Wednesday 22 January 2020

Grocery spending in January

Well, I've failed.  I set myself a budget of £38 and already I've spent £44.  So why?

Some of that failure is simply down to the time of the year.  January is never a good month for me and if a foodie treat is needed to fend off the January blues then I'm having a foodie treat.  Last week some blinis were reduced at Lidl so I had those and some smoked salmon and cream cheese (neither of which was reduced) and thoroughly enjoyed them  

I have a definite feeling that grocery prices are rising pre Brexit or maybe it's just the time of the year.  Grapes, for example, were £1.29 at Lidl a couple of months ago and now they're £1.49.  I like to freeze a few grapes and eat them in the evening as a fairly low calorie snack which helps me avoid drinking too much fluid near bedtime.  Mushy peas (don't judge me) have risen from 16p to 18p.  I could list more rises but you already know them!

My eat-down of stores in November had reduced some of my staples and I wanted to replace them.  I use some salad dressings as dips to have with crudités.  A few carrot sticks and some celery with a dip is a cheap snack but I had no dressings left.

Auntie Hettie fancied a few things like a ham hock and a rice pudding.  I always put cream into the rice pudding I give her.  I think that at nearly 95 she deserves a little spoiling from me!

All these are excuses rather than reasons.  Smoked salmon is an extravagance, grocery prices are always rising, I could have made more dips and Auntie Hettie would have enjoyed the pudding even without the cream.  However, in the scale of things I really haven't done too badly.

But, there is still quite a bit of January left and Auntie Hettie still deserves a few treats so I'm increasing my budget to £55.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Using the credit card

You may remember that last month I suddenly had to find nearly £600 for repairs to my Trundle Truck (mobility scooter).  Last Friday my freezer died so I had to find £400 for a new one.  Neither of those is an item which I can manage without!

I have a credit card but I usually avoid using it except when there is a real emergency or I want the protection of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.  This is a very useful piece of legislation  which means that the credit card provider must protect purchases over £100 so if there's a problem I could get my money back and this "insurance" is free!  However, there's something even more important  - I always pay the credit card balance in full before any interest is due!  

During 2019 I was trying to save £400 per month but in December I was able to save only £50.  I paid for the repairs with the credit card but almost immediately paid it off and I feel quite pleased that I managed to save anything at all especially after shelling out for  that and Christmas.  I paid for the freezer with the credit card again but it won't be repaid until the end of next month, again long before any interest is payable.  

Saturday 11 January 2020

2019 financial review

I have taken quite a long time to do a 2019 financial review but here goes!

I am in the fortunate position of having pensions which rise automatically annually so my pension income rose last year and indeed rose above the rate of inflation. Early in the year I was doing quite a lot of fee-paying work.   However, although at the beginning of 2019 I was earning a good amount, by the end of the year my professional earnings had dropped considerably and are unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.  I've continued to do a lot of on-line surveys but not as many as in 2018 so I must make a little more effort in that direction.  I like to think that part of my standard of living is at least partly dependent on my current endeavours and not just on my pension accrued over the years.

Now for expenditure.  My big increases in costs have all been to do with my disability.  I employed a cleaner from late 2018 so that cost has really hit my purse in 2019.  In addition I have had to have major repairs to my mobility scooter.  I employ a gardener/handyman on a casual basis as well.  The car which I need for transporting my scooter is very expensive to run as it attracts a high rate of road tax as well as being expensive on fuel. 

Another increase in expenditure has been on eating out.  This is the centre of my social life as most weeks I will meet friends either for morning coffee or for lunch.  We all live in a rural area and it is easiest to meet in the market town when we go shopping.  However, I have been treating myself to breakfast out rather too often (once or twice a month) and That Will Not Do.  

Now for the good news.  I've managed to reduce my grocery bill by £16 per month even though I am now being much more conscious of healthy eating.  My petrol bill has reduced by £10 per month because I am planning my journeys better.  I've taken better control of my crafting stash and reduced my craft expenditure by £10 per month as well as reducing my spend on presents for birthdays, Christmas and so on as I have made things.  I've bought very few clothes other than undies and so spent only £145 in the year.  Every category has come under scrutiny and that will continue.

The most important thing is that I track everything.  My budgetting software enables me to do that whether I spend on my credit or debit card or whether I pay cash.  I've been doing this now for four years and I have very good information on which to base my decisions.  My unaccounted money is now around £8 per month which my old self would have found incredible!

Tuesday 7 January 2020

The Thrifty Trail

I am aware that most of my commenters are old hands at stretching every penny until it screams - I read many of their blogs!  However, when I look at my readership statistics I am also aware that the vast majority of people who read my blog do not comment and I think there  may be some who are just beginning on the frugality trail.   Maybe at the beginning of January their numbers are swelled by those who are trying to recover from a Christmas overspend.

I started to live more thriftily when I retired and I took a considerable cut in income.  I hadn't planned on retiring when I did but ill-health forced the decision on me.  I was ill prepared.  Initially my income wasn't enough to live on and I had to dip into my savings big time.    I had more than a few sleepless nights.  My mental health suffered (and caused more over-spending, a particularly vicious circle) but I realised that I had to look at everything I did and see if it was essential, and if so could I do it more cheaply.

It was three years before all my pensions kicked in and my income was adequate but the habits I had learnt stuck and living frugally is now part of who I am.

So, back to starting out on the frugality trail.  At times it has been boring.  I had to make up my mind to have treats only when I had paid for them rather than promising that I would pay for them in the future (by using a credit card).  In the beginning they were few and far between and falling off the thrift wagon would have been disastrous.  

Pinching pennies is more fun when one can afford a few treats.  There are many who cannot afford any treats and for whom set-backs are not just annoying but disastrous. 

Sunday 5 January 2020

The Rewards of Digging

Eating down the freezer sounds so dreary, but it certainly isn't like that here at Frugal Follies!  My freezer has quite a few delights to reward me when I start to dig through its contents.

Whenever I shop in Lidl I have a look through their "reduced for quick sale" items.   Usually they reduce things by 30% which is well worth having, but sometimes items are marked "Waste Not" and they are definitely worth a consideration.

No matter how good a "bargain" food is, there is no point in buying things you don't need.  However, if they can be frozen I often buy them and think about them next time I am wondering what to cook.  This pork fillet was reduced from £2.81 (already a good price) to 90p back in early December.  Today it became Pork and Apricot Casserole.

Pork and apricot casserole
 1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1tbsp cooking oil
300g very lean diced pork
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
Half tsp chilli powder
450ml meat stock or water
250g dried apricots
1 tbsp chicken gravy granules
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and black pepper

Gently fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the pork and spices, continue to cook sealing the meat on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker and add tomatoes, apricots and stock.  
Cover with a lid or pour into a slow cooker and simmer gently for  3 hours on low until the pork is tender. Add the gravy granules and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes, adding more stock if required.

I had it with mashed potato and swede and carrot, both from the freezer.

Saturday 4 January 2020

Ham Hock

I bought a ham hock to cook at Christmas but it never got cooked and just reclined in the freezer.  I love ham hock.  I know there's a lot of fat and bone but once those have been dealt with the meat which is left is delicious and very economical.

Into the slow cooker it went, just with water.  Sometimes I add herbs or veg but this time I cooked it totally plain.  I then had some hot ham with a baked potato and roast vegetables.

But today has been even better.  Soup!  When I took the hock from the slow cooker I kept the liquor as it's some of the tastiest stock I can make.  Yesterday I chopped celery, carrots, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes and put them all in the stock.  Once I'd taken the meat off the bone I put the bone in too.  I set the cooker to high and left the pot to simmer for four hours then switched it off and left it overnight.

This morning I put the pot on again for a couple of hours then (once I'd removed the bones) blitzed the lot.  It tasted amazing!  I then added a tin of sweetcorn to make the texture a bit more interesting.  Food fit for a queen!

I've had several meals from the hock quite apart from that first one.  So far it's done another ham-and-roast-veg meal and several sandwich meals and there's still quite a bit left.  Not bad for a £3 joint

Thursday 2 January 2020

First spends!

I hadn't bought any food since 23rd December but today I bought a couple of lemons.  I've got a truly disgusting cold at the moment and I can't down my usual tipple of black coffee so instead I've been having an eighth of a lemon in boiling water.  Fortunately I had bought several lemons ready for Christmas but the supply is getting very low so a friend fetched me two lemons from the Co-op.  45p each!  Normally I just wouldn't pay that but at the moment they feel important.  

I've had a forage in the freezer and found some salmon.  Life is hard!

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Planning for January

I can't say that the idea of a no spend January appeals to me but a low spend month has its attractions.  I rather enjoyed my low spend November for groceries and the freezer now has some rather nice post-Christmas leftovers so I think that may be the way to go.  Goose, Christmas pud, pigs in blankets, roast vegetables - this is hardly going to be a period of self-denial! 

This time I want to do a few experiments.  I cook most of my food from scratch but I tend to play safe and other than "serendipity" soups and casseroles I rarely try a new recipe but this month I want to do ten try-outs either of new dishes or new ways of cooking familiar items.  

My budget this time will be £38 or £1 per day from Christmas to the end of January.  I'm not pretending this is any deprivation but it is a way of focussing my mind.  I shall be watching my food choices to make sure I get a healthy diet.