Wednesday, 31 August 2016

£5 voucher from IKEA

Another freebie from IKEA dropped through the post today. It is for IKEA Family members and says that if you sign up to get emails from them at then they will send you a £5 voucher. I find IKEA very handy for getting little things to put in the shoebox Christmas gifts so shall certainly be taking advantage of it once it arrives ! I've also got a £5 off a £40 spend for LIDL this week, just in time for September stocking up, but only what is on the list and not too much !!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Getting rid of smells

This lovely sofa originally belonged to my parents. then to us, then to USAShoestring when he had a London flat. It has been sitting in our garage for 2 years and when we were over to see him USAShoestring said that it would be alright if we brought it into the house to use.

So yesterday there was a lot of scrubbing and vacuuming and wiping going on to get it cleaned up. But once we had managed to lift it into the sitting room there was a bit of a musty smell. Bad enough that we left the doors and windows open as it was a warm evening.

I have a list of ways to make nasty smells go away and fresh air is the first one I try. However, in this case I was pretty sure that stronger means would be needed. The next thing on the list is bicarbonate of soda, sprinkling a bit of this in smelly trainers or keeping a pot in the fridge works wonders. With the sofa I would have scattered it all over and left it for a bit before vacuuming it up again. The final weapon against smells is a can of Oust ! which really works well but has its own smell which I'm not that keen on. Anyway, I was pretty sure that the sofa would need Oust !

Lo and behold, this morning the sofa does not smell, all that Summer fresh air worked , so the bicarb and the Oust ! can be kept for another day !

What do you do to get rid of bad smells ?

Monday, 29 August 2016

Food waste when you stockpile !

I think that I have written about the dangers of over-stockpiling before, but yesterday I threw away food which was 4 and 5 years old as I had over-estimated the amount that we would use when I ordered it. I am writing this post mainly as a reminder to myself that it is a good idea to calculate roughly how much you use in a year and no matter how good a bargain the item is do not purchase more than that ! Also be careful to find out just how much you are getting as several of the items which went in the compost yesterday were whole caseloads of stuff that I thought that I was buying a single bag of !

I threw away 4 packets of brown rice from 2011, 5 packets of chickpea flour from 2012, 3 packets of barley from 2012 and 12 packets of bulgur wheat from 2013. All of these had lost their flavour, although I think they would probably have been safe to eat. I also threw away 6 tubs of nutritional yeast which arrived after I thought that I had ordered 1 tub. It turned out that the rest of the family did not like it and I thought that ordering 1, would be 1 tub but it was 1 case !

I still have 23 packets of dried dates from 2012 but these I have kept in the hope that a weekly bake of date scones will eventually see them used up !

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Use what you have in the garden

We are just in the middle of digging out the flower beds and starting again with them. We seem to do this every few years as the ground elder takes over. The Romans introduced this salad vegetable into Britain to feed their armies but now it is just a nuisance !

We are determined to put a stop to all this work so some very generous gift cards  are going to be spent tomorrow on weed surprising membrane and mulch to go on top to try and stop the weeds growing so fast. We also thought that we were going to have to buy some new plants but it turned out that we had enough to fill 2 beds already, including this lovely blue geranium which had self-seeded in the middle of the driveway !  We only need 3 plants or so to fill the final bed, so more money to spend on weed suppressant !

We also put all the weeds at the back of the garden near the bonfire to rot down, they don't go into the compost bin so we don't spread them around the garden ! I'm looking forward to being able to have a rest from weeding and do some fun planting instead !

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cheap Wedding Anniversary

It was our 31st wedding anniversary the other day and along with homemade presents and cards we celebrated with a lovely homemade meal in the Dining Room with no garden clutter and candles on the table.

Marks and Spencer advertise their dine in for 2 for 10 pounds but this was dine in for 2 for 5 pounds.

We had steak, chips, tomatoes and onions followed by banana splits with cream and chocolate accompanied by sparkling apple juice. We bought the steak, the bananas, the cream, the apple juice and the sparkling water and it came to 4.97 pounds. Everything else came from the garden ! 

The meal was very quick to prepare and then the dishwasher did the washing up !

Mr Shoestring and I said that we could not have had a better experience in a fancy restaurant where you pay extra for a private dining room. We're quite happy with our own private dining room and were even better pleased with the bill !

Friday, 26 August 2016

Replacing a Door Lock

We moved into this house after my parents moved out. Although they left a whole cupboard full of keys none of them would fit the side door into the garden. For 8 years now we have been going in and out of the french windows in the dining room, including leaving footballs and gardening equipment and dirty shoes in there, on the premise that the key was bound to turn up one day so there was no point calling an expensive locksmith !

Finally, yesterday Mr Shoestring decided that SOMETHING must be done ! In the end he decided that the best thing to do would be to lever the pins out of the hinges on the door and then get me to help him lever the locked part of the door out of its socket.

After a bit of banging and levering with a chisel the door hinge pins were released and so was the door. Mr Shoestring was able to unscrew the old lock and go and buy an exact fit new lock for 23 pounds. I thought that this was rather expensive until he explained to me that calling out a locksmith would have cost 135 pounds and that would be before the cost of a replacement lock or any work to re-fit the door.

We are enchanted by the new door, with a lock ! We keep going in and out of it and exclaiming how marvellous it is. I have cleared out of the dining room all the gardening stuff ! We are delighted to have been able to do this big job for so little and I know think that Mr Shoestring is a genius !!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Homemade Curry Powder

After watching 'Eat well for Less' on Monday which featured a family with someone who needed to eat a special diet I realised that perhaps we are in a bit of a rut with regards to our menu. It needs to be very cheap after our lovely holiday earlier in the month and that means lots of legumes rather than lots of meat. Master Shoestring is growing a lot and would much rather eat meat ! He and Mr Shoestring did not enjoy the homemade veggie burgers last week so I remembered that the same ingredients could be used to make a curry which previously had gone down very well.

When I went to make it I discovered that I was nearly out of homemade curry powder, homemade so as to avoid salt ! But it was easy to make some more.

4 and a half teaspoons of coriander, 2 tsps turmeric, 1 and a half teaspoons of cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp cardamom , 1cm cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp ginger

A quick grind in the mortar and pestle and it was all done. The curry went into the slow cooker and Master Shoestring cleared his plate 8 hours later ! It's great being able to make things for yourself and not have to go to the shops !

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Removing car dents with a plunger

Last week when we took the car to have the headlights fixed Mr Shoestring got stuck down a narrow street with a bus coming the other way. He had to reverse a long way down the street and scraped the car door on a gate post.

It looked quite bad but after all this month's expenses we knew that we could not afford to get it fixed professionally.

So Mr Shoestring did some research and various articles said that on modern car doors, because the metal is so thin, you can sometimes pull out the dent with a plunger.

So he tried it and it worked ! The few scratches were soon covered up with car polish as well ! The plunger cost 2.50 pounds and we can re-use it for when the low flush toilet gets blocked, which is quite often ! 

The technique only works on thin steel doors and Mr Shoestring did have to use some vaseline on the plunger to make sure that it stuck to the dent really well, he also had to pull at the dent several times. But the car door looks great now and the repair costs almost nothing ! Great at the end of the month !

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Now it is a guarantee !

We heard back today from the owner of our solar installer company. They said that they would honour the guarantee and give us a new 5 year guarantee on the replacement which they hope to install within the next week.

We are very pleased that the company are going to hour the guarantee in the way the outlined in our paperwork and they explained that the reason they refused the first time we asked was because they no longer offer a guarantee like this one !

We are delighted that choosing a company with awards for customer service and a place in the Which ? trusted tradesmen list has done the right thing. That is why we did not choose the cheapest installer as we knew that later on we wanted a company which would honour its guarantee and would still be around to do so. Sometimes it pays to be frugal rather than cheap !

Now we have to hear when they are coming to do the work and hope that the sun shines some more this month to make up all that money we have lost whilst it wasn't working !

Monday, 22 August 2016

Free Photography Course

I have signed up for quite a few free courses at FutureLearn and Mr Shoestring and I both paid a little bit to take a course at the local college starting in September. Mine is in Counselling and Mr Shoestring's is in Computing. I said that I would sign him up for the Photography course after he has finished that but yesterday as I was perusing FreebiesUK I discovered a free course offer which starts Monday 22nd August and goes through to 26th September. So I signed him up for that !

The course is with Shaw Academy and you do have to watch some of the content on the days and times it is offered so I'm not sure if that will work out but he's got nothing to lose and it saved us even the small cost of the college course so he'll start and see what it is like ! Here's hoping that it is god and he can start taking pictures for the blog.

This time of year is a good time to look around for courses in things you are interested in so do let us know if you find something good !

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Tomatoes !

This is the first year that I can remember where we have been out picking blackberries before we harvest tomatoes. The tomatoes are just starting to ripen now in the polytunnel but they are the cherry variety so we can pick just enough for lunch and then wait for the next lot to ripen. They are very sweet and I was able to buy fewer than normal this week. Here's hoping that by next week I shan't have to buy any at all.

We grew the tomato plants from seed so are quite proud of managing to get this far !

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Curtain Extensions !

This week, whilst the weather was lovely and sunny, I washed the curtains. What a good idea, look after your stuff, keep it clean and it will give you many years of service. The curtains have not been washed for ages and in an attempt to get them really clean I put all of them in to a hot wash ! They were 100% cotton, it would be fine !

I dried them all outside, ironed them and put them back up, only to discover that some of them had shrunk, a lot !

My first thought was to unpick the hem and raise the curtain rings to gain some extra length, it wasn't nearly enough ! Then I thought about lowering the rail but that would look odd and might not be enough. In the end I added a fancy border to them all using the great fabric stash, which I had been just about to cull.

Now the stash is greatly reduced, the curtains look fine and I'm worn out from 8 hours of sewing. I'm so grateful to have a great sewing machine, what must it have been like to sort everything for your household by hand !

Best thing of all is that the fix did not cost a penny as the fabric and thread all came from the stash. I'm still going to cull it but perhaps not quite as vigourously as I had planned.

Friday, 19 August 2016

DIY is not always cheaper !

Mr Shoestring spent all the hours in a couple of days this week trying to fix 2 things, the hedge trimmer and the headlights in the car. Both repair attempts involved a couple of trips to the hardware store and lots of frustration when the new parts did not make the item work ! Lots of research was done, lots of getting mucky and smelly happened until, in the end, he admitted defeat !

A new, lighter electric hedge trimmer was purchased out of savings ! All the hedges were cut in half a day instead of the normal 3 days ! New hedge trimmer declared wonderful !

Headlight repair at local garage cost 5.94 pounds, two thirds less than had already been spent on parts ! Mr Shoestring declared that from here on out 2 hours is the maximum amount of time he is going to spend on speculative repairs, his time is more valuable !!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Approved Food Order

I had said previously that I thought that Approved Foods was becoming too expensive but once in a while I do have a look at the website just in case. I was in luck this week as they had rye crisp bread, a staple for me, at even less than Aldi, even with the cost of postage. So I ordered as much as I was allowed and the same with bread yeast and wholemeal flour. Also they had herb tea for 25p for 80 bags so that was a bargain as well.

I paid 51.90 pounds for 150 pounds worth of goods including postage and lots of the items were still in date. So I shall amend my previous judgement and say that it is worth looking at Approved Foods as you can get bargains sometimes !

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

When is a guarantee not a guarantee ?

This plastic box is the inverter for our solar power system, it is just over 2 years old and has stopped working. So the solar power and hot water are not working. In the paperwork and on the website the company we bought the system off say the offer a 5 year guarantee on the inverter. However, when we contacted them they said that since the manufacturer has gone out of business we cannot use the guarantee and must pay for a new one at the cost of 460 pounds.

I have written to the company and have asked them to honour the guarantee as they are a Which preferred provider and we paid slightly more to get service from a reputable company. The owner is away on holiday until Saturday so I hope they do the right thing and honour the guarantee ! I have already had some advice and I know that we are right, so here's hoping !

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


Before we went away we had thought that the potatoes were nearly ready. On our return the tops had all gone yellow and the tops had bent over. They were ready ! I had some for tea on Friday and dug up a lot for tea last night. They were very tasty and we are looking forward to eating lots over the next few weeks. This is a crop that has been successful this year !

Monday, 15 August 2016

Car Insurance

August is an expensive month for us as it was the month we moved into the house and it is also the month that we often have time to go shopping for big things such as cars, which means that the car insurance and the tax are both due in the same month.

There is nothing I can do about the car tax until we downsize to a smaller car. It is not worth doing just now as the current car runs well but is worth very little so we shall keep it until it is uneconomic to repair. However, I can do something to cut the insurance bill. So another afternoon comparing prices and then very unusually discovering that with the online discount being offered by the current insurer this would be the cheapest option, less than 10 pounds more than last year in a year where car insurance has risen by 17% !

I was well-pleased to see that in the end the option that was the least hassle was also the most cost-effective ! That is not usually the case so I always shop around when it is time to renew the insurance !

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Home Insurance

Last year we paid just over 86 pounds for building and contents insurance and I was determined to keep the cost for this year down too.

Home insurance has risen quite a bit this year and our old insurer had increased the premium by close to 90 pounds. We have not made a claim the entire time we have been here so I thought that that was a bit steep.

Off to Moneysaving expert website to see which order they recommended the comparison websites be searched and then when I had found a good price off to Topcashback and Quidco to see if I could get any money off. Result, I managed to get new home insurance for just over 87 pounds with better cover than last year, so I was well pleased.

Checking all the comparison websites and all the insurers who do not appear on these sites is a touch tedious and as usual led to an increase in the number of calls from insurers promising to 'beat your renewal quote' but the never can !

However, the whole process took under 2 hours and saved pounds, definitely a good hourly rate for a little bit of work and I don't have to think about again until next year. Now for the car insurance !

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Blackberry Jam

It always surprises me when I see blackberries ripe in August but there were lots close to home when we got back so after picking the blueberries in the garden and using them to make muffins, we went off to pick blackberries. There were so many we easily filled a bowl and will after go back as the sun is shining and I'm sure more will ripen quickly.

We picked more than 2 lbs and I used them to make this simple jam.

Blackberry Jam

1kg berries
1kg sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice

Slowly warm the berries and sugar until all the sugar is dissolved then bring to a rolling boil and boil for 20 minutes until setting point is reached. Leave to cool for 5 minutes to re-distribute the berries then pot into sterilised jars.

Yum Yum !

Friday, 12 August 2016

Another nice surprise !

Another nice surprise on our return home was the arrival of this quarter's Tesco vouchers. We don't shop much there but use the Tesco bank credit card and pay the balance off every month so we can get the points on purchases elsewhere. I realised that with the new points and the ones I had, I could get a free magazine subscription. As we like magazines so much, getting a free subscription is a good way for us to use the vouchers. I've already got a subscription to National Geographic, which we all enjoy and Kitchen Garden magazine, which comes with free seeds, so even better !

This time I chose Prima as it often has good craft and baking ideas coming up to Christmas and I have a whole folder of ideas saved from previous years, it also comes with a free dressmaking pattern for subscribers so that it is extra value too ! Lovely to get a treat for free !

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Surprises !

Still rather tired after all that travelling but cannot complain as we were upgraded to the premium cabin so we could all sit together on a very full flight ! Master and Mr Shoestring took full advantage of the meals service on offer but as a result got no sleep on the overnight flight and are jolly tired !

One of the first things we did on our return was to open up all the post and discover that in our absence they had been to read the newly accessible water meter and discovered that they owed us 130 pounds ! Our monthly bill will also go down by a third, so a lovely surprise !

The second lovely surprise was that it has been a sunny start to Summer and the solar panels have earned us another 210 pounds !

Then there were several freebies in the post, the blackberries are ripe and the hotel in Toronto which overcharged us has refunded us the full amount. So all in all a lovely set of surprises to return to. Not to forget Miss Shoestring prepared a surprise as well and has completely re-designed the games room !

Great ! It's lovely to come home after a holiday and not get that 'let-down' feeling !

The other lovely feeling is that I know how this computer works and can see the screen when I'm typing so there should be fewer strange spellings now !

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Kingston Ontario

Last beautiful stop before flying ho.e tonight. The city is where Lake Ontario meets the St Lawrence
Certainly rilovelynd we have a lake view ! Couple of small niggles when we arrived the bed for Master Shoestring had not been made up and they charged double the room rate to my debit card promising to refund what we don't spend when we. Check out , why do h o tells always do this ?

Monday, 8 August 2016

Packing light

Now it is time to pack up for the return journey I'm again thankful that we are travelling with hand baggage only. Packing 3 t shirts a pair of trousers and a skirt and a cardigan is not. Very much work. I so took  swimsuit and a pair of pyjAmas. I wear a blouse, another pair of trousers and a fleece. I cArry a lightweight raincoat and a small rucksack with medicines and toiletries. That plus 3 pAirs of pants and socks have been fine for 3 weeks. You always need less than you think !

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Visit to Quechee Gorge

Another lovely day out for free at a State Park.Brilliant ice age feAture plus free swimming on the rocks, just right for a hot day. But it was aol g WYnsk up the hill !

Saturday, 6 August 2016


Today the arm came off m y husband's reading g l assets. He on l y needs glasses f o r reading and has no other faults in his eyesight apart from the one's due to old age. So off we went to the dollar store where he was able to get a new pair f o r  a dollar and a kit to repair the old ones. Two dollars spent and now he has 2 pairs of g l assets. Not bad for being on holiday which is practically the on l y time in ThayeR he has time to read. He said that his eyeglasses will b e his USA souvenir !

Friday, 5 August 2016

Grocery shopping

We went to the local food co_op for grocery shopping this week. I did a careful inventory of what we already had before e we went, especially as USAShoestring had asked us to leave some home cooked meals in the freezer for him so he could have them after we leave on Tueesday. I'm pleased to say that it all came to 42 dollars and 45 cents. So I am getting better as the time goes on ! I expect that we will still pick up a few things whilst we are on the road back to the airport next week but the total should still be a lot less than previously. Just as well as I still have to shop for the rest of the month once we get back to the UK !

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Weeks State Park

Lovely visit here yesterday. Beautiful day and nothing to pay as we did not go into the museum.I t was much nicer outside admiring the views !

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

No spend day

Yesterday it rained all day, very hard !

If we had been camping we would have had to go out and spend money on an inside attraction, just to stay dry. This time, because we are staying with USAShoestring we could just stay in and have a free movie afternoon and read on the porch. Harrah for a no spend day even though the weather was bad !

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Vegetable Seeds

The WiFi connection over here means that I can check my email everyday. Into the ,in, box today came some special offers from They have seeds you can plant in August at special prices of 25p or 50p. I ordered 10 packets of the 25p ones and paid 1.50 postage and packing. Four pounds seems very little for I hope enough veg to see us through the winter, now to make sure that r
The slugs do not eat the seedlings !

Monday, 1 August 2016

Cabin baggage

We saved over 90 pounds by only bringing cabin luggage. The cheap flights we found charge extra for just about everything so taking camouflage only was a good way to save. We knew that USAShoestring had a washing machine so it was fine just to barring a few clothes and we wore the bulky stuff like walking shoes and fleeced on the aeroplane. The other way it saves is that we so little room whenever I see a souvenir I take  picture instead as that is all I have room for, so no souvenirs ding ! The one thing I do regret is that our bags are ones you have to cArry and t h at is hard on the arms so I have been looking out for cheap. Cases o n wheels, no luck so far but I will keep looking !