Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Reckoning

So after all that scrimping and saving, how did we do in October ? Well the everyday household spending came to just over £990, which is very good. It means that we only spent around 2/3 of our income. The food budget was spent right up to the limit and the petrol budget was overspent, however, we didn't go anywhere last week so I still have a full tank of petrol to carry over into November. 

The big expenses were making the annual contribution to the school and getting a new passport for MasterShoestring, it wasn't just the cost of the passport but also the photographs and special delivery for the application as it contained his still valid passport. Now, we could have taken the passport pictures ourselves to save a bit of money but MasterShoestring is very conscious of how he looks just now, being a teenager, so we decided that it wasn't worth the fuss he would probably make to get them just right !

The other big spending was on back care items and a kneeling chair, but that came from savings which are kept deliberately to pay for items like this so I did not feel too bad about spending the money ! We also had to put down a deposit on MasterShoestring's prom ticket which I hadn't budgeted for at the start of the year, we didn't reckon he would want to go, but he does. So that came out of the Miscellaneous line item in the budget !

We were very fortunate that October is a month that does not contain any big items of annual expenditure, such as car insurance, so we were able to concentrate on spending just on essentials. That means we have got a sizeable chunk to put away in the annual fund ! So that's what I'm going off to do now !

Monday, 30 October 2017

Stoptober 5

So it is the very end of Stoptober. I was quite tempted not to include the final couple of days but then decided that was a bit of a cheat !

How have we got on with our "no unnecessary spending challenge " ? Well, there are still over £500 pounds in the bank from this month's salary, so I think that it has made quite a difference. However, you could also argue that this has been balanced out by the extra money from savings which was spent on 'back care' items. Having said that, we will still come out ahead and all the back care stuff will help me to continue to function and doing all the frugal things I do, so I suspect that is an investment in the future !

I don't think the family have noticed that we have been in 'saving' mode and thanks to all the new cake recipes, appear to have been quite appreciative of all the home cooking. There have been a few times in the month when I was tempted to spend and then lists about what to do and how to distinguish a 'want' from a 'need' have been very helpful.

I have learned that even though we are pretty good at frugal living on a day to day basis we do still spend money when we don't need to and that watching every penny for a bit can be fun. That said, I also learned that having to do it all the time probably wouldn't be fun but rather wearing and I'm glad that we don't have to. I feel very blessed that we have savings to help when we need them !

Would we do this again ? I'm not sure, maybe a different sort of a challenge would be fun to take on in the future, like saving change or trying to minimise waste. But now I'm off to do the accounts and work out to the penny how much we saved in Stoptober !

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea

When USAShoestring was born we lived in Edinburgh and one of our favourite things to do was to go for  walk on a Sunday afternoon and then stop in at one of the capital's many tea rooms. With the nights drawing in we've decide to recreate the tradition every Sunday afternoon in November with an afternoon tea at home. Scottish teas are often referred to as 'high tea' and can include a cooked part of the meal with haddock and chips followed by all the usual sandwiches and cakes but we will just be cutting straight to the sandwiches and cakes. I've got lots of new cake recipes to try and the one which follows was given to me by a friend and inspired the idea of reviving our afternoon tea tradition.

Vegan Lemon Cake

300g white self raising flour+2 tsp baking powder
200g sugar
6tbsp oil
juice of half a lemon made up to 1/2 pint with water

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ones. Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake for 40 mins at 180C. Leave to cool before turning out and decorating with lemon icing.

Here's what it should look like after coming out of the oven !

Lemon Icing

1 cup icing sugar
3-4 tbsps lemon juice

Mix to a runny icing and pour all over the cake, add additional decoration if liked.

Ready for afternoon tea !

Saturday, 28 October 2017

A Beautiful Autumn Day

Yesterday the sun came back, much nicer and although it was a lot colder than earlier in the week I had fun taking some pictures of the Autumn colour in the garden.

The contrast between the leaves and the sky is beautiful !

The wild flowers are reflecting the colours of the trees now.

I love the colour of this bush, which gets more intense as Autumn progresses.

This is my favourite rose, more than 30 years old now and goes on blooming into November !

I hope you have been enjoying some fine weather too !

Friday, 27 October 2017

Frugal Friday

So a bit of an expensive week this week as a herniated disc in my back led to sciatica and no sleep at night ! I have dutifully been doing the back exercises mentioned previously but now the pain was so bad I went out and bought a wedge and lumbar roll for the car and a kneeling stool for work ! I was glad that we have savings for just such events and feel these were definite needs rather than wants !

Being able to spend on unexpected necessities is partly why we do all the little things mentioned in the rest of the post !

We got a couple of freebies in the post, a nice packet of wildflower seeds for next year and some free gift tags. I also got new Sainsburys and Tesco vouchers, so much off a £30 shop, so will have to calculate the cheapest way of getting November's shopping next week. The arrival of the vouchers led to a stocktake and a November menu plan and shopping list.

The half term food plan including snack, breakfasts and lunches has come in handy when MasterShoestring said there was 'nothing to eat' and I also managed to make yoghurt, bread, tortilla, retired beans, salsa, pancakes, a new type of chocolate cake, blackberry and apple crumble and quiche.

Unexpectedly, we found a few extra vegetables in the garden when we tidied up so those were enjoyed and garlic and winter hardy lettuce have been planted. We are going to tidy up the polytunnel later as the plants in there are still producing, even the tomatoes have flowers !

I managed to find a few more yellow-stickered bargains by visiting the supermarket after 7.30pm including carrots for 4p, tinned tomatoes for 4p and a jar of sweet and sour sauce, which I would never normally buy, for 9p.

I renewed the library books online to save a fine, as it is a bit difficult to drive just now and reused foil and some plastic bags which had had blackberries in them. I also downloaded a free ebook and ordered a voucher from Swagbucks. So all in all a pretty good week !

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Sorting out the Garden

All the mild weather means that we have been out sorting the garden and trying to get it ready for Winter. However, some plants just don't want to quit and this week we've found carrots, beetroot, potatoes and a marrow whilst tidying up.

Yesterday, whilst we were out we also saw this rare rainbow ice phenomena known as a circumhorizontal arc. I was taking pictures of the garden and just happened to have my camera in hand. By the time MrShoestring got his big camera it was gone !

This is the garden now, a lot barer, but still with a bit of parsley and some leeks ! We also have a few raspberries and some courgettes, tomatoes and cucumbers still producing in the polytunnel !

How's your garden ?

New Chocolate Cake

MasterShoestring has been doing a lot of mountain biking over the holiday and that means that plenty of cake is required ! I have been looking to use up the rest of the Sweet Freedom sugar replacement as well so this was the result !

60g melted chocolate
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup dairy free milk
3/4 Sweet Freedom or other sweetener
2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsps cocoa

Mix all the ingredients together and place in a greased 9inch baking pan. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes. Leave to cool then melt the rest of the chocolate from a 100g bar and pour over the top, grate a few flakes of chocolate for the top and garnish to make pretty !

MasterShoestring does not care for the garnish part of this recipe but was most appreciative of all the extra chocolate !!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Lovely Free E-Book

This lovely lady is Kate Singh with her two wonderful boys. I've mentioned a few times that Kate runs which is a US site with lots of great advice on living frugally but also having a life.

Kate also writes books and very generously every month or so has a few days when she gives her books away for free in order to help those who might need them.

Her latest is called  " The Housewife is a Writer" and is available free just now to download from the US and UK Amazon site. I got a copy on Sunday night and have really enjoyed Kate's straight forward thinking on all sorts of topics that crop up in everyday life. She has such a positive attitude that I do recommend having a look at her latest book !

Monday, 23 October 2017

Stoptober 4

Well, we have certainly being doing that ! I had to go to High Wycombe on Friday, which has our nearest shopping centre but I only went to Lidl and Poundland and stuck to buying what was on the list.

Normally, when I go to Lidl I also have a look at the special offers but this time the central aisles were ignored ! It did help that I had just had to pay for a compulsory part of my course and some mountain biking gloves to keep MasterShoestring safe on a course he did over the weekend. Handing over several £10 notes for each, helped me focus on what we actually needed rather than things I thought looked nice ! Lidl was a food shop to keep us going until the end of the month and Poundland was a lightbulb and a 2018 diary. I was pleased to find LED lightbulbs in Poundland for only £1 so hope the one I bought will last a long time. If it does than that will be my new go-to place for LED bulbs, I don't think I have seen them cheaper anywhere else.

We know that changing over to LED lightbulbs will save quite a bit on the electricity bill but haven't wanted to waste the existing bulbs. Thus, we replace a bulb that has blown with an LED one and just do it a bit at a time. This saves money and waste. The only disadvantage is that we don't always have a bulb of the right size available when one goes. So MasterShoestring was living in the gloom until I could get the right one for his bedroom on Friday. Still, as a 15 year old he quite likes a bit of gloom for watching films on his new mobile phone !

I bought the diary because we are starting to make appointments for 2018 and I don't want to lose all those little cards and emails we have been getting confirming them. I knew that I could still get a desk diary in Poundland for £1 which is definitely the cheapest compared to anywhere else. The food shop was only £11.46 so I was quite pleased with that and the menu plan I made for half term seems to be working !

Good luck with your spending this week !

Sunday, 22 October 2017

How to distinguish a Want from a Need

The other day at college we were talking about what children need and this little pyramid from the psychologist Maslov was mentioned.

It's known as his Hierarchy of Needs and I think it is very helpful in allowing us 'frugal folk' to distinguish a Need from a Want when we are trying to cut our spending.

Yesterday I was sorely tempted to go into town and mooch around the charity shops. I had the time and could justify the trip to town because the library books needed changing. However, thinking about this little pyramid helped me to change my mind. I realised that even though I was only going to look in the charity shops it was really a 'shopping as leisure' activity and was therefore definitely not a need. I could renew the library books on online and read the free ebooks I had downloaded until I had another reason to go into town later this week.

The desired trip to town was not going to be to meet a physical or safety need. It was not going to help me achieve a feeling of being loved or belonging. It was not going to improve my self-esteem and certainly was not going to contribute to my self-actualisation. I could stay home and do some journal writing for college instead !

Thinking about the 5 layers of needs which Maslov identified my real need to save money by staying home and saving the petrol money for a trustee trip to Nottingham later in the week ! Volunteering is something I value far above having a look around the shops ! 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Planning for Half Term

Yesterday I made a food plan for half term to make sure that I won't need to buy extra stuff for breakfasts and lunches. Today I asked MasterShoestring what was the best part of half term and he said riding his bike and seeing friends. Not expensive activities !

Half term is always going to be a bit more expensive than term time as the children will be home all the time and you might want to treat them or do something special or even just need the heating on a bit more often. However, having a plan can stop the cost running away with you.

Here's our plan for the week:-

Saturday - out with friends mountain biking, need money to buy food but frugal option would be to bring your own.

Sunday - lie in until Service then watch a movie later.

Monday - more mountain biking

Tuesday - day out at free museum

Wednesday - Learn to Cook day

Thursday - Make Crafts

Friday - Sleepover

Have a lovely half term !

Friday, 20 October 2017

Frugal Friday

This week we had several wins on the frugal front that we don't often have, so I was very happy about that !

The first one was ordering a watch battery online and then fitting it myself. Nothing went wrong and the watch is back on my wrist keeping perfect time. Another bonus was we found a spare watch in the cash box whilst I was waiting for the battery to arrive, so I shan't need a new one if the current one ever stops working !

The second win was going shopping late one night and finally picking up some reduced price bargains, including strawberries. These are now safely packed away in the freezer, apart from a couple of sandwiches which MrShoestring took for lunch this week.

The third win was from our generous grape growing neighbour who gifted us 6kg of grapes to make grape juice from. He has says that he has so many things made from grapes stored away in his pantry that he is thinking that he'll be alright for jam and juice for at least 5 years ! So we were very happy to benefit from the excess.

I also picked some tomatoes and raspberries from the garden and even a few more peas. It is lovely to still have some produce coming in. I also made tortillas, bread, lemon drizzle cake, jacket potatoes, granola, salsa and refried beans.

My Dad visited from the USA for a couple of days and we gave him his Christmas presents to take back with him, saving at least £12 in postage and possibly more. This was something I was planning to do this month so glad I remembered. He did the same, so I think that might be where my 'frugal' gene comes from !

I did back exercises all week to save on a visit to the physiotherapist and also found a cushion which I can use for a back wedge in the car, saving £32 on buying one! I downloaded a free ebook for the Kindle and mended a piece of clothing. I took all my food and drink to college and was jolly glad not to stand in a queue when all the sessions over-ran this week !

I am looking forward to a peaceful weekend and half term next week !

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Making Grape Juice

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be given 6kg of table grapes. The guy who grew them lives very close and nobody in his house wants to eat them has they contain lots of pips. We were fortunate enough to get some last year too.

However, last year the grapes were a bit sour, this year they were sweet enough to eat so we ate some over the weekend. I was a bit worried that so many would start to go bad all at once so out came the steam juicer and it was just as well that we had eaten some as the ones that were left filled it to the brim!

This is a very easy way to make grape juice. Just fill the bottom of the juicer with water and place it on a heat source. Then wait for the steam to do it's work and pour off the grape juice. I got 6 pints which have gone in the freezer to make non-alcoholic mulled wine over Christmas and New Year. MrShoestring tried a bit of hot grape juice as it came out of the steamer and pronounced it quite sweet enough without adding sugar, so that was a bit of a saving too!

You can't beat free grape juice and I'm so glad to have the juicer so that I can take advantage of generous offers like the one we had for the grapes !

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Cheat's Lemon Drizzle Cake

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

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

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

Leave to cool and enjoy !

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Saving Money on Watch Battery Replacement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 October 2017

Stoptober 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you have also had a great week !

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Be Happy !

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

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

2. Time for a lie-in

3. A leisurely morning pottering about

4. Something tasty for lunch

5. A nap

6. A long walk

7. Making a meal together

8. Reading a book

9. Having a hot shower

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

Enjoy your Sunday too !

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A Trip Out !

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13 October 2017

Frugal Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you also had a great week !

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Treat your own Back !

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A delicious standby !

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Planning for a Frugal Prom

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 9 October 2017

Stoptober 2

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Joy of Volunteering !

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Pleasures of October

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

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

1. The colours of the leaves

2. The smell of smoke in the air

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

4. The sun can still be warm in the afternoon

5. The flowers are still blooming

6. Late crops can be gathered

7. Spring gardening plans can be made and bulbs planted

8. Woolly blankets for sofas

9. Warm breakfasts

10. Festivities are just around the corner.

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

Friday, 6 October 2017

Frugal Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a busy but enjoyable week !

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Ten Things to do in Stoptober !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Cinnamon Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

Mmm !

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Lagom !

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Reckoning

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

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

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

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

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

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