Shoestring Fun

Winter reading

So, the long dark nights of autumn and winter are upon us. I’ve been contemplating how to spend the evenings…in a budget freindly manner of course! Earlier today I gathered together a load of books that I have, but haven’t read and cleared a whole shelf to put them on:

There are nearly 30 books so that ought to keep me going! Actually there are a couple of books on there that I’ve read before but want to read again (like Wuthering Heights because the one and only time I read it I found it both boring and funny for all the wrong reasons. It seems that this isn’t the general responce so I’ve long felt I should have another ‘go’ at it). All of these books have either been bought second-hand, at a discount or have been lent to me. One or two were free with magazines. None were bought at full price!

That should keep me going for a while. It also ought to wake my mind up a bit by making me read things I wouldn’t usually. If I really can’t get into them then I’ll give up and take them to the charity shop or return them to their owners. Some of these books have been knocking around the place for years! There’s a real mix of genres covering everything from classics to chick lit so there should be something to suit whatever mood I may be in when I’m on the hunt for a read! I’ll try to remember to do a post on each one as I go through them!

Categories: Book love, Shoestring Fun, Shoestring Reading | 4 Comments

Mini jars and movies

I pinched this teeny jam jar when we were out having a cream tea a few months ago. It is the perfect size to fill up with salad dressing and take to work in my packed lunch box.

You can’t really tell from the photo but this jar is smaller than the usual little jars and I took a real shine to it! I thought I might as well take it home and re-use it rather than let it go in the bin.

You might remember that I downgraded my package from Lovefilm a while back, saving £5 a month. At the time there weren’t many films out that we really wanted to watch so it seemed like 4 discs a month would be enough.  It turned out they weren’t! Almost straightaway I missed being able to order any old film I felt like once I remembered that they were rationed (for the extra £5 we can rent an unlimited number of films). I realised how much I liked being able to watch lots of different films and the really good TV series and that when I heard about a new film coming out, knowing I’d be able to watch it as soon as it came out on DVD. It also never seems a ‘waste’ to rent an older DVD. Last week I was in the library and spotted The Ruby In The Smoke which was adapted from the Sally Lockheart series by Philip Pullman. I loved this series of four books and had been wanting to see the two that got made into films. I really enjoyed the DVD and my first thought was to add the next one to my LoveFilm list. My second thought was the realisation that I already had quite a few DVDs on the list and so I might not get to see it for a couple of months! I can afford the extra £5 a month so I went ahead and changed back to my original package where we can have unlimted DVDs and two discs at home at any one time. Long, cold, dark evenings are not so far away and it is good to know we’ll have a bit of entertainment lined up!

When you are living on a tight budget you do end up questioning every penny. However, sometimes it is worth loosening the purse strings, particularly when you can get such a lot out of a little bit of cash!

Categories: Frugal ideas, Make do, Shoestring Fun | 5 Comments

Out at sea

Ah, I’m loving the whole bank holiday thing at the moment. We’ve seen friends, been to a birthday party, been out for lunch and hung out on the beach (trying to convince Baby not to eat pebbles amongst other things). This morning Baby spent a couple of hours with Mum and Dad so Husband and I could go have a couple of hours out at sea…

…which was just gorgeous. I didn’t get out on the waves at all last year (what with being heavily pregnant and having a baby!) so it was lovely to get out today. It was also great to be able to enjoy the coastline without the bank holiday madding crowds! I’d feel sad about going back to normal except we’re going away in less than two weeks! Yay!!

Categories: Shoestring Fun | Leave a comment

Saving for holidays

I am excited – we are going on our first ever family holiday! Yay! In a few months time we are having a long weekend in Cornwall and our friends and their little ones are coming too. It is going to be great. It is also going to be very shoestring friendly at around £85 per adult for 3 nights. We’ll just need petrol and spending money for while we’re there so it isn’t going to break the bank. It’s so nice to have something to look forward to.

Now I’m back in the land of earners I’ve been working out what small savings funds I should be starting in addition to my ‘main’ savings. I’ve always found it hard to save for holidays when I don’t actually have one booked. However, the reality now is that I can’t put back big chunks of cash quickly (ie over just a few months) so, if I want to have holidays (which I most definitely do!) then I’ve got to go with the slow and steady approach.

Ah, just looking at this photo from our last jaunt abroad makes me want to pack my bags and find my passport. In fact, I might print a copy of it out and stick it up somewhere to keep me motivated! We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to go abroad for a sunny holiday in about 18 months time. It sounds like we’ve got plenty of time to save up but I’ve really got to make a start on it now.

As of next pay day I’m going to try to put back £50 a month (or at least £40) to go in the holiday ‘pot’. Once we’ve had our weekend in Cornwall I’ll continue saving the same amount for the next trip away. If I manage to come under our £200 monthly food budget I’ll put the difference in the holiday fund too. Eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize…!

Categories: Money Management, Saving, Shoestring Fun | 1 Comment

Free food & seaside

It’s not hard to love living by the sea, surrounded by beautiful countryside. Sure, the wages are low and the house prices are high but when the weather is good you realise you really are living in a holiday location. And just occasionally there are additional benefits such as…free food!

Husband has just taken up fishing. As in beach casting (or whatever it is called). Some friends of ours have been doing it for years and he joined them for an evening a couple of weeks ago. He was hooked (excuse the pun). The next day he bought a cheap rod from the local fishing shop and has been doggedly trying to catch something ever since. After several evenings of throwing back tiny fish he finally scored – mackerel! Fresh mackerel is my favourite, favourite, favourite fish to eat. I really love it – the delicate flavour and texture are just gorgeous.  Thus we sat down to dinner the other night and had baked mackerel and salad and the fish was totally free! My kind of dinner in every respect. He also caught some extras which he has dished out to family and friends. You gotta share the love.

As for the other benefits of living where we do…I’m loving the sunshine right now. There’s a cafe with an amazing location at the far end of the seafront. It’s one of those places that have been going for years and years and have barely been touched in that time. It is boarded up during the winter and the table and chairs are old patio furniture. The most expensive drink on the menu is about £1.90 and the most complicated food you can get your hands on would be a jacket potato. It looks out over nothing but sea, sky and the cliffs. The cafe is beyond unpretentious and I love it. If it ever came up for sale I have no doubt someone would ‘do it up’ and it would become another boring, generic cafe with matching furniture, cream walls, crazy prices and zero atmosphere. When the weather is good we tend to meet our other mum and baby friends down there. And if sitting by the sea with your friends on a sunny afternoon isn’t a good enough reason to take a wage cut and go part time then I don’t know what is!

Categories: Frugal food, Frugal ideas, Shoestring Fun | 7 Comments

Park life & a new book

Eek – I’m pooped. It’s been a tiring few days what with work, Baby not sleeping too well and having had a bit of a cold. Still. Onward and upward! We’ve been making the most of what good weather we’ve had and going out and about. It’s looking fairly unlikely that we’ll be having a holiday this year so we’re trying to make the most of the fact that we already live in a tourist destination. We’ve gone to various child-friendly places and done lots of wombling around the countryside. One thing we decided to spend some money on was year long membership to a local park. They have huge, huge grounds with lots of gardens, walks and outdoor and indoor play areas. Quite a few of our other friends are members too so it is a great place to meet up. It is a little bit of a drive but other than the petrol we won’t need to spend any more. Baby gets in free and it cost each of us around £15 for the year which I think is well worth it.

I should be getting paid in the next few days – yay! What a novelty. It’s been an age. I’m looking forward to being able to put some money back and start saving again.

I’ve got a new book – I’m very excited about it. It came out last month and I tried to order it from the library but there was already a waiting list of 15 people! I decided not to waste £1 ordering it and then waiting forever to read it. I remembered I signed up for a nectar card last year. I’ve dilligently collected points here and there and when I checked the balance I had over £10 to spend. The new book was £5 on Amazon so I used my nectar card points to order a £5 Amazon voucher. I had to wait a couple of days before it was ‘delivered’ to me by email. The book was exactly £5 and I chose the free delivery option. It arrived yesterday; my brand, spanking new book that I paid zilch for. I am a happy shoestringer. Now I’m off to do some reading…

Categories: Book love, Frugal ideas, Shoestring Fun | 1 Comment

Shoestring soup and frugal fun

We’ve been having a fairly frugal weekend here in the Shoestring household. Yesterday and today we visited local animal sanctuaries, both of which had nature trails, lots of animals to look at and tearooms! Baby loved it. As both were charities they ask for a donation rather than charging an entry fee. We spent about £10 in total plus the cost of petrol.

I made a big pot of vegetable soup, using up lots of things. Last weekend I bought a big bag of carrots which I still had plenty of (despite making carrot and corriander soup the other day) so I popped a few of those in. I also used a couple of leeks, some celery which was on its last legs, an onion, some garlic and a couple of small parsnips. For good measure (and to use it up) I threw in my last tin of Tesco Value chopped tomatoes, some dried herbs and some vegetable stock. I use a handheld blender once it is all cooked so the veg only needs to be roughly chopped. This made 7 portions of soup so I’m taking one to work tomorrow and the rest have gone in the freezer. Since I also made soup last weekend I’ve got plenty to keep me going for ages!

Categories: Frugal food, Shoestring Fun | 6 Comments

The trials and triumphs of a book lover

I love books. I love them. I really, really do. I tinker with other hobbies and pastimes but I always come back to books. And I hate being without a good book on the go. It makes me feel sort of lost and empty. I often find it quite difficult to find ‘new’ books to read (I find Amazon quite useful for recommendations) but, luckily, I’m happy to read my real favourites again and again.

A while ago Laura at Move To Portugal wrote a post on clearing her book collection and asked how many books her readers had. Mildly curious, I counted up how many books were on the two cases in our living room. There were over 300. I should point out that there are more books on the shelves in our alcove, in boxes in the cupboard under the stairs and also in boxes in my parents attic. Basically, even after donating several hundred books to the local charity shops over the last few years, my collection well surpases the 1000 mark. This seems like an embarrassing excess but I’m just being honest. I begin to see where all of my money has been going over the years! In fairness to myself, the majority of these books have been bought second hand and many have been given to me but still. I’m at capacity – there is no more space for new books until we move (I have secret fantasies about one day having a little room of my own with shelves on every single wall. It might happen. You never know). Aside from the fact that I’m not supposed to be spending too much right now. So what’s the answer for someone like me who is currently averaging three books a week?

The library. Obviously. Holly (at Shopaholly) wrote a great post recently about supporting local libraries which I hope everyone will do if they value them at all. I visit mine at least once a week but usually twice, particularly if it is the week for the nursery rhyme and music session which Baby loves. Did I ever think I’d be rocking the Grand Old Duke Of York at 9.30am in a public space? Probably not. It’s great though and the little ones love it, particularly when they get the shakers and tambourines out.

Anyway, this year I’ve started ordering books through my local library that I might otherwise have bought (sorry to any authors out there who are missing out on some £s. I’ll be buying again at some point!). This service costs 50p per title if you order it online and £1 if you order it in person at the library. For me, this is a winner; I get to read loads of books that wouldn’t usually be in stock (my library is well stocked but at the end of the day its a small one) plus I don’t have to buy them or store them afterwards. Genius! The only drawback is that the librarians are now far more aware of my slightly, er, ecclectic reading tastes (‘The Hunger Games? It says here it’s a young adults book. Are you sure that’s the right one?’.). I’ve just read Anthony Capella’s latest offering – The Empress of Ice-Cream. Incidentally, does anyone else just love Anthony Capella? I never hear anything about him. Massively underrated in my opinion. I digress. If I start talking about what else I’ve been reading we’ll be here all day. My point is, if you don’t already do it, start ordering books from your library. Even though there is a small charge it is such a cheap form of entertainment, particularly if it means you get to read lots of new or obscure titles that you might otherwise have to buy.

Anyway, if I’ve been a bit quiet around here it’s because every time I’ve had five minutes to myself my nose has been happily buried in a book!

Categories: Book love, Shoestring Fun | 11 Comments

A little bit of domestic bliss


We’re having a super frugal weekend it seems – half by chance, half by design.

Spent most of the day at a family get together and the rest of the afternoon tidying up and watching Baby sitting on Husband’s knee playing the piano – ahhhh! Had to pop to the shop to get a few provisions for the weekend, namely garlic bread and some more baking supplies – £7.77.

As I type, a pot of Cawl Cennin soup is bubbling away on the hob – a new recipe I’m trying out from the WI Soup book. There will be enough for four portions so we’ll have some left for tomorrow night. Earlier in the week I tried out a recipe for spinach and cheese muffins (sound disgusting, taste like heaven) so I’ve already done my two new recipes for February! I’ve also made a batch of chocolate cupcakes earlier to take to some friends tomorrow, they just need frosting. I am totally rocking the domestic thing today!

Husband has rented two DVDs for us to watch later and I’ve just cracked open a second-hand book I bought last month (Daphne by Justine Picardie if you’re interested). Compared to this time two years ago (rehersing for a gig) we’re about as rock n roll as a pair of tea cosies. Thing is, if two years ago you’d told me I’d be spending the night in with Husband, some good food, good films, a good book and a gorgeous baby girl asleep in a cot upstairs I’d have been thrilled. Which I am. Tea cosies it is…

Categories: Shoestring Fun | 3 Comments

Days 6 & 7: A £25 weekend

It’s been one of those lovely weekends that come along every now and then. Nothing particularly spectacular happened but it was just really, really good. Maybe it was down to the gorgeous, crisp and sunny weather…

 Yesterday Baby and I went to the library to return books and hired two DVDs for a week and then trotted off to the local second-hand bookshop. I found a book I had been looking for for nearly a year for £2 – I love it when that happens. It was exactly what I went in there looking for. I went to my parents for a visit where they played with Baby while I had a coffee and read the first couple of chapters of my new book, then Husband came and met us and we went for a walk in the sunshine. Later on some friends came over for dinner – the first time we’ve had people over on a Saturday night since Baby has arrived.

It was blinkin’ freezing when we woke up this morning so Baby popped in our bed for a cuddle until the heating had kicked in (as she does most mornings to be fair…did I mention I love maternity leave?). Since Husband doesn’t work Sundays I was able to have a shower that lasted more than two minutes (I’ve got it down to a fine art now) and then made chicken curry in advance for dinner with some extra to go in the freezer. Then we all wrapped up and drove in convoy with some friends to a town nearby. We had a long walk by the sea (stopping for hot sausage rolls and tea) and then through some gardens where we happened upon a brass band playing to a small crowd. The rest of the day was spent drinking tea with friends and family, making Baby laugh (not difficult – she thinks everything is funny) and then reading my new book after she went to bed. Perfick.

I’d have paid a great deal more for it, but the weekend cost less than £25 even though I hired two films and bought a book, some elderflower cordial, take-out, tea, sausage rolls and an ice-cream. Nice!

Categories: Shoestring Fun | Leave a comment

Blog at