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

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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.

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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.

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Going away isn’t frugal in itself, of course, but booking through buyagift.co.uk 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

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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!

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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.

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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!

A lovely day by the sea

I often wonder if we will end up living by the sea somewhere, we are drawn to the coast so often. Mr S absolutely loves it and will frequently  go in for a swim, no matter how cold it is!

Raising money for charity

Yesterday we took my parents to a fundraiser in their friend’s garden at Westcliff, near Southend on Sea. She was raising money for the Remus horse sanctuary.

It was a lovely event and well attended. There were charity stalls, a plant stall, crafts and a tombola, plus delicious refreshments, all at a great price. We had tea, sandwiches and cake in the garden, and were treated by my mum to pay for the petrol.

Mum and Dad knew lots of people there as they attend every year. As they were both ill earlier in the year, they no longer feel comfortable driving long distances. We didn’t mind taking them. It was the perfect excuse for a day by the sea!

Bargain hunting, for a change

I was drawn, of course, to the cat protection stall, where they were selling an enclosed litter tray for just £5. I have wanted one for the cats for ages to stop them kicking their litter all round the kitchen, so I snapped that up. Bargain!

day by the seaLeigh on Sea

We left them there chatting to everyone and took a drive down to old Leigh-on-Sea. It is such a pretty place for a stroll. We walked along the seafront to Westcliff, but then had to walk all the way back to get the car!

You have got to love a walk by the sea. There’s something about a huge sky and the sound of the sea that is so invigorating, no matter what the weather.  The clouds looked ominous at one point but the rain held off and the sun managed to break through.

A day by the sea was just what we needed to kick off a new week. The past one felt sad and stressful. I have a more positive outlook going into this one.

Did anyone else do anything fun at the weekend? Do you like a day by the sea?

The best garden in Suffolk? A trip to Helmingham Hall 

I’m not a gardening expert but I  know what I like. Of all the gardens I have visited – and there have been many – I like Helmingham Hall Gardens in Suffolk the best!

Everything in the garden is rosie

This was our second visit. When we went before, the spring bulbs were at their best and Helmingham Hall was ablaze with bright tulips and daffodils. Just a month on, the roses and cottage garden flowers are starting to take over, with stunning shapes and colours.


The vegetable gardens are also doing well.  Huge, perfect lettuces with no sign of slug damage were in the cold frames and there were broad beans ready to eat. The microclimate created by the ancient walls in this part of the garden means that figs and peaches can already be seen and it looks as if they will provide a bumper crop.

We met the gardener

Where else can you find an actual member of the aristocracy in the garden doing the weeding and chatting to the visitors except at Helmingham Hall? The Tollemache family have had the house and garden since the 1400s. Both times we have visited, the current Lady Tollemache has been working alone in the garden. She is a Chelsea gold medal winner and is clearly passionate about her gardens. We had a chat about what a nightmare bindweed is! Lovely lady.

I love that she literally gets her hands dirty and is not at all grand. We look forward to visiting for their Autumn Plant Fair on 18th September, although we might be tempted along before then.

I just wish I could have a nose inside the splendid moated mansion. Sadly, this isn’t open to the public.

If you are in the area, I urge you to visit Helmingham Hall Gardens. I can’t recommend this fabulous garden highly enough! More information and opening times can be found here.

The urge to wander

We had a lovely short break away on the south coast. There are still so many places in the UK to explore! On beautiful sunny days such as we had why would anyone feel deprived if they can find the cash for a couple of days at the English seaside instead of the Maldives 😀?

Seriously, I love to travel. There are many places I wish I could afford to go to but there are just as many fabulous areas in the UK that we can easily get to. We need to start a serious savings plan to buy the camper van we have always wanted, then there will be no stopping us. If we are going to manage that we must be even more frugal than usual!

Zero waste kitchen

I came back to find I had been sent a copy of Zero Waste Kitchen to review for my frugal bookshelf. It looks right up my street. I hate waste and I think it could give me good ideas for avoiding it and save money at the same time.

The review will follow as soon as o get the chance. The forecast for this weekend is excellent and I want to spend some more time out in the garden. I also want to take a trip to the garden centre as I have some vouchers from my birthday.

But first the cleaning, then we are meeting up with some of Mr S’s family for lunch. It will be a busy weekend for me! How about you?

Clovelly: A little Devon gem

Beautiful Covelly

clovellySix days is really not enough time to get to know this area – there is so much to see and do. We are going home tomorrow though so the packing has commenced!

clovellyWe had another beautiful sunny day today and drove to a little harbour village called Clovelly. We picked up a leaflet promising ‘steep, cobbled streets tumbling down past gleaming white cottages to the tiny, deep blue harbour’. We hadn’t clicked that it was a privately owned place and you had to pay though! It was £7 each but it was worth the price and we were there much of the day.

It was really hilly! A great workout for the leg muscles. We treated ourselves to delicious pasties from one of the cafes for lunch, followed later in the afternoon by a cream tea – well, it was our last day. Back to healthy eating when we get home I think.

clovellyMeeting the donkeys

Mr S and the girls were particularly taken with the resident donkeys. I enjoyed the craft shops and had a nice chat with the owner of a silk and fabric shop who had done a TV programme with Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp and had lots of photos of them on the wall to prove it. He also told us how the community had recently ‘yarn-bombed’ the village to raise money for the local air ambulance. I Googled some images and found these from Louise  @lickle_cottage_life. It looked like a lovely event. I really must learn to crochet! A challenge for the winter months maybe.

clovellySo, back to reality tomorrow. We shall take it in turns to drive back and relieve DD1 of her cat sitting duties.  I hope the weather stays nice so we can rescue the garden from the neglect it has suffered in the last few weeks.