Monday, 7 January 2019

Eating well but cheaply

It's that time of year again - just past the expense of Christmas (how fast did that go?!!) and into the 'healthy eating' genre of the New Year.
If you are like most folks, you will want to eat healthily while keeping an eye on the pennies.
We are old hands at this so I thought I'd share my tips for getting through the next few weeks.

First, make a list of exactly what you have.
Meal plan from these resources - if that means one meal could be pancakes because you have flour, sugar and milk, then that is still a meal without spending more pennies.
The meals I was able to plan from resources we already have are:

    Mushroom risotto ....  garlic clove, rice, stock cube, mushrooms, dried herbs

    Fish pie ...  Frozen fish, frozen spinach, onion, eggs, flour, stock, potatoes

    Pasta ... gf pasta, tinned tomatoes,  chilli powder

    Veggy burgers ... carrots, onion, borlotti beans, cumin, flour

    Jacket potatoes ... spuds, baked beans

    Lemon and spinach rice ... Lemon juice, rice, frozen spinach, stock cube

The meals above are fairly easy to make.
Once we have gone through the week, we will eat healthy meals from our next plan and I will too up the store cupboard again.

One thing I do which you might think is a bit weird, is plan and prepare for Christmas all year long.
This means that I have a Christmas cupboard that I add to as we go through the year - it might be that I see something reduced 'that will do' as a gift; more that I make items and pop them in the cupboard ready for gifting in December.
If you are feeling the pinch, why not think about planning for Christmas from now, like me?

What else would be a good thing to do?

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Folks asking for help with not spending as much

It's no secret I've been absent from blogging for a small while.
I've still read most days, but not blogged for a bit.
But I notice lots of people asking for advice on saving and stopping over-spending: and it's Christmas!
So if this helps anyone at all, here is how we live "below the line" and still manage to live pretty well (in our eyes!).
1. Turn your mind away from anybody else, and onto just you and yourselves. What you need and what you want, and separate the two. What you need is what you need to live.
2. Cover the mortgage or rent, the basic bills (electricity and gas), and any essential direct debit payments (phone, water, insurance).
3. Plan out meals around what you already have. By cutting portion sizes you can feed yourself longer than you think. Stew and soup can also be made from very few items.
4. Only purchase what you actually need, and from the cheapest place to easily get to. Don't shy away from cooking things yourself if it is a skill and you have time.
5. Write down exactly how much you ARE NOT spending each month.  Cherish this. It is an achievement.
6. Begin a savings account, and build it. This is only for dire emergencies (such as becoming suddenly homeless) and not told/shared with others. 
7. Plan your spare time. Reading blogs that help you is a good way to spend time (!) whereas spending cash on *daft things you neither need nor want is not a good way to spend time.
8. Take a step back and look at the household.  By sitting everyone at the table there are fewer spills at meal times and small spills can be wiped up easily. This leads to fewer items needing the washing machine.  What other whole household changes can save you time 
and money? (I know someone who gets up at night to switch on the washing machine 
using the off-peak rate - but that is fairly extreme...!)
9. Being careful with water - turn the tap off while brushing teeth/have shorter showers/shallower baths. Every little helps and water is an expensive commodity.
10. Make a conscious decision not to spend money on a particular day, or on particular things. Stick to it. This could be taking packed lunches to work, using your travel mug for coffee from home or even stopping smoking...

If you need advice, leave a comment - if you'd like to give advice, similarly. 

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Eve's Eve

The gifts are all wrapped and I've stopped everything but fun for the next three days.
My Christmas shopping trip was super.
By saving the Coop stamps all year, I redeem the completed cards in December and it honestly feels like getting 'free' food!
I buy things to stuff hampers for a couple of family members, then spend the rest on my store cupboard supplies - including cleaning products. I have my kitchen cupboards full and then overflow items stacked upstairs with a stock list stuck inside my cupboard door.
I can whole heartedly recommend this method of shopping - apart from fresh food, I won't be buying a thing until ?April?
As for Christmas gifts, I make and buy things all year and at the start of December I begin wrapping and tagging them.
Getting ahead is the best way. To this end, I have casted on a knitted pair of socks this evening that will start off next year's Christmas box. 

Monday, 17 September 2018

Christmas in the thrifty household..

Those who have read me before will know that (a) I adore Christmas, the run-up, the excitement, the soppy films and ooh.just.everything! And (b) I adore not wasting money, and finding the thriftiest ways to have fun and live a happy life...
This is blogpost number 1 this year on Christmas: gifts.
At just under 100 days until the day, I have my list written of folk I want to give gifts to.
This gives me time to gather resources and make gifts where appropriate.

My hand-making list includes: two pairs of hand knitted socks, a Norwegian style jumper, a ballet style cardigan, a knitted dog, a crochet cardigan.
This year I'm giving home-made hampers. Each time I pop to the local shop through the year, I buy one of their £1 Christmas saving stamps as in December each filled savings card can be exchanged for an additional amount of money. So each quarter of the family is getting a hamper of bits and bobs designed with their taste in mind; paid for already when December arrives!
One portion of the family (in their early 20s) will have a hamper filled with crisps, snacks, pop and low alcohol beer, while another (who work long hours) will have a hamper of recipe mixes and mini bottles of wine.
I can make a teeny hamper using a shoebox and just a couple of things and a large hamper using a whole range of items - in this way I stick to my budget completely.

The only folk I don't apply this principle to is the grandchildren.
They get games, toys and clothes - including pyjamas and a dressing gown - but I don't gift food to small people.

And now I'm back to knitting a sock.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Being thrifty...saving money...

it's what helps our world go around!
It may not be particularly on trend being savvy and watching the pennies, but we avoid additional stress and I personally find it a far more interesting way of life.

Some ideas to try:

In the kitchen - 

Cooking once, eating twice. Cook double the quantity for a meal and eat it over two evenings. 

Use appliances, switch them off or give them away.  (Not all at the same time..)

Tidy and sort through the freezer and ensure you are keeping what you will use within three months.  By tidying you release space for foods to be stored, and you can find foods to use up while they are still useable.

If you use a coffee machine (or similar) - switch it off at the wall after use. All appliances use a small amount of electricity just to keep active.

If you have items you just don't use - give them away or sell them for a few pounds.

Cook it yourself - don't pick up a takeaway menu, except to throw this in the recycling bin!  If you don't know how to make something, look on YouTube and follow a recipe.  It is cheaper to buy the ingredients and make it yourself, and often much quicker than phoning a takeaway and waiting for something to be cooked for you then delivered - and yes, I know it's hard when you've worked a 12-hour shift, Yadda Yadda, but plan in advance.
Own brand products vs named brands: there is no contest - huge savings to be had, and they are made in the same factories anyway!

Rinse a tin.  Once you've emptied a tin, rinse it out with water and use this water - either to add to a recipe to stretch it further or to start off a soup for tomorrow. Yes, honestly.

Doing laundry - wash clothes that are dirty. No, really. Some things need hanging up and airing and wearing again before washing. Other bits might need a sponge clean on a mark or spill before drying / airing. We wash clothes that need laundering - socks and underwear, regular uniforms, dirty clothes - and wash them when our electricity is at its cheapest tariff, using a timer plug.  This usefully means we have damp laundry to hang out first thing in the morning.

Repairs.  I'm replacing two zips in items of clothing before the Winter - one for my elderly uncle, one for my grown-up daughter. This little task on my behalf saves them from either buying a new item of clothing or having to pay for a repair to be done.  Home repairs are not hard, and can be learned on YouTube if needed.

With the festive season fast approaching, what are you doing to be thrifty and save money?

Tracey x

Friday, 24 August 2018

Frugal fun..

So the summer draws to a close. 'Twas a good one, I think.
As I'm writing this evening, Gardener's World is on the telly showing the abundance of flowers and crops folk have had thanks to the sunny weeks we had in the UK. A very hot summer.
Now, regular readers know that I don't need to spend much money to enjoy life.
Today we drove to the coast and sat with the dog, watching folk swim in the sea while we drank tea from a flask and read our books in the sunshine, enjoying the sea breeze. 
I'd picked in a load of dried laundry before we ventured out - by putting the washing machine on overnight we save 30% and it means I have a load to peg out when the first kettle of the day is boiling.
I've been working on a hexagon-based patchwork quilt in the pattern of 'Grandmother's flower garden' since the start of July. When finished it will be the size of a King size bed, with every stitch sewn by hand. The cost of the quilt is minimal - all the fabrics are salvaged - the sewing thread and wadding being the only things that are new. I get many hours crafting that are priceless.
Dinner tonight was frugal - we decide what to eat dependent on what we get reduced at the supermarket. Today this was new potatoes reduced to 29p and large field mushrooms reduced to 22p. We added home-grown tomatoes to this along with two eggs and four veggy sausages and had a 'cooked breakfast' for dinner.  Tomorrow we have folk for dinner, and more reduced price veggies will feature. 
But the best frugal fun I've had in ages was this afternoon, when I wrote out my Christmas gift-giving list, then went to look through the boxes where I put all the bits and bobs I buy 'for Christmas' throughout the year; because by saving things as and when since the start of the year, I've crossed off almost all of the people on my list as having a gift all ready to wrap up. Some people might think it's swearing, talking about December 25th this early in the year, but by planning ahead I don't get into ANY DEBT and am able to celebrate exactly how I want to.  
Try it.
I have a small list of items that I want to make/create as gifts, and have plenty of time to do so - even taking into account working part-time and taking on any last minute commissions. 
What have you been up to that constitutes frugal fun? 

Tracey xx

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward has been my mantra since I can remember,
always seeing what you can do for other people.
My dad wouldn't walk past someone who looked a bit lost without asking if they were alright, or needed some help in anyway, and its second nature to me.
I don't think it's tied to any particular religious affiliation: all religions I know of have kindness to others to some - if not every - level, and my mother brought us up with a 'do as you would be done by' attitude.
As a very small child, I remember every Sunday morning the violin teacher came to the house to teach my older siblings their music lessons, and he would then stay and share the roast meal and some company, as his wife - a professional classical pianist - had died and he was lonely.  This sprang to mind again this week with the lovely story in the news of an elderly, but still sprightly, chap advertising himself available for part-time work as he was lonely having been 
recently widowed. A local cafe contacted the man and 
offered him part-time employment as a friendly 'Maitre D' character, greeting people at the door and seating them, bringing drinks from counter to table, and chatting to people to ensure no-one was lonely. 
One of our local pubs has begun a weekly TLC group (Tea Laughter and Company). Every week this group meets, has free company and free cups of tea, and is designed for anyone who lives alone, is feeling lonely, or who simply wants to meet more people. TLC Thursdays were inspired when the landlord was watching a TV programme about loneliness.
When we are feeling fed up because it's raining, or because there's a big queue at the petrol station - or whatever our little gripe might be - we need to remember to feel grateful we are not homeless, yes, but also think about what we can do to Pay It Forward. 
Not simply putting loose change in the charity collection box (that too!) but how to use our brain to plan and help other people.
Here's my current 'to do' list:
. Take large picture books and jigsaw puzzles to local care home.
. Take used duvet and pillows to cats and dogs shelter.
. Take food collection box to foodbank and start next one.
. Invite chums over for coffee  that I haven't seen for a while.
. Take bag of clothes to charity shop.
. Donate table to charity furniture shop.
. Sort through crafts and donate items to care home.

It's raining here today - a perfect day to spend a couple of hours on the last of my list.
What else can we add to this list for folks to Pay It Forward where they live?

Tracey xx