Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Cheat's Lemon Drizzle Cake

This is the cake I make when we have none left and MasterShoestring is urgently in need of some. It doers not need any eggs or margarine so is ideal when the cupboard is barer than usual !

2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
lemon juice and sugar to top

Mix the first 4 ingredients together and place in a greased 9in cake pan. Bake in a 180C oven for 30 -40 minutes or until brown. As soon as it comes out of the oven scatter sugar all over the top and then sprinkle enough lemon juice on top to cover the sugar.

Leave to cool and enjoy !

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Saving Money on Watch Battery Replacement

The last time I needed a watch battery replaced I went to Timpson and paid £6.99. I thought that this was quite a bit when I knew the watch battery cost under £1.

So this time I decided to do it myself. I ordered a watch back opener off the internet and that cost under £2 and I can use it again and again.

It's like a really sharp knife which fits under the little grove on the back of the watch so you can lever the back off.

Next I ordered the watch battery I needed and got 2 batteries for £1.20, making each one 60p.

The Renata make was the make which was already in the watch and had lasted over 2 years, so seemed good value for money.

Then it was just a question of popping the battery in to replace the old one and snapping the back on the watch.

Working again at a cost of under 3 pounds and I still have a battery and a watch opener for the next time.

This only works on watches where you can see the little groove on the back to open it. Some more expensive watches still need a professional watch opener, which is a special piece of kit and not worth buying for home use. But if you have the other sort you can save yourself quite a bit by doing it yourself !

Monday, 16 October 2017

Stoptober 3

There is still plenty of money in the account but not much left in the petrol account ! I think this might mean that either I'm driving too much or I should ask for expenses for the trustee work !

All the spending this week has either been on food, petrol or topping up the Oyster card for MrShoestring to get into London. He has a refund due from a time when he thought he swiped in at a station but it did not register. This happens quite a lot so now we look at the end of every week to check to see if there are any unclaimed refunds.

Another piece of good news was that he was offered a permanent contract where he is working now, but I'll have to check the tax credits again as I think accepting it will mean that we are entitled to less help. The one thing I do not like about the tax credit system is that they give you money all year and then ask for some of it back again at the end of it if you have earned more than you thought you would. This is what has stopped us claiming in the past, so I'm determined to get it sorted out along the way !

I drove to see friends, but then they paid for a cup of tea in a cafe so no spending there ! Also I'm waiting to replace a battery in my watch by ordering online rather than paying someone else to do the replacement.

All the lovely weather has meant plenty of produce from the garden, even a second crop of peas which were delicious with the Sunday chicken. My Dad is coming to stay for a few days this week so we did have to splash out for some cornflakes, as that is his preferred breakfast. He likes marmalade too but I don't have any of that, so decided homemade jam will have to do !

There were three jumble sales this weekend but I didn't go to any of them, quite a feat of self-control, since there haven't been any for ages. However, I decided that since I'm only buying 'needs' this month I really didn't need to go !

I hope you have also had a great week !

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Be Happy !

Yesterday I was quite tempted to order something from the Book People catalogue which dropped through the door, buying books is definitely one of my weaknesses ! However, I realised that reading one of my existing books would give me just as much pleasure ! This made me think about how important it is to have at least some time in the week when we are not racing to complete a 'to do' list but actually stop and appreciate what we have. So today I'm going to look for at least 10 things that bring me happiness like :-

1. A good cup of tea in a lovely mug or cup and saucer

2. Time for a lie-in

3. A leisurely morning pottering about

4. Something tasty for lunch

5. A nap

6. A long walk

7. Making a meal together

8. Reading a book

9. Having a hot shower

10. Getting into bed after the electric blanket has warmed it up !

Enjoy your Sunday too !

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A Trip Out !

We are off out today to take MasterShoestring to this Skills show. It has free parking and we'll be bringing our own food and drink.

There are going to be over 70 exhibitors including some colleges and employers that he is interested in finding out more from.

I was fascinated to learn that we have a rocket manufacturer just 20 miles away ! Who knew ? Apparently the satellite industry in this country is one of our fastest growing areas !

I'm looking forward to finding out more, especially as there is a push on in this area to get more over 50s into apprenticeships. Maybe I'll be snapped up !

Friday, 13 October 2017

Frugal Friday

Friday already ! The week seems to have gone so quickly ! There have still been sone things to pick in the garden, including raspberries ! This was the first week when I actually had so many I could serve them as dessert to the rest of the family, I can't remember that happening before.

We also picked the last of the courgettes, some tomatoes and spinach. These were all used up in meals over the week. We stewed the last of the apples. I tidied up the freezer too and moved all the apples and other fruit into the small chest freezer which has been off all Summer, the big one was so full I couldn't squeeze another thing in there. Now I have room for a few loaves of homemade bread and the odd homemade ready meal, which will come in handy when we have busy nights.

We filled up at the cheapest petrol station and got a free magazine and newspaper at the supermarket. I washed out some bread bags from the freezer for re-use and got some free Christmas cards from the Red Cross. We also make a donation there so I don't feel bad about using their unsolicited stuff which comes in the post !

I sold a couple of exam texts on Amazon, as they offer more money than Ziffit and used the money earned to buy a book on my wish list, effectively making it free ! I'm not sure whether or not this is cheating during Stoptober, but decided it wasn't as the transaction was spending neutral !

I made every meal from scratch and we enjoyed a particularly nice iced gingerbread ! I am noticing that now MasterShoestring is older and bigger a cake only lasts an afternoon and I have to increase his lunch allowance as well. This means less in the rest of the shopping budget, so I really have to plan to use everything up. I saved some yoghurt from a new batch to use as a starter for the next one, I can't do this all the time as the starter weakens over time,  but it's good a couple of times a month.

otherwise we did all the usual things like bringing snacks and drinks from home when out and drying all the washing outside or on racks indoors. We still haven't switched on the heating and hot water full time, just when we notice the house is below 18C or there's not much sun in the morning for the solar hot water. It's already the middle of October so I'm hoping that we will have a mild winter !

I hope you also had a great week !

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Treat your own Back !

Fifteen years ago, when I had just had MasterShoestring I slipped a disc in my back. It was very painful for 6 weeks and I had to sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed instead of in it ! On Monday I bent over forwards to pick up a laundry basket full of washing and my back has been painful since ! Yes, I know the proper technique for lifting, but until my back gets sore I usually don't bother, maybe I should !!

Yesterday morning it was still really bad and I decided that I would have to go back to doing back exercises ! The ones in this book are excellent and have saved me a lot of money in physiotherapy bills over the years. I did find physiotherapy very helpful all those years ago but now I know what to do myself, it does save quite a bit !

First thing, is doing the special exercises. Second thing, protect your back by sitting and lifting correctly, I think I shall be paying much more attention to this one in future. Third thing, only take painkillers if you can't sleep at night, otherwise you will be tempted to do too much ! Fourth thing, take gentle exercise rather than resting.

I have been doing all those things since yesterday and I can already feel an improvement, much quicker and cheaper than waiting for an appointment ! Now all I have to remember is to continue to follow my own advice !

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A delicious standby !

I have just finished processing all those apples from the trees and have lots of crumble and pie filling stashed away in the freezer. When I'm in a hurry and have lots of apple ready prepared an apple crumble is a quick and delicious pudding.

1lb apple pie filling
6oz flour
4oz dairy-free spread
2oz sugar

Spread the apple pie filling in the bottom of the dish. Rub the dairy free spread into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the filling and spread it out so no filling can be seen. Bake in a 200C oven for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Leave to cool a bit before serving or you will burn your mouth on the apples.

This is very tasty with custard, cream or vanilla ice cream !

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Planning for a Frugal Prom

This might seem like a strange post to have at this time of year but I have just had to pay the £15 deposit fro MasterShoestring's prom ticket, even though the actual event will be held June 29th next year !

The first thing we had to decide was whether he really wanted to go or not. The ticket is expensive and although the school offers 5 free tickets, it was highly unlikely that he would qualify for one of those, so he checked how many friends were going and only decided that 'yes' he would like to go on the day of the deadline. Then start to budget for the ticket. MasterShoestring's school offers a payment plan via ParentPay so we shall be taking advantage of that as it does not cost anything extra.

The ticket includes a meal and soft drinks and we will not be having anybody over before hand for a pre-party supper etc., they can eat their fill at the event ! Getting to the venue is often something people spend lots of money on but unless you are sharing the limousine with so many friends that it brings the cost per head down to the price of a taxi, do without and drop them off around the corner !

Similarly, with photographs, take your own, don't shell out for expensive professional ones, unless this is part of a present for another event, e.g.) a 16th birthday. The outfit may or may not be worn again so a second hand or online purchase is the way to go. There are lots of good websites now specialising in clothes for special occasions which are a good deal cheaper than special 'prom' clothes in the high street shops. MasterShoestring needs to stop growing before we can buy him something but I suspect he will go casual and polish up his school shoes !

Now I know that we have it slightly easier because MasterShoestring is a boy but we were in the USA for Miss Shoestring's prom which was held on a boat going down the River Hudson, very posh and we did the same ! Cheap dress, bought online, our own photographs and Dad's car for transport and she still had a lovely time, so please don't spend a fortune on just 1 night !!

Monday, 9 October 2017

Stoptober 2

We have been doing very well on the stop spending front, although I was very tempted to use an Amazon voucher to buy a book ! The book was on my wish list and I have a £5 Amazon voucher, the book only costs £3.99 but with postage it would no longer be free, so I resisted !

Otherwise we have only spent on household bills and the annual contribution to the school. Since, it is an academy they are allowed to ask for a £75 contribution every year ! I'm not sure what happens if you cannot pay !

It was not difficult not to be spending as we were very busy this week with plenty of work, an evening about exams at MasterShoestring's school and whole day of volunteering at the weekend ! Changing some books at the library helped, as did our subscription to the 'by post' service from Lovefilm which we got as a Christmas present. The neighbours had a VERY NOISY party on Saturday night, so rather than trying to go to sleep we watched all the discs from Lovefilm, it has been a long time since I stayed up so late.

We have had the heating on for about an hour in the mornings, just to bring the temperature of the house back up to 18C again. Also, the hot water has been switched on a few times as the sun isn't getting high enough to hit the solar panels until much later on in the day now.

It is another busy week this week, so fingers crossed the purse stays tightly shut !

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Joy of Volunteering !

I have two different ways I volunteer, one for a counselling agency and one by being a trustee for a charity. This week my aunt sent me a lovely newspaper write up of her work as a justice of the peace and the chair of the local NHS trust, all volunteer work as well. It got me thinking how many great institutions we have in this country staffed by volunteers. I have done lots of volunteering in the past too and it got me thinking of all the benefits that it offers.

First of all, I meet people that I otherwise wouldn't see, they are not friends but we become close, bonded by a common cause.

It is good to feel that you are doing something for others and stops you dwelling on your own problems.

You have the chance to learn new skills and try out new roles to see if they are a good fit.

I couldn't think of any down sides, so why not give it a go ? Even an hour is often welcome to some local concerns, I really enjoy it !

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Pleasures of October

We are just one week into the month but it really feels like the season has turned now. I spent most of September wishing that Summer could go on a little longer, especially as we were still on holiday at the start of it !

However, yesterday I realised that Autumn has its pleasures as well. Here are 10 I noticed so far :-

1. The colours of the leaves

2. The smell of smoke in the air

3. The dewdrops on spiders' webs first thing in the morning

4. The sun can still be warm in the afternoon

5. The flowers are still blooming

6. Late crops can be gathered

7. Spring gardening plans can be made and bulbs planted

8. Woolly blankets for sofas

9. Warm breakfasts

10. Festivities are just around the corner.

I'm going to do my best to enjoy all of these this weekend !

Friday, 6 October 2017

Frugal Friday

A whole week of October gone and I am pleased to report it has been very quiet on the spending front ! But not that busy on the saving front either ! Here's what we did get up to !

Stewed apples - I think I did this every day in the slow cookers and there are still some in the washing basket. I'm hoping to finish those off over the weekend and then pick the rest off the tree before the wind blows them all down.

I sold a book on Amazon and posted it using recycled packaging and stamps from the Royal Mail Survey. I enjoyed free books and magazines from the library and must make sure that I return them on time to avoid a fine. I al;so read the free paper and free local magazine, which always has a map for a great local walk in it.

I did the rest of the month's shopping and used a combination of Aldi and a £4 voucher off a £30 spend at Tesco to keep the costs down.

We made tortillas, quiche, soup, refireid beans, meatloaf, salsa, lemon drizzle cake, lentil curry, chapattis and chocolate brownies from scratch. I made baked potatoes in the slow cooker to save putting the oven on and picked and froze some more raspberries.

A big surprise was finding more beetroot in the garden when I was clearing away some swiss chard which had bolted. I was thrilled and we enjoyed eating them for tea yesterday. I earned another £5 gift voucher from Swagbucks and downloaded 3 free ebooks from Bookbub.

It was a busy but enjoyable week !

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Ten Things to do in Stoptober !

Yesterday I made a list of 10 things I could do to help with 'stopping spending ' in October. I was hankering after a new sweater, as I only have 3 and they were all in the wash. I looked through all the spare clothing bags, went through the cupboards and the craft stash and reminded myself about the whole year voluntary 'not buying new clothes' promise, which I already broke to get some underwear earlier in the year. In the end I decided that I could wait for the sweaters to dry !! In case it helps someone else, here is what I came up with :-

1) Stocktake your pantry and look for new recipes to use up those spare ingredients that you find at the back.

2) Go through the freezer and fridge, organise them so you can see what you have.

3) Go through your junk drawer and put everything back in its proper place.

4) Go through your wardrobe and clean and repair items which need it.

5) Get everybody else to go through their wardrobe and do the same same cleaning and repair work.

6) Think about whether you are going to be celebrating Halloween and if so how can you do it with 'no spending' !

7) Go through any craft stash or magazine stash and use what you have on hand, once you have sorted it out !.

8) Go through the attic, basement or storage cupboard and discover new treasures and get rid of old trash.

9) Have a look at your schedule - are there things on there which you could drop and not miss ?

10) Have a look at the bank statements and credit card statements, are there any charges you don't remember or direct debits you no longer use ?

There are definitely a few on here that I need to work on, looks like October will be busy !

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Cinnamon Rolls

All that talk abut cinnamon rolls made me want to bake some ! This is my adapted recipe so that it fitted all our food restrictions !

550g white flour
1tsp of dried yeast plus 2 tsps sugar and 50ml of warm water
25g oil
330ml dairy free milk
100g dairy free spread
50g sugar
4tsps cinnamon

Mix the yeast and 2 tsps sugar with the warm water and leave in a warm place to activate the yeast. Mix  the oil and dairy free milk into the flour together with the yeast once it is frothy. Knead the dough for 5 minutes and leave in a warm place to prove for 1 hour.

Take out and knock down the dough then roll out on well-floured surface to the size of a 9in by 13in pan. Oil the pan or line with baking parchment. Spread the dairy free spread and 50g of sugar over the dough then scatter the 4tsps of cinnamon. Carefully roll up the dough from the long side first and cut into 12 equal pieces. Place each of the pieces, swirl side up into the baking pan. Leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place covered with a cloth so the buns don't get dirty !

Bake for 20 minutes at 200C. Leave to cool before taking out or sprinkle with more sugar and cinnamon or ice with a simple water icing !!

Mmm !

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Lagom !

I borrowed this nice, little book from the library on Saturday and have been enjoying dipping into it every day since. Lagom is a Swedish word meaning ' work - life balance' and there are quite a few ideas which I think could come in handy to make Stoptober a bit more fun.

The first idea is Fredagsmys which is all about making Friday night very relaxing, at home with your family. The idea is to put on comfy clothes and eat and drink something nice together and then enjoy a cosy time. Since our Friday evening is often occupied with shopping and housework this sounds like a lovely alternative !

The second idea is Fika which means a proper coffee break where you walk away from your work, whatever that is, whether at home or in a workplace and take 10-15 minutes to do something else and savour a coffee and a cinnamon bun. Today's tea break for me was spent rushing around getting other things done, so this seems another great idea, especially as I love making cinnamon buns !

The third idea I picked up is Allemansratten which means everyone's right to nature. My interpretation is that you are going to feel better if you spend some time outdoors every day regardless of the weather. So I'm looking out my wellingtons and raincoat to make sure I get out every day in October !

Three great ideas and I'm only a third of the way through the book, can't wait to see what other great ideas the Swedes have !

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Reckoning

I have reckoned up the accounts for September and discovered that we overspent by £492.79. This is better than August, when we overspent by £781.53 but not so bad at all when you realise that it was all due to budgeted expenses which only come round once a year and have already been saved up for !

We are trying to live on £1500 a month and that includes a lot of fixed expenses, such as the community charge on the house. If I disregard the annual expenses we actually spent far less than the £1500 a month and so far this year have spent an average of £1444 a month. Some months, such as February when there are no annual expenses due, we spend far less than that, closer to £900 a month.

I spent quite a bit less on food this month, only £120, which is the lowest it has been all year. On the other hand, doing the big grocery shop for October yesterday I was horrified to see that butter is close to £1.50 per half pound and that is for the unbranded stuff. In the end I decided not to do a whole month's shop at once, as the meat where I was was too expensive. Instead, I bought what was on special offer and used a coupon to bring the price down even further. I've got quite a few coupons for 10% off this month so will save them up and use them when I'm close to the supermarket anyway.

I also checked that we are still in credit for the gas and electricity and we have yet to switch on the central heating, just using the wood burner sometimes.

We also went to a jumble sale this weekend, they are getting so rare. We paid the entry but in the end came away without buying anything. The prices were too high and the quality too low. I've started to wonder about visiting a car boot sale instead, but in this part of the world the prices do tend to be high.

I think I already mentioned that I'd been thinking of making October Stoptober month and trying to stop all spending on 'wants'. Well, the over-priced jumble sale and the expensive butter have definitely made me think we should go ahead with it. So starting tomorrow I'll be reporting our progress on 'stopping spending' every Monday on the blog. Anyone else got plans for October ?

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Buying a Mountain Bike

MasterShoestring is very excited today as he is going up to Stoke to fetch his 'new to him' mountain bike. he has been going mountain biking with friends for a few weeks now and decided that his big brother's bike was getting too much of a pounding in the woods so a different one was required.

He did lots of research and determined that a second-hand one was much better value for money than a new one. he also tried Ebay and Gumtree for offers as well as specialised sites and the local shops.

In the end he made an offer on one which hadn't made its reserve price on Ebay. The only problem was we would have to drive up to Manchester to fetch it, which would have added a bit to the price. The seller very generously offered to meet us half way, so they will be meeting in Stoke.

MasterShoestring is just excited about getting a proper bike for his hobby, we are excited about the money lessons he has learned on the way !

Friday, 29 September 2017

Frugal Friday

This has been a busy week as I started two new courses, so it was important to have most of the supper making done beforehand and have the frugal living on auto-pilot !

I made quiche, baked potatoes, fajitas, tortillas, bread, chocolate brownies, apple pie and crumble ! We also picked more apples, stewed them and out them in the freezer. We are still picking courgettes, swiss chard and raspberries. There are also a few peas in the offing from the second crop we planted in July.
The lettuce seeds have germinated too, so I hope we can protect them !

I booked a cheap return ticket on the train for MrShoestring to visit his family in Scotland at the end of the year. It almost looked like flying would be cheaper but then we found Advance tickets for £20 and £26 on 21st December, so that was great ! However, the first train leaves at 0550, which will mean an early start that day ! I also got some Nectar points with the ticket, so that was a nice bonus.

I took advantage of some trustee travel to see an old friend before the meeting and that was a lovely chance to have a catch-up. I also applied for some free seeds from Nestle and a free poster from the Open University. I'm always on the look-out for little free items which will make nice stocking stuffers.

It is so close to the end of the month that I don't want to have to go shopping until I do the big monthly grocery shop hence cutting the dishwasher tablets in half this week to make them last until the weekend. Some of the dishes were not as clean as usual but it was only a few and these are the cheapest possible tablets, so I think that was a win !

I also put unwanted revision books up for sale, line dried washing and took food and drink for a picnic at college. Lots of people have decided to copy me as they are tired of spending most of their lunch break queuing !

On a funny note, yesterday I was called by the Nielsen shopping panel as they were suspicious that I wasn't scanning everything as the amount of shopping was so low. We eventually agreed that I would scan everything with a bar code that comes through the door, even if it is from a jumble sale. I don't think the data will increase by much !

I hope you had a great week !

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Pantry Stocktake !

I am starting to think about the menu plan for October so I can go shopping at the end of the week. The first thing I always do is have a look through all the cupboards, fridge and freezer to check what we have already !

The freezer is so full of fruit and vegetables that I will have to give it a good sort out and store all the same type together for easy access. It is also a bit confusing that I'm re-using the packaging for some things, so had to pull out a lot of packages to look at the label in order to decide was it Apple or margarine for instance, Blackberries or ice cream ?

The next thing was to check the pantry shelves, still lots of crisp breads and dried dates but also a packet of semolina which has been knocking around for ages with the thought that I will do something with it. No-one likes semolina pudding and I think I may have bought it to make the roast potatoes crispy ! However, I keep forgetting to use it and think this will have to be the month where it gets used or composted !

I also have masses of jam and marrow chutney but not really anything left to base a meal around apart from half a bag of chickpeas and a few lentils and dried peas. I'm often out working over supper time so need to leave a meal ready to serve so that often limits what you can plan. The other thing I was thinking of was that now the seasons are chugging it is also a good idea to have a few stores in so that you can still eat even if you can't get to the shops for a few days because of bad weather or illness. I've still got quite a few tins of chopped tomatoes but only 6 tins of baked beans, so I'll also aim to build up the stocks a bit.

The other thing to think about is whether you want to start adding a few special items for the end of year holidays. I've already got a few bottle of grape juice stashed and some elderflower cordial in the cupboard but will be keeping an eye out for baking supplies and a turkey !

How are your stores ?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What to do with Some of those Apples !

If you fancy a change from apple pie and crumble then this apple cake is delicious and very good with cream or ice cream for a special dessert.

8oz self -raising flour
4oz sugar
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp cinnamon
12oz apples
4oz margarine
1 large egg
splash of milk

Mix the spice into the flour and sugar and then rub in the margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Chop the apple in to small pieces and mix that in too. Add the egg and a splash of milk and mix together, if the dough is too stiff add a spot more milk. Turn into a greased, lined 9in tin and bake for 30 minutes at 190C. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out and enjoying !

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Things I'm Grateful for This Month !

Yesterday morning when MasterShoestring went to put on his school shoes he discovered that he had brought the wrong ones home on Friday after PE ! The ones he had were around 3 sizes too small ! In the rush to get out the door I realised that I should be grateful for :-

1) MasterShoestring's trainers being completely black so that in a pinch they will pass for school shoes !

2)  the emergency fund being intact so we can afford a new pair if he can't find the shoes at school.

3)  good health, with the backache and boil on my foot from earlier in the month almost gone so it will be no problem to go to town to get a new pair if we have to !

4) MissShoestring bringing leftovers home from work so we can eat them for supper one night if we have to go to town to buy new shoes !

5) MasterShoestring wanting a second-hand bike for Christmas so he might also be open to a cheaper pair of replacement shoes too !

6) MrShoestring getting 2 more weeks work so we don't have to dip into the emergency fund !

7) free parking spots which allow you to park for free whilst you run into the shoe shop to get shoes !

8) the autumn weather is mild and dry so we son't get soaked going for new shoes.

9) teenagers, who are always doing something so that life is not boring !

10) the hope that the shoes might be found !

Fingers crossed that I can report later in the week what happened !

Monday, 25 September 2017

Update on September Resolutions 3

This is the final week of September and it is good to look back on the progress on the September resolutions I posted at the start of the month.

1. I will menu plan for the cheapest meals possible. This has gone so well. I never thought that I would be able to spend less than £170 for all of us but I have got £50 left, even though I paid for MasterShoestring's school dinners, so I think I shall try to do something similar next month.

2. I will use up the produce in the garden. We still have lovely raspberries and have picked several washing baskets full of apples. We have eaten the final cucumber from the greenhouse and picked several small courgettes. I've planted some more lettuce seeds and done this in pots so I can protect them from slugs !

3. I will use up the craft stash for Christmas gifts. Craft stash has been examined and some of it was used to make a present for my aunty !

4. I will plan ahead to give gifts early to save on Christmas postage costs. No posting done but we did book train tickets for December to take advantage of the cheapest possible price for MrShoestring to visit family in Scotland.

5. I will take my own food and drink to college. Still doing this, not only at college but for days out as well !

6. I will top up MasterShoestring's lunch account before he runs out of money! Managed this all month and kept the Food account in the black.

7. I will sell some of our surplus garage stuff. The bike is still sitting there so I really need to do something with it this week.

8. I will sell some more surplus books. I put 5 books up for sale on Amazon and sent £10.50 worth of books off to Ziffit.

9. I will find the best home for our savings. I decided that for the moment the money will just stay where it is whilst we wait to see what will happen to interest rates and have some money available to invest, if something interesting comes along

10. I will find a cheap way to add to garden fertility for next year . We bought some cheap compost and will either plant a green manure in the gaps or source some free manure.

I think having these resolutions for the month has been helpful and I'm thinking that next month I might try a Stoptober and see if I can get all the spending a bit lower as prices are definitely rising !

Sunday, 24 September 2017

A Busy Weekend

I had a special request for a few more pictures of Moor Park, so here they are !

This is coming down the driveway and you can see how the grounds have been developed into a golf course !

The inside is now the golf club clubhouse and is often used for weddings ! I think it is a bit overwhelming !

Today I'm off to Gloucestershire again, I seem to have been there quite a bit over the past few months ! I'm looking forward to climbing this hill with an old friend !

I'm also going to interview a prospective trustee for the charity I work for ! Fingers crossed for good weather again so we can have a picnic lunch!

It is great to get out and about before the chilly, dark, rainy days set in !

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Weekend Day Out !

We have a chance to look around this magnificent mansion today ! It's at Moor Park and has parkland designed by Capability Brown to go with it !

As usual, to make a frugal trip, we have filled the car with the cheapest petrol, using the weekly updates from petrol We have also sourced free parking and will bring our own drinks and snacks !

The only thing to hope for now is good weather !

Friday, 22 September 2017

Frugal Friday

A quiet frugal week before it starts to get busy next week when both my courses go back full time ! This week I did manage to feel a book on Amazon and used the proceeds to buy one I need for the course so that was a frugal win !

We have both been very busy in the garden with courgettes and raspberries still to pick, so some for eating and some for freezing ! We also started to pick the last of the apple trees and that has meant cooking down some apple every day and putting it in the freezer for later.

We also planted some more lettuce seeds and some flower seeds for the Spring. We got the compost for the pots on special offer as it was 50 litres for £4.99 and 3 bags for £12, making that £4 a bag but we also had a £3 off voucher so that brought it down to £3 a bag  ! This was a saving of close to 40% on the original price so I'm glad we got 3 bags !

We have been eating well with all those eggs for breakfast and making tortillas, bread, brownies, lemon drizzle cake, felafel, pita bread and soup from scratch ! It was also nice to have a couple of treats, a trip to the cinema for free and an ebook about thrifty living for free. The book was a real bargain !

The final bargain of the week was a sack of potatoes from the local farmer costing £7 for 56 lbs. This gave a cost of 12.5p a pound or 27.5p a kilogram which is a lot cheaper than the cheapest I could find in the shops. The cheapest in the shops were over 50p a kilo at Asda and the potatoes are quite dry and mud-free so I didn't pay for lots of soil which would just be washed away. I foresee lots of baked potatoes in our future !

I hope that you had a great week too !

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Temporary Tightwad

I am just in the middle of reading this inspiring book from the USA. Carrie has a website where she talks about a lot of different things, whereas this book just concentrates on her fight to save hard and get out of debt on three major occasions.

I love real-life stories and this one tells exactly what she did each time and then goes into details about how you can save big and small.

Our extra income is starting to look a little less secure, so this is a good reminder of all the hardcore ways to save I might need in the next few months.

The book is only available over here as a Kindle download but it is under £5 and I used a gift card from Swagbucks so it is free inspiration, the best sort !

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Tasty Breakfast

Buying all those yellow-stickered eggs last week means that we have been able to branch out a bit with breakfasts. I have a great recipe for vegan waffles but using eggs adds a whole new richness.

250g self-raising flour
2 tbsps sugar
450ml milk
2 eggs
2tbsps oil

Mix altogether and leave to stand for a few minutes to let bubbles develop. Then pour mixture into ready heated, ready greased waffle iron and cook until done.

This recipe freezes too so you can always make a batch earlier and then just reheat at breakfast time !

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Calculating Gas and Electricity Costs

I have been doing this type of calculation today as the meter readings for our new supplier were due and I wanted to check that we are not using too much ! MissShoestring is at home and we have had the central heating and hot water on already, which is a bit earlier than usual but MissShoestring does like a night time shower or two and by then the solar hot water is all used up !

My calculations had to include the standing charge, which is different for the gas and electric and convert the meter reading for the gas from cubic metres to kilowatt hours. This is quite complex but fortunately there are online websites where you can  just plug the numbers in and out pops the result.

I was pleased to find that over the past 76 days we have spent just over £1 a day on electricity and quite a bit less than that on gas. This means that we are still in credit with the supply company but I'm going to continue to be judicious with switching on the gas as I would like to build up a bit larger credit as we move into the winter months. One of the drawbacks of mainly working from home is that you do need to heat some space in the house and that cost is born by you, not an employer ! Fingers crossed for a nice, mild winter apart from a sprinkling of snow at the end of December to help things feel seasonal !

Monday, 18 September 2017

Update on September Resolutions 2

This is the third week in September and I continue to make progress on the September resolutions I posted at the start of the month.

1. I will menu plan for the cheapest meals possible. This is still going really well with over £80 left in the budget from an overall start of £170. I will have to top up the lunch account today, but that should last all week. MissShoestring had some leftovers from when we were away that she has gifted us, including couple of salmon steaks, so that was very nice of her.

2. I will use up the produce in the garden. The pumpkins have been put away and we have harvested the last few courgettes I think. There are still some leeks and one or two more cucumbers and marrows to come. The raspberries keep on coming and I froze 5 pounds of blackberries last week. We have been picking up windfall apples after those storms last week and still have one more tree of russets to deal with.

3. I will use up the craft stash for Christmas gifts. Still no progress on this one, whenever I have the urge to continue to work on the hat I started something else came up, so maybe this week !

4. I will plan ahead to give gifts early to save on Christmas postage costs. Same with this one, no progress, but I did use free stamps for a birthday present !

5. I will take my own food and drink to college. So busy at college this week that I got knocked over in the foyer. I was very glad that the lunch was protected in a rigid plastic box and a stainless steel, unbreakable flask. If it had been the usual glass-lined ones, it would definitely have broken.

6. I will top up MasterShoestring's lunch account before he runs out of money! Yes, I have remembered to do this, so he gets a discount in the cafeteria.

7. I will sell some of our surplus garage stuff. I did not end up selling all the surplus stuff but gave it away to a younger girl we know and the charity shops. It is nice to think of the next generation of children having outdoor fun on roller blades and a unicycle. I still have a boy's bike to get rid of, so that might go on Gumtree.

8. I will sell some more surplus books. I sold one book for a good price and was able to use the money to buy a book for my course.

9. I will find the best home for our savings. Still working on this as it looks like a bit of work that MrShoestring has been doing might come to an end and then we might need to have access to the savings, so will wait and see what is best to do.

10. I will find a cheap way to add to garden fertility for next year . Looked at buying cover crops and manure and decided that we might be best to put in some more seeds that we still have and cover them with a plastic cover to provide some more vegetables over the winter. We had success with lettuce in the past, so might start with that.

How are you doing this month?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A treat or not ?

We had film vouchers for Cineworld from all the shopping scanning I have been doing for Nielsen. They needed using up before the end of the month and since we are busy the next two weekends we went to see 'Dunkirk' yesterday after I had finished work.

I was really looking forward to it, especially as the film had great reviews and we have been wanting to go all Summer. MasterShoestring was spending the day with a friend, so now was our chance.

The first hurdle was getting the vouchers accepted. We both forgot to bring our reading glasses and so could not read the tiny codes printed on the vouchers to use the automatic ticket machines. We ended up asking for help from the ticket checking girl and she directed us to the popcorn concession, who were able to purchase a couple of tickets for us !

Then into the tiny cinema and trying to find our seats in the dark. Fortunately, I had been able to see the plan outside the room, so had a rough idea where to head ! Then we had to survive the very noisy adverts !

But the worst thing was the very noisy, relentlessly war focussed film ! The only women in it are seen in brief scenes manning teapots and boats, no speaking. Mind you there is almost no speaking from anyone, just lots of bombing and machine gun fire. The sound track was so loud that I had to go for a walk in the woods when we got home.

Lots of people have told me how good this film is and usually I like Christopher Nolan's work but this one was too much for me. I guess my introverted nature suffered from the relentless two and a half hour assault on the senses which made me feel that I had been in the war. 

The cinematography is wonderful, you feel like you are flying with the planes, the actors really give the impression that they have been torpedoed and left on beaches for 4 days. However, my imagination is quite vivid enough to imagine all that, without needing to see and hear it. Watching the film made me wonder if I am just unusually sensitive or whether other people really enjoy this kind of thing. I remember being 11 at grammar school and being taken out of the school Christmas movie which was being shown as a treat because I found it too upsetting. Also when I was 5 and watching my first film, 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' again I had to leave because it was too scary. So it probably is that I'm a bit over-sensitive !

However, MrShoestring did not enjoy it either and we have resolved that anymore cinema outings will be very carefully researched. The blessing in this case was that the tickets were free instead of £10.20 each !

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Trip Out

A work appointment this morning at St Albans, so I'm hoping to combine it with a nice little trip out. First stop - the Cathedral.

Followed by a trip round the town, there's a great market !

Then off to admire a few more historic buildings.

A walk around the beautiful park and a picnic for lunch if the weather co-operates !

Then on to admire the Roman remains. 

I hope you have a great weekend planned too !

Friday, 15 September 2017

Frugal Friday

 So a busy and frugal week ! Lots of activity around storing what is still good in the garden and getting out to forage blackberries in the fields. 

I picked up windfall apples and used some in crumbles and pies and froze the rest for later. I picked blackberries and raspberries and froze these and used some marrows to make some more marrow chutney. Fortunately, everyone thinks it is delicious but I'm nearly out of jam jars !

I also made tortillas, bread, scones, pita bread, felafels, soup, chocolate brownies and quiche. I batched errands to save petrol and got free shipping on some eye drops. I used a discount code to get our holiday snaps printed for half price which was cheaper than printing them at home.

I saved money on outdoor window cleaning by doing it myself one afternoon and also fixed the central heating boiler by resetting the wireless controller, that saved a call to HomeServe or the independent boiler company, so at least £60 saved and it was quicker !

I soaked and boiled 1kg of chickpeas to put into the freezer in handy portions for making hummus and other tasty things, rather than buying tins. I was also really fortunate this week to go to Tesco one night when they had reduced their 15 in a box free range eggs from over £2 to 53p. I bought 3 boxes as they were all still innate but had 1 egg cracked in each box. I made pancakes with the cracked eggs and have the rest in the fridge or the larder, a great deal !

This weekend I'm looking forward to putting a few things on Gumtree from the garage clear out. I hope you ha e a had a great week too !