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  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.