Tuesday 30 December 2014

Messy places

Like many other people I read a lot of blogs, and one that I read frequently is http://paidinchickens.blogspot.co.uk/.

The latest post has the brilliant idea of clearing a messy space each day.  A simple idea, methinks, for a simple soul like me to take on board.  Julee, who has that blog, has been tackling the challenge with a huge amount of energy (and she's revealed the reason for the world gravy shortage) but I know my limitations and the daily space may be as small as one drawer or a single shelf, but by the end of January I should be making some sort of impression on the mess.

I've already got my eye on a few places which need more than a little bit of attention but I shall intersperse those "challenging" places with a few easier spots.  I do like that word "challenging".  There are many other words which could be used but that one is polite.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Reflecting and planning

I know it’s not quite 2015 yet but my weeks always run Sunday to Sunday so I want to start thinking about what I want to do in 2015.

I read quite a few blogs and one of the things which I have enjoyed reading is the various attempts at doing 52 projects in the year but I haven’t noticed anyone crowing that they managed the full fifty two.  If you can tell me of any I’d love to know.  (Since I’ve written that I’ve googled and found a site called 52projects.com and I shall explore that.)

The reason I want to get a few projects is actually to do with frugality.  In the post-Christmas season I am very aware that there were several Christmas presents which were planned but time ran away with me so substitutes had to be bought and that is somewhat wasteful.  I’ve never got around to making a store cupboard inventory (or a craft inventory) so I waste my precious cash buying duplicates.  A good declutter combined with an eBay listing session would boost the coffers.  You get the idea.  I’m going to do some more thinking about this.

And whilst I’m here I want to remember the three special habits which I have managed to establish during 2014.  First I have managed to lose just over a stone in weight.  I’ve always been a yoyo dieter, managing often to lose three or four stone but then putting it back on.  This stone has come off as the result of minor changes to my diet and probably has a better chance of staying off.

Secondly I have established a pattern of Sabbaths.  This hasn’t happened every week but it is part of my lifestyle now, like those minor dietary changes.  Again like the eating changes, I haven’t beaten myself up or given up when I’ve failed to make that precious time.

And thirdly I have started a blog.  In fact I overdid it.  I actually have two blogs!

Wednesday 24 December 2014


Christmas comes tomorrow but according to my stable, Christ arrived today!  Have a joyful and blessed Christmas.

Gifts are on the way for him, I hope they are on the way for you too.

Monday 22 December 2014


The stable is very full now.  Joseph has arrived and is checking that the stable will be OK for his young wife.  The visitors from the east are on their way.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Well, you would say that wouldn't you?

Today's thought on the frugal joys of advent is the one where you can say, "Well, you would say that wouldn't you?"  It's the pleasure of visiting a church.

I've just come back from a church where this afternoon there will be a village Carol Service which will be very well attended.  The church is decorated with a huge tree, lots of greenery and a wonderful knitted nativity scene.  It will be a rousing sing this afternoon and afterwards there will be tea, coffee, mince pies and maybe a drop of mulled wine.

Sadly an awful of of churches are locked up during the week but there are still a lot which are open for anyone who cares to open the door.  There is something wonderful about the stillness of a church when one is there alone.  My favourite one has a churchyard which has areas which have been left to go wild so there are birds singing outside.

So I commend churches for a good sing whether you are a human or whether you are a bird!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Just a thought

Well, we are now within a week of Christmas and it feels like a good time to organise my thoughts a little.

When I started this lead up to Christmas it was with no very definite idea in mind but I feel that a theme has emerged as the days have gone by and I want to run it past you.

I love Christmas and I love the razzmatazz.  There is little of the Bah Humbug about me as far as Christmas is concerned.  However, I agree with those who are worried by the commercialism of Christmas but I think that it is possible to look at the commercialism, even take advantage of it, without being seduced by it.  I know it is easy for me in that there are no children screaming “I want” and I am of an age where my friends are also not driven by the competitiveness which can surround the festive season.

Because I think that it’s the competitiveness which is ugly.  There is pressure to lay on the perfect Christmas with the right food to eat, the right gadgets as presents and the right decorations to adorn the house and it is easy to succumb to that pressure.  I want to share my delight in the small but significant things which give me pleasure at this time and in sharing them I have increased my own pleasure.  What more could a blogger ask?

Friday 19 December 2014

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches

So much of what I have written about advent list has been about  pleasures that I receive that it's good to write about a pleasure which I give and that is my outdoor tree.  I'm not wildly keen on the big displays of lights in gardens and on the outside of houses but as I have said already, Caistor has quite a tradition of Christmas trees and it's a tradition I enjoy joining in. 

 One of my cousins ordered this tree for me as a birthday present way back in October and with a few LED lights it has brightened up my house.  More than any other photograph in this series this one shows my inadequacies with the camera but my little tree gives me pleasure and the many other trees in the town give me such delight that I dare to hope that this one gives some joy too.

Visitors from the east

A small bonus from my Advent nativity stable today – here are the three kings.  I’ve put them near the scene but not actually in the stable for they are still on their journey.

For today’s pleasure is the joy of the journey – or rather the meeting at the end of a journey.  Christmas is a time at which we see more of our family and friends.  As I have said I am a little bit short on family but yesterday my nephew and his wife visited me.  They live in Belgium (which is east of me!) but at Christmas they visit so yesterday we went out for lunch.

And during the next few days leading up to and following on from Christmas I will visit various friends and I will also entertain in my own home.  No need to bring gold, frankincense or myrrh, just the pleasure of their company enriches my life.

Wednesday 17 December 2014


Today's frugal pleasure can be somewhat bittersweet for it is the joy of memory.

I love to remember the Christmases I knew as a child.  Mother would have made the cake and the pudding well before December began but she still had plenty to do.  Presents had to be wrapped, cards written (and the cards we received had to be displayed), the school nativity play and carol service attended and a million and one other things to be done.  Father would fetch a Christmas tree and then put it up and help my sister and I as we decorated the house.  There were many, many secrets around and life was exciting.  And all that was before The Big Day!

Sadly both my parents and my only sister all died in (different) Decembers so it could be a very sad month but nothing can take away the pleasure of the memories I have built up over the years.  A couple of years before she died my sister visited Russia and she brought me this lovely Father Frost (Google and you'll find his story) so as I put it out on display yesterday I remembered her and the Christmases of my childhood.  And I am happy

Tuesday 16 December 2014

The Generosity of Others

Caistor, the town where I now live, has a lovely market square.  It also has some lovely residents.  Every year our town is entered into Britain in Bloom and every year we do rather well.

Towards the end of November the market square is enhanced by the addition of a large Christmas tree.  The tree is the gift of a local business and the decorating of it is undertaken by volunteers.  That generosity certainly enhances my Christmas.

So my frugal pleasure today is simply delighting in the generosity of others

Monday 15 December 2014

Angels doing a recce

The stable has a goodly population of animals now and the angels seem to be checking it out.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Angelic voices?

It’s such a simple pleasure I want to remember today - the joy of singing.  If there’s a carol on the radio or if I get myself organised and play a CD, I join in.  Fortunately I live in a detached house! 

But even better than being at home pretending that I have something like a singing voice is going and singing carols with others.  I have a certain prejudice here and have to say that I like singing in church best but I know that choirs, schools, bands and Uncle Tom Cobley and All give us plenty of chances to expand our lungs.

Christmas songs are wonderful.  Most of the time we don’t need to have the words printed and in front of us: we’ve known the words from childhood up.  So, be among the faithful who come while herald angels sing on an otherwise silent night in royal David's city.  And enjoy

Saturday 13 December 2014


Today’s pleasure is to do with Christmas itself and it’s the pleasure of Christmas trees. Caistor is one of the many churches and chapels all over the country holding Christmas tree festivals this weekend so I trundled up the hill and called in.
There were over thirty trees displayed, all of which had been sponsored by local people or businesses or groups and each of which was individually decorated.  One of my favourites was decorated by the local chimney sweep who had displayed a fine choice of entry points for Santa.

The schools and kindergartens had done their bit, usually with lovely decorations made by the children.

Charities too had decorated trees including this one by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution which has a lively fundraising group here in Caistor.

Friday 12 December 2014

Not bad for £1.80

Today’s frugal pleasure did involve a little bit of expenditure.  One pound eighty pence to be exact.  And it’s a pleasure which many frugal websites would tut tut at but I think it’s worth it.

Today I met up with a friend for a coffee.  No we didn’t take a flask; we went into the cafĂ© at a farm shop.  We were meeting at a point between our two homes and for the price of a cup of coffee we had a comfortable warm place with lovely seasonal decor for an hour’s chat.  This is not the season for a picnic!

I know I’ve already written about friendship in this series but that was about friends I won’t be seeing.  Today I’m talking about the pleasure of meeting with a friend and having a really good laugh.  £1.80 may be quite an expensive coffee in comparison with putting the kettle on at home but as the cost of a day long smile after an hour of laughter – brilliant! 

Thursday 11 December 2014


Today's frugal pleasure is actually something on which I actually spend a lot of money, and that is my home.

Running a home involves paying rent, council tax, and energy bills as well as the cost of furnishing, cleaning and beautifying it.  It takes effort to keep it looking good and feeling comfortable.  True, one can economise and make sure that the best value for money is obtained but the fact remains: running a home is one of the biggest demands on anyone's budget.

And yet, home is a lovely place to be.  I have furniture which makes me comfortable and relaxed.  The decor suits reflects my personality.  I have photographs reminding  of people and events which have given me pleasure. In my home I can follow my hobbies.  I can entertain friends.  Here I am safe, warm and comfortable.

And here I find the truth in the saying that contentment lies not in having what you want, but rather in wanting what you have.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Feed the birds

Today’s pleasure is one which again is available all year around but it’s especially lovely in the winter and that’s the pleasure of just watching the birds.  I’ll come clean and say that I can’t take photos of birds – I’m just not fast enough – but I want to mention a few of my favourites.
House Sparrow 

First, the house sparrow.  I never thought I’d put spadgers in a list of favourites but these days I feel so lucky if I see one.  They used to be so common but not now.  A few bacon rinds thrown outside would have ensured a deluge of them but sadly their numbers have declined devastatingly.

Common Blackbird (turdus merula).jpg 

Next, the blackbird.  I do get regular visits from these.  A little bit of dried fruit or an apple core on the bird table makes sure of that! 

Blue tit (Copyright Mark Fellowes)

Then the blue tit, almost the first bird I learnt to recognise.  When I was a child we used to thread peanuts in their shells on to lengths of strong thread and hang these for the blue tits but these days they seem quite happy with the fat balls I hang from the table.


One of the commonest birds to come to my garden is the goldfinch a bird which I hardly remember seeing as a child but which seems to like current living conditions here in the UK.  They like the Niger seeds I put out for them.  Did you know that a group of goldfinches is called a charm?

Male Robin

And a December blog post about birds wouldn’t be complete without the good old robin.  Robin Redbreast.  He’s quite fond of the dried mealworms and as far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to them!

Cardinal birds

I can’t finish without thanking a certain lady in the USA who had a Christmas card from me and commented on the cardinal bird on it.  I know she reads this blog and I have a guilty confession – I had thought the bird was a made-up one.   I made it with a stamp from America!

Tuesday 9 December 2014


Family doesn't feature as large in my life as it does for most people - largely because I haven't got one!  I've never married and my only sister died four years ago leaving just one son who now lives in Belgium

But I delight in my friends.  Friendship is one of the great pleasures of life which we can have without major expenditure.

Around Christmas time I think a lot about my friends.  Cards arrive, many with letters inside.  It's fashionable to deride the round robin letter but I love 'em.  Most people write their basic letter and then add a personalised note on the bottom and that way I hear about the grandchildren of people whom I first knew over forty years ago.  No-one would want to write as many individual letters or if they did, they would just be scant notes.

So my frugal pleasure today is friendship, especially those friends I have had for yonks and the news of whose lives plops through my letterbox at this time of year.

Monday 8 December 2014

Still waiting

My lovely advent stable continues to reveal its secrets and we now have quite a selection of sheep and cows, gathering near the manger.  Nothing strange or startling in Bethlehem so far.

Sunday 7 December 2014

OK it wasn't Rudolph

I had a wonderful magical free show today on my way home from church.  Eight deer (one stag, seven hinds) ran across the road about twenty yards in front of my car.  I felt truly privileged for this is a sight which truly money can't buy.  

Thursday 4 December 2014


Today’s joy has been one of my favourites.  It’s a pleasure I indulge in all year around but in the busy month of December it gets promoted from pleasure to joy.  It’s the joy of idleness.

I have been very busy from Friday onwards and yesterday afternoon I became aware that I was getting very tired and my body aches.  (Disability makes some things even harder work than they would otherwise be.) So today I planned a day of doing very, very little.  I've just knitted and listened to an audiobook.  

May I commend idleness to you?  I realise that I may have provoked hollow laughter but I still commend it.  

Keeping an eye on Santa

I love Christmas and I love the build up to Christmas.  One of my favourite sites at this time of year is http://www.noradsanta.org.  Each day there is a new game to play, there's a cinema to watch films about Santa, a library to read about him and a music theatre to listen to (and maybe join in with) songs about Santa.

NORAD is "North American Aerospace Defense Command" so thank you very much to anyone on the west side of the North Atlantic who therefore (indirectly) funds this great free site each Christmas.  Being aerospace based NORAD is ideally placed for keeping an eye on Santa and they get well geared up for The Big Night.  They use the latest photographic techniques for taking film which can be slowed down sufficiently for Santa to be seen by ordinary human eyes.  They use satellite technology to get the vital information to us from their webcams situated high above the earth and they have an archive of his activity in previous years.  

But for the moment I'm just enjoying playing in Santa's arcade.

I'm just a big kid at heart.

Wednesday 3 December 2014


I've had a bonus joy today - when I woke up the house still smelt of the glorious aroma of gently cooking Christmas cake.  I'm counting this as frugal fun because although the cake was expensive, enjoying the smell is a free bonus.  And when the house still smells spicy and rich next day I am in heaven!


Sometimes joy can be planned.  Sometimes it has to be – but the joy is worth the planning.  Gardens are a case in point.  A lovely garden takes planning and effort – but it also takes serendipity (I love that word!). 

I planted these cyclamen a couple of years ago.  They had been in the house but they didn’t do very well indoors, so I bunged them in this planter by the front door.  This is their third winter in the pot so again, although there was initial cost, they really have given great value for money.

Even in the summer I have enjoyed them.  I think there are about six or seven plants in there but they each have slightly different leaves.

And I hope that visitors to my house also enjoy them

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Sheer glory!

I love cut flowers for the house.  I know that pot plants are more sensible but there is something about a bunch of flowers which makes me feel wonderful.

The trouble is that if I am not careful my purse suffers.  Most of the time if I buy flowers I buy alstromeria because they are not too expensive and they last well.  I also buy spray chrysanthemums, (especially white ones) for the same reason and one bunch of chrysanthemums makes several vases. 

Yesterday when I was in Tesco I saw these glorious irises – the photograph doesn’t actually do justice to their colour.  And they were in the Reduced For Quick Sale bucket – reduced from £3 to 95p.  Irresistible!  

Monday 1 December 2014

Frugal anticipation

1st December brings a thrill all of its own.  Today children start to count the number of sleeps to Christmas.  Today the Advent Calendars come out.

Advent really started yesterday but today I got out my own Advent “Calendar” although in my case it’s a stable.  I’ve had it for several years so I think it can now count as frugal even though originally it was a very expensive gift.  All those little cupboards, each with a figure in it, add to the build-up of pre-Christmas excitement here at Frugal Follies. 

Each year when I pack the figures away I try and make sure that the following year there will be some sort of logic in the way that it unpacks.  I don’t sneak a look into any of the cupboards until the appropriate day.  After 12th December the scene pivots and the twelve cupboards on the other side will be revealed.  By Christmas the scene will be filled but today it stands empty apart from one solitary cow.  I love it!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Frugal Frivolling

I make no secret of the fact that I love Christmas.  I love the build up of excitement.  I love the stories told to children about an elderly gentleman who will bring presents.  I love the lights, the carols, the greetings.  I love the fact that people talk to one another more at Christmas.  And I love the Christian teaching of God’s total commitment to loving the world. 

During December my other blog will be about getting ready for Christmas as in cooking, making presents and cards and all the rest of it (with Sundays being about preparing spiritually) but this blog will be about frugal frivolity.  It’s about enjoying things which cost very little or even better, nothing at all and enjoying them now (not waiting until Christmas).  I don’t want my attempts at frugality to be at the expense of frivolity – I believe both have their rightful place in my life.

So, for December at least, anything on this blog will be about FUN!!!  If you prefer a Bah! Humbug! sort of Christmas, I hope to see you again in January.

Saturday 22 November 2014


So, the staycation is over (bar the laundry etc) and life returns to normal.  What went well and what went not-so-well.

 First, nothing went badly. 

We should both have had aching tongues because we talked so much.  Thirty years ago we shared a house and we could talk then and we’ve both developed our skills in that direction since.  It was really good that Amy brought her embroidery and my knitting was to hand.

We went out a lot.  Donna Nook was definitely a highlight – see my other blog trundlingthroughlife.blogspot.co.uk.  We took our soup and a few crisps and had about an hour and a half there.  It’s too cold to linger very long!  We were both very tired when we got back and a snooze was very welcome but we went out for an unplanned (not very expensive) meal out which had not been planned. 

Wednesday we went mooching around the locality.  We had a very nice meal out on Wednesday evening.  My Father would have been 100 on Wednesday and I had planned dinner out as that is how we celebrated birthdays and as Amy also knew him it was a good way to honour him. 

Thursday we went to Lincoln.  Amy wanted to visit Lincoln Castle but I hadn’t realised that it is having a very major refurbishment ready to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.  (Lincoln has its original still.)  Although most of the castle is closed what is open is free to visit.  We then went into the Cathedral and took advantage of our “wrinkly” status for a reduced price admission.  As I gift aided we also received a couple of free passes to go back at a later date so it was pretty good value for money.  Thursday evening we went to a craft class and each came home with three cards having spent a lovely chatty evening.

Altogether a very successful week which was fairly successful on the frugality front too apart from that extra meal out.  On the other hand I've got two meals in the freezer ready for other lazy days!

Today I’m having a very quiet day and I’ll tackle the laundry and other stuff on Monday.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Let the staycation begin

Just a very brief post to say that the staycation has begun.  Amy arrived safely and we eventually met up at Newark Station after having managed to miss one another on Newark Station and each of us having a panic because we didn’t have each other’s mobile numbers with us.  We did seven hours no stop talking (very frugal!) enjoyed the lasagne I had bunged in the freezer last week and downed a bottle of wine. 

Today we are off to see those seals at Donna Nook.  And taking a flask of home-made soup for after we’ve seen them.  

Sunday 16 November 2014

Get ready! Get set! STAYCATION!

I am so looking forward to this staycation!  The hotel is superb with comfortable beds and welcoming rooms, the menu looks appetising, there are days out planned as well as time for lazing.  Entertainment is available at the hotel as well.  All that is lacking is a friend to share it with.

And she is coming tomorrow.  You’ll be pleased to know that she’s using her Senior Citizen Railcard and she’s booked the best value travel she can.  She’s bringing her bus pass to use as appropriate. 

And so we will enjoy a few days together.  Wonderful.

Friday 14 November 2014

The hotel for my staycation

Today maybe wasn’t so frugal.  But it was worth it.

A couple of times a year I pay to have someone help me with cleaning the house.  I was never very good at housework and disability hasn’t improved my skills.  I can’t clean windows now, moving furniture is risky, and quite honestly I just haven’t got the strength or stamina which I had even a few years ago.

So today my gardener's grandaughter, Louise came and cleaned through for me.  She’s only nineteen and she’s a student but boy, can she clean!  My house feels wonderful.  I would usually have the job done in December so it was just a case of bringing it forward.

And it is part of my staycation.  Paying for a few hours cleaning is a lot cheaper than paying for a stay in an hotel.  

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Super soups

I’m back to food preparation for this staycation now and I am turning my attention to soups.

Soups are so good for a quick meal, a light lunch if one is going out in the evening, or a warming snack when coming off a wintry nature reserve.  They’re cheap, easy to make a freeze well.  What’s not to love?

Yesterday I made a delicious mushroom soup and started a mixed vegetable soup in the slow cooker.  I just need to blend it and add stock now.  I know that the mushroom was delicious as I had a bowlful for supper last night and doubtless I shall test the vegetable one today.  I’m also about to cook some tomatoes for tomato and cheese soup, a particular favourite of mine.  There’s also some celery left from making the mixed veg but I haven’t yet decided whether it will be soup or the basis of a cheese and celery supper tonight.

I’m quite enjoying blogging about these preparations.  It will be so useful to look back and see what went well and what needed better thinking through.  

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Things to do

Having a staycation means thinking of things to do.

One of our main trips out will be to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Reserve at Donna Nook.  Last year over 1500 seals were born there in November and December and there is an excellent viewing area. On Saturday the warden reported sightings of 218 pups.   I’m a member of the trust but anyone can go and visit FREE but of course donations are welcome.  I can’t remember if there’s a parking charge but it’s a well-run place and I’m happy to part with some cash.

We’ll probably spend a day on Lincoln which will not be cheap.  There is a charge for visiting the cathedral which I don’t mind.  Somebody has to pay to maintain the place and having been responsible for supervising the upkeep of five mediaeval churches for fifteen years I can promise you that those who just have to maintain a modern home would be staggered at the cost of maintaining a church.  We'll go to the castle and just enjoy that lovely city.

I’ve also sorted out a few games – cards, bananagrams, triominoes etc.  We may go out for the odd evening but I like to have things to do at home to hand.  Amy will bring some sewing as well.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Planning a staycation

Later this month my friend Amy is coming to stay for the inside of a week.  We shared a house in Leicester over thirty years ago but since then she has married and both of us have moved away from Leicester and too far apart for a day visit.  Both Amy and I are retired but both of us have occupational pensions.  Neither of us likes to waste money.  We can afford to satisfy all our needs and by choosing carefully and spending wisely we can satisfy several of our wants.

So, I’ve started planning and preparing because I want this to be a staycation for me.  One of the main things to prepare has to be food.  We will almost certainly go out for a few meals but I want to make sure I have several meals which can be on the table within half an hour of us getting home from wherever.  That reduces the temptation of takeaways or unnecessary meals out!

Yesterday I cooked some mince that I found in the freezer along with everyday value onions, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and a few mushrooms.  Today I made it up using some lasagne which I had also found.  For the cheese sauce I liquidised a couple of tins of cheap macaroni which I had bought in a fit of misplaced frugality.  I love macaroni cheese but this was overcooked and horrid but it made a not-bad cheese sauce for this purpose.  Grated cheese from the freezer topped it all and I had five portions of pretty good lasagne.  There was more sauce than I had lasagne for so I made two portion of pasta bake.

By this time I was on a roll and I decided to fill the oven.  There was a jar of sauce for dauphinoise potatoes (haven’t a clue when or why I bought it) in the cupboard so after I’ve had this cuppa I shall make that up as well.  It’s not a meal in itself but I love dauphinoise potatoes and they elevate any meal into a treat.

So in planning my staycation I’m also making good use of the lurkers in my store cupboard.  Win, win, methinks!

Friday 7 November 2014

Good enough is good enough

Leaving aside the vexed question of food shopping for a while I was having a play on Google last night and I checked out frugal cleaning.  I loathe housework and I’m not very good at it.  As far as I am concerned good enough is good enough.

Anyway, I usually use whatever basic multi purpose cleaner is on offer at whatever store I am at and I find that Asda sells its Smartprice stuff at 25p a litre.  Now I’m stingy and I use exactly one capful of product in a bucket of water and so I checked how much I use.  28ml.  Call it 30ml. 

Frugality sites suggest cleaning with vinegar, so I checked out white vinegar.  Asda have it at 77.5p per litre.    There’s nowhere that I know of which is local to me selling it cheaper.  That is a considerable price difference and the various websites also suggest half a cupful in a gallon of water – a lot bigger dose than I use of multi purpose cleaner.  I accept that vinegar may be cheaper than sloshing premium products around but I’m happy with the cheapo stuff.

But as I said, good enough is good enough.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Back on the wagon

Let’s face it, last month I was rubbish and demonstrated that the thing that I do best is choose a user name – Frugally Challenged! 

However, I did keep to minimal food spending for six weeks.  To put that in context I spent £242.38 on groceries in July, £222.81 in August, £19.29 in September and £94.72 in October.

But just spending less was only part of the equation.  What else did I learn?

I think that the main lesson was about how I am coerced (not to say conned) into more food shopping than I need.  Despite living on my food cupboard for six weeks I still have huge quantities of food to hand.  I see a special offer and stock up, or I see yellow stickers and think I mustn’t miss a bargain.  I thought I was too canny to be duped.  I’m not.

I’ve also learnt just how much I enjoy my lovely home cooked food.  The odd convenience meal will always be on my shopping list because sometimes it just isn’t worth cooking for one and some things don’t home freeze well, but for the most part I enjoy my home made casseroles and soups best.  If anything I should have MORE of those in the freezer.

And I think the other main lesson is the need to be better organised.  Things get shoved in cupboards and freezers and are not seen again until they are too old to be appetising.  I’m still in the reorganising phase and hope that it will help me to spend less.

So although I failed to keep up for longer than six weeks I feel the exercise was no failure.  I’m still frugally challenged and probably will always be so but the only real failure would be to stop trying.

Sunday 19 October 2014

'Fessing up

I know it’s ages since I was here.  I have a terrible confession to make.   I have failed spectacularly to keep to my £50 budget.

It was the Farmers’ Market that did it.  I went on Friday and blew more than the whole budget on beautiful pork and lamb and even a bit of mutton.   My favourite pork farm sells mostly through these markets and they happen only monthly.  Mutton is so hard to find these days and having hung myself for the sheep I decided I might as well go for the lamb.

However, I have now managed to defrost the freezer and have eaten the oldest food which was in there.  I’ve run down the tinned goods cupboard considerably and an inventory of freezer and cupboards seems imminent. 

There, I've ‘fessed up.  I think I chose my name of Frugally Challenged very well.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Things that lurk in freezers

I’m sorry I haven’t written for such a long time but I’m finding that being unable to upload photographs is very frustrating when my main emphasis for the month is on crafty making things.  Hat and bag production is high and I’m hoping that all will be revealed before the weekend.

However, here’s a report on the food front.  I am trying to find items which I would sling out if they were left hanging around for much longer.  On a day to day basis I’m fairly good at keeping my food waste very low but some things get left.  As my freezer stocks get lower I am finding things which I had forgotten about.  Yesterday I found a brace of pheasants which I was given at the end of last year.  I’m a bit squeamish about them and don’t like to dress and eat them on the same day (or even consecutive days) so I had dressed them and put them in the freezer to share with a friend, but for various reasons that delicious shared lunch never happened.  One is now defrosting and will be cooked tomorrow.  I also found a pack of two duck breasts which had been RFQS, frozen and left to languish.  If these items had been left in the freezer much longer I would not have eaten them.

Also each autumn I buy some UHT milk in case I get snowed in.  I use very little milk myself except for sauce making and similar and there were two litres from last year still in the cupboard so yesterday I made a huge rice pudding and froze it in single portions. 

Food expenditure this month has been kept down to 6 packs of butter £5.74 and two bottles of coke £3, so I have £49.97 left.

Friday 3 October 2014


Frugal in Derbyshire (who writes a wonderful blog) posted today about the wisdom (or not) of Stoptober as a no spend or low spend month.  As I am now on my second consecutive low spend month it made me think about whether it is a good idea.

My primary aim was to focus on how I spend money on food.  I wanted to look at the stocks of food that I have and decide if what I bought was really what I wanted.  As I work my way though the cupboards I am finding that I am ready for Doomsday and my reserves were ridiculously high.  Even after making about forty jars of jams and chutneys I have a whole unopened five kilo bag of sugar for example.  I didn’t have to buy any sugar or vinegar this year and I could make just as much preserves again without having to buy either.  Supplies of rice, tinned goods, frozen peas are also at disaster readiness level.

Another thing I have had to face is impulse buying.  Let me let you into a secret – I love Tesco paella.  Actually I just love paella but if I was feeling lazy or down I would buy paella.  If I was out shopping and I would buy one (or three) just because.  Having a low spend month has made me realise that what once was a treat had become a regular part of my diet and it was not money well spent.

And that leads me on to the fact that at one time I cooked almost all my meals from scratch.  Usually I bulk cooked and froze meals but nevertheless my food was mostly home cooked.  I’m hoping that as I use up all the bits and pieces in my freezer I will be able to have some good cooking sessions again, knowing that I will have space in the freezer because the odds and sods will have been used.

So for me, low spend is proving useful.  Yes, I know that I shall have to have a “proper shop” before long as I but ingredients for cottage pies, chicken casseroles and sausage hot pots – but having found the pot of goose fat I won’t be buying roast potatoes.  I’ve found the boxes of chicken stock I’ve made each time I’ve roast a chicken so the so ups will be good. 

I’m not kidding myself that a couple of low spend months have solved all my menu problems but they have shown me the issues I need to resolve.