A change of scenery

I remember a time, before I came of age to do grocery shopping for myself, there was a distinct air around Aldi (and its partner in crime, Lidl). It was once the butt of all jokes and the cause of much snobbery. It would be a comment on the neighbourhood if Aldi moved into town. Aldi was shunned by the exclusive gang of the big four. And thank goodness it was.

Instead of engaging with catfight tactics, Aldi seeks to impress no one but its customers. I certainly was impressed when I visited last week. Unfortunately, my local Aldi is a fair distance away. It could be reached on foot I’m sure, but it is far more preferable to drive. As our household only has one car and one allocated driver who works full time, opportunities to visit are few and far between. I planned on taking full advantage of this rare trip.

I filled my half of the trolley high. Items and their respective prices kept grabbing my attention. I hesitated at the bagged fruit and veg, because I am accustomed to buying loose. But the prices were good and nothing will go to waste in this thrifty household! The meat selection was impressive, ranging from truly budget to prime cuts. I opted for the middle selection, which was still noticeably cheaper than my local Sainsbury’s. Milk was cheaper too, and nuts, which I have really noticed an increased price on lately. It was these small savings that added up to my minimal food bill.

I had set myself a budget of £25 to purchase this week’s groceries, as well as a few items for my store cupboard, in order to build up the stores again. I didn’t keep a tally as I shopped, but I just put in items I genuinely needed. The woman on the till totted up my shopping, and asked me for £17.60.

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I did a double take, naturally. I couldn’t believe all of the shopping you can see above was only valued at £17.60. I was delighted. My final payday from Cath Kidston has been and gone and I’m keeping a keener eye on my pennies. The value and quality of the products have prompted a desire in me to become a regular shopper at Aldi. The others can fight it out amongst themselves. My money’s on Aldi, for truthfully providing more for less.

Frugal Fridays #14

For my very first “Frugal Friday”, I featured a round of thrifty items I had purchased from my local charity shops. But with my interest in food growing and my budget shrinking, subsequent posts took a new direction. Basically, I stopped hunting down economical items.

But I have done an awful lot of shopping this week. Thanks to a birthday, my last foreseeable payday and general scrimping throughout October, I had money to spare for a day out shopping with my family yesterday. As wonderful as it was to spend time with my mum and sister, the shopping element of the day was superior. I’m joking of course, but I did happen to find some bargains.

First, a lovely bamboo wood fruit bowl from Tiger, £2.

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An adorable biscuit tin that I couldn’t leave behind, Tiger, £2.

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New running trainers from Sports Direct store, were £20, bought for £10!

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But my most special buy of the week was discovered today, in a shop I had never ventured to before. The shop assistant said it had only been on the shop floor for ten minutes. At such a great value price, I knew it was coming home with me. Ladies and gentlemen, a standing ovation if you please for my £10 best buy of the week, month and possibly, year.

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I cannot stop staring at it in wonder. The leather, the shape, the vintage vibe, this doctor’s bag is a dream come true. I’m in love. And that is a clear sign of money well spent.

No snakes, just ladders

On Monday morning, I have my Creative Vigilance and Metafictions class. My lecturer (who also happens to be head of the programme) is fond of reminding us that we’re third year students. Very soon, he says, we will be leaving the comfort blanket of University life. This never fails to prompt a groan from several students.

But for me, I see no reason to grumble. On one hand, I am lucky. I know exactly what career I want to move into and the active steps to take to get there. My various tutors have been invaluable in sharing their knowledge about the publishing world. I’ve had kindly advice in abundance and even an offer to set up a work experience placement. But I don’t believe it’s just luck that has set me on this path.

You see, on the other hand, I’m a stubborn hard worker. Even going right back, I had to work for my A-levels to get onto my chosen degree course in the first place. Now that I’m in my final year, I attend every single one of my lectures. I complete the additional reading and homework tasks. The library has become my second home. I know I’m not the only one that has adopted this intense working ethic, and we’re the ones who don’t moan. We’ve used the opportunity of higher education to its full advantage and are prepared for the world outside. Personally, I’m not only prepared, I’m excited for it! Having a clear view at the mountain in front of me makes me feel content.

Young adults today are so often told how hard it is in the “real world” that they’re giving up before they’ve even had a chance. Sadly, they think that because there are no easy options, that must mean that there are no options at all. This is not the case. I’m not going to take the smooth route and move back in with my parents next summer. I’m going to take the rocky path, budgeting my life in order to live in my very own home. I will work long hours in a low wage job in order to get a foot in the door to be on track for the career of my dreams. It’s not luck that will make me Head Editor one day, it will be rolling-your-sleeves-up hard work. Something, I fear, that is drifting further and further away with every escaping moan in the classroom.

Quickie

I just wanted to report that I’ve heard from my mum, who has heard from the hospital, and the news is good. The lump is benign and offers no threat at present. We’re all really chuffed with the great result. I think my whole family breathed a collective sigh of relief!

Thank you all for the kind, supportive comments. My mind is now free to fully return to domestic storytelling matters 🙂

Frugal Fridays #13

There is nothing this thrifter loves more than getting something for nothing. And free food is the best of that bunch. My kindly neighbour dropped round a bag of windfall apples last week. My housemates had no interest, put off by the few bumps and bruises that often afflict windfall apples. I knew they had a use so I spent an afternoon in the kitchen, making magic. There is only so much crumble a Storyteller can eat, so I thought I’d make up some apple sauce.

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The apples were thoroughly washed in salted water. . .

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. . . Then were peeled and chopped, ready for the pot . . .

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. . . Add a sprinkle of sugar, spice and everything nice (lemon juice!) and cook.

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Et voila! 4 tubs of apple sauce, ready for the freezer.

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Now I can enjoy this spiced sauce over plain yoghurt, topped with granola, or my personal favourite, on top of porridge with brown sugar and flaked almonds. Delicious, and made solely from items I already had lurking in my cupboards. I love it when a plan comes together.

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The C Word

Last Wednesday started off really well. I began my day with a run, swiftly followed by a cool shower and then tucked into a big bowl of porridge. I was at my desk by 9am, after putting on a batch of laundry.

I enjoyed a productive morning; two sets of notes typed up, an opening page complete and my research into nutrition for children had started. I was going to have soup for lunch, with a nice gluten-free roll. I had already begun planning the day’s blog post. I was looking forward to spending my evening with my chap, safe in the knowledge that I had worked well. There would be more time for storytelling at the weekend.

Then I got a phone call from my mum.

I was on a train. In the morning, there was another train, then another. I was in Glastonbury. I was keeping my mother company by drinking wine and eating chocolate. I was struggling to sleep. I was in the car. I was at the hospital. I was at the hospital. I was still at the hospital. I was hugging my mother. I was listening to the nurse. I was smiling.

She has the odds in her favour, but we have to wait until later on this week to confirm that. It has been a scary time for me and my family, one huge loop in the roller coaster. I felt like I couldn’t carry on my standard blogging topics without acknowledging that it’s been tough lately. But it’s time to get back on track. I’ve already been working on various things I fell behind on, but I don’t begrudge that at all. It’s all about priorities. I had to answer the call for help.

My October Challenge fell to the wayside, naturally. You just don’t think about costs when you’re using money for a reason. Besides, I’ve never felt luckier to own so little. I am wealthy in one crucial aspect. Health. And I want it to remain that way for as long as I live.

The Stoptober Challenge

I have never been a smoker. But I do have an unfortunate habit of buying things I don’t particularly need. Like groceries for example. It has never been more important for me to make every penny count. I’m hoping the frugal challenge of Stoptober will help me with this aim.

The challenge is designed to make sure you only spend money on essentials. As I enjoyed a birthday recently, I’m in a lucky starting position. This little lot should last me until November:

  • £13.35 cash in purse
  • £25 Sainsbury’s voucher
  • £20 New Look voucher
  • £2.50 worth of Nectar points

That averages out to a little over £20 a week for the rest of October. It’s not much, but I do have a store of items to use up instead of buying in. That’s another aim of the challenge, to ensure you make use of what you already have. I’m keeping a record of my spending so that I know in myself that I’m doing the challenge correctly.

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I may not have much in my fridge right now, but my freezer drawer in full and my cupboard is overflowing. There are certainly more than a couple of meals to be made from foodstuffs I already have.

I will need to do a food shop at some point in October, but not yet. When I do go shopping, I shall take a list (naturally) and only purchase what I know I will use. I think I need to get out of the ritual of stocking up the cupboards purely for the purpose of filling the cupboards. It sounds silly, but I need to buy what I will eat, not just for the sake of having a full cupboard.

The New Look voucher was a birthday present. I’m planning to use it to purchase some sensible, day-to-day shoes, the kind that my wardrobe is sadly lacking. I’ve had to through a couple of pairs of shoes away recently as I’ve just worn through them. It’s a risk you have to take when you walk everywhere!

The essence of this month is all about being thrifty, being resourceful and being creative. That sounds like fun and games to me.