Monthly Archives: February 2010

Getting things for baby

We’ve had a break from house stuff this weekend, focusing on getting some baby things sorted out instead. A friend of ours just gave birth at 34 weeks (Mum and baby are fine) but it just made me realise how fast the weeks are going and how underprepared we would be if she arrives early!

Between gifts, things borrowed and things bought we now have (or have on the way):

  • Moses basket and stand, plus sheets and blankets
  • 2 swaddling blankets
  • Muslin cloths
  • Monitor with temperature display
  • 2 bottles and a steriliser
  • Changing mat
  • Changing bag
  • Bin
  • Towels
  • Travel cot (to be used at my parents house or if we ever go away)

Plus we’ve been offered the loan of a few other items which we need to chase up and see if the offers are still going! I’ve also got quite a healthy collection of clothing on the go that just needs to be supplemented with a few items. We still need to sort out everything relating to travel and a proper cot, not to mention storage and furniture. However, I feel much better knowing that we’ve now sorted out somewhere for the baby to sleep, basic changing gear and some clothing! Further research has left me unconvinced by baby baths. I keep looking at them but they all seem to be humungous pieces of hideous plastic that we would have nowhere to keep (our home is very small). I’m seriously beginning to consider just getting a washing up bowl!

I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet today, comparing products. Argos was brilliant – the prices were often better than their competitors and there were lots of reviews which I like because they give a bit of insight into what these things are really like to use – where to spend a bit more money, where you could cut a few corners and so on. Some things I’m happy to borrow, other things I want to get new. Horses for courses I suspect. I’m really happy with what we’ve got so far. We’re going to have to get the spare room done soon though, otherwise there’ll be nowhere to put any more stuff…

Categories: Baby | 3 Comments

Food budget update

I’ve done the food shop for the week. As I picked up a couple of things during the week my budget for the remaining two weeks of the month is just £39.88 – eek! I’m not too worried though. There’s quite a bit in the freezer and in the storecupboard so I’m sure we can manage it. It’s all in the planning! It’s funny because I’ve put the budget up from £140 to £160 this month so you think there would be more left rather than less…

I got all of the housework done last night and this morning which gives me a bit of extra time this evening. I had a go at doing my food shop over two lunchbreaks but somehow this turned out to be a lot more expensive for actually not a lot of stuff. Oh well, you have to try these things! Anyway, the idea is that I now have a couple of hours clear to tackle those last few jobs on the list. Much as I’d like to think I can avoid the sideboard/CD fear I’m just going to have to face it head on. Grrrr.

Categories: Ramblings | Leave a comment

Home Improvement 28: The smallest room in the house

Our loo (separate to the bathroom) really is the smallest room in the house but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a bit of TLC from time to time!

This week we’ve:

  • Filled holes in the walls and a small crack
  • Painted the walls and ceiling
  • Painted the woodwork and the very tiny window frame
  • Cleaned up and polished the door handles

We still need to do a couple of bits and bobs but the ball is rolling. I’m still avoiding the sideboard etc though I am determined to get it done within the one week deadline! We also had it confirmed today that our shower is beyond repair so I need to start looking into finding a replacement. With my ever growing bump, the bath is becoming increasingly difficult to negotiate so I really ought to get on and sort it out. Argh – so many things to do! There’s only one way to get it done though, and that’s by getting on and doing it…

Categories: home improvements | 5 Comments

Dinky storage

How many people must have a set of these?!

I just love the mini chests of drawers from IKEA. This 9 drawer version was bought last September and has finally been put together. They have been organised thus:

  1. My sunglasses and spec cases
  2. Husband’s sunglasses
  3. Bookmarks (I have hundreds – people are always giving me them!)
  4. Purses and wallets
  5. Cheque/paying in books
  6. Biros
  7. Other bits of stationery
  8. Nails, batteries and similar bits and bobs
  9. Messy drawer for anything!

It is brilliant to have a proper to keep all of these little things as a) I now know exactly where to find them and b) I know where I can put them away when they start cluttering the place up. So, Home Improvement 26: More storage, can be added to the list. I actually bought a 3 drawer version at the same time but haven’t decided where they might be able to go – I’m sure they’ll come in handy at some point though!

We’ve also completed Home Improvement 27: Clearing out bureau and finding new homes for its contents. Every drawer, cupboard and pigeon hole is empty. If you include all of the paperwork I had to sort, store and shred I’ve been trying to get this emptied for months. Some areas are relatively straightforward to sort out – others aren’t. It depends what is being kept there, how much of it there is and how important it is! However, perseverance seems to have paid off and it is done.

Speaking of some areas being easier to tackle than others, does anyone else get the fear about decluttering and clearing out certain areas? Inexplicably, I am able to deal with most cupboards, drawers and so on and yet…I find myself consistently avoiding the built in cupboard/wardrobe in the spare room, the sideboard and the CDs. Just the thought of trying to deal with them brings me out in a cold sweat and I can’t think of any reasonable explanation for it! And yet they must be done…

Categories: Decluttering, home improvements | 5 Comments

Keeping things simple

For one of those days when you really can’t be bothered…

Yup – I’m still trying to avoid the wardrobe rut. I don’t know about you, but when it’s cold, wet and dark in the morning I find it even more of a challenge not to just throw on the first cosy thing I can find. Fortuntely, a large selection of black clothing means it is fairly easy to pull on something that at least matches! Going for all silver accessories also meant I didn’t really have to think about it all too much. Keeping things simple seems to be the theme of the day hence…

Home Improvement 25 (halfway there!)

So, on with the list of things that we need to get done this week. We’ve been through the chest of drawers in the living room and managed to throw away two carrier bags full of total rubbish – how does it all build up? Every single drawer was a messy drawer (remember me mentioning those?)! Now we have two drawers each plus one extra for all of the blank picture frames waiting to be used. Having this extra bit of storage is going to make a big difference as I really needed somewhere for all of my home-office type stuff to go once the bureau is gone. Husband also needed a bit more storage space so I’m glad we finally got around to doing it!

As we have a small home and always seem to be short on space we have to make sure we are making use of every available bit of potential storage. This ties in nicely with trying to make everything simpler and more straightforward. The ultimate goal is to only have what we need, have somewhere to put everything, not have much clutter and to always be able to find things…

Categories: Budget beauty, home improvements | 4 Comments

The next step & a one week deadline

Before we can tackle the next room/area a bit more sorting and preparing needs to be done so we’ve set ourselves the challenge of getting all of the following done in the next week:

  • Finish clearing out the bureau and re-home everything that needs to be kept
  • Finish mini-IKEA drawers, fill and find a permanent place for them to go
  • Choose and order non-slip vinyl flooring for bathroom and loo and arrange to be fitted
  • Arrange storage for our dining table and chairs
  • New lamp for sideboard
  • Sort through CDs, put discs back in cases etc and tidy storage area (one of those jobs that builds up – I really hate having to do this for some reason)
  • Declutter and reorganise the chest of drawers in the living room
  • Finish clearing the sideboard

Some time ago I mentioned the problem with our dining table and chairs – namely they are far too big for our living room and we can’t actually use the table unless we move a lot of furniture around. We decided that the best thing would be to put it all in storage until we finally move somewhere bigger and to get a small table and chairs that we can actually use until then. Homebase has a great sale on at the moment and we have managed to get a small table that seats two with 2 matching chairs for £99.99. The table can be extended to seat four so it is perfect. We also bought a second pair of chairs which can live elsewhere in the house unless we have people over. However, we can’t actually unpack any of it and put it together until the other table and chairs have been moved. We may have a storage solution but I need to chase this up and arrange it.

If we manage to get all of these bits and pieces done we should be able to look at a new room/area to tackle next week!

Categories: home improvements | Leave a comment

Project completed!

Well, my two week deadline for the mid-landing area is nearly up and we’ve managed to get everything done! It is an awkward space so I couldn’t really take a proper photo but still…

We’ve done all of the following:

  • Repainted the ceiling and walls
  • Painted a huge amount of woodwork including four door frames, two doors,a small shelf and skirting boards (plus a few funny little bits)
  • Mended and painted a small table bought years ago in a junk shop
  • Completely decluttered the area (previously a dumping ground)
  • Replaced the tatty paper lamp shade with a fresh new new one
  • Bought and put up a key rack
  • Taken down all of the old photos and frames
  • Put up a ‘new’ picture
  • Scrubbed scuff marks/drops of old paint from floorboards
  • Cleaned up and polished the door handles

I’m really pleased with how this area looks now – very fresh, clean and tidy. Unfortunately, you can’t really see the key rack properly in the photo above. I love it; it is made from slate and the hooks are actually bent pieces of vintage cutlery. I bought it through Amazon but you can also buy one direct from for the slightly cheaper price of £15 (though I don’t what they charge for P&P).

In the end we bought:

  • Key rack £16.50
  • Two artifical flowers £3.25 each
  • Paper lampshade £3.99

Total spend: £23.74

By searching in the back of cupboards (and those of my parents!) we found and used the following which we didn’t have to go out and buy:

  • Paintbrushes
  • Filler
  • Roller and tray
  • White emulsion
  • White woodwork paint
  • A small white vase (for the flowers)
  • A frame from IKEA (found in a drawer during the decluttering, still in its wrapper)
  • A pretty postcard bought ages ago in Paperchase (which went in the IKEA frame – see photo)
  • A soapstone budda ornament

I’m really pleased that we managed to get this done using a combination of things we already had and a few new things that have made all the difference. Home Improvement 24 can be added to the list – a completely redecorated and reorganised mid-landing, finishing touches and all! All I’ve got to do now is decide what needs to be done next…

Categories: home improvements | 6 Comments

Cheap night out and freezer food

In the interests of sticking to my food budget for the next four weeks I got up and did a spot of cooking this morning – all things that can go in the freezer. I had an almost full bag of carrots that needed to be used by today left over from last weeks shop. Using my favourite recipe, I made four portions of Carrot and Corriander soup so they didn’t go to waste. I expect it will come in handy next time I can’t get going in the morning well enough to make a packed lunch! I also made…



  • Two packs of casserole steak (around 1kg)
  • Beef stock (around 1 pint)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Dried, mixed herbs
  • Packet of dumpling mix
  • A little olive oil
  1. Cut beef into chunks and coat with seasoned flour
  2. Heat oil in saucepan (or casserole dish if it is hob proof), then add the beef
  3. Transfer to casserole dish, add vegetables, stock and herbs
  4. Cook in oven (on around GM 4) for 2 – 2.5 hours
  5. Make dumplings according to instructions on packet
  6. 20 minutes before ready, add dumplings and put back in oven

There are hundreds of variations on this plus lots of other things that could be added – anything from garlic to other veg to pearl barley. I was going for quick and easy today! I’d love to think that one day I’ll make dumplings from scratch…until then I must admit that those mix packets make cooking very simple. This made four portions which have also gone in the freezer.

Believe it or not, I’ve only just started labelling food that goes in the freezer. I kept getting in a muddle, not only about what was in the freezer (frozen food can look fairly mysterious – is it soup? A sauce? Curry?) and how long ago I made it. Now I cut up address labels so at least I know what it is, how many portions and when it was made! Most things are fine for at least a month so I try to use them up within that sort of time frame. My freezer has four drawers and is now looking pretty well stocked. Since my remaining budget is £26 a week for both of us this should help.

We’re off to see ‘The Lovely Bones’ at the cinema later. Like a good Shoestringer I used the internet to check where it was on and the cost of tickets. Prices seemed to go up to £7.75 per adult though I found a listing at a cinema not too far away for £5.50, so £11 for both of us. There is also free parking nearby and I bought snacks and nibbles at the supermarket yesterday so it should be a thrifty night out!

Categories: Frugal food, Home Economics, Recipes | 4 Comments

Ready, set – go!

Internet banking now completed, my financial plan for the next four weeks is as follows:

  • Food budget: £160
  • Spending budget: £120
  • Petrol budget: £60
  • Contingency: £75

My petrol budget is a bit optimistic but I’m going to stick to it as closely as I can. For the past couple of months I’ve been car sharing with a colleague who lives nearby. We can’t do it all week long but we seem to be managing to do it for 2 or 3 days which helps a bit. The contingency fund of £75 is for any extra things that crop up (they always seems to!) and will help out if I need more petrol. Anything left over from the contingency fund at the end of the 4 weeks will go into my savings.

I’ve put some money into my emergency fund which now stands at a much healthier figure of £1015. I’d love to see this at the original target of £3000 but I don’t see how this could be possible before I go on maternity leave (unless by some miracle I get the money I am owed). I’ll settle for getting as close as I can. Since my various other ‘pots’ have been plundered/obliterated by the financial shinanigans of the last couple of months I will have to dip into this fund if any other expenses arise. Ideally, the emergency fund shouldn’t be touched at all (unless there actually is an emergency) but it can’t be helped.

I’ve done my big shop for the month, stocking up on things like tin foil and cleaning products as well as store cupboard food. I managed to get quite a lot of meat (and a bit of fish) which I have divided up into portions and put into the freezer. I also bought some snacky food for tomorrow night as we are going to the cinema and it works out cheaper than buying things at the concessions stand. I had £8 in coupons so the total came in at £79.34  leaving me with £80.66 for the remaining three weeks until I next get paid (around £26 a week).

I’m going to make a real effort not to pick up extra food this month. Buying food between shops was a habit I managed to break – until I became pregnant. I seem to be hungry pretty much all of the time and have noticed I’ve been picking things up during the week. I’ve added a bit more to the food budget so I can take a larger packed lunch to work which, in the long term, should work out to be both healthier and cheaper. When I plan what meals and packed lunches to make, they always turn out to be far healthier options than the sorts of things I end up picking up when I’m meandering around a shop looking for a snack!

Categories: Budgeting, Saving | 3 Comments

Financial plan for the month

Last month a whole host of things went wrong (I had a rant and put together a plan to deal with it here). While most of those problems have been dealt with now, other things keep cropping up. The shower has since died and there has been a serious mix up over my tax code. This means that I am being paid over £200 less this month than I should be. I’ve got to make some phone calls tomorrow to try and get this sorted out so it doesn’t happen again next month but who knows how long it will take to try and get it back (if, indeed, I can). What with all of this and still waiting to find out if I’m going to get money I am owed (long, long story) I’m feeling really fed up!

Still. Banging my head against a brick wall will only give me a worse headache about the situation so I’m having to draw a line under it – I can’t do any more than I have already. What I can do is get on with making a plan for the next month. I now get paid roughly mid-month so I’m starting my food and spending budgets for the next four weeks from tomorrow. I’ve put our food budget up to £40 a week as prices seem to have crept up a bit in my local supermarket plus I can’t seem to stop eating these days (I wonder why? 🙂 ). My spending budget remains the same at an average of £30 a week and covers everything from going out to stamps. Thus my budgets for the next 4 weeks are:

  • Food: £160
  • Spending: £120

I have already withdrawn £280 in cash to cover these budgets and will ‘pay’ myself each week. I’m hoping that some might be left over at the end of the month if I’m extra careful. I’ll decide what to do with it depending on how much is left. Hopefully no more major things will go wrong and it doesn’t all go out of the window again…

After I’ve done my internet banking and made some phone calls tomorrow I should know what my starting point is for being able to save this month. I will also be doing a big, stock-up shop which will reveal what I have left for my weekly top-up food shops for the remaining 3 weeks. I’ll report back once I know where I am with it all!

Categories: Budgeting | 1 Comment

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