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

Monday, 14 May 2012

Weekly Meal Plan and Couscous to go !

Hubby – Weetabix, skimmed milk and Cranberry Juice
Me – Porridge and coffee

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

Monday – Left over Lasagne with salad and garlic bread
Tuesday – (from the freezer) Sausage and bean hot pot, veggies
Weds – (from the freezer) homemade soup and granary bread
Thurs – (from the freezer - sauce) Pasta Amatriciana
Fri –  (from the freezer) Veggie Curry, rice and naan bread
Sat – Homemade Pizza
Sun – Homemade plate meat pie and veggies

Couscous Salad

This is my own recipe, its vegetarian and has a distinct nod to India.  I don’t think it would suit everyones palette, it certainly doesn’t suit mine as I find it a bit too sweet, however hubby loves it.  Couscous is a really cheap, healthy lunch and a little different from the boring old butty J .  I make this each Sunday and make (usually) 5 portions – this week it was only 4 portions, as hubby has training on Thursday and lunch is provided.  So lets get on with the concoction

I pour in half a bag 250g of couscous in large bowl

Pour on boiling water, you can use measurements but I prefer Jamie Olivers top tip, pour on water quickly so there is about 1cm water on the top. 

It absorbs within minutes and I just fork through to fluff it all up and leave it until cold.

Add seasoning and slice one red onion and then add 2 teaspoons of garam masala spice, a good pinch of chilli flakes, two handfuls of sultanas and 3 tablespoons of mango chutney and again with your fork mix through

 and portion it out into individual plastic tuppaware (these are reused takeaway containers)

I then boil 5 eggs for exactly 6 minutes, I like my boiled eggs softly boiled. Once cool I quarter and position on top of the couscous. 

Put the lids on, pop in the fridge and e voila hubby just grabs and go each day with a healthy, tasty, homemade lunch which costs 48p per portion.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Down Shifting

One of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery shopping bill is downshifting.  I have been slowly doing this for a few years and in the main with huge success as I've moved from a top brand, to a lower priced brand, to the supermarkets own brand then finally to the value/basic range.  
Down shifting is in itself a journey of trying and tasting and see what you can / will change.  I love food, I wont eat rubbish and certain things I wont compromise on, nor will I support questionable farming and animal husbandry techniques so for example my eggs will only ever be free range.  
I am however lucky I can still financially afford to make those decisions, I don’t judge, my mum brought up 5 kids on barely nothing and she didn’t have the luxury to make or consider those issues, she simply had to feed 5 hungry kids, that was her only concern and she did an amazing job.  
I would say nearly 80% of my shopping basket now is the value/ basic range, below is just a flavour of what I used to buy and what I now buy
Just a selection of what I used to buy
Napolina Penne £2.09
Homepride Flour £1.49
Kerry Gold Butter £1.40
Flora spread £1.70
Napolina Chopped Tomatoes £1.35
Schwartz mixed herbs £1.05
Florette Salad £1.74                                            Total Cost £10.82

And now what I buy by downshifting
Basic Pasta  £0.39
Value Flour £0.52
Value Butter £1.19
Value sunflower spread £0.75
Value chopped tomatoes £0.31
Value mixed herbs £0.19
Value crunchy salad £0.99                                Total Cost:  £4.34

All of these staples are eaten daily/ weekly in this household and my annual grocery bill has reduced in the region of 40% over the past 2 years, this has been achieved by not consuming any less (my next challenge) but simply by downshifting.

Tried and tested but no compromise

There are certain brands however that I stick with, we’ve tried others, but either me or hubby refuse to downshift
Heinz Baked Beans
Nescafe Coffee
Dips – this is what has inspired todays blog.  We had friends over last night and I decided to opt for some frugal nibbles with drinks, I chose basic range multi-dips which were quite frankly vile, really vingegary and sour.  Thankfully I had lots of other good, yummy stuff to eat, its not a product we eat often but I wont be buying the basic/ value range again J

Its really just being a little brave, stepping outside your habits/ comfort zone and seeing what changes you can and will make.   In a lot of downshifting I defy anyone to actually notice the difference in taste, but you will see a huge difference in how much you can and will save. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Conquering the world ......

....One cupboard at a time.  My home is a façade, to the unsuspecting visitor it appears clean, tidy, ordered and serene,  and on the surface it is ..... but open a cupboard or a drawer and I swear a lost Inca tribe could be hiding in there J
So it’s time to instill that order, as the chaos creates unnecessary spending, if you can’t find something or forgotten you have bought something, you will end up buying again the thing you already have. 
So the first cupboard found a small pharmacy, no need to buy any cold/flu remedy or pain killers for about 5 years me thinks.  Also plasters – I could stock a red cross field hospital, so creating the order will not only create a truly serene living space but will also create savings

By utilising storage containers I already have, plastic tuppaware, biscuit tins e voila

Monday, 7 May 2012

Fun Free Days

Before the start of my journey to consume and spend less,  we would think nothing of just hopping in the car on a day out, a long drive in the country, lunch and a potter in some galleries, shops and always buy something (s) easily spending anything from £100 – 200
So bank holiday weekend, and yesterday a free Sunday with no jobs to do around the house, oh what to do that won’t break the bank?  Well we started by going to mass and I found that there was a free art exhibition by the local art society about 100 yards from church.  So following mass, we stopped off at a local café and shared a small bottle of sparkling elderflower before spending about 40 minutes wandering around the exhibition.  Some of the works were of a high standard and some ….. well ha hum, at least they had a go and I always admire that J
Hubby really wanted to go out for lunch – you may have read before that whilst he is fully supportive of my journey he is not a fully committed passenger, firmly believing life is too short.  However as he loves me he is trying his best (god bless him).  I managed to persuade him to come to me to Booths (not sure in the South that you have Booths but it’s a fabulous supermarket , in my humble oppion far superior to M&S and on a par to Waitrose, similarly priced but you get such lovely local produce) and instead I would cook him a restaurant standard meal at home for a fraction of the price.  I now always feel ripped off paying to eat out which often is sadly disappointing. 
So I not only bought lunch for today but also tomorrow, as well as meat, bread and fruit to see us through the week.  Total cost of our home restaurant boozy lunch came to £19.57, a fabulous feast, with some great wine, hubby was impressed and satisfied both with the food and the price.
Hubby – Pate, chutney and toast
Me – Fishcake, raita and salad

The best chicken ceasar salad ever – it was sooo deliscious if I don’t mind saying so myself, with fresh bread

Coffee Renoir

Washed down by 2 bottles of a really clean, crisp white wine. 

We then snuggled up on the sofa and watched an old film

It was a fabulous day and even better didn’t break the bank.

Weekly Meal Plan

A day late (but I blame the bank holiday). Everything I have in so the only shopping will be bread, milk and a little bit of fresh salad, which will free up some money for out night out on Saturday.
Hubby – Weetabix, skimmed milk and cranberry juice
Me – Porridge, coffee

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

Monday – Burgers, salad and French bread
Tuesday – (from the freezer) Pea and Ham Soup, Granary Bread
Wednesday – Cheese Burger, Salad
Thursday – (from the freezer) Pasta Bolognese
Friday – Cooked Breakfast, sausage, bacon, egg and toast
Saturday - ? we are going out with friends and will be having a bite to eat so will probably be a curry
Sunday – (from the freezer) Lasagne and Salad

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Best Laid Plans ......

When I devised my meal plan last Sunday, I had predicted Saturday to be the usual affair, spend all day pottering around the house, tidying, cleaning, laundry, cooking and I had intended to make homemade pizza for tea.  That was then and due to very nice last minute invitations, a very different, very full, yet still very frugal day was the order of the day.
I got up at 6am and worked like a demon so that by 10am the house was scrubbed from top to bottom, 3 loads of washing done and drying in the beautiful sunshine, everything lovely and sparkly - perfect way to start the weekend.
We went for lunch with my very best friend, we struggle to see each other as whilst she is financially rich she regrettably is very time poor as she owns and runs two Italian restaurants.  We always meet once a week for coffee (as one of her restaurants is in the City I work, whilst the other is in the Country nearer to where I live) at her place, however she is always doing paperwork and the phone always interrupts us – so it was lovely to see her for a proper lunch (this was at her country restaurant where she had great staff who always look after us very well), it was just great to sit, eat and put the world to rights for a couple of hours uninterrupted (well apart from the odd customer coming over to say hello). 
After this we nipped to see hubbys nan – 92 years and still going strong, she has the most darling bichon Gigi (hubbys nan used to breed Bichons) so this snap is entitled “When DD met Gigi”

We then hot footed it over to my parents where my sister and her family had come up for the weekend, its was great to see them, full of chat and laughter.  Whilst we were still stuffed from lunch we still managed to squeeze in some of my mums homemade cake washed down with lots of tea and got home just in time to fall into bed, exhausted but happy. 
Postscript: I had bought the kids some chocolate and gave them both a tenner each, as I say we don’t see each other very much due to a 500 mile distance only perhaps twice a year, so when I do see them I owe them a few treats.  I still consider this a very frugal day, fed and watered by my beloved friends and family with their fabulous company all free of charge J

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mary Mary Quite Contrary....

.... how does your garden grow?  Well the first green shoot has appeared in my veggie beds (how exciting) it’s the start of my onions growing and I’m savouring the thought in a few months I will have a glut of fresh, organic, fabulous veg..... you can't beat it J

My fruit is coming on as well, the rhubarb is looking good, ruby red, I think I will cut some this weekend and make a crumble and it also looks like I will have a bumper crop of strawberries come June / July – ahh life is grand.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Just checking in to say Hello

The commute seems harder this week and I'm sooo tired, I think I might be coming down with something, so just hanging in there until the long bank holiday weekend.  I have updated my spending diary, but no inane witterings tonight - hope you had a lovely day Cx