Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Pay Day

Well pay day is finally here, ah the highs and lows of this blessed day – the high that I am solvent – albeit briefly (but still a good feeling), then the low of this evening going through the main account to move money around and discover that even though tomorrow is the 1st I’m broke again.
Since January I have taken my finances by the scruff of their neck determined to be debt free (mortgage the exception) by the end of this year.  I owed close to £18000 – I know it’s not as big as some peoples but it’s big enough. I still have a lot of improvement to make in my frugal ways but I have managed to clear £3000 so far in two months, it’s been tough going but it’s been worth it and I’m well on track to achieve my goal.  The first financial goal of many to come.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On the menu today ......

Hubby: Weetabix for breakfast with skimmed milk and juice, for lunch, ham sandwich and took his usual 2 bananas and 2 apples which he munches on during the day.  Tea was homemade chicken and veg soup (Saturday tea leftovers) with bread and homemade chocolate cake. 
Me: no breakfast (I never do, I know it’s really unhealthy but I get up and out sooo early the thought of food is incomprehensible) – Lunch was out at an Italian restaurant eating pasta and garlic bread, now this normally would not be frugal, however my best friend (who is Italian) owns two Italian restaurants so lunch was free J– and tea (as I was still full from lunch) consisted of a small bag of chocolate mini eggs L
The day was going so well spends wise in that I hadn’t spent anything, however tomorrow is my last day in work prior to my birthday and as is tradition I must go in with cakes for the team.  I could have made the cakes and saved some money, but time has been my enemy and I had to buy, that coupled with a loaf of bread and a treat for hubby and me – shopping cost just over £12 ummm these little stop offs are always my downfall – ah well onwards and upwards tomorrow J

Monday, 27 February 2012

Monthly Food Bill

As part of my frugal new ways I have set up a spreadsheet in which I record all expenditure.  Our biggest expenditure (aside from the huge mortgage) has always been food and petrol (that one I’ll leave for another day).  On reviewing my credit card bills from last year we were spending on average £600 per month on food, drink and household essentials (loo paper etc).  Considering we are just a household of two plus small dog, this is quite something.  This was the first area that I knew I had to take control of. 
As we approach month end I have just totted up February and it comes to £228.34, I still think this is too much for just the two of us.  Quite a bit of it was unplanned spend, the old popping in for a loaf of bread and £14 later ……..  
So in March much more planning is required – end of March’s bill will be larger due to the 40th birthday celebrations, but take that out of the equation and I hope to do better than February’s shopping bill.
I am going to unashamedly steal top tips from my favourite blogger Frugal Queen and shop my cupboards and freezer and see how many meals I already have and then plan from there.  Ideally I want to get to a place where the monthly food bill is around the £100 mark and £30 for household essentials.  That’s the challenge but with ever increasing food prices and even with my culinary skills I think this is going to be perhaps a bit too ambitious, we can but try J

Oh No.... the Big 4-0

So this blogger reaches the big 4-0 on Friday – seriously how did that happen? Surely it was only yesterday I was 19 creating mischief and mayhem and having a ball. 
Hubby’s 40th last year was a frugal persons nightmare, weekend away with close friends (I paid for it all) a week’s holiday to Rome; a weekend in Lille, plus gifts – the whole thing came in over £5000.  Well that was then and this is now and as I am paying the piper…..  how do you have a frugal 40th?
Well I could just hide under the duvet and forget its existence – my personal choice.  However hubby wants to mark the occasion and as I’ve convinced him that going to Paris is not on the cards until debts are cleared and savings made; I’ve eventually brokered a frugal (ish) deal.
Birthday day is a boozy lunch at Pizza Express with just me and my darling hubby; we have a particularly nice one in an old converted bank with modern art and jazzy music.  The meal itself will come courtesy of my Tesco Reward Vouchers; the booze and taxi will come out of the small pot of money I have managed to squirrel away – I have put £50 aside for this – I would (now) never normally spend this however it is a special day and has been my compromise to my darling hubby who believes you’re a long time dead.
Saturday is a party afternoon with my family – all hosted by us at our home – this has been the biggest quandary for me.  I have and often did throw lavish parties at my home – huge buffet table groaning under the weight of smoked salmon and finest terrines and cheese boards that would cost a small third world countries debt, along with a bar stocked as though I was in the nightclub business.  Again different days. 
So the menu will be:
Nibbles:  Homemade sausage rolls (pastry is made from store cupboard ingredients, pork sausage meat £3.49, onion and sage from the garden, this will make a batch of 30 sausage rolls which really are the best (Delia’s recipe); I will also be making homemade mini cheese and onion scones – again all these ingredients I have in store and again I can make about 30.  In addition I will buy some value range dips and chop up some carrots and make some cheese twists. Hopefully whilst drinks and hellos are ongoing, hunger will be put in abeyance until the…..
The main event - shepherd’s pie, ones with plain mash and ones with champ mash (mash with spring onions and cheese – my dad’s particular favourite) and fish pie (sister pescatarian) along with crusty bread.  Portions will be hearty.
Birthday Cake – Homemade lemon and white chocolate cake – along with some chocolate cupcakes for the kids – I can make all this for less than £3
Booze – Well my favourite cocktail is going to be plentiful – Poinsettia – gran marnier, prosecco (I have substituted this for a cheaper cava which was on offer, (as it’s a cocktail providing its alcoholic, dryish and sparkling it really doesn’t matter) and cranberry juice.  We have lots of beer which was left over from Christmas, that with an array of soft drinks – I hope everyone will be suitably content.
The last Xmas Eve buffet/ soiree I threw in 2010, the cost came in close to £400 my 40th Birthday celebrations, (whilst will take more work as much is homemade) has come in for (on-line shopping list done) £86.  I think to throw a party for 14 including birthday cake and booze for £6 per head isn’t too bad – I know my frugal betters would be able to do better and I hope in years to come I also can – but for me this is a huge step forward. 
I am however nervous and a tad insecure - I really hope my guests, who have been used to my extravagance will enjoy my frugal soiree …….

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Family Days

Treasured nephew came to stay for the weekend, he is a dynamo, full of so much energy that now and again this 8 year old whirring dervish comes to stay so his mum and dad get a little respite and more importantly a much needed lie in. 
Now prior to my frugal ways this weekend would have cost an arm and a leg, a trip into town, toy, comic and chocolate bought.  Out for tea – this nephew has fussy tastes and it was always easy to take him to the local Harvester so he could chow down on roast chicken, mash and gravy, a favourite of his, not on the menu here (hubby not a mash fan).  Usually a cinema trip and the following morning out for coffee (hot choc in his case) a walk and perhaps another stop in another shop for a little treat.  The weekend would quite easily have set me back £100.  However these are different days and the bank balance wouldn’t cope with the strain.
So how to entertain the little blighter without getting myself further into debt – well afternoon entertainment was a trip to the football – he was mad to go and at £5 a relative bargain for the afternoon, spent with his favourite uncle J whilst his favourite aunt was busy at home – I made a fab chocolate cake, all the ingredients except the cooking chocolate where already in the storecupboard/ fridge, the chocolate cost £1.29 and I made roast chicken, mash potatoes and gravy (darling hubby had oven chips instead), the chicken was the basic range from Sainsburys, first time I had tried their basic chicken at £4 and more than impressed.  With a bag of potatoes for £1.  I also bought him some chocolate as a treat 4 cadburys caramel on special offer for £1. 
The evening was spent eating his favourite meal, playing top trumps and settling down to watch a DVD with some chocolate and cuddles.
Sunday morning after breakfast involved playing with his action figures (imagination comes free) before getting showered and dressed and going out for a walk.  Before returning home and playing a game until his dad came to collect him.
The weekend cost a total of £12.29 and according to nephew he had a brilliant time; our time, attention and imagination dont cost a thing and those, are things at his tender age, mean the most.  So whilst I still would have loved to have bought him a new toy, or a comic, I don’t think he missed them and I’m glad I didn’t succumb to temptation.
Postscript... The left over chicken, potato coupled with some chicken stock and veggies from the freezer has just made a fab soup - enough for all my lunches next week plus a tea for me and hubby :)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

40 Days & 40 Nights

Well the first day of lent and a time for reflection and fasting, whilst this is a spiritual journey, it will also aid my frugal journey.  My particular absentence during this period is alcohol with a caveat - its my 40th birthday far too soon to mention and the only way I am going to get through that particular milestone is with a firm crutch of copious amounts of alcohol.  With that caveat aside, I am going to abstain, not only good for my spiritual journey, it will be good for my health and my bank balance.  Whilst I am by no means a lush I do drink approx 2 bottles of wine a week and it is a cost in these frugal times that I seriously cannot justify, so we will see how I fair over the next 6 weeks.