Sunday, 30 April 2017

The First Lettuce

The lettuce has been growing very well under the covers and yesterday we realised that it needed thinning out to give all the plants some room to grow. We treated ourselves to a delicious salad to go with out homemade tortillas, salsa and re-fried beans.

This is the earliest we have ever had lettuce from the garden and so far no slug damage ! I think that planting early, these seeds were started in January and keeping them under cover has really helped with the early harvest. We have started some more seeds to ensure a succession of lettuce throughout the Summer and we hope further into the season !

I have been like a mother hen with her chicks over that lettuce and went out every day to check on it. But it does go to show that giving a bit of extra care is repaid in a good crop. Previously, I would never have had the time to make such a fuss but I am hopeful that our New Year's resolution to make the garden more productive is coming true.

Yesterday, MrShoestring also cut back an enormous amount of foliage around a very, old apple tree we have. In years past, it has never given a good crop, so the few, small apples it did have we always donated to the local wildlife, as we had other trees which produced well. However, this year it is absolutely covered in blossom so we are hopeful that we a bit more light and air around it it might produce a bit of a crop for us this year !

How is your garden doing ?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Trip Out

I had to go to Gloucester yesterday to do some work connected with a trustee role I hold. It was very damp when I set off but started clear up as I reached the Cotswolds. To be very thrifty, I took a flask of tea, a stainless steel bottle of water and a packed lunch. The scenery I drove through was all free, including the lovely village of Burford.

The weather was very different on the West side of the country and it was a really pretty drive. All I spent was the petrol money and I spent the whole day helping (I hope !). A well-spent day and I hope to have more of them in the future. When I got back MrShoestring had done all the housework, which was a great help as I was back quite late ! It was lovely not to have to worry about supper or cleaning !

I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday wherever you are !

Friday, 28 April 2017

Frugal Friday

So, this was a lovely frugal week, with a couple of outings and plenty of home-cooked food ! It started out with a great haul from the jumble sale, some for me and some for the gift cupboard. We had a great time in and around Hampton Court Palace and went to see a thought-provoking film. Two outings in one week is a record for us !

I made a menu plan for May, trying to get the bill slightly lower than the budgeted £170 a month so that I have some extra for stocking up on good deals. This week I spotted 500g of mince beef reduced to £1.18, since the cheapest price elsewhere is £1.59 I stocked up but it meant that we had to eat from the store cupboard this past week. I also made from scratch tortillas, meatloaf, chocolate cake. pizza, pizza sauce, spaghetti bolognaise, salsa, pancakes, muffins and biscuits.

MrShoestring got a home haircut this week which saved us £10 and I re-used some foil and plastic bags. I used free stamps on several parcels and bought a book for a new baby using a gift token. We protected the seeds in the garden using fleece we already had and I got some more free seeds from a 'Kitchen Garden' magazine for which we have a free subscription through Tesco points. That is really a saving because of all the free seeds which come with each edition.

Another little tip is that the lovely blogger over at Simple Living 31 has reduced her ebook of thrifty tips to half price this weekend. You would probably save the cost of the book several times over by applying the tips !

I'm looking forward to slightly warmer weather this weekend to go and look at the bluebells in all their glory ! I hope that you have had a lovely, frugal week !

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Protecting the vegetable garden

A few years ago I bought several packets of agricultural fleece for £1 a packet in the pound shop. It has been languishing in a bag at the back of MrShoestring's workshop, unused and unopened. Every time he has a tidy up he asks what it is and I reply that it will come in handy one day.

Well, one day has arrived ! On Monday night we laid it over the vegetable beds and the strawberries to protect them from the predicted frost. It worked a treat, no seedlings or strawberry flowers were harmed. The fleece gets a bit damp, so I laid it over the washing line to dry and that night we laid it out again to protect the plants against the cold. By yesterday we thought that we should just leave it in place in case the promised hail and sleet turned up. Well, the day dawned clear and sunny but by mid-morning it was hailing ! I was so glad that we had left it in place as MrShoestring was away at work and the stuff is so light it is really difficult to put down on your own.

I am hoping for better weather towards the weekend but in the meantime am thinking that £3 spent long ago has saved all our seedlings and the strawberries for which I am very glad ! So, if you do see some cheap agricultural fleece, get some for the garden, you never know when it might come in handy !

Now, I just need a good way to protect the apple blossom !

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Night Out !

We haven't been to the cinema for ages and then in the same month we were lucky enough to get free tickets for two screenings ! We enjoyed the first very much so were looking forward to the next one !

We went last night to see "The Promise". The story concerns what happens to 3 people who are caught up in the chaos of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the consequences for Armenia and those who identify as Armenian. This is not a part of history that I know very well at all and so I was intrigued to know more about it. I know that the film has not been well received in Turkey and that also made me interested to see what the fuss was about.

It is a film which only adults should see as it deals, in some detail, with the consequences of war and displacement. It shows that there are echoes of the past in world events that we see around us today and this is a film that anyone who does not know much about what happened to Armenians in 1915 should probably go and see. Towards the end I found my self wondering whether it was all true, but right at the end of the film they show photographs and give historical facts which can be checked.

This was not a 'good' or amusing night out, but the film is well made and if the job of mass entertainment is to sometimes make us think rather than laugh than this film did that and more. MrShoestring and I agreed that it is very well-made and is a film that you 'should' go and see. It is not as graphic as 'Schindler's List' which I cannot go and see, but it is certainly shocking, gripping and very, very sad. So, not one for a birthday night out, but as one to talk about, it is a winner !

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Jumble Sale Haul 2

I was very fortunate at the jumble sale on Saturday to find 4CDs still in their original plastic shrink-wrap, meaning that they must be brand new. These are very easy to post and make nice presents so I always like to have a few in the gift cupboard. I got Verdi's Requiem, some Gregorian chants, a Brahms and Hadyn mixed programme from the Czech Philharmonic and Rachmaninov's Vespers. Those were all the new ones and have been put away for presents.

I also got a boxed set of 4CDs of Ella Fitzgerald as I love her voice. Then a 3 CD set of Nature symphonies with lots of different classical music from Beethoven to Sibelius. A 3CD set of Billie Holiday, as I think she has a great voice too and finally a Baroque collection from Classic FM and a CD of Acker Bilk.

I had been going to put some of these back, but the guy on the stall said that I could have the lot for £5 which meant I was paying just over 31p a CD so then I decided that was too good a bargain to miss ! I have already listened to the Acker Bilk and the Baroque collection so am looking forward to further musical treats over the coming weeks !

There are no more jumble sales advertised for a while now so I am glad that I am all stocked up with new music and books !

Have you had any luck with bargains lately ?

Monday, 24 April 2017

Jumble Sale Haul 1

There do seem to be fewer jumble sales about around here so I have been waiting for the latest one to happen and made sure that I got there before the end. It was a Scout jumble sale and in a very well-heeled village so I thought there might be a few bargains to be had ! They did charge £1 entrance rather than the more usual 50p, but as it was for the Scouts I didn't mind.

I had a look for a pair of school trousers, as that is the last thing on my list and although I did find a pair in the right waist size they were clearly too short as he has shot up so much. I didn't look at the rest of the clothes as we are trying to keep to the clothes buying moratorium for the rest of us !

I was more successful at the book stall, where as I was looking they declared that it was £1 for 4 books. I managed to find 3 that I really wanted and then added in a fiction book to make it up to the four.

This was the first item I found. Maps are expensive and we do a lot of walking. Often, I just download a map off the internet but with this up-to-date ordnance survey map we can find some new areas to explore.

I weeded my cookbooks earlier on in the year, trying to get rid of ones which I did not use regularly, one of the ones I kept was the original Cranks recipe book as it has a recipe for untested bread which I often use. When I saw this one I thought that it might have some new recipes for us to try and I'm looking forward to trying some out.

This was the fiction book that I added in to make the total up to four. I read some of the Nora Roberts I bought at the last jumble sale and gave others away as they were just too silly ! I'm hoping that this will be one of the better ones !

Finally, a really useful book. You don't need to have an allotment to make use of this one as it has plenty of advice on fruit and vegetable growing which everyone can make use of. MrShoestring is out there today weeding the blackcurrants as this is one of the jobs for April. It also reminded us about using some organic fertiliser on them !

All in all, a good little haul for only £1 !

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Lovely Outing

MasterShoestring is away on a Geography trip this weekend and MissShoestring had gone off to a visit a friend, so yesterday afternoon we realised that we did not have to get back to make supper for anyone. This meant that we could go on a little outing that MrShoestring has been wanting to make to Hampton Court Palace.

The palace is about an hour's drive away from us and is one of the few places in and around London that neither of us have ever been to. We had looked up entrance costs beforehand and had decided that even with the online discount the full ticket price was too much for us. So, we decided that we would park in a car park close by and pay for parking, but then make the most of all the free places we could go in and around the palace.

The car park was about 500m away from the palace with a lovely walk through open parkland to get there. This is part of Bushey Park, which is absolutely huge and has deer roaming free. We were fortunate enough to see some deer on our way back. One of the good things about visiting later in the afternoon was that everywhere was much less crowded than earlier in the day and we were able to go right up to the deer. Bushey Park is well worth a visit in its own right and if you don't mind a mile or so walk to the palace you can park there for free.

The first thing we did when we got to the palace was go a little way past it and down the Barge Walk. This is an extensive footway beside the River Thames and we watched one of the paddle steamers, which offers cruises up and down the river, come in to its dock. A little further down the walk is a gate on the left hand side which lets you onto the main palace forecourt. This is a public area and we got a really good view of the front of the palace and admired the intricate Tudor chimneys on top.

Across the courtyard are gardens where you are welcome to wander. The Rose Garden already had a few roses in bloom and the kitchen garden was very productive with bed after bed of asparagus. Then we went in the Wilderness where the daffodils were finished but it was still very pretty to wander around and lots of families had brought picnic chairs and blankets and were enjoying the sunshine.

We walked all the way down to the Formal Gardens where a big sign tells you that these are open for free between 9-10am. Our enthusiasm undampened we left the main palace precincts and walked down the Barge Walk once more, until we could see the formal gardens and the magnificent William and Mary rear of the palace.

It was so warm we had to take our coats off and it was great fun to watch the boats and the river and look at all the lovely details on the palace gates. The palace grounds extend beyond this and are free to go on so you can really make a day of it if you want. We were hungry by then and turned for home !

All in all, a lovely trip and I'm glad that we didn't spend £40 on entrance tickets !

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Selling on Gumtree

First, a note that the bluebells have started to bloom in our part of the world so do get out and see them this weekend if you can ! Now, on to the main topic for this post !

MasterShoestring is building a computer for his Duke of Edinburgh skill and although he has acquired a few components through Freecycle he also needs some money to buy things. So we suggested that he try selling a few things on Gumtree.

Advertising items on Gumtree is free, unless you pay for some premium features and you can upload your own photographs and description. All you have to do is open a free account with contact information. We put up advertisements for 3 items: a table tennis table; a snooker table and a football table. There was lots of interest in the first two items and none in the last. We arranged to meet a buyer for the snooker table and in the end he took all the items as he was starting a children's drop-in after-school centre. We took a bit less than advertised as he was willing to take all the items and it was going to a good cause.

MasterShoestring was happy because he made a bit more money towards his goal; we were happy as the garage has considerably more space in it now and the buyer was happy as he got a bargain and enough items to think about opening his centre earlier than planned !

I think that Gumtree can be an excellent service as long as you are prepared for a bit of haggling on price !

Friday, 21 April 2017

Frugal Friday

So, the biggest saving this week was arranging a new phone and broadband deal with Plusnet. We have been with BT, after they offered a very good deal to switch last year, but I noticed this month that prices have gone up and so arranged to change. BT wanted £85.20 in fees to make the change, so I changed the date of the switch to avoid all the fees and now we will switch at the beginning of June rather than May. I do think that service providers should think about offering incentives for people to stay with them rather than making switching the most lucrative thing to do ! Overall though, we shall save £22 a month compared to BT's new prices, so definitely worth it.

We also fixed the car and washed it ourselves, saving at least £100 on garage costs and £10 on a car wash ! 

MasterShoestring borrowed walking boots for a school trip, as he is growing so fast it would not have been worth buying a pair just for a single trip. He is going on an expedition in July and will likely need another size up by then.

 I ordered cheap, electric toothbrush heads, £3.25 for 8 rather than over £17. They have just arrived and appear identical to the much, more expensive ones. I did not need to buy more plastic pockets for schoolwork as I discovered a folder full of them sitting on the bookshelf. I also got some half price shampoo at the supermarket.

We made yoghurt, chicken stock, pizzas, tortillas, soup and rolls. We also bought reduced price vegetables and milk. The vegetables were a special price for the Easter Bank Holiday and the milk was reduced to 22p for a litre, also because the shop would not be open over the Bank Holiday.

I finished a cotton top for the Summer using wool from a jumble sale and started a lovely, round hat which will be used for a Christmas present. I also got a free local paper and magazine and scored 2 free cinema tickets for "The Promise", so we are looking forward to another night out next week.

MrShoestring sold the aluminium frame from an old greenhouse which was too bent to re-use and got over £35 from the scrap merchant. We had just been going to take the frame to the dump, when I had the idea to telephone the scrap merchants and see what they would offer. He is going to split the money half and half with MasterShoestring who loaded it all into the car !

The lovely weather helped us mostly keep the hot water heater switched to OFF. So that was another saving !

I hope that you had a good, thrifty week !

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Knitting Project

Just before I talk about today's topic, I would like to address a bit of unpleasantness in a comment yesterday. We just have a few people who read regularly here and I am glad to have those people along on our frugal journey. I'm always really happy to hear from people who have tips, hints and encouragement to share and hope that I can do the same. I do not share here to boast or to feel smug and I am sorry if any of my posts have made anybody feel like that. I shall delete comments which call me names but am happy to help anybody who is feeling bad or who thinks that they cannot manage what we do, as of course there are other ways of doing things. A big thank you to all the people who read and comment here and I look forward to many more polite interchanges with you.

Now, onto the knitting !

I finally, finished a cotton top for the Summer. the pattern is very old, from the 1980s and I used a cotton crepe yarn which I had from a jumble sale. It was very unusual to find enough balls to make an adult garment. There is still enough left in another colour to make another one. However, my big project this year is to learn to knit socks so I thought the next project should be on double pointed needles.

I found a good hat pattern in "Knitty Gritty: the next steps" but the only circular needle I had was too long and when I started, the knitting was becoming badly stretched. I changed to 4 double pointed needles, which I already had in stock, rather than ordering a smaller circular needle, as I did not want a practice project to cost anything. It worked ! I was so excited !

Now, I'm getting close to finishing it, it only took a few days and I can't wait to knit a stripy one too ! I think hats will be a very good way to use up lots of the stash !

Are you knitting anything just now ?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tour around the Garden

Lots of things are coming up in the garden and I'm hopeful that it will produce more for us this year.

Firstly, the rhubarb is romping away. I don't normally pick any until the stems are a bit pinker, but it looks as if it will be a bumper crop.

The apple blossom is just starting to bloom and I've got my fingers crossed that we don't get any frost to ruin it !

The pear blossom is even further along than the apple and as it was a poor crop last year I hope that we will do a bit better this Autumn. We also have blueberries in bloom and the blackcurrants, raspberries and gooseberries are also looking very healthy. The strawberries already have a few flowers on them. which makes me a bit nervous as I know we could still get a frost. MrShoestring and I have been looking out the garden fleece just in case !

The lettuce seedlings which we have had under a cold frame are doing very well and so far no slugs !

The tomatoes, which we started in January are also doing well in the polytunnel, so I have high hope of a good crop this year !

Seeds are sprouting in all the beds which we planted up last week, so we are feeling that the garden is well in hand. Here's hoping that it continues !

How is your garden doing ?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Fixing the Car

Over the Easter weekend we were very glad that we had planned to stay home as the car broke down ! We have not been driving it a lot and especially with the school holidays we had not taken it out in over a week. I was washing the car when I noticed that the driver's side front tyre was rather flat. This happens a lot, as the flint on the unmade drive often gives one or the other tyre a slow puncture. So, we got out the pump and tried to re-inflate the tyre, but this time it did not work ! MrShoestring did lots of research on the internet and then speculated that maybe the weight of the car had separated the seal between the tyre and wheel rim. He thought that if he took the weight off the tyre it might inflate. It worked ! He jacked up the car, reattached the pump, the tyre inflated and has been fine since ! That saved us the cost of a tyre !

However, the car still would not start and lots of electrical warning lights came on every time we tried. Again, MrShoestring did lots of research on the internet. The last time this happened we had to pay to have the car towed to the garage and then they broke something on the brakes and we ended up with a bill for over £700 to fix the damage. We were very keen to avoid the towing scenario in case the same thing happened again ! In the end, we both agreed that getting a new, cheap battery might be worth trying, as the car still had the original battery in, which was over 8 years old. So MrShoestring took the old battery out, using instructions from the internet, bought a new battery and fitted it and it worked ! The car started first time and we took it out for an hour's drive, just to check that everything was working properly. All the warning lights disappeared and the car is working fine. We have learned not to leave an older car standing idle quite so long in future. We also really glad that the repair cost £89 for the new battery and lots of MrShoestring's time, which he had as it was the Bank Holiday. A lot better than the last time the car needed repaired !

We were really glad that we knew a bit about car repair and had some basic tools on hand as it has saved us a lot of money and inconvenience !

Monday, 17 April 2017

Beauty All Around

One of the frugal pleasures of the Easter weekend is being able to go for long walks around here. We have always lived places where you can get out and about without having to use the car and for that we are very thankful. It has been great fun to notice that we are moving into the next phase of Spring with a whole lot of new flowers to admire.

I love the intense purple of these tiny violets which are everywhere now, even in the pavement cracks.

We have banks of these aconites which open wide in the sun.

I think that the cherry blossom this year is truly magnificent. Last year the trees got some sort of virus because it was so damp, this year the sunny weather earlier on in the month has really brought them on.

Wood anemones are some of my favourite flowers, we have some in blue as well as white and enjoyed seeing swathes of them in the woods.

Finally, we were really excited to see that the bluebells are starting to come out. They will be at their best over the next few weeks but it was delightful to see that hint of blue and a hint of the bluebell perfume as we wandered in the woods this weekend.

I hope that you get a chance to revel in the wonders of creation this week too ! 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday !

Easter Eggs
Easter eggs! Easter eggs!
Give to him that begs!
For Christ the Lord is arisen.
To the poor, open door,
something give from your store!
For Christ the Lord is arisen.

Those who hoard can't afford—
moth and rust their reward!
For Christ the Lord is arisen.
Those who love freely give—
long and well may they live!
For Christ the Lord is arisen.
Eastertide, like a bride,
comes, and won't be denied
For Christ the Lord is arisen. 

This is one of our favourite carols to sing at this time of year and we wish you all the joy of the season !

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A week's menu plan

Thrifty Lesley has published a very nice menu plan for the coming week based around a special roast for Easter Sunday. I have a menu plan too which I think is a bit cheaper than hers so I thought that I might share it. I do find that having a menu plan is particularly helpful during holiday weeks when you might have guests and days out. Having a plan means that you always have something to serve the hungry guests or family rather than being tempted by a takeaway or a ready meal.

Easter Sunday- Breakfast  Homemade Bunny Rolls, Jam, Sunflower Margarine and Coffee ( Chocolate on the side !)
Easter Sunday- Lunch  Roast Chicken with all the trimmings, Chocolate Cake decorated with Mini Eggs for Dessert
Easter Sunday -Supper  Sandwiches and leftover cake

Easter Monday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
Easter Monday - Lunch Chicken Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
Easter Monday - Supper Chicken Curry and Chapattis

Tuesday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
 - Lunch Toasted Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
 - Supper Homemade Pizza and Salad

Wednesday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
 - Lunch Toasted Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
 - Supper Homemade Spaghetti Bolognaise

Thursday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
 - Lunch Toasted Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
 - Supper Homemade Soup and Rolls, Cake

Friday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
 - Lunch Toasted Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
 - Supper Homemade Quiche, Vegetables and Fruit

Saturday - Breakfast Homemade Granola and Yoghurt
 - Lunch Toasted Sandwiches, Muffins and Fruit
 - Supper Homemade Tortillas, Salsa, Salad and Ice Cream

The lunch menu item is based on sandwiches which make it easy to adapt for days out and lots of the supper dishes can be made ahead or in the slow cooker making them really adaptable for a holiday week too. Making everything yourself, like the yoghurt and granola for breakfast, also keeps costs down. 

Good luck with your menu planning !

Friday, 14 April 2017

Frugal 'Good' Friday

Last year I published my recipe for Hot Cross Buns on this blog and we'll be making them again today. If you need the recipe then you can get it by clicking for the posts from 2016 and then going to the list from March of that year. MasterShoestring is helping with the making and baking this year.

Apart from making our own buns we are also planning a very, frugal Easter celebration thanks to a very generous gift of chocolate from my sister. My sister lives in Australia and does not often see us, so she has sent the most ENORMOUS box full of Thorntons chocolate rabbits to help us celebrate. I am looking forward to hiding them all over the garden for the traditional hunt on Sunday, absolutely no need to provide any more chocolate !

This week has been all about staying home and working in the garden, we didn't go anyway apart from the airport to collect MasterShoestring, back again from the USA. He has been so tired that he has not felt like eating ! The silver lining has been savings on groceries and petrol. I've finished the spring cleaning and used homemade window cleaning spray when I ran out and rewashed and reused all our micro fibre cloths and rags everyday.

We also made muffins from pumpkin puree frozen at Halloween and a loaf cake from last year's blackcurrants, also frozen. I used up some leftover Christmas wine in a spaghetti bolognaise which was extended using 1/2 cup of red lentils. I also made homemade garlic bread from reduced pita breads to have with the leftovers one night.

I read a free magazine and 2 free papers, as well as downloading lots of free Kindle books. I've now got so many that I decided I better read some before borrowing anymore books from the library. I ordered 3 more books for my course for free using Swagbucks vouchers.

We also exercised for free using online videos and went to the cinema for free. The new Smartmeter showed us that the solar array is working even when it is cloudy and is enough during the day to cover all our background electricity consumption and have some leftover which goes to heat the hot water. It was great to see that the array is still helping with energy usage even when it is cloudy !

I'm looking forward to doing lots of Easter baking with all the ingredients we have already stockpiled. Lots of supermarkets including Asda, Morrisons and Lidl are offering special prices on selected vegetables over the Easter weekend, so I'm planning to take advantage and store some in the freezer, carrots are as low as 19p !

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Getting a Smartmeter

Today an electrician from Siemens is coming to fit a Smartmeter. We have had a little device which tells us our electricity consumption before, we got rid of it in the end, as it was cluttering up the kitchen and did not really save us any money as we are quite careful anyway. The attraction of this new device is that it covers the gas and the electricity and takes meter readings automatically ensuring that we are only charged for the energy we use.

The meter is free from our current supplier and I was very attracted by the idea of monitoring the gas use. Sometimes MissShoestring or someone else leaves the water heater on all night ! This is obviously very expensive and I think the meter will show us when these little mistakes are happening and we can avoid them.

I know some people are not keen on the idea of these meters because of the mobile phone signal they use, but with several young people in the house this is a none issue for us as they are using their mobile phones a great deal anyway !

I am also quite looking forward to having some sunny days over the Summer and seeing exactly how many kilowatts the solar array is generating. It is certainly working well just now as I have not needed to put on the hot water since the start of April !

If anyone has a Smartmeter I would love to know if they are as good as they sound ?

Also, just wanted to let you know that Kate Singh has another of her ebooks for free this week, it's the "Lazy and Cheap Housewife", great tips in there too !

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Film Review

MrShoestring and I went to see this film for free in exchange for an honest review ! It was much better than we thought it was going to be and ended up giving it 5 stars.

It was lovely to be able to go and see a film that both of us enjoyed, very often when we go out we make a bit of compromise but this was enjoyable, thoughtful and full of tiny details about life in the 1940s which we really enjoyed. MrShoestring's Dad was an actor who was just starting out in those times so we also enjoyed all the in jokes and recognising things that he had talked about doing.

That said there are also several scenes which brought home the reality of war and although it has a 12A classification I do not think that I would take anybody younger than 13 to watch it. There is also a bit of full on swearing and some extra-martital relations, so that is another reason not to take children.

We especially enjoyed all the 'inside' information about making films, for example drawing scenes on glass and then filming through it to add details to a landscape and I was fascinated by all the hand knits which everybody wore.

I think that we would have paid to go and watch this, it was that good, so if you do get the chance, go !

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Free e-book and more !

If you head over to Amazon or Kate Singh's site she has the ebook " Queen Housewife" on the special price of 0 all week !

Although the book has the word 'Housewife' in the title the book is actually helpful to anyone who is looking after themselves independently. It is full of ideas about how to find a home and what to do with it once you get it ! It would be especially helpful to someone setting out on their own for the first time. It also has lots of good budget tips.

I have been using lots of my own budget tips this week as I spring clean around our home. I ran out of window cleaning fluid which had been leftover when MissShoestring moved back. Rather than buying more I just made some to put in the handy leftover squeeze bottle. The recipe is easy and very cheap.

1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
3 drops good quality washing up liquid (I use Magnum from Aldi which has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval)

You can add a scented oil if you want a nice smell butI'm happy with this no fragrance version. Used on a micro fibre cloth it does a great job !

Monday, 10 April 2017

Free Lottery

So not only can you give to charity for free you can also win some money without buying a lottery ticket.

The free postcode lottery works by you entering your postcode and then checking back every day to see if you have  won a prize. The winnings are not enormous, but a useful amount of money, up to £1000 and you can also earn a bonus amount of money by looking at the page regularly.

If you are interested the link is :-

There are several draws on the site in addition to the main one and there are also links to a couple of other free lottery sites, one of which allows you to win a free dinner which might be rather nice !

Lots of people register their postcode and then get tired of looking at the site so around half of the prizes go unclaimed. If you do join, don't forget to keep checking !

I hope that someone gets lucky !

Sunday, 9 April 2017

A Pause in Lent

This is the final one in the series of A Pause in Lent as next week it is Easter Sunday ! I have used the series to highlight some little known charities which are making a big difference in improving people's lives. However, I know that not everyone has money to spare so I thought that I would devote this week's post to ways you can support without giving money directly.

The first site to have a look at it is:-

This amazing site counts the number of clicks people make and then donates accordingly. There are a huge number of causes you can support on this site from giving food to the hungry to saving the rainforest and supporting literacy programmes. You can only click on each cause once a day but collectively this allows a lot of good to be done and is one of the sites I visit every day.

The other thing I do to give without money is fill in surveys on Swagbucks and YouGov. When you reach a pay out amount of points you can select a charitable cause to give the money to instead of receiving a gift card. There are quite a number of schemes like this around but I find the two above the most reliable.

I wish you a wonderful Sunday and if you are in the UK, get out and about to make the most of the amazing weather !

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Making a Bread Chicken

Our Easter traditions always start the Sunday before, Palm Sunday. When the children were younger they would each make a cockerel out of bread dough and then stick it on top of a wooden cross which had been decorated with streamers and strings of sweets and raisins. Then on the afternoon of Palm Sunday we would beat the bounds, carrying our crosses and singing songs. This was to commemorate the multitude which came out of Jerusalem to greet Jesus on Palm Sunday. The wooden cross hidden with streamers and sweet treats, was to show how quickly the sweet words of the crowd would turn to the starkness of the Cross on Good Friday.

Now our children are either grown up or a teenager they still like to mark the tradition but in a quieter way. So I shall be making a bread cockerel today to have for tea tomorrow and we'll go on a walk around the bounds, but not with the little children !

If you would like to make your own bread cockerel then just make up your usual white bread dough recipe and shape it into a long U shape. Details can then be added using raisins, kitchen scissors or small bits of dough which you can stick on the main dough with an egg wash. I'll make a hollow for the egg to sit in so that I can add an decorated egg once the cockerel comes out of the oven.

Good luck with your Easter planning and baking !

Friday, 7 April 2017

Frugal Friday

So we have saved quite a lot on food this week with MasterShoestring away in the USA ! It really is true that teenagers have hollow legs, instead of baking bread everyday I made one loaf and it lasted all week.

I was very excited to get 2 free film tickets and MrShoestring and I are looking forward to our night out next week. I also got free magazines at the supermarket and MrShoestring planted free wildflower seeds.

I repurposed a rubber camping mat we had to make a mat for the porch and used frozen pumping puree which we made from the Halloween pumpkins to make a delicious pumpkin loaf. I also made salsa, yoghurt and muffins.

We got a great deal on doughnuts to feed MasterShoestring on the way to the airport, it was 10 for 65p plus buy one get one free, so ten doughnuts for the price of 5, 6.5p a doughnut. MasterShoestring was very happy !

I used Swagbucks to buy 2 books I needed for my course, so those were free. The reduced points deal on the Amazon vouchers at Swagbucks expires in April, so I'm trying to earn as many as I can before the deal expires.

I'm halfway through the Spring Cleaning in every room and so far have cleaned everything with micro fibre cloths and vinegar, so no spending on special cleaning products and lots of free exercise too.

I did all the shopping for the month at Aldi and am hoping that I can get back there for some top up shopping for Easter, as it really is a lot cheaper than other grocery providers.

I enjoyed all the gorgeous Spring weather, walking outside every day and line drying the washing.

I hope that you are enjoying some fine Spring weather as well !

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Re-using what you have

MrShoestring has been on holiday this week and has been working hard in the garden. I had a list of jobs and priorities but rather than tackling the greenhouse build and seed planting he has been renovating a huge front flower bed in order to turn it into a wildflower meadow. For the past 3 days he has done nothing but dig out the horrible flat leaved plants that were in there and their incredibly tough roots ! I really admired his persistence. Finally, last night he was ready to plant !

The project cost nothing but his time and sweat as we had been given free wildflower seeds as part of a local project. However, when he came to watering the seeds he had just planted he discovered that our old hosepipe at the front had sprung several leaks. No problem, he went and found an old piece of hosepipe in the garage and patched the old one until it was as good as new ! He did it using tyre cement from old bicycle repair kits we had. So nothing spent !

I can't wait to see if the wildflower project will work or if those horrid plants that were there before will come back ! Today MrShoestring drew up a planting plan and has drawn it into our new gardening diary. This was also re-purposed from a blank notebook we were given from free cycle. So no spend on the garden so far !

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Free Activity Vouchers

One of the things our local authority offers is a free activity voucher to each person in the county to allow them to try out something new. We have never taken advantage of them but in a bid to fill up MasterShoestring's Easter holiday with something other than work experience I've signed him up for one.

The scheme asks you where you live and then shows you a vast variety of different activities you could try from table tennis to tai chi. Master Shoestring has got a voucher for a Martial Arts class next Friday and the best thing is that he can take a friend along for free. So he's going to invite someone over for the afternoon and they'll go to the class before supper. If he likes it then there are options to carry on.

I thought that it was a marvellous free activity and well worth checking to see if your local authority offers something similar. I think I might try a Nordic Walking class !

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Claim your Refunds

We have been chasing a refund for an extra journey that was logged on MrShoestring's Oyster card for the past week. The good thing about the Oyster card website is that it does tell you when it thinks that you might be owed a refund and I spotted that MrShoestring had had to top up earlier than I had been expecting. So we went on to the website and claimed the refund.

However, when he used his card at our nearest station the card reader thought that he was going on an extra journey ! We finally got it sorted out and he claimed the refund of £6.10 the next time he travelled. Claiming the refund did take a bit of time and there was a bit of hassle involved but the refunded money will pay for the next journey and so the trouble was worth it.

Quite often I wonder if it is worth the hassle to return something or complain about a service as I get quite embarrassed about it. However, when I think about the fact that it is giving somebody the chance to do better, that we have worked hard for the money involved and that I don't need to be angry to rude to claim the money owed it gets much easier.

Make sure you claim any refunds due !

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Reckoning for March

So I have reckoned up the finances for March and was very pleased to have been able to save 45% of our income this month and that was not including the extra money I am making ! It was an easy month to save as we don't have to pay rates in March and April so that was over £200 saved straight away. The savings money all goes away into a separate account to pay for big bills later in the year such as car tax and maintenance and fees for the course I am on.

Three months into the year I thought that it would be a good idea to re-do the budget based on what we were actually spending now rather than last year's spending. It turned out that the rates have gone up by £10 a month and the petrol spending had to go up by £20 a month. However, some things like book spending, had gone down so it actually balanced out. 

In April we have already spent quite a bit, so I hope the new budget will work ! MasterShoestring needed new clothes for work experience and a new pair of school shoes, he has very wide feet and an adult size now, so these were a very expensive £64 and that was with a 20% discount ! I'm going to sell the old ones on Ebay in the hope of lowering the real cost further ! He will have outgrown them by the Summer but in the meantime will be wearing then 5 days a week so they need to be hard-wearing ! 

Fingers crossed that with the Easter holidays this will be a low spend month on travel and petrol ! The food budget is just hanging in there at a smidgen under £170 a month. I would love to get this lower but I'm not sure how. SimpleLiving31 seems to do very well with yellow-stickered bargains but in this affluent area £3 is the reduced price for mince !

Good luck with your April budget !

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Pause in Lent

I'm a bit late getting this post up today as there are a lot of last minute preparations for sending MasterShoestring to the USA later on today to do a week's work experience with USAShoestring !

I've just woken up after a lovely sleep and that reminded me how fortunate we are in this country not to have to think about malaria anymore ! I was doing some research a few months ago and discovered that right up until the 1920s in East Anglia people were being prescribed opium to cope with the repeated infections of the disease. I can't imagine what that must have been like and awful it must have been to see your children die of the illness.

Nowadays a mosquito net goes a long way towards preventing this illness, especially in young children.

You can find out more about this excellent cause by looking at . They make a good economic case for nets as well by explaining how healthier people generate more money for the country which in turn means that they can afford more nets which means even more healthy people, a virtuous circle !

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Free Cinema Tickets

I signed up for  this service quite a while ago but up until now have not gone to any films. Show Film First organises preview screenings to lots of films around the country and you can apply for free tickets as long as you can go to that screening at that time. Large cities are the most popular venue and we don't normally fancy going back into the city at night, so haven't taken advantage of any of the offers so far.

However, yesterday I spotted that one of the films " Their Finest" was being screened during the Easter holidays in a small town just 6 miles away. I quickly signed up for tickets and was lucky enough to get two ! MrShoestring is not sure if the film is for him, he's worried it might be a 'chick flick' so I've said that if he doesn't want to go then I'll take MissShoestring instead !

I'm very excited at the thought of a night out for free ! This service is well worth signing up for but a lot of the screenings are on a Sunday morning so you need to be free then. I would recommend having a look at the website first and finding out whether your nearest town gets screenings !