Friday 29 November 2019

£1.75 left

A week ago I had £6.35 of my original £34 and today I needed to get a few bits to last me over the weekend.  I bought celery, cucumber, butter and bread spending £5.10.  I decided to buy a loaf as I wanted sliced bread to make some sandwiches.  £5.10 seemed like a lot for so little but I shopped at  a local Co-op rather than drive 18 miles to go to Lidl.

So, the budget lasted.  However, I am not kidding myself that I ate only £32.25 worth of food.  I started off with a well-stocked freezer and tin store and they still look pretty full.  I have long been in the habit of making soups and stews and freezing portions.  I shall repeat this project fairly soon but December is not the month to be austere.

What is even more important is that the diet has been pretty healthy.  I have prioritised fresh vegetables and have eaten celery, cucumber, carrots, cabbage and onions very regularly, none of which is expensive.  I have enjoyed what I have eaten but will also enjoy a few treats next month!

Saturday 23 November 2019

One week to go

I've rather enjoyed this mini challenge.  It has been enough to make me think but not enough to make me think that I am wearing a hair shirt.  I haven't done a "normal" shop since 23rd October and I started this challenge on 27th October with a budget of £34.  By 17th November I was left with £14.50.

Yesterday I went shopping again and spent £8.15.  For the first time it wasn't just cheese and fresh food I bought.  I decided that the budget could cover wholemeal flour and three tins of sardines, together coming in at £2.12.  The rest went on onions, beet root, peppers, beetroot, cucumber and cheese.

If anything has surprised me about my spending this month it has been the amount I have spent on cheese.  Over the years my red meat consumption has reduced and cheese has become more important.  On several days I've had soup and bread (both home made) and a chunk of cheese.  Sometimes I've had a chopped salad and scattered grated cheese over it.  I've had a few jacket potatoes, again with  a little cheese and some salad or sweetcorn..  

Celery has been a great budget saver.  It has formed the base for salads, it's been a snack with a little cheese and it's been a great ingredient in soup.  Cabbage (both white and red), carrots, onions and celery are all fairly cheap and have been the mainstays of my five a day.

I've now got £6.35 to last me a week.

Tuesday 19 November 2019


I've been making changes to my normal shopping and eating habits but today, somehow, those changes have bitten a little deeper.

The first thing was in the bread which I've just mixed.  Usually I would use 75% wholemeal and 25% strong white flour but today I've reversed the proportions as the wholemeal is getting a little low.  I could buy some more but I'm going to try and last out.  There's plenty of white flour as I bought some a couple of weeks ago.

Then I made my salad for the day and I had no red onions, my usual favourite in salad.  Instead I chopped a shallot.

I usually eat sardines as a cheap form of oily fish but there's just one tin left.  Olive oil is being replaced with rapeseed .  I've long used it for cooking but not for dressings.  I shall revert to olive oil next month I think but rapeseed tastes better than I thought it would.

I fancied grapes and Stilton for breakfast but there's no Stilton so I've got grated Cheddar.  I want to make the grapes last so I've got a small portion of grapes and some celery as well.  I'm a shocker for nibbling cheese so I grated all the Cheddar in the food processor, again to make it last longer.

None of these substitutions (except the oil) is much cheaper but it's making me look at what I've got and use it better.  

Sunday 17 November 2019

The budget is still holding!

I started this project on October 27th with a budget of £34 to last until 30th November so I am well over half way through.   Last weekend I reported here that I still had £24.21 in my purse.

Yesterday I went to Lidl and spent £9.71, by far my biggest weekly spend since I started.  £4.20 of that went on Mozzarella and Cheddar cheese.  The remaining £5.71 went on celery, cucumber, potatoes grapes and tomatoes. 

For various reasons I keep a food diary.  The day before I started I wrote a simple annotation, "SERIOUSLY UNHEALTHY CHOICES".  Since then I have kept a note of how many vegetable/fruit portions I have eaten each day.  On one day I had only one portion but some days I've had ten different veggies and most days I've had more than five so I'm happy with that.  I've had at least ten portions of oily fish, mostly sardines and salmon.  

So I feel very happy with the month so far.  Thirteen days to go.  

Sunday 10 November 2019

Treats for others

One of the hardest things about not having much money is having little to give away.  I love giving small spontaneous gifts, choosing the right Christmas present or bunch of flowers "just because".

And home-made food gifts are a very special pleasure.  Making biscuits because a friend is coming or even just sharing a bowl of soup and some home made bread is wonderful.  One of my favourite words is "companion", literally someone with whom one shares bread.

It would be easy to take gifts of food out of my food budget into another category but  I feel it would also be cheating.  My dear friend Clare, who lives along the road, had a knee replacement op last week and I offered to make a meal for three and take it along to her house to eat with Clare and her husband.  I looked through the freezer and found several small amounts of fish - pollock, smoked river cobbler, salmon, prawns - and combined them all in a fish pie.  Actually  I found enough fish to make several pies which I have frozen for myself.  I made parsley sauce using probably the last parsley from the garden for this year and then topped the lot with mashed potatoes.  Delicious.  And Clare agreed!  

I also made a rice pudding to take to 94 year old Auntie Hettie.  A rice pud is such a simple homely thing and she loves it.

I've had to go shopping again, this time to buy potatoes, milk, carrots and cucumber, totalling £3.72.  This means I have spent £9.79 out of my £34 so I have £24.21 to last for the next twenty days

Thursday 7 November 2019

Creeping treats

Today has needed more thinking and more creativity than I have used so far this month.  Using up stuff in the fridge may be boring but it doesn't need much thought!

First of all I love breakfast.  I would go so far as to say it's my favourite meal of the day.  However, my breakfast choices maybe wouldn't be for everyone.  Forget, cereal, marmalade on toast, porridge - I like interesting flavours and a great variety to start my day.  Breakfast might be apple and peanut butter, beetroot and Stilton, spinach and eggs, or tomatoes and feta - I've got about twenty breakfast choices - but it's usually a protein and some fruit or veg.  

Today I had the last portion of my favourite yoghurt with some fruit.  My favourite is Greek yoghurt from Lidl.  Over the past few months the price has fluctuated between £1.34 and £1.49 a kilo and it is lovely.  

When I ate my breakfast today I had the last portion with some stewed fruit so I needed to decide whether to put it on my shopping list and I have reluctantly decided "No".  Before I discovered it I was quite happy with home-made yoghurt with the occasional carton from the supermarket as a treat.  What was once a treat has become  regular thing but for this month I shall just make my own using a sachet of culture which I still had and which is still in date.  (I've tried using the Lidl one as a culture before and it didn't come true to type.)  I shall freeze some to use as culture next time I need some.

Another home made goodie which I am reviving today is home made bread.  This is very risky as I have a habit of making lovely bread and then eating far more of it than is good for me!

Sunday 3 November 2019

Replenishing where necessary

The last grocery shopping I did was on 23rd October, so ten days ago.  I could probably continue without but this isn't a no-spend month, just a low-spend month with £34 to last me from 28th October to 30th November. 

My focus is on my vegetable intake.  Today I chopped the last of my cucumber, peppers, celery and tomatoes to make a chopped salad, something which I eat regularly.  I've still got one leek as well as onions, carrots, parsnips and potatoes.  There's also red and green cabbage so I can concentrate on saladings.

I also needed eggs and cheddar cheese.  I'm doing egg fried rice this evening which will leave me with just one egg  and I have no cheddar at all.  I've got Stilton but I don't like that on baked potatoes and I think that jacket spuds are one of the mainstays of a frugal diet. 

So, armed with a strict list I called at Tesco and bought tomatoes (.49) celery (.50) cheese (2.25) cucumber (.60) peppers (.91) and eggs (.84).  Total £5.59.  I also treated myself to some grapes which had been reduced to .48 so grand total £6.07.  My budget is now £27.93.

Saturday 2 November 2019

October reviewed

It's quite a long time since I did a monthly review of my finances on this blog.  I do a monthly report to myself regularly, noting where I have been extravagant as well as what went well but it's a very confidential report!

Earlier this year I decided to aim at an average of £400 to be squirreled away each month.  There have been several months when I haven't managed it but this month wasn't one of those as I saved £435.  My average monthly savings have been £325 so although I am short of target I'm quite happy with that.  My earnings have taken a huge cut this year so the savings have been real economies.

I'm ashamed to admit that although I regularly change my energy suppliers I have been lazy when it comes to my landline/broadband/TV/mobile phone deal.  This month however this particular worm turned and my new set-up will save me about £25 per month.  I've changed supplier for my mobile phone deal and got BT to reduce the rest.  

Mt food spend was rather high at £175 although that includes some Christmas preparation.  However, as you know, my food budget for November is just £34!  Should be interesting!

One of my biggest extravagances is eating out, which in October came to £120.  This is my main social life and I don't want to cut it out but I am making efforts to reduce it.  We shall see.   

In November I need to renew the car insurance.  I've already checked the comparison sites but won't be changing supplier as my insurer gives a loyalty discount and very good service.  It's not quite the cheapest for me but it's not far off.  As with my telephone/broadband I'm happy to pay slightly over the odds for  reliable service.