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Thursday, 4 October 2018

The 1000th Post and Goodbye !



So I've been blogging for just under three years and this is the 1000th published post ! Phew, a thousand posts about frugal living and saving to enjoy some good times !

I have very much enjoyed writing here but now I think I have said all I have to say about frugal living and would be in danger of repeating myself if I carry on !

A big thanks to everyone who has been reading and for all the lovely comments, I shall miss you but also think that this year is going to be a busy one and that I will have less time to think about what to write.

When I started the blog we had three children still living at home and now have only one and he's in the 6th Form. When I started both MrShoestring and I were working full time, very long hours as teachers. Now I am in the final year of an accredited counselling and psychotherapy course with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and MrShoestring only teaches 3 days a week most of the year.

All these changes have been helped along by frugal living and we've been able to give the children a hand in starting out as well !

I'm going to leave the blog up as a help and encouragement to others and in future you can find me lurking over at the 'Old Fashioned Thrift' forum at Moneysaving Expert.

Good luck to you and yours on your frugal journey and many thanks for reading over the years !

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Blue and White Plates


In the frugal round up last week I happened to mention that we need to replace our blue and white plates but that I did not want to pay £16.50 a plate, which was the new cost !

Well I spent a bit of time looking around the local charity shops with no luck. Then yesterday it was warm weather and I did not fancy tackling my university assignment, so off I went to a town about 10 miles away which I know has good charity shops !

I struck 'gold' in the first shop, an antique Royal Worcester blue and white plate, it was a bit expensive at £6 but seemed a bargain compared to new and I have been looking for several weeks, so I snapped it up! Then in the 4th shop along I found 2 more, what a lucky day. I had brought along a measuring tape but even so when I got home I discovered that one of the plates is just slightly too large for the dishwasher. Never mind I'll just wash that one by hand and at an average coast of just under £3 a plate I can't complain, as the final two plates cost £2 and 50p !

Waiting and searching around really does pay and I got my daily walk in as well !

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

September Reckoning


September was an expensive month for us and we spent over the usual budget of £1500. Some of this was planned spending, like the £295 on car insurance but some was not, like new clothes for 6th Form and buying textbooks !

One area I was pleased about was that the petrol spend was about half what it had been before I said that I would only be seeing tutoring pupils at the house, instead of travelling to people. Not only has this saved lots of petrol but quite a bit of time as well, so that was good.

We also stayed under budget in the Food column, which was a big achievement as I have had to put up MasterShoestring's lunch allowance to £15 a week. This effectively means that I have just over £100 a month for the rest of the meals for the three of us !

Spending also increased because quite a few utilities went up in price and MrShoestring's union dues went up from the introductory rate to the normal one. With all these increases I'm having to keep a close watch on what we spend and I've also sent off a couple of packets of books to Ziffit. Every little bit counts !

We need some new plates, the old ones lasted 13 years but now they are chipped I  have to re-purpose them for something else. However, when I looked at the cost of replacing them, £16.95 a plate, I decided that I'll just keep an eye out round the charity shops over the next few months. Waiting almost always saves money !

Monday, 1 October 2018

Book Review


I saw this book reviewed by Gina over at 'Home Joys' and thought that it looked interesting. It is short essays written by Amish and Mennonite women but the themes are universal, grief, hospitality, wonder etc.

All the essays are grouped into thematic sections but the writing within them is all unique with each woman having a clear voice. The writing is very strong and in fact I shall use a quote from one piece for my next university essay ! 

I was left wanting to know more about each author and was glad that there was a little biography and further details about each one at the back of the book.

I enjoyed this book and was glad that I was able to get it for free using my earnings from YouGov surveys !

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Growing Your Blog


Right now if you go to the following link:-

https://ultimatebundles.com/sale/tgbtk2018-download-ebook?a_aid=a40&a_bid=621f991f

you can download a free ebook on how 40 successful bloggers grew their blogs. They are all real life stories and the book answers lots of questions about which strategies work and which do not. It also makes clear that growing your blog takes lots of work and quite a bit of new learning !

A long time ago I decided not to monetize my blog as somehow it doesn't seem quite right to be making money out of people looking for frugal advice. However, others do not feel the same way and have been able to be a great blessing to others through their blog earning money, so I guess it's just a question of what you feel most comfortable doing !

Have a look at the ebook and see what you think ?

Saturday, 29 September 2018


After lots of outdoor work yesterday and a play about St Michael and the Dragon, today we are going to rather more sedate Michaelmas celebration with a couple of lectures and a concert.

Michaelmas time, Michaelmas time!
Time is turning under the plough,
Under the stars, under the signs,
The ploughman toils with deep furrowed brow.
He turns his thoughts against the cold,
Buries his fears 'neath the Earth's deep mould.
Frost, like fire, burns white on the blade,
Of his iron share that red fire made.

Michaelmas time, Michaelmas time!
Time is bending over the scales,
Over the bread, over the wine,
The ploughman bows his head at the rail.
He turns his thoughts towrads the flame,
Raises his eyes to the thanksgiven grain.
Stars, like spears, gleam over the tower,
Of the house of God in Michael's hour.

Michaelmas time, Michaelmas time!
Time is changing the guard of the world.
Deep in his heart, dauntless in mind,
The ploughman guards against time growing old.
He stands and studies the star-patterned sky,
Fixes each spark in his wishing-well eyes.
Stars, like seeds, strewn over the land
And under the plough by Michael's hand.
I love this song as I think it captures so well that slow slide from the end of Summer, when you are not sure whether Autumn has arrived to the frost that is sure to arrive by November !

credits



Friday, 28 September 2018

Frugal Friday


Just a quick run down of the frugal things we did this week as the final year of my counselling course has started and as suspected, that means I'm getting pretty busy !

We picked butternut squash and sweetcorn and both were delicious but that is the end of the plants now as it got close to freezing at the start of the week. We ate the corn off the cob and used the squash for soup. Now I have lots of them in the utility room where it is cool and dry. I even found 2 more when I pulled out the vines !

I improvised a final cold frame using the guide we use for planting square foot beds and a large piece of plastic from a bulk order of toilet rolls. Once the beds were cleared of the sweetcorn and the butternut vines I planted spring onions, radishes and spinach in the hope they would sprout before it gets cold.

We ate a chicken on Sunday and then used the carcass to make stock. We also made pizza, chocolate cake, chapattis and pancakes. The menu plan and shopping plan have been made for October and I'll go shopping for it this weekend as I am much busier during the week now.

I got 2 free packets of seeds with the 'Kitchen Garden' magazine and made a final shopping list of what is left to buy and make for Christmas. I was delighted to see that the cotton flannel I am currently knitting can be paired with a delightful handmade soap I was given to make a gift for a god child. So that was one less thing to buy. Now I only need chocolate and some baking ingredients for some homemade gifts and my list is finished !

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Martin Lewis Money Show


This was shown on ITV on Tuesday night and is still available on catch-up at the ITV hub. The main theme was saving for Christmas. Hannukah etc. and the show is well worth watching if you have resolved not to over spend !

I learned a few new things, including you are not automatically entitled to refunds on damaged gifts, only the purchaser is ! However, the most moving thing was in the middle of the show where Martin Lewis just sat in a chair and spoke directly to the camera about the harm that overspending does to people and how unhelpful the feeling of having to reciprocate is ! I have certainly struggled with this in the past. Then they showed a couple of small segments where families in Northern Ireland had chosen to do things differently, it was great ! 

It might seem too early to be talking about the holidays but as the show said, it's only 90 days away and even fewer working days ! Most of my stash is already put away and I'm not going to feel bad closer to the time that the gifts, even for family are only small. The most important thing is the love that comes with them !

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Free Cookbook


Amazon currently has this book free to download for the Kindle. It is very worthwhile and I would recommend getting it if you want a few new ideas about how to curb the grocery spend.

It contains lots of family recipes with interesting history behind them, for instance the Macaroni Salad is from Aunt Eva and the recipe starts with some memories about visiting her on her farm and helping with storing vegetables for the winter.

All the recipes are straight forward and use cheap ingredients, but it is fairly traditional fare, so you won't find much for vegans here.

The recipes are divided into sections such as: Breakfast; Mains and Sides and there is even a section called Extra Tight Budget with six recipes for when you really need to keep costs down. The recipes are all easy to make and my family would eat them, so I'm glad to have a copy of this and am looking forward to trying a few new things, like Cabbage Rolls and Slow Cooker Bean Burritos.

There are only three pudding recipes in the book, so I guess it would be quite good for weight loss as well !



Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Competition !



Moneywise October's  magazine has a competition to win a copy of this helpful book. Now in its second edition it is written by Andy Bell who is the chief executive of an investment platform. It aims to show you how to build a long term investment strategy using low cost, tax efficient strategies. We certainly need this sort of advice when savings rates are so low.

If you fancy a copy of the book Moneywise have 10 to give away and I have won a competition with them before so it's worth a go.

Simply go to  

moneywise.co.uk/competitions 

enter your name and address and keep your fingers crossed ! BUT don't do it until October arrives as the competition is in the October magazine which I just got through the post. If you go right now though you can still enter September's competition to win some nights in Edinburgh and also register for a free book about an investment trust. ( I think the above is more useful, so I'll be making a note on the calendar to enter on 1st October !)

Monday, 24 September 2018

A Windy Outing


A windy outing to the Whipsnade Downs yesterday and we saw this extraordinary sculpture. Do you know what it is ?

No, I didn't either but it is the intake pipe for the ventilation system in the visitor centre. Apparently the wind bows through the gaps in the sculpture and is funnelled underground to blow into the centre to keep it cool. I thought it was very ingenious !

We had a lovely walk from the Tree Cathedral to the Chiltern Gateway Centre and I can thoroughly recommend a visit up there. We saw lots of kite flying and a glider coming into land, very exciting !

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Lighting the Woodstove


So we lit the wood stove, ideal for feeling more cheery on a cold, wet weekend ! It got me thinking about the other pleasures which Autumn brings !

1) Stomping through crisp leaves on the ground.

2) Picking apples.

3) Picking and eating sweetcorn.

4) Picking and eating tomatoes.

5) Sowing bulbs for next Spring.

6) Baking bread for harvest festivals.

7) Going to Harvest Festivals.

8) Making soups and stews to eat.

9) Cuddling up with a good book.

10) Getting into a warm bed.

What do you enjoy about this time of year ?

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Corn on the Cob


The wind over the past few days knocked over all but one of the corn plants so we went out to salvage what we could.

I ended up with far more sweetcorn than we have ever had before, normally it's just 1 cob each, so I was quite excited to cook some !

Cooking a whole cob is easy.

Find your largest lidded pan and fill it with salted water. Bring to the boil and once it's boiling add the corn cobs. Put on the lid, turn off the heat and wait for 10 minutes. Then eat the perfectly cooked corn without burning your fingers !

Ours without delicious and we actually preferred it without butter ! The hot summer clearly suited the plants !

Friday, 21 September 2018

Frugal Friday


Lots of frugal living happening this week, firstly in the garden. I cleared two beds of their old produce and planted lettuce and spinach seeds. I put a cold frame over them and so far have remembered to water them every day and the little seeds are showing through now, very exciting and with a bit of luck should keep us in salad for a few months more. We also picked more tomatoes and apples and as the sweetcorn got blown down in the wind we'll be eating some of that over the weekend. I made more apple juice as well but it was a bit sour to begin with, so I added a tablespoon of sugar and then it was fine !

In the kitchen I made bread, tortillas, chapattis, pizza, roast chicken and roast potatoes, vegetable curry, slow cooker bolognaise, butternut squash soup using squash from the garden and homemade chicken stock and an apple crumble. I also made some homemade curry powder and some mixed herbs. Next week I'm planning an 'eat it up' challenge with what we already have in the garden and freezer, so that I don't have too much leftover from September's groceries.

I was delighted to see that the supermarket had 5 litres of sunflower oil and 10kg of wholemeal chapatti flour on special offer. So I bought 1 of each, bringing the price of the oil down to 70p a litre and the price of a kilogram of flour down to 35p. That should make bread making pretty cheap for some time to come. I also got a free supermarket magazine with some good recipes in it. It has been interesting to see that my closest supermarket now rarely has 'yellow-stickered' bargains and if they do, you really have to search for them or they turn out not to be a bargain because an own brand would be cheaper anyway.

Over the weekend we enjoyed two free outings and a free Sunday paper. All this week we have been enjoying our books from the library and I also sold some books to Ziffit and a violin on Gumtree. Just as well to have a little extra, as my course fees are due next week and it looks as though I'll have to pay full price for the residential, whereas last year I got a 50% discount.

Another bonus this week was getting a £50 payout from Yougov surveys and another £5 Love2Shop voucher from the postal survey. The Yougov payout went towards the textbook fund and the Love2Shop voucher has been added to the rest for spending in the January sales to get presents for Christmas 2019. Planning ahead helps to keep the cost down !!

Hope you had a great frugal week too !



Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Good Read


I'm reading this epic book at the moment, at 850 pages it should keep me busy for a while. I was reading something else and asked MrShoestring whether it was any good, as he has just finished it. He said it was excellent and I liked "Pillars of the Earth" so I thought I would give it a go, as my other book was boring. Well I'm hooked !

It's a saga set just before and after the First World War but it takes an international perspective and looks at how things were changing in the UK, the USA, Russia and German as well as other parts of the world. It is very well researched and deals with the lives of ordinary people as well as the 'movers and shakers'. I love a book that teaches me more about history.

The great thing is that it cost nothing as we got it from the library and there are two other books in the series ! All the books are very long and engrossing, so ideal for whiling away a blustery afternoon or a dark evening. Better than watching TV or surfing the internet ! Even better the next two are also available from the library, so I'm off to fetch book number 2 for MrShoestring. Only hope he reads fast enough that I can get the next one as soon as I'm finished with this one !!

Have you any books you would recommend ?

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Competition !


Jack Munroe over at "Cooking on a Bootstrap" has  got a great competition going on to win a copy of her new book, also called "Cooking on a Bootstrap", and a £10 Aldi voucher. It's all in aid of promoting her "Essential Student List of Food" which comes from Aldi rather than Waitrose and only costs £10.

Do go over and have a look at :

https://cookingonabootstrap.com

Even if you don't win, the piece about Freshers' Week food is good and it gets you thinking about what you would buy with £10. I think I'd go for a whole bag of rice rather than a sachet of the instant stuff !

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Free Cookbook


The wonderful Steph over at www.cheapskatecook.com has just published an ebook called "Dinner for a Dollar".

It is full of cheap recipes which cost less than $1 a serving or much less, depending on where you shop for ingredients. The best news is that you can get it for free over the next few days. Just go to Amazon to download. Do a search for "Dinner for a Dollar" and watch it pop up ! If you like it then leave a review.

There is also a great website called Dinner for a Dollar which you can find at :-

https://dinnerforadollar.co/home/

Cutting down on the grocery spend is a good way to free up some extra cash for other areas, like the gift budget or the 6th Form textbook fund !

Monday, 17 September 2018

Selling on Gumtree v Giving Away on Freegle


Over the past few weeks I've been trying to get rid of some of the clutter left in the garage by the oldest two. I started off with trying to sell the items on Gumtree.

I had a boy's bike, a desk, a kitchen bin, a dismantled wardrobe, a red wall unit and a violin. Only the violin sold on Gumtree and even then I and to arrange and pay for courier transport. I did get the asking price and two people were interested but I didn't think that was very good. I then posted all the items left as FREE on Gumtree and got some interest for the bike. Same problem though they couldn't collect, could we bring it to the station ? We agreed and went off to the station with the bike in the back of the car at 9pm on a Friday night ! No-one arrived to collect it and then they called and asked where we were ? They had gone to the wrong station ! So that was a bust !

After that I posted all the items that were left on Freegle. I got lots of interest for the bin and the dismantled wardrobe, so they went quickly ! Eventually the bike and the desk went after a few days waiting for transport to be organised !

So now I only have the red wall unit to get rid of and I am going to see if the British Heart Foundation furniture collection service will come and get it and they can try and sell it in one of their shops.

My conclusion, Freegle beats Gumtree as it is local and mostly people will come and collect. But if you want no hassle then you might just be better off arranging a furniture collection from a charity. We were surprised that no-one wanted the wall unit but that lots of people wanted a wardrobe they would have to put together themselves. I guess even with free furniture there are fashion considerations !



Sunday, 16 September 2018

Off Out Again!


Thanks to the Heritage Open Days we are off out again today. This time to the weekend cottage of Baron de Rothschild called Halton House. Normally you can't get inside as it is used as the officers' mess for RAF Halton but one weekend a year they open it up, although you still can't go upstairs as that is where all the officers have their rooms !

This year because it is a special anniversary for the RAF and the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War they have also laid on some special events including a trip to some trenches which were dug close by so that soldiers could practice trench warfare before they went abroad. Apparently trench warfare was something new and previously they would have made charges and fought hand to hand on a battlefield.

Sounds like we are in for an interesting day and the usual picnic and flasks will be coming along to make sure the cost stays at free !

I hope you are having a great weekend too !

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Another Day Out !


We're off out today using the wonderful Heritage Open Days to get a free visit to Claydon House. This is a National Trust property associated with Florence Nightingale. Normal entrance would cost us £8.40 each plus an additional £5 each to go in the gardens which do not belong to the National Trust ! So I hope we will have a wonderful day !

As well as saving money on the entrance fees we have packed up a picnic and packed a flask each, so no need to queue for the tea rooms ! Even the weather appears to be co-operating !

Hope you have a lovely day too !

Friday, 14 September 2018

Frugal Friday


Quite a busy week here with plenty of money saving going on !

Firstly, we have been busy in the garden, MrShoestring has been chopping the last of the wood for the winter and on Tuesday the axe handle broke ! He wasn't sure he could get a new one to fit as it is a very old axe, so he mended it instead ! That was a great bit of moneysaving and took a lot of ingenuity! We also harvested tomatoes, apples, butternut squash, turnips and beetroot and planted some winter hardy lettuce and rocket for the days ahead. The seeds have already germinated because the weather has been so mild, fingers crossed it continues to be so!

There has been lots of cooking from scratch including :- spaghetti bolognaise in the slow cooker, which used up an old bottle of wine we had been gifted and where I stretched the meat with a couple of handfuls of lentils. This was great as the whole dish then did for 2 meals and there was 1 portion left for MasterShoestring's lunch one day. We also made pancakes, waffles, pizza, chicken pot pie, bread, chapattis and apple crumble. A quick bit of baking before MasterShoestirng came home one day also produced a tin full of flapjacks which had lasted all week !

MrShoestring took a packed lunch to school everyday and I made muffins for this and put them in the freezer so there is no danger of them going mouldy in the tin, which has happened before. Now, I just pull out a frozen muffin the night before and it's defrosted by the time he needs to eat it and it's still nice and fresh.

We took a picnic and drinks for a day out in London and I mended the rucksack we used so that we can carry on using it. The coffee flask spilled all over the rucksack when MrShoestring was chased by a pigeon, but it's washable so it was easy to get out the stains. We visited Bletchley Park for free on the Heritage Open Day and are looking forward to two more days out over this coming weekend, also to properties which are participating in the scheme.

I gave away 3 things on Freecycle and made £12.47 for the gift fund from selling books to Ziffit. I also got £2 worth of Love2Shop vouchers from the postal survey. I have enough points from the Nielsen shopping survey to redeem for cinema tickets but I'm going to wait until October to do so as then the vouchers will have a long expiry days on them, rather than the end of September.

How has your frugal week been ?

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Back to Choir !


Not only is it back to school but last night it was back to choir ! Seems a bit funny to be already singing Christmas music, but that's what we did ! However, there are lots of hidden benefits to going to choir, including :-

1) Meeting new people;

2) Singing things you have never heard before;

3) Following the music gives your brain a workout;

4) Getting things wrong gives you a laugh;

5) Raising money for charity at concerts;

6) Makes you feel good;

7) Lowers your blood pressure;

8) Improves your breathing;

9) Makes you happy;

10) Getting a cup of tea and a piece of cake during the break !

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Waffles !


Since school began and the school day now starts earlier we have been looking for quick breakfast alternatives that are not cereal and milk as MasterShoestring does not like that. The answer for some days has been these quick, vegan waffles !

2 cups self raising flour

2 cups dairy free milk

4 tbsps sunflower oil (or other non strong tasting oil)

1tsp vanilla essence

Heat the waffle maker whilst mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. Then 1 ladle full makes 1 waffle ! This amount of mixture makes 4 big waffles with a small amount left to make a little waffle for the cook!

Delicious and quick and you can do other things whilst the waffle cooks so ideal for busy days.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Harvest !

It's getting to that time of year when we need to think about taking some things out of the vegetable beds so yesterday I went harvesting ! I wasn't expecting a lot as I know that the long hot spell has meant that lots of the plants have been under  stress. We did water but the two weeks we were away were jolly hot and MissShoestring only managed out for some watering at the weekends.


So I was pleased to find a few beetroot, which were cooked up and served warm with a chicken pot pie for supper !


Then there were quite a few turnips which were chopped up and cooked ready for the freezer and useful for winter casseroles !


Finally, some butternut squash, which are now hardening off outside, ready for storage in the larder. We are really pleased with these as this is out first time growing them !

Now, I just need to decide what to plant in the spaces that are available now we've pulled out all these plants. I think a bit of lettuce and rocket under a cold frame might be a good idea !


Monday, 10 September 2018

Bletchley Park

We had a lovely, sunny afternoon for our visit to Bletchley Park yesterday. We went for free on the Heritage Open Days programme and were asked to fill in a questionnaire as part of getting in free which I was happy to do. We also got a free map which you can return at the end for recycling which I thought was a good idea.

We enjoyed our visit, but did not take anything like as long as the 4-5 hours suggested on the map. The site is quite compact and there is very little original there to see.


There were quite a few huts to go into, this picture shows the bomb blast walls they would originally had round them and I really liked the memorial wall with the names of people who had worked there inscribed on it.

We saw everything in 90 minutes and didn't need an ice cream, a cream tea or a visit to the playground!


So we had a walk around the lake and came home !

It was a beautiful drive to get there but if I had paid the standard adult entry fee of £18.50 for each of us, I think I would have thought that it was poor value for money ! However, if you pay the entrance fee you do get to return as many times as you wish within a year.  I think Heritage Open Days are great and I'm really glad that we got to see this place for nothing ! 

Now I'm looking forward to going to a couple more places for free next weekend !


Sunday, 9 September 2018

Regent's Park


On the way home yesterday from an old pupil's bat mitzvah we stopped off in Regent's Park to eat our picnic lunch.

There was so much going on and all for free. We took a trip around the lake, admired the gardens, watched some sports, watched the birds being fed and then finally had the drama of MrShoestring's suit being dive-bombed by a pigeon. Final score, Pigeon 1 MrShoestring 0 !  Good job his best suit is washable !

You can walk right through Regent's Park to the zoo and Primrose Hill, we were lucky and even saw a bit of sun, so I can thoroughly recommend a trip to this park !

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Expenses in Sixth Form


MasterShoestring has just started Sixth Form and I have been a bit surprised at how expensive it has already proved ! Fortunately his school has a bursary fund that you can apply to but it made me realise that there are quite a few barriers to "staying on".

First, there is no school uniform so no school uniform grant. The good news is that by that time your sixth former might not be growing so fast and won't need you to buy clothes and shoes quite so often. They are also likely to fit into some second hand stuff so that can help. MasterShoestring is wearing some of his old trousers and is waiting to grow a bit before buying new ones. Bags can also be re-used.

He still moves around the school and to save forgetting things the school now rents out lockers ! This would have been an additional annual expense but they were all allocated by the time he knew he had got in, so back to carrying everything in and out everyday.

The Sixth Form does not provide textbooks so that was an additional expense we were not expecting, fortunately you can often get them second hand from people who have finished and yesterday someone gave him a Physics book for free, that's the spirit I like to see !

Another expense is bus fare at odd times of the day when I'm not free to collect him. He is allowed to come home in free blocks and naturally wants to do this, but as his Sixth Form is not within walking distance it means paying bus fare. He has applied for a Young Citizen's card to get a discount on the bus, so when that comes it will help a bit ! Yes, he could stay in and work but he finds it quieter at home and he is less likely to waste time by chatting to those around him !

All in all I think we've spent a couple of hundred pounds over the last couple of weeks on things for the Sixth Form, so I thought other people might like the run down so they can start saving for next year, like I am doing !!



Friday, 7 September 2018

Frugal Friday


Quite a busy week here with all the " back to school" stuff and lots of cleaning and decluttering before my course starts again.

In between all that we are making an effort to stick to the new budget, not so easy when we discover that MasterShoestring is having to buy his own A Level textbooks ! However, a few more bundles of books have been sent off to Ziffit so that should help to offset the cost.

I also washed out plastic bags for re-use and went through the collection of plastic tubs and threw away all the broken, old ones so now I know exactly what we have and can use them all.

We did lots of cooking from scratch, with lots of it in the slow cooker, so that I could get on with other jobs whilst saving on energy costs. Things made included:- tortillas, chicken stock, lentil soup, bread, roast chicken, pizza, soup and spaghetti bolognaise. I also made waffles and pancakes for breakfast.

I made and froze quite a bit of apple juice using the steam juice maker and was delighted at how well this worked.

I planted some lettuce and rocket seeds in the hope of extending the garden season and used salt on the weeds on the paths. We also harvested, lettuce, marrows, cucumber and a tomato. I used the marrows to make 2 pots of marrow and apple chutney using apples from the trees and other ingredients that we already had on hand.

I used a gift card to buy a Physics book that MasterShoestring needed and got several other books out of local libraries including one I need for my course. I didn't pay reservation fees as I was passing the libraries on the way to school anyway.

Finally, I reorganised the utility room and the kitchen and ordered a few odd bowls and plates to replace ones that were chipped, ordering just what we needed was far cheaper than buying a whole new set.

I hope you had a good frugal week too !

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Waterstones Plus Card


I was in Waterstone's the bookshop yesterday spending a book token for MasterShoestring. He needed a recommended book for his Physics class and decided to get it free with a birthday book token. I handed over the book token and my Waterstone's card and was told that they are changing their reward system.

The Waterstone's card and the little stamp card where you can save up for a free book are being amalgamated into one, a Waterstones Plus card. There is also a student card which does the same thing but gives you 5% off all purchases. But what about the full stamp card I've got at home I asked ? I have been saving it to buy a new release book which comes out in October. I want the book for MrShoestring's Christmas present and using the full card means I can get it for free, as Waterstone's are advertising the book at a 50% discount. The kind shop assistant explained that I need to bring in my full stamp card before the end of the month and have the £10 value transferred on to my new Waterstone's Plus card. Apparently if I don't do this I might lose the value !

So I'll be back into town today to get the value transferred ! Just thought that other people might be saving amounts on the card or the stamp card and it would be a shame if anyone lost out because Waterstone's are changing this system.

In case you're wondering, I didn't spend £100 on books to get a free one, I used lots of gift book tokens over the years and got the stamps on the card without spending any money ~!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Regrowth !

The hot weather stopped lots of crops growing but now that we've had quite a bit of rain and some sunny days we're starting to get a second crop from a few items.


I picked a whole cup of blueberries before breakfast and I don't remember getting any this late in the year before !


The rhubarb has started growing again and I suppose it's a good idea to pick and freeze some because you never know what is going to happen next Spring !


And the Swiss chard, which was tiny, has started to sprout and grow bigger !

I'm thankful for all these bonuses and am hoping for a nice, warm Autumn !



Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Using Gumtree


We have a few items in the garage that really need to go, one of them is this wood effect desk that has some slight damage on top. It was in the guest bedroom but we have swapped it with a better table, that was also in the garage. We have been stockpiling useful furniture for about 10 years for when the older children got places of their own, now they both have and have all the furniture they need, so it was time to get rid of the surplus.

In the past I've often posted on Freecycle or Freegle but have often found that people do not turn up and then you are left waiting around in case they do come. Instead, I've found Gumtree to be good, you can still post items for FREE and people are much quicker off the mark about asking for them and then arriving to collect them.

So far I've managed to get rid of one item within an hour and am hopeful about the rest of them ! If they did all go there might be room to put a car in the garage and that would be a first since we've lived here!

Monday, 3 September 2018

Making Apple Juice


A great deal of fun was had yesterday chopping up the apples and the odd random pear to put in the steam juicer to have a go at making apple juice.

It was very easy just to wash the apples, chop them still with the skin on and then leave the juicer to do its work.

What came out was the most delicious, pink-tinted apple juice , which has now all been bottled and put in the freezer.

It was so tasty I had a huge mug of it straight from the juicer, instead of a cup of tea ! Normally I dilute cloudy apple juice when I'm drinking it as it can be really sweet, but not yesterday. Then I decided that I better hurry up and bottle it for social occasions and times when we're feeling under the weather as otherwise it will all get drunk now !

The juice was so good and so easy to make that now I am looking forward to picking the rest of the apples !

Sunday, 2 September 2018

A New Budget


So yesterday I spent some time looking at what we have actually spent this year compared to what I predicted in June. Then I altered the budget categories and checked that we can still manage on the monthly amount I have allocated.

I put up the Petrol, Transport, Insurance, Utilities and Clothes categories and down went the Medical and Car Repair categories. Dental and Food stayed the same.

By checking so regularly I can have advance warning whether we need to earn more money or cut expenses and it also means that I can save for the big annual bills, like home and car insurance. It is much cheaper if you pay these all at once rather than using the company's 'budget' plan as they charge you interest on these. The only exception I have  is paying for the Gas and Electricity as we already get a discount for taking dual fuel from the same company and for paying by direct debit, so paying gusing the budget plan is actually cheaper than getting a quarterly bill based on consumption. However, I shall be re-examining this at the end of Winter 2019. If we end up with a surplus with the energy company then I might switch back to quarterly bills as I'd rather keep my surplus cash then have it kept by the utility company and have to claim it back.

The good news is that in spite of lots of prices going up, the increases have been balanced out by savings in other areas so we are still doing fine !

Saturday, 1 September 2018

August Reckoning



1st September today and time to see how we did in August. Traditionally this is the most expensive month of the year for us as all sorts of bills fall due around this time. This month I also haven't had any luck with renewing them at a price that is less than last year's. For instance the house building and contents insurance was due, I got straight on to finding out if I could beat the renewal quote but I couldn't. Similarly with the energy bills !

We also had a some additional expense through having our young student to stay, some expenses are budgeted in the amount the agency paid but we ended up paying quite a bit more as he was so needy. Another additional expense, but a happy one was more new clothes for MasterShoestring as he got in to the 6th Form. I suppose it is too much to ask that he doesn't grow any more ??

The one area of the budget that did stay low was the FOOD bill, with a bit of rain falling the garden started to produce again, almost too much in the case of apples but some kind people put a few ideas in the comments so I've been trying  out those to help shift the surplus.

I am going to have re-do the budget, having already re-done it once in July, but a lot of things have gone up and I need to take account of the fact that this term MrShoestring is going to be working more so transport costs will increase and I need to up the budget for school lunches, so a bit of tweaking is required. Recently, I've also started to find it harder to get things we need second-hand, for instance, all the men's clothing I find at present seems worn out and not worth paying for. The other day I was looking for trousers for MrShoestring but the closest thing  I could find cost £6.99 in Oxfam and had no wear left in it, I realised that I could get a brand new pair in the CLEARANCE section of various online retailers for about that. So far I haven't been able to bring myself to buying new, but unless I find something this week I probably will !

The good news is that overall we did stick to the budget with £29 to spare !

Friday, 31 August 2018

Frugal Friday


Quite a few frugal jobs completed this week including chopping wood for the winter and washing all 40 of the outside windows. This is a big job which usually takes a long time, this time I was astounded to find I had completed it in less than an hour because I didn't have to change the bucket of water. Earlier in the week I bought a big bottle of Fairy liquid, not what I usually buy and it would seem that the claim that it lasts longer than other detergents is really true !

As well as wood chopping and window washing MrShoestring got around to staining all the woodwork and farm gate which closes off the front entrance, doing it ourselves saved quite a bit of money as the quote to do it was over £100. MrShoestring also cut the large front hedge and that was £85 saved as well !

I mended a quilt and a cardigan and made some soft cheese with milk that had gone sour. I then used the cheese in a pasta bake so that was a 'win' from something that otherwise might have been thrown away. I also made pasta sauce, bread, vegetable curry , chapattis, soup and tortillas. We picked lettuce, raspberries and loads of apples. I repurposed a plastic container instead of buying a new bread bin and so far it has worked very well.

We planned a roof repair and are just waiting for the roof repair stuff to come before we get on with it. We washed out plastic bags for re-use and went to the cinema with vouchers that I had earned from the Nielsen shopping survey. We bought clothes for MasterShoestring for going into 6th Form at a discount and got free delivery !

Phew ! A busy week !

Thursday, 30 August 2018

NHS Sight Tests


Every year before I go to the consultant to check that I still do not quite have glaucoma I go for a sight test to check that the prescription for my glasses is correct, as this makes doing the visual field tests easier !

I made an appointment as usual and turned up yesterday to be told that they did not think the NHS would pay for the test anymore. I quoted chapter and verse at them as this has happened before when they said I have come in slightly too early so it hadn't been exactly a year since the previous test. They seemed very confused and so I said never mind I'll just pay the £20 for the test.

After much waiting around and several unnecessary tests including having a video of my face made so they could show what I would like in various pairs of horrible, very expensive glasses I finally saw the optician !

He explained that since I was being seen annually at the hospital the NHS doesn't like to double up so now I'm only entitled to a free sight test every 2 years. This change does not seem to be widely known so in case you were on the verge of booking your own free sight test do find out what the policy is in your area before booking. 

In the end the optician just checked my glasses and got me to read some fine print with them and we agreed that they would be fine for another year and he did not charge me, which was very nice of him !

Do check what you are entitled to before booking a sight test as I didn't know that I was entitled to free tests until a couple of years ago!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Apples !


Yesterday I saw a woodpecker in amongst the apples so we got out there and picked a washing basket full to make sure that we got some too !

Now what to do with them all ?

1) Wrap perfect ones in newspaper and store in a cool place for eating.

2) Stew some for the freezer.

3) Make apple pie.

4) Make apple crumble.

5) Make apple cake.

6) Make apple doughnuts.

7) Make apple sauce for eating with roast pork.

8) Make apple juice.

9) Make dried apple rings.

10) Make apple butter.

Looks like we are going to be busy, as we left some of the less ripe apples on the trees !

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Keeping Homemade Bread Fresh


We've had a bread bin like the one above for over 10 years. It was airtight and large enough to keep a couple of loaves of homemade bread. However, this year we noticed that some of the enamel was starting to wear off, it was getting a bit rusty and some of the breadcrumbs in the bottom were going mouldy instead  staying dry.

In the hot weather we started keeping the bread in a plastic bag in the fridge.  This was better than seeing half a loaf go mouldy the day after it had been baked but did tend to dry out the bread and make it rather hard, so not really any good for sandwiches.

Now the hot weather has gone we went back to using the bread bin, but all the reasons we had started not to like it then became really apparent, especially the mouldy breadcrumbs at the bottom, yuk ! So I started to research the best way to keep homemade bread besides slicing it when cold and keeping the sliced loaf in the freezer. The freezer is too full of produce at present to make that a realistic option ! Well, you can use a wooden roll top bin, an enamel one, a ceramic one, a roll top metal bin, a paper bag, a plastic bag and a cotton bag and apparently all will work well. We've had roll top bread bins in the past, both wooden and metal and eventually they all suffer from the same problems as our current enamel one. I was quite tempted by the idea of a ceramic crock but they are expensive and MrShoestring pointed out that they are very heavy and easy to break !

Finally, I decided on a plastic box with an air-tight lid that can easily go in the dishwasher. I counted out my Love2Shop vouchers from the postal survey and got ready to go to Robert Dyas to buy one in the right size. However, before I left, my eye was caught by my portable sand tray for counselling, it has an air-tight lid, is made of plastic and was exactly the right size. I'm not going counselling in schools again this year and haven't been using the box so decide to re-purpose it ! A quick wash in the dishwasher and it was transformed into the new bread bin at zero cost ! This was even better than using the Love2Shop vouchers to buy a new one for free, as now I am using something that was lying around being clutter. If I ever need a sand tray again I have the ideal seed potting tray sitting in MrShoestring's workshop !

Repurposing beats purchasing every time !