Monthly Archives: April 2011

A good shopping trip

Husband took Baby and I out for a Bank Holiday treat – lunch at a pub with this gorgeous view:

On our way home we stopped at a Sainsbury’s so I could do the food shopping. It came to £28.01 which I was really pleased with. I made a rough meal plan before we left, concentrating on trying to use up some things that already had:

Saturday: I had a big lunch so I’m just having some of the soup I made and froze this week. Husband is having a ready meal (I bought 3 for £5 last time I popped into a Waitrose. I haven’t bought ready meals for years but thought the price was good and would mean I could have a few evenings of just having soup or salad – Husband prefers something a bit more substantial).

Sunday: Roast chicken with potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, broccoli and stuffing. Bacon and brie salad in the evening (we already had the bacon and some salad that needs to be used up before cracking into the stuff we bought today).

Monday: I’ll be having soup for lunch, Husband will probably have a sandwich or a baked potato. We’ll be having chicken salad in the evening using whatever chicken is left over from the roast.

Tuesday: Packed lunches for both of us! Sandwiches for Husband and a salad of some kind for me (either corned beef, egg or cheese depending on what I fancy – we had all of these left from last weeks shop). For dinner we’ll be having a homemade Beef Casserole from the freezer.

Wednesday: Same lunches, though I might have soup instead of salad. In the evening I’m going to have a go at making a sort of vegetable bake with a savoury crumble. Hopefully a) this will turn out okay and b) there will be enough to freeze at least two adult size portions. I think I might have a packet of cheese sauce but, if not, I’ll make one from scratch.

Thursday: Same lunches as before and homemade lasagne (from the freezer) in the evening.

It’s back to work next week. It will take a while for a routine to settle but I’m thinking I’ll probably be doing the weekly shop on Friday afternoons. The £200 food budget has got to last for 4 and a bit weeks. Deducting the £28.01 spent today, we now have £171.99 left which is a fairly healthy start to the month. That said, the only meat I had to buy this week was the chicken and Baby has so many casseroles etc in the freezer that I don’t have to cook anything specifically for her this week. I expect the shop for the following week will come to a lot more! I will need to pick a couple of things up in the week though…I forgot to buy a loaf of bread for a start.

While I was in Sainsbury’s I picked up a couple of work tops. After all of my hard work, washing and ironing my old work clothes, I tried a few things on and realised that a lot of them don’t fit very well – eek! I bought a black sleeveless top that was £5 in the sale and a navy shirt which was £6 also on sale – bargains! They are the same size as the rest of my work clothes but have a looser fit/cut. Phew. Right, I’m off to heat my soup up. Happy weekending everyone!

Categories: Frugal food | Leave a comment

A frugal food plan & budget

I mentioned our food budget in my last post. At the time of starting this blog I was able to feed both Husband and I for around £30-35 a week. Only two years have passed and yet I would find that so, so difficult now. There are probably three reasons for that: 1. Prices have gone up, 2. There are three of us to feed, not just two and 3. I’m not quite as careful as I was when I started out (due to being time/sleep deprived!). I’d say we’re averaging about £50 a week at the moment which also includes non-food, household items like loo roll, tin foil, cleaning products etc.

Our budget is going to be really tight from now on. I still don’t know what my exact take home pay will be but I do know that HM Revenue & Customs have sent me a delightful letter informing me that (through no fault of my own) I didn’t pay enough tax in 2007-8. I tried to appeal it (there is a clause) but no dice. They are going to take extra tax from me over the next financial year to make up for it. Cheers HMR&C. I earned plenty then – I really can’t afford it now. But there you go. So I’m going to be earning even less from my part-time wages than originally anticipated…

This, and other financial commitments/needs, means that we are going to have to be really, really careful with the food budget. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ because I’m the one in charge of the food shopping and planning. As from now, our food budget is going to be £200 per calendar month. If we go over that it will have to come out of one of our other saving funds and since they are all pretty important I really don’t want to have to resort to that. This should be fine on 4 week months but more difficult on 5 week months. I’m going to try to get better at reporting here on how I’m doing with this to keep me focused. I’ve had to abaondon the diet I was doing – due to amount of meat, fish, nuts and cheeses I was eating, it was just getting too expensive. Here’s hoping I might be able to be sensible now I’m let loose again.

Here’s my plan for keeping in budget:

  • More batch cooking. A big time and money saver.
  • Rethinking my storecupboard and bulk buying. We only have a small amount of storage space for food and I’d like to deplete my current stocks and start again, only stocking up and buying items that we are really going to use. There are random things lurking that I have no recollection of buying (like a packet of onion sauce that I know to be revolting). It all needs to be used up so I can clear the decks and start again.
  • Reorganising my freezer. We have 4 drawers which are actually pretty good, space wise. One of them is entirely allocated to food I’ve made for Baby so I really only have 3 drawers to work with for everything else. I need to make the most of this remaining space so I can stock up on meat and fish when they are on offer and also so I have somewhere to put the results of my batch cooking sessions!
  • Being a bit more organised. I need to remember to take things out of the freezer the night before and stick to the meal plan.
  • Going off plan when it makes sense. Due to my previous spending habits I’m generally very strict about sticking to what is on the shopping list. However, this does mean that I don’t get to take advantage of any deals (like BOGOFs) if the item wasn’t already on my list for that week. Once I’ve created a bit more room I should be able to stock up on things I know we like when I see them on offer.
  • Trying out more ‘Value’ items. Like most people, I feel the pressure to buy ‘quality’ food but I need to experiment a bit more and see if if there are any switches I could make.

That’s all I can think of right now but if anyone has any other ideas that could be added to my list then let me know!

Categories: Budgeting, Frugal food | 10 Comments

Challenge round-up

Gah, where has the time gone? Since I would have been off due to the Bank Holiday, today is actually the last day of my maternity leave. It is totally depressing. Plus because Baby has had a five week round of colds, coughs and sore throats her ability to sleep has gone out of the window. We’ve been trying to settle her back to sleep but for the last 7 nights she’s been awake for at least two hours a night and then getting up between 5 and 6am. We are all exhausted and I have no idea how I am going to juggle this all next week. AND we’ve been tinkering with our finances – the picture is a bit scary. More on that another time though.

Anyway – the end of the challenge is here! Is everything done? Um, no. But Husband and I did get a lot done. Here’s the full rundown:

  • Painted most of the bathroom
  • Hung the new shower curtain
  • Sorted through shoes, chucked a few out and polished up the rest
  • Washed and ironed all work clothes (and took the rejects to be recycled)
  • Got a really good pair of summer shoes for £34
  • Created a strategy for our joint finances
  • organised magazine articles into files
  • Getting manicure/pedicure stuff for free using my Advantage card
  • Organised my Filofax and created a fresh section for our joint account direct debits and standing orders
  • Got my hair cut and highlighted
  • Mixed results with the diet. Lost about 5 pounds since I did the post on starting the India Knight diet. More on that another time.
  • Sorted and packed work bag
  • Cleaned up an old messenger bag of Husband’s to carry laptop in
  • Sorted and packed a small bag of essentials to keep at work
  • Hung mirror in hall
  • Took, printed, framed and hung 4 photos
  • Got my car fixed (at last!)
  • Later on I’ll be washing and cleaning out the car

Yesterday I had a big cooking session while Dad played with Baby. I made 6 portions of lasagne (one of which I chopped up and divided into small pots for Baby) and 8 portions of soup. I also made an icecube tray of apple puree which I pop into Baby’s porridge. Our four drawer freezer is now full to bursting point – I really struggled to wedge everything in! I’ll be doing a post sometime over the next few days regarding our food budget. Prices have gone up plus we have an extra (very cute) mouth to feed. However, we’ve got less money than ever. Eek. Watch this space…

Categories: Ramblings | 2 Comments

Days 11 to 14

Talk about perfect Bank Holiday weather. We’ve been spending as much time as possible outdoors, eating with friends, hanging out and generally having a lazy time.

We’ve managed to get a few things done though. The mirror has been hung in the hall, a picture has been relocated (there’ll be more of that to follow) and I took, printed and framed some photographs and they have been hung too. Which is about as much effort as I’ve managed to muster. Hope you’ve all been having a good weekend too!

Categories: home improvements | Leave a comment

Day 10: A very productive day!

I’ve got loads done today. First up was getting my work bags packed. Since I’m going to be doing two days from the office and two (short) days from home, I need to be able to transport my work between the two fairly easily. I had a box file left over from when I reorganised my paperwork and so I’ve tippexed out the labels so I can use it for work instead. I’m thinking the box file will live at the office most of the time but can come home if I’ve got particular things to work on. A month or so I got a new work bag – bought for me as a going-back-to-work gift (I know, I’m a lucky girl). I found it in TKMax when I was desperately ferreting through their selection of bags, trying to find something that looked like it would accomodate A4 files. I didn’t want an actual briefcase (not really my thing) and I didn’t like the other options which looked really cheap and plastic. Then I spotted this Calvin Klein number which is the perfect size. I picked up an A4 expanding file from Tesco a while back (it was around £2.50) which should help me keep my day-to-day paperwork in order as I go to and from the office. I also bought a diary at Christmas which went in the bag as well. In addition I’ve popped in a little fold up shopping bag in case I get to go to the supermarket on my lunch breaks.

Last up is the little black bag you can see in the photo. I was given this for my Birthday – it was part of a Sanctuary gift set. I hate carting loads of things around with me so I thought it would be a good idea to use this bag to keep a few essentials at work. So far it contains: a mini hairbrush, an almost (but not quite!) used up foundation/powder compact and lipstick, hand cream and travel size body spray (also from gift sets), um…girl supplies, paracetamol and a couple of Aciclovir tablets (if you take one as soon as you feel a coldsore coming it kills it on the spot. On prescription only – amazing stuff). By keeping this at work in the little bag I won’t have to carry it around with me every day.

Today I have also:

  • Booked the car into the garage next week
  • Taken 6 books and an old sweatshirt to the charity shop (and remembered to use my Giftaid card)
  • Taken my library books back
  • Sent a much overdue thank you note to a friend

Phew. I’m going to go sit in the sun for a bit now…

Categories: Getting organised | 1 Comment

Challenge update

I meant to post yesterday – I really did. Alas I was struck down by some horrible upset stomach thing. No idea what it was. Not bad enough to have been food posioning but pretty sure it wasn’t a bug either. Mysterious. Still feeling a bit crap today but not as bad as yesterday. Does this mean I have nothing to add for my chellenge? Nope. Here it is: upset stomach = 2 pound weight loss. More effective than any diet. Won’t be trying it again soon though….

Back later!

Categories: Ramblings | 1 Comment

Days 5, 6, 7 & 8 of the challenge

Don’t think I haven’t been busy just because there hasn’t been a post on the 17 day challenge…I’ve actually been too busy to find a moment to write a post! I’ve managed to get the following done:

Financial planning: I like to have a list in my Filofax showing all of the direct debits and standing orders coming out of the joint account for the month ahead. Sometimes the amounts vary (the payment for the TV licence only comes out quarterly, the phone bill is different each month, council tax and water are only taken out 10 months a year etc) and I like to cross each ‘item’ off the list as I check the account through the month. When I know a payment isn’t coming out or has been less than planned for I transfer the difference into our savings account. However, I’m a bit crap at remembering to print out the list and use my Filofax holepunch to file it in the first place! To make sure I stay on top of things I have printed out lists for the rest of 2011, adjusting each for when I know payments will vary (as with the TV licence). This should make life a lot easier once I’m back at work and pushed for time.

Hair: Eeek. Yes, I bit the bullet and booked an appointment with my usual hairdresser for the much debated highlights. I really had to get my hair sorted out – it hadn’t been trimmed since the beginning of October and was looking really ratty and awful. I’ve had about 6 inches lopped off. The highlights look pretty good. If you look hard you can tell but I don’t think you’d notice otherwise. I only had a few, very fine ones through the top. The sun has already been lightening it up a bit so I’m hoping that it will continue to do it’s work through the summer! My hairdresser said that, particularly as summer is coming up and I am still blonde (just darker than before), I won’t need them doing very often – just in winter. This is good from a budget point of view. It only cost £40 though I did give a £5 tip.

Washing & Ironing: Gah – I thought this was never going to end. Actually, it hasn’t quite. I still have one small pile of ironing left to tackle. It took me an age (okay, a couple of days) to get through it all but my work clothes are now pretty much ready to go. It was good to have them all out at once as I can see exactly what I need to buy (a couple of smart T-shirt type tops for example). However, I’ve got enough for now and will certainly manage to get through until my first pay day when I can figure out my budget and see what I can get.

And that’s it for now. Back (hopefully!) tomorrow with a further progress report!

Categories: Budget beauty, Money Management | 1 Comment

Frugality v enjoying life

Now and then I have a look at the terms people have used to find this blog. This week I noticed someone had searched under the phrase ‘What is more important – frugality or enjoying life?’. Bloody good question, I thought.

I’ve pondered this before. My initial reaction to the question was to think that the two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive – it isn’t either/or. But, on reflection, perhaps it might be a matter of taste.

I’ve made a concerted effort to cultivate new hobbies and adapt old ones to fit in with my budget changes. My own personal list of things that mean I can enjoy life while on a budget include hanging out with my family and friends, reading books, watching films, listening to music, going to baby groups, writing, walking by the sea…there’s more. That’s just off the top of my head. I also love going out and going on holiday but there isn’t room in my budget for much of either of those right now. But I’m confident they’ll be there again the future! I’m happy to trade a couple of things in if it means I get more free time to spend with Baby and can have peace of mind from having a bit saved. 

But how does this answer the question? It’s all about definitions – how do you define ‘enjoying life’ and how do you define ‘frugality’? The way the original question is posed seems to suggest that ‘enjoying life’ costs a lot of money and ‘frugality’ equates to going without anything enjoyable. I’d say that ‘frugality’ means not being wasteful – not with the things you already have, the things you are inevitably going to consume in the future and probably managing your money well. This doesn’t mean you can’t budget for the things you enjoy. In fact, doing just that will probably keep you on track in the long term. But, if money is tight, you might have to have a good think about which enjoyable things are most important to you.

If the things in life you enjoy are more expensive (perhaps a hobby that involves buying equipment, or travel or even just cooking using more expensive ingredients) then perhaps looking at ways to increase your income is the best way forward. I love this phrase: ‘Life is short but the days are long’. If you can find a way to do the things you love while working a budget then, in my opinion, you’ve cracked the code to living a life that is both frugal and enjoyable.

But that’s just me. Anyone else feel like chipping in? Are the concepts of enjoying life and frugality hard to reconcile? How do you do it and where do you struggle? I’d love to hear.

Categories: Frugal ideas | 2 Comments

Day 4: Putting my best foot forward

In the interests of grooming I popped into Boots and picked up all of the above. Don’t worry – I didn’t spend a penny. I used the points on my Advantage card and got it all for free! I had casually glanced over the Rimmel display in Tesco earlier in the week and was shocked to see that a nail varnish was £4.49. From Rimmel! This probably just goes to show how long it has been since I have worn nail varnish. I didn’t wear it all while I was pregnant and the only time I remember using it since was on Christmas Eve. Anyway, the Boots range ’17’ had nail varnishes for £3.99 but you could get 3 for the price of 2. It seemed to make sense to stock up as not only is £3.99 a pretty good price but it is also a pretty good saving! I also picked up two Boots own brand hard skin removers (like a pumice stone but not). These things are amazing – really. They cost £3.05 each but were on offer – buy one, get the second half price. So not only did I not have to pay for any of it but, with the offers on, I didn’t have to use up too many of my Advantage cards points either.

My shoe order arrived from Next. Three pairs were no good, the other pair are so perfect they make me want to weep with joy. Okay, that might be going a bit far. But it isn’t often I find a pair of summer shoes that will stay firmly on my feet but also let my skin breathe (I’m not keen on sweaty feet. Bleurgh). They are made from leather and cost £34. They are also available in another colour. Since it is so rare I find a pair of shoes this good I am tempted to order them in the other colour. But I’m not going to. Yet. I’m going to road test these for a bit. They seem comfortable but you never really know until you’ve worn a pair of shoes for a day. If it seems like I really am going to live and die in them (and I have some funds available) then I might order another pair. But definitely not yet!

So, my things for today are: Getting stuff to make my hands and feet a bit more presentable for free and finding a great pair of summer shoes at a good price. And having the will power to send the other shoes back and not order more. That counts, right?

Categories: Budget beauty | 1 Comment

Day 3: Financial planning

One quick bit of organising I did earlier was this:

I have a habit of stashing articles that have caught my eye; I find them stuffed in notebooks, the back of drawers…all over the place. I had some A4 plastic envelopes left over from when I was reorganising my paperwork and so I’ve sorted the articles by category (Interiors, Books etc). This means I can find them easily and know exactly where to put any articles I come across in the future. Okay, it was hardly urgent but it helps! 

I’ve also sat down and gone through our joint finances. I only tend to talk about my ‘own’ finances on this blog – not so much our joint finances. When I started this blog in 2009 I had not long finished paying off my last bit of personal debt (a small loan) and was gearing up to save. However, we did have an overdraft on our joint account at the time. It wasn’t huge at £1000 but I did want it to go. We’d tried paying it off before but somehow the overpayments ended up getting swallowed by the account and we’d be back, fully overdrawn again. However, through 2009 we ‘overpaid’ the joint account each month and the overdraft got smaller and smaller until, by the end of the year, it had gone. During 2010 we continued to overpay the account and it meant we suddenly had a nice little fund for smaller emergencies – we could pay for the car to be fixed etc without having to try and scrape and squeeze the money out of another fund for example.

Now we’re in 2011 we are planning to continue overpaying the account. We already have a savings account put aside for car tax but are hoping we can add a bit in for car maintenance (which would otherwise come out of our monthly pay). We are also able to put a small amount aside in our ‘House’ account. The ‘House’ account is where we keep the funds for our home improvements. Once we’ve got it all done (should be sooner rather than later) we’ll continue saving and use this towards putting a larger desposit down when we – hopefully! – buy our next home.

I mention this because, when I do a post on my personal budget, it will be a bit ‘light’ on the saving side. Not because I don’t want to save but because a) I’ll be putting more in the joint account to go towards the ‘House’ savings and b) because I’m not going to have much left over. I’ll be doing a post on this once I know by exact take home pay, but I know I’m not going to have a lot to play with. I suspect some ‘living on less’ posts will be appearing here soon!

So that’s two things ‘done’ today – organising my articles and preparing a strategy for our joint finances. Nice.

Categories: Decluttering, Getting organised, Money Management | Leave a comment

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