Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Final Reckoning !

So I have tallied up all our spending for 2017 and was wondering whether we had hit our goal of living on eighteen thousand a year and in actual fact we have smashed it, with the final tally for all spending, including utilities etc. coming in at £17.073. This is a lot lower than we spent in 2016 and with prices rising was definitely a challenge !

There were several months where we have gone over our target spending but this evened up over the year with some months where the spending was very low. I think that this shows the value of making an annual budget as well as a weekly or monthly one. It also shows the value of tracking all your spending.

By looking at our annual spend over all the categories in the budget I was able to see areas where we can cut down next year and also areas where we will have to increase. Something else that was really interesting was that a budget in such detail also showed me where earning/saving money also involved some costs. So I have now decided to claim some petrol expenses for the work I do, as on average this has been costing me £40 a month, quite a little sum !

With the amount we have left over from last year's budget I'm going to pay the accommodation costs for 2018's holiday. We always wait and see whether we can afford a holiday and do not any longer have it on the basic budget. We know, depending on income, we can always have a great time with a 'staycation' ! However, with so much left over we are going to try and go to Scandinavia, traditionally a very expensive holiday destination, but we think that our frugal ways can bring this destination within reach, so I'm pretty excited !

Our 'buy no new to us clothes' challenge has worked very well this year, with only MasterShoestring getting new clothes, as he grew and grew ! I got a few things from jumble sales at the start of the year but otherwise, nothing and MrShoestring and I still have plenty, so I think that challenge will continue in to 2018 ! I've got some ideas for other new challenges which I'll tell you about once January arrives, but in the meantime, I hope you have had a similarly successful, frugal 2017 !

Saturday, 30 December 2017

A Little Repair

MrShoestring has already been putting his soldering iron, which he got for Christmas, to good use. Our digital radio, which we use in the kitchen had a frayed flex and hasn't been safe to use for several months. We do have another radio which we can use in there but I like the ease of the digital tuning and it makes switching programmes so easy when I'm cooking. The radio has been sitting in the workshop waiting to see if it could be repaired.

Yesterday Mr Shoestring soldered all the frayed wires together and then wrapped the cord with insulating tape. He needed to solder the wires because the little plug which fits into the back of the radio to connect the power was so small he couldn't fit them in otherwise. We could probably have bought a new flex and power supply but there is something so satisfying about fixing things yourself.

There was much rejoicing when the little radio re-appeared in the kitchen and we tried it out and it worked ! Lots of thanks to MrShoestring, now he's looking for something else to fix !

Friday, 29 December 2017

Frugal Friday

The last Frugal Friday of 2017 ! I have so enjoyed doing these and keeping notes over the week to know what we did has been very useful, so I think I will carry on doing this in 2018. I also love reading other people's posts about what frugal things they have been up to over the week as it often gives me new ideas.

We ate leftovers all week and still have plenty left, I don't think that I shall have to do much shopping in January. This was also helped by picking up a few more yellow stickered bargains over the week including 2 boxes of mushrooms for 25p and 8 packets of yoghurt for the same price ! The yoghurt came in very handy as MissShoestring has tonsillitis and can't swallow very easily so she has been eating soup and yoghurt since Wednesday !

I found a few coins on the ground and added them to my change purse. I also got books and magazines from the library. I saved wrapping paper to iron for reuse and reused tissue paper and gift bags for packing local gifts. I gave USAShoestring his birthday present to take back with him, as his birthday is early in January this saved on the postage.

I made turkey stock from the turkey carcass and froze it for making soups later. I made a turkey stew with leftovers and many turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches were eaten. I washed out freezer bags for reuse and made some breadcrumbs from stale bread.

I used free stamps from the Royal Mail to post the 'Thank You' cards and am looking forward to starting the survey again in January so I can replenish the stock ! I also used free parking all week and got a few gifts fro Christmas 2018 in the sales !

Altogether a good week !

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A Visit to the Sales

After my meeting yesterday I thought that I would have a look around the sales. There was very little left in most shops ! I did buy a diary at Poundland for a £1, which I saved by not paying for parking ! When I go to town I park in the free Matalan car park, so on the way back thought I would have a little look at their sale too. I had some Love2Shop vouchers from the Royal Mail survey and knew that I could use them in there.

Well, this was the best shop yet as I was able to get 2 pairs of fleecy pyjamas, a wash bag and 5 Christmas tea towels all reduced by more than 50%. Using the vouchers meant that I only paid £12 for all of it and that money came from selling books to Ziffit just before Christmas began. This effectively meant getting some very nice gifts for Christmas 2018 with no out of pocket cost.

I think I shall make it a 2018 challenge to try and make gift giving spending neutral and see how I manage. I think I was helped by the fact that it had been snowing hard all morning and there were not many people in town, so I was able to have a nice chat with the checkout lady as well since it was quiet.

So, I'm off now to pack the gifts away in the present cupboard and add them to my gift list !

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Turkey Leftovers

Yes, we still have a few turkey leftovers ! MasterShoestring wanted fish and chips last night before he went back to the USA, so we indulged him ! We were also given some rather fine wholegrain mustard and some honey, so this recipe uses those as well !

2 onions
1 apple
2 tbsps sunflower oil
1tsp sage
2 tbsp flour
300ml stock
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp honey
500g leftover turkey
350g leftover vegetables

Fry the onion and apple together in the oil and when nicely done take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour and the sage. Gradually add the stock to make a smooth mixture and then place back on the heat and stir to thicken. Take back off the heat and add the honey, mustard, turkey and vegetables and then place back on the heat at a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all the leftovers are piping hot.

Serve with mashed potatoes or a grain such as cous-cous.

Now to  plan for the rest of the leftovers, since we had a fresh turkey this year, some of them might go in the freezer to join the turkey stock I made and froze on Boxing Day !

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Boxing Day Sales

Today is the day to make a list of what you will need for celebrating next year and go out and get it at a discount. Whether it is cards, wrapping paper, stocking fillers or decorations, all will be reduced in the sales from today, either in the shops or online. But be quick ! It used to be that the discounts just started just now and that things came down further in price towards the middle of January, however, I have noticed over the past few years that retailers have their stock much more carefully controlled and only sell off small amounts of stock which they can't save for the following year. Wilco always has good discounts and a few other stores as well, so make a list and a budget and see what you can find !

I already checked our Christmas shelf and we do not need to buy anything for next year. I have been looking for a few household items, but I have a target price in mind and so far the discounts online have not been low enough ! Tomorrow, I have to go into town for a meeting so will take my list along, but if I don't see good quality at a substantial discount I won't be buying ! A sale only saves money if you would have bought the item anyway, so go well-armed with  common sense !

Good luck in the sales !

Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Shoestring household to yours ! We shall be singing the following around the Christmas tree today and wish you lots of fun and fellowship too !

1 On Christmas night all all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring;
on Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring:
news of great joy, news of great mirth,
news of our merciful King’s birth.

2 Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad?
Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad,
when from our sin He set us free,
all for to gain our liberty?

3 When sin departs before His grace,
then life and health come in its place;
when sin departs before His grace,
then life and health come in its place;
angels and men with joy may sing,
all for to see the newborn King.

4 All out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night;
all out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night:
“Glory to God and peace to men
now and forevermore. Amen.”

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Pause in Advent 4

This is the shortest Advent time you can have and later on today we shall be clearing away the Advent wreath and putting up the Christmas tree. I'm always a bit sad that we can't enjoy lighting four candles for a wee while longer !

However, it does mean that I can look forward to hearing this carol as the service of Nine Lessons and Carols begins and that for me really marks the start of Christmas !

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,Where a mother laid her babyIn a manger for His bed:Mary was that mother mild,Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,Who is God and Lord of all,And His shelter was a stable,And His cradle was a stall;With the poor and meek and lowly,Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through allHis wondrous childhood,He would honor and obey,Love and watch the lowly mother,In whose gentle arms He lay.Christian children all should be,Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our child-hood's pattern,Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,And He feeleth for our sadness,And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,Is our Lord in heaven above,And He leads His children on,To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,With the oxen standing by,We shall see Him, but in heaven,Set at God's right hand on high;When like starsHis children crowned,All in white shall be around.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Saving Stamps for Charity

I have an envelope on my desk and into it I pop all the used stamps from the mail we receive over the year. Many of them are just ordinary UK stamps but I also get a few overseas ones. Once the envelope is full then I post it to a charity. It is great that charities can raise money from something that would otherwise be thrown away and all you have to do to help is cut the stamps off the envelopes you get.

This year I had been putting the stamps into a large jiffy bag type envelope so hadn't emptied it all year. The charity I work for, which offers counselling for children and young people, put out a call for stamps last week and I was able to hand over my entire envelope !

If you would like to help charities in this way there is a list of charities who take used stamps on the following website :-

I've already started a new envelope and have quite a few in there already !

Have a lovely weekend !

Friday, 22 December 2017

Frugal Friday

The last Frugal Friday before Christmas and we have been quite busy this week ! First of all I pulled the last of the leeks, chopped them and froze them as well as making a big pot of leek and potato soup.

I also did a bit of decluttering as part of the Christmas cleaning and sent 2 loads of books off to Ziffit. This will give us a bit extra to put in the gift budget for next year.

I inventoried the pantry, the kitchen cupboards and both the freezers and now have a master list hanging in the kitchen where I can check off items as we use them. This should make sure that I don't buy things which we don't need ! We also got lots of yellow-stickered vegetables which are now safely stored in the garage or the freezer and should see us well into the new year!

When we bought the Christmas tree the Forestry Commission gave us a free sapling and instructions as to how to look after it so that in a few years we can have a free Christmas tree. I thought that it was such a good idea to replace the tree that had been cut down with a new sapling that I think we might try and do this every year.

We made tortillas, refried beans, salsa, beefburgers, chips, a gingerbread house, mince pies, chocolate cake and cinnamon buns from scratch. MisterShoestring took his own coffee and breakfast on the train to Glasgow to visit family and I reused foil and baking parchment.

I mended my cardboard Kindle case, which was starting to split down the side, by gluing a piece of felt all over the case. It worked very well, saved buying something new, looks nice and was done using glue and felt we already had. I also downloaded 3 new ebooks and collected some reservations at the library.

I redeemed Swagbucks for a £5 Amazon voucher which I used to purchase 2 rings of florist's oasis for making next year's Advent wreaths. The ones we have are 10 years old now and were really needing replaced.

I started to work on a cross-stitch cushion cover for MissShoestring's birthday next year as I've decided that all gifts next year need to be homemade from the 'great stash' of craft materials or else budget neutral, funded by selling stuff or gift cards !

I hope you have had a lovely frugal week too !

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Cleaning for Christmas

Over the past week I have been trying to add cleaning a room a day to my schedule. When Christmas arrives I want to relax and enjoy the season and not be noticing the cobwebs or tide ring on the bath as I do so. We're more at home during the Twelve Days of Christmas and we have more people in the house, so that can mean more mess, tidying up before hand makes sense. It is also a good idea to clean out the fridge, freezer and food cupboards so that there is some spare room for festive fare.

This year I have been using the Christmas Cleaning Plan from the, here's the link in case you want to have a look :-

I think the plan is a bit repetitive, once I've done the bedrooms for instance, I don't need to do them again and I have other areas in the house that needed to be added to the plan. That said, I think it is a useful guide to the sort of things you might think of cleaning and on that note I'm off to have a look at what needs doing in the kitchen !

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Gingerbread Recipe

This recipe makes a large quantity of gingerbread dough, ideal for making a gingerbread house or a tin of biscuits as a gift ! It is really easy !

250g margarine/butter
200g brown sugar ( the darker you use the darker the gingerbread)
7tbsp golden syrup
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
4tsp ground ginger (more if you like a really strong ginger flavour)

Heat the oven to 180C. Melt the margarine, sugar and syrup in a pan slowly until all the margarine has melted. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger in a large bowl. Stir in the melted mixture until a stiff dough forms. (I never have trouble with this part as I always use a margarine, but with butter you might need a splash of water).

Divide dough into 2 halves as this makes it easier to roll out and roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out shapes as required. Bake in oven for 12 minutes or until firm and just turning brown at the edges. Leave to cool on a wire rack and then assemble and/or decorate !

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Keeping an Eye on the Gas and Electric Bills

A few days ago I mentioned that our gas and electricity supplier had notified us that they were going to take 1/3 less money for the direct debit from now onwards as we had built up a large credit with them. I was a bit suspicious about this and yesterday they requested meter readings for gas and electricity so that they could calculate the quarterly bill. Hmm, I thought, away goes our big reduction, as I knew that we had kept the heating on some nights recently as it has been so cold.

However, I went out and read the meters and carefully worked out what the bills should be. We have a smart meter so I had to remember to press 9 to get the actual readout. I included the standing charge and the discount for taking both fuels from the same supplier and converted the m3 for the gas into KwH, phew, what a lot of arithmetic first thing in the morning !

It turned out that we have used a bit more gas than electricity but it averages out at only £10 a month more than we had been paying for the direct debit, so since we built up a large credit over the Summer we are still close to £150 in credit with the supplier so maybe they will reduce the direct debit after all !

I'll wait and see when the final bill comes, but it shows that keeping an eye on your energy usage does pay off !

Monday, 18 December 2017

Easy to Post Gifts

I had a couple of comments asking for a list of easy to post gifts, so although I gave a few suggestions in reply, I thought that with the last posting dates for Christmas coming up people might appreciate a longer list ! The last posting dates for abroad have gone but for the UK Wednesday 20th December is the last date for second class and Thursday 21st December for first class. 

For me, easy to post gifts must fit in an envelope which can be posted as a Large Letter, like the one above. As long as you don't stuff it full it can be posted using the lower rate and not as a small parcel. The small parcel rate is also quite cheap and you can post up to 2kg in weight. All of these gifts should fit in one of those categories depending on how large you buy.

Here's the list :-

tea towel, hankies, table cloth or runner, decorative cloth, jewellery, cufflinks, bottle opener, keyring, cushion cover, small penknife, small puzzle,  napkins, notebook, pen, coloured pencils, small construction or craft kit, CD, DVD, flash drive with pictures, flat chocolates, candles, calendar, small book, decorations, oven gloves or pot holder, hot water bottle cover, apron, socks, photo album, bath salts in sachets, seeds, tea, coffee, hot chocolate in sachets, small jars of jam, t shirt, pillow case, diary, small tin of biscuits of sweets.

What would you add ?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Pause in Advent 3

We are on a hunt for a Christmas tree, all the outlets near us are too expensive ! Anyone paying £55-80 for a tree must be a lot better off than we are ! We don't put the tree up until Christmas Eve and have often had luck with getting a discount at the last minute but had heard that this year there were fewer trees around. Sure enough yesterday we had no luck with our search, so it's off to the Forestry Commission today singing this hymn today, written by Isaac Watts back in the 18th century, it points to the fact that Advent is not just about looking forward to Christmas but also to the times that Revelation speaks of ! We sang this in school and I especially liked the line about "The prisoner leaps to lose his chains".

Enjoy your Sunday !

1. Jesus shall reign where e'er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. To him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown his head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

3. People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on his love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on his Name.

4. Blessings abound where e'er he reigns:
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains,
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.

5. Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud Amen.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Bargain Vegetables

MrShoestring had heard that some of the supermarkets were offering some vegetables for 29p for 1kg or 500g. This is cheaper than we can grow them so he offered to go out and see if he could get some ! I wished him 'good luck' and went out for the evening. Imagine my surprise when I got home to find the kitchen full of vegetables. including 25kg of potatoes !

He had arrived at the supermarket just as they were reducing the 29p vegetables to 7p or less a packet ! He snapped up cauliflowers, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, celery, lettuce and even some strawberries, which I'll use on a cake later ! There's going to be a lot of blanching and freezing today, but we won't need to plant much of these vegetables in the Spring with the freezers containing around 10kg of each!

MrShoestring was particularly proud of only spending 70p on the potatoes, which are now filling a paper sack in the garage ! Of course, this level of stocking up only works if you have somewhere to store all the vegetables and can use them up before they go bad. But if you do fancy stocking up I think quite a few supermarkets are offering special offers on potatoes and root vegetables, so well worth having a look !

Right, back to chopping and blanching !

Friday, 15 December 2017

Frugal Friday

This has been a very quiet week as all the snow has meant I have stayed home every day ! The one expense was paying for taxi to get MasterShoestring home from school one day when I tried to get the car out of the drive and did not manage !

A big win was that I got all the letters and parcels posted before the snow arrived and used the stamps I had got free from the Royal Mail survey, so it didn't cost me a penny ! I always make sure that the gifts are no larger than 'small parcel' size if they have to be posted and check the airmail charges online, so I know exactly how much needs to go on the envelope. I've already made a list of 'easy to post' presents for next year so I can keep an eye out for those things in the sales or plan to make them.

We made salsa, tortillas, waffles, pancakes and shepherd's pie from scratch and did a lot of playing in the snow, which cost nothing !

Once the post was being delivered again I got a letter to say that because we have built up such a large credit with the new electricity and gas supplier they are going to reduce the monthly direct debit by a third ! This is such a large reduction that I'm pretty sure it is a mistake, but I have been submitting my readings online so maybe not ! Anyway, it will be useful extra money this month to buy s few tasty treats for Christmas !

We ate the very last of the vegetables from the polytunnel and they really are the very last as MeShoestring has pulled out all the plants now ! I've checked through all the seeds we've got and we only need to buy a few for the Spring. With our free subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine it might even turn out to be none !

Staying at home such a lot means that I had plenty of time to sort out the stocking stuffers and the present cupboard. I've made a list of things to watch out for in the sales but actually we have enough Christmas supplies for next year, apart from needing a new oasis ring for the wreath, so I'll keep my eye out for one of those. I've also made a list of all the birthdays next year and will only need to get MasterShoestring a present as I already have enough for everyone else ! I also went through the crafting supplies and started to sort out whether I could make some gifts for Christmas 2018 as my aim for next year is to spend as little as possible on gifts and use up what we have !

I hope that you have all had a great week !

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Very Last Tomatoes and Cucumbers !

Although it has been raining a bit it still looks pretty much like this round here ! MrShoestring went to the polytunnel to start pulling out the last of the plants and was astonished to find the following !

We used the two little cucumbers and the ripe tomato in a salad and then for a filling for a lunchtime sandwich. The green ones are sitting on the counter waiting to ripen up.

I think this is a record for us, to still be getting salad vegetables in December ! I planted the tomato seeds in January so shall definitely be doing this again next year ! Anybody else still got tomatoes, the ripe one really surprised us !

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Advent Muffins

Another tasty treat for Advent time ! 

100g soft margarine
1 egg
200g self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
30g raisins
4tbsp honey
100ml dairy free milk
1 apple chopped
A little sugar and cinnamon for the top

Line a muffin pan with 12 cases.Mix all the ingredients (not the bit of sugar and cinnamon for the top !) together and beat well. Place scoops of the mixture into the muffin cases. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top of each muffin. Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes until nice and brown on top. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy !

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Be Prepared !

The snowy days reminded me of all the preparations I make in the Autumn to make sure that we are ready for unexpected wintry weather. It isn't a lot of work if you do a little bit at a time and needn't be expensive either !

The first thing is to make sure that all the cars have scrapers for ice and some sacking and a shovel in the back if it looks like snow. The second thing is that we have enough torches in the house for everyone to have one each and plenty of spare batteries. These can be picked up for £1 at a pound shop and are you need to make sure that they are always kept in the same place so people know where to go to if the power goes off. Then I make sure that we have a reasonable stock of candles, usually about 2 dozen and enough safe candle holders ! You can pick up packets of candles cheaply at IKEA and candle holders are very cheap at jumble sales. You need matches or lighters and some snuffers to make sure that you can put them out safely. We have several wind up lanterns as well.

Secondly, during the Winter I always make sure that I have the makings of a week's food in the house. It might mean running out of fresh food but there is always plenty in the freezer and pantry and this is no more expensive than normal shopping, it just involves a bit of thinking ahead. We also have some cheap water containers from the pound shop which we can fill if we hear the water might go off. We are less affected by this than others might be as unusually for the UK we have a well in the garden !

Finally you need a means of heating and cooking that is independent of the electricity and gas grid and which will work if either of those go off. We have a couple of butane gas cooker rings and a wood stove. So even if the heating goes off we can still cook, heat hot water and have one room heated where we could all sleep until the power came back on.

Yesterday, when the snow was so heavy, the telephone line was sagging closer and closer to the ground and Master and MissShoestring were very worried that the internet might go ! However, I did not share their concern since I do not regard this is an emergency essential, I suspect they might differ with that opinion ! Not to worry though, the wind as blown all the snow off the line and we still have an internet connection, much to their relief !

I hope you are all staying warm and safe !

Monday, 11 December 2017

A Snowy Day

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning !

Here is the driveway, with a silver birch looking majestic and christmassy in her beautiful covering of snow !

This is the back of the house and I had to put my snow boots on to struggle to the back of the garden !

The little shed looking very wintry !

 A lovely maple, still beautiful without all her leaves ! MasterShoestring was very keen for us to try and get the car out so he could go sledging with friends in the next village, but we said maybe he could sledge there as there wasn't much chance we would get the car out the driveway ! Instead we made mince pies. listened to carols and went for a walk to enjoy all the wintry beauty !

I hope you are all wrapped up warm and can enjoy the seasonal splendour !

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Pause in Advent 2

The second week in Advent and a time to remember friends and family, write cards, send emails and presents, make calls and have a coffee with a friend ! We are also singing my second most favourite Advent carol. When I was young and we sang this in school it made me want to go and visit all the places mentioned, especially the Hills of the North and the Isles of the Southern Seas. If you are curious about the tune the words are sung to then there are several different versions to listen to on YouTube, but some of them have different words, I like these words best !

Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;
Though absent long, your Lord is nigh;
He judgment brings and victory.

Isles of the southern seas,
Deep in your coral caves
Pent be each warring breeze,
Lulled be your restless waves:
He comes to reign with boundless sway,
And makes your wastes His great highway.

Lands of the East, awake,
Soon shall your sons be free;
The sleep of ages break,
And rise to liberty.
On your far hills, long cold and gray,
Has dawned the everlasting day.

Shores of the utmost West,
Ye that have waited long,
Unvisited, unblest,
Break forth to swelling song;
High raise the note, that Jesus died,
Yet lives and reigns, the Crucified.

Shout, while ye journey home;
Songs be in every mouth;
Lo, from the North we come,
From East, and West, and South.
City of God, the bond are free,
We come to live and reign in thee!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Yellow Stickered Bargains

Yesterday I went shopping with MasterShoestring to do the heavy lifting, so I went a bit earlier than usual and did not expect the usual Friday bargains !

Sure enough the fruit and vegetable reductions and the ones in the meat department were still too little for me to be tempted, but when I got to the grocery section my luck was in. There was 1 packet of Barilla wholewheat pasta 500g at 38p, so I snapped it up. I never normally buy this pasta, always the own brand and now Aldi and Lidl don't seem to stock it anymore that means paying around 56p for 500g so I could see straight away this was a good buy !

Next were 4 tins of Napolina tomatoes at between 4p and 25p a tin. Some of them were chopped tomatoes and some were plum tomatoes but I still haven't been able to work out why 1 tin cost 25p, 2 cost 4p and 1 cost 6p ! Maybe it was something to do with how bashed up they were ? Anyway, definitely a bargain as even the cheapest tinned tomatoes at Aldi cost 29p !

Next was a tin of taco beans, useful for making filled tortillas, at only 9p and then 4 tins of Heinz soup at between 4p and 9p a tin. There was a slight problem with the discounted soup, as when I got home I discovered that 1 tin had scanned at full price, because the reduced sticker had not been stuck over the original barcode. I wondered about going back to ask for a refund but after totting up my savings decided that it was not worth the petrol money to do so ! Especially as chapatti flour, which we use in place of wholemeal flour was reduced this week from £5 for 10kg, to £3.50 for 10kg ! A great bargain! Thank goodness I had MasterShoestring to carry it !

So I think I might carry on shopping on Fridays !

Friday, 8 December 2017

Frugal Friday

Not a great deal to report on the frugal front as I have been busy finishing my assignment for college, I guess that was frugal as it involved no spending and no time to do any spending !

I did download the Simple Savings 2018 calendar and am wondering about trying a challenge every month next year. The 'buy no new clothing' one has gone quite well this year so maybe there are a few more things we could try next year.

The other reason we have been doing very little spending is because MasterShoestring is sitting exams at school this week and next, so I've been doing a lot of downloading of past GCSE papers. You can get these for free now whereas you used to have to pay for a book of papers. However, lots of them come with a blank page between each question, so that used quite a bit of paper and some printer ink !

We made tortillas, fajitas, mince pies, a pasta salad for a 'bring and share' lunch, cottage pie and spaghetti bolognaise. MasterShoestring chose the menu this week to make sure that there were plenty of leftovers for late night snacking !

I got a free notepad through the post and sprayed my old walking boots with weatherproofing spray as they had started to leak. I bought 6 bottles of the spray for a very cheap price a few years ago in Aldi and it is still proving useful !

St. Nicholas visited the house and left a few bits of chocolate in the shoes of those people who polish them, so there were a few happy faces first thing one morning ! Next week it's Santa Lucia, so Swedish buns will be appearing ! I love all these little traditions through Advent !

Have a lovely weekend !

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Saving Money on LED bulbs

Before I start on bulbs, just a wee note to say that I've updated yesterday's recipe to make the final ingredient 'flour' rather than 'four', sorry about the typo !

Last month we needed to replace the bulb in MasterShoestring's bedroom and we have a policy that when a bulb goes we look in the box in the linen cupboard and see if we have a spare one that we have already purchased and if not we replace it with an LED bulb, which will save money in the long run ! LED bulbs are quite expensive, which is why we are waiting for the existing bulbs to expire rather than replacing them all at once. So I looked for a bulb and found a very dim one, around 25W, which would do until we could get a new one.

I looked up the prices of LED bulbs online and at various stores nearby, including IKEA, but thought they were all rather expensive. I decided that I'd try in Poundland and see if they had any. They did, various different fittings and strengths of illumination. I opened the packets, to make sure that the bulb inside matched what it said on the outside, as we have been caught out by this before, but they seemed alright so I bought one for £1 ! I wasn't sure that it would last, but it was worth the chance !

Here we are a month on and the bulb has been fine, it has been on a lot, as MasterShoestring has been doing lots of last minute revision for his mock exams and no problems so far ! I wanted to wait before I recommended these bulbs but now I think Poundland will be my 'go-to' place for LED bulbs at quite a substantial saving, not just on the electricity these bulbs use but on the initial investment as well !

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

German Advent Cookies

Another delicious recipe for enjoying over Advent !

125g margarine
125g brown sugar
2 eggs
1tsp cinnamon
125 g ground hazelnuts
250g plain flour

Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll the dough into 2 rolls about 4-5cm in diameter and cut slices off to form cookies. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment so they don't stick !

Bake at 180C for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Leave to cool before removing with a spatula and cooling on a wire tray !

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Having a Tidy Up

It is always a good idea to have a bit of a tidy up before the holidays, it means that you don't buy things you already have, including presents you have hidden so well you can't find them ! But this week I had a good tidy up of the Blog Roll down the side of the blog. There were quite a few links which did not work properly and a few blogs which no longer post or only very infrequently. So I have removed all of those and now all the links work properly.

Now you should be able to click on a link and be taken straight to the blog. I still quite like Mr Money Mustache but every time I tried to include a link to him it was hijacked by another site, so you will have to find him independently ! There are a couple of links to sites which contain mainly paid resources such as Dave Ramsay and Simple Savings in Australia, but they also have free resources which I have found useful so I have carried on including them.

Frugaldom is another blog I really like but she posts about every 6 months so it didn't seem worth keeping the link up. I also really enjoyed Frugal Queen but I hear that she has taken everything down, so good luck to her and many thanks for all the inspiration over the years !

Many thanks to all of you reading here and thanks too to all the people on the blog roll who keep on inspiring us !

Monday, 4 December 2017

Are Homemade Mince Pies cheaper ?

I made our first batch of mince pies yesterday and was wondering if they were cheaper than shop-bought ones as I bought mincemeat this year as buying all the ingredients was going to be expensive. So I worked it out !

I bought a jar of mincemeat for £1 and made 18 nice pies out of that. For the pastry, I used my normal vegan recipe with oil in the crust and using 45p flour from Aldi that cost 32.5p to make. With 20 minutes in the oven costing 14p the grand total for 18 pies was £1.46.

This meant that each pie cost just over 8p to make. The cheapest shop bought pies I could find were from Asda where you could get 12 on special offer for £1.50. That makes their pies cost just over 12p each. Not a vast difference, so if you are pressed for time then shop-bought ones seem very good value.

However, making the pies, in the kitchen with the children, with carols to listen to, that makes a priceless memory ! So I hope you have a chance to do a bit of baking this season !

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Pause in Advent

Now the season of pause, of magical anticipation and preparation begins. Look for little moments of peace and stillness this week, rest in a moment of silence. This is our favourite Advent carol and we can start to sing it now !

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Simple Savings Saturday

If you go over to the website:-

the lovely Fiona Lippey and her team have put together a fantastic , free 2018 calendar to help you save money throughout the year. There is a challenge for each month of the year and ideas for beginners at frugal living, people with mid-level experience and then some real challenges for hard-core frugalers !

It is a proper calendar as well, with lots of space to write appointments or reminders about what frugal living task you are going to try that day.

I've printed mine out already, for added inspiration over the coming season !

Friday, 1 December 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, it had to be a pretty frugal week for us this week, to the extent that we have no self-raising flour or toilet rolls left, so I'll be off shopping later ! Here's what we did do to keep costs down !

I did get some yellow-stickered bargains last week and they have made meals a bit less boring than they otherwise would have been, so that was good ! I made lots of tortillas from scratch and bread and cake, also a big crumble from frozen fruit from the garden. I picked some leeks from the garden for leek and potato soup, but the cold has meant that we are really on the last few items before it finally goes to sleep for the Winter ! However, there were a few more little tomatoes from the polytunnel as well, very tasty !

I got a free magazine and newspaper from the supermarket and joined a free book club at the library and was able to download the chosen book free as well, so reading that has been keeping me busy this week. I washed out some freezer bags and boxes for re-use and cut up a ripped sheet in to squares for re-use in patchwork.

I got a freebie through the post for use as a stocking filler and also used a £5 gift card from Swagbucks to order a little Christmas surprise. I used my to compare prices between shops to make sure that I get the best value for the grocery money in the hope that I shan't have to raise the amount we spend.

The other big thing I did now that it is so cold is I went out and read the gas and electric meters so I could keep a check on how much we are using. I think that we are just ahead in credit and are still on the cheapest tariff, but was surprised when I checked, just how much the standing charge is, does the supply really cost that much ??

I am looking forward to a cosy time this weekend, as Advent starts, one of my favourite parts of the year!