Well we’ve managed a very full weekend for next to nothing. Yesterday a friend and her little boy came over for coffee in the morning which turned into a whole day affair. I managed to scratch lunch together for everyone out of the last few bits in the fridge and cupboard (pasta and mushrooms in a home-made cheese sauce). The kids had fun running around and when they got a bit stir crazy we took them off to the park. My friend treated them to an ice cream on the seafront (kids don’t seem to notice how cold it is when there is ice cream involved!) as we had done lunch. Husband and I watched something on Lovefilm Instant in the evening which we’ll probably do tonight provided baby hoy settles – I’m currently obsessed with the TV series Blue Bloods.
Today we had some other friends over for lunch with more kiddos tearing around the place like mini tornados. I confess I am quite knackered after hosting two days in a row so I’m hoping for a chilled out morning tomorrow. Well, as chilled out as it can get with a newborn and a 3 year old!
The only spending we had to do this weekend was to buy a few bits to make lunch today (we would have to have bought something anyway as the cupboards are bare) and we’ve seen lots of friends which has been great. Hopefully I’m on a roll!
I thought ‘plans’ sounded a bit more laid back than goals! I am on maternity leave after all… There are a few things I’d like to achieve this month – some I really want to get done and some that I’ll be taking a more relaxed approach to. Mainly, though, it is going to need to be a very shoestringish month as I way overspent in a bid to overcome my technological challenges (read: I bought a new computer and am in denial/ having difficulty justifying having spent money I shouldn’t really have spent. Seriously, if you’re looking for the frugal hardcore you’ve come to the wrong place.). So. Belts need to be tightened and we need to get through March with minimal demands on our finances while still getting on with life. And so, here’s the plan:
- Go to at least one new baby group
- Make fun and frugal plans for every weekend so we don’t overspend but also don’t sit around at home climbing the walls with boredom either
- lose 8 pounds (a smidge under 2 pounds a week which I don’t think is unrealistic)
- print and frame a photo of baby boy
- No personal spending on stuff. Not even virtual spending, like downloading books on my Kindle. No, no, no. But yes to moderate spending like going out for a coffee with the other Mums etc as this is good low cost socialising for the whole family in my book.
- get through all of the medical appointments. We’ve got two 60 mile round trips for baby boy to have a hip scan (he seems fine but there is a family history so they are checking just to be on the safe side) and again for him to attend the jaundice clinic to check everything is ok. I’m doing my best not to get paranoid about this one. Then we’ve got my check up plus his first round of jabs. Not much fun!
i could add more things but really that is enough to be getting on with and I want to make sure I get all of it done!
It’s a boy! Actually we knew that from about 15 weeks but still! He is 6 weeks old now and we all seem to be settling into the new way of doing things now that we are four instead of three. I’ve been having a painfully slow recovery from my caesarean which came as a bit of a surprise as I got over the last one so fast by comparison. Still, I’m on antibiotics now and am really hoping they sort out whatever the problem is. I’m not great at sitting around and have been going stir crazy, sitting around at home all day – not much fun for my little girl either! Ah well, just a bit more patience I suppose. So, in terms of my goals for 2014, I’m not doing too badly. Baby boy sleeps so much better than our daughter ever did. I generally have to do two short feeds during the night but, crucially, we both go back to sleep straightaway. There have been a few cranky nights where this hasn’t been the case but other than that I’m thrilled with how this is going so far. The weight…ugh. It is awful. I put off weighing myself until the morning I went into hospital. Just as well. I’d fess up but I’m currently too horrified. Despite breast feeding, which is supposed to make the weight drop off – ha, my weight stuck for about 4 weeks. I made some quite big adjustments to my diet last week and managed to shift a smidge under 4 pounds which was a relief. I went off plan over the weekend as we were out both days but I’m trying to get back on track. For some reason Thursday is my weigh-in day so I’m hoping I can get at least a pound off by then. I’ve been having major computer headaches for some months now which is the main reason I haven’t been blogging – it’s just been too hard and photos have been impossible. Still, I think that is sorted for now (more details another time) but blogging should be easier from now on. Hope to be back soon!
I’m not calling these resolutions – these are more like guidelines I’d like to set out for 2014 to help steer things in the right direction!
- Get enough sleep. The hardest thing I found about having a baby last time was the lack of sleep. I can cope reasonably well on 5.5 – 6 hours sleep but anything less than 5 hours and I feel like I’m losing the plot. I’m going to try as hard as I can to get to bed much, much earlier. I’ve learned that even just getting rest (if I can’t sleep) makes a huge difference so going to bed early is never going to be a waste of time.
- Lose the weight. Long term readers may recall that I never did lose all of the baby weight. This time I want to get rid of all of it, from both pregnancies, by the end of the year. And generally remember to look after myself a bit (in a budget friendly fashion of course). This will have to include a bit of a wardrobe overhaul as over the past 4 years I’ve worn two different ‘normal’ dress sizes and two different maternity sizes. This means I have a bonkers collection of clothes (and possibly a way of making some money on ebay when I’m done with some of them) which will need sorting once my weight settles one way or another.
- Get the balance right: Making the transition from one to two, going back to work at the end of the year and balancing what needs to be done at home (ie chores like cleaning and cooking) against making time for playing and adventuring with wee ones. I get stressed by trying to operate in disorganised mess but at the same time there is so much more to life than back to back chores. Having the last two weeks at home (I only got one full week off on 2013 for a variety of reasons – the rest was all in odd days here and there) has made me realize how relaxed I currently feel versus how frantic I was before by comparison. It’s only going to get more challenging with two kiddos so it something I want to be aware of!
- For the whole family to eat healthily within our budget: The monthly budget is currently set at £220 pcm. I am constantly impressed by how little some bloggers manage to eat on. I’ve managed to make some switches here and there but I still find it a huge struggle to get as much fresh stuff (like fruit) as I’d like. I was also a bit alarmed by having anemia and felt wildly guilty for not eating well enough while pregnant. I have been assured that it is veryy common in pregnancy and that it is really hard for your body to absorb iron at the best of times (there are things you can do to help) but it was a bit of a wake up call anyway. More attention!
- Financially survive maternity leave: We’ve had a lot of unexpected expenses over the last few months and have had to plunder our reserves. We are considerably ‘down’ on our maternity fund and there are elements that are going to be really hard. In the UK you get maternity pay (around £500 a month) for 39 weeks (usually a bit more for the first 6 weeks depending on your circumstances). I aim to take the full 39 weeks plus the holiday I will have accrued during that time (around 4 weeks). I would be gutted if I had to go back earlier than that for financial reasons so I am going to have to be really on the ball. There are no grander plans than this at play. For 2014 this is our only financial focus and I will also be trying to sneak in some good family days out and some fun stuff too! Oh and any stuff that needs doing on the house. It’s going to be interesting! I may be back with a more extensive plan but I’m not putting any pressure on myself – the business of parenting takes priority!
Posts here will still be sporadic but I promise to keep popping back with updates on my progress!
Hello! Yes, I’m still here, rattling around the place. I seem to drop in here every few months and apologize for my absence. 2013 was extremely busy. We’ve completed a huge amount of work on the house – all 3 bedrooms are ‘done’, the bathroom and kitchen are complete and the living room has had a lick of paint while we decide what to do with it. There is still plenty to do (lots of hallway and stair space covered with hideous wallpaper), the outside of the house is a bit scruffy and the garden….eek…still, I feel like we’ve done the most major stuff. Just as well since we are well and truly out of funds!
Of course, most of last year was dominated by our impending arrival – due sometime in the next couple of weeks! Oh, did I mention it’s a boy? It has definitely been a tougher pregnancy this time around, although I am still one of those people who loves being pregnant (although I am now v ready to finish this stage!). I felt sick right up until 20 weeks and then not long after had to start taking iron supplements for anemia. For me the main symptoms were staggering tiredness and being extremely breathless. It took a while before I felt better. I’ve now got SPD (lovely pregnancy pelvic thing) and am finding standing up after sitting down and walking really quite painful. So I guess if you put it all together that is why I’ve been absent.
Aaaaand. Well. I’m not sure where I fit in. I still love reading all of the thrifty/frugality blogs out there but I’m not living below the poverty line or trying to pay off a huge lump of debt. I certainly find trying to stick to a shopping budget a total nightmare. I just can’t reconcile what I want to be spending with what I want myself and my family to be eating. But I have to as things are going to be very very tight this year. Even so, I’ve veered away from coming back and doing a big financial clamp down project. I found that that type of approach had got me into a weird way of thinking. A sort of extreme form of productivity that took over at the expense of any creative or spontaneous thought.
Anyway, I do have some very simple plans for the coming year and I’ll be back with a post in the next day or so. The blog stats show people still dropping in and subscribing so Happy New Year to you all – I hope it’s the best one yet!
Wow. Talk about taking a break. It’s been a long time – again. I’ve been waiting to be able to share the news that in the New Year we are having a baby! It felt very weird not mentioning this enormous, life changing, budget altering event and I just couldn’t write a post without spilling. Hence no posts. It has actually been a stressful time lately as we trotted off for the 12 week scan and then got a phone call a day later to say that we were high risk for Down Syndrome. I didn’t get particularly special results when I was pregnant with my daughter and knew I couldn’t manage another whole pregnancy waiting and not knowing. Hooray for savings is all I can say. We spent £400 on a Harmony blood test at the very wonderful Foetal Medicine Centre in London which is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I hope that this test is eventually available on the NHS – at least for people like myself who have had a high risk result. Thank God we had an emergency fund as we also had a fantastic early anomaly scan while we were there and had to to pay for train tickets etc. Best money I have ever, ever spent. As you can probably gather we’ve had good results. In case you’re not in the know, the Harmony blood test looks the DNA of your baby which is travelling in your blood stream. It is extremely accurate, second only to a CVS or an amnio (which are diagnostic tests rather than screening).
Anyway. It’s all been about that for some time now. I’m trying to take in the good news and take a breath but just wanted to say hi and I’ll be back soon!
Apologies for the long absence. My head has been here, there and everywhere. Work has been busy, home has been busy. I’ve put a tonne of weight on. Horrifying how fast that happened. I’ve reverted back to Slimming World but it is coming off in a painfully slow fashion. Like a pound a week for a huge amount of effort. I’ve had to say ‘sod it’ to the food budget. Eating this way isn’t cheap but I’m not prepared to live in weight based misery. Life is too short. So I’m not feeling like I’m being particularly Shoestringish at the moment! I will be back though. Perhaps when I’ve got a bit more spring in my (slightly less burdened) step. I meant to make use of the fact that we now have a garden to grow our own. It hasn’t happened so far though I did buy my first trowel yesterday. I’ve only grown my own on quite possibly the smallest scale possible….
Happy Bank Holiday everyone!
One of my new years resolutions was to try out more recipes. I think I intended to try at least one new recipe a month. I haven’t exactly kept track but I know I’ve tried far more new things than that, just by experimenting a bit! I’ve been using up some things that have been knocking around for a while.
I’ve had these two cartons of passata forever – so long that they were approaching their expiry date. They seemed so handy but I’ve always preferred chopped, tinned tomatoes instead. I made a sauce by dicing the onions and frying in a smidge of oil. I chopped and deseeded the tomatoes (which I’d given up all hope of ever ripening), a squirt of the garlic puree, the two cartons of passata and a couple of handfuls of lentils. I then made up a jug of vegetable stock and kept adding some when it seemed like the sauce was getting too thick. The lentils still weren’t soft after I’d used up the first jug of stock so I made up another and added that all. I popped generous portions into 6 plastic bowls and put them in the freezer. Husband and I had a portion each with pasta for dinner tonight and were really impressed. I’ll be making this again!
Half a packet of risotto rice moved house with us and it had been with us for a very long time prior to that. I wasn’t sure if my daughter would like it and it seemed like a lot of effort to go to if she didn’t. Fortunately she did! I’m also not massively keen on booze in food (it is great in certain dishes but mostly I’m not keen) and I don’t like parmesan (smells exactly like Husband’s feet) – both of these seem to crop up in most risotto recipes I’ve seen. I cooked the risotto with a pre-cooked, diced sweet potato and some onion and mushrooms – no wine, no parmesan, just a bit of cheddar (see bowl in foreground of above photo). It was great. The other bowl in the picture has some tomato and cannellini bean soup which I also made a batch of, mainly to take to work for packed lunch. It’s my current favourite ‘thing’ (next to apple and custard danish pastries which I am doing my best to avoid).
I’m sure there are plenty of other things that I’ve had for far too long. I’ll be hunting through the cupboards again this week!
Another deeply domestic, local and low budget day here on Shoestring Alley. I wrapped my daughter up again, popped her in the pushchair and went for another walk. I used the map tools website again to plot the route in advance as I wanted to try to do another 3 miles. I decided to have a wander around a residential area that I’ve only ever driven through (I have lived in this town nearly 13 years!). I recognised a couple of houses that have been on the market in the last few years which would have been contenders had we been in the position to move. It made me really glad we ended up with the house we’ve got. The roads were eerily deserted and there was a really empty feeling to the place. I didn’t like it. Also I didn’t like how on top of each other the houses felt and the way that all of the houses and the roads looked the same. It would be really easy to get lost down there. I imagine that the estate (if that is what it is) all got built in one go and that’s why it all looks the same. I guess some people wouldn’t like to like on a main road like we do. I never used to like the road we live on. Actually being here is surprising though. All of the houses are set well back from the road and we barely ever hear a car. I’m looking out of the window as I type and there are zero cars. I like the fact that there are all kinds of houses on our road. Ours is a plain 1970s semi but within a few hundred yards are 1930s houses (where our friends live), a long rown of terraced cottages and a couple of houses so new that no-one has lived in them yet. I like the jumble! Anyway, leaving small town suburbia behind us, we powered down to the seafront again.
The beach huts have been put out in the last couple of weeks. My daughter fell in love with this one with the fish painted on the door…
On the way home I undid all of my good work and bought buns in the bakers. I am unable to resist the bakers on our way home. It is the old fashioned kind that sells iced finger buns and other such loveliness. Very naughty. The financial cost was only about £1. The cost to my waistline is another matter…
The rest of the day was spent on cleaning, tidying, sorting and then batch cooking a huge saucepan full of bolognese sauce. I made so much that I used some of it to make two lasagnes – one family size and two individual portions. There was enough sauce left for tonight’s dinner plus two family size portions to go in the freezer. I find it tricky to work out costs per portion because my two year old eats roughly half an adult portion of a main meal. Basically I made four ‘family’ (ie 2.5 portions) meals and two adult meals and the total cost was roughly £11. I’ve had a fairly successful slashing of the food spending but that deserves a post of its own. I’ve managed to switch a lot of things down to Tesco’s everyday value range and am generally rethinking how I shop. More on this another time! My favourite bits of the day were the breaks between cleaning and cooking where I got to read a few sneaky pages of my book and dance around with my girl. Hopefully tomorrow will hold more hanging out and less cleaning!
The hankering to have a bit of a walk outweighed the lurgie lethargy this morning. I got the pushchair out and we walked to our bi-monthly toddler group at the library and afterwards had our usual stop off at the coffee shop with our friends (I had enough stamps on my loyalty card for a free coffee today – result!). Afterwards we stopped at the shop to pick up grapes, milk and a few other bits and then we were off. I decided on a walk along the seafront and down to the look at the boats in the little harbour. It was just gorgeous out. Still freezing but sunny and lovely. It was nice to be out even though I was so bunged up I can’t breathe properly.
I usually feel a bit guilty if I don’t let my daughter out of her pushchair so she can get some exercise too (any one who has been for a walk with a toddler knows that you never manage to get a decent speed up for yourself!). However, I didn’t have to worry about that today as she was clearly tired after her group and playing with her friend. She’s still not very well and has definitely lost some weight over the last couple of weeks while she’s been ill. I’m trying to feed her up this week as much as possible though her appetite is still up and down. Anyway, for today at least she was quite happy tucked up in her blankets and eating her snacks as I pushed her along. Out of interest, I used the website http://www.freemaptools.com so work out how far we had walked this morning. In total it came to just under three miles which I was pleased with. I didn’t do it all in one go as there were several stops along the way. I’m going to get in the habit of checking out a few routes around town so I can try and get some more exercise and fresh air at the same time.
My fitness levels are worse than they have been in years. Walking is pretty much the only exercise I get (other than doing housework and running around after a toddler of course). The weather has been so wet and blah this winter I’ve ended up using the car far more than usual and we’ve been ill for the last few weeks while it has been freakishly cold and sunny. I’m hoping our health and the weather will improve over the next few weeks! Did I mention I fell over at work? Well I did. And no I’m not suing. But I did really hurt my foot and it is still not right. So that has also put me off walking. Until today I also forgot about the pain I’ve been getting in my hip when I walk more than a very short distance. What is that all about? I am 35 and falling to pieces. It really is time to look after myself a bit better I think!