Friday, 31 March 2017

Frugal Friday

This week we have been fortunate enough to have had lovely weather, so as well as drying all the washing outside, we have been able to cut up logs for next winter. We now have so much free wood from the garden and free pallets that I do not think we shall have to buy any next winter at all, which is wonderful !

I also got a lovely surprise in the post, lots of freebies I apply for never arrive, but this one did ! It was this month's copy of 'Making Cards' magazine, complete with a booklet of 31 papers, which was amazing ! Now I can make some more cards for free !

We made yoghurt, breadcrumbs, bread, soup, chicken stock and salsa ! I went to the jumble sale and got some more things on my list and had a date night at home with a film from our gift subscription to Lovefilm. Since the weather was so nice we turned off the hot water and used the solar panels to heat the water, it got so hot I was able to tell MissShoestring that she could have a shower whenever she liked ! The Feed In Tariff payment is due soon so I'm only going to read the meter today, as I'm sure we have generated a lot of power this week.

MasterShoestring is going to visit USAShoestring for a week next week and instead of using his baggage allowance he is taking a suitcase of USAShoestring's stuff over for him, including quite a few Christmas presents. It will save a lot on postage and since MasterShoestring is only going for a week he doesn't need more than cabin baggage.

I got a 30 day trial to Kindle Unlimited so that I could read some books I needed without paying for them. I also downloaded for free Kindle books. I also got 10 packets of pita bread for 24p each , at last some yellow-stickered bargains.

Finally, I filled in a survey and the reward was a £6 donation to Doctors without Borders which I thought was very generous so I was pleased to do that ! I also earned another £5 Amazon voucher from Swagbucks and I'm saving them to get MrShoestring a book he wants for our wedding anniversary in August.

A great frugal week if we forget about the wing mirror !

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Great Free E-Book

I mentioned Kate Singh's super frugal books a few weeks ago and said that sometimes they are available for nothing at the start and the end of the month, well that is true for this month ! I bought a copy of this book and found it funny and helpful. It is full of motivation for when your saving muscles are feeling a little tired and Kate reminds you what a great job you can do ! I throughly recommend that you head over to and grab yourself a free copy !

Many thanks to Kate for sharing her wisdom with us at the great price of 0!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A New Wing Mirror

I did something not so frugal yesterday and knocked the wing mirror off the car. Not just a little bit bent  but completely smashed, cover missing and hanging off the car by the electric cable ! I took it to the garage that we always use and they very kindly removed the broken one and sealed up the gap with masking tape. I then asked them to source a new one. I went home and looked up prices online and thought that I had a rough idea of what the garage would charge. Imagine my dismay when they called and said the price would be £247 plus VAT !! Apparently since the car is no longer manufactured they could only get the part from a main dealer. I said thank you very much but how about we source the part and you fit it ? They agreed, so then the search for a bargain was on !

It took less than 5 minutes to find the correct mirror on Ebay and pay £59.99 with free delivery ! Then we looked for the correct colour of paint so that we could paint the mirror to match the car. The Ebay company wanted £23.99 to do this and we thought that we could probably do better. This morning we found the code inside the passenger door and used it to order the correct spray paint from Amazon, only £4.03 using a gift card from Swagbucks. Grand total so far under £65 and a bit of time. The garage will probably charge under £30 to fit the mirror so all told under £100 saving us around £150. Of course it would have been better not to have hit something in the first place but accidents do happen !

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Salsa !

At the start of the month I bought 2 jars of salsa for MrShoestring to have with his beans and tortillas on a Saturday night ! Both times the salsa in the jars has grown a layer of fluffy mould before we could finish the jar ! The children pointed out that it says on the label that the salsa will only last 3 days in the fridge but that seems very wasteful to me and I have not had this problem with the out of date jars I have previously ordered from Approved Foods ! Initially we made salsa ourselves to keep the salt content low so I'm going back to that, here's the recipe which does not go bad in the fridge !

4 cups tinned tomatoes
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper if you like hot salsa otherwise you can add a small chopped sweet pepper
ground salt and pepper to taste.

Cook all the ingredients in a large pan over a medium heat for 20 minutes. Eat fresh with homemade tortillas and store the rest in the fridge or freezer ! This is so easy I don't why I didn't just keep on making it !

Monday, 27 March 2017

Jumble Sale Finds

I drove out to find Saturday's jumble sale with directions but even after I had found the village hall where it was taking place I nearly did not go in. There were double yellow lines everywhere and all the streets around the hall were full of parked cars. In the end I parked in a local store car park and walked back. It was the first time ever I have had trouble parking and nearly went home ! I'm so glad that I did go in though as although I only bought two items they were good ones.

The first thing I found was a short sleeved school shirt for age 15-16. This will fit MasterShoestring next school year and are difficult to find second hand. I paid 10p !

These were the second find, a pair of pyjama bottoms from Marks and Spencer. They will also fit MasterShoestring next year and were the princely sum of 10p !

I have now almost completed my list of required items, all from jumble sales, so I am very pleased. I just need a few more schools shirts and a pair of school trousers and I'm finished. Just as well as MasterShoestring has signed up to go on a really expensive World Challenge expedition after school next year so I think he's going to be expecting plenty of help with all the sponsored events the school will be running to help with the cost !

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Pause in Lent

Today I want to tell you about a small charity which is having a big impact. Mary's Meals, named after Mary, the mother of Jesus feeds over 1.1 million children at school across the world. The idea is that by providing a nutritious filling lunch for the children at school their hunger decreases and their educational attainment improves, providing a ladder out of poverty. The scheme also helps the community around the school by employing people to build kitchens and cook the food and by buying the food from local providers. It is a Win-Win situation for everyone involved and the aim is to make the local community responsible for the scheme eventually so that then the charity can move on and provide help somewhere else. 

You can find out more about the scheme at and the website includes stories from the children who have been helped and pictures of how the scheme adapts to local conditions. At the moment 93p out of every £1 goes directly to funding feeding and £13.90 is enough to feed a child for a year. I find this idea inspirational and am reminded of the bible story where the loaves and fishes from one person are used to feed a crowd of thousands !

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A Frugal Mother's Day Outing

The weekend weather down here is predicted to be very pleasant, around 15C, so why not take Mum out for an outing ? Around here there are lots different places to go, beautiful walks, stately homes, window shopping in old fashioned towns, teashops, garden centres, all lovely but not too expensive. You can also make it a zero cost outing if you pack up a picnic and take Mum to a local beauty spot.

We are planning a picnic outing to a beauty spot with a bit of a walk followed by afternoon tea at home. Homemade cake, card and flowers will keep the cost down and the meaningfulness high. For the Mum who lives in Scotland we have gifted some gadgets to make life a little easier, ordered online with free post and packing to keep costs down. A long phone call to catch up on news will also cost nothing using our free weekend calls.

Whatever you do have a lovely day !

Friday, 24 March 2017

Frugal Friday

The biggest saving this week was visiting the local garden centre with our garden tokens and discovering that they had a special offer on compost. This meant that we were able to get 900 litres of compost for free ! We were given the tokens last Summer and were saving them for buying compost for the vegetable beds but we never thought that we would be able to get as much as we did. We now have enough for all the beds and to have the compost 5cm deep across them. Fingers crossed that this results in an increased crop this year !

We planted out all the lettuce seedlings into a cold frame and re-potted the tomato plants and put them in the polytunnel, so far no slugs, which is good. MissShoestring enjoyed watching the last of the Six Nations rugby for free on terrestrial television and I enjoyed a 'cheer-me-up' visit to the library after a doctor's appointment, so no need to go into town twice.

We got free pallets for firewood, ate leftovers for lunch and made a geometry set for MasterShoestring's exams out of what we had already. I got a free local paper and MasterShoestring found lots of computer components for his Duke of Edinburgh project on Freecycle. We also made yoghurt, rolls and bread, homemade soup, cake and pancakes.

Finally, I got a £5 LovetoShop voucher in the post after I talk part in a survey for the Royal Mail, so that was nice.

I hope that you had a lovely, frugal week too !

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A not so frugal cake !

If you would like to bake a traditional cake for Mother's Day then a Simnel Cake is the one to try. The good thing about this is that it is quite heavy, so people only eat small slices and it takes longer to disappear than the chocolate cake. Once again this is a recipe without eggs so ideal for vegans.

3/4 lb plain flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 1/2 oz margarine
8oz soft brown sugar
8oz sultanas
6oz currants
5oz raisins
1oz candied peel
2oz glace cherries
finely grated rind of a lemon
1/2 pt water
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease and line with greaseproof paper a 9 inch tin. Sift together flour and spices and rub in the margarine. Stir in the sugar, fruit and lemon rind. Make a hollow in the centre and add the water, stir in the bicarbonate of soda and mix thoroughly. Turn into the tin and bake at 350F (180C) for 1 hour, reduce hear to 325F (160C) for another hour or until skewer comes out the centre clean. If the cake is getting very brown you can protect the top with a piece of foil.

 Turn out on to a rack to cool. Once cool cover the top with apricot jam and roll out a circle of marzipan to fit. Use the leftover marzipan to make 11 balls for the top. Grill the marzipan for a couple of minutes to get the brown effect on top.

Tie a ribbon around it and present it to your Mum !

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Frugal Mother's Day Cake

This is  a really, easy cake and can be decorated as you wish. It is so easy that children could easily make it. We make it in a square dish as that makes it easier to cut into slices to eat !

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 cup water

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into ready greased 9inch pan to bake. If you want to use traditional round pans this is enough mixture to fill 2 small pans. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes. Cool.
Ice the top as you wish and enjoy ! 

You can also use this mixture to make cupcakes and then it makes 12 cupcakes.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Frugal Mother's Day Flowers

Here, in the United Kingdom, it is Mothering Sunday this coming Sunday, 26th March. Traditionally, it is always the middle Sunday of Lent and was the time when sons and daughters in domestic service would return home with a gift for their Mothers. The gift showed off some of the new skills that they were learning in their job. Boys often brought a bit of leather or metal work and girls a cake, which is where the idea of the Simnel Cake, more usually eaten at Easter, came from.

Nowadays, we often give flowers and chocolates rather than a cake and a poker but this can be quite expensive so over the next few days I'm going to share some more frugal options.

If you are going to be visiting your Mother some time around Mothering Sunday a planted basket filled with plug plants from the local garden centre will be cheaper than the traditional bouquet and last a lot longer. You could even plant up a hanging basket, so Mum has something to enjoy all Summer.

This week at the garden centre compost, plants and baskets were on special offer so you could put together a little basket for less than £5 and a larger one for less than £10. Much cheaper than buying a bouquet.

Of course, you could also make your own bouquet from the beautiful Spring flowers in your garden and tell your Mum and that you had made it especially for her ! Even cheaper and really special !

If you can't be with your Mum on the day then a homemade card featuring flowers can also be a lovely, gesture !

Monday, 20 March 2017

Jumble Sale Haul

So I only spent £1.20 at Saturday's jumble sale but came away with quite a lot of books !

I like some of Nora Roberts' books so finding these for 20p each made it worth trying a few titles that I hadn't read, if I don't like them I can release them back into the 'wild' having lost very little !

This one is  for the next time we go up to Scotland, which we do fairly regularly. 

Finally, a lovely set of postcards with pictures of the interior of Clarence House. These will come in very handy for 'Thank You' notes and are made of very thick, quality card.

Total cost, if everything had been bought new, would have been £ 43.90 ! So well worth getting up early to go 'jumbling' !

Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Pause in Lent

This week I want to talk about another small charity which is making a tremendous difference. This one concentrates on women's maternity care and the problem of fistula. It is called Freedom From Fistula and you can find out more at

A fistula is an obstetric injury which happens during labour in childbirth. Often women with no access to maternity care experience an obstructed labour where the baby dies. Without medical care the tissue left degrades and tissue around the birth canal dies leaving the women singly or doubly incontinent. There is a terrible stigma attached to the condition so the women are often abandoned by their communities. Freedom From Fistula not only fund surgical repairs for these women but also provide training and resources so that they can earn a living after their care.

One of the things I really like about the charity is that all your donation money goes directly to help people as the administration costs of the charity are met by the Gloag Foundation. As a Mum with 3 children, who needed some help with every delivery, including 2 Caesarian sections, this is a cause very close to my heart and I would urge you to let people know about it !

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A great free e-book service

So sorry for yesterday's post appearing under the one for Thursday ! I guess it really has been a very, busy week ! With all the appointments I have been very glad of my e-reader. I don't normally use it at home as I actually prefer the pages of a book. However, for travel, there are certain advantages. For a start, it is smaller and lighter than a paperback so it is easier to cram in my rucksack. It keeps your page when you suddenly have to jump off the train and there are so many free books available for it.

I am already starting to build up a holiday library so that when I have plenty of time to read I do not have to worry about running out of material. My favourite source is You can set your preferences for different types of books and then receive a daily email telling you all about reduced books and where you can get them from. There are usually at least two which are free and sometimes more. I have noticed that often on a Friday there are no free books so make sure you check during the week or direct with the website. Another good thing about this website is that it has titles for all e-readers, not just the most popular ones and you can always download  free software for your computer which allows you to read e-books if you don't want to buy a device. We bought ours second- hand and they were very reasonable.

My other favourite source of free e-books is thekatesinghsite. Kate Singh writes e-books about frugal living and other interesting topics and usually has a free e-book once a month for a short period of time. They are a mine of information on keeping home cheaply and have a fun, chatty style.

I hope you find a free book you enjoy !

Thursday, 16 March 2017

A Cheap Bouquet

Yesterday I needed a bouquet to say 'Thank you ' to someone for all their hard work. I was rather taken aback by the cost and wanted something that looked nice so instead I bought one bunch pf tulips and made my own with what else I had in the garden.

Packaging is half of what makes a bouquet special and I always save the packaging which comes with any flowers that I receive. So, I added daffodils and greenery to the tulips, reused the cellophane and used tissue paper and a lovely, yellow flower box I had saved. Altogether it looked very nice and saved me around £7.50 !

Just as much pleasure but at 1/3 of the cost !

Do you make your own bouquets ?

Frugal Friday

So this week we have been striving to keep costs down but with a very busy couple of days it was more a case of looking for the cheapest petrol price rather than staying home to stop burning petrol all together.

Sunday we  tried out a new dish with some leftover wine which I had frozen since Christmas time. It was the end of a bottle which people normally pour away but I thought that it might add a bit of flavour to something. We tried it out in a chicken dish a bit like Coq Au Vin. MasterShoestring thought it was delicious, MrShoestring did not like the wine taste and MissShoestring said it was 'alright' code for I don't like it but you'll be offended if I say so ! So I shall not be making it again, however, it did use up some of the wine !!

Monday we saw that the building site had left out more pallets to be used as firewood. We only took a few of the more broken ones as the rest were too big to fit in the car. We had discussed getting a trailer but that meets a tow ball on the car etc so in the end would be more expensive than the savings in wood. So we shall just enjoy the scrap pieces of wood we can collect.

Tuesday I found the cheapest petrol station to fill up the car to drive into North London for some voluntary work, I do prefer the train but this place is nowhere near a station. The cost was £116.9 per litre of unleaded as opposed to £121.9 from the petrol station on the main route. This is a saving of 5p a litre and on a full tank saves me 35p.

Wednesday I made my own bouquet using only a few flowers that I had to buy and signed us up to get a Smartmeter fitted for gas and electricity. We have had one before for the electricity but never for gas and are hoping that it will mean we no longer leave the hot water on by accident !

Thursday I saw 3 pupils for tutoring, so that is  bit extra in the savings coffers and used a Swagbucks gift card to order a book for my course for free. Swagbucks have a good promotion on just now where you can get £5 gift cards for 200 fewer points than normal. So I'm trying to get as many as I can before the offer closes.

Today I ordered a book for MasterShoestring using a gift token, making the cost nothing. I have made a batch of granola and yoghurt and have left the supper ready as I'm going to be out again tonight !

I'm looking forward to a quieter week next week when I can do some more serious penny-pinching !

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What to do on a very busy evening !

You might remember my picture of baked potatoes all beautifully wrapped in foil, well this is what I do when I'm really busy ! I just stick a few in the slow cooker, turn to HIGH, season, pop the lid on and go on my merry way ! Four hours or even later you have perfect baked potatoes without having to be there to put them on. Not using foil makes them crispier, especially where they have been touching the cooker, but we like crispy bits.

Last night and tonight I'm away at meetings over supper so to save MasterShoestring eating everything in the fridge I've been leaving a quick meal with instructions ! Last night's was baked potato with leftover chicken and salad. Tonight's is a quick cheese and egg pudding to be eaten with frozen mixed vegetables.

Cheese and Egg Pudding

1 cup homemade breadcrumbs
3 eggs
100g grated cheese
enough dairy or non-dairy milk to thin out the breadcrumbs 1 cup is usually enough

Mix all together and turn into a greased oven proof dish. Bake at 200C for 30 minutes.

When it has finished baking it is all puffed up like a soufflé which makes it look better than it sounds !

Both of these dishes are quick, easy and fool proof and save on eating a take away on a busy night !

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Great Frugal Book

I have had this book on my wish list for quite a while and was saving up Swagbucks to get some gift cards to pay for it. Last week I had enough and it arrived over the weekend. It has 51 short chapters about ways to enjoy life without spending any money.

I really like the quirky illustrations and the slightly off the wall style of writing from the two Australian authors. They also wrote the Art of Weed Foraging which gives you some idea about the level of frugality advocated. This is all about bringing your own produce bags to the grocery store or preferably not visiting the store at all !

I thought it was a great idea to have frugal book which concentrates on pleasure, from looking up at the stars to talking to the people around you rather than staring at the screen. I think it is a book to make you think rather like Your Money or Your Life. I have certainly been looking around and enjoying small pleasures even more as a result of reading the book.

Enjoy your, frugal day !

Monday, 13 March 2017

Holidays !

So I am very excited because over the weekend I managed to book and pay for our Summer holiday in cash and the total including insurance came to £638 ! I think for 2 adults and a teenager, who counts as an adult, that is a good price for 2 weeks away in Europe. We are going to this lovely place in Northern Italy called Aviano and can make lots of day trips from there, including Venice !

I had £680 in the holiday account on Friday when I received an email from DFDS the ferry company advertising a 20% discount. I waited to talk it over with MrShoestring and decided to book the ferry crossing that evening. Sure enough, we got the discount and it brought the price down from over £100 to just over £80. I think the early booking ferry discount is still available for the Summer and this level of discount for dates during the school Summer holidays is rare, so if you are thinking of going abroad with a car I would take advantage of it.

Next I started to work out where we would stop on the way down to Italy, I noticed that a lot of the cheap places on AirBnB were getting booked up so with the help of the ViaMichelin website I worked out the cheapest route and travelling times. Once I had that, I looked for cheap flats available for 1 night. The most expensive price I had to pay for the three of us was £48 a night and the cheapest was £34. This compares very favourably with a night in a hostel in a dormitory and gives us a whole apartment with a kitchen and a bathroom, so cooking for ourselves will be no problem.

Finally, MrShoestring and I looked at AirBnB places close to where we wanted to stay within a particular price range and in the end chose the cheapest one as it was also very nice. The good thing about AirBnB is the flexibility so we were able to book 9 nights in a lovely, apartment for just £339 including the fee for the service. This is for the last week in August and the first in September, so not quite the highest season. You might be saying that camping would be cheaper, which is what I first thought, but campsites during the Summer holidays are quite expensive and were quoting us well over 30 euros a night plus the tourist tax added on top.

Lastly, I looked for the cheapest European breakdown cover and travel insurance as although we have these things as part of packages elsewhere the cover is not that good and MasterShoestring is not covered by the travel insurance. I managed to get travel insurance as a single trip for £15.69, which was cheaper than on MoneySaving Expert, so I was well-pleased. The breakdown cover was £36.75.

Best of all, I have paid for the entire trip with cash that we have saved up now, all we have to do is save for the fuel and tolls now. The whole trip cost much less than I was expecting, just last week I thought that it would be over £1000, so I am very pleased that it has cost significantly less. Now, I'm off to learn a bit of Italian for free using books from the library and the BBC website ! Ciao !

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Pause in Lent

This is the second week in Lent and I read an interesting article about thinking about how Christ went to the Cross on his own part from his Mother, a few women and a stranger who helped to carry the Cross. All the disciples ran away. It made me think that even if we don't have a big name in the world we can still make a difference by accompanying someone through their trials or doing something small to help.This week that thought made me think of a very, small charity we support which very few people have heard of. It is called the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and you can find out more about it from this link in the UK .

They work with governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to eradicate this terrible pest which ruins people's lives. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic flatworms from snails so the illness is sometimes known as snail fever. It cause a rash, problems with urination and swelling. People who affected long-term can develop learning difficulties. Children are often affected as they are more likely to play in contaminated water. The treatment to stop the illness costs less than £1 per person and prevents a whole life-time of suffering. That seems a small price to pay to help someone, so we continue to eat frugally and hope to give this little charity a hand at the end of the month.

What can you do to walk alongside someone today ?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Charity Shop Finds

It is a long time since I was in a charity shop, well before Christmas I think. So the other day when I was in a different town to do some banking I thought that I would have a quick scoot round for some of the things that are on my jumble sale list.

I found this nice green, unbreakable cereal bowl at Sue Ryder for 50p. It will be added to our stash of camping equipment. Similarly, I found a really nice tin mug with 'Queen of the Garden' written on it for £1.50 so that was added to the camping equipment too.

Lastl,y I bought these rather smart, blue loafers from Cancer Research. They are lined with leather and only cost £4. I have been looking for over a year for a pair in navy blue and nearly paid £45 in Marks and Spencer the other week, as I really need them to go with so many of my work outfits. I wore out the last pair and had them re-heeled twice.

This means that the clothes and shoes buying ban has been broken twice ! Once last week at the jumble sale and once in the charity shops but since the cost was under £6 and I do not need anything else just now I think that is pretty good going !

Have you had any lucky finds recently ?

Friday, 10 March 2017

Frugal Friday

So, driving the costs down this week were lots of little actions, such as buying a book MasterShoestring needed for school with a gift token. I remember when books in school were free but he goes to an academy so I guess it is all different now !! Anyway, the book was still free to us thanks to a generous gift !

We also used up leftovers, made tortillas, a delicious bacon and potato pie and enjoyed another new recipe of cheese and spinach pasties. This was supposed to use 285g of cream cheese but I did not have that and did not want to buy it specially for the recipe. So I used a different cheese that we already had and the recipe was delicious. That saved a trip to the shop and having to buy something extra. We also used homegrown parsley and cress in a salad and started off some lettuce seeds which have already germinated. I am going to look after them very well as last year the slugs got all our lettuce.

When I did go shopping yesterday, I made sure that I did other errands at the same time and I have been doing that all week to conserve petrol.

I mended a jumper, a shirt and an apron and gave away to the charity shop two nice woollen sweaters which are now too big for me. I was sorry to see them go bit also know that someone else will be glad of them.

We had a couple of busy nights this week and I made sure that we had made supper earlier on in the day so we had something quick, ready to eat before going out. Last week I forgot and it was very stressful, so this week it was much better and saved us money because I did not have to resort to buying food that was quick to prepare, which is usually more expensive.

Yesterday was a beautiful day so some more washing was hung outside to dry, this removes quite a few creases too so is quicker for the ironing as well ! We also got quite a few things on the list at the jumble sale and I found a few more at a charity shop, so that was really good.

I sold some more books to Ziffit and did 4 tutoring sessions so the holiday money is mounting up !

How was your frugal week ?

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Budget

After the national budget yesterday I thought that it would be a good idea to go and have a look at our annual budget and see how we are getting along.

At present we are overspent in the Holiday category as we bought MasterShoestring's air ticket earlier on in the year. This and his Geography trip will eat up all the annual holiday budget so if we want to go on a family holiday we shall have to find the money elsewhere. We were thinking of a motoring and camping holiday down to Venice and back, as MasterShoestring has said that he wouldn't mind camping if he got to see Venice ! Research has shown that during the school holidays Airbnb is cheaper than most campsites, so I'm planning to use that service for a place to stay. I've also worked out the cost of a ferry crossing, petrol and a visit to Venice. For the three of us I think that £1100 for 2 weeks would be a sensible budget and at present have just over £600 saved from working at side jobs like tutoring and book selling.

The next category we have to plan for which is not in the budget is training costs if I decide to go on with my re-training at the end of the current year. I should get the qualification at the end of the year, but that just supplements the ones I have already got. If I want to be properly qualified so I can work independently, then I need to study for 2 more years at a cost of £1414 annually. I do not have any money saved for this yet, as I had to pay this year's course fees. I have applied for the re-payment of some pension contributions which were over too brief a period of time to produce a pension. The money is taking a long time to come but I hop to kickstart a training fund with that money.

Other than those 2 big goals that we had not thought of at the start of the year and which are both optional, we are managing to stick to our budget of £1500 a month for all of us. We were a bit overspent on petrol and dental costs last month but I think those will even up over the year. It is good to feel that we have choices and are still in the black during the first quarter of the year .

How is your budget doing ?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A Tasty Pie

I made a bacon and potato pie on Monday which all the family liked so I thought that I would share the recipe here. It is very simple and cheap to make so ideal for this Lenten month !

First make a batch of your favourite shortcrust pastry. I use 2 and 1/2 cups of plain flour and add 1/2 cup oat milk and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. This makes a crumbly pastry and I line a 9in pie dish with half of the pastry and blind bake this in the oven to stop the bottom being soggy. The other half of the pastry is for the top of the pie.

I grill 200g of bacon. Since this is to be cut up into pieces for the pie the cheap 'cooking 'bacon at 60p for 500g will do fine. Then I slice 200-300g of already boiled potatoes. We had some leftover roast potatoes from Sunday so I used those and they worked fine. Next make 1/2 pint of white sauce and I did this using the all in one method where you put the fat, flour and dairy free milk into a pan and then whisk on the heat until it starts to thicken. I use 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp margarin and half a pint of oat milk. Once the sauce is thickened I added some ground black pepper and a little nutmeg.

Cut the bacon into thin strips using scissors or a knife and then add the bacon and the sliced potatoes to the white sauce. This is the pie filling. Pour into the bottom half of the pie once it is cooked and roll out the rest of the pastry to cover. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200C.

I served this with peas but it would be very nice with cabbage or brussels sprouts as well. The leftovers were enjoyed just as much as the original dish so this recipe is definitely a 'keeper' !

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cheap Seeds

Today I wanted to plant some lettuce, leeks and French beans so that they will be well on their way once the soil warms up. However, when I went to look through the seed packets there were plenty of spinach varieties, pumpkins and aubergines but I could only find lettuce of the ones I wanted and not very much of that. So off I went to research what to buy !

This year I want the garden to work, not be  as haphazard as it has in the past. We have a good results with seeds from Aldi, especially with lettuce so I shall look there and the other place we have had good prices and good crops from has been Park Promotions. They usually sell china but also have a garden section and I stocked up last Autumn when prices were down to 5p a packet. The only problem with buying seeds like that is that you cannot choose your variety and they might not have what you want.

After reading a few reviews I decided to go for an F1 hybrid leek this year. 'Oarsman' and the self-fertile runner bean 'Firestorm'. Both of these are available at a good price from Kings Seeds. So I am looking forward to my new seeds arriving and seeing how they grow !

Now I am off to tidy up that seed collection so I can see what else is missing !!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Jumble Sale Bargains

This was the best bargain of the jumble sale, a brand new waffle weave dressing gown for 40p. MasterShoestring is still wearing his old England one from when he was age 12 so this will make a good replacement as soon as he has grown another couple of inches, that should happen over the next couple of weeks given the rate he has been going.

I paid 50p to get in and including that spent £4.20 in total. As well as the dressing gown I got 3 pairs of pyjama trousers for MasterShoestring and 2 white school shirts. These were on my list and as 15-16 year old school shirts are very hard to come by at jumble sales I was very well pleased. All 5 items were part of the 'fill a bag for £1 ' event at the end of the jumble sale. I also got an England pair of shorts, some quilting batting and fabric, several very nice cards, including the ones that you put your own Christmas photograph inside and  a very expensive brand new bra and pants for me.

The new underwear does break the clothing ban for this year, but they were such a bargain and brand new that I thought it worth spending the £1.80 they wanted for them !

All the money went to help keep the Brownies and Guides running so that was a nice feeling to help them out and I did stop off in some charity shops on the way home and the supermarkets en route. However, I did not find anything like the bargains I had found at the jumble sale so came home without spending anything else !

It was the first time I had gone to a jumble sale with a list and I was very pleased to find so many things I wanted, especially the school shirts and quilting stuff ! I am looking forward to the next one and hoping they will have some school trousers ! 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A Pause in Lent

This week is the first of the Pause in Lent Sundays and Angela over at tracing rainbows has a list of all the bloodspots taking part. This year I'm going to concentrate on how we can live simply so others can simply live.

I am very aware that with food in the fridge, clothes on my back and a roof of my own I am richer than 75% of the world. When I was young a popular book was 'Limits to Growth' which explained that if we were to extend these benefits to others in the world the richest people would have to change their lifestyle. So far there appears to be a growing gap between rich and poor but some people are trying to do something about it.

Last year I read this book :-

The book explains what you can do right now to make the biggest impact on world poverty and as a result of reading it the way we give and the charities we give to has changed. There is a website of the same name and I would urge you to have a look if you want to feel that you can make a difference regardless of all the horrible things going on in the world. I was struck that they are good news stories and I want to be part of them.

This Lent we'll be looking for opportunities to save and give more, please join us !

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Helpful Recipe Book

I have had a copy of this recipe book since we first got married but my old copy was falling apart so when it was re-issued I bought a new one. The recipes are not identical as they have been tweaked to take into account new healthy eating advice, so for instance the chicken curry recipe now has vegetables as the main ingredients !

We have been getting a bit bored with eating the same old things so when I was thinking about the menu plan for March I went to have a look through this book. I had forgotten how helpful it was. It includes lots of basic recipes like for white sauce and basic bread which are really good and always work. It also has a list of seasonal food, sample menu plans for 4 weeks which include 3 meals a day and snacks and a great index.

So far we have made two new recipes, the lentil, red onion and tomato flan and the mulligatawny soup. Both have been big hits with the family and the portion sizes have been so large for 4 that I have had enough leftovers for lunch the following day.

I prefer this book to the ones from Jack Munroe as these recipes always work out and have big servings. I have had quite a few recipes from 'A Girl Called Jack' and the second book which have not worked out properly and where the servings turned out smaller than I would have expected. So I think I shall pass those books on and keep on cooking with this trusty favourite !

Have you go a favourite frugal cookbook ?

Friday, 3 March 2017

Frugal Friday

So there were a lot of little things we did this week to save pennies ! We re-used the foil which I use to cover the pancakes as they come out of the pan to keep them warm until they are eaten. MasterShoestring had pancakes every day this week for breakfast apart from Shrove Tuesday, when he had them for supper, so re-using the same piece of foil all week was quite a saving. Once it was too wrinkled to stretch out again I scrumpled it up and used it to blind bake the pastry for a quiche.

At the start of the week I took meter readings for the electricity and gas and submitted them. This makes sure that we never have an estimated bill and just pay for what we use. We pay monthly on a direct debit and sometimes this has meant we have built up a large credit with the energy company. The last time it happened it took quite a lot of effort to get the £300 back so I don't want that happening again !

The other thing we do is timing telephone calls to family and friends, MrShoestring's Mum likes to chat but we don't like it if it goes beyond the free hour we have on Unlimited calls, so we always replace the receiver and re-dial to get another free hour !

We made yoghurt, bread, rolls granola and grated old bread for breadcrumbs, planted cress and froze celery. I re-used the plastic bags we freeze the bread in and downloaded some free Kindle books. I also went to the library for 5 free books to read and bought 2 other books for studying using Swagbucks.

The biggest savings this week were due to making a menu plan for March and shopping in 3 different stored for the ingredients for it. Two of the stores are right next door to one another so there was no extra petrol cost and the other one is on the way to the other two, so I was able to take advantage of the cheapest prices without it costing more.

Here's hoping we can keep up the frugal living now that jumble sale season has started ! I have a list of things we need and there is a moratorium on clothes buying for anyone apart from MasterShoestring ! So that and the stash of free Kindle books should ensure that I only buy what we need at the first jumble sale of the season !

Thursday, 2 March 2017

March Meal Plan

So there will be quite a bit of bread baking over March as the meal place includes sandwiches for lunch most days and one day a week the evening meal in soup and bread.

The first week we are having a red onion, tomato and lentil tart, the soup, tortillas, meatloaf and cheese and onion pudding with some baked potatoes to round things out and make sure that MasterShoestring gets enough to eat. Breakfasts are granola, cereal, beans on toast or pancakes and lunches sandwiches or leftovers.

The second week is a bit similar but with a tray bake chicken dish and sone stews and casseroles added. I'm also going to make a stack of savoury pancakes stuffed with mushrooms and bean sprouts.

The third week we will still have meatloaf, tortillas and soup as these are great favourites but added in will be a pizza and a quiche.

Final week starts with Mothering Sunday so we'll be having a full chicken dinner, as I really enjoy that, with a chicken curry made from the leftovers and a spaghetti dish too.

I find that meal planning for a whole month in advance is very helpful. I bought groceries for all these meals at the start of the month and they cost me £77.64 so I have plenty left for a few weekly top ups too ! Sometimes we have so many leftovers that I don't make the planned meal but all the ingredients can be adapted to make something else or put a spare dish in the freezer for  busy time. So meal planning and shopping ahead really works for me !

Do you plan ahead ?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Monthly Shop

The aim this month is to have little bit leftover from the grocery and household budget to donate something to charity. As the budget is only £170 and includes about £40 for MasterShoestring's school meals that makes the budget very tight. MissShoestring his still at home and although she does but the occasional expensive thing that she wants she still eats nearly every meal with us. This means that I have around £130 for the month for 4 people and need to buy some special foods such as non-dairy milk. That is a budget of £26 a week or £32.50 per person for the month.

We usually manage fine although I have made some changes over the past few months as prices started to rise. We don't have a roast chicken every Sunday but have moved to a cheaper meatloaf and I have stopped buying organic cheese and milk.

This month I am going to try using the cheapest brands as much as possible and make as much as possible from scratch. This is fine for things like oats to make granola but might not be so popular if I make everyone eat cheap baked beans ! So I have rejigged the menu plan again to try some new recipes and include some meat every Sunday. The family also requested fewer meals with lentils in so I have some crafty ways of disguising them which I hope will work !

How much do you budget for groceries ?