money on pain relief

I have been throwing back the ibuprofen and paracetamol, using ibuprofen gel and also heat pads. If you buy branded pain relief products, they cost an absolute fortune. If you look closely at the ingredients they are pretty much the same as the cheap generic brands you can find in the chemist of supermarket.

I am not into paying for fancy TV adverts and other marketing. If I can get the same product for 45p as I can for £3, it is a no-brainer. Saving money on drugs is easy if you stick to own brands.

I have been using various self heating stick on pads as well, most of which we had from when Mr S had back problems. When I came to buy some more I couldn’t believe the price of them! The best are Deep Heat, but they are about £2 each! You can get cheaper ones in Poundland, but you have to put them on your clothes and the heated beads inside tend to fall to the bottom after a couple of hours. I am also trying to stop buying single use products.

The solution appears to be a reusable microwaveable heat pad. There are loads on Amazon, but I have gone for this one because its shape means it goes over my neck and my shoulders. The reviews are good as well, and it should work out much cheaper than disposable heat pads. I think it will also make me look rather regal. Perhaps I should get a tiara to go with it?

Shameless canvassing for votes

Saving money

I am off to the SHOMOS, a bloggers event, next month. The schedule has just been announced so I can work out my timings and pre-book my train ticket. Much cheaper! I saved around £8 by pre-booking and it would have been even cheaper if I had specified particular trains. However, I want a bit more flexibility on the day.

Talking of the SHOMOS, I have been selected for two categories: the Best Frugal Food Blog and Best Money Saving blog. However, all blogs go into the Peoples’ Choice Award and this is where you can help by voting for me!

Please click here to vote for me. I really appreciate all your votes. Having come in the final three up against some huge blogs with a much bigger readership last year, it would be great to do the same again.

Making my own natural, plastic free toiletries

I think I mentioned in last week’s Five Frugal Things that I had ordered a book called Natural Beauty: 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty, featuring recipes to make your own beauty products.  Well, it arrived! It is a gorgeous looking book and brand new. I wasn’t expecting that for £1.25. In fact, I was incredibly lucky to find it at that price as it’s usually £9.99.

There are so many things I want to make. The ingredients aren’t particularly cheap, but if I make a few things using similar items it will spread the cost. I think it will work out cheaper than buying similar quality natural products, as well as save on all the packaging. A body butter is probably a good place to start as I have dry skin so always moisturise all over. Maybe I can start during this enforced period of rest! If anyone has ideas of where to buy reasonably priced cocoa butter, shea butter and the like I would be very interested to know. Thanks! Saving money as well as cutting back on chemicals and plastic are all important to me.


saving money

I have been charity shopping again! You can’t keep me out of them at the moment. I found a nice little pine bedside table for – get this – £5.75! My daughter took the desk from her room when she went back to university. She has moved into a shared house now and there wasn’t one. This left a gaping hole where the desk had been and this little set of drawers fills it perfectly. What a great bargain! I love saving money buying second hand.

I will give it the once over with some linseed oil to brighten it up.

saving money

I also found a gorgeous pair of leather boots for just a fiver. I wish they fitted me as I love them. However, they are too small so I will list them on eBay. I hope to get at least £20 back on my investment – now is the time for people to buy their winter boots, after all.

Extreme money saving

Did you see my post 25 extreme ways to save money in the week? I really enjoyed writing it as it reminded me of all the things we should be doing to keep our costs down and renewed my determination to do so. In truth, I don’t do all of these  ideas for saving money – I wouldn’t eat road kill, for example – but most I am happy to do.

Anyway, how has your week been and how have you been saving money?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase,it won’t cost you anything but I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

This week’s thrifty achievements #fivefrugalthings

This week’s thrifty achievements

Still suffering from a fibromyalgia flare up, so I have done little except go to work and drag myself home again (it feels like). Last night I had the longest, deepest bath and the pain in my shoulder seems to have eased a bit. I am hoping to be back to my usual self very soon! I did manage some thrifty achievements, though!

Joining the food co-op

As I said in my post Do you use a zero waste shop, I was bemoaning the lack of a zero waste shop here.

However, a friend reminded me that there is a small food coop locally, so I have joined that. The products are ordered in bulk according to the desires of the members and apparently much cheaper than the shops. I can also take my own containers. Can’t wait to use it!

Soup, soup, marvellous soup

thrifty achievements

To make sure I used up all of the bits and pieces in the fridge before I went shopping again, I made soup! A big batch of my favourite thick veggie soup. Full of vitamins and fibre.

I love soup, although this is almost a stew, so thick you can stand your spoon up in it. In went celery, carrots, potatoes and peas, thickened with red lentils in Marigold vegetable stock.

thrifty achievements

This is so quick and easy – incredibly cheap too! I made enough for six really big portions and put some straight in the freezer.

Back in my favourite shop

Now that I have discovered our £1 charity shop, I can’t keep out of it! It is chock full of the most incredible bargains.

Frugal achievementsI spent £11 and got a pair of winter boots, a Monsoon skirt and another pretty silk one, a couple of dresses, some vest tops and a witches hat. Well, it is nearly Halloween!

I also got the potato cookery book that I mentioned in last week’s meal plan. It has some lovely budget recipes in it.

I will sell most of these items and hope to make some extra cash for Christmas.

Bargain book

I love Amazon for second hand books too. I am interested in making some of my own chemical free and low waste toiletries. I managed to find this one, Natural Beauty: 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty,  for £1.25! Not bad! I saw it new for £6 on the Book People but this was even better.

I will try it out and let you know how I get on,

Yogurt making

thrifty achievements

I dig out my old yogurt maker a few months ago to try my own lactose free yogurt. It came out ok but was a bit runny. I am going to try again with whole milk and some added milk powder to make it thicker.

In the meantime I found this organic stuff on offer in Sainsbury’s for £1.20. It is delicious and I will use some of it as my starter when I make my next batch.

So, these are this week’s frugal achievements. What are yours?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Five frugal things for an eco-friendly week

This week’s five frugal things post has a green flavour  – we have had an eco-friendly week!

Before I begin, though, if you enjoy my blog please consider voting do Shoestring Cottage in the Peoples Choice Award at the SHOMOS – vote here. I really appreciate your support!

‘New’ boots

five frugal things

I wrote a post this week about why I buy a lot of second hand clothes. My best bargain recently was actually found by my mum. A pair of totally comfy, excellent quality Hotter ankle boots for £1!

I love Hotter footwear but it’s expensive new, so I was really happy with these. Ok, they aren’t high fashion, but I prefer comfort!

More shoe shopping

My daughter recently discovered a brilliant charity shop locally. It sells everything for £1. She went in during the week and bought a whole carrier bag of shoes in really good condition. She is selling the trendy ones on Mercari and gave me the slightly frumpier ones to sell on eBay. Another pair of Hotter shoes, loafers this time, some brand new court shoes from Next and a pair of Kickers shoes that look as if they have only been worn a couple of times.

I think it is craziness that people buy these things and never wear them, but their loss is our gain.

Avoiding the plastic

five frugal things

For some time we have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic coming into the house. It is disappointingly difficult! I wrote a post on how frustrated this was making me in  Dreaming of a plastic free life.

My resolve was strengthened by the BBC programme this week Drowning in Plastic. If you missed it I urge you to watch it on the BBC iPlayer. It is a harrowing and quite distressing wake up call to all of us and made me so angry. We have to stop using plastic in the way that we currently do and manufacturers will only listen when we, as consumers, show our displeasure and stop buying so many products packaged in plastic, especially the non-recyclable stuff.

I have been searching for a fortnight for tomato ketchup that wasn’t in a plastic bottle and finally found one last night. Sainsbury’s came up trumps, with their own brand sauce in a glass bottle for just 80p. Since it is so hard to find, I bought two!

And cutting back the chemicals

five frugal things

The other thing I have been working towards to make us a more eco-friendly household is to reduce the chemicals in the cleaning products we use. Annoyingly, they are generally more expensive. However, Sainsbury’s helped again, with Ecover toilet cleaner on offer for £1 a bottle. Again, I bought two!

This did come in a plastic bottle, but at least it is recyclable.

Lunch out

five frugal things

OK, lunch out isn’t that frugal. However, I had a day off on Monday so we decided to take a walk up the Essex coast, from Dovercourt to Harwich. We found a lovely pub called the Alma, where we had a sandwich each, which came with chips and 3 little side salads. It was just £5.55 each, which I thought was a great price.

You have to have the odd treat! Old Harwich is lovely actually, if you are passing.

So that is this week’s five frugal things. What have you achieved this week?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

This week’s frugal achievements

I am doing my very best to be super frugal at the moment. We have been without a lodger for a month and certainly miss the income. The Chinese student we were expecting decided not to come at the last moment, which was a disappointment, but actually it has been nice having the house to ourselves.  Still, there is news on both in this week’s frugal achievements.

Charity shopping

frugal achievements

Some of my recent charity shop booty!

I absolutely love a good charity shop. You never know what bargains you will encounter and I like the whole concept of reusing and buying second hand. We have a brilliant one not far from us. It is the warehouse for the charity’s other shops locally and also where they sell off items that have hung around for a while. Most of these are priced at 99p.

I went in last weekend and spent half an hour going through one of their bins of women’s clothes. They had some amazing things in there, some of them new with tags. I will never understand why people buy clothes they then never wear. If I buy anything new, which is rare, I try it on, debate with myself and make absolutely certain I love it and will wear it before I part with my hard earned cash. Still, their loss is my gain! I came out with a huge armful and spent around £7.50. This is top of my list of frugal achievements.

£5 credit with Mercari

I mentioned some time ago that I had signed up with Mercari. This is a selling app, particularly good for listing clothes. I have to admit, I have been a bit half-hearted about using it lately, focusing instead on eBay for listing items. However, my daughter loves it and has become a Mercari top rated seller. They even rewarded her recently by giving her £100 of credit, which was amazing!

It definitely seems to work with clothes for younger women. DD1 sells mainly high street brands in smaller sizes. She has quickly begun to make a really worthwhile extra income in this way. I am going to have a push with some appropriate items and get my daughter to model them for me. Try as I might, it is a long time since I squeezed myself into a size 8!

You can also find some massive bargains on Mercari.  People are selling off their summer items and Mercari are adding a 25% discount too. You can sign up using my code for a £5 credit: IXATXYQ.

New lodger

We finally found ourselves a new lodger, after our lovely student finished her masters and went off on her next adventure. Our new lady works in a toy shop in town and is bringing her cat. I must admit I am a bit nervous about this. Our girls may be a little put out and I foresee a bit a hissing and fur flying whilst they adjust.

Still, it is a great way to earn a bit of extra income.

Welcoming a foreign student

As well as the lodger arriving, we have agreed to have a French student for a week at the end of October. I do enjoy having them but they do create a little bit of extra work. For more information on hosting foreign students, see my post on the subject here.

Apples with everything

Now that I have used up most of the grape harvest, the apples are arriving thick and fast. As well as a few from our own small tree, Mr Shoestring is being given them everywhere he turns it seems! Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I have started freezing them. They will be nice in pies and crumbles.

Mr S is no cook but he makes a mean microwaved ‘baked’ apple with custard, so we are eating some fresh.

So that is our week of frugal achievements. How is it looking for you?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Five frugal things for Zero Waste Week

We have had a really good week here at Shoestring Cottage. It was Zero Waste Week, and the focus on reducing our waste meant we actually saved money too. Thrift and an eco-friendly lifestyle are natural partners I think.  We may be a long way from a zero waste lifestyle, but it is very satisfying to feel we can do our bit, be much greener and make a difference to the welfare of our planet.

Greener laundry

zero waste week

I finally got round to purchasing an Ecoegg. It cost me around £25 from Amazon and, all being well, should last for a massive 720 washes. I worked out in our case that would be about four years! The benefits are threefold. An Ecoegg will save money on laundry powder, save on the packaging it comes in and mean fewer chemicals are on our clothes and leaching into our water system.

According to the blurb it works like this: “The Ecoegg contains two types of cleaning pellets. The tourmaline ceramic pellets weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and the fabric. The mineral pellets then naturally ionise the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric, lifting away the direct and grime. ” Sounds like a science lesson!

I have only used it once so far and it cleaned perfectly well, so I will let you know how I get on.

Batch cooking

zero waste week

I made a big pot of chick pea curry and another of chilli con carne in the week. We had one meal each and I froze the rest. So we have two ready meals each for whenever we can’t be bothered to cook. Cheaper and healthier than a microwave meal and – for Zero Waste Week – with none of the associated packaging. I re-used some ancient plastic containers my daughters once had a takeaway in. These are great for freezing batch cooked meals, home made soup and leftovers.

Selling unwanted items

I listed some things on Facebook Marketplace at the weekend and have already sold three of them. We had two pictures that were in the attic and unlikely to be used again and a rug in nice condition but the wrong colour for anywhere.

I hate unwanted items just cluttering up the house and it makes sense to pass them to someone who will appreciate them – and make a bit of cash in the process, of course.

Dusting off the slow cooker

zero waste week

As part of my Zero Waste Meal Plan, I decided to use up some of the rather large bag of pudding rice that was lurking in the back of the larder.  I love rice pudding but hardly ever make it as Mr Shoestring isn’t keen. However, even he had to admit that with sugar and cinnamon it was actually quite delicious.

Now that the weather is turning a little colder I will start to use the slow cooker again.  It costs hardly anything to run and you can chuck in your ingredients and forget about them all day.

Here we go again

We had a lovely trip to the cinema in Clacton and finally got to see Mama Mia. We have been planning to see if for weeks but things kept coming up. Ticket prices are only £4.50 there, which is a bargain. We took our own drinks and parked in the street, although we did splash out on some popcorn for a change since it cost so little to get in. I loved the film – a bit of lightweight fun!

So this has been our frugal, not quite Zero Waste Week. As I keep saying, we are aiming for progress not perfection. How have you got on? Anyone else managed five frugal things or attempting a Zero Waste Week?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky. Check out what they have achieved this week.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Our frugal life at Shoestring Cottage #5frugalthings

I haven’t blogged as much as usual this month. Life has been really busy. So what has been happening at Shoestring Cottage? We are still living a frugal life but having lots of fun too!

A short break

frugal life

Sea Palling

We finally had our two night stay in Norfolk. It was Mr S’s Christmas present from last year. We had to use it before it expired. We chose a place close to Hickling Broad called Dairy Barns, which was absolutely gorgeous. If you are ever in the county I can’t recommend it highly enough.

frugal life

It was immaculately renovated, completely spotless and in a lovely area. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful, greeting us with a pot of tea and two huge slices of cake. They also gave us lots of information about good walks around the Broads and places to visit.

frugal life

Going away isn’t frugal in itself, of course, but booking through was a cheaper way to get this deal and for such a luxurious venue it was great value. We always try to balance our frugal life with plenty of treats. Living frugally most of the time helps us to pay for the things we enjoy doing.

The best place for tea

frugal life

One day on our trip away we went looking for a reasonably priced place to have lunch. We had a lovely walk around Hickling Broad so we were starving! We tried a pub nearby but it was heaving and we didn’t want to wait an hour just for a sandwich. It was also very expensive! Fortunately a helpful lady recommended the Prima Rosa Cafe in nearby Salhouse. It was an absolute gem!

frugal life

We had a very reasonably priced panini each and some tea. We didn’t have room for any cake, although they did look delicious. As well as being a vintage style tea room, Prima Rosa is a gift shop, specialising in crafts made by local artisans. It is absolutely jam-packed full of treasures. Every nook and cranny displays items for sale, even the loo!

We had a long chat with the lady who owns it, Judith, who told us it was her dream to create and run Prima Rosa. She and her husband completely gutted and renovated the shop three years ago and have been steadily building it up ever since. It was a labour of love that has really paid off. So worth a visit! What a lovely place.

 A frugal life – Up early for the boot sale

We got home on Friday night, then got straight onto preparing to do a boot sale the following day. I was fairly reluctant and didn’t have that much to sell, but my daughter persuaded me. So, we were up at 5.15 and off by 6 am.

frugal life

Darling daughter freezing her bits off at the boot sale

It wasn’t a great success in terms of selling. The weather was quite chilly first thing and there weren’t enough customers. However, we discovered a chap selling off all his barely worn and in some cases new designer clothes so we bought loads! I am washing and ironing the used stuff today and hope to list some of it on eBay tomorrow.

I was a bit shattered so the rest of my day wasn’t that productive. However, I did manage to make spaghetti cheese bake for tea, which is quick and easy. I will stick to this week’s frugal meal plan whatever.

Plums from our tree

We have a small Victoria plum tree in our front garden, which we planted a few years ago. It was a free one, when the council ran a scheme giving a way three trees or fruit bushes to whoever wanted them. I don’t think they would have the money to run this now but we took advantage of it for three years in a row.

Anyway, the plum tree is doing brilliantly this year. If it stops raining today, I will get out there to pick a few more. My daughter plans to make this plum and hazelnut cake, which looks delicious. They should also freeze well to make a decent crumble or two over the winter.

Paring down the shopping list

I always make a shopping list based on my meal plan, chucking in a few treats like some snacks and some wine maybe. This week I pared it down to the absolute minimum. If I am going to save more money for Christmas I need to cut back to the basics now. I could also do with reducing the vino as it is making me fat! I associate a glass of wine with a bag of crisps and if I do both too often my waistline suffers.

I have probably mentioned that all our spare pennies are going in the back door fund too. The patio doors are very old and draughty in the winter. Hopefully we can pin our chap down to doing it in the next few weeks. He works full time for a local firm fitting doors and windows but does extra in his own time. He was the cheapest of the three quotes we found and was recommended by a friend.

So this is our frugal life this week. We have had a really lovely, if tiring few days so I am glad it is a bank holiday weekend. Hopefully the weather will improve tomorrow as we plan to pack a picnic and head to the Countess of Warwick’s County Show. It is a great day out and we go most years.

What are you up to this weekend? How is your frugal life?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Just another frugal Friday #fivefrugalthings

Feeling grateful on Frugal Friday

frugal Friday

I have been feeling rubbish this week, just tired and low. So it is good for me to think about being grateful. Watching DIY SOS always makes me cry and last night was no exception. It makes you realise that if you have family, friends and your health you are really lucky. If you want to find some reasons to be grateful, watch it here.

This isn’t one of my five frugal things! This week I have achieved the following. It is good to look at my achievements on this frugal Friday.

No. 1: A walk in the forest

We had to drop my daughter at the station in Ingatestone on Sunday. Rail replacement services mean that the journey back to Brighton for her is so long! We took pity on her and saved her £15 in the process. Having driven all the way there from Colchester, though, we decided to go a bit further and have a few hours in Epping Forest.

We hadn’t visited for years and it was absolutely gorgeous. Even though it was a slightly grey and drizzly day the forest still looked beautiful. It’s hard to believe it is so close to London. We love to walk in the woods. It really lifts the spirits to get out in nature – plus it cost us nothing except the petrol to get there. A cheap day out.

frugal Friday

We dropped into Greensted Church on the way. It is apparently the oldest wooden church in the world, and just happens to be where my brother got married! It is a lovely building and it was nice to have another look at it.

Essex isn’t all TOWIE, you know. We have history, culture and nature too!

No. 2: Buying green on a budget

I have been moving more and more towards buying eco-friendly products wherever I can. However, I am on a budget and my purchases need to reflect this. I have been researching this and published a post about eco-friendly beauty on a budget here. Green is the way to go and you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve an eco-friendly lifestyle.

No. 3: Bargain make up

frugal Friday

In the meantime, I found some ridiculously cheap makeup the last time I went to town. I wandered into the New Look sale. I couldn’t see any clothes I liked, but I did find some makeup items hugely reduced. I got £28 worth of makeup for just £9. That will keep me going for a bit. However, as things are used up I will be looking for guaranteed environmentally friendly alternatives.

No. 4: Dodging the rain

frugal Friday

I managed to time doing the laundry so that we had some sunshine to get it dry. It has been raining on and off all week, but when the rain stopped the weather was warm and breezy. Clothes smell so much nicer dried in the fresh air, and I save money because I don’t need to put the dehumidifier on. I don’t have a tumble dryer and really don’t want one. However, it is definitely easier to get the laundry dried in fine weather.

No. 5: More listing and decluttering

frugal Friday

We have more bags of bits and pieces from our decluttering efforts. They are starting to pile up actually so we need to do one soon. This should make a bit of cash!

I also listed on eBay two pairs of really nice shoes that I never wear. What’s the point of them sitting gathering dust in the cupboard? One was a lovely pair of leather pumps which felt nice in the shop but were actually a bit narrow when I wore them. The second were a comfy leather pair of heels. However, I hate wearing heels! I bought them for a wedding but have only worn them twice in 5 years. Time to go.

So here are my frugal Friday achievements. How has your week been? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

Five frugal things I have planned for the weekend

five frugal things

The heat wave left us for a bit. What a relief it was to get some rain. However, the sunshine is back. I don’t mind as the garden is looking so relieved for the rain. We have had a busy week with all three of the daughters around for much of the time. This meant more noise and mess but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The weekend is looking quite busy too. But as we are saving to get the back patio doors replaced, our entertainment will have to be cheap. Here are my five frugal things for the week.

Packing a picnic

Mr S wants to go to Helmingham Hall in Suffolk for their Festival of Classic and Sports Cars.  I absolutely love Helmingham Hall. The gardens are stunning. Mr S is a sucker for a classic or vintage car too. It looks as if it will be a beautiful day, so we will take a flask and picnic. We hopefully won’t have to pay any more than the entry price of £9 each. I don’t resent paying this. A lot of money from the event goes to  EACH – East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, which is a charity doing very good work for children with life threatening conditions. It should be a good day and not an expensive day, so one of our five frugal things.

Dusting off my bike

I spent four months at the beginning of the year feeling terrible, just absolutely exhausted. This is so unlike me. I am a healthy sort and rarely get ill. The GP referred me to a rheumatologist to see if I have fibromyalgia. The appointment is next week, but I have felt so much better over the past few weeks I think I am OK! Let’s hope so. I will go have a chat with him anyway, but I am blaming the menopause and not fibromyalgia. However, I am doing a lot of self care: meditation, yoga, walking and a good diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

I am at the point where I feel I can up my exercise now, so I am dusting off my bike. You don’t have to spend a lot of money getting fit and I plan to start cycling, which is free!

Updating my room advert

Our lovely lodger, Jess, will be finishing her masters and leaving us in mid-September. We will really miss her! But, sentiment aside, this means it is time to update our advert on-line. I will be doing this over the next few days.

Renting out our spare room makes a huge difference to our income. For guidance on how you can do this see the Gov.UK website.

Getting quotes for work

We would like to replace the patio doors in our back room. They are old aluminium ones and don’t have good insulating properties. We have been saving up for this and are at the point where we can get some quotations.

As ever, we will get several and have a few tradesmen coming, recommended by friends on Facebook. We want the best value for our money!

New throws

five frugal things

We would love to buy new sofas for the living room. However, as the cats tend to rip the sofas to pieces the moment our backs are turned, it just isn’t worth it. When we do get around to replacing them we will buy second-hand for sure. So, to smarten them up, I bought a new throw from eBay. When it arrived, I was so pleased with it I bought a second one. At only £14 each, I thing these are a great thrifty alternative to a new suite.

How have you got on with your five frugal things this week? Have you managed to avoid spending money unnecessarily. Please share your achievements in the comments!

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Fame and honey: Five fugal things

No sooner had I sorted my meal plan for a heat wave yesterday, than the weather broke. We had a big storm and heavy rainfall. It is very welcome and feels like the garden is breathing a huge sigh of relief!

Everything looks so dry and parched. Even the weeds have been dying. I am hoping for more rain this weekend.

Anyway, onto our five frugal things for the week.

In the news

Regular readers might remember that aeons ago I did a photo shoot for the Daily Mail. It was because I had seen a plea from a journalist on a Facebook group for women who had started experiencing allergies as they moved towards the menopause.

five frugal things

It was great fun. They sent a photographer and stylist round to make me look fabulous. Theoretically, anyway. In reality they trowelled on the makeup and made my hair look a bit flat, but hey ho!

I had given up on them ever using the article but it finally ran this week in the Femail section. You have to get past the annoying popups to actually read it.

Why is it one of my five frugal things? Because they paid me £100. That is going into the new patio door fund (I had said it would go to our emergency fund, but that has been building up nicely anyway). The current one is ancient and allows the damp and cold into our little lodger lounge.

Frugal food savers

Does anyone else save elastic bands? I always do – they are so handy to have. Often I use them to secure packets of food, such as frozen peas or bags of pasta. Something else I use to help keep food from spoiling is a pack of pegs. You don’t need to buy special bag ties or clips. A cheap bag of pegs does the job better and they can be reused again and again. I even kept the wire ties from our dishwasher packaging as I am sure that will be useful for something!

five frugal things

Mr S never lets a decent cardboard box go, either. He uses them to safely package some of the books and brochures he sends out as part of his business.

I keep the plastic bags that fruit and vegetables come in as well and use them as sandwich bags. Reduce, reuse, recycle and save money!

Spending my vouchers at the sales

My daughter gave me some M&Co vouchers she had been holding onto for ages and decided she would never use. I thought they might have expired but checked and was told that their gift vouchers didn’t have an expiry date. Even better, they had a sale on. I like M&Co clothing but it’s not the cheapest, so this was good news.

five frugal things

I bought a pair of cool floral summer trousers for £19. This left me £1. Luckily I found a pair of plain black socks reduced to exactly that. Very pleased with the trousers and, of course, they actually cost me nothing.

Let’s get listing

I have had items from various boot sales and charity shops kicking around for ages, waiting to be listed on eBay.  As I picked up yet more last weekend this propelled me into action. I did everything apart from a couple of pictures, which I shall put onto Facebook Marketplace.

It is quite time consuming to resell on eBay, especially as I already have a full time job, but it is helpful extra money.

Tell ’em about the honey

five frugal things

I asked Mr Shoestring whether he had achieved five frugal things this week and he first said, ‘yes, I always do.’ Then exclaimed, ‘Tell ’em about the honey!’

five frugal things

Jono the Bee in action

His brother is a beekeeper (aka Jono the Bee) and Mr S helps him out a lot. This week they spent hours spinning off some fresh honey. It is so delicious. I have it on my muesli or porridge every morning.

five frugal things

The honey is ready for despatch

This is sold to friends, shops and at the local wildlife trust, where some of the hives are. It is a bit specialised for a side hustle, but very satisfying. And it goes to prove that you can, indeed, make money from a hobby.

What have your five frugal things been this week?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Small frugal wins

How has your week been? We actually had about five minutes of rain last night. Not enough to help our parched garden, though. Here are my frugal wins for the week.

Growing our own, in a small way

frugal wins

We have grown no vegetables at all this year. The veg patch and greenhouse are shadows of their former selves! Life has been too hectic and I have been too tired.

However, the blackcurrants we planted a few years ago have given us a great crop, despite how dry the weather is. The blueberry bush has also been prolific over the past weeks.

I have picked and frozen the blackcurrants to use in desserts and perhaps make some blackcurrant jelly. The blueberries are being eaten as we go. I love them on my porridge or muesli each morning.

Cooking from scratch

I have been madly testing out the new air fryer this week. It seems to be rather an energy efficient way to cook as it does things so quickly. It’s almost as easy to chop up a couple of potatoes into chips and ‘fry’ them in there as it is to get a bag of oven chips out of the freezer. Cheaper and healthier too!

Boot sale bargains

frugal wins

This morning darling daughter no. 1 and I were up early and out to the boot sale. I found a very nice overnight bag for £3, which will be good for our upcoming short break to Norfolk. I bought a voucher for this for Mr S for Christmas through, but we have yet to take it.

My daughter found loads of clothes for her burgeoning Mercari reselling business. It seems she has an eye and is doing very well!

We also found some food items from a chap who sells things that are just going or have just gone out of date. They are all perfectly safe to eat and extremely cheap. We bought big bags of Twiglets at 2 for £1, some classy looking curry sauce for £1 and some gluten free fruit and nut bars, which were four for £1. Bargains!

Courgette bonanza

Even if we aren’t growing vegetables ourselves, there is always someone trying to get rid of their courgettes at this time of year. We have a large bag to use up! I am going to make some ratatouille to have with pasta tonight. Tomorrow I will try those courgette fritters I keep promising to make in the air fryer. Anything left over will be made into soup for the freezer.

I was also given tomatoes and runner beans so that will bring the grocery bill down.

Posting cheaply

I finally sold a beautiful vintage coffee set I have had sitting around. Obviously china items have to be wrapped really carefully in bubble wrap so that meant the box was quite big. I chose to send it using Collect Plus
rather than the Royal Mail as it was much cheaper. It wasn’t a heavy box, just a bit bulky. It also meant I could pop round after work to my local Coop to send it rather than trying to get to the post office before they closed.

So these are my frugal wins. Have you managed anything to save you money? I am linking up with up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky. Have a read to see how their five frugal things for the week.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!




We need to be frugal! #5frugalthings

As we were on holiday last week in Wales (even though we didn’t go crazy with our spending), we need to be frugal for a bit. In addition, as I said in my post from Wednesday, we caved in and bought a new dishwasher and microwave from AO.

In truth, I have been too busy catching up with myself to spend much, so it’s not been that hard to be frugal.


be frugal

I’m not really a big spectator when it comes to sport. I just don’t find it that interesting. However, with England making it to the World Cup semi-finals, like many other people, I found myself drawn in.

We decided to have a cheap night in watching the footie. We bought some wine and beers from Lidl, as well as some crisps and chocolate. It was so tense and exciting! Even though England got knocked out, they put on a good show and we enjoyed our evening.


be frugal

We really fancied a takeaway the other night. It was so hot! I really couldn’t be bothered to cook. However, I stuck to the plan and made a quick and healthy stir fry instead. I chopped up lots of veggies and used a sachet of sauce from the larder, purchased from Aldi. Once they were fried up, I tipped in some prawns from the freezer and served it with noodles.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to be frugal, but really this took 15 minutes to make and was so much cheaper than healthier than a Chinese takeaway.

Walking, not driving

I am continuing in my bid to walk more by parking 10 minutes away from my office and having a walk in. This also saves me some money on petrol! Every little helps!

This walk is really enjoyable. It sets me up for the day as I go in and helps me unwind walking back. Ideally, I would like to park further away but have yet to find anywhere safe and suitable to leave the car. Working on this!

Decluttering for a boot sale

It is time for another of my regular declutters. I just don’t know where all the ‘stuff’ comes from! The plan is to get enough together for a boot sale next month. I need to spend a bit more time going through the attic, though. There is stuff up there we don’t know we own. It needs to go!

I have cleared out about 4 bags full this week, although haven’t had as much time as I had hoped. Little by little. We might as well make some money from our junk.

‘New’ sandals

Whilst I was going through and decluttering my wardrobe, I found a pair of lovely leather sandals I had forgotten I had. I did actually get them from the boot sale – if I had spent a lot I definitely wouldn’t have forgotten about them. They are gorgeous quality, soft leather from Italy. Because they are purple I think I didn’t immediately have enough clothes that would go with them, but now I seem to have plenty.

I have found them so comfortable and cool to wear in this heat. So, effectively I have a new pair of sandals for free.

This is why you need to do a regular declutter! It saves money as well as giving you a feeling of control.

Have you managed to be frugal this week?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Shoestring Cottage on holiday: five frugal things

We can be tightwads even on holiday so have easily managed five frugal things this week!

What a time we are having in beautiful mid Wales! We have never experienced a heat wave when we have visited before. Usually we are happy to see the sun at all. After all, the reason that Wales is so lush and green is because of all the rain.

The thing is, Wales is a stunning country even when it is rainy and grey. Now, in the sunshine, we could be in the Mediterranean somewhere. I have to admit the Irish Sea is somewhat colder, though.

Five frugal things on our Welsh adventure

Here is around up of our five frugal things and what we have been up to.

A flask is worth its weight in coffee

We had a disaster driving to Wales. Our flask exploded before we had even taken a sip. This meant we were forced the buy some cups of tea as we went. The first was at a motorway service station and cost £2.80 a cup. What? £2.80 for a teabag and some hot water? This is why we take our flask everywhere. It saves us literally hundreds of pounds.

We decided to stop at Welshpool, just across the border, to invest in a new Thermos for £10. It has saved us a ton of money this holiday and has been used every day. An absolute essential on our five frugal things list this week.

Yellow stickers galore

We also popped into Morrison’s to pick up a few provisions for the caravan. As it happened, we picked the perfect time to arrive. They were just marking things down for the end of the day and we followed the lady with her gun round the shop.

Our savings here pretty much paid for the flask! We bought our meal for that evening and the next, plus lunch for the following day.

Our bargains:

A bag of spinach, 8p

2 pots of vegetable stir fry, 6p each

Sweet potato mash, 9p

Two pots of tropical fruit, 38p each

Welsh cheese, down from £1.12 to 84p

Fresh stir fry sauce , 75p from £1

A loaf of bread, half price at 42p

Fresh haddock , reduced from £4 to £1

2 sandwiches, including a gluten free one, 28p each

We also got a cup of tea for £1 each. That’s more like it!

Eating out

As I said we would in last week’s five frugal things post, we have taken a flask of coffee and a picnic out with us every day.

We usually eat out in the evening at some point. However, apart from the odd cup of tea and cake, we haven’t bothered this time. My food intolerances mean it’s hard to find a suitable eatery, to be honest.

Instead we have splashed out on some local lamb and steak for Mr S and various types of fish for me. Last night he had the best steak he could remember eating. It cost £4 from the local Coop. We would have paid £20 minimum at a restaurant.

A new dress

A picnic in my new dress, knobbly knees and all!

We visited a town we had never been to before, Dollgelau. It is a pretty little place.

As ever, I couldn’t avoid the charity shops. I found a lovely floral dress in one. It is very cool and, because it has been so hot, I have worn it already!

More charity shopping

We also hit the charity shops in Machynlleth. I bought three very nice designer frocks. None of them fit me, but no matter. I plan to resell them on eBay and hopefully make a profit.

Checking out petrol prices

We have been driving a lot. Wales is such a great country to explore by car. There are some truly stunning, scenic drives nearby.

However, all this driving comes at a price. We have been keeping an eye on petrol prices and found the cheapest at a gas station just outside Welshpool when we visited Powis Castle. (A separate blog post will follow on that – what a fabulous place!)

We filled the tank up and will do the same when we leave on Saturday, since we drive that way home.

As usual, we have had a lovely holiday and will be sorry to leave. Going back to a stuffy office after so much fresh air will be a drag! Still. We can always come back next year.

Do you manage to save money even on holiday? Have you achieved five frugal things this week?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

The small things count #5frugalthings

This week’s five frugal things round up demonstrates once again how the small things count and really can add up. A conscious approach to our spending every day means that we rarely waste money (I won’t say never!), so have enough for things that are important to us. An example is our upcoming holiday to Wales. We have been adding to our holiday spending fund. Every penny counts!

Family gathering, Father’s Day

small things count

I am fortunate to still have both my parents. This week my lovely dad was 87. It was also Father’s Day last Sunday, of course. We could have gone to a restaurant and spent a load of money. Instead we went for a more relaxed approach and gathered at the home of my brother and sister in law. They made us a lovely afternoon tea and we raised a few glasses.

Since I have to be careful what I eat this suited me – M&S do a great gluten and lactose free range and they bought lots of bits to try.

Stuff for the freezer

We will be off on holiday soon leaving my daughter in charge. When she is at university she shops a lot at Iceland so I plan to stock up on some easy meals and ingredients for her whilst we are gone. The advantage of frozen over fresh if she is just feeding herself is that there is a lot less waste. She can eat more varied meals and just defrost what she needs.

I don’t want to  leave her burgers and chips though – she tries to eat healthily. I will go for things like their zesty bean quinoa, which is not a bad price at £1.69, some of their Mumbai street food range (which actually looks rather nice), pizzas, loads of frozen vegetables, smoothie mixes and things like sweet potato chips. I shouldn’t need to spend too much to set her up for the week.

Reading material

small things count

I used to love fiction and read loads when I was younger. Now I prefer non-fiction books. I think this is because I don’t have enough time to really get into a book and lose the plot (literally). Non-fiction books are easier to pick up and read for ten minutes.

I had an Amazon voucher for my birthday and decided to buy some books for my holiday. Obviously I tried to get them second hand!

Two were available but one I had to buy new. Now I have plenty to read on our holiday. I bought The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Million Dollar Blog (if only – I can but dream) and Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters.

You can probably tell from these choices that my mind is on both money and work! Let’s hope they are as inspiring as they sound. There is lots going on at work. I can’t go into it but it’s an unsettling time.

eBay charges

I listed a couple of things on eBay this week. Now, you know that generally I enjoy selling on eBay and find it pretty easy. However, they have introduced some changes recently that really irk me. I even had a bit of a moan at them on Twitter about it.

Firstly, they have started defaulting your settings to auto relist. Auto relist is something they charge customers for. It therefore seems an under hand and sneaky way to take money from their customers. Fair enough if you want items to auto relist – it is handy and I have used it in the past.  However, if I want to keep my costs down I don’t. When I go to relist manually it turns the auto relist button back on so  you need to actually notice that it has reverted back to auto relist. If you don’t you will be charged!

The other thing that is annoying me is around allowing customers to make an offer.  For low price items I don’t always allow offers. Now eBay has decided to turn those on after a while whether I want them to or not. I think that if I wanted to accept offers that is how I would have set it up.

However, until eBay have some serious competition, which they don’t really, I expect they will do what they like.


Another online vehicle to sell you unwanted stuff is Mercari. I listed about 10 items on their recently, but hadn’t had any interest. This week I finally sold something! As I say, I don’t think it is stiff enough competition for eBay just yet.

What I like about Mercari is that it is an app and very easy to use. What I don’t like is that it won’t let you list postage separately – it has to be included in the price. This is good for the buyer I guess, as they can see the total amount they will pay. However, if you are used to selling on eBay it is easy to forget the postage is in the cost and accept an offer that is too low. If I have a dress that costs, say, £6 and someone offers me £4, I mustn’t forget that just under £3 of that will actually be the postage cost. That would mean one whole pound profit on the deal – hardly worth the effort.

If you fancy giving it a go, you could use my recommend a friend code and get £2 to spend: XATXYQ.

So, these are my frugal things this week. The small things count and add up to something significant I believe. Any frugal achievements to report this week?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Every day money saving #5frugalthings

I have found myself occasionally being a bit lazy lately. Well, not lazy really – more a bit pushed for time. I don’t always check I am buying items at the cheapest possible price, as I used to do obsessively. It’s a question of balance, isn’t it? After all, your time is valuable too. I work full time and blog and sell on eBay part time. There are only so many hours in the day! However, there are some every day money saving tricks that I make a point of doing that don’t take much time.

Checking petrol prices

every day money savingOne thing I can do to save a bit of money is to check petrol prices before I go to fill up my car. I have signed up with This site tells me that currently Asda is the cheapest retailer in my post code area, selling unleaded petrol currently at 127.7p a litre. Fortunate for me as I pass it on my way to and from work!

As petrol prices seem to be on the up again it is worth checking prices locally as part of my every day money saving. For more tips on how to save money motoring, see my post here.

Don’t auto renew

When you are busy it is easy to accept whatever you are charged on your renewals for items such as household and car insurance. The cost of these can sneak up, even if you haven’t made a claim. It really doesn’t take long to do a little research and get a few quotes.

If you are happy with your current company, go back to them and tell them what you have been quoted elsewhere. They will often match it. We got our car insurance through recently and did just that.

Never walk past the yellow sticker aisle

every day money saving

I always stop to take a look at the yellow sticker sections of the supermarkets. It’s pointless to buy stuff we won’t eat quickly or can’t freeze, but I often find items I was planning to purchase anyway. Always make sure they are in good condition though. I picked up a couple of reduced corn on the cobs the other day, then realised they were really wet looking! That wouldn’t have saved me any money as they would very likely have gone straight into the compost.

My local Coop is great for reducing food that still has lots of time left before the best before date. I guess this will happen less and less as the supermarkets move away from such rigid labelling to try to waste less food.

Use less of everything

I always try to use less of everything then is recommended. For example, I have been known to cut dishwasher tablets in half! This doesn’t work with really stuck on food, though. I use just a squirt of shampoo and conditioner, less washing powder than the packet suggests and as little washing up liquid as I can get away with.

I also occasionally make more of things by diluting them. Shampoo and conditioner, hand wash (if I use it at all – I prefer a bar of soap), fruit juice and even milk have been known to get diluted to make them last longer!

Exercise at home

every day money saving

I have had gym memberships in the past. Mr S loves his swimming, so belongs to a club for that.  However, I now make a point of exercising for free. We walk a lot at the weekends and I park my car 10 minutes from the office and have a brisk walk there and back. I also practice yoga at home.

So these are my every day money saving habits. What do you do as force of habit to save you money?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Making extra money #5frugalthings

I love to save money, but I also like to make it. I have been inspired by some other bloggers to refocus my efforts on selling stuff online. This takes time, but is a good way of making extra money.

Sourcing stock to resell

With this in mind, I hit the boot sale again last bank holiday weekend to source some items to sell. If you don’t know where to start finding bargains at boot sales, read this post.

I have gone off the boil a bit when it comes to selling on eBay but I’m feeling reinvigorated!


I decided not to stop at eBay, and to give an app called Mercari a try. I have listed some items that have been hanging around on eBay on there to see if they do any better on Mercari.

The app seems very easy to use, so it could prove another means of making extra money. If you sign up using my code, you get £2 to spend: XATXYQ.

New (to me) clothing

making extra money

This week has been about saving as well as making extra money, as you would expect.

I found a couple of nice things at the boot sale for myself. I was really pleased with this Per Una skirt for only £2.50. It is a size 10, but as Per Una sizing is rather generous, it fits! I am a size 12 generally. I also got two pairs of jeans that look brand new and 3 tops for work. Those five items cost a mere £5!

Shopping around

I received a small end of year bonus from work. This was fortuitous as the washing machine has been playing up for a while.

I shopped around online and found that AO was by far the cheapest place for the model I had my eye on. I found it for £100 more on a different site!

They called yesterday to check the delivery day and offered to take the old machine away for free. That will save us a trip to the tip! I found AO very easy to use and genuinely recommend them. They aren’t paying me to say this – I have been really impressed with their service so far.

Soup making

I used lots of odds and ends from the freezer to make a large pot of vegetable soup at the weekend. I didn’t use a recipe; just chucked it all in with some stock and whizzed it up.

This has done for my work lunches all week. Batch cooking saves me time as well as money.

So making extra money and saving where I can has been the theme this week. Have you managed five frugal things? Are you making extra money?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Five frugal things in sunny Norfolk

Five frugal thingsThis week’s five frugal things is on location!

We have just returned from a week in North Norfolk. We were mostly blessed with fine, sunny weather, although it was chilly on the coast.

It is a beautiful county and there is so much to do. We will go back for sure as we ran out of time.

Taking a packed lunch every day

We stocked up on rolls, crisps and fruit and took a picnic every day. A flask and water too. We were glad of this on several occasions when we saw the queues and the prices at some of the places we visited.

Cooking at the cottage

As I mentioned in last week’s meal planning post, I had a rough plan for food. We cooked most of our dinners in our cute self catered cottage. This saved loads of money and meant we could have a couple of holiday beers and not worry about one of us having to drive.

Five frugal thingsWe had two evening meals out during our week away. The first illustrated why we don’t eat out very much.

I really resent paying £15 for a dinner that turns out to be mediocre, as this did. If I have a professional chef cooking for me I want the food to be better than I could manage myself.

Mr S had a piece of lamb that looked nice but was half gristle. I had skate that tasted like it had been just fried in a bit of butter. Both ok-ish but less than special.

The portions were quite small too. Having had a busy day we were starving when we went in. We still felt hungry when we came out! We didn’t bother with pudding though and had a piece of cake back at the cottage.

Fortunately the second meal was really nice. We had that with my parents and daughter, who joined us mid week.

Choosing our attractions

Five frugal thingsObviously we have a holiday budget. Being careful with our money on holiday doesn’t mean not spending it at all.

We went to two stunningly beautiful stately homes. Norfolk is full of them! We chose Holkham Hall and Sandringham. They both cost around £15 to get in but were fantastic value. There is so much to see and do at both. We spent a full day at each and really got our money’s worth.

I will write a full review of these fine houses in the next week or so.

Life’s a beach

Five frugal thingsEven if you don’t have a heat wave, a beach is such a good place to unwind. We both love being by the sea. An evening walk at Holkham beach was our highlight. It has the biggest sky of anywhere! You walk through a pinewood to find a long expanse of sand with the sea off in the distance. The water, when we got to it, was warm enough for a paddle too. Gorgeous.

The kids would have loved it when they were small, Collecting shells, making sandcastles and running through the sand dunes. Magic. A visit to the beach cost us nothing except £2 for parking.

Stocking up at Lidl

You have got to love the discount supermarkets and we were delighted to spot a Lidl when we collected my parents from Norwich station. We nipped in and stocked up on picnic food, a couple of dinners and some drinks for the cottage. Lidl sell a decent bottle of Cava for around a fiver!So we managed our five frugal things even though we were on holiday.

How has your week been?As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This week’s money saving achievements #5frugalthings

I can’t believe another week has whizzed by and I am writing this week’s five frugal things post already! It is my firm belief that our small money saving achievements really add up. When you adopt a bargain hunter’s mind set you begin to see cost savings everywhere. So, here is what I have done this week.

Dyed my own hair

I rarely attempt to cut my own hair these days (it has been known when I really don’t want to spend out). However, I always colour it myself. I don’t want to do hairdressers out of business, but the price of getting your mop professionally coloured is horrendous!

To stop my hair getting too dry, I only touch up the roots each time. I buy boxes of colour whenever I see them at a good price, usually from Home Bargains. I then mix up just half of the ingredients as that is enough for my roots. This means it costs me about £2 to do my roots!

money saving achievementsMoving onto the eyebrows

You can save a lot of money by having some beauty treatments done at your local beauty school. Prices are a fraction of those in a salon. This week I had my eyebrows waxed and tinted at the college. It cost only £5.50, but would have been £14.50 at the salon in town.

Again, I don’t want to do any beautician’s out of business, but I probably wouldn’t bother at all if I had to pay almost £15 each time. Plus the students need the practice!

Got a discount on my MOT

As I work on a business park we frequently get discounts offered to us from other local businesses. Fortuitously, as I was thinking I needed to book my little car in for its MOT, I got an email offering the MOT for £45 plus 10% off any subsequent work. You can usually get a discount if you search, but I didn’t have to.

Unfortunately, my car does need work but it won’t be too horrendous. I put money aside for car costs anyway so it’s not too traumatic. It is my third MOT since I bought this car and it’s the first work it has needed. As it is 15 years old, I think I am winning!

Coffee out?

My trusty flask saves loads of money. I had two occasions last weekend where it would have been easy to spend £3 or so on a coffee but I took my own in the flask. I went to town shopping one day and to the boot sale on the other. The queue for the coffee van at the boot sale was really long – another good reason to take a flask!

Boot sale bargains

The boot sale was disappointing in all. Maybe all the good sellers had been out over the bank holiday. There were lots of plants and tools, but not so many clothes. I had a good root round though on a nice lady’s stall. After hunting through, I found a dress and skirt for my daughter and two work tops for myself for a grand total of £5.  All good brands, too. I love a boot sale bargain and this was the most satisfying of my money saving achievements.

How have you saved this week and what are your best money saving achievements?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Lost in Poundland #5frugalthings

lost in PoundlandI realised today that I am one of those people who mourns the death of the high street whilst doing most of my shopping on the internet. Mostly it is a lack of time, but when I have enough of it I do enjoy a good shopping trip. Shopping is hardly frugal, I hear you say. Well, that depends where you shop! This week I got lost in Poundland!

Buying some budget makeup

Yesterday I met my daughter after work and we had a good look around a few shops. I got lost in Poundland for a good 45 minutes, which is easy to do. There are quite a few positive accounts on the internet about Poundland makeup, so thought I would buy some for myself.

lost in PoundlandI have yet to use any of it, so that will wait for a further blog post. There was loads of choice, but I decided on a long lasting foundation in warm porcelain, the hide and chic concealer and a fairly nude looking lipstick in sun-kissed beige. Three quid! That’s ridiculously cheap. I hope they are good. This review suggests that most products are worth a go.

Saving money on birthday cards

I resent paying a lot of money for birthday cards that will end up in the recycling bin. I always try to buy them in bulk when I see them cheaply. May and June feature loads of birthdays in our family – six in fact. The cards in Poundland were funny with some nice designs. At two for £1 I stocked up.

Bargain toiletries

Still in Poundland, I needed some general toiletries. I bought a L’Oreal Skin Perfection cleansing milk, a pack of two pairs of tweezers, a razor with a couple of spare blades and a pack of 40 nail files. That lot will probably last me for the rest of my life!

Free entertainment

lost in PoundlandBank holidays can be an expensive business. It is tempting to bust the budget on days  and meals out. The weather last weekend was fabulous fortunately, so we took full advantage.

lost in PoundlandOn Sunday we packed up a picnic and drove with Mr S’s brother to Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast as there was a vintage vehicle rally. It was fabulous. Felixstowe is really an under rated place. It has been improved a lot in recent years using lottery funding.

lost in PoundlandOn Monday we went in search of bluebells. We had a walk in the beautiful Chalkney Woods, near Earls Colne in Essex. There were swathes of bluebells and they were absolutely stunning. There is little I enjoy more than walking in the dappled shade of a wood on a sunny day. It is so relaxing. So, two days out for just the cost of the petrol to get there.

Out in the garden

lost in PoundlandMr S has been working hard in the garden this week. There is always loads to do. He rotovated a big patch where we have previously grown vegetables. Rather than spending money on turf we are going to sow some wild flowers mixed in with grass seed. Cheaper and much prettier! I do love a wildlife friendly garden!

So, have you managed to get lost in Poundland this week? Have you managed five frugal things?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Five frugal things and building in some treats

five frugal thingsHere is my weekly five frugal things round up. In truth, I usually do a lot more than five frugal things, but sometimes one of them is not spending any money at all. I haven’t had that issue this week! However, if I am spending, I want good value for money.

A Japanese treat

I have been totally impressed by the delicious sushi at Aldi recently. It is the type of thing I never buy because it is expensive. However, Aldi sell a fish, chicken or vegetable sushi selection and they are a bargain at only £1.69. I love it when I can be fancy without spending crazy amounts of money. I think it is really important to build in a few treats such as this to help stick to our budget. So, this is the first of this week’s five frugal things.

An open garden

five frugal thingsWe had to drive my parents down to Southend on Sea last weekend. Having been glorious the week before it was FREEZING. I mean, if snow had started falling I wouldn’t have been surprised.  Usually, we drop them at their friends and have a walk along the pier and seafront, but we couldn’t face being blasted by icy winds.

five frugal thingsInstead, we drove along the coast towards Shoeburyness. It was an unexpectedly pretty route but we didn’t want to waste petrol driving aimlessly around. Fortunately, we came across an open garden at a rather lovely place called South Shoebury Hall. It was a shame the weather was so dull – the garden was stunning and would have been even more lovely in the sunshine. It was £4 to get in with all proceeds going to various charities. Better than wasting our cash trying to keep warm in the amusement arcades in Southend.

Better still, they have the most fabulous selection of home made cakes with hot tea in the church hall next door. The day was looking up!

eBay sales

I have gone off the boil a bit selling stuff on eBay. It has been so quiet! Also, I object to the stealth charges on eBay these days. Every little extra costs you money. For example, if you auto relist items it costs you, if you do a buy it now price it costs you, whether you sell or not. Then they take their 10% and Paypal also takes a cut. It is no longer worth selling low price items at all, in my view.

Having said that, I have sold two items this morning, so that is the third of my five frugal things. Selling stuff I no longer need also helps reduce the clutter. I am choosing Facebook Marketplace as my preferred place to try first at the moment.

Buying online

I am still managing to find bargains on ebay, though. Today I purchased something really good but I can’t tell you what as it is a birthday present!

I also bought a new king size duvet set for only £20. Now that we have upgraded to a king size bed we have hardly any suitable bedding. I have bought nice quality sheets in Asda, but none of the designs of the covers appealed. This is when online shopping comes into its own. So much more choice!

Line drying

five frugal thingsI am so happy that the sun is finally out here in Essex. Yesterday I line dried all the bedlinen and towels and they came in smelling lovely. Today I have another load out there. Perfect bank holiday weather!

We don’t have a tumble dryer and I don’t want one. They take up space and cost a lot to run. I use airers in the winter, one of which is heated. I also stick the dehumidifier on at times, which is cheaper to run than a dryer. However, nothing beats line drying!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and later make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Shoestring Cottage.

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky. Have a fab frugal bank holiday weekend!

Five fabulously frugal things I have done this week 20th April

Welcome to Friday and my five fabulously frugal things round up. It has turned into a beautifully sunny week that has really cheered me up.

An unscheduled no spend week

five fabulously frugal thingsI have hardly spent any money at all this week, so this is the first of my five fabulously frugal things. I have been spending a lot of time with my very sweet French student, just chatting. We also found a great series on Netflix that she absolutely loves so have watched that together too. You have probably seen it as I am late to the party. I didn’t think it would be my thing but it was. It is called A Series of Unfortunate Events.

What a great programme! Quirky and odd, and a little dark. Definitely entertaining. The books and film had passed me by, but I am glad I watched this.

She leaves tomorrow and I have to get her to the coach by 4.30 am! 4.30 am! I didn’t know that when I signed up. I will need an afternoon nap tomorrow for sure.

If you are interested in hosting language students, you can sign up with Homestay. It is a fun and interesting way to earn a little extra money. I have a post on hosting foreign language students here.

Bargain makeup

five fabulously frugal thingsOne item I did purchase this week and the favourite amongst my five fabulously frugal things was a mascara from Aldi. It was only £2.49! What an absolute bargain. It works really well too. I have a habit of rubbing my eyes when I am in the office working on the PC and end up with mascara all down my face. This one doesn’t seem to smudge easily.

I intend to try some more Aldi makeup as I see it. I have used the moisturiser, shampoo, etc. for ages and always found them excellent quality and value.

A good lunch

five fabulously frugal thingsObviously, I have also been feeding my student from the budget supermarkets! There is no point earning extra money and then spending it all on luxury food. Nevertheless, I make sure she gets a decent lunch.

She enjoys white rolls or baguettes so she has had two of those each day, plain crisps, an apple and a little cake or come chocolate biscuits. I don’t usually buy bottled water as I dislike the plastic waste, but I made an exception this week as she needs to take water in. As it is so hot I have also included a Capri-sun, since they were on offer in B&M.

I remember being a size 6! She is a skinny little thing and doesn’t eat much, so I have kept portions reasonably small.

Decluttering and making money

Having given a few things away on Facebook last week, I have been sorting out some more items to sell this time. I just want to get rid of them really so I won’t charge much. However, I am loving the spaces appearing in the shed. I pulled out a little exercise stepper and have just put that on for a fiver. Hopefully somebody will want it.

I wish I had a couple of days free just to declutter. In the summer I might have to think about this. I find it a great feeling to simplify your life and streamline.

Looking at coupons

five fabulously frugal thingsI don’t tend to pay much attention to money off coupons. Aldi and Lidl don’t accept them and that is where I do most of my shopping. However, I might have to have a serious think. I am in the process of reading a book by the ‘Coupon Kid’, Jordon Cox.  He has written the Secrets to Saving: The Ultimate UK Couponing Guide and it is proving an interesting and easy read. I won’t go on about it now as I plan to review it, but I have already followed Jordon’s advice and written to a few companies to tell them how much I am enjoying their products. He says this is a great way to get free manufacturers coupons, sometimes worth quite a lot.

So this might be one of my five fabulously frugal things for this week – we shall have to see if I am successful!

I’m linking up with Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

Five frugal things and a trip away, 6th April 2018

five frugal thingsWe have just returned from a lovely couple of days in Brighton. What a great place! I will write a separate blog post about that. Going away can be expensive, though, so did we still manage this week’s five frugal things?

A bargain break

Mr S found us a bargain break in Brighton for my birthday via It’s so much cheaper to use companies like this, Groupon or if you want to get away. We looked at the prices of our hotel online and it was way more expensive to book directly with the hotel.

five frugal thingsWe were lucky as they upgraded us to an apartment free of charge. I will write a separate post about our trip to Brighton and all the fun things we found to do. It is a city we plan to visit again. We whizzed round and did a lot, so we are both shattered now.

Packing our own refreshments

Mr Shoestring and I rarely go anywhere without our trusty flask and refillable water bottles. We took the flask for the journey to Brighton and filled it up again at our apartment for day two.

We also took lots of snacks. To save money we usually take a picnic, but this time we had already planned chips on the beach as it was a fine day.  As Katy Kicker said in her guest post last week, it saves a lot of cash if you get organised in advance and take food and drink with you. This is one of the five frugal things we did this week that I would recommend to anyone looking to stick to a budget.


Parking in Brighton is astronomically expensive! We went in the Lanes car park when we arrived as it was very close to the hotel and we got a discount. However, we drove to Brighton University where my daughter is studying on day two and parked in her car park for nothing. Otherwise it would have been £5 an hour!! Daylight robbery. We could have searched to find a cheaper place but you can’t get cheaper than free …

You can have your cake and eat it too

five frugal thingsI am still eating mainly gluten free. There wasn’t much time over the Easter weekend to bake though and we had family coming for a bank holiday roast. I nipped into Asda and bought a Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate cake mix. It was only £1.89 and made a moist, dark cake that served 8 of us with some to spare.

Everybody agreed that you wouldn’t have known it was gluten free. I love to cut the odd corner when I am short on time and this was a bargain!

Tough on trainers

five frugal thingsI finally walked my old trainers into the ground this week. We did 8.5 miles on Sunday and the sole started to come away.

These were a good quality pair of trainers that I bought in the sale years and years ago (about 15 I think) for £28. Obviously, I am no athlete so that helped them to last too, but they did well. However….I haven’t accepted they are lost and have super glued the sole back on. I will do a test walk on them tomorrow to check they don’t just fall apart again.

In the meantime, I bought a cheap pair from Primark for £8. They are so comfy but I doubt they will last 15 years!!

How has your week been? Have you managed five frugal things or more?

I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal things I’ve done this week linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

Five frugal things, 30th March

What a treat not to get up at 6 am this morning. I love bank holidays! What a shame the weather is so rubbish. I was hoping to catch a couple of boot sales this weekend but if the rain keeps up they will all be a washout. Still, not spending loads of money at a boot sale could be considered one of my five frugal things this week….

Simplicity and a cup of tea in bed

Five frugal thingsI picked up this book, Simplicity: Easy Ways to Simplify and Enrich Your Life by Elaine St James, at the charity shop this week. I promised myself in the New Year that I would make time for reading again and read at least one full book a month. This is so absorbing that I have almost finished it already.

I have been thinking about simple living and decluttering a lot recently (I wrote this blog post on the subject), so finding this book seems serendipitous. It is right up my street! I will publish a review when I have read it.

The cat joined me this morning for a lie-in and a cup of tea in bed and I read a bit more. Now that is one of life’s simple pleasures.


The car exhaust started clanking this week. I think it had worked its way loose with all the potholes. I have been doing my best to dodge them but there are so many!

The local quick fit exhaust place looked at it and said it needed replacing. It would cost around £250….I must have looked shocked enough that they took pity on me and said it could probably be repaired with a bit of welding. So it is booked in for Tuesday and I am looking at £50 rather than £250! So I can count it towards my five frugal things.

Sweet potato burgers

Five frugal thingsI made these tasty little burgers using a recipe I found on the Tesco website. They were really nice. We ate some and froze the others. They will be a nice easy tea some time.

Sleeping easy

Five frugal thingsI mentioned last week that we had bought a king sized bed frame at a bargain price on Facebook. We then found a nice mattress online. Blimey, they are a price!

I would have liked a memory foam one but they were too expensive, so settled on a sprung one with a memory foam top. It was reduced from £340 to £170, so we made a good saving.

We put it all together today and it is so comfy! Mr S fits on it and can finally stretch out a bit! The favourite one of this week’s five frugal things for sure.

Five frugal thingsI can recommend the retailer, Mattress Tomorrow. Ordering and delivery was quick and painless with great customer service.

Asda bargain

Now that the bed is up we will need to invest in a king size duvet and bed linen. In the meantime, I popped to Asda to grab a couple of king sized sheets. They were only £6 each!

How has your week been? As usual, I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘five frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop on over to see what everyone else has been up to and add your link if you have a blog.

This post contains affiliate links.

Five frugal things for the big freeze, 2nd March 2018

This post should probably be headed Five Frozen Things instead of Five Frugal Things!

Five frugal thingsLord, it has been freezing here this week! It is the coldest, snowiest time I can remember in a long while. Getting to work each day has been an adventure in itself. I don’t have the type of job where you can work from home. We are expected to make every effort to get in.

I am glad the week is coming to an end. Fingers crossed for better weather next week!

I am sure many of you in the UK are experiencing similar conditions so I hope you are safe and warm where you are. I feel I have done little but struggle to work and back! However, I still managed my five frugal things.

Keeping warm with free wood

Five frugal thingsThe boiler has been playing up all week. Fortunately our plumber is also a friend and has popped out at short notice twice to try to fix it. It is limping along, but may need surgery at some point. It hasn’t cost anything so far but it might, so I am tightening the budget in preparation and hoping we don’t have to use the emergency fund.

The wood burner has come into its own this week. It is great to have a back-up heater. We have had to huddle round it a few evenings to keep cosy.

Currently we are burning free wood. Mr S and his brother cleared some fallen trees for a local care home and got to keep the logs. We have worked our way through a lot of these this week.

Plugging the draughts

Five frugal thingsThe Beast from the East brought a freakishly cold and strong wind with it. It was whistling through our front door, making the hallway feel very cold. I have been meaning to get a good, heavy door curtain for ages. In the event, Mr S came up trumps by pinning a blanket up against the door. It made a huge difference!

He also temporarily blocked up the vent in the bathroom as it was a bit draughty having my bath.

Warming winter stews and soups

We have been going for comfort food this week. Easy stuff to fill and warm us up. I made some more veggie soup to take to work. Last night it was a simple stew: sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and Quorn with some tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs. We had it with some rice and it went down a treat.

This type of food is economical and fuss free. Who wants to spend hours cooking after fighting through traffic in the freezing cold?

Free coffee

Five frugal thingsI mentioned in last week’s Five Frugal Things that I had made my own spelt loaf, which is lower in gluten than a standard wheat bread. It was pretty good and I will be making it again.

In the meantime, we popped into Waitrose at the weekend to buy a couple of their spelt loaves for the freezer.

Now, are not usually a Waitrose shoppers, as you know, and generally go to Aldi.  However, we thought that whilst we were in there we would sign up for a Waitrose card. This entitles us to a free coffee or tea each time we shop there. We can get some of the cost of our £2.50 loaf of bread back!

You also get a free copy of the Waitrose Food magazine and if you buy a newspaper they give you the cost of it back when you spend £10 or more. This seems like a card worth having! You can sign up on the Waitrose website.

An eBay bargain

I have just managed to buy a second hand roman blind for the lounge for a bargain price of £10 including postage. It is a neutral fabric affair from John Lewis originally. I love eBay!! I am looking forward to this arriving.

If I had purchased it new I could easily have paid quadruple this price.

Have you managed five frugal things this week? It’s actually a lot harder to spend money when you avoid leaving the house as much as possible …

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Click the links to see the five frugal things others have achieved.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Five frugal things to help my no spend January 

If you are joining me on my no spend January, I hope week one has gone well! We have had a lovely week, with all three daughters home a lot for various reasons.

A frugal birthday

no spend JanuaryWe were going to have a takeaway for my daughter’s birthday – an allowable pre-planned expense. In the event, we decided on steak and chips for the meat eaters and I had salmon. We had Mississippi mud pie for pudding. Everything was purchased from Aldi, along with a nice bottle of Prosecco.

At £25 for the five of us, this was a lot cheaper, and probably nicer, than a take out. I recommend Aldi’s fresh meat and fish. I have found everything to be excellent quality and great value for money.

A no spend walk for New Year’s day

no spend JanuaryWe decided to have a good walk to start the new year as we intend to go on, doing more exercise. A six mile meandering walk to town and around Colchester’s Castle Park brought a glow to our cheeks. We were surprised to find lots of shops and cafes open – they really do only close on Christmas Day now.

This is a shame. I wish we had more days when people were forced to do activities that didn’t involve buying stuff, although I suppose they would stay at home and buy on the internet instead.

We didn’t browse the sales but sat in the park with a flask of coffee and home made cake. Which brings me to my next frugal achievement…

Using up black bananas

no spend JanuaryWe usually eat loads of bananas. However, there was so much food in the house over Christmas that we had three left. They were turning rather black – perfect for a banana loaf.

Being a creature of habit, I generally use Delia Smith’s recipe. This time I decided to ring the changes and try a Nigella Lawson one from her classic How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking(my affiliate link). I am glad I did as it was delicious and is our new favourite (sorry, Delia!). Can’t wait for the next lot of bananas to go brown….

Making do

no spend JanuaryI need a new watchstrap. The little bit of leather that keeps it secure once on has broken off, which means my watch could come loose and fall off. Because I am on a  no spend January I can’t buy a new one, so I have secured it with an elastic band.

Not the classiest look but I doubt anyone has noticed. I don’t want to purchase a new one just now and would rather not lose my watch!

Laughing in the face of the best before date

no spend JanuaryI am sure many of you don’t bother too much about best before dates. Me neither! I frequently deliberately buy out of date food from Approved Food because  it is cheaper (my refer a friend link).

When I was clearing and sorting out the larder, I came across a pack of nutty snacks from Aldi and a couple of individual portions of long life Lactofree milk. Both were out of date but instead of throwing them in the bin I have taken them to work and started to use them. They are perfectly fine and taste exactly as they should.

I hate our culture of wasting food and chucking it out just because it has passed the advisory only best before date. I am also happy to eat items a little bit past their use by date. As long as they look, smell and taste OK I will risk eating them. Food doesn’t immediately decide to go off because of the date stamp!

No spend January progress

no spend JanuaryIf you are joining me on a no spend January, how are you doing? I have broken my rules just once this week, buying a copy of Bella magazine. However, I had a good excuse – I am in it!!

It’s tough being a media star. However, I don’t intend to break the rules again this month and look forward to having a bit more spare cash to put in the savings as a result. How about you?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week linky. Check out what everyone else has been doing to keep costs down and share your five frugal things!





Five frugal things to help you save at Christmas

five frugal thingsHow has your week been? Christmas preparations are well in hand here at Shoestring Cottage. I am joining in with this five frugal things round up as Christmas is the perfect time to focus your spending and save where you can.

The decorations are in place, the presents are all purchased and mostly wrapped and I have been buying a few Christmas treats for a couple of months now. I set my budget for Christmas back in October, I have been saving all year. Now I can spend and not feel worried or guilty, and without putting it all on a credit card.

1. Only buying what we need

I don’t go crazy and try to buy only what I know we will eat. This year I decided to finally stop buying things that are traditional but that no one really wants, as proposed by Faith at Much More with Less. We actually enjoy some of the foods she has decided to ditch. However, dates sit around for ages as no one really eats them much – Mr S will usually dutifully consume them at some point, but it’s not about duty, is it? We also have a ton of hazelnuts in their shells that came from a friend’s tree,  so we don’t need to buy any more. They also tend to sit around for months before they all get eaten.

Nobody eats Christmas cake so that is off the shopping list.

However, we all love Christmas pudding so that is staying firmly on the menu. I usually buy a couple reduced after Christmas because Mr S loves it with custard any time of the year.

2. Using up all the leftover veg

vegetabl soup five frugal thingsThe very cold weather always means one thing here – soup! I love it! Soup is great for using up any bits and pieces lurking in the fridge. Into mine last Sunday went potatoes (including some frozen leftover mash), carrots, celery, frozen spinach, half a can of sweetcorn, the end of a bag of frozen peas and lots of Marigold vegetable stock.

We ate it after our freezing cold snowy walk last Sunday and it was just the job for warming our cockles! It was great for work lunches all week and there are still a couple of portions in the freezer.

3. A simple vegetable bake

I posted a recipe a couple of days ago for a vegetable bake, adapted from one of Delia’s in Frugal Food. It is so simple and cheap to make. Another good one for using up vegetables as you can add more or less whatever you have in the fridge. We had it for dinner with spinach. The meat eaters had a couple of chicken drumsticks with theirs, but I enjoyed it as it was.

I love the cheesy breadcrumb topping, which is a good way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread. I made a whole lot of breadcrumbs and what I didn’t use for the bake went into the freezer.

4. Making my own Christmas gift tags

I always keep my Christmas cards from the previous year and recycle them to make Christmas gift tags. It’s such a simple thing to do, I never know why everyone doesn’t reuse them in this way. It is quite nice to reread the messages from last year from friends and family too.

5.  Savvy Savers in the Sun

I was pleased to be asked to give some top tips for money saving at Christmas to the Sun, along with some other UK Money Bloggers. My contribution was to suggest that people consider buying second hand presents, particularly for small children. They wouldn’t notice or care. Looking on Facebook Marketplace, I can see all kinds of large ride on toys, dolls houses, bikes, scooters, dressing up outfits, etc. They mostly seem in great condition, but cost a fraction of their as new price.

I did this all the time when my kids were small. I have bought second hand phones and an ipad, computer games and a console, DVDs and many books second hand as presents.

There is a little bit of embarrassment about buying second hand as a gift but I don’t understand that. As long as the item works and is in good condition, where is the issue? And if it helps you stick to your budget, even better!

An early Christmas

nut roast en croute five frugal thingsWe are having an early Christmas dinner today with my extended family. My sister is off to see my nephew in Thailand so this will be our only opportunity. I am road testing the vegetarian nut roast en croute I found on the Sainsbury’s website. If it works, that will be my veggie Christmas dinner. The recipe is here. It smells lovely so I have high hopes.


Five frugal things: Finding ways to save and make money

Five frugal things. Ways to make and save moneyIt has been a while since I took part in this ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. However, the thrift and frugality continues! For those of you who don’t know, every now and again I team up with some other bloggers to share our five frugal achievements for the week.  I have been looking at ways to save and make money. 2.I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky .

1. Selling our old clothes

I have finally started listing two huge bags of clothes that have been sitting around for several weeks. It has gone rather quiet on the eBay sales so I haven’t felt motivated, but I need to get it all out of the way. As Christmas approaches, I am looking even more closely at ways to save and make money. I am also having a good declutter. An awful lot has been going to the charity shop, but I will sell the better items. How about you?

2. Ziffit

As well as selling my old clothes, I am having a clear out of loads of DVDs that nobody ever watches, plus some books, via We are going to redecorate the sitting room in the new year and we don’t need any excess clutter.

If you have never used Ziffit, it is really easy. You just input the barcode of the item you want to sell and Ziffit gives you a value. I am maximising this by going via Top Cashback, which is currently paying 10.5% commission*.

The downside of Ziffit is that they don’t want items that are quite common. This means that you might input a lot of bar codes but have quite a few rejected. You also need to be sure they are in great condition or they won’t pay you plus their terms and conditions say they do not need to return the rejected items.

I was frustrated at how few of my DVDs were accepted but pleasantly surprised at the price offered for some old books. £5.49 for one of them!

3. Freebies

Save and make money. Photo of a free pot of moisturiserMy latest freebie from the Savvy Circle is some Olay moisturiser.  It is actually rather nice. I usually use a mega cheap pot from Aldi. This does the job of keeping my skin moisturised perfectly well and is a steal at £1.99. However, I have to admit the Olay one smells nicer.

If you want to take part in the Savvy Circle and try new products for free you can sign up here.

4. Black Friday

I don’t often join the mad scramble for bargains on Black Friday. I am sure it is all a huge marketing ploy to make us all spend more. However, I really want a new laptop. I have an old one that used to belong to my daughter. It is frustratingly slow and unreliable.

I am on the lookout now to see if any of the models I fancy are discounted anywhere. Mr S is buying me this for Christmas, which will show those Daily Mail readers that we aren’t as mean as they think!

I am also tempted by a few items on*. I buy most of my work clothes from them now as they are such good value. I have yet to be unhappy with anything so far. They are always cheap but for Black Friday they have a buy five tens and get the sixth free. 

Six items for £25 plus postage! You would struggle to get one thing for that in many stores. 

5. Thrift soup

Thrift soup. Ways to save and make moneyI fancied something warming for lunch rather than salads all week. I have been eating a lot of raw food in my bid to eat more fruit and vegetables and be generally healthier. So, I made a big pot of what I like to call thrift soup. It involves some good vegetable stock and whatever you have in the fridge. In my case this was celery, carrots, potatoes, frozen peas and spinach, some home grown courgettes, also from the freezer, half a can of sweet corn that needed using and some of my huge pot of Marigold stock. I fried up all the veg in some oil, added the stock to cover, plus a bit more on top, and simmered it all for about half an hour. To make it slightly creamy I added some parsley sauce that we had with dinner the night before. It was lovely and the day after it was even better. I love a bit of soup.

So these are this week’s five frugal things. What have you done to save and make money?

Ecothrifty post

I wrote a guest post for Zoe at this week on cheap, eco friendly things to do with your children. It got mentioned on Twitter by  the Joshua Paul Show, which has 137.5k followers! We were pretty happy about that. You can read the post here.

Whatever you have been up to this week, thrifty or otherwise, I hope you have had a good one. Here’s to a frugal weekend!

*Disclaimer: These are my affiliate links. If you sign up to a deal it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission.