Hello Dear Reader,
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.
I’ll just be frothing at the mouth at the way they want to fleece us all!
Love Froogs xxxx
Hello Dear Reader,
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?
What about this?
Love Froogs xxxx
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?
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.
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
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.
p.s A second house viewing on Friday by a couple who have now sold their house, so cross your fingers for me.
Hello Dear Reader,
I grew up in a house with heating in one room, with that fact and the recent ‘surveys’ in the cost of raising a child, it’s a total surprise to many that I’m actually alive!
Our living room had a parkray coal fire which heated the water and that room. No other room had any heating at all. The coal fire also heated the hot water but it would take it being ‘opened up’ and set roaring to heat a bath and we just couldn’t afford the coal. We had a parrafin heater in our bathroom which was lit on Sunday afternoons when we had our weekly bath. The rest of the week, the bathroom was unheated and we had a ‘strip wash’, which I always successfully managed to have under my dressing gown! Half way through the week, I would wash my hair in the kitchen sink and it was usually damp the next morning. I never owned a hair dryer until I was grown up and with a job.
There were no supermarkets. Food was grown in our garden. Luckily, we had the usual size big council house garden that had plenty of space. Our back porch was full of ‘clamps’ where the root vegetables were buried in sand and peat to keep them throughout the winter. Apples were wrapped in newspaper and placed on planking shelves in the roof rafters of the garage. Our greatest luxury, was a deep freeze…………with a lock! Through out the summer, my parents and us kids, would pick barrow after barrow of broad beans, French beans, runner beans and peas and prepare them, blanch them and then freezer them in bags to keep us going throughout the winter. Apples were stewed and bagged and again stored in the freezer to last the winter. In the warmer months, my dad would fish off Par docks and Spit beach to catch whiting and mackerel. The mackerel was ‘soused’ or hot pickled and sealed in kilner jars and the whiting was gutted, filleted and frozen. He would go out of his friend’s boat and bring back pollock which would be gutted, steamed and mixed with mashed potatoes and there would be bags and bags of fish cakes in the freezer. Meat came from ‘Dave’s Discount’ freezer store and mum would buy a forequarter of beef (shin and mostly stewing meat) that was stewed and served with gravy. It was bagged up at home and stored in the freezer. The big roast dinner was reserved for Christmas.
We kept chickens and not just for eggs. We also had ducks. A good third of our garden was a muddy poopy mess! We had piles of birdy poop and bedding which we kept to dig into our garden. We would be sent with a barrow and fork to the nearby stables to ask for manure which we would bring home. As a child, I spent a lot of time either collecting shit or digging it into the garden. I quite enjoyed digging!
We had a green house and throughout the summer ate grapes and melons to the point that I was sick of them. We had lots of fruit bushes in a fruit cage and made jam to keep us going all year. School lunch was always a jam sandwich and yes, the bread was home made. In winter, there was cabbage, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and sprouts. Dinner was always ‘shut up and eat it’ and as we were always hungry, we always ate it.
School uniform came as balls of knitting wool from the local haberdashery and my mum would knit us all one school jumper each every year. When we out grew it, she would detach the jumper and start to unpick it and pick up the stitches and then just knit the body and sleeves longer. When our school skirts got too short, she would let them down. When our school shirts got tatty, she would turn the collars and patch where no one could see. We each had one set of uniform, the jumper and skirt got worn all week and the shirts and underwear washed by hand each night and dried by the fire. We had no washing machine and sheets were washed in the bath by sitting on the side and stamping on them. Mum and I would take them in the garden and hold an end and twist them into a sausage to wring them out. They would then be hoisted onto a high ling and held aloft with a pole to stop the line drooping in the middle.
Winters were harsh and everyone I knew had chilblains. You got them on your feet and hands. Everyone’s noses dripped, mouth cracked with cold sores and wore unwashed clothes, as no day was ever a drying day for weeks and weeks on end. Coats and shoes never really dried and the house would be damp and dark from October to March. We had ice on the inside of our windows and our pipes would often freeze, which meant no water until they defrosted. We took a hot water bottle to bed. When it got so cold that the blankets didn’t keep you warm any anything became a bed covering. Coats, dad’s donkey jacket, and old curtains. Still, I can remember sardines on toast and sitting around the fire on those cold evenings and all of us spending time together in one room.
All entertainment began and ended in the local village. Everything happened in the church hall. Brownies, Scouts, Guides, youth club on a Friday and Sunday school on Sunday. We flocked to Sunday school to collect our ‘I’ve been’ stamps in our books as it meant we got a Christmas present and a holiday to Porthpean for a week in the summer. No one at that summer bible camp had any pocket money, we ate what we were given and every year knew we would get an ice cream on the last day. We looked forwards to Christmas bazaars, summer fetes and sunday school ‘teas’.
Shoes were something that you got new in September for school. They were purposefully too big and everyone wore two or more pairs of socks. We clunk clunked our way to school in loose schools, with rolled up jumper sleeves and trousers turned up to almost the knee. They had no toes in them by June and by July we had to explain to our teachers why we were wearing our black plimsols for just a few weeks. Clothes came from jumble sales, hand me downs from friends and relatives. Schools knew and accepted that they were full of ordinary kids and consequently, I can’t remember a single school trip, day out or special occasion. We just went to school and learnt and that was it.
My dad was a lorry driver but that wasn’t well paid. My mum stayed home until we were older and I was at secondary school. I was expected to have the fire going and the dinner made for mum when she got home. I loved reading and drawing and would while away hours doing just that. There was no child care. I got a bus home from school and my sister and brother walked back from the primary school and I met them at the end of the lane and I took them home. There were no snacks, no multiple TV channels to watch and we all loved our own ‘tranny’ radio. If you were hungry, you made do with a jam sandwich as you did for breakfast and lunch.
Employment law was mercifully slack throughout my childhood. I and so many like me, picked the winter daffodils in bud and then the spring early Cornish potatoes. We got work in pubs washing glasses and chippys peeling spuds. I had friends who swept up and made tea in hair dressers and even crimped pasties in the back of bakeries. I sold ice creams in a van on the beach every summer from when I was thirteen years old, I was supposed to be fourteen but I lied. I used to save up and buy Mum roll-ons, Rimmel make up, Silvikrin shampoo and Yardley perfume. One summer, I was so determined to buy a pair of Wrangler jeans that I saved all summer. By the time of was sixteen, I was financially self sufficient and by eighteen was living independently. I’d never heard of a university until VIth form and didn’t stay long enough to go to one.
Everyone I knew lived a similar life to my own. In fact, I was much better off than many of my contemporaries. My mum knew who the hungry kids were and told me to bring them home. I was taller than most kids and my mum knew who was short of a cardi or a nightie and they could have my old ones. We always ate a hot meal every night, there was always a pot of tea and I was always able to bring school friends home and they always got fed too. Locally, we were strangely aware of the parents who smoked or drank their money and it wasn’t unheard of for my primary school head teacher to go personally to the house and give them a shot across the bough if they neglected their children.
As a family, things got better for us when both my parents had a job and we’d often have a coal fire in two rooms and later we had electric heaters in our bedrooms and we were allowed to switch then on just before going to bed. By the time I left home, there were three TV channels but still no washing machine but at least mum could afford to take the big wash to the launderette.
It takes what ever you have to raise a child. I didn’t have a holiday until my youngest child was thirteen and my eldest, now 27 has never had a holiday in his life. They didn’t get much at all, but in comparison to my childhood, grew up in decadence. They could have a bath every day, clean clothes every day, and we had a heated house with double glazing. They had breakfast cereal, juice and a packed lunch and a cooked meal every night. They had a birthday and Christmas present. They went of school trips and even school holidays. We had days out to the beach and parks. They had an ice cream every week!
It certainly doesn’t take that much to raise a child and those of us who didn’t plan them but had them anyway, know that you get by some how and do your best. Those of us who grew up, by modern standards, in poverty, were never aware that we were poor. Children need to be loved and wanted, have secure families, a roof over their heads, enough food, enough cleanliness and enough clothes. There is little more that they need. I was loved and wanted and so were my children and that is about all they or I truly needed.
The photo is of me and my lovely mum – a couple of summers ago. I am truly blessed, that despite of having no money, gave me a wonderful upbringing.
Over to you. Who else brought their kids up on not a lot more that good luck and prayer? Who else thinks that materialism has polluted family life and blurs the line between what we want and what we need?
Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx