It’s not easy being frugal

(Addition – apologies for the text layout, this looks normal when I type/post – something happens when I ‘publish post)

I think the art of budgeting and menu planning used to be something that women
learnt out of necessity when husband used to hand them the weekly wage packet in a brown
envelope and the wife used to stretch everything so she had money left over to buy the
children clothes, shoes etc.

In my previous life I had an allowance and that was the only money I was ‘given’. So I had
a very similar experience to women in times gone by. I had two little children, a car that
needed petrol to get them to school and I needed to clothe the three of us from that budget too. No-one taught me… was sink or swim. I used to dress up market stall (how many chickens can I get in this black bin bag for a fiver and then throw them into the desperate crowd!) meat as the local butcher’s finest and stretched everything I had so I could pay for playgroup. No one ever learns to do anything until they have to do it. If you have to stretch the little money you have, you suddenly learn. It’s not about what you have but what you do with it.
When I shop, I shop in portions or meals. It used to be for four of us and I would bulk
out things to make them go further. Now we’re watching our portion sizes – I don’t need to
do that; just make smaller meals.

I look at the price on the shelf and check, not just the price but how much per kilo –
today really posh ‘Pilgrim’s Choice’ cheddar was the cheapest per kilo. When buying
potatoes, remember that one potato per person is all you would eat if you baked it, so
that’s all you need if you mash, chip or just boil. I always refrigerate fruit and veg,
they last longer as you are not exposing them to so much oxygen. I freeze bread and milk.
Butter substitute such as ‘utterly butterly’ (or the generic version) has a shelf life of
months, so it will just keep somewhere cool or in the fridge for a month. I buy UHT milk
and yoghurt. Flour, dried yeast and tinned goods last for months. So buy a month’s worth.
I buy shampoo, shower gel, loo rolls when they are on offer. I buy toothpaste for 45p
and it whitens and does everything an expensive product does and a tube lasts us one month. I make shower gel last for months as I apply it to a scrubby and wash myself from head to toe with one squirt. I make a bottle of conditioner last a month as I use a tiny amount, then keep an old hair brush in the shower to brush it through my hair.

For all my advice, or top tips, this all comes down to simple arithmetic. I keep my
receipts and check them through and enter them into my accounts, which I do with ‘excel’
to record what I spend. I usually shop in Lidl and as they have a limited range; I know
six chicken breasts are £3.99, there are six in the bag, so 66p each. They are very large
and good quality.

I have a calculator which I use when checking my budget, but I have a top tip when
shopping, just round everything up to the next pound. So If I buy a cauliflower for 69p,
when I walk around the shop I just call that £1. It’s so much easier.
No one has taught me to do any of this. I never learnt this at school. My mother never
divulged the secrets of the family purse. If I was rubbish at maths, I can still use a
calculator. I’m no Gordon Ramsay as you can see from my menu plans, but I know about the
basics of health: five a day, portion size (use a smaller plate) and basic costing. I
also have a desire to waste as little as possible so I re-use plastic pots to grow plants
and freeze left overs and I use drinks bottles as cloches and I recycle everything else.
I have shopped with ‘meals’ in mind and then looked at what I have; to put together meals
for the next three weeks. I have plans for 19 meals, but I will bulk this out with beany
burgers (from tinned kidney beans etc) and meals such as fried rice, which sometimes is
all we have, or egg, chips and beans.

I know people struggle to plan, to budget and find making both ends meet really difficult.
I hope my menu plan can help in any way. I’m always on the end of a blog to help anyone
who asks. Here are the meals for next three weeks.

6 Chicken breasts = 3 meals (Top tip – always buy these frozen, they are so much cheaper)
Roast chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes and roast butternut squash, cabbage, carrots and gravy. Chicken casserole, mashed potatoes, carrots, peas. Chicken Korma, rice and salad.

4 pork chops = 2 meals (Top tip – always buy these frozen, they are so much cheaper £1.79 for 4 chops in Lidl)
Sticky grilled pork with homemade oven chips, green beans and tomatoes. Spicy pork chops with green salad and homemade bread.

16 sausages = 2 meals – some for packed lunches the next day.
Sausages and onion gravy, boiled minted new potatoes, carrots and cauliflower. Toad in the hole, onion gravy, cabbage and peas.

Chicken thighs = 1 large casserole – some for packed lunch next day.

1.4 kg of minced beef = 4 meals
Chilli con carne and rice, with salad. Cottage pie, carrots, French beans X 2 Lasagne and salad.

Faggots = 1 meal serve with gravy, boiled minted new potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.

4 haddock fillets = 2 meals
Battered Haddock with homemade chips, tinned mushy peas and carrots X 2

Veggie burgers = 1 meal serve with homemade bread and salad.

1 gammon joint = 2 meals
Boiled gammon, minted new potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and green beans and parsley sauce. Cold gammon, homemade chips and salad/or veg

1 pack of back bacon = 1 meal
Carbonara (pasta, cheese sauce, strips of fried bacon with chopped and fried mushroom)

3 tins of corned beef = lunches for 6 days
5 tins of tuna = lunch for 5 days
Bread flour, marg and yeast – enough until the end of the month.
Cake ingredients to last until the end of the month.
Cheese for quiche/cheese sauce/sandwiches – until the end of the month.
Longlife goods in the cupboard will last up to six months.
I am no expert on thrifting and frugality and I’m still learning. I’m making everything I have go a little further and most of it comes down to common sense and self control. I didn’t used to be sensible and I didn’t have self control and I don’t think they can be taught in school. Life can be the best teacher sometimes.


Frugal budgetting and shopping

I grew up in a house, where mum used to warn us that ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ and I live by that principal. We get paid and then we do the following: buy train passes for the month, buy the bulk of our food shopping for the month including toiletries and sundries, pay any due bills then we equate what we have left after direct debits and impending expenses and savings and that’s what we have left for the month.

Today was the turn of my big shop where I make sure I have enough of the basics to last me a month and then I eek everything out to make sure it lasts a month – I know we can use two loo rolls a week in the upstairs bathroom and one a week in the downstairs! To me frugality is the lost art of making the little bit you have go a long way and thus ensuring we tread very lightly on the planet as we do so. I used to thing being green meant spending more money on eco-products but actually it can be about just consuming as little as possible

My dry goods cupboard is well stocked enough to see me into next month and probably beyond. It may seem a parsimonious way to live but it sharpens my ability to live as simply as possible even though I have a small budget; I always have a varied and healthy diet and I can always share my table with passing friends. I also make really good use of my deep freeze and have almost a month’s supply of meat, fish, some frozen veg and milk to keep us going. I carefully divide things up as I buy the cheaper bulk packs of meat and then spilt then into ‘couple’ size portions to make them last.

It means that by the time the banks equate the balance, after shopping and direct debits and standing orders, there is very little left. But I will have paid for everything, be able to get to work all month, have enough food, toiletries, cleaning and laundry supplies to last well into June and we never run short. Necessity is the most incredible teacher and I have been well taught.

hard cheese

I’m going to need to steel my resolve, to find my Blitz spirit and polish up my cliches to get through this month. It’s truly wonderful that Dearly Beloved is 100% eye candy as he’s going to be all I’ll see this coming month! I have had to work out a very tough budget for May and we will have to grit our teeth to get through it!

Every month we sit down (well, we do now that we’ve come to our senses……….if only we’de done this yaars ago!) and write out our budget for the month. We leave nothing to chance and make sure we’re putting money aside for car tax, water rates (now that we’re metered), clothes, birthdays and Christmas, car tyres, and eventualities. We then know what we have to spend on food. This month we have a big food budget of £64.82; we don’t need that much and will be able to direct more money towards debt payments. It’s going to be a very very tough month though as we have to renew the house/contents insurance and the car insurance. We hoped we would have a few days camping in August, but it is not looking likely. We should see a reduction in our utilities now that we have cheaper tariffs and we’re being very stingy with gas and electricity.
Here on my spreadsheet I can see every penny coming in and out, what we have to put by for bills we don’t pay monthly and what we have left to go shopping with. There is nothing for going out and there are two bank holiday weekend, so I hope the weather will be kind to us and allow us time on the moors with a picnic.

Sometimes you’ve just got to splash out!

Every now and then a girl’s got to go mad and treat herself. Now I wouldn’t normally throw £8 around in Focus but I am doing so to save electricity. Next to my thirteen year old vileda mop bucket is my brand new broom. My old broom is just a clump of tangled nylon that really doesn’t sweep at all any more. In spite of looking, all the brooms seem to have short handles and small head; they’ve been stunted by the economy I think or at the risk of stereotyping made in the far east where people are smaller than Europeans and therefore the broom fits them just fine!

Here you will see, not only how cheap the seeds were but the answer to my earlier post about my coffee envy although I am yet to buy a very small flask. My theory is that I will make my coffee before I leave and pop in my school bag and drink it on the train on the way home. An easy end to my coffee envy! Below are some pots I aim to grow potatoes, carrots and parsnips in whilst encasing them in old net curtains from British Heart Foundation or other good retail outlets of equally charitable status. Mum gave me these so they were free and I’ve heaps of home made compost all at the ready. The gravelled area is where dearly beloved is going to build himself a greenhouse, although he’s not sure from what just yet!
I went mad today and spent £3.70 on ten packets of seeds from Lidl, which averages at 37p a packet. I’ve bought cheap seeds before and they are not perfect and you don’t get 100% success rate, but then you don’t with expensive seeds either. My shop today will last for a lot longer than a week and I went primarily to buy the seeds and could have held out for a another week to shop but didn’t want to miss the seeds and don’t want to go shopping tomorrow or next week if possible. As much as though I love my fellow Cornish people, if they hear there’s something cheap to be had, whatever it is, will be gone seconds after it’s put on the shelves so I’m glad I got there early this week.

Frugal in france? Not likely

Or was it???? We had the roughest trip ever in a force 8!!! I wasn’t sick, nor was Mike but the rest fo the ship’s passengers were very poorly indeed! People were hanging on to anything for dear life and wretching in every available sick bag…………..the poor dears I did feel for them. I have my sea sickness prevention. Have a good steak and chips, glass of red wine and go to sleep in a bunk and wake up in England just as it docks in Plymouth! Stay still and you wont get too sick!
we had a cheap crossing £68 (then had to add £40 for a cabin each way as it was sooooooooo rough we needed to lie down) Unfortunately for us the Plymouth to Brittany route is the most expensive crossing although only 25 minutes from where we live. Food is Brittany is much cheaper than home and you can eat out ‘le menu formule’ or ‘le plat de jour’ or ‘le menu de jour’ for around £10 for three courses and wine! Well wine which is really quite decent can be picked up from cheap supermarkets such as Netto or Lidl for well under 2 euros a bottle and most of what we bought cost around 1.65 euros. The basis of our trip was romantic and time for us and the side line is a car full of wine. Do not buy from the British owned wine and beer shops unless you want to pay a lot more than is needed for your wine. Super U and E. LeClerc are better supermarkets, offer more choice and sell the better foood but Netto is the best value for wine.

We spent the day in and around Roscoff and St Pol de Leon, BUT it was November the 1st and we learnt it’s a religious festival all hallows day and the French have the day off and visit the graves of their relatives and take beautiful flowers to put in the grave yards. So all of the supermarkets were shut but the restaurants were open and we discovered Netto for the first time and the wine selection was fantastic and the prices were the best we have ever paid. So the fridge is full of cheese, cider and the cupboards are stocked with wine and hubby and me had a great time. Cold but lovely to get away. Stayed in a ’boutique’ hotel for 68 euros for the night ( we save money and make sure that our frugalism means we can treat ourselves when we want to.