A few frugal thoughts 

Hello Dear Reader,

Sunday was my ‘big shop’ day. I know some of you have them and some of you scout round for bargains and know just where and when to shop and get the best prices. I occasionally saunter up to the Co op just before it closes but mostly I plan my shopping and rarely shop spontaneously.

I have a big choice of shops that all offer great prices on my way home from work, near my house and within a few minutes drive. I shop in Bodmin which is the neighbouring town just as the way of a change. Any way, I digress, but back to the frugal thoughts.

I can’t remember the last time I just walked into a shop and picked up what every I liked. Don’t get me wrong, I used to do that in another life but I certainly don’t now. I might have ketchup written on my list but I know when I get there I’m looking for the best value per 100g. If you have a few seconds, then look at the unit prices on the shelf prices. I’m so used to doing that now mental maths has really sharpened, I’m sure it’s as good as brain gym or puzzles. I even look at the back of loo rolls and look at how many square metres I’m getting per roll because sometimes the offers are not great. In most cases, I usually buy one up from the bottom price as that seems to get me the best value.

I’m also really on the ball when it comes to working out portion costs and will use a permanent marker to write on packs when I get home, such as frozen chicken breasts, to work out the unit price and then I can budget each meal. My average price of a main meal is £1 a head sometimes a bit lower or higher.

I also do a monthly shop in specific shops, for example, I can’t find better laundry products for the price anywhere but Lidl (and it’ s on my way home) £2.99 for 40 washes which is 7.5p per wash and the £1.99 2 litre bottle of fabric conditioner gives 66 30ml doses, so a mere 3p per rinse. So, roughly 10p in products to do each wash, I haven’t found anything as cheap or as good as that so far.  I’m like Carol Vorderman walking around shops these days.

Just the other day, we were in Asda and we eyed up the packs of sausages like hungry school children and couldn’t bring ourselves to pay £2.50 for 6 gluten free sausages! I immediately said out loud, I just couldn’t help myself, that’s 40p, or thereabouts per measly sausage! A whole chicken was £3.50 and gluten free………….I bought the chicken! Being thrifty and quick with numbers means I’ll pause before I buy, think of the unit price and often, just walk away as it’s not good value.

Before I go shopping, I do a few things. I check www.mysupermarket.com and make sure I can’t get what I want cheaper else where. If  shop in Asda, I use the price promise feature on their website and enter my receipt and get a refund voucher if I could have bought my groceries cheaper else where. I also use any vouchers that come through my door and use them to shop in Farm foods, conveniently next door to Asda to get 10% off my shopping.

I meant to post this on Sunday, whilst this was still in my mind but here it is today. Unusually, a bit random for me as just a few this and that thrifty thoughts came to mind. You may be at the beginning of your thrifty journey, might be tightening your belt, may have something to save for such as a wedding or a new car and may have a whole load of reason why you need to save money. We are saving for our retirement in nine years and have lots or renovation projects on the go which means with the combination of the two, we have to be super thrifty and make every pound do the work of a fiver.

I’m all shopped until the end of the month. I have a full freezer and pantry and will only need to pick up fresh fruit and veg weekly as I have everything else.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

 

 

You can’t have what you can’t afford!

                                  
Hello Dear Reader,
We live in a topsy turvy world where everyone, whether they earn enough or not enough expect to be able to buy or pay for what ever they like. Some where along the line, some people just didn’t learn the concept of tough luck. Oh blimey, some of us learnt that at a very early age. I remember that pouting and moaning that I didn’t have this, that or the other meant my mother would dole out a liberal dose of reality and that would be the end of that. My kids faced the same short shrift if they whined for something we couldn’t afford. Even now, if I can’t afford it, I just live without it.
We also live in a wonky world where financial priorities are oddly skewed. Here are my humble thoughts on priorities. 
Housing – always rent or buy something well beneath your means as circumstances can change, food and commodities can get more expensive. That might mean you might have to live on a cheaper street, in a cheaper town, in a cheaper county as location, location, location means you will pay over the odds for housing and council tax. It might mean you won’t have a flashy home, anything with kerb appeal and you won’t be able to wax lyrical about period features. When you manage to get somewhere to live, wherever that may be, the rent or mortgage come first every month, on time. It’s tough luck that the UK is expensive, it’s chuffing crowded! More people live on this tiny island than either Canada or Australia so don’t expect much for your wages. Tough luck? Yep, and plenty of it! 
Bills – the lights, gas and water does not turn up as a gift and needs to be paid for on time every month. I don’t expect anyone to donate utilities to me and neither do you because we don’t think it’s a right or entitlement Not paying those bills on time each month affects credit ratings and any chance you have of renting or buying anywhere else in the future. I’ve always paid our bills on time, every month and never once thought I’ll pay for something else and catch up on the water bill another time. You and me will have heard all the griping and moaning about bills as if only oligarchs should pay. It’s tough luck that we all have to pay even if that means there’s very little left after paying the basic bills.
Food – unless you’re here for the first time, you’ll know that it’s possible to eat well for a reasonable price. Food doesn’t take masses of time or money and where the heck did this crazy world make eating out normal? I’m not missing out because I go home to soup or baked beans on toast and I’ve never moaned that I can’t afford lobster….and I flippin’ love seafood! The reality is we can’t all afford to eat out but with home cooking, budgeting and preparation we can eat healthily. 
So, there’s the neccessities. Get them right. Anything else is bonus. There are plenty of things that are not essential but you’d be amazed what this bonkers world thinks as necessary and that they have a right to as if a night down the pub is a human right. We can’t have what we can’t afford so why has this loopy society raised humans to think they have an entitlement to more than they can afford? It beats me, it really does. Not so long ago, you lived within your means but now everyone expects to have ‘what everyone else has’ whether you can afford it or not. 
Over to you, what’s essential and what’s not? Where do you think this crazy notion of entitlement has come from? I’m scratching my head on this one and maybe you have the answers. 
Until tomorrow,
Love Froogs xxxx 

Budgeting for planned spending




Hello Dear Reader,


Budgeting isn’t boring; it’s liberating! It means I can look at our finances for the year, months and weeks ahead and not have surprises. This does mean we make plans and regularly review them and that’s exactly what we’ve done tonight. 

Both our holidays have been saved for, budgeted for and months in advance paid in full. We bought our holiday and ferry crossing online and used the ‘manage my booking’ facility to pay for both in full.

Our bills, with the exception of our water bill (no discount for monthly payment) is also paid online with my banking app on my phone and I set the money aside to pay every quarter. My car insurance is due any day and we’ve put money aside to pay it in one go. I never automatically renew and simply use my renewals notice as proof of my ten years no claim discount and then search for the best price that also has the best cashback, either through Quidco or Top cashback. Each year, I get around £50 back which reduces my policy to around £120. I do te same with house and contents insurance.

As we’re going on holiday (twice) this year, we need to do some planning and organising so we don’t waste money when we get there. We’re self-catering so, all bar a meal on the way there and one on the way home, I’ll cook in the apartment which really keeps the cost down. We also save money by taking everything that you need self catering but isn’t provided. Forgetting the odd items can soon lead to browsing, supermarket trips and spending knowing that ‘I have that at home!’

So, we’re making lists and beginning the prep early to spread the cost. We’ve broken the lists into: kitchen (from food, cleaning, sundries, equipment- no oven, so I actually take our toaster oven) cleaning/laundry, car requirements (hi-vis ect), toiletries, bedding, medicine and first aid and clothing. It sounds a lot but it all easily fits in the boot of our car in stacking boxes. 

My financial plans for next month are to pay for: European breakdown cover for 12 months, dog sitting for second holiday, next quarter’s water bill as it will arrive when I’m just about to go on holiday. No surprises and all budgeted for. I could bore you with all the planned spending and saving over the next few months but I’m sure you get it.

Budgeting and planning doesn’t make me feel restricted but helps us relax knowing that bills are all covered and we can treat ourselves to holidays without a credit card in sight and can come home without rendering ourselves skint!

I’m back to writing my lists. Over to you Dear a Reader, what needs to go on my list for our self catering holiday so we don’t run up expense by forgetting anything. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Nifty, thrifty week and dreaming


                                  


Hello Dear Reader,

Another wonderful week in sunny Cornwall. Today, we tootled about, washed and hoovered the car and had a bumble around the local charity shops. Not a great haul today but a great deal at the Sally Army shop where I bought two bright summer t-shirts for £1.50. DB got himself a bio but best of all, I bought an empty sewing case to put together a sewing kit for my daughter. All in all, a fiver for the lot. 

                                    

My slimming world meals are going well, it’s quite an odd concept that there are foods that I can eat as much as I like of. I mixed tikka curry powder with cheapie fat free natural yoghurt and coated chopped chicken and baked it for twenty minutes. A 49p bag of Aldi salad and half a tin of 33p Aldi sweetcorn. The salad dressing is yoghurt, mint and a drop of water to thin it down. All really cheap!

                                

My big treat this weekend has been a cooked breakfast, all week it’s just porridge. It’s like staying in our very own hotel. Nothing flash at all has happened this week but it will all be worth it.



                                

On Thursday, I watched the Pont Aven sail into Milbay and remembered that with a bit of scrimping here and saving a few quid there means we’ll be off to Brittany in the summer holiday.

Over to you Dear Reader, share your thrifty week. Here’s mine – dried all the washing outside, started on a leftover red, white and blue quilt for a baby boy who’s due in September (all the bits from other quilts being made up into a baby quilt) and kept to our budget all week. So, what about you? 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx






Supermarket sweep!




Hello Dear Reader,

They are all at it! They all hide their unit prices. I would love every supermarket to have to show the price of everything, even if it’s a multi-pack, pre-pack or slice of how much it is being sold for by the kilo! We all have to stand there and work it out. I have to take something like a pack of tomatoes, which for example are being sold for 69p for six and if it has a weight, work out how much it is per gram and then times that by 1000 and work out how much that is per kilo. It’s time in my life that I’ll never get back. Now, I know that you and I stand there quite unashamedly in the supermarket, with a calculator and work out the unit price and then, and only then can compare that with loose vegetables. I’m happy to read the back of the loo rolls and discover that the value pack has far less in terms of square metres than the more ‘expensive brands’. Even laundry detergent bottles, and washing up liquid bottles that look the same are actually bigger or smaller on closer investigation.

So, Which magazine have been investigating masses of complaints that supermarket deals are not always what they seem. See here for the article in The Telegraph.

This doesn’t affect me as I’m really judicious about what I buy and check prices and compare on a regular basis. I make time for this, I’m worried for the people who don’t make the time and end up paying over the odds because they think they’ve got a bargain when they really haven’t!

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Gary Hickson on Radio Lancashire about this very matter. You’ll hear that I’m none too impressed with the silly games that supermarkets try to play. You can listen to it here and move the slider to 1 hour and 18 minutes to hear Gary and I having an amusing conversation about what we think of the way supermarkets try to squeeze money out of us.

Until tomorrow,

I’ll just be frothing at the mouth at the way they want to fleece us all!

Love Froogs xxxx

You want my money?




Hello Dear Reader,


Just like you, I work hard and when I shop, I do so judiciously.

However! 


I’m sick of bad service!

Today, I was on the receiving end of poor service, rudeness and officious staff.

One store ( high street optician) managed to call me in (40 mile round trip to Plymouth and back) to give me one of two pairs of glasses with my vari-focal lenses incorrectly set so I couldn’t read with them. One pair turned up with the incorrect prescription. I now have to wait two more weeks for my glasses. Said shop are sitting on £300 of my dosh! 

I won’t be going back.

Second bad experience from major supermarket. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and opportunity to put right what their local store did wrong.

I might shop in another branch but the supermarket in question won’t see a penny of my money again.

So, dear businesses, if you want to stay trading, give good service please!

Fuming at my wasted day!

Love Froogs xxxx

Monthly budgeting



Hello Dear Reader,

Every now and then I stop and reflect on the fact that the last time I was in debt in any way, other than my mortgage, was in 2011. That has meant I have spent since then being solvent, building up savings, paying down the mortgage and being able to buy what I need.

Something have never changed. 

Whilst I was in debt we set ourselves an excruciatingly tight budget and then stuck to it until we were debt free and have downsized. Now, we just have a strict budget. Even now, we don’t spend a penny until every direct debit has gone out of our accounts on the first of the month. We still allocate a budget for food, for transport and move the rest into savings.

Here are the things we still have a set budget for: holidays, clothes, pets, house renovations, birthdays and Christmas. We still don’t set aside money for going out, meals out, theatre, cinema or visitor attractions with the exception of being members of the National Trust, which is incredibly good value. So, even now we are careful with money.

Here’s something else that we haven’t changed. We still do all we can to earn extra money and get stuff for free. Today, more firewood and another pallet to cut down into kindling. I still go to the charity shops first if I need something. If I can’t find what I want, then my next step is ebay and the last resort is a real shop but only if I can get a discount, if it’s in the sale, or if I have a discount code.

It’s the end of the month and DB and I have looked at this month’s budget. This month I will pay for the holiday accommodation and that’s another chunk of holiday paid for. We still need to budget for new European driving licences, travel insurance and European break down cover. It will be worth it as we’re going to France twice in the summer, at the beginning for two weeks and for a long bank holiday week end to stay in a friend’s mobile home in another area of Brittany that we’re looking forward to visiting.

The next planned big expense is to pay for the year’s council tax in one go on the beginning of April. I’ve never done this before. There isn’t any great advantage but with all bills, I just like to get them out of the way. Normally, we pay monthly but I want it gone and paid for on the beginning of the financial year. We have no more major household expenses this year. The medium term plan is to save up for a new roof and insulation as the roof is not under felted nor insulated and it is not sound proofed. We will get prices over the next few months and add another 15% for price increases and contingency.

All of this might seem a bit predictable, lacking in spontaneity and restrained but it gives me incredible peace of mind to know that everything is paid for, budgeted for and we can still look forward to two holidays in the summer. It’s worth it to us and we’re glad we do it.

Over to you, who else has the budget all worked out and has financial plans in place for the immediate and long term.

I might sound nonchalant now, but there was a journey behind this. 

Do you remember?

http://www.frugalqueen.co.uk/2010/06/no-words-needed.html

What about this?

http://www.frugalqueen.co.uk/2010/09/getting-grip-of-debts-painful-way.html

And this?
http://www.frugalqueen.co.uk/2011/03/climbing-mountain-of-debt.html

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Making the most of a windfall….sorry about the bra!

Hello Dear Reader,

I went to the Post Office on Saturday to pick up a letter that had to be signed for. I must admit, I let out and audible squeal of happiness when I opened it. One of the sponsors from the MAD Blog awards had sent me a £100 John Lewis gift card for being one of the five finalists. I’ve already emailed them to let them know how grateful I was. It’s very tempting when you get any kind of windfall to think about a new dress, lots of make up or something pretty for the house.  

As John Lewis and Waitrose is the same company, I decided to get as many groceries as I could for the money. I checked out their website and found that new customers could get £15 off a £100 spend. So, my prize was actually £115 as I registered online. It was getting better by the minute. I used their click and collect service and retrieved my shopping on my way home from work tonight.

For non-British readers, Waitrose is the most expensive poshest supermarket in the UK, where the Bentley brigade send their butlers to pick up the foie gras! I wanted to get as much as I could and bought loads for my stores. I also looked for genuine offers such as 3 for the price of two and got as much as I could. I did better than I expected, they have a reputation for being expensive but I didn’t think something were more than Tesco, or at least they are similarly priced.

Lots of oily fish for my plan to up my oily fish intake to twice a week.

Three for two on Ecover, don’t worry, when these are empty, I will going back to getting refills at the local shop. (Buy two get one free)

A big meat stock up, three chickens, lamb neck fillets, meatballs, corned beef, chicken thighs, lambs livers.

The chickens were great value, £16.20 of chicken for £10. I had to take them out of the posh containers and pop them into freezer bags to fit them into my small freezer drawer.

Lots of tinned and frozen fruit. Usually, I buy frozen raspberries but for a change, I bought blackberries.

May tins of green beans, sliced beans and chick peas.

Soup. I use the condensed soup as a pie filler with left over meat and vegetables. The tomato soup is a real favourite, in a mug, in front of the fire on a cold night. 

The liver will be going into faggots, I haven’t made them since last winter and DB loves them.

A dress and some new make up would have been nice but the peace of mind of having a stocked store, pantry and freezer is a great peace of mind. There are some treats, maple syrup for DB, lemon pie filling and pop corn for movie nights. The Ecover hand wash was an indulgence too.

Many thanks to Parentdish for the prize. Also, thanks to Waitrose in Saltash. It took them a while to get our order together and they gave us free coffee and a bunch of roses for the delay, which was a nice surprise. 

Over to you, what would you do with a windfall?

Until tomorrow

Checking your finances every single month!

Hello Dear Reader,

It’s the first of the month tomorrow and I hope you are ready for it. Today, being the last day of the month is pay day and I don’t want any of you to spend any money until you have well and truly prepared yourselves for next month.

If you are a parents, make sure you have checked out the school website and that you are aware of any upcoming expenses, charity events coming over the next month. Book day is on the way. Dressing up may be required, a readathon might be involved and there will certainly be books on sale. Being aware of the school calendar will allow you to budget for what you want to participate in or spend on. If you are not in the position to do any of this, then a polite letter each half term to the head teacher with a copy to the chair of governors to explain that you don’t want your child left out but can’t afford to join in will help the school discreetly support your choices without anyone noticing. Also, we can all be busy but be aware of the school calendar so you can budget for school expenses, such as cookery, school trips, music lessons and make sure you have made allowances in your funds or not to participate as is your choice.


Everyone of you will have expenses of one kind or other over the next month. Always know when insurances are ready for renewal. Get a wall calendar and mark it. Check that calendar each month and be ready for the next expense. Start saving for the next year when you’ve paid that bill. If you are not that disciplined then you might need to make the choice to spread your payments over twelve months. 

If you’ve checked and know there are no insurance to renew, no car to tax or MOT, no tyres to buy then stop yourself from spending – this can be a savings month. You could put the money aside for planned spending, in our case new windows and a holiday, or long term savings such as new car, wedding, or house deposit or if you are already someone with a mortgage then consider making a mortgage over payment. We fix this a  small set amount each month (as we are setting aside money for home improvements) and pay that on the first of the month so the  money goes straight away.


So, you’ve checked the school calendar (remember, if it’s not for the children, the bills, the food, get to work transport then nothing else is essential!!) and there’s nothing on this month. It won’t hurt to start thinking about next month or the month after. I used to buy school uniform, PE kit and equipment throughout the year as and when I could afford it. When September came, I only had shoes to buy and I’d put money aside for this. We never had much money but we always sent the kids on school trips, they did after school activities and they always had plenty of clean uniform. In the same way, I used to buy small items that the children would need throughout the year such as pyjamas, play clothes or underwear and I spread the costs of this over the year. I did the same for birthdays and Christmas.

I always use the end of one month to mentally prepare myself for the next. I make sure I have all activities and planned events up on the wall calendar. I set aside days each month for earning extra income. You could do the same by having a ‘clear out, photograph and get it on ebay’ day a month. You could set aside time to put adverts into the local freeads. You could set aside time each month to check your finances and make plans for any costs you may incur over the next month.

We have nothing but food and fuel to buy in March and we will judiciously make sure we stick to that. Meaning, we will buy nothing new, spend nothing on entertainment, spend nothing on the house, nothing on the pet and nothing on ourselves this month. We will eat down our supplies and keep our food spending to a minimum, keep our transport costs to essentials only and make sure we set aside all the money promised to pay for our windows and holiday.

It might seems a bit drastic to have months like this but the rewards will be a warm secure home and two weeks just to ourselves. 

I have lots to keep me busy: a quilt to finish, two cookery workshops and a quilting/sewing  workshop at the end of the month. Everyday we go to work and I go to the gym after work. The housework gets done at the weekend, menus get planned, batch cooking gets done. We walk the dogs, meet with friends and life has an easy pace. 

We certainly don’t miss ready cash! We do enjoy planned budgeting, planned spending and saving.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

p.s – please follow the link below and nominate http://www.frugalqueen.co.uk for: blog of the year, best food blog and best thrifty blog – thanks lovely people xxxx

MAD Blog Awards

How to write a menu plan for a month.

Hello Dear Reader,

There are many ways to menu plan for your family. The starting point is making the plan together. It’s easy for Dearly Beloved and myself as we know our cooking capabilities and what we like. Any family can decide what they like and what they don’t like and you can work on compromises as a family. Once you have decided on that, then you need to know your budget. Our catering budget varies week to week but averages over the month at £50 a week (I know! Prices have shot up!) and that’s for all our food, fresh fruit and veg which we buy weekly, a big meat shop once a month, a big shop once every few months for tea and coffee, a big shop every few months for cleaning products and dishwasher tablets (we buy in bulk from Trago) and a big shop once every few months for tinned, dry goods, UHT milk, pet food and toiletries. In all, our ‘grocery’ budget is £200 a month. It’s high in comparison to some and low to others. We also add to our stores by using Approved Food a couple of times a year and I usually buy a year’s worth of pasta, dried pulses, cous cous or rice from them for a tiny price.(e.g 10 500g bags of pasta shapes for £1)

When I menu plan, the first thing I always do is stock take everything we have to eat in the house. I write everything down and start to formulate a plan of what we are going to eat. I create a spreadsheet so I can refer back to the previous week and check we are not eating the same things over and over. I try to make my plan as varied as possible, even when I have bags and bags of minced beef, or masses of packs of pasta to use up. We tend to eat the same things for breakfast of either cereal or toast and we eat one main meal in the evening and one light meal as well. Lunch is often leftovers from the night before, or a boiled egg in a sandwich or salad. I always have fruit in the freezer and family sized pots of natural yoghurt so there’s always ‘pudding’ if we want it. We rarely snack between meals and we rarely snack after our evening meal so there’s no cheese and crackers lurking and definitely no bought in snacks such as nuts or crisps. Not snacking means we can keep our grocery bill as low as we can. We don’t snack because we fill up of lots of veggies with all our meals so we don’t get hungry until our next meal. Occasionally, I relent and make biscuits or cakes but portion them to last as long as possible.

I have a stock of cookery books, I also use BBC Food, Yummly, allrecipes.co.uk and other recipe websites. I’ll often try recipes from other frugal food bloggers too. I like to try new ideas and will look at my ingredients and then use Google to search for recipes to make from those ingredients. I like to plan from pay day to pay day, so I know we’ve got enough food for the month and other than fresh fruit and veg, that I don’t need to buy anything else. You could find your own way of planning and it might be weekly to start with, moving onto fortnightly and eventually monthly. I have a friend who pins her planning to her fridge to remind her what to prepare, or to take out of the freezer or to defrost if she had made one earlier. Anyone can find their own way. Another friend of mine has a write on – wipe off board on her kitchen wall and writes her planning on that, with a shopping list next to it. You can find your own way.

Of course, I’m not suggesting anyone should plan, it’s just personally something that we do. Our plan isn’t set in stone either. I could cook anything from the plan on any of the days as I’ve got most of the ingredients in the house as we always have veggies and salad here. I cross off the ‘meal’ once we’ve had it, as that helps with my stock taking at the end of the month. 

Here’s my plan for the coming month.


You will notice that we eat the same main meal on Sunday and Monday and that’s because we give ourselves the night off cooking on a Monday and have ‘Ding Cuisine’. We’ll often eat soup for lunch two days running as I will have made a large pot one day and we eat it over the next few days for lunch with bread. I like to keep a good store of frozen foods and dry goods so there is always food in the house and I like to keep a good table. We might be frugal but I always do my best to make sure we eat well.

I hope I’ve given you a few ideas about menu planning and now it’s your turn to chip in. Who menu plans? Who has a set budget for food and sticks to it. Who thinks they have a set budget but actually pops down the local Co-op for a bit of this and that? Who else bulk buys and keeps a store? Who batch cooks so you can have days off cooking?

As ever, I look forward to hearing from you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs

p.s A second house viewing on Friday by a couple who have now sold their house, so cross your fingers for me.