Living below the line this Advent.

The first day of advent 2017.
What a change in a year - this time last year we were living in a caravan in a field, I was TWO STONES in weight heavier and I knew nothing about the little care home I go to twice a week: let alone coming up to the first anniversary of my wee job helping out there.
(I'm going shortly this morning with Man Wonderful to do a chair-based exercise session!)
It's also the first day of Winter, and it's been frosty each morning down here by the south coast of Devon.
Now we are in a small house it's important that we keep a careful eye on our behaviour so we don't run up any unnecessary bills.
Sensible winter planning for us means having a quilt or blanket on the back of each settee in the lounge so that we don't automatically switch on the central heating - no matter how energy efficient.
The same with lighting - while we have almost all energy saving light bulbs, they do still cost money to use; so we switch off the light upstairs when we are downstairs, etc.

Other big winter outlays for people are transport, food and clothing.

We have - by most folks standards, it seems - an old car. She is regularly serviced and checked over, and we belong to a breakdown service. We have no feelings or nostalgia attached to the car - despite the personification, 'she' doesn't have a first name - and have agreed that at the point any repairs are too expensive, a newer car will be purchased from our savings. (Regular readers will know that we pay a fixed amount on pension day to our long term savings and we treat this as a direct debit; in this way we build up a savings fund.)
When we need to go to the city centre we can use public transport, and where possible we share transport with family/friends.

I am continually amazed by the amount of clothing folks have.
The two of us share one single wardrobe - which has hanging space - and one five-drawer chest.
I'll be honest and say that when we were both working full time, we had oodles of outfits relating to the workplace, as well as a much wider range of leisure clothing.
I nursed an addiction to charity shop shopping, and enjoyed finding used designer wear at bargain

The difference now - apart from the huge change in weight (and income!) - is that my favourite price now is free.
don't mean that I take things - God forbid! - no, I really love altering or making clothes from other clothes, and am very happy to swap bits and bobs with folk. 

Living with very few clothes means one less thing to worry about too; if we go out for dinner I currently have one black dress I wear. I might wear it over leggings (made from cutting the feet out of a 70 denier pair of tights I used to keep warm in the caravan during the winter), or jeans (I got two pairs in a swap a couple of months ago...although they are getting a bit loose all over now and I need to run a seam down the outside or swap them on..), or over a pair of stockings and high heels. I can wear a denim shirt open over the dress as a layered effect, or drape a shawl around my shoulders for a prettier look.  One dress.
If you are interested, I'll happily list my clothing; I still have no way of publishing pictures on here, unless someone can explain how to.  I'm blogging using an iPad...

Anyway, this blogpost is about living below the line this advent, and I have digressed a little:

Gifting is a major worry this time of year for many people, but it really doesn't have to be.

Make a list of who you would like to give to. 

Then write a separate list of the things you can gather together to be turned into little presents for most of your recipients..if not all. (Small children do tend to be the focus of Christmas, but there are still ways of making that more manageable too...)
For example:
 a teacup and saucer from a charity shop, with a pretty flannel and soap in wrapped up.
 a supermarket mug, filled with chocolates, and a £2 lottery ticket popped in the top.
 cheeky socks rolled up and popped in a funny mug.

These are all little gifts I've given over the years.
Not only does it help you to stay balanced with pennies, but it helps others too because they can see they do not have to spend lots of money to say "I'm thinking of you."

Children's gifts - many can be sought cheaply, or second hand, or even - again - free, when mum's have tidy-ups or pre-Christmas clear-outs. I give charity shop gifts and am very happy to receive them.

Today is actually my birthday.  Man Wonderful and I love to give each other gifts with thought behind them. In the 
last hour I've opened three DVDs and one book - all charity shop gifts - all I'm thrilled with. Each film I can't wait 
to sit and share watching, and the book is one I've wanted to read for a while now. 
I have other bits and bobs too, but I'm giving you an example. 

And lastly one that can be a huge worry for folk - but needn't be:


I don't know when the season of "goodwill to all men.." Became the season of 'spending too much bloody money on stuff you don't need..' but I'm assuming a lot has to do with advertising (Best Ever Christmas Party Food anybody?).
However, let's assume most folk think of Christmas period food as meals and snacks?

Breakfasts don't need to change - cereal or toast, porridge or boiled egg.

Lunches - include a little home cooking if you are home over the festive period: ready roll pastry lives in the fridge and can easily be made into a quiche (add beaten egg, chopped onion, leftover cooked veg or a chopped pepper, leftover meat or chopped bacon ), or homemade sausage rolls - add grated cheese and carrot, or chopped onion with grated cheese (don't buy grated cheese are charged in the price for the grating in case you didn't realise...), or leftover finely chopped meat and onion.  Or homemade Hummus; drain a tin of chickpeas, blend with 2 cloves garlic and 1tbsp oil and add seasoning to taste. 
And leftovers are great to add to lunches. 

Dinners - plan, plan, plan. It works, honestly!  I'm not saying you have to plan the meal to the day and stick to it, but the meals, yes. A cooked breakfast is a great evening meal. Cut potatoes into chips and use a spray oil or just a tsp oil toss before oven cooking. Add tinned beans and an egg or two, Bing sausages or bacon in the oven too if you like meat.  
The key to making meals affordable is using more of the cheaper ingredients and less of the more expensive.
Use your freezer. When I prepare a meal, I have a wee plastic pot on my kitchen side for cuttings that can be used. By this I mean extra trimmings from carrots or the bits nearer the top of the onion: these little pieces of veg get stored until the bag is full, then they go into the slow cooker to start off a casserole or a curry. 
We spend most of our money on vegetables and fruit, tinned beans, dried rice, lentils and Quorn.

If it's useful, I'll happily write more about thrifty cooking.

Until later,

Tracey aka Frugalmummy xxx


  1. Happy Birthday! I hope your day is wonderful.

  2. What a lovely long entry - I enjoyed reading every word.
    Yes, please, I'd be really interested in more about frugal cooking when you have the time.
    J x

  3. Happy Birthday Tracey! Very interesting blog post, would love to read more like this.

  4. Great post. Happy Birthday! :)

  5. Happy Birthday :)
    Hope you had a lovely day. Very interesting thoughts too.

  6. I hope you had a wonderful day. It does sound like it started well.

  7. It sounds like you had a lovely birthday. DH and I(usually me though) buy each other gifts in op shops.
    I have even bought 5 new books with Christmas stories for my 4month old great, great niece at a cost of $2(Aus), her mum will enjoy reading these to her knowing that I am encouraging reading.

  8. Happy birthday, hope you had a lovely day.
    Would love to read more about your frugal cooking and recipes.
    I've read your blog for quite a few years and found your gift ideas really helpful. Maybe you could do a post dedicated to this for your newer readers and a reminder for us others. I like the tea cup idea and will use it next year.

  9. Happy belated birthday wishes.
    I'd love to hear more about thrifty cooking - our food bill HAS to be reduced!!

  10. Happy birthday . I hope you have a wonderful day .


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