Monday, 16 July 2012

Devil of a Den

Our Second Reception Room is a bit of a multi-purpose room, I suppose many are.  It is in the main Hubby’s den and had become a bit of a dumping ground.  This is his room to practise his musical instruments (piano, guitar, flute, very talented) and also play his big boy toys (or not so big) Wii, PS3, as we have no children it is in effect his play room J

So I spent a good portion of today deep cleaning/ tidying the room so it went from this

To this

Today has flown by quick clean/tidy of the house, stripping bed, laundry and a jaunt into town to collect mum and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary present.  They are impossible to buy for but enjoy going away on short breaks with a local coach company who are excellent at providing holidays for pensioners J and we have all clubbed together (thank fully we are a big family) and bought them a short break away.  I then popped to the bank to pay in a cheque and then to Sainsbury’s to buy some cake making ingredients in preparation of the great bake on Friday. 

It really was a day for ducks today hopefully it will be a tad better tomorrow J

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Organisation is the Key

I firmly believe this, if you are organised, know what you have and plan what you will do / need then you wont needlessly overspend.  I have been and continue to be guilty of this as in my bid to conquer the world one cupboard at a time I have unearthed things that due to my disorganization I would have been oblivious to owning and bought more that I didn’t need i.e. the small pharmacy of plasters and cold remedies, as well as enough pens and stationary to rival a local WH Smiths J 
I am on a weeks leave (yeah) I’ve taken this leave as the Golf Open is coming to town and I can’t face the huge traffic jams the 40,000 plus anticipated daily visitors will create on top of a long commute, so I’m avoiding it all and having a week pottering around the house. 
So my agenda for this week is tackling all those jobs that I don’t normally have time to do
2nd reception room, this is hubbies den, also clothes drying room on rainy days when I cant get the washing on the line.  I am going to sort out cupboards and drawers and deep clean. 
On the menu – from the freezer homemade cottage pie and veggies
Kitchen – spring (well summer) clean, emptying all the cupboards/drawers and deep cleaning from top to bottom.  My ebay auctions will end so will spend the evening, parceling up. 
On the menu – left over cottage pie and veggies
Upstairs or the guest suite, we live in a dorma bungalow and don’t actually use upstairs with the exception of the small bedroom which I have turned into my hobby / craft room.  The other larger bedroom and bathroom are saved for guests, so I will be giving it a good clean and make up the bed etc and also sort out my card craft stuff J.  Plus trip to the post office to post ebay items. 
On the Menu – Pasta Amatriciana
House clean – just the normal weekly cleaning of the house from top to bottom, laundry and ironing, all ready for the weekend
On the Menu – From the freezer homemade chilli and rice
Back to Baking – its my parents 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday and we are going out for dinner as a family at my friends Italian restaurant.  I am making the cake (yikes) well lets hope it goes better than my nephew’s birthday lol – so I have set aside this day just to devote to creating the masterpiece and I will also do some card making and make them their anniversary card.
On the Menu - From the freezer homemade veggie curry and naan bread
My whole week will be a no spend week as I am safely ensconced at home and whilst I normally cut my own hair, hubby has convinced me to have a little pamper and get my hair professionally cut and coloured for the evenings celebrations.  This is money from a little win fall.  Hubby gives a £1 a week to the church by his school 49 club, half this money goes to St Vincents De Paul who run a daily soup kitchen for the homeless and those on low income and the other half goes to the winner of the Saturday lottery bonus ball – there are several hundred people in this club and hubby won this week £170 – we gave half of that winnings £85 to St Vincents De Paul as an additional donation and hubby has insisted that I spend the rest on me – incrediably indulgent and took some convincing on his part, but it will be lovely. 
On the menu – ummm mouth is watering at a meal out J 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Part Two - Conquering the World ..... cupboard at a time.   Today I decided to tackle my wardrobe, I don’t have masses of clothes but crickey a very messy wardrobe.

I decided to embrace the tried and tested filtering system of if you don’t wear/use it or you don't love it/sentimental then it has to go.  A large bin bag full of rubbish/ torn/ broken, and one large bag of items to be listed on ebay and another bag straight to the charity shop, whatever doesn’t sell on ebay will also be donated. 
Order is once again restored

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

On the menu this week

A little late this week J

Well it’s the usual for breakfasts and lunches, however on the teas menu this week

Monday               Mushroom Risotto
Tuesday               Cottage Pie, cabbage
Wednesday          Homemade Veggie Pizza
Thursday              Sausage and Bean Hotpot (hubby won’t be home until 9pm so it’s an easy click   
                            ping for him at work and me at home)
Friday                  Veggie Curry and Naan bread
Saturday              Fish fingers, oven chips and beans (niece is coming for tea, it’s her choice and I
                            can’t be bothered cooking another meal for us)
Sunday                 Roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings

Going back to Sunday's blog I don’t ever judge, we all walk our own path but I am lucky that I am still in a financial position to be able to buy the best meat I can, however I manage to do it financially and still remain within my frugal constraints due to a change in how much we eat.  We did use to eat meat 7 nights a week, I can’t believe it actually however as part of my journey to consume less as well as save money I now pepper my week with vegetarian meals.  This week sees 3 nights wholly vegetarian and one night fish (can you call fish fingers fish lol J) thus reducing my 7 nights of meat down to 3 and I can honestly say we don’t feel as though we are missing out or even consciously realise the meal is vegetarian.    

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Days without agenda

I love days like these, free days, days when I am committed to no-one but me, a day to do exactly as I please (well kind of).  I started the day early, cut hubbies hair, now I am no hairdresser but he is, shall we say, folically challenged ha hum J and all it takes is a number 3 over his barnett once every 4 weeks, it looks grand after and saves an easy £70 - £80 per year. 

Whilst hubby was in the shower I whipped through the downstairs with the hoover, tidied the house, loaded the dishwasher, made the bed and generally put everything in order.  I then showered and got ready before we went to mass.

Returning home I decided to do some batch cooking, I made cottage pie and sausage and bean hot pot to stock up the freezer, along with making hubbies couscous salad for this week’s lunches (only 4 this week as he’s taking his kids on a field trip on Friday so I will be making him butties for ease), before tackling the ironing. 

Now all of this may not be everyone’s choice of a free day, but whilst I have been as busy as the busiest bee it has been completely my choice, I could have just curled up with a book – something I plan to do after posting this, it was the choice that is the liberating thing.

Cooking master class – well more amateur class

Cottage Pie

There are a million different tweaks to this recipe, this is just mine, I love cottage/shepherd’s pie, its filling, hearty and nourishing, real soul food and considering we seem to be still in winter, is a suitable recipe for this time of year.

So I start by gently sweating one large chopped onion

I then chop 10 carrots and half a swede, but just add whatever amount you want

Add a pack of mince; this one is 800g and brown

Add a dollop of tomato ketchup; this really gives the mix a kick and mix through

Sprinkle a large tablespoon of plain flour and mix and cook out

Slowly add 800ml of stock (2 beef stock cubes with boiling water) mixing all the time

Add seasoning and some mixed herbs, pop the lid on and simmer on a low heat for 30 mins before portioning out into dishes

Now you can make a batch of mash, but I really couldn’t be bothered and decided to top the pies with thinly sliced (half a cm) potatoes, bake in the oven for 25 mins, quick, low fat and easy.  This batch has made 7 hearty portions.

Sausage and Bean Hotpot

I really enjoy this recipe, again hearty winter food; it’s healthy, nourishing, and low cost and tastes so good.  This makes 2 meals (4 portions) on the ratio of hubby has 3 sausages to my 2.  All you need to add is a wedge of bread and you have a cracking supper,

Select 10 sausages, try and make them quality sausages, I would rather eat less meat i.e. reduce the quantity of meat and have several veggie meals a week than reduce the quality.  Mine are finest pork and herb

Gently colour in a pan with 2 large onions sliced

Add 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, chicken stock (400ml made with one chicken stock cube), herbs, a good pinch of chilli flakes and seasoning

Rinse two tins of Cannellini Beans and add, stir, cook without lid on for 20 mins

And portion up

Now time to just curl up with a book, you will note that I don't advertise, no ad ons, no advertisements, if I recommend anything its just a genuine post I am not nor will I ever be paid to recommend anything, I see this as just two friends chatting over coffee J I am currently reading Emma Kennedy's The tent, The bucket and me - if you were a working class child of the 1970's it will completely resonate, it is a cracking read, I picked up a copy from the library yesterday and have struggled to put it down, its funny, real and warm, so if you are popping to the library I would recommend picking up a copy - Have a great week Cxx

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Day of Reckoning

It has been 6 months since I started in earnest my frugal journey; I had been a mere dabbler before.  I kicked the year off with just over £18,000 of debt (apart from the mortgage) and a steely determination to not only clear this debt but to make a conscious and permanent change to my consumerist ways.  I am a novice and I’ve had good days and bad days but that steely determination has remained, admittedly waivered occasionally but thankfully it still remains)

On 1st January 2012 my debt was thus:

Credit Card         £5294.54
DFS                     £678
Car Loan            £5000
Student Loans   £7240

Total Debt           £18212.54

So 6 months in:

Credit Card         £0.00
DFS                      £0.00
Car Loan              £2000
Student Loans     £7240 

Current Debt     £9240

My credit card for the first time in years is clear and so it shall remain.  I have made the final installment on a sofa from DFS and I’ve cleared (by overpaying) £3000 off my car loan.  I purposely chose a car loan that allowed you to pay early without penalty, the interest rate is slightly higher (put it was only slightly 0.25% higher) and I am determined to clear this loan by September and by paying early (4 years early) will have saved over £1200 in interest!

So what’s left, well £2000 on the car loan and £7240 student loan (sorry the Government is last on the list).  The car loan due to it being a higher interest rate takes precedent so I will be throwing everything at that.  Now whilst I will throw as much as possible, I won’t forget to add to my working capital savings, the little pot of money which will ensure I don’t have to rely upon my credit card when the unexpected happens, i.e. the bed breaks J and I can get off the merry go round of getting into debt whenever a big bill either planned or unplanned drops on the doormat.

Reflectiing upon the first 6 months ..... I have survived, I haven’t bought any new clothes; apart from my 40th birthday (and most of that was courtesy of Tesco clubcard vouchers) we haven’t eaten out; there has been no weekends away, no expensive day trips; I haven’t shopped for anything that hasn’t been an absolute necessity, always asking the same question whenever I consider a purchase do I want it or do I need it – if it falls in the former it remains in the shop. 

I have made do and mend and I have fallen back in love with baking, we have eaten incredibly well whilst reducing the grocery bill by 2/3rds, we have enjoyed such simple pleasures, walk on the beach, browsing for a new book in the library, watching an old movie curled up on the sofa, gardening and crafts and I honestly feel richer for it.  So its more than I've survived the past 6 months I honestly think its been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

So here’s to the next 6 months, I hope to continue to learn and I thank the other frugal bloggers and you my dear followers for your inspiration and ideas, as I continue my journey to financial freedom – Happy Days


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Where did it go?

This is a usual question on a Sunday evening, where did it go?  It, of course, being the weekend, which seems to have disappeared in a haze of hospital visiting, cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, shopping and entertaining.  Today being Father’s Day mum and dad came for the day, they have just left and I am finally settling down at 6.30pm zapped of energy, trying the muster up the enthusiasm to get organized for the week ahead.   I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekends J
So with a full and busy work week ahead I need to get busy this evening to ensure we are ready.  Just starting hubby’s Couscous to ensure he has his lunches for each day, it’s a pain on a Sunday evening but making batch lunches saves a headache through the week.  Then checking the freezer and cupboards to ensure I have all our teas sorted for the week:
Weekly Menu
Hubby - Weetabix, skimmed milk and Cranberry juice
Me – Porridge and Coffee

Hubby- Couscous Salad, 2 apples, 2 bananas
Me – Soup and granary bread

Monday               Chilli Con Carne* and Rice
Tuesday               Pea and Ham soup* and bread
Wednesday        Pasta Amatriciana*
Thursday             Scrambled egg on Toast
Friday                    Curry* and Naan Bread
Saturday              Homemade Pizza
Sunday                 Steak pie*, veg

*All homemade but courtesy of batch cooking and the freezer, ensuring we have nourishing, homemade but quick to prepare evening meals J

Friday, 15 June 2012

Banking, Beds and Bartering

Now I wholly agree with most sound financial advice in that it is madness to have savings while you are in debt, you should throw everything at your debts to clear them, as paying interest is quite literally throwing your money away.  However it is important to plan and bank some working capital, this is money put aside for big annual bills as well as a contingency fund to pay for the unexpected.  Today we had to pay for the unexpected.
On Wednesday I broke our bed, now I say I broke, obviously this is our marital bed which gets equal amount of usage plus a doggy who normally sleeps at the bottom,  the fact is the bed broke but as it was on my side of the bed, it has been agreed I broke it J.  A comfortable bed is an absolute necessity in my world and we decided to take the opportunity to upgrade from a king size bed to a super king size bed (divan with a quality pocket sprung mattress).
Now it pays to do your homework, I checked out all the main bed company sites, plus wholesalers and for a quality super king with a good mattress we were looking at around £1200 yikes.  On checking out the deals on Bensons for Beds I found a bed in the “sale” (I am always dubious about so called sales) for £799.99 which seemed perfect.

On checking the small print they charge £39.99 for delivery, some companies do offer free delivery but again I always believe nothing in this life is free and they just add that cost onto the goods.  For example Dreams offer free delivery but the nearest bed for spec / quality that I could find was £400 more expensive so they can keep their free delivery.  So we were anticipating paying £840 inclusive for the bed. 
We decided to pop along to our nearest showroom to test the bed out to make sure it was right for us and the price in store was £840.99 plus delivery on top so £880.  This is where it pays to do your homework, when I pointed out the online price the sales assistant immediately said they would honour that (too right) now down to this delivery charge.  I am married to a husband who believes there is always a deal to be done and a haggle is to be had.  Needless to say we left the showroom with a bed, to be delivered in 12 days with a mattress protector and 4 pillows for £800 all in.  Best of all it wasn’t put on the credit card (like days of old) and sinking us ever further in debt, it was paid for in cash from our working capital fund.  That will ensure I sleep like a baby J 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Crafty Moments

I am still trying to get back to normal (well as normal as I ever am) however still not quite back to my usual organised self.  After a long day at work, got home and made tea (on tonights menu was pasta amatriciana homemade sauce from the freezer heated through and just had to cook some pasta, easy peasy J) The realisation dawned that tomorrow is the last posting day to ensure that hubbys dad would receive his fathers day card on time.  Normally I look forward to my card making sessions but this was literally grabbing a few crafty moments to quickly make his card.

Whilst I was there I quickly made a card for hubby from DD our Cavachon – I know sad but it makes us happy cxx

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Not the C word again!

First of all thank you so much for your kind messages, they meant a lot xx

Now regarding the C word - Yep I know I should be banned lol but you can’t say I didn’t warn you J Last night I was reviewing my gift spreadsheet, this is the spreadsheet where I record the stock inventory of my gift cupboard and I list all the people I need to buy for and try and match gift to person.  I also list what I need to buy or make, obviously as frugally as possible.
One of my favourite gifts to give are hampers (not just for Christmas) which can cost anything from £5 upwards.  The sum of their parts are far less than the final gift and I will share with you one of my tried and tested ones, my girls night in survival kit.  The great thing about this one is that you can tailor it for any age or interest.  The one I will be doing for my sister will contain the following
A magazine – now you can buy one or if you have a friend or colleague who does, you can recycle J so this can cost you anything from zero to about £3.99.  However for example woman magazine is £1.80 

A Bottle – again depends on your budget and the favourite tipple of your recipient for my sister I will put in a can of the made up Gin and Tonics that the supermarkets do which at Tesco’s are currently £1

Chocolate – large bar of favourite chocolate currently on sale £1
DVD – you can either recycle, check out poundland and home bargains – I have picked up sex and the city 2 for £2.99 – sister saw the first and loved it but never got around to seeing the sequel. 

Now as I say you can spend as little or as much as you want, if I had found a DVD at poundland this would have been well under a fiver, rather than £6.79. 
Another hamper could contain some bubble bath, a face pack, a candle, magazine and chocolate and again you can get it in for around the £5 mark dependent upon where you shop etc  

You can either put these in a pretty box, basket or gift bag (I keep all packaging and recycle) and as I say the total effect looks far more expensive than the sum of its parts.  I also attach a label with the following message – my feeble attempt at poetry, no copyright so please feel free to plagiarise J 

"In this parcel you will find
Some essential goodies to ease soul and mind
When you need to be pampered, need time to simply be
Dive into your girls night in survival kit, with lots of love from me xxx "

As I get towards Christmas and I start making up my hampers and I will take lots of photos to share. 

Monday, 11 June 2012


Apologies that I have been missing, we have had a bit of a family emergency which has meant that every waking hour I have either been working or sitting by my brother’s bedside in intensive care, fitting in disjointed sleep and eating when I can.  Thankfully he has now been moved to a normal ward and whilst he has a long road ahead and predicted to be in hospital another 6 months, he is, thank the lord, on the road to recovery and life for me is starting to return to something slightly resembling normality.
When life throws a curve ball of this magnitude, best intentions and plans go out of the window.  One thing that frugality always needs is time, time to plan, time to be organized, time to do / make do rather than buy and sadly time has been an absolute luxury that for the past 4 weeks I simply haven’t had and time is something that I doubt I will ever take for granted again. 
I adore my brother and while he fought for his life, my time was the only thing I could give him, my time to hold his hand, my time to make sure he was never left alone, I would have never forgiven myself if the worst was to happen and he was alone, the very least I could do in the long hours when I felt helpless was just to be there.
So the remainder of May /beginning of June was not frugal, the daily £3 car parking charges and the extra petrol, coupled with the grab and go easy meals, from grabbing sandwiches on the go to grabbing a ready meal/ takeaway to nourish the body have taken their financial toll.  I have to say also that I feel like crap, partly I’m sure due to lack of sleep and I am just getting my body clock on an even keel again, but huge part to not eating  properly, relying on expensive, additive ridden, processed food, my body has been craving my homemade cooking. 
Yesterday I made a batch of homemade pea and ham soup which is on the menu for tonight’s tea and I know will taste like absolute heaven.  I had to press the pause button on my frugal life but oh so glad for oh so many reasons that I can now press the play button again J

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Beauty on a budget

I wouldn’t call myself vain, nor high maintenance.  However I do wear make up every work day, remaining fresh faced at weekends. I have a manicure every week.  I have my hair trimmed every 6 weeks and my hair dyed every 2-3 months.    Whilst all of this could be quite costly easily over £1000 per year, how do you look delictable and lovely and a little pampered with spending less than a tenth of that?
Well it helps that my make up is free, as my sister always buys me the following each Birthday and Christmas and its lasts me the whole year.   My family know when it comes to gifts I like practicality, things that I will use / need, I am very lucky I know.  It is also quick, it takes me less than 2 minutes to put my face on each day.
I use l’oreal mineral foundation powder, this evens out my complexion, is quick and easy to apply, it is so light you wouldn’t know you were wearing it and you don’t need a separate powder, it is pricey at £14.99 but that will last 6 months.
I then just put on some mascara, Boots Natural Collection at £1.99
Then just some lip gloss again Boots Natural Collection at £1.99. 
I try and keep my makeup light and natural but enough to make me look half human, this makeup lasts me 6 months and works out at 15p a day for the 5 days per week I wear makeup, so not too bad but as I say I am lucky in that it doesn’t actually cost me anything.
Obviously this is done by myself at home.  I keep my nails short, neat and well filed and I like Revlon Vixen nail varnish.
At the moment I feel very spoiled as a good friend bought me Chanel Rouge Noir Nail Varnish for my 40th Birthday and I am using that, however at £17.50 a bottle I would never buy this for myself and appreciate I am very lucky.  My weekly manicure if I buy my own nailvarnish and hand cream costs 51p.
Hair Cuts
For the past 2 years my hair custs have been completely free as I cut my own, brave or mad you decide but it works for me (it helps that my hair has a natural wavy so that hides any and all imperfections.  I now have long hair which I cut into a long layered look doing it exactly as this article in the Mail today demonstrates
I dye my hair every 2-3 months using a dark brown permenant dye from Home Bargains which costs £2.99, so I spend no more than £17.94 per year on my hair.  Equating to 35p per week. 
I also like to have a pretty box of tissues on my dressing table.  The box bought about a year ago originally cost £1.65 and it didn’t last very long about 3 weeks.  This is quite a luxury, but how to still have the luxury experience without the luxury price? Here’s my secret cheat J
Once your pretty cube box of tissues is finished, carefully open up the box

Take a toilet roll and slide in

I use a prit stick to glue the seam again – as this glue allows you to easily reopen again, but any will do, pull through the tissue and place back on your dressing table

E-voila a brand new pretty cube box of tissues which costs 20p and lasts 10 times longer Cxx

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Christmas?... May?.... Are you mad?

Yes, yes and yes.  My Christmas planning starts in earnest end of April / May, to be honest Christmas, squirrelling out gifts etc is a 12 month, full-time job and I love every minute of it lol.
The reason for this is I buy gifts for 44 people! – I know its mad, a lot of these are children, nieces, nephews, god children, then very close relations and a few friends plus thank you gifts for the staff who work jolly hard that both me and hubby manage in the day job. 
I hit the sales as soon as Christmas Day is over, re-stocking my gift cupboard, I look out for sales, discounted gifts throughout the year, as the closer you get to Christmas the price on everything rises; I make my own cards; I save wrapping paper, gift bags, packaging from the previous Christmas and recycle; use my imagination; make some things and keep it as low cost but still generous of heart as much as possible. 
Over the months I will be sharing my top tips for a frugal Christmas, Frugal gift ideas, recipes, decorating etc, I’m no expert and I know I could do so much better, but I'll share in any case J.  So please forgive me mentioning the C word as early as May – ho ho ho
Christmas Card Making
I have had a day’s leave today to childmind my doggie (lol) my lovely parents (mummy and daddy bear) are on holiday in America visiting my sister and family.  They childmind our darling cavachon two days per week, therefore I have taken a couple of days off this week so as not to break her routine too much and keep her company, although she spends most of the day sleeping I’m sure she does so more contented knowing that I’m here.  So I have spent a couple of lovely hours Christmas Card Making, all the cards cost 5p each and are made by recycling previous years cards sent to us and dismantling other cards saving little gems, ribbons and other embellishments, plus using some card making kits which I've been given as gifts.  Gallery of what I’ve made today below J