Saturday 30 March 2019

Even better than a Lidl veg box.

I've been feeling slightly envious this week - my next door neighbours are off to Spain for several weeks.  However, this has definitely been A Good Thing for me!

The first phone call came Thursday.  Could I use the remaining contents of their fridge and freezer?   Now I am definitely a girl who doesn't need to be asked a question like that more than once so I'm now better off by two packs each of cheese and butter, about a dozen Yorkshire puds, plus peas, mince and pizza are all happily in my stores.

The second call came Friday. How would I feel about the contents of the vegetable rack?  I'd feel very grateful, that's how I'd feel!  Which is why I'm now making a butternut soup and I've got all this lovely stuff in my fridge!

I think that must be a whole week's groceries for me - and all free! 

(I shall make them something when they come home though.)

Monday 25 March 2019

Just a small thing

I really enjoy doing puzzles, especially Sudoku.  I keep some by my bedside and do a few before I go to sleep.  There's something about managing to solve a problem which I find very relaxing and it helps me nod off.  I also keep some by my armchair, maybe slightly harder ones, to entertain myself in a quiet moment.

However, in January I realised that I had spent over £8 on puzzle books and I wondered if I could cut this down a bit.  I also realised that I was throwing out a lot of paper which is printed on one side only (junk mail, stuff I need to print for Sunday use etc.) and I decided to solve two problems at once.  I went on line and found various Sudoku sites and settled eventually with 1sudoku and I'm now able to print six sudoku to an A4 piece of paper.  I print a selection every week, fold them and pack them into  an Amazon packaging sleeve.  I can pop a pen into the sleeve and it's even more convenient than having a book - I even use the sleeve as a hard surface for writing!

Printer ink is probably the most expensive fluid to come into this house but even taking that into account this is great - and although the paper still has to go to recycling eventually, it has been very well used before it goes.

Sunday 17 March 2019


It's expensive being disabled!  I've been trying hard to make sure that I save my target £400 this month but it won't be easy.  This week I had to have repairs done to the Trundle Truck (mobility scooter) and that cost £90.  It set me wondering about just what being disabled costs me.

First what it doesn't cost me.  I have a Blue Badge which means that I get some free parking.  I can park on the street if necessary but I don't like to take advantage of that if there is a car park nearby and occasionally car parks are free to disabled badge holders.  Even if they're not I still prefer to use car parks rather than be in the way on a street.  

I don't have to pay VAT on goods and services directly related to my disability.  This meant that I didn't pay the tax when I bought my scooter and I don't pay it on repairs.  I still have the rest of the cost to find so that was £90 this month as well as the £275 on repairs and maintenance just before Christmas

I can't kneel or sit on the ground and I can't bend to do jobs so I can't manage without the help of a gardener/handyman and a cleaner.  I have to buy a ridiculously large car to transport my trundle truck which means that my fuel bill and road tax are also high.  

Although I am entitled (because of my age) to have a free bus pass it would be no use to me because I need my trundle truck wherever I go.

None of this is to complain.  I know I am very fortunate in that I have enough money to do all this and enough ingenuity to make every penny count.  It is written in sheer frustration at the two ladies who had a very loud conversation (making sure that I could hear) complaining about having to pay 50p for two hours car parking when I had mine free.  

Friday 15 March 2019

Reducing food waste

That wonderful box of vegetables had to be sorted fairly quickly.  I decided that I had to edit my fridge as well so that I could use the vegetables in there as well.

First I chopped the leeks, added a potato and some stock and now I have a pan of leek and potato soup.  My menu re-planning meant that I had to use some calabrese so I dug my bag of bits and pieces of cheese (mainly the crust of Stilton) and now I've got some broccoli and Stilton soup.  Those corn cobs were probably the tattiest vegetables in the box so I stripped off the kernels, found a few sticks of celery and a sad looking parsnip in the fridge and I've got mixed veg soup.  That needs a bit of oomph so I'm thinking a bit of chili might not go amiss.  My soups will be frozen tomorrow.  

The mushrooms from the box were wiped and sliced and they're now in the freezer ready for my next Bolgnaise sauce or beef casserole.  Some of the bananas were for eating today but the rest have been made into banana ice lollies.  The avocado went on toast for breakfast.  One apple was eaten for pudding today.  The cabbage, the apples, the satsumas and the nectarine are all sound enough to keep for a few days.  I shall use the rocket and watercress tomorrow.

I had bought some flat mushrooms before I got the veggie box so I've stuffed those with goat's cheese, sprinkled on a few breadcrumbs made from crusts and they are in the freezer.  

While I was in Lidl I bought some Italian style chicken chipolatas which had been reduced to 70p.  I'd never had them before and I won't buy them again.  This seems to me to be a good way to look at yellow sticker (or rather Lidl equivalent) food.  I might have seen chicken sausages and thought them worth a try as they are lower fat than the pork equivalent.  I've eaten some for lunch, the rest may go in a casserole but I certainly wouldn't recommend them.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Thank you, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Just over three years ago HFW presented Hugh's War on Waste, a short series of TV programmes including one which highlighted how much food is wasted by supermarkets before we even get our paws on it.  He also showed just how much food is wasted in homes and all sorts of other waste and those too had a big effect on me, even though I have always thought I was pretty good on food waste.

Getting back to the supermarket waste, HFW showed how supermarkets were being just too picky about the cosmetic standards of vegetables which they bought in, and how much good food was being discarded by supermarkets themselves.  One result of all this was that several supermarkets now sell "wonky" vegetables which I think are more fun than the Class One stuff.

Yesterday I took advantage of the cheap vegetable boxes in Lidl.  Usually I can't do that from my mobility scooter but yesterday the store was very quiet.  Just look at my box!  Isn't it beautiful!

I unpacked it and found three leeks, a bag of rocket, a bag of rocket and watercress, a cabbage, nine bananas, three pieces sweetcorn, four red onions, two satsumas, five apples, a box of mushrooms, a nectarine and a cabbage.  And the cost of this box of deliciousness?  £1.50.  ONE POUND FIFTY PENCE!  Unbelievable.  I shall need to use the sweetcorn and mushrooms very quickly but the rest is superb.

I've rewritten my menu for the week and will take time this morning to prep and use the stuff really well.  

Friday 8 March 2019

The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory

I'm a great one for writing things down.  I record my energy usage on a daily basis. I check and note my weight and the number of steps I take.  And I write down every penny I spend.

Each day I check my bank and credit card accounts and count the money in my purse and work out what has disappeared since yesterday and where it went.  I know a lot of people don't record their spending to this degree but I have found it helpful.  Maybe there will come a day when I trust myself enough not to have to be so "accountable" either.  The only person I am accountable to is me!

Once a month I create an account of all that I have spent and what I have done.  To use fashionable language I have made myself much more mindful of where the pennies go

Before I retired I was far less obsessive about it but I realised that I would have to be more careful now that I have a reduced income.  The amazing thing is that I feel as if I have an increased income.  It feels as though I have more money than ever I had!  I go out for lunch several times a month, I have a few mini-breaks each year and yet I never have to worry and I can save for treats or the inevitable rainy days.

Flylady used to have the acronym FACE - Financial Awareness Continually Empowers - maybe she still does.  Knowing what I've got and where what I had went to has certainly empowered me.  And writing it all down makes it even more real. The faintest ink is truly more powerful than the strongest memory.

Sunday 3 March 2019


A few months ago I got  smart meter, supplied by my energy company.  Just in case you're not familiar with them I'll explain that the energy company can now read my meters remotely and I shall never again be asked to supply a reading.  The fun bit is that they also supplied me with a monitor which sits in the kitchen and nudges my conscience.

A few weeks ago I was at a dinner and there were four households represented at the table.  All four of us had smart meters and monitors but the other three just kept their monitor in a drawer and didn't bother to use it!  I wanted one so that I could save money but the smart meter will not save you anything - it just gives information so you can do the saving if you want to.

And I do want to.  I read my meter daily and each day rack my brains to think of the things I did the previous day which used energy.  Gradually I am becoming better at reducing my consumption.  I will need a least a year of figures before I know how much I have saved but I am sure that the habit of turning the thermostat down, that using my insulated cafetiere rather than boiling the kettle several times, and all the other little economies I make will make a difference.

One of the things that has helped is this little "dry fryer" which I was given for Christmas.  Actually it's really a mini oven and it uses far less power than even my top oven but I can cook small meals, eg a chop and a jacket potato or a shepherd's pie rather quicker than in the top oven.

Saturday 2 March 2019

It's been a long time!

Well, hello if you're reading this - which you are, of course!

Thank you for coming here.  It's a very long time since I wrote on this blog but this feels like a good time to come back.

Thing is, I want to save some money.  Now I'm never going to be an extreme frugalleur (and I don't feel the need) but I'd like to have a wee bit more money to spend on the things I choose.  It's not just things for now, like holidays, but my more long term well-being with enough money to last into my old age.  I'm sixty seven now so I'm no spring chicken, but my lifestyle for the next ten, twenty, maybe even thirty years depends on the choices I make now.  My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all lived into their nineties so who knows!

Anyway, I want to live below my means by £400 per month.  That means I've either got to get more money in or it means I have to let less money out.  It sounds so simple!

Lets see how I go.