Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Reckoning

As I said last week, August has been a very expensive month for us. We have spent almost double the usual monthly budget but it isn't so bad when you look at the figures as lots of the spending was for annual expenses which have been saved up for.

The big expenses were :- house insurance, which I got for less than last year; septic tank emptying, which I also got for less than last year; road tax, which has gone up a bit; car insurance, which I got for less than last year and a massive car repair bill ! We had not reckoned on such a large bill for the car repairs, but have decided to keep the car going, at least until it is 10 years old as reckon a couple of thousand a year to keep it going will be cheaper than buying a new to us large car. In three years time MasterShoestring will be finished at school and we reckon that we will not need such a large car then. Given the short time frame it then makes sense to try and keep the current one going.

There were also petrol expenses for going on holiday and spending expenses for the holiday, such as the trip to Venice. We did very well saving on food as the garden was producing so well and managed to spend less than £110 all month, which is great ! We celebrated a very frugal anniversary and look forward to a nice frugal September to build up the savings once more !

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Homemade Oven Chips

This is also a useful recipe for holidays as you do not have the problem of carting around frozen chips, just buy a bag of potatoes !

6-8 medium potatoes
2tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes into long strips after washing them. I leave the peel on as we like that, otherwise you have to peel as well ! Toss in a bowl with the salt and pepper and lay on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 200C for 45 minutes or until really brown and crunchy !

Enjoy with ketchup !

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Saving Money for Teens

MasterShoestring is 15 now and when he turned 15 in July we stopped giving him weekly pocket money and now give him £10 a month for helping with little jobs around the house. If he wants more he has to do bigger jobs, such as mowing the 1/2 acre of lawn !

He now has an account with a bank card at the local building society and is responsible for all leisure purchases, from gifts to friends to anything above the basics on his mobile phone. Interestingly, since he has to pay for the phone now he hasn't got a contract but has gone pay as you go and uses it only for emergencies ! The rest of the time he uses free ways to make calls via the computer.

The other ways he saves money are by using free downloading services for music etc. and trading online to make a bit of money e.g.) to buy accessories for games. He hasn't saved much money for going on holiday but then I don't think he is planning on doing much buying either, so it looks like he has inherited the frugal gene !

Monday, 28 August 2017

Is an over 50s policy for me ?

MrShoestring and I have reached the age when we start getting advertisements for equity release, retirement villages and over 50s policies. Yesterday we had an offer from Saga to renew our home insurance for £468 ! This compared with the £76 for buildings and contents we actually paid. I was shocked at how much more it was and so I started checking around for the cost of things like motor insurance and funeral insurance etc. through specialised providers for us 'silver foxes'.

Well, the answer to' Is an over 50s policy for me ?' is a resounding 'NO'! In every case that I checked you were going to be paying substantially more for the 'pensioner' product than if you had gone for the cheapest option. Now I know that companies like Saga often offer additional services with the product which some people might find useful as they get older. But I know that I would rather have the money in my pocket and look for my own services, thank you very much !

Especially now when we will have to wait even longer to get the state pension, keep every penny captive !

Sunday, 27 August 2017


There is something so pleasing about knowing that we have plenty of fruit and vegetables stored to see us though the winter. A pleasing feeling of contentment and I find that it is the little things which give rise to the greatest feelings of contentment. Here is one of my favourite poems on that theme.

The Joy Of Little Things

 It's good the great green earth to roam,
Where sights of awe the soul inspire;
But oh, it's best, the coming home,
The crackle of one's own hearth-fire!
You've hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;
You've seen the pageantry of kings;
Yet oh, how sweet to gain at last
The peace and rest of Little Things!

Perhaps you're counted with the Great;
You strain and strive with mighty men;
Your hand is on the helm of State;
Colossus-like you stride .
 and then
There comes a pause, a shining hour,
A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:
O Titan, turn from pomp and power;
Give all your heart to Little Things.

Go couch you childwise in the grass,
Believing it's some jungle strange,
Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
Where beetles roam and spiders range.

'Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
What dragons rasp their painted wings!
O magic world of shine and shade!
O beauty land of Little Things!

I sometimes wonder, after all,
Amid this tangled web of fate,
If what is great may not be small,
And what is small may not be great.

So wondering I go my way,
Yet in my heart contentment sings .

O may I ever see, I pray,
God's grace and love in Little Things.

So give to me, I only beg,
A little roof to call my own,
A little cider in the keg,
A little meat upon the bone;
A little garden by the sea,
A little boat that dips and swings .

Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,
O Lord of Life, just Little Things.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Wedding Anniversary

MrShoestring and I celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary today. We were married in Aberdeenshire in a tiny place that has since been demolished. We had 2 witnesses and a frugal restaurant lunch of fish and potatoes. We took photographs ourselves out in the blooming heather of the Highlands and were back to work in the afternoon ! I guess we were frugal even then !

Today we are going to enjoy exploring Aviano and toast our fantastic achievement of staying married for 32 years !

Friday, 25 August 2017

Frugal Friday

Just a few frugal things to report this week as we have been getting ready to go on holiday and dealing with marrows and apples !

I got some brand new books from the library to help with my course and also downloaded some free Kindle books to take on holiday. We made bread, soup, tortillas, homemade chips and fajitas. I froze some chicken stock which I couldn't use before going away. We took a menu plan and lots of food for self-catering when we went away.

I got £2 in vouchers from the Royal Mail survey and we saved money on highlight convertors for driving in Europe by using pieces of duct tape instead ! I also froze lots of apple pie filling and made some more marrow chutney !

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Setting a Budget for going on Holiday

We are hoping for this sort of weather when we go on holiday, as August has been a bit of a washout round here ! August is always a bit of a 'spend' month round here and we are already well over the monthly budget as so many annual expenses fall due. We are still fine with the annual budget, but it does mean that I have set a holiday budget and stick to it !

I have used the viamichelin website to calculate the cheapest route to drive to Italy and it has also told us how much the tolls will be and how much a sticker for the motorway in Austria costs. The price of excursions to Venice etc. has been worked out and I have bought most of the food to take with us.

We have downloaded a few apps on MrShoestring's mobile which should help with cost saving and the budget covers ice creams but not meals out. I have a list of free places to go and am hoping that nice weather will mean that we do not have to pay out for indoor attractions.

Fingers crossed !

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Homemade Hummus

MrShoestring has been eating this a lot for lucy whilst are on holiday as it sticks to sandwiches very easily and it was easier to bring along tins of chickpeas than it was readymade hummus.

1 tin chickpeas in water
1 tbsp oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic pressed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 liquid from the chickpeas

Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and whiz until smooth. Or if on holiday let MrShoestring smash it all up with a potato masher for a chunkier result !

This keeps for a week in the fridge !

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Saving money on GCSE books

MasterShoestring is going into Year 11 in September and last year when he started the new English course I got all the set books second hand via the internet. I saved a substantial amount of money compared to buying new and he had the same texts as everyone else.

He is doing the new GCSEs graded 1-9 and since this year was the first year of the new exams it wasn't possible to get any of the revision books second hand. However, with the results about to be published lots of people are about to be wanting rid of their GCSE revision guides and now is the time to watch out for them at good prices on book selling sites or even for free on Freecycle.

The other way we have saved on set texts is to order through the school, which gets a discount on a bulk order, this is especially good for the CGP guides and using Google Kerboodle which gives you access to textbooks and revision material for free if the school or yourself takes out a subscription. This is particularly good for Science books.

Good luck to everyone waiting on their results at the end of August and to all those going into Year 11!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Making Apple Pie Filling in the Slow Cooker

We decided to pick all the apples off one tree to stop the animals getting at them. This gave me half a laundry basket full of apples. Some of them have been eaten, some used in chutney but before they start to go bad it is time to put them in the freezer.

I always do this by cooking them down to make stewed apple as this takes up less room and is ideal for pies and crumbles in the Winter. Last year I discovered that it is much less work and cheaper to do this in the slow cooker.

I peel and slice the apples and place them in the slow cooker until the cooker is full. You can add a cup full of water if the apple is a bit dry, I usually do this with russets but not with the other sorts. Then turn the cooker on HIGH and leave for 4 hours. When you come back give the apple a stir and you have perfect stewed apple.

Right, off to peel some more !

Sunday, 20 August 2017


I have been thinking today about how much of the frugal life is about patience. Saving up for things, rather than going to buy them at once, making do with things, having the patience to mend things and so on. But I also thought that there is a great virtue in learning to do that. So frugal life not only builds your bank balance, it builds your character too ! Here is one of my favourite poems about patience.

Stepping Stones

I see a bunch of stepping stones,
they each appear one by one,
floating up to the surface.
I need to summon courage,
to patiently wait for the next stone,
sometimes the waiting makes me,
curious or bored or anxious.
But if I try to cross,
before my time is ready,
I will just fall and sink,
out of sight to the bottom.
But I need to 
be brave enough to wait
and strong enough to 
cross to the next stone.

Every place in my life,
I've had to cross a threshold,
by going over the stepping stones.
Each stone has had a purpose,
leading me to the place,
that I'm meant to be at, 
at that particular time. 

When the time is right,
for you to finally cross,  
your stone will be there.
Just remember to
believe in all of your steps,
for they'll get you,
where you need to go.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Another Lovely Trip Out !

Trustee business took me to the lovely East Sussex village of West Dean yesterday. Beautiful tiny village, so close to the sea hidden away in the fold of the South Downs. This is a gorgeous spot which people so often rush through on the way to the channel ports. I was lucky and the warm sun came out and it felt like there was nowhere better to be.

The village has a wonderful 12th Century church.

Even a white horse cut into the chalk just above the village. I can thoroughly recommend the forest walks too if the downs are a bit windy, which they were yesterday !

Friday, 18 August 2017

Frugal Friday

A quieter frugal week this week as MrShoestring and I were both away at different times visiting family and friends. We still did all the normal little things, which is just as well, as yesterday we got an enormous repair bill for the car ! We are driving to Italy next week and as the car is over 8 years old we thought that we better get it checked out. I've broken down in Italy in August before and did not want to repeat all that trauma and expense ! Anyway, 3 new tyres, several suspension things, a CVS joint and the brake fluid needed replaced before they said that it would be safe to drive across the Alps ! Fortunately, we do have car repair savings which paid for it all, but we have the savings because of all the little things we do every week, the sorts of things which are listed below !

I ordered cheaper Vitamin B12 capsules instead of just buying them at Holland and Barrett, I paid the same price but got 250 capsules instead of 100. We picked early apples, blackberries, the last of the blueberries, cucumber, courgettes, marrow and tomatoes. I made chutney with the marrow and some of the apples, it smelled amazing !

We also made bread, tortillas, rolls, soup, tomato sauce, iced ginger cake, date and apple flapjack cake, fajitas and pizza. We painted all the woodwork on the outside using trade quality paint ourselves. This paint is expensive but lasts, which means we have to paint less frequently. I weeded the driveway and out down cheap salt instead of weedkiller to stop them growing back.

I got a free dental check-up using our tax credit exemption card and re-used some aluminium foil. I downloaded some free ebooks for the Kindle and renewed books at the library online rather than driving in specially to do that. We enjoyed a couple of films using MissShoestring's Netflix subscription rather than going out !

I hope that you had a great week too !

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Every Penny


Every penny counts ! That is certainly true for those of us living on a shoestring and is the name of Kate Singh's new e-book which is available for download for free this week on Amazon ! It is not a book of tips or a schedule for thrifty bill payment but rather an autobiographical fragment which shows how she gradually matures in handling money.

The book is USA based and so some of the information about house buying does not apply here in Europe, but what I find so encouraging about this story is that she shows it is never too late to get to a better place and writes in a very warm and encouraging tone.

The whole book is a like a lovely chat with Kate across the fence and if you are feeling a bit down or worn-out with all your penny pinching I thoroughly recommend this gentle, quick read for helping you feel encouraged once more !

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Date and Apple Flapjack Cake

This is a cross between flapjack and cake and used up some of our vast quantity of dates and some early apples yesterday. Needless to say, it was all eaten by the evening !

4oz dairy free margarine
4tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
7oz oats
4ox self-raising flour
5 ox chopped dates
3 grated apples

Melt the margarine and honey together in a pan over a slow heat. Whilst it is melting grate the apples and put together with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Grease a 12in by 8 in pan. Once the margarine has melted mix in to the rat of the ingredients and press into the pan. Bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the pan before slicing and eating !!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Spending a Penny !

I was a bit shocked yesterday to be asked for 20p to spend a penny at Bourton on the Water ! It was lucky that I had some change in my purse and was able to help out an American family who only had large notes ! I had forgotten that tourist hotspots often charge to visit their conveniences !

The picture above directs you to one of the few free public lavatories in the Cotswalds, at Chipping Camden and there is a handy website to let you know how much it will cost elsewhere !

Other ideas to spend a penny for free are to use service stations on the motorway and use the facilities in coffee shops and pubs that you stop at. The whole event reminded me that often in Europe you have to pay and that I better make sure we have some small Euro coins for our arrival in Belgium, as there even the motorway service stations charge !

Monday, 14 August 2017

A trip to see friends

Off to the lovely Cotswold village of Bourton on the Water today to visit with friends. We are going to walk along the lovely river there.

Possibly, have a paddle !

Keeping costs low by arriving once the free parking starts and bringing our own flasks and snacks !

Enjoy your day too !

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Easy Marrow Chutney

MrShoestring found the first marrow this weekend and since we already have plenty of courgettes in the freezer and marrow jam needs pectin I decided to use what I had and make a batch of chutney. This is very easy and tastes good after being left in the cupboard awhile.

11/2 kg marrow
225g onion
225g apple
225g sultanas
1tsp ginger or piece of ginger
225g demerara sugar
850ml malt vinegar
12 black peppercorns

Chop up the marrow and remove the seeds and skin, cover the chopped pieces with salt to draw out the water and leave for 12 hours.; Then rinse off the salt. Chop up the apples, onions and ginger (if using, but I find powder works fine too). Place in a big saucepan along with the marrow and other ingredients. Tie the peppercorns in muslin and add to the mixture. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the mixture is thick. Remove the peppercorns and wait 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled a bit before bottling in sterilised jars.

This is good with cold meats and cheeses.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Visiting Midsomer

I borrowed this book from the library as we wanted to visit a few local places and were not sure where to go. It has lots of lovely pictures and although I have only seen one episode of the television series, it did highlight some picturesque places we have never seen within 1 hour's driving distance. So we thought that we would plan a tour.

In fact we were not the first people to have that idea and in seeking to put my own tour together I discovered this website :-

It has two different ideas for tours with downloadable maps and lots of pictures and ideas. So guess where we are going today ?

I hope you enjoy your Saturday too !

Friday, 11 August 2017

Frugal Friday

Although this was quite a 'spend' week with all the annual car expenses we always did well on the frugal front, which is why we have all the annual expenses saved up for !

First off the garden is still producing well and inspire of the damp weather we appear to be keeping ahead of the slugs ! This week we picked blueberries, blackberries, cucumber, tomatoes and courgettes. The pumpkins are getting very large and there is still plenty of spinach, chard and kale, which I shall have to get around to freezing.

We continued to eat well and spent only £8.11 on groceries this week. We made tortillas, bread, quiche and a spare quiche case to use next week. Also breadcrumbs, chocolate brownies, blueberry muffins and yoghurt, all delicious ! The free cheesecake from MissShoestring was also very much enjoyed !

The boiler seems to have been repaired for £8 and we now have a reliable engineer for next year's service. I also saved £15 on a car insurance policy, I needed to look early as the insurance is up whilst we are away on holiday and I wanted to get it sorted so I don't have to worry about it lapsing. I used the Tesco Clubcard vouchers to order a free annual subscription to Landscape magazine. I've had this before and really enjoyed it. We don't get so many vouchers now that I don't shop there so often , so this seemed a good way to spend the few we do have. I also ordered 2 free cinema tickets from Nielsen and a £Amazon voucher from Swagbucks, but those have not arrived yet. I also downloaded some free Kindle books and started a free course on Mindfulness which I'll need for the next part of my training.

I finally found some wild sweet peas with seed pods during a walk so I took some to dry at home. I love that purply-pink they have and they grow anywhere, so I'm hoping to plant some next year. I've looked in to buying seeds but they are quite expensive, here's hoping the free ones work ! We went to a free jazz concert last Sunday, it was beautiful weather and the band was good, so a lovely Summer afternoon out. It was very popular and the Memorial Gardens were packed, it was lovely to see so many people having good time, there was dancing on the paths! Finally, we enjoyed our free behind the scenes tour at the Houses of Parliament, a real once in a lifetime experience !

Looking back I thought that the week had been quite miserable because of all that cold, wet weather in the middle of the week, but actually it has been quite good, I hope yours was too !

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Right on the Money

During all the wet weather over the past few days I have mostly being staying in and finding zero spend ways to have fun. One of the things we tried out was watching Series 3 of the 'Right on the Money' programme from the BBC. I just paid the license fee and thought that I should try out iPlayer to see what was on !

The programme was recommended on a few frugal blogs I read, so I thought that I would try it out and I must say that I quite like it and have learned a few things too ! I really like that they are using ordinary people for the money makeovers rather than those with vast incomes who are just wasteful. However, what has been a bit shocking is just how little financial literacy there is, I thought the primary school lessons about balancing a budget were a jolly good idea !

I am always looking for frugal inspiration to help me stay on the straight and narrow, especially in a week when I paid £190 car tax, £147 car insurance and £127 for 2 new tires, ouch !! This programme provides it in spades and I am now going to look into sugar craft for cakes and renting out some loft space ! I am also going to see if I can find the first two series for some more wet weather inspiration !

Does anyone else have a favourite source for frugal inspiration ?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Vegan Chocolate Brownies

These brownies went down well with all the family over the past few days. MasterShoestring said that he thought they could be a bit sweeter, as he sprinkled icing sugar all over his, but I replied that a cupful of sugar was plenty ! The cocoa powder makes the chocolate flavour very strong, so you could always reduce that a bit if you are not a fan of such a strong flavour.

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup dairy free milk
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

(This makes a very stiff mixture, so you could always add a bit more dairy free milk to loosen it up a bit. The sugar can also be substituted for a cup of alternative sweetener such as maple syrup or Sweet Freedom, then you won't need extra milk.)

Mix all the ingredients together and turn into a greased square 9inch pan. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. let them cook before cutting into small squares as these are very rich ! Enjoy !

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Free Visit to the Houses of Parliament

During the Parliamentary recess all sorts of sprucing up and repair work takes place at the Palace of Westminster. They also allow more visitors than usual in, as there is no business going on. You can buy a ticket for the audio tour and go round any day you please or you can request a free tour from your MP like we did and have to go on a specific day !

August is the ideal time to go as the House of Lords and House of Commons are both empty which means that you are allowed to go inside and even have a little turn at the dispatch box, just like the Prime Minister ! We were very surprised to contact the MP's office just a couple of weeks ago and be given the choice of 3 dates. But apparently there is quite a bit of space as so many people are on holiday.

You are given a print out of your date and time and must specify beforehand how many people are coming. After that you go through airline type security, collect your visitor's badge and there you are inside the Palace of Westminster.

Since they were doing so many repairs the direct access to the House of Commons was blocked and we were allowed to go round by the Members' Library and saw quite a few things which were not on the regular tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and really worked hard to make sure the children in the party understood things and had a good time.

I would thoroughly recommend the tour and once it was finished I quite fancied becoming an MP so I could go round again ! However, apparently I don't need to as every constituent has the right to enter parliament, go to the central lobby and ask to speak to their MP. If the MP is in the house, they have to come out and speak to you ! Apparently this is how lobbying began !

Anybody else been on a great free trip recently ?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Free Cheesecake

Last Friday MissShoesstring went out with a friend to a nice restaurant in London called Blacklock. It specialises in tasty meat dishes but also has tasty puddings. MissShoestring has a sweet tooth and loves cheesecake. She has tasted cheesecake all over the world, including New York, which is supposed to make the best in the world. After one bite, she declared the one that night at Blacklock to be the best she has ever tasted.

On the way out, whilst paying the bill she asked if she could buy a piece of the cheesecake to take home for her Dad. MrShoestring has not been very well this week and she wanted to cheer him up. The restaurant staff explained that they did not normally do that and she explained that it was for her Dad and why.

The fantastic staff went into the kitchen and fetched a plastic tub and placed a piece of cheesecake in it so she could carry it home safely. Then they got a paper carrier bag and wrote on it in lovely writing " To Dad from Blacklock". Then they told MissShoestring that there was no charge and that they hoped her Dad got better soon.

There are lots of lovely reviews about that restaurant praising the great, friendly staff but I think they surpassed themselves last Friday. MrShoestring enjoyed his piece of cheesecake and it did cheer him up  . I think it is a wonderful example of the sort of kindness we have been seeing in London recently, long may it continue !

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Mending the Lawnmower

Nearly every Summer we have something go wrong with the lawnmower. One Summer thieves tried to run off with it, one summer servicing it cost £169 and one summer we had to buy a new one, so we always keep extra savings in case something has to be done with it. However, over the years we have got more used to what might go wrong with it and so can plan ahead to take preventative action.

Now, we buy a servicing kit and MrShoestring does the servicing himself and we always add fuel stabiliser, so if it is stored away for any length of time then the fuel lines do not get clogged. We have a lot of rough lawn to mow here so a big, high-powered petrol mower is essential.

Well, yesterday it stopped working ! We tried everything, so resigned ourselves to taking it in for repair and facing a more than £100 bill. MrShoestring was all set to load it into the car when MasterShoestring suggested he have one more try to get it started. Well, it did start ! Then it stopped again ! This suggested that a faulty spark plug might be the cause. So we bought a new one at a cost of £2.99 and fitted it.

Now the engine worked but the blades would not turn. A quick look at Youtube and some tightening of the blades and it was working properly ! We were ever so happy that the repair cost £2.99 rather than the £169 servicing charge we would probably have had to pay at the lawnmower centre !

Fixing things yourself is a great skill to have ! What a blessing all those people who post on Youtube are !

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Boiler Update !

So, we arranged for an independent boiler engineer to come and look at the boiler, yesterday at 9am. He did not arrive ! I called, he was busy on another job but promised to come at some point during the day. He finally turned up at 2.15p.m. I was not best pleased that he was so late but he was very polite and had his twin sons with him, who were also very polite.

They checked over the entire system, even climbing in to the loft and turning the central heating and hot water on multiple times, they checked the boiler again ! Eventually, they declared there was nothing wrong but a little valve must have got knocked during the previous service. I checked that the hot water was really working and sure enough it was !

All of this took about 45 minutes and when I asked how much they would charge they said £40 plus VAT if I would agree to have the boiler serviced by them next year. Of course, I agreed ! So, the £40 from HomeServe as compensation, paid for the visit and I paid the VAT. Making the sum cost of fixing the boiler, £8 rather than the £95 HomeServe wanted to charge. Also, it was clearly their fault rather than being a new breakdown.

I'm so glad that I shan't have to go through all of that next year, fingers crossed !

Friday, 4 August 2017

Frugal Friday

Another Friday and a week of small savings but good ones ! I planned out all the meals for this month and the shopping. I split it into two sections, one for whilst we are home and then a menu plan and a shopping list for when we are away. I did most of the shopping in Aldi and a bit in Tesco. I'll go to Aldi again before we go away, whereas I normally only go once a month. We're planning on taking most of our food with us as that should ensure that we stick to the budget, I've allowed just a bit for ice creams and fresh stuff and hope that it will be enough. So far I've only spent £72.71 ! A big saving was £10 for 10 litres of sunflower oil in Tesco and I also picked up a copy of their free magazine. The only slightly disappointing thing about not shopping much in Tesco now is that my vouchers were only for £4.50 this quarter.

The garden is still producing well but not quite so copiously in the wet weather . We managed to harvest courgettes, a cucumber, blackberries and potatoes. We planted more lettuce and I made bread, tortillas, stuffing and cake.

I gave MrShoestring a home haircut and downloaded some free Kindle books, including one on how to live for free. The book is by the founder of the website LatestFreeStuff and although I don't find the website so good, the book contained details of a few swapping sites, including one for garden vegetables which I might try.

I got a £5 Amazon voucher from Swagbucks so used it to get a copy of Marlene Stevens new book on Homemade Gifts. It is really good and has lots of good ideas I could definitely try out, a great buy ! I used a comparison website to see if I could find a cheaper home insurance price and then when I found it was with the same company we were with already I called them and asked if they could match the online price. They were very polite and even managed to knock off 2p more. So now we have home insurance at £11 cheaper than last year.

The final frugal thing is not a saving but an earning, the feed-in tariff payment for the solar panels was calculated and that worked out at just over £211. When it comes in I'm going to use it to buy second-hand copies of the books I need for next year's course. If I buy now the prices tend to be lower as last year's students get rid of their books. If I wait until I need them, the prices are often higher.

I hope you had a frugal week too !

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Blueberry Loaf

I made this yesterday and before it had finished cooling MasterShoestring had pinched a bit !

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup milk or non-dairy substitute

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a greased loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour at 350F, check after 45 minutes if you have got a quick oven or a large loaf tin as then the mixture will cook quicker.

Turn out and leave to cool before slicing to enjoy ! If you are feeling extravagant it is tasty with butter or jam or with a bit of icing drizzled over the top !

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Outfitting Baby

Just out of curiosity I thought that I would tot up how much it would cost to equip a new baby with all the stuff you would need to start out with. I was shocked to discover that including a cot and a highchair would take the amount to just under £300 !

I can remember that when we were having USAShoestring we looked in Mothercare and then went home and made a crib ourselves, as it was far cheaper. The important thing to remember is that the baby grows so fast that most stuff will not be used very long, especially clothes and nappies. So, there are bargains to be had second-hand.

I found all the clothes for the first year in charity shops and did not pay more than 50p an item. You could do even better at a jumble sale and a quick wash and it's like it always belonged to you. We borrowed a cot and got the pram out of the paper. We also saved big items and lent them to other people and then re-used them ourselves. National Childbirth Trust sales were really good too.

Wait and see what your baby is like before investing lots of money in real nappy systems. It was fine with MissShoestring but MasterShoestring had colitis and disposables met his needs better. I ended up selling the real nappies I'd saved !

Also be aware that babies are born in lots of different sizes and they may be too big or too small for newborn sizes ! Have a few items larger and smaller just in case you need them !

My best item was a good sling so I could leap on and off buses, we had no need of a car seat with the first two, so pick items that fit your lifestyle !

What would you recommend to new parents ?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A Wee Trip Out

Off to a conference yesterday and as it was such a fine day we used all our free time in-between presentations to have a look around. This is the war memorial.

A lovely footpath !

The conference venue, a lovely old house with a super garden.

I love it when we can enjoy the countryside at the same time as visiting somewhere for a conference or training. Feels like a mini-holiday !