Friday 13 March 2020

Four walls

I think I shall be seeing quite a lot of my own four walls these next few weeks.  The advance of this virus seems inexorable.  I've made the decision that as no-one relies on me for anything (I'm retired and I have no family responsibilities) and I'm in a high risk group (older with underlying health issues) I'm going to reduce my face to face social contact in favour of letters, e mails and the phone.  I'm not isolating, just reducing my risk. 

So what will the effects be on my finances?

Most items in the budget will be unaffected but there will be gains and losses.  I've bought quite a bit of fish as I know from experience that if I'm off colour only fish will be even remotely inviting.  But on the other hand I shall spend some of my time doing some batch cooking so long term I'll save on groceries.

I won't be going out so much so my budget for eating out or having coffee with friends will be underspent.  My mileage should go down so I'll save on petrol.   The heating costs may rise as I will be at home more.  I may buy some craft materials on line so I can get Christmas and birthday cards and presents made.  

I'm on various pensions so my basic income won't be affected but my ability to earn extra will be severely curtailed.  

I wonder what other costs will be affected that I haven't even thought about?  Any ideas?

Thursday 12 March 2020

Everything but the squeal

When I was a little girl my grandfather was a farmer.  Farming in the fifties was way different from how it is today.  Grandad's was a mixed farm - there were cattle, sheep. pigs and chickens and he grew wheat, barley and roots. 

A couple of pigs were kept for domestic consumption and when the time came for pig killing my Mother would go to help.  She wasn't involved in the killing but the butchery and preparation of the meat was more than Grandad and Grandma could manage alone.

There is a saying in Lincolnshire that you can eat every part of the pig except the squeal.  Obviously the main muscle meat would be salted as ham or bacon but there would still be little bits of meat and the offal to be used.  Sausages were made using not just meat (and dry breadcrumbs) but the intestines which became the sausage skins.  The fat which surrounded the organs would be rendered into lard.  Bones would be cooked to extract the jelly which would be combined with more tatty bits of meat to make brawn.  Haslet, pork pie, scraps would all be made before the pig was gone.

When a household killed its pig it was the tradition to send meat to one's neighbours - they might be killing their animal next month and then they would return the favour.  Usually it was "ducks" or pigs fry which would be sent.  Duck, or savoury duck is the Lincolnshire name for faggots, a mixture of various minced pig meats and offal, well spiced, shaped into balls and cooked in a rich gravy.  Pigs fry was small pieces of the various parts of the pig (including some which butchers aren't allowed to sell these days!) flavoured with pepper and sage and again cooked in a rich gravy.  It would be sent out on a plate or dish which would be returned unwashed - washing could wash the luck away!

I made pigs fry yesterday.  These days butchers can sell only pork, liver and kidney for fry so that's what I used.  Not s good as Mother used to make but still pretty good!

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Pop-up shop

I have many times bemoaned the closure of local businesses.  Caistor is down to one pub, a co-op and a butcher's van in the market place once a week.  Really I have to go to Brigg to do any sensible shopping and that must be true for so many large villages/small towns everywhere.  Butchers, bakers, cobblers greengrocers - they all moved out.

But sometimes there is a ray of sunshine!  We've had one in the Methodist church rooms the first Saturday each month for the past few months.  It's a pop up shop, selling loose items like pasta, lentils and breakfast cereal.

I went this last Saturday and bought dried bananas, dried apples, pasta, a cabbage, shampoo and conditioner.  The shop has no bottles or bags - you have to take your own.  Originally I bought kefir in these two bottles but they are quite substantial and I was happy to to take them along to use for my toiletries.  It's not cheaper than standard products but I feel I am contributing to a minimal plastic environment.

There's also a repair cafe going on at the same time.  Bikes and guitars, clothes and computers were all being attended to while I was there.  I also had a tomato and lentil soup with a home made bread bun while I was chatting to a repair cafe volunteer who was repairing a soft toy which had been loved too much.  There was no charge for the soup and no charge for repairs, just a request for a donation

Monday 2 March 2020

That was February - how about March?

It was a mixed sort of month on the frugality stakes.

First the good news.  I managed to set aside over £440 in February.  Around £150 of that was from earnings but the rest was reduced expenditure.

Then there's the bad news.  I spent a lot on groceries, far too much at around £150.  That means I've spent £240 on groceries in the first two months of the year.  What I find fascinating though is that in the first two months of 2019 I spent £380!  It's fascinating because my concern about overspending in this category shows how much my mindset has changed - I certainly didn't fret about my food spend last year nearly as much as I am agonising about it now despite the fact that I have reduced it by over 35%!  

I've had my "Smart" meter for over a year now and I am beginning to see the effects of being more aware of how much energy I use.  My energy company is suggesting that I reduce my payments by a further £7.50 a month even though I pay £20 a month less than I did last year.  I shall wait until April before I do anything about that just to make sure we don't get anything like The Beast From The East this year.  I've put "Smart" in inverted commas because my meter is no longer Smart - I changed supplier and at the moment my new supplier can't read my meter remotely.  However, the monitor which sits in my kitchen still works and records my usage but the cost readings are no longer accurate.

I took a short holiday in February taking advantage of the very low rates many hotels charge in February.  This was much cheaper than the holiday I took at bargain rates last year but as I didn't enjoy this one as much I don't think I'll be going back to this year's hotel.  

I want a low grocery spend again in March, if possible below £40.  I have a couple of projects in mind as well which I'll post about another day.