Thursday, 27 July 2017

Everyday Adventures - last week

The weather has interfered with the 'everyday adventures' this week but I still had a lovely trip out on my bike. I have got a red mountain bike with a broad saddle and this makes it much more comfortable to ride on the bumpy country lanes around here.

I went to see if there were any blackberries along a footpath by a farmer's field as our favourite patch was cut down by the council last year. There were quite a lot right at the far end and having the bike made them much quicker to reach and get them back home again.

Another day I went to look for wild plums and found some. Usually they are yellow when I pick them but this year lots of them had turned red as well. I was able to pick 2lbs of them and carry them home to make two big pots of jam. These little cherry plums are difficult to destine so I always cook them up first and then scoop the stones out as they float to the top of the pulp.

I also took some pictures of bees, did some meditation, wrote some snail mail, did some journalling and gave some hugs !

What were some of your everyday adventures ?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Living on a Shoestring - the final post !

This is the final post in this series and I'll start a new series in August. But before we get started a quick alert about a couple of good deals this week. The first one is for people with a Nationwide debit card. If you go to the Nationwide Simply Rewards page

 and sign up, you can register to get £5 off a £30 spend at Lidl if you spend the £30 at Lidl on your Nationwide card before 31st July. So I shall be doing my August grocery shopping a bit early !

The second offer is on the Kate Singh site and is a free ebook about penny pinching, well worth it if you haven't got it already !

So why bother with either of the two offers above ? Well, eventually living on a shoestring, or well below your means, will enable you to do things that might otherwise not be possible. Over the years we have spent a few years working and volunteering full time for causes we believed in, without earning a wage and we are still able to do this part-time. Giving back to what we believe in is a central value in our lives and we are happy to do without some things to enable this to happen. Other people like to give money as well as time to charity and shoestring living can allow this to happen.

We have also been able to take advantage of educational opportunities for our children which otherwise would have been out of reach. On occasions, it has helped us out with major medical problems too. We have had fantastic holidays with all the family by only going on holiday every few years and it has been all the more exciting for it !

Most importantly of all, living on a shoestring has given us choices: we have been able to walk away from bad work situations; train for careers we believe in and work less as we are getting older ,yet still enjoy a rich and fulfilling life. We have also been able to help our children with house and business purchases ! In fact living on a shoestring enables you to do everything a rich person does at much less  cost !!

What do you like about shoestring living ?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

School Holiday Savings

One of the best things we have done over the years to save money during the school holidays is to have a plan for each day of the week. One day might involve spending some money but all the other days had to involve free activities.

A plan might look like this :-

Monday - Cooking Day
Tuesday - Park Day
Wednesday - Outing Day
Thursday - Craft Day
Friday - Playdate Day
Saturday - Movie Day
Sunday - Rest Day

The outings on Wednesdays might be to pick your own farms, the beach, a country park or on occasions, to somewhere a bit more costly if you can afford it. This year we're going to visit all the free museums in London with MasterShoestring.

The other thing we have done and are still doing with 15 year old MasterShoestring, is to insist on some level of routine. That doesn't mean it can't be broken at times, but it does mean that over the course of several weeks you don't end up with everyone in bed until noon and then demanding to stay up later on as they are not tired ! So MasterShoestring has certain things he has to do before he is allowed any electronics !

We also found the library reading scheme and the list of events on the local council website really useful. Some places even offer free swimming and the National Citizenship Scheme is worth looking in to for older teenagers !

What are your tips for the long Summer holidays ?

Monday, 24 July 2017

Top 3 Moneysaving Websites

I have a long list of favourite websites on the blog. Some of them are about simple living, some about day to day frugal life, some more about money saving and some I just follow because they remind me about the important things in life but I was trying to think which ones I would recommend to those just starting out with frugal living and came up with a list of three.

The first one is based in the UK and is Martin Lewis' Moneysaving expert :-

The great thing about this website is that it is not too hardcore, if you just want to look for a better deal on your mobile phone contract, you can, but if you are looking for really good advice and support to cut back, the forums are the place to go, particularly the Old Style Thrift one. I used to look at this everyday when we were just starting out and it still has great recipes and is my 'go to' place when shopping around for deals on insurance and other regular bills.

The second one is based in the USA and now has helpful videos to go with it, it is the Kellam family's Living on a Dime:-

I have all their books and they have walked the walk as well as talked the talk. They have had to deal with chronic illness and had very little money coming in. I use their recipes every week and love their kindness and the feeling that they really know what family life is like !

The final one is Frugal Queen based in the UK again:-

This blog is worth reading from the beginning to follow her story of getting out of debt. Now she is renovating a property if France to help with retirement savings and always has great recipes. She also muses on why it is important to live frugally and the challenges faced by families on low wages or none. Always worth reading !

Which are your favourites ?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

What to sow now

Our new lettuce seedlings are starting to grow and in the spaces where crops are finished we are just starting to sow some extra things to try and extend the season a bit.

Thomson and Morgan have a excellent seasonal list of what to plant in July and it includes flowers for next Spring as well as vegetables for now. We have planted some French beans, some more peas, radishes, carrots and turnips, all of which should take  around 60 days to mature. This means that we will have some more crops in the Autumn.

In the meantime the courgettes and pumpkins are taking up a lot of space and the courgettes need dealing with every other day. We don't mind as everyone likes them and they are very versatile. This is the first year where we have grown them successfully, even though they are supposed to be so easy !

The other thing you can plant which is quick to grow and good to have in the kitchen is pak choi, but we have given up with this and other brassicas as the pigeons eat it, even if covered with a net !

How is your garden growing ?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cake

This is a lovely cake for the weekend and was certainly polished off quick in this household !

10oz self-raising flour
2oz cocoa powder
8oz sugar
1 cup oil
1/2 pint water
1 mashed banana

Mix all the ingredients together and place in a greased 9 in square or round tin. It makes quite a lot of mixture so you might want to use 2 tins depending on how deep they are. (If you do make 2 then you can sandwich them with buttercream icing afterwards which is good for a special occasion.)

Bake for 40 minutes at Gas Mark 5 or 180C. Leave to cool in the tin and enjoy !

Friday, 21 July 2017

Frugal Friday

Schools in England break up for the big Summer holidays today so I was keen this week to try to save a bit extra, so we can go on a few outings as well as our holiday at the end of August. The savings started off slowly but got better as the week wore on.

The garden has been very productive and I have been freezing courgettes every other day inspite of the rain. We also picked and froze blackberries, raspberries, chard and beetroot. There was also a good crop of volunteer garlic which I picked before the heavy rain, just in time as it turned out !

We made tortillas, chicken stock, pancakes and a delicious chocolate banana cake to a new recipe, MasterShoestring wasn't very well this week so I was looking for a way to cheer him up. I also used the slow cooker for several meals and all the hot water was heated by the solar panels. I also dried 2 loads of laundry, including bedlinen outside on the line.

MasterShoestring used free stamps from the Royal Mail Survey to post his birthday 'thank you' letters and we used email for the international responses so there was no cost involved. The cards were ones I got free some time ago. I also used a book token and free shopping vouchers from the Royal Mail survey to order 3 course books which I need for next year, along with some points from a Waterstones loyalty card. I got the books brand new for nothing, cheaper than ordering from the library !

We applied for a Halifax Clarity credit card and were accepted, this was recommended by the Moneysaving expert website as being the cheapest way to get euros for our trip abroad at the end of August. By ordering now we made sure that we had it in plenty of time and there was even £20 cash back. We shall only use it abroad and pay off the full amount after the holiday, so we should actually gain £20 !

I paid the television license in full so that it does not cost extra and ensures us the best seats in the house for the Six Nations rugby next year. We were offered some tickets recently but all the family said that they prefer to watch it for 'free' at home ! Knowing that we are going to be away at the end of August I also checked which annual bills will fall due whilst we are away and made a note to pay them before we go. They include the car tax and insurance and the house insurance, so pretty important not to have them lapse whilst we are away !

We also booked free eye tests for everyone and replaced a lost Oyster card for MasterShoestring. The Oyster card still had £12.45 credit on it, so well worth doing before we set off on Summer holiday adventures !

I hope that you had a good week too !