Friday, 27 February 2015

My, how I’ve changed.

About once every six weeks I go into Grimsby, my nearest shopping centre, to get various bits and pieces.  It’s a bit of a ritual.  I always park in the same place, go to the same few shops and finish the expedition with a cuppa and a “little something”.  Today was the day.  I had a few things to be done, I had a brief wander around the shops and the time came for the visit to my favourite coffee shop.  Only I didn’t go to said coffee shop.  Instead I came home.  I decided I didn’t need the coffee.

And as I drove home I thought about it.  A coffee out every six weeks or so when I go to Grimsby is well within my budget.  Even with a snack it is only £5-£6 so it is well within my budget.  But today I decided to let the moths start their nesting time in my purse a little bit early.  No big deal.

But it’s one of many “no big deals”.  My retirement income is far less than it was whilst I was still working and yet I seem to have more money. 

I now check the electricity and gas meters at least monthly and check the tariffs almost as often.  No big deal.

I shop from home and plan all my purchases as well as saving petrol money.  No big deal.

I make Christmas and birthday cards as well as jams and pickles to use as anytime gifts.  No big deal.

I grow some fruit and vegetables; I grow some flowers from seed.  No big deal.

I earn a little extra by doing on line surveys.  It’s only a couple of quid a week so it’s no big deal.

I could go on and on – and nothing I could mention would in itself be major.  Just little things like using the phone at the cheapest times, or being careful with water.

The only major change really has been my attitude.  And that’s the biggest and the hardest change to make.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Getting ready to go

A short break means a small bag – or that’s the theory.  Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen in practice.  I’ve never managed it myself but this time I’m going to try extra hard.

I’m only going to be away for two nights and the pattern of my holiday means that both nights are likely to be spent in rather dreary hotel rooms but at least that means I don’t have to dress for dinner.  One skirt, one jacket and one pair of shoes should last three days but I shall need to pack a couple of tops plus undies.  I keep undies until they are almost on their last legs then take them on holiday and abandon them.  Budget hotels tend not to have free toiletries in the room but I have saved small bottles over the years and I decant small quantities of shampoo etc and take the almost empty tube of toothpaste.  I shall take my current knitting and a Sudoku book and that plus my pooter should provide entertainment.  I also pack a knife, fork and plate so I can buy supermarket food rather than have to eat out and I take my favourite coffee and a reusable filter.  The other main thing I need is the charger for my trundle truck.

What else have I forgotten?  (That's right - a nightie!)

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Break - but not the budget!

Next week I’m having a couple of days away.  One of my cousins (Ruth) is going to live in France and I won’t be able to visit her there, and I also want to visit Alice, an old school friend.  I’ve got a couple of short visits which I can combine with this trip so it seems sensible to create a mini break.

What I don’t want it to do is break my budget!  That means that it has to be planned carefully to allow myself treats but not to find myself forced into spending unnecessarily.

Accommodation-wise the cheapest thing obviously would be to stay with Ruth but I don’t want to do that as she is well on with packing her home and I would be a bother.  I’m a great fan of Travelodge.  Luxurious it ain’t, but it’s cheap, clean and has everything I need so a couple of weeks ago I booked a night between where Ruth and Alice live.  I booked using Saver Deal.  It was only a couple of days ago that I decided that I need an extra night (too late for a Travelodge deal) so I used Trivago and found a good deal with Days Inn.  So that’s accommodation sorted.  Sadly I can’t use Bed and Breakfast places unless personally recommended as disability means I need specific things.

I insure my car for up to 10.000 miles p.a. so that’s about 800 a month.  I’m nearly 800 miles in hand (my year runs July-June) and I’ve got 8p per litre off  petrol using the Tesco Clubcard fuel deal so that’s transport sorted. 

Now to find what else I can get on a low budget!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Put your feet up!

Tesco delivered here today.  Actually Tesco delivers here about three times a month.

It used to be that I didn’t like having my groceries delivered.  I would be missing out on RFQS (Reduced For Quick Sale).  I wouldn’t be able to see the stuff until it was too late.  Delivery charges added to the cost of food.  The minimum order was £40 and that was too much for me.  Waiting in for two hours didn’t suit me.

But I’ve changed my mind.  Firstly I got a year’s delivery charges (midweek) for £30.  A round trip to a supermarket for me is at least eighteen miles so that made sense.  The minimum order dropped to £25 and that’s about right.  The stuff which is delivered to me is always fresh and of good quality and if it’s not I can send it back.  True I miss out on RFQS but I miss out on a whole load of temptation too.  I can compare prices much more easily from the stress-free comfort of my armchair.  I add things to and take things from my list dozens of times before it’s finally ordered.  I have a running total of how much I am spending.

And somebody else carries the whole darn lot into my kitchen so that by 9am today I had got my weekly shop stowed away in freezers and cupboards without any real effort on my part.  And a quick comparison with last year's receipts shows I'm now spending about £30 a month less on food.

Monday, 23 February 2015

It's how you look at it

Yesterday I had a little smile at a comment Rivulet wrote on my post “It’s tradition, Jim, but not as we know it”.  She’d had a go at making Bubble and Squeak but her husband wouldn’t believe that it was a real name for a meal.  

It got me thinking though.  Bubble and Squeak IS a cool name for a dish, just as she said.  It sounds much more exciting than Refried Leftovers.  Refried Leftovers sounds like a dreary, penny pinching dish. Bubble and Squeak sounds fun.  It’s how you look at it. 

Having lots of bottles marked Basics or Everyday Value doesn’t make a bathroom look like a sanctuary for pampering but decant the products into plain white dispenser bottles with smart labels makes my bathroom into a place of personalised luxury.  It’s how you look at it.

Calling my needle case a hand-me-down would make it a dull, functional item but say it’s a family heirloom makes it into something to be treasured.  It’s how you look at it.

That seems to me to be the way to pursue joyful frugality.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

You are keeping me to the straight and narrow

I decided that I would try and do a blog post every day during Lent.  That might seem a rather strange decision but my reasoning is that if I'm going to write a blog post every day I have to do something purposefully every day!   Simples!  So today I've decluttered another drawer. 


Before I started on this chest of drawers I thought I'd got only one embroidery hoop.  

Hoop la anyone?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A bit of post-war frugality

I had to do a little bit of mending this morning so out came the needle case which used to be my Mother’s.  For some reason I looked at it anew and suddenly I felt very proud of it.

While she was still at primary school my sister made this for our Mother.  I think the stitchery is quite good for a ten year old to have done.  Mother’s initial was N hence the central design.

What makes this extra special is that it was made sometime around 1953 using recycled materials.  The tapestry thread was from pulled-down old garments and the pages are from old shirts.  I think the tapestry canvas must have been new, but that’s it.  This means that I am using something made from recycled stuff around sixty years ago and it is still going strong.  And it is still helping me to make do and mend.

Friday, 20 February 2015

A small delight

Today has been one of my favourite days of the year.  Today I fetched in my first garden flowers.

It's just a very small posy of snowdrops with a sprig of winter flowering jasmine.  I put them in a tiny vase which I bought for 50p from a charity shop.  Spring is indeed on its way.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

It's what you make of it

I have a VERY large fabric stash.  It's got skirt lengths, blouse lengths, patchwork pieces and bits-which-might-be-useful-one-day in every colour you could imagine.  Among it I found a panel printed for making a cushion.  And quite honestly although I like the pattern, there was no way it was going to be made up into a cushion for this house.  I didn't want to sling it or give it to the charity shop so it sat in the stash and glowered at me.

Over the past few weeks I have been doing some decluttering (rather more than I have reported on this blog) and the cushion panel popped its head out and mocked me again.  That was when I decided, Enough Is Enough.

So my cushion panel is now combined with leftover tape from another project to make a rather nice ragbag containing the remains of various garments which weren't good enough for the charity shop.  I've never had a rag bag before having just kept rags here and there and everywhere.  But I'm very proud of my lovely new ragbag.
Spiffy New Ragbag

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Look what arrived today!

I'm not particularly into couponing, sending or freebies and all the hundred-and-one other ways that so many frugalleurs have of spinning out their budgets and I take my hat off to those who manage to make a worthwhile penny that way.  However, I am into on-line surveys.  I spend a lot of time alone so when I flop down with a coffee or something stronger, I give my opinions on everything from TV channels to the NHS.  The pay-off isn’t great but it helps to support my Amazon habit and every so often I get the opportunity to do some consumer testing.  I’ve tested mostly skin care stuff like serums, face creams and hand creams but occasionally other things turn up.

And today, this arrived.  What a good job I hadn’t decided to give up chocolate for Lent!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

It's tradition, Jim, but not as we know it

It may be that my mother, grandmother and indeed all my foremothers are spinning in their graves even as I write, but the sad fact is that pancakes are not on the menu at Frugal Follies today.  I can't remember not having pancakes on Shrove Tuesday but there it is.  In the eyes of all those venerable women I Am A Failure.

But there is another British tradition which is sadly fading from common usage and that is Bubble and Squeak.  I should perhaps explain that B & S is a glorious fry up which has leftover mashed potato with leftover cabbage as its base and any other leftover vegetables added.  A glorious potato  and vegetable cake, fried until golden brown was a favourite way of using up the leftovers from Sunday lunch and making a really easy meal on Monday which was traditionally washday. Yum.

I don't often cook a traditional Sunday lunch.  It's not a meal for the single person household.  Last Sunday however, I invited five members of my extended family and we tucked into roast chicken and a lot more besides.  And as always I cooked too much.

So the Bubble and Squeak tradition had to come to my rescue.  I didn't cook mashed potato which is an essential ingredient but I had roast potatoes along with roast beetroot, carrot, parsnip, onion and sweet potato.  I'd also got sprouts with mushrooms and bacon and I'd got pigs in blankets, leeks and stuffing.  So I chopped up the lot and slung it into a frying pan with a little oil.

And  can still have pancakes on another day

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Where's my asbestos vest?

I chose my user name with great care.  I am truly Frugally Challenged.  I know all the theory and quite a lot of the time I put it into practice.  But not all the time.

And I’m going to stick my head above the parapet and say that I am quite enjoying “Eat well for less” and I haven’t read that comment on any other blogs. 

Eat Well for Less?
I have been totally staggered at just how much the families spend on their weekly shopping but to be quite honest I don’t think they are exceptional.  Go around Waitrose, Sainsbury or Tesco and you will see many people making the same mistakes.  And many of us have made them too, probably not every week but we’ve made our shopping mistakes.  We’ve failed to menu plan and make a shopping list.  We’ve been seduced by phoney offers.  We’ve gone for convenience rather than economy or even quality. 

The families which agree to go on the programme are presumably aware that they have a problem and they have indicated their willingness to change.  However, if they were to watch the really frugal people who blog they would be deterred before they even started.  It’s like telling me to get fit and expecting me to emulate an Olympic gold medallist.  Not a pretty thought. 

We have had programmes about the difficulty of managing on benefits or minimum wage and I take my hat off to those for whom frugality is not a choice but a life sentence.  But I also feel for those people who know there must be a better way but haven’t much of an idea how to find it. 

I think I’ll don my asbestos vest before I publish this post

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Yes, I am still alive!

I know, I know.  It's ages since I posted on this blog and I will slap my own wrists for being a naughty girl.

The trouble is (and if you've got a blog you will understand) sometimes what happens hardly seems writing about.  I sorted a wardrobe and I've got a bag ready for the Sally Ann. 

I sorted the cleaning materials reserve cupboard - yes, I've got a cupboard (actually two cupboards) full of hoarded cleaning stuff) and I made an inventory of the contents to try and stop myself buying any more.  Does anybody else look at something (eg dishwasher rinse aid) and think more is needed only to open the cupboard to put it way and find five more bottles?  No?  That'll just be me then.

I'm brilliant at putting food into the freezer rather than wasting it.  And that's as far as it goes.  I bulk cook, buy packs and split them into sensible sizes of stuff for the single woman, and the result is a very full freezer.  I sorted it today.  Another inventory.

The spirit is willing but the organisational skills are weak.  I think Sally Ann loves me though.