Monthly Archives: May 2009

Day 65: A new dress


Had a great night last night courtesy of friends, a BBQ and two guitars. I seem to have got a lot done today. We went to see some friends who live about an hour away and I combined the trip with a stop at the shops. I’ve been wanting to get to the shops (haven’t been since January!) but decided to wait until we were already going in that direction to save on petrol and parking. I timed it pretty well. The weather here was scorching today and yet I was melting in a vest and jeans because I don’t have a cool summer dress. I had planned to buy one anyway so I went and got a lovely, simple black cotton dress and it was only £16.99. Next time there is a sweltering day I’ll have something to wear! I’d like to get a smart summer dress for work too but that’ll be another day. We’re having some work done on the house tomorrow so we also had to do a lot of shifting around of furniture but at least it is done. Not looking forward to putting it all back tomorrow though…

We were both feeling a little on the fragile side this morning (vodka + very late night + waking up very early due to toothache = tired) so I didn’t end up eating until lunchtime and I only had a bowl of cereal followed by an apple. I’m ready for my dinner now though. Am so glad I made the chicken curry yesterday – all I have to do is boil some rice!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Home Improvements: getting ready for things to be done…
  • Nifty thrifty/considered spending: getting a bargain summer dress and saving petrol and parking money by waiting until we were already going to the nearest big town
Categories: Shoestring Fun | 1 Comment

Day 64: An evening on the beach

001 - Copy (3)

I had bran flakes and sultanas for breakfast followed by several lattes as I needed to use up some milk. I wasn’t particularly hungry at lunchtime so I just had a roll with cheese, lettuce and mayo. Then I got on with my cooking for the day. Today I made 6 portions of chicken curry using the following from last night’s shop:

  • 6 chicken breasts – £6.66
  • 4 eating apples – 98p
  • 2 onions – 25p

And also from the storecupboard: 2 chicken stock cubes, sultanas, cornflour, mango chutney, curry powder, sugar, salt and pepper. I don’t cost out things from the ‘storecupboard’ as I mark them as essentials I would have had anyway! This means that each portion of curry cost £1.31, which I think is pretty good for a meal containing meat. We will be having chicken curry for dinner tomorrow night – the other 4 portions are already in the freezer. 

We are having a BBQ on the beach with some friends  this evening. Yesterday I bought 12 pork & apple sausages (£5.18) and 12 white rolls (£1). I also had quite a few potatoes left over from last weeks shop so I made some potato salad using my ‘leftover’ spuds, some mayo, chives, salt and pepper. Next up I fried a few onions (using olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar) and wrapped them in foil which can be thrown on the BBQ later to warm through. I bought the sausages out of my general spending fund and the rolls, onions and chives (68p) out of my food shopping budget. I split weekend food between the two funds because, if we weren’t eating at home with friends, we would probably be going out for a meal or drinks or the cinema or something that would be costing money. Hence the ‘spend’ is half out of necessity and half is social!

I love being by the sea in the summer. BBQs on the beach (weather permitting of course) is a great way to meet up with people without spending very much. Tonight will cost us a total of £7.23 plus whatever we need to spend on coals. A couple of our friends are providing drinks, some are bringing more food and another is bringing his fishing rod – keep your fingers crossed for freshly caught mackerell on the barbie! As I cleared out the cupboard under the stairs I knew exactly where to find our BBQ kit – decluttering is finally paying off. I have a large plastic bowl for the potato salad, 4 plastic plates and cups and sets of cutlery. I gave them all a good wash as they have been hybernating since last year. I don’t know where the day has gone today. I spent a couple of hours nattering to a friend on the phone (for free!) and then did a spot of cooking. How is it 4pm?! Hope you are all having a good weekend and plenty of sunshine 🙂

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning/Nifty Thrifty: preparing 4 meals for the freezer 
  • Making use of what I already have: getting out the BBQ and picnic set
Categories: Frugal food, Shoestring Fun | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Day 63: Part 2 – Robbed by a machine!

I am in a ‘I hate Tesco’ rage. I have just been ripped off for £20. I arrived at the checkout to discover that there were no staff at all serving – something I find incredible. I had to scan through a huge trolley full of food at the ridiculous self-serve checkout, constantly interrupted by a patronising electronic voice that told me I was putting unauthorised goods on the conveyor belt (I wasn’t), refusing to acknowledge bar codes and telling me I had not put my grapes on the scale when they were blatantly already sat there. I was relieved when I had scanned the last item. My relief was short-lived. The total came to £84.63 so I diligently fed in 5 £20 notes. Mum was there – she watched me do it. And yet the damn thing insisted I had put in only £80. I know for a fact that I put in £100. Some of you might remember me explaining my purse system. When I got paid yesterday I took out £120 in cash for my groceries for the month. It went straight into a particular purse I have that never contains anything but my grocery money. I checked it before I left the house. It contained £120. I was left with £20. I know I put in £100. A member of staff (who clearly thought I was trying it on) wrote my name and telephone number in a book and told me they would call me in the morning when it had been checked. I don’t hold out much hope. Maybe I can get them to check their security cameras. I am never, ever using one of those bloody things again.

Anyway. The shop. It came to £84.63 which seems rather a lot. However, some of this will be replaced by my general spending fund as I bought a couple of extra bits and bobs (like cotton wool, food to have with friends at a BBQ etc) which I don’t take out of my food fund. With those items deducted (£7.47) my shop total came to £77.06 which leaves me around £15 a week for the rest of the month. If Tesco don’t refund my £20 then I’ll just have to replace it out of what I would have saved (grrr).

Here’s what I bought:

  • 9 tins of sardines in tomato sauce (Husband’s current favourite thing to have at lunchtime) on offer – £3
  • 80 Redbush tea bags £3.19
  • 2 x egg noodles £2
  • Mayo 96p
  • 6 tins chopped tomatoes £2.46
  • cornflour 43p
  • Knorr chicken stock cubes, large pack (I tried the own-brand ones last month but didn’t like them) £1.49 
  • binliners £1.78
  • Hot chocolate £1.17
  • Bran flakes 85p
  • 4 packs of Ryvitta £3.08
  • wholewheat pasta 74p
  • 9 loo rolls £1.99
  • Falafel mix 99p
  • 80 decaff tea bags £1.58
  • 2 blackcurrant squash £2.14
  • sultanas £1.38
  • scones 32p
  • 6 wholemeal pitta bread 47p
  • 6 chicken breasts & 3 lamb steaks on offer – £10
  • 4 packs of butter £3.36
  • sugar 93p
  • green beans £1
  • 3 different packs of soft cheese £2.41
  • organic plain yoghurt £1.39
  • soy sauce 78p
  • 2 tins tuna £1.56
  • tomato ketchup 85p
  • curry powder £1.19
  • swiss roll 13p
  • 6 free range eggs £1.42
  • 4 pints semi-skimmed milk £1.53
  • 12 white rolls on offer £1
  • strawberries £1.99
  • 1/2 cucumber 35p
  • 2 little gem lettuces 88p
  • chives 68p
  • onions on offer £1
  • piccolo tomaotes £1.28
  • 12 gala apples £2.94
  • 2 galia melons on offer £2.50
  • bananas 86p
  • baking potatoes £1.12
  • grapes £1.32
  • 2 packs organic cheddar £3.18
  • 3 tins baked beans 87p
  • 2 tins sweetcorn 66p

This will keep us going for ages! I’m going to try to post everyday on what meals we’ve managed to make out of this so I can make sure I’m making the most of everything I’ve bought and the things I already had. And also to make sure I’m not buying too many naughty extras from my general spending fund…

Categories: Frugal food | 6 Comments

Day 63: Part 1 – How I plan my shop

I keep a storecupboard list in my filofax and refer to it once a month when I do my big shop. When I’m planning my shopping list I take my list into the kitchen and see what I need to top up on. My list is quite long but here it is anyway:


  • pasta
  • tinned tuna
  • baked beans
  • tinned, chopped tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • stock cubes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • cous cous
  • soy sauce
  • curry powder
  • tea
  • coffee
  • hot choclate
  • sugar
  • sweeteners
  • balsamic vinegar
  • plain flour
  • self-raising flour
  • squash
  • frozen mixed bag of cauliflower & broccoli
  • frozen peas
  • tinned butterbeans
  • sultanas/raisins
  • cheese
  • butter
  • ryvitta
  • porrige oats
  • tomato puree
  • egg noodles

Non-food items

  • washing up liquid
  • loo roll
  • clothes wash
  • scratchy pads & j-cloths
  • bleach
  • bin liners
  • compostable bin liners
  • bathroom cleaner
  • tin foil
  • greaseproof paper/baking parchment
  • cling film

Everyone’s essentials are different but these are ours! It was really worth sitting down and writing this list as it means I have to apply less brain power when trying to plan the shopping – something I tend to find tedious and annoying.

When I plan my weekly shop I check what I have in my freezer (I make my own ‘ready meals’ to save time during the week) so I can plan what we are going to eat over the coming week and how many meals I need to buy for. I haven’t done much freezing lately so I need to get back on it!

I’ll be back later (or maybe tomorrow morning) after the big shop of the month is completed. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am planning to pay a bit more attention to what I’m buying and eating this month after a) wasting money on snack/junk food over the past few weeks and b) feeling pretty crap for doing so…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning: checking my storecupboard list so I can buy exactly what we need and avoid what we don’t!
Categories: Frugal food, Home Economics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Day 62: Another trip to the charity shop

Okay – I know it is actually day 63 but I’ll pop back later when I’ve sorted out my list and been to the shops. I’ve done another run to the charity shop with a bag containing:

  • 8 paperback books
  • 1 DVD
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 belts
  • pair black cord trousers (inexplicably large)
  • pair of cropped trousers (that look hideous on me)
  • black vest (don’t like the cut)
  • Black shirt (bizarre fit around the shoulders and arms)
  • Black dress (never worn because it is too short)

The black bag in my bedroom is getting smaller – hurrah! I was inspired to do another trip so quickly as the lady in the first shop seemed inordinately pleased by my small donantion of shoes and belts. Apparently most of the donations they receive are from older people and they don’t often get many clothes in from younger folk and yet it is usually the younger folk that come in looking for clothes. All the more reason to take stuff there in my opinion!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: another trip to the charity shop
Categories: Decluttering | Leave a comment

Day 61: This little piggy went to market

pork casserole

I have been really naughty this week. I’ve taken out extra money (on top of my regular spending fund) and basically spent it on junk food. I can’t explain why I’ve done this. Today I have eaten: bran flakes and raisins with milk, 3 doughnuts, ham, egg and chips, an entire (large) pack of chocolate crispy cakes, a large packet of chocolate raisins, two ham rolls and a bowl of raspberries and cream. I hope you are impressed. I won’t talk about yesterday. Or the day before come to that. I wonder if I am having a weird rebellion against not spending money on crap? Clearly it has got to stop. I feel bloated and uncomfortable (hardly surprising I know) and distinctly roly poly.

When I started this blog I cut the food budget for both Husband and I to £25 per week. Perviously we were spending £50 – £60. It was the easiet area to make a cut and I have definitely been able to save more because of it. Gradually the budget has been sneaking its way up again. This month the budget was, I think, £37.50 per week and I actually managed to go over! It wasn’t that difficult to feed us both for £25 a week. Yes, I had to make a plan and make sure I wasn’t wasting anything but that was all part of the exercise. I’ve mentioned my food budget to a few friends and colleagues and most seem to be fairly shocked that we are ‘surviving’ on so little. The only real drawback I have been able to find was getting a decent variety of food and not being able to have my favourite soft fruits and berries, hence the increased budget.

I think the trouble with me is that I am a bit all or nothing. If I have a really tight budget then I am really on the ball and rise to the challenge. If I have enough not to worry too much then it all seems to slip. What’s an extra £10 when I’ve managed to save £550 this month? Not a lot actually. And yet I have basically invested £10 in making myself feel sick and grumpy. It doesn’t add up.

To stop a repeat performance next month I am going to pay more attention to what I am spending my money on and what I am eating. If I can muster the energy I will try to record every penny I spend on food for the month and probably what I have eaten as well. Holding myself accountable should make me think twice before picking up snacks. Bizarrely, before this project I hardly ever ate biscuits or cakes. I was more of a chocolate bar kind of gal. Particularly Twix. And Double Deckers. Old school stuff. Now I can’t seem to leave biscuits and cakes alone! It is all Tesco’s fault. They seems to have a permenent special offer on certain packets of biscuits for 44p. Why is junk food so cheap? Grrrr. If I could get a lovely honeydew melon or a punnet of strawberries for 44p I would pick them over the biscuits every time. Anyway, it’s all about mind-set. When I started out I was being very strict about every purchase and didn’t buy any junk. I need to go back to this way of doing things.

For June I am setting a budget of £120, so basically £15 each per week. I hope it is enough that we can some nice things but little enough that I have to be careful and stick to a decent eating plan. This budget will also include non-food items like loo roll and cling film but not necessarily food bought for social ocassions. This should be interesting as we have our week long ‘holiday at home’ coming up in a few weeks. Yippee! I can’t wait. I haven’t had a full Monday to Friday week off with both weekends tagged on since AUGUST. I cannot wait for the break. I am somewhat torn between planning a load of stuff for us to do and not planning a thing so we can lazily see how each day unfolds…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning: getting spending and food planning under control! 
Categories: Budgeting, Frugal food | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Days 59 & 60: Getting things done


I managed to do something today I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Over a year ago I bought a warm black jacket for just £5 in a sale. The trouble is I’ve never actually worn it because the buttons were so revolting (to me anyway – they were black and gold and frankly a bit Dallas for my taste). I knew I hated the buttons when I bought it but I was sold on a) the price, b) the fantastic fit and c) the gently puffed sleeves. Anyway, I was having a rummage in my bag of things to get rid of when I came across an old black cardigan with large black buttons on it and realised they would fit the unworn jacket perfectly. I cut them off and replaced the hideous buttons with the plain black ones. The whole thing took about twenty minutes, including the time it took to find a needle and thread. I’m really pleased with this as I have a great jacket I can wear (though I might have to wait for a chillier day) and it didn’t cost me anything!

Speaking of rummaging in bags, I’ve decided to donate most of my old stuff to charity. I keep meaning to to list it on ebay or Amazon but between work, the band, the house and making the most of the small pockets of time I find to relax it just isn’t happening. I’ve felt vaguely guilty about this for ages. Surely if I was truly a shoestringer then I would make the effort to make every penny I could? Perhaps not. At least not right now. Thinking about it, the main point of this whole project has been to make small, lasting adjustments in the way I do things from managing my money, planning my meals and not wasting money on things I don’t really need to benefit me on the long term. I won’t be going mad in the shops again (I hope!) so it shouldn’t really get to the point where I’ve got tonnes of things to get rid of. Plus, I really think charity shops are great. I know people often complain when another charity shop opens but I think they are amazing. They raise money for great causes, provide affordable clothing, reading and knick-knacks for those who can’t afford to shop elsewhere all of the time and promote recycling. What’s not to like? So I’m very happy with my decision to take my things there. I might keep a few bits back to sell but the majority of it will go to the chairty shop.

There are several chairty shops in the town where I live and also the town where I work so I’m going to try to divide my donations between them as they are all in aid of great charities and projects. I’m doing one bag at a time. Here’s what my first one includes:

  • a pair of black shoes (that murder my feet)
  • an unused make-up bag
  • a pair of white shoes (that I bought in the wrong size and couldn’t be bothered to take back)
  • a pair of turquoise espadrilles (that I can’t walk in)
  • a pair of flip-flops (which won’t stay on my feet)
  • a brown leather belt (with tassles that really get on my nerves)
  • 5 paperback novels
  • a plastic Elvis in a box (that I can’t fathom why I bought)
  • a large beach bag to carry it all in (it came free with a magazine last year)

It is quite funny seeing how much I used to buy and keep for no good reason. Even after a few months of being careful it seems completely alien to have ever spent money on things that were clearly no good. The only thing I really got much out of were the books and even they weren’t so great that I want to keep them. Lesson learned…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Making good use of the things I already have: combining two items of clothing I never wore to create one usable garment
  • Decluttering: Preparing a bag for the charity shop
Categories: Decluttering, Getting organised | 4 Comments

Days 57 & 58

ivy - good pic

Had a busy day yesterday between Gran’s birthday (she loved the bookmark by the way) and catching up with some friends. Today, on the other hand, has been very lazy. I meant to start painting the cupboard but couldn’t quite rouse myself. Instead, Husband and I went and sat on the beach, gazed at boats on the horizon and threw pebbles in the sea. This evening we went to the cinema and saw Angels & Demons. I found a bit of time to review my finances and do a bit of shifting around which meant I could put another £50 into my savings account.

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Making use of what I already have: reading The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler from my ‘to read’ shelf
  • Doing things for free: a trip to the beach
  • Financial management: Another £50 saved!
Categories: Saving | 2 Comments

Day 56: See-food diet


I can’t believe I am over half way with the 100 day challenge. I haven’t been especially good today in that I haven’t done anything specifically shoestringish. Well I sort of did. We got rid of an old TV. It was in perfect working order but we really don’t need/want two TVs (we never get around to watching much – we’re mainly DVD fans) and no-one seems to be able to sell old TVs anymore. So I’ve been hanging on to it in case we knew anyone that needed one. Anyway, a friend of a friend has just moved to the area, doesn’t have much stuff and very gratefully took it off our hands earlier today. This has retrieved a bit of space so I suppose that can come under the heading of ‘decluttering’!

I did the food shop this evening and ended up having to use some of my general spending fund as a top up. It’s funny – this is the first month I’ve really gone over my food budget and yet I had the largest food budget this month since the shoestringing began. I expect this is just down to not being as careful. I know why it cost so much. I bought raspberries, blueberries and mixed seafood, none of which are exactly budget friendly. However, having just eaten an excellent seafood risotto (I am seriously into the risotto thing at the moment) and a bowl of berries and yoghurt I can’t really say I regret it – it all tasted too good for that! However, next month I think the budget is going to go back down a bit and I’ll plan these foodie treats a bit more carefully.

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: getting rid of an unwanted television
Categories: Decluttering | 3 Comments

Days 54 & 55: There’s something in the cupboard

My project over the past two days has been clearing out one of our under-stair cupbaords. It has not been fun! I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel though. It now only contains the things that are going to be staying. I used £20 from our house fund to buy four large plastic boxes with lids to store things in. I have one for Christmas decorations – the other three contain tools and various DIY bits and bobs. It is looking fairly neat and tidy though there is still a crate of pictures and frames that I need to sort through. At least I can find them now though. The plan is to get a small piece of lino for the floor and to paint the inside of the cupboard white. I’m not exactly sure when this will happen – I’m hoping I might get chance to get going with the paint this weekend.

I also made a trip to the dump today and got rid of a load of cardboard boxes, random bits of wood and general junk. We need to do several more trips but it feels good to have got the first one out of the way. I’m also planning to take some of my books to the charity shop. I don’t think I’ll ever get around to listing them on Amazon and the piles waiting to go are seriously beginning to get in the way. I can’t wait until everything on the house list is DONE. I think it’s going to take rather a while though…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: The cupboard…
Categories: Decluttering | 3 Comments

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