The other side of the world

Much of this week has been dedicated to intensive study. After two weeks in a work placement, I’ve had to pull my focus back to my University work. As I adore my degree course, this has prompted no hardship. But it has made me think.

One of my modules this year is Creative Visions. It looks at utopian and dystopian texts, as well as related issues in our world today. After going through the list of online resources that were made available, my mind was a whir. I’ve been forced to contemplate and reassess my view on many areas of life that were once a norm for me.

Like eating meat. I’ve been eating meat for as long as I have been able to. When I once asked my mother if I could become vegetarian, she refused, on the grounds that such a diet wouldn’t help me grow. I know which animals produce which meat, like we all do. But I’ve never been confronted with the sheer, unadulterated facts before. There were some truly horrendous sources about the meat industry. Some of them I couldn’t stand to watch the whole way through. After gathering knowledge, I am questioning the unsustainable meat industry for the first time. I am but one person, but this person will not be eating meat for the foreseeable future. I will not fund such irrational behaviour.

I already consider myself to be an environmentally friendly consumer, but this research has reinforced those values so much. To only purchase what I need. To cut down on waste. To constantly re-use and recycle. To use ethics as a guide when shopping, not greed.

Treading lightly on the earth has become my ultimate goal. It would be too easy to let anger overcome you, to lash out and rant about the unfairness of it all. But instead, my actions will become my words. I plan to focus on my own actions and strive to do everything I can to, at the very least, slow down the demise of the planet.

Money maths

For my final day at work experience, I was able to attend BETT 2014 in London. This is a national show held at the ExCel centre, which showcases technology in education. As the company I was working for publish e-books, we visited to suss out what is up and coming in this particular sector. I’m afraid I have no picture to share from the event. There wasn’t much time to spare! And also, my camera is still broken, so a bit of an embarrassment in public. I did snap a pic of my badge, which proves my attendance. I tell you, wearing this all day made me feel very much like a proper adult. The show was a wonderful opportunity to see the entire realm of educational publishing. I’m so grateful I had the chance to go.

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But alas, train travel to London Waterloo and back was not cheap. I flinched when the ticket man told me the total price. It was a worthy investment, no doubt about that. But February’s budget was in dire need of fixing.

I had already taken £20 out to cope with January, meaning before London, I had £80 set for February. But then came my £28 train ticket, along with a coffee out on the day itself, costing £2. So that left me with £50 in total. Or so I thought. I had forgotten the shopping spree I had on Thursday. I spent £10 on some washing up supplies, reduced gluten-free bread (wasn’t going to let that pass me by!) and other such foodstuffs. So, in fact, I had £40 left for the month of February. This was going to take some seriously planning.

I have a decent amount of stock in my cupboards at the moment though, so I knew my shopping budget wasn’t going to be large. After calculating the rest of my outgoings, I had £4 left for food for the month. I know how to be frugal, but I can’t work miracles! So I’ve moved £10 from March’s budget, giving me £14 for the month. I’m very aware that I’m spending March’s funds in what is still technically January, but needs must. It will all balance out in the end.

To give myself a decent £10 food shop mid-Feb, I took the £4 and the change in my purse off to Sainsbury’s this morning. This is what I came back with:

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Only the essentials for this shopping trip. The biggest treat was spending an extra 20p on proper syrup instead of jam. I much prefer golden syrup on my morning porridge.

Things are tight this month, but I think they will be for all of the months left ahead. The best I can do is to keep trying and keep focusing on my ultimate goal. When I have that in mind, there is no hardship to be found anywhere.

Baking inspiration

I have been reading Sue’s new blog, 365 days – £365, with keen interest. The way she has used various ingredients to her advantage has been inspirational. This weekend, I was treating myself to a restful Sunday, after spending most of Saturday catching up with University-related stuff. I felt inclined to rifle through my cupboards and see what I could create. It started with an egg.

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A further rummage in the cupboards and in the fridge later, and I had just enough flour, milk, sugar and butter to create this tray of delights . . .

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As you can see, I couldn’t resist the role of quality control. I was quite proud of these cute little gluten-free cupcakes. They tasted great fresh from the oven, but they did get a little bit dry. More experimentation required!

I had a small amount of flour left, another 100g of butter and as much sugar as I needed. We keep a house store of sugar in our baking cupboard. Yes, we have a baking cupboard. Yes, we are a house of girly-girls.

But alas, no more eggs.

There was still a recipe to be had though. After a flick through my Marguerite Patten’s Wartime Cookery book, the recipe for Eggless Sponge was uncovered. I made a Syrup Sponge Pudding with the few handfuls of ingredients I had.

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Honestly, a bowlful of warm sponge, topped with some reduced custard that I’d bought the day before, was the best pudding I’ve had in a long time. It took a pinch of ingenuity to make, but my goodness, the results were more than satisfactory. For me, it just shows the joy that can be found in simple cooking with humble ingredients. Delicious!

Carrying on

I had the best intentions to post to my blog yesterday, Fridays being a customary posting day. And yet, the siren song of a soppy movie and a blanket was just too strong to ignore. My movie of choice, by the way, was Letters to Juliet, starring Amanda Seyfried. It’s just soppy enough to make me smile, not grimace.

Anyways, my week has been wonderful. I have seized the work experience opportunity with both hands and my knowledge has broadened because of it. I must admit, it has been a shock switching from the drowsy pace of the Christmas holidays to suddenly be working full time, with an hour walk each day. Needless to say, it doesn’t take me long to fall asleep at night! But it’s been enriching so far and I’m sure next week will be the same.

Onto money matters, I’ve had to borrow £20 from next month’s budget. January seems to be going on forever, and I needed additional funds to get through it. This leaves £80 for February. As it’s a short month that’s free from the expenses of January, I’m sure the balance will be restored.

I had a £5 budget for shopping this week. Aside from purchasing a small thank you gift for my employers, this is what I bought:

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I ran out of starches early this week, so I needed to refill those stocks. As I can’t eat cheaper versions of pasta, I decided to buy cheap rice to balance the equation. I’m going to try Jack’s tip for using Basics rice in a risotto. This is the first time I’ve had white rice in awhile, but beggars can’t be choosers. The whole bag fits perfectly into one of my containers, which I very much appreciate.

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Speaking of containers, I found the perfect place to store my jasmine green tea (Christmas gift). This peanut butter jar has been given a new lease of life. I am finding thrifty re-cycling plays a part in my life more and more each day.

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Frugal Fridays #17: Grocery shopping tip

No matter how much I squeezed it, the five pound note in my purse was only going to stretch so far. I did the normal scramble around my room in search of loose change, but as I’m always prudent with my money, this only yielded 20p. Then, I remembered Belle, of Beauty and the Beast fame.

In our first semester in this house, contributions were added to the Belle-shaped moneybox to purchase household items. Now we have a new system whereby each of us is responsible for a different item. My job, for example, is to maintain supplies of washing up liquid and sponges.

“Is there any money left in Belle?” I asked my house mate.

“No idea, no one’s checked for ages,” said she. “Have a look.”

The content of the moneybox was £1.20, all in silver and copper coins.

“Oh, that’s not real money.” The housemate said with a sigh.

“Do you mind if I have it then?”

Yes, it was cheeky, but if you don’t ask than you don’t get. And I do assist the household by buying washing up supplies. So my budget for my food shop soared to £6.40! I spent a grand total of £6.23 in the end and here’s what I got:

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I went into Sainsbury’s armed with a list, like I normally do. Next to each item is the corresponding price. That way, I have a rough idea of how much my grocery bill will be. But this trip, each time I made a saving on an item, I made a note of it. For example, I had written down 20p for onions, but they only came to 12p – 8p saved. They totted up as I was going round the shop. I had 90p allocated to buy butter, so when I saw the reduced posh Lurpak butter for 99p, I knew I could afford it because of the savings I made elsewhere. I’m sure most of you shop in this manner already, but it really did help me to stick to my budget, so I thought I’d share my new found knowledge.

It felt very satisfactory knowing that I was getting the most from each penny. Even the kind checkout lady commented on the amount of products I had managed to buy. It did feel good carrying home my heavy shopping bags, filled with my lovely bargains. I do believe I’ve caught the frugal living bug good and proper.

The first step is the hardest

I’ve had a week of true frugal living. And I must admit, it’s had its ups and downs.

I think January will be my hardest month out of the sixth because there is a lot to pay for. Both of my parents celebrate their birthdays in January, so funds are needed for presents. I needed to put coins in the kitty for our New Year’s Eve celebrations, which was definitely worth it. I had a wonderful time seeing in 2014. New books had to be bought for the new semester, but I did get to use an Amazon voucher towards that cost, which helped a lot. I also needed to build up my food stocks after running them down before Christmas.

I’ve noticed the cutbacks on my shopping list the most, only buying essentials. I make a meal plan and only buy what I need for each week. This stops me wasting anything. I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed my meals more, because I’m really looking forward to them. There’s no money for extra snacks! I’m cooking up some of my favourites, including Sweet Potato and Lentil curry. I wish I had a picture to share, but my camera has packed up just at the wrong time! I’m going to ask amongst my friends and family to see if anyone has a spare one knocking around in a drawer. I don’t care how old it is, as long as it can take a picture without the batteries falling out!

Both myself and the chap have been busy with University preparation, so very little has been spent on outside entertainment. I’ve been keeping myself occupied in the evenings with various craft projects and DVD box sets that I received at Christmas. Free of charge fun! I don’t think much money will go towards social events this year. Everyone is knuckling down and concentrating on their own work; there just won’t be time for trips to the pub. This suits me down to the ground, and I can always have a friend over for a cup of tea during term time.

I start two weeks of work experience on Monday. I am so excited for this opportunity, but I know I will have to be very organised to make sure I stay within budget. I’m not sure if I will last on my £100 for this month, I might have to steal from February. But as long as I stay within the total of £600, I don’t think that’s the worst thing to do.

I’m enjoying reading all about other frugal adventures and challenges. Best of luck with all of your New Year goals!

Double sixes

For this, my very first post of 2014, I have to share my latest venture. This is no whimsical experiment. This is a life-changing type of mission.

In six months time, I will leave the sanctuary of University life. It will be up to me to navigate a path of my own in the big wide world. To do this successfully, I feel I will need as much financial aid as possible. In order to secure such a sum for my future, I need to be thrifty in the present. So, the challenge is as follows. Six months. Six hundred pounds. £100 a month.

Can it be done? Do you know, I truly believe it to be possible. With careful planning and resourcefulness, I think I can achieve my goal. £25 a week is not generous, but nor is it terribly meagre. I’m pushing myself to do this to take control of what lies ahead. I don’t want my parents to prop me up. It’s not fair on them. It was my decision to come to University in the first place. So it’s up to me to take responsibility for my own welfare when I leave.

Christmas gave me a good head start. Not only did I receive some perfectly practical gifts that will keep on giving throughout the year, but I also had Christmas money. This went towards purchasing some store cupboard staples whilst I was in Glastonbury. The price of their organic foodstuffs is much cheaper than Winchester.

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Three days in and I’ve already spent £60. That doesn’t look good I’ll admit, but I have restocked my stores. I have also had certain expenses that won’t be present in future months, like school books for example. My cupboards are brimming, so I’m fairly confident that I can get through the rest of January on £40.

Already, I’m starting to feel that when you have so little, you appreciate it much more.