Friday, 30 September 2016

Autumn Raspberries !

Autumn raspberries really are a gift that keeps on giving. We have been able to pick enough this week for Mr Shoestring to have some every lunchtime. Apparently if you keep on picking it encourages the plant to set more fruit until the frost arrives. Here's hoping they carry on into October !

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Michaelmas !

In Autumn St Michael with sword and with shield,
Passes over meadow through orchard and field,
He's on his way to battle
Gainst darkness and strife
He is the heavenly warrior, protector of life.

Michaelmas is celebrated in our house with a plaited loaf, grapes and grape juice and either a warming soup or a variety of harvest sandwiches depending on the weather. Then we get to work gathering the rest of the harvest and preparing the garden for its winter rest. Enjoy your day !

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Frugal Weight Loss Update !

Mr Shoestring is delighted to announce that frugal weight loss is going well and he is determined to reach goal weight. So far he has been good about exercising and is enjoying his new breakfast of 50g homemade granola and 100g homemade yoghurt, He hasn't changed anything else he is eating but has measured portion sizes more carefully and is not eating second helpings ! Weekly reward is 50g of milk chocolate if he loses weight !

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Efficient ironing !

I am not fond of ironing, some people suggest it as therapy instead of going shopping but I really do not like it ! About 10 years ago I slipped a disc in my back and was unable to do anything around the home for at least 6 weeks. We had to pay for household help, including and ironing service. The ironing service charged a pound for 5 items so now when I do the ironing I iron 5 items at a time and then congratulate myself for saving such a lot when I have finished a basket. Silly I know but it helps when otherwise I would tempted to do no ironing at all !

One of the other things that helps is having equipment that makes the job go faster. A reflective ironing board cover irons both sides of the garment and an iron with a steam shot smooths wrinkles much quicker. Three weeks ago the steam shot function on my iron broke, there was nothing else wrong with it and I soldiered on just using heat. The ironing took much longer and I started leaving some clothes in the basket ! By this weekend there was a very large pile and I went into the garage and got the perfectly functioning iron which we are storing for USAShoestring. Hoorah, the steam shot function worked ! An hour later all the ironing was gone, I was so pleased and I'm sure that USAShoestring won't mind. So I saved the cost of an iron !

Monday, 26 September 2016

Wasp eradication !

A few weeks ago Mr Shoestring was stung a couple of times as he tried to cut back the bushes near a corner of the house. He saw a lot of yellow and black insects flying in and out of the wall and because his sting had a stinger left in it he supposed that they were bees and left them alone.

Over the past few weeks he has noticed a couple of nests of the same insects buried in holes in the lawn. Were they really bees ? I was a bit nervous about having so many of the insects flying around as I am very allergic to bee and wasp stings and carry an adrenaline pen around with me.

Today Mr Shoestring decided he must act and after taking pictures of the winged pests finally discerned that all the nests were types of wasps and it would be fine to destroy them. The ones in the lawn were easy targets for some powder he had in the workshop left over from the time we had a nest of wasps in the loft. The ones in the wall were less easy. They were very aggressive and getting the powder into the nest was much more problematic. He managed a bit and will probably go back and hit the nest a few more times over this week as the population of wasps decreases. We can afford to wait as a packet of wasp killer powder is a lot cheaper than calling out the pest controller, even with the stings !

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Credit Fraud !

We have been so lucky this week thanks to the vigilance of Tesco bank. We only have 1 credit card and it is a Tesco one. We got it specially to benefit from the deals you get with Clubcard points. We have had free magazines mostly and the odd day out. We always pay off the monthly balance and look at the statement at least once a week just to check that there is no fraudulent spending on the card.

However, yesterday when I went to pay for this week's top-up shop, just under 10 pounds, the card was refused twice. In the end I had to pay with a debit card and came away puzzled as I knew that I had just paid the bill and had not seen any fraudulent activity on the bill.

I had just returned home when the bank rang us and said that they thought that someone else had been spending on the card. It turned out that they had blocked 14 transactions at iTunes that day and then had stopped the card just before I went to the supermarket. They had correctly surmised that I had not wanted to buy 14 pieces of music at iTunes based on my previous shopping history.

Now the cards have been destroyed and we are awaiting new ones. Mr Shoestring is still not convinced that this is not an elaborate scam and that someone somewhere is still spending on that card. However, as I pointed out to him as we have just paid the bill and will probably avoid using the card next month they won't be getting any money out of us !

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Cutty Sark !

Lovely trip to see this glorious boat the other day ! A freebie from work but did have to pay the travel ! Since we travelled at off-peak times and avoided the centre of London this amounted to less than £5 and included a river trip so a great cheap outing !

The boat was build for fast trading and it seems extraordinary to think of the adventures the crew must have had whilst at the mercy of the wind and the waves, people really were brave in those days ! The facilities below deck were very cramped and must have been jolly hot by the time they reached China and other distant lands. All to supply luxuries to Londoners !

Container ships are less romantic but I think the crews are a lot more comfortable !

Friday, 23 September 2016

Free Wood !

At the start of August we telephoned our usual wood supplier and ordered a load of logs. This costs £90 but we have tried out other suppliers and this is the standard price around here and we usually get a few extra from this guy as he also does tree surgery work for us.

However, the still have not been delivered. The last time we called he got impatient with us and said he would come when he was ready. So we have decided not to use him again and look around for free sources of wood instead.

The first source is the garden, it is very large surrounded by lots of trees so there is always one needing trimmed or taken down. Mr Shoestring has been thinking about dealing with these trees for a while but now he is quite motivated to do so to get the wood for the stove. However, this will only work for next year as the wood needs to be seasoned first. So we were very pleased to see at the garden centre that they give away pallets for free. These are excellent for kindling and will save the logs we do have for heat !

The third way we are going to get free wood this winter is to go  foraging in the woods. We are surrounded by woodland and often see fallen limbs on the ground so some of those will be coming home with us now !

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Free newspapers !

We do not buy any of the above but Mr Shoestring and I sometimes read free articles online. We are also very fond of the free local newspapers for using for all sorts of odd jobs around the house.

We use free papers for lighting the fire, for cleaning up spills, for wrapping up bones after we have used them for stock, for protecting the table when we are glueing or painting and for drying wet shoes.

Until I bought some micro fibre clothes I also used newspapers for cleaning the windows. Nowadays we always get a free a paper when we are passing the station and when we go to collect someone or drop them off there we often ask them to bring a few in case we are running low.

At present we are building up a stock pile for the winter and we will sometimes collect the free local paper on a Friday as it has lists of free local events and sometimes a coupon for the local fruit and vegetable warehouse which cuts £2 off a 56lb bag of potatoes, well worth having !

Have a look out for your free papers as they have lots of uses. The Evening Standard can also be quite a thoughtful read !

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Dad's Army !

The original of this series is very popular in our household and the now grown-up children will watch episodes with glee when they are home. So we were intrigued to watch the film the other night and compare the two.

Master Shoestring did not like it all and left the room, he said that he thought it was a shame they had made it and that he couldn't watch it as it wasn't the same.

Mr Shoestring and I quite enjoyed it as it rounded out some of the characters and provided a bit of background to them. We especially enjoyed the greater role played by women in this version, with a wonderful Mrs Mannering at the head of the Mum's Army.

The costumes were good, Frank was allowed to grow up a bit and the spiv redeemed himself by sacrificing his stock of black market petrol to destroy Nazis ! Godfrey's sisters turn into a couple of Miss Marple types ! It was a great bit of evening fun !

Most of all it reminded us of a time when life was all about needs rather than wants and when bagging a pigeon for a pie would have been a red letter day, roll on a time when we are all as waste conscious as they were then !

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Radishes !

We planted some radishes on our return from holiday and although quite a few have been nibbled by birds and other creatures Mr Shoestring has been able to use a few in salads this week ! Radishes grow really quickly and you can use the leaves as well. We did not know this until Mr Shoestring was looking up a recipe and discovered one for Radish Soup and one for wilted greens. The leaves have a peppery taste a bit like rocket so well worth saving from the compost !

We are still getting a few raspberries from the plot and a have a good crop of leeks to look forward to but the cabbages are looking very sorry for themselves and will have to be covered in netting if we grow them next year !

What's still producing in your garden ?

Monday, 19 September 2016

Frugal slimming

Mr Shoestring has had a few pounds lingering since before we went on holiday. It is really good news as it means that his medication for vestibular migraines is working and he can eat more. However, it is also bad news as at our age a few pounds more than you should have now usually means quite a few pound more than it should in a few years time. He has had a foot injury since July which means that walking for running is painful but nevertheless this week he decided he must make more effort and lose that extra 12lbs before it turns into a whole stone.

Since Saturday he has lost 3lbs just by being more careful about portion size and doing 30 minutes on the exercise bike. The portion size was easy to control as we just used our kitchen weighing scale to make sure that he was only putting the recommended portion size of everything on his plate. Portions are much easier to measure than trying to calculate calories for everything last little thing you eat. The exercise bike does not put any pressure on his sore foot but still gets him slightly out of breath and he can listen to the radio at the same time.

Doing exercise has been the really big change as he really prefers to go for a run and when he could not do that he just stopped exercising at all, it was boring to do anything else. But now with the radio he says the time passes quickly and he is happy to go and do his minutes.

We are looking forward to seeing what the scales say on Saturday and I'm going to sue the blog to keep him accountable so he has lost all the extra by Christmas ! So far the cost of the slimming programme has been £0 !

He did look into the Hairy Bikers dieting programme as that is 'man' friendly but was horrified to discover that you had to pay to join ! The NHS website has lots of good advice for free and will send motivating emails if you don't have a group to keep you accountable ! So don't wait, commit, like Mr Shoestring to losing any excess avoirdupois by Christmas !

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Jumble Sale Haul

Yesterday I was really looking forward to going to a local jumble sale as I had run out of books to read on the train. Commuting such a long way everyday means that I have been averaging around 5 books a week and can only visit the library on Saturdays. By the end of the week pickings were very slim and I had to resort to a textbook which I have to read for my course, interesting but less enjoyable than some !

So I was delighted to find that the jumble sale had a good selection so I bought 5 new books ! One of them was a Jodi Picoult which I hadn't read before. I was delighted to find this as I always find her work thought-provoking although sometimes her characters are less than sympathetic, I look forward to trying the one shown above at some point this week ! I also got a really thick biography of Leonardo da Vinci which I am sure will be interesting.

I had to pay 50p a book which compares favourably with the library reservation fee of 60p but is slightly more than I was expecting to pay since by going at the end of the sale I usually get a bit of a discount. I had a feeling that this year the Scouts had a target to meet and I do not begrudge supporting a great local youth organisation whilst at the same time holding off commuting boredom !

I also went to the library and found 5 more books which I am looking forward to reading and since none of these were reservations those were free which is even better. If I am honest I almost did not buy the books at the sale as I was thinking that maybe the library would have enough to keep me busy. But then I thought about what would happen if I could not find anything at the library. Then I might be tempted to buy a book or magazine on the way home ! Instead, I spent less than the cost of a monthly magazine and got 5 books to hold in reserve in case the library has nothing on a Saturday. This does happen sometimes as things get very busy on a Saturday and sometimes there are only lots of books in genres which I do not like left !

I also got 7 Hallmark cards and a pair of snowflake tights for the Winter and spend £4.50 including the entry fee. Good value for money and much less than the cost of a new book !

It looks as if jumble sale season is starting round here again after the Summer holidays as there are 2 sales over the next fortnight. September and October tend to be busy for jumble sales, although I think there are fewer than there were a few years ago as people are keeping their stuff for longer. By November Advent and Christmas sales have started so I shall be going to every sale in the hope of scoring a few things from my list !

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Enjoy your home !

After a busy working week which seems to have been divided into 3 sections, commuting, working and sleeping. One of the most frugal luxuries we have is staying at home !

Sleeping in past 0550, eating a leisurely breakfast, deciding when to do little jobs, enjoying the peace and quiet, inviting others over, all of these things are a pleasure after spending time in a busy, city environment and staying home does not cost anything unless you succumb to Internet shopping. Our budget is pinned right by the computer to make sure that this does not happen !

I'm slowing down and enjoying being at home during daylight hours, simple pleasures !

Friday, 16 September 2016

Daily Thrifty Tip 5

Walk to work ! This will definitely save money ! We live around 50 miles away from the place we are currently working. We get there via a combination of car, train and walking. Technically we could do without the car component and go by bicycle instead but this would substantially lengthen the commute which is already 1 1/2 - 2 hours already and would mean that we have to pay bus fare for Master Shoestring who gets dropped at school on the way.

However, we do walk as much as we can. We walk from the free parking place to the station and we walk a mile from the station to work, which takes around 15 minutes. There is a closer station but the walk does us good and also saves some money as the stop where we get off saves us crossing into another Zone. 

At first I really was not sure if all this trouble was worth it but now I am actually doing it and am watching the money trickle out of the account rather than gush I have decided that it is worth it !

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Daily Thrifty Tip 4

It really pays to research the cheapest route to travel. This is how we shave £1000 off the cost of our flights in the summer and £12 a week off the cost of our commute into London. Transport providers e.g.) Transport for London, will rarely tell you which is the cheapest route but rely on you to find out.

For instance, the airline did not tell us of the saving if we flew to Toronto rather than Boston. Transport for London did not tell us that at Peak time our ticket would cost £2.30 less if we travelled a slightly different route to work. Early retirement bloggers may show you how much you can save by cycling to work but not the bus companies. Do your own research, it really pays !

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Daily Thrifty Tip 3

No point adding to the cost of your commute by paying to park your car as you work. We spend quite a few hours researching where to park for free within walking distance of the station. Daily parking costs £4, which is quite cheap for this area but over the week that would be £20, far too much.

By parking 5 minutes walk away from the station, in a quiet residential area, where there are no parking restrictions, the car is safe and we save £20 a week. We also benefit from the extra 10 minutes a day exercise ! Although after walking 2 miles everyday at the other end, sometimes our feet do get a bit tired !

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Daily Thrifty Tip 2

I suspect that this is a tip I and lots of other people have already shared but it does save so much that it is worth repeating. Bring your food everywhere !

I pack a lunch every day and it costs me around 70p. There is no way I could buy lunch anywhere for that price. I had to stay late at work yesterday and brought my own picnic tea as well at a cost of 50p. Compared to a Boots meal deal I am saving the cost of at least 4 lunches weekly which adds up to a substantial sum over the month.

I was very tempted by a cup of tea at the station the other day when I was out of water and it was raining. The cost of the tea was £1.60, at the end of a busy week it did not seem much. Then I reminded myself that the cost was more than I was paying to make 1 journey on the Underground. I decided that the tea could wait until I got home !

Monday, 12 September 2016

Daily Thrifty Tip 1

September is a very frugal month for us and so I thought that it might be a good idea this week to show you all the thrifty things we do on an everyday basis.

My favourite decaffeinated tea is from Betty's in York but although it is not too expensive it is more expensive than the local supermarket's decaffeinated tea bags. However, I find the teabags too strong. So one day I thought to myself that it is only tea that is in the teabags, just like the tea that comes loose from Betty's.

So I cut open all the tea bags and tipped them into the tea tin. Now I have loose tea, which almost tastes as good as the expensive brand, certainly nice enough for everyday and I only need to use the amount that I want. Win-win and a definite saving. So I use the cheap tea in the tea tin everyday.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Freecycle for Apples

Lovely trip today out to a part of the county we do not normally frequent to fetch some cooking apples from a lady who had too many. When we got there it turned out that she had so many that lots of other people were coming to pick too. We thought it fair to only take 1 carrier bag full but when we got home there was an email saying to contact them again in October in case there were any left.

Some have gone in the freezer, some into a crumble and there is still a box to use. Freecycle to the rescue as our apples are very disappointing this year after a wet Spring !

Many thanks to Hildy !

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Saving money on films !

We were fortunate enough to be given a Lovefilm subscription as a present. So far we have watched 64 films, which is more than 1 a week. At the cinema that would have cost us over £1000 but with the gift it was free. Even if we had had to pay I still think the subscription would have been good value for money as we love films and this gives us a chance to catch up on ones we have missed.

At the moment an unlimited number of rentals, 2 at a time costs just £7.99 a month which is the price of a cheap rate cinema ticket round here so I am seriously thinking about renewing the subscription when it expires. 

Do you like 'going to the movies' at home ?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Volunteers !

We have been out in the garden this week digging up the volunteers ! The vegetable kind ! So far we have had 3 meals of red-skinned potatoes from last year and have enough garlic to come us going all year. I'm still trying to use up 10 cloves from last year. Garlic is very reliable and we have yet to have a bad crop, when we plant it deliberately or go pulling up the volunteers ! It keeps very well and adds lots of flavour to cheap dishes. It is well worth growing.

Our original set was created just from separating a supermarket clove. People tell you not to do this but it worked fine for us and now 3 years later we are still planting cloves from produce that came from those original cloves. We just choose the fattest cloves left when planting time comes round and they seem to do very well !

Good luck with your garlic !

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Mending !

Master Shoestring camped out in the garden with some of his friends last weekend and one of the air beds started to let them down. Fortunately we had another one but then wondered what was wrong with the old one ?

We found a tiny tear which must have been made by a sharp stone or thorn as they dragged it to the tent and I thought that it was ruined !

Not so cried Mr Shoestring producing his bicycle repair kit. Sure enough, a little rubber patch and some tyre cement did they trick and it is as good as new. Just so long as no-one drags it along the ground again !

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Save with a car kettle !

Imagine beautiful holiday scene here !

We have had a car kettle since Master Shoestring was little and needed baby food warmed up when we were out and about. I was fascinated to learn that really early cars had an in-car cooker which could warm up your fish and chips next to the engine as you were travelling to a picnic !

Our kettle plugs into the cigarette lighter when you are travelling and ensures that when you stop for a break the water is already boiled for a cuppa ! A jar of coffee and/or a teabag and you are all set. The little cups wash very easily at the services and then you are all set for the next brew at the next stop. It saves quite a bit on a long journey when you want to stop regularly but do not want to pay motorway service prices !

No picture today as blogger seems to having trouble with them ! I hope that it is fixed tomorrow !

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Carry your own water and save !

I have been travelling quite a lot recently and now go on the train everyday. One of the things I do not leave home without is my stainless steel water bottle filled from home. I have found that if I leave it in the fridge overnight before going out the following morning it stays cold all day.

This has saved me buying water when out and I have often found places where I can fill it up for free. Since it stays cold all day it also came in very handy for staying cool on the Tube, which over the past few weeks has been at a temperature of over 100F on some routes !

Saving my pennies and my cool, so it's a great addition to my kitchen !

Monday, 5 September 2016

Saving Money on the Tube

Back to work in London today and as well as having an Oyster card I have discovered that varying your route to work also saves money.

Driving into work is not so cheap now that Islington did not respond to my oft repeated request for a parking permit ! But if I travel and avoid Zone 1 then I can pay almost the Off-Peak rate during the Peak times.

In order to discourage people from travelling into Zone 1 at busy times the Oyster card offers a peak fare of just over 4 pounds as opposed to 7 pounds at these times. If you do the same during off-peak times you save just under 2 pounds for each journey.

I worked out that although this is not the quickest route to travel the £25 pounds a month it will save me are well worth it. It is even more if we add the saving which Mr Shoestring will make, so we're going for slow travel. I've got a stock of library books to read on the commute so will class commuting as leisure time now !

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Menu Plan

So this month's menu plan is based on having the same thing to eat each day of the week apart from a bit of a variation on Sundays. Some people would find that this is insufficiently varies for them but when I asked the family last month they said that they like having old favourites and also like being able to start a meal no matter who is the first in the house. So here is our plan !

Breakfast - Wheat biscuits, porridge or beans on toast, tea or coffee

Lunch - school lunch or sandwich, fruit and piece of cake, water to drink


Sunday - Meatloaf or roast chicken, roast potatoes, gravy, vegetables, steamed pudding or crumble

Monday- Pizza, salad, leftover Sunday pudding

Tuesday - Baked potatoes with choice of filling, fresh fruit

Wednesday - spaghetti bolognaise, salad, fruit salad

Thursday- Soup, bread and cake

Friday - Shepherd's pie, vegetables, steamed pudding

Saturday - Totillas or sausages, salad and chips, sorbet

This plan gives a basic outline but enough variation that people can take the initiative e.g.) with what type of soup we are going to have.

Last month I experimented with quite a few new recipes none of which the family liked so I ended up putting lots of leftovers in the compost. This month I'm hoping that family favourites will lead to less waste and more praise !

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday was grocery shopping day and I had a £5 off a £40 spend voucher for Lidl so decided to go there. I knew that they would not have everything we needed e.g.) Rice Milk but hoped to get the bulk of the groceries there. I was quite worried when I made the list as I knew that I could only spend £90 in total in order to have some money left for school lunches and for produce shopping in subsequent weeks. In the end, I need not have worried as Lidl had a lot of offers on e.g.) fruit and vegetables at 29p or some things that were labelled XXL so you got one and a half times for your money. The XXL promotion meant that in some cases I had budgeted for 3 packets of something but only needed two, so that was a real help.

I used a calculator to keep track of how much I was spending and as soon as it went over £40 I went to the checkout. So that first transaction cost £35.35. I went round a second time to buy other things on the list and thought that I might be able to use a second coupon but the groceries only cost £32.09. Grand total at Lidl £67.44 much less than I was expecting !

Then I went to Tesco to get a few things that Lidl does not have  and a few things, like washing up liquid, which are cheaper there. This smaller shop was £13.73 and I got a free magazine ! Total so far for the month is £81.17 which gives me plenty of room in the budget to top up in subsequent weeks so I was very relieved.

I usually do not go to Lidl as it is a bit out of the way, around 7 miles away and does not advertise its prices anywhere so it is difficult to cost out whether it is worth going there. This time it was worth going so I might try it another time too !

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Budget Busting Month

August was a budget busting month. We still made ends meet and were able to save around 16% of our income but this was a far cry from the over 50% saved every month up until now.

I am pleased that we still saved something as our income fell and will continue to be smaller than before in the months to come.  Mr Shoestring is only going to be working 3 days a week and although I will be working full time the job is over an hour away and transport costs will be around £10 a day.

Big expenses were for the garden as we bought new equipment and re-did the driveway stones. We paid car tax and insurance, building and contents insurance. training fees for new courses which will start in September, and school uniform costs. There were also some holiday related expenses from the start of the month.

I'm not sure how much we will earn in September so may have to adjust the budget after I know that. Until then I'm doing a lot of planning to make sure that we can still save something !