Red Alert

Warning! Warning! I’ve discovered a delicious new shop and oh me oh my, how my bank balance is going to suffer! I stepped into White Stuff for the first time last week, whilst on a shopping expedition with my sister. I was thoroughly enchanted by its clothing and decor, but most of all, by its homeware collection. I have a deep fondness and affection for owls, and they were numerous in White Stuff. I knew one of them would be coming home with me and it was agonising to choose just one – my Christmas wish list was extended by several feet, of course.

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It’s perfectly fitting after my last post about afternoon tea that I bought the one thing my tea tray was missing. A tea cosy!

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Isn’t it charming? I can’t wait to showcase it at my next tea party. Priced at £11.95, it was an affordable treat.

My other recent purchase was a treat as well. I went out with the intention of finding a pair of black, leather Chelsea boots. It was in the second shop I ventured into that I found them, last pair on the shelf, my size, it was destined to be. And being offered student discount was the cherry on the cake. These practical boots are much warmer than my trainers and more chic that wellingtons. They fit perfectly into my wardrobe.

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Both of these items have a place in my home and warm my heart considerably. Strictly speaking, neither was vastly necessary – I could’ve survived without them. But the joy they bring cannot be measured in cost, although the money to pay for such luxuries does have to come from somewhere.

I save where I can so I can reap rewards in the form of new shoes and owl-themed goodies. However, I need to sow before I can reap again. I do believe it’s high time for another challenge. Next week’s budget is £15 – that’s £1 a day for food, £2 for anything else and £6 for a takeaway pizza on Friday night with the chap. Again, not necessary, but heart-warming. I hope to manage daily posts, so I can write about any purchases and how I’m making the most of my store cupboard, which is currently stuffed with supplies. Wish me luck, and do let me know if you’re tightening your belt too this week. The C word is hovering on the tip of my tongue . . .

Points and patchwork

Thank you all so much for your kind comments I received on my last post. They truly warmed my heart and feel proud of my achievements. I hope you don’t think of me as bold for saying so, but I am quite pleased with myself.

I have been employing my full arsenal of thrifty tactics this past week. Due to once-in-a-lifetime celebrations occurring this week, more money has been spent on extravagances than everyday items. I have no regrets. Sometime you must simply seize the moment and enjoy it for all its worth.

Nevertheless, I have been saving and making shortcuts where I can in order to save pennies. The main areas ripe for cutting back were (as always) my energy usage and my food bill. Luckily, I’ve not had to use much energy for cooking this week, as I was enjoying the leftovers from our Graduation banquet. I’ve made the most of every scrap of food, and had some truly delicious meals.

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I have also received post from Mr Sainsbury’s this week, gifting me with bonus points vouchers. I know Sue from Our New Life in the Country was recently discussing the highs and lows of using supermarket vouchers. For me, I was yet to do my weekly shop and as the vouchers were for store cupboard staples (i.e. not junk), I deemed them acceptable to use. Plus, I only collect points from Sainsbury’s, not a variety of stores. By collecting as many points as I can during the good times, I have a safety net for when actual money is sparse.

In other Nectar points news, my incentive from Expedia came through a couple of days ago. I entered my Nectar card number at the checkout when we booked our holiday for Lisbon, and I’ve received 2000 points, the equivalent of £10. This, combined with the points earned from vouchers, means I have £12.50 on my card. This will make a notable difference to my food shopping as I count down the days until pay day.

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I’ve been putting my make-do-and-mend spirit into action too this week, using some of my holiday time productively. I’ve made up three cosy cushions to brighten up my neglected sofa. The wicker creation came with the flat, but is dreadfully hard to sit on. The improvements I’ve made are certainly more to my taste. I had to pay £9.10 for the large cushions inserts, but the rest all came from my stash. My next project is to refurbish an old coffee table – for pennies of course. Good luck with all of your thrifty ventures this week.

Food parcel

It’s easy to see where I get my thrifty habits from. My mum is an artist when it comes to budgets, coupons, saving for special occasions and the like. She passed on the baton of bargain hunting on to me and my sister and we have both benefited from this knowledge through the years. She was a wealth of advice when I first went to University and was in control of my own expenditure for the first time. We shared a lovely day together yesterday, and she brought supplies.

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Gluten free products are expensive, so when Mum spotted this little lot reduced at her local Waitrose in Wells, she snapped it up! Many of the boxes of biscuits cost five times the price of what she paid. Best of all, they’re all still in date, with most of the products having a “best before” (whatever that means) of 2015. Whilst in Southampton, we bought things for lunch and she left a bag of salad and a few slices of good deli ham for me to enjoy at a later date.

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It just shows that you don’t have to spend a fortune to show your children you care. I truly appreciate the thoughtfulness that connected the gluten free gifts to me. Thank you Mum!

 

In other news, a new rationing period begins on Monday. Through my calculations on my spreadsheet, I managed an average weekly spend of £19.54 for the five weeks in August. That is bang on for my target of £20 a week, although I did start to slip nearer the end when contraband foodstuffs were providing me with quick, cheap energy. But now the cupboards are well stocked, I should be able to keep this month’s grocery bill to a minimum. I’m sure there will be a post in the near future about the details of the rationing plan that I personally follow, just in case anyone was interested.

I hope you all have a joyous weekend.

Ready, steady, cook!

My work load has increased for this week, a fact that I am grateful for. More working hours means more money earned and that, my friends, can only be a good thing.

But I needed to be prepared for the chaotic nature of this week, so it was to the kitchen for most of the day yesterday. I needed to stock the goody tin and fill the freezer and spend some time preparing food. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels cooking is good for the soul. Let me share the things I made that are good for the stomach!

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Firstly, I had to decide what to do with all of the odds and ends I had left in the fridge; the last of a pack of chicken thighs, half a butternut squash and someone else’s mushrooms that needed eating up. Add an onion, an apple and a fair amount of seasoning, and I had this delicious concoction bubbling in the slow cooker.

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I can’t actually share if the recipe was successful or not, as I’m eating the first portion tonight with piles of mashed potato. It certainly smelt appetizing last night.

Onto the baking section of today’s programme. From recent reading and research into rationing, I discovered oatmeal wasn’t rationed and the prices were controlled to make it a readily available product. So I spent 95p on a bag and got baking. I used 100g of oatmeal to 150g of porridge oats to make this batch of honey flapjacks, and they were very successful. They seemed to hold together much better than my first attempt. A winning recipe.

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I also had my first attempt at Scotch Shortbread, an “economical” recipe from a Marguerite Pattern book. Success! My previous exploration into g-f shortbread had been a miserable affair, but this was a delight. It only made a small quantity, but there would be no harm in doubling up if the fats ration allowed.

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During my shopping expedition yesterday morning, I of course spent a long time in the greengrocers. My best buy was three aubergine for 50p, all because of a couple of bruised bits. I soon chopped those off and set to work on a curry.

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Veggie curry doesn’t really create images of 1940s Britain, but I still had curry paste leftover from pre-rations so I made a big batch yesterday. In the mix is aubergine, onion, tomatoes, red pepper and red lentils. Even thought the jar of paste is gone, I still have plenty of spices in stock, so there will certainly be more curries in my kitchen.

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For dinner, I had the final chicken thigh with roasted butternut squash and sweet potato. I have no picture to share, because after an afternoon surrounded by food, I was ravenous! 

 

 

New season, new shoes

I was out and about in town this afternoon, running errands (read: printing out lots of newly-revamped CVs). I granted myself a fifth of my recent earnings to purchase suitable summer clothing. The recent bout of warm weather has highlighted how inadequate my wardrobe is. My budget wasn’t large, so I concluded that the charity shops would be the best place to visit.

How wrong I was. The first two I ventured in displayed nothing I was interested in. The third had a ghastly smell throughout the whole store. In the fourth, I dared to try on a Monsoon kaftan dress, blue and silk and beautiful. This was more like it, I thought, as I turned the price label. It was nice sure, but £8.50 for a second-hand garment is too much in my book. The charity shops could not offer what I needed, so I headed to the place where the fashion is fast, the items won’t last a year and they charge the best prices. Got it in one, I went to Primark.

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Two pairs of summery sandals for £6. The black ones are perfect for peeking out beneath maxi dresses and skirts. The flip flops are for round the house and in the garden when we’re picnicking. They are exactly what I was looking for.

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I then scoured the New Look sales rails and found a white shirt, an item I’ve had on my wishlist for an age. My size and oh my, that price. I paid three pound coins and left the shop pleased as punch.

I know the ethics surrounding such fashion choices is shady. But when you’re saving up for a deposit on a new home, can you really afford to be picky? Or should morals stay intact whatever the cost? I’d love to hear about your clothing choices.

Chicken alla Frugal

When I think of stew, I think of beef stew, enriched with red wine and lots of parsnips. Casserole however, conjures up a different dinner, something lighter with more greenery. Am I wrong? Quite possibly, but I had a lone chicken thigh left in the freezer so casserole it was to be.

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Into my lovely crockpot went a chopped onion, a parsnip, four carrots and the ends of the asparagus that I bought last week. It’s absolutely delicious steamed, but the bottom part is a bit woody. So I tailed the stalks and threw the ends into the casserole. I ate steamed asparagus yesterday with sausages, and I saved the water leftover. This was the basis of my stock.

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The chicken thigh was nestled in the middle and the pot went into the oven at 150 degrees for an hour and a half. Then it was whisked out, the chicken was pulled away from the bones, the flour paste was stirred through and I added some kale to boot.

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After a final half an hour in the oven, my casserole was ready. It was truly delicious. Such a simple supper, it made three lunchtime-sized portions. Yes, there is very little meat, but when the vegetables are so fresh and tasty, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me. I’m looking forward to my lunch tomorrow already.

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PS The British strawberries I bought in Sainsbury’s this week are perfect. Ripe and sweet and delicious in porridge. Just thought I’d pass on the seasonal food love 🙂

Adaptation

Whenever the inevitable time comes that you have to leave a job, house, or anything that you’ve spent a long time with, you have to commemorate the occasion with some form of party. The thing with leaving University is that one celebration is not enough.

I’ve been invited out to so many events over the next fortnight, it’s almost like a Fresher’s week. Bar visits and coffee catch ups and parties and get-togethers; all in the next two weeks. The thing is, I don’t want to miss a second of it. I’ve made such strong friendships over the past three years at University that I want to take every opportunity for the last laughs and posing for photos. But, as previously mentioned, I have money earmarked for the next stage in my life.

This is where I think being frugal meets its dividing force. There are some who reject social occasions in order to save money. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I think it shows amazing dedication. But on a personal level, seeing people and doing things are what I cut down in other areas for. I would rather eat lentils for a month than miss out on the end of term party.

However, there are things I can do to still save money, even when I’m socialising. First thing, drinks. Alcohol costs money, one of the sad facts of life. But I genuinely can take it or leave it. And I have discovered lime and soda! Especially at this time of year, a cool glass of lime and soda is a real treat on a hot day. I delightfully discovered this week that they only charge 10p a glass at my SU! I couldn’t believe it! Secondly, food. Most students are in the same boat in that they can’t afford to eat out in proper establishments. So taking your own lunch or snacks isn’t out of the ordinary in this group. Thirdly, entry fees. Well, there might be a few ticket prices I have to shell out for, but I will be attending several free events being held at the Uni, including several plays. I’ll get a night out with my friends for free – no travel costs (walking), no refreshment costs (take my own) and no charge for entry (as part of their exam, the drama group offers a free performance).

Cutting back doesn’t mean cutting out important aspects of your life. Balance and priorities, those are the biggest lessons I’ve learnt during my University life.

A new frugal challenge

Oh boy, I’m excited about this one! It feels great to have a distinct purpose, a tangible goal to work towards. This is much preferable to my previous state of anxiety about the future.

Leaving University will be cutting the final string. My balloon will float away and it terrified me that I had no control over its path. But then I spoke to some friends. And then I cried my heart out to my family. And then I had a little chat with myself. I now have something to aim at, the anchor I’ve been looking for.

I have applied for my dream job. I hesitate to expand on the details, in case it all falls through. But this job would help all other areas in my life slot into place. It would be close to The Chap, which would allow us to spend more time in each other’s company. I could start looking for a suitable apartment to set up home. This is the career that would make me happy, which is what everyone keeps telling me to do.

But, if I do get this job, it will incur unavoidable expenses. Not just big things like rent deposits and furniture, but commuting costs from Winchester before I am able to move closer. Yes, I will be earning, but there will be a void between starting work and my first pay day. The bottom line is simple; I’m going to need money, for this year, and beyond. There is talk of more travelling and a whisper about Asia. For me, this is worth being thrifty for.

So, for the month of May, hopefully my last month in limbo, I will be spending as little as possible. No extras or treats, just the basics for healthy living. I learnt my lesson on my last attempt at a budget lifestyle that cutting fresh fruit and vegetables is not an option. They are essential. But I can purchase cheaper options, such as frozen berries and loose carrots. I want all my meals to be as healthy and as cost efficient as today’s lunch.

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Salad sandwich; two slices of GF bread (reduced bargain!), spread with red pepper houmous (currently on offer for £1), carrots, cucumber and spinach.

            Since the start of the challenge, I have spent only £9.60 on food. I was lucky enough to come back with a few supplies from Glastonbury, so the stocks are good at the moment. You can bet I’ll be stretching every last penny because I’ve got a major incentive for doing so. My future happiness depends on budgeting successfully, and I don’t believe that’s an over exaggeration.

Cheap and cheerful

The end of my time at University is creeping ever closer, but I’m not fretful. As much as I’ve enjoyed myself throughout these past three years, I know it’s time to move on to the next stage. The job hunt has begun in earnest and I’ve started browsing online for affordable flats. Those are my most important objectives for this summer; income and shelter. I’m trying to remain within budget for the remaining months I have left in Winchester, as it would stand me in good stead to have money in the pot when I move on. I have saved over the years, so money for deposits and preliminary rents is not a primary concern. But I know I will need cash to furnish my new place, buy suitable uniform for my new job and possible travel expenses too.

In order to keep adding to this saving fund, I’m trying to make my money last as long as possible. The food shop is controlled, but not so much that I’m missing out on vital nutrients. I have cut down on other areas of my life as I see fit. I’ve been relying on the library rather than buying (albeit second hand) books. I try to only buy one magazine a month, not four! And I’ve taken a long hard look at my cosmetics box.

I’m not one for make-up. I probably don’t spend more than £5 a year on the stuff. But I do like my hair products. I could spend a fiver on a bottle of shampoo quite readily. I decided this would be a good area to reassess, so I spent a grand total of 49p on this beauty.

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I went for the baby shampoo, as I thought it would be more sensitive for my hair. I have long, thick hair so I was interested to see how this Basics bottle would hold up to my normal brands. I have been genuinely impressed. My hair is just as shiny as previously, and stays looking fresh until my next shower. You do have to use more of the product than I would normally, but for the price, it’s no hardship. I was comfortable using the Basics baby shampoo because of its against animal testing logo. It was clear that care had been taken with this product, and I appreciated that. It’s made me think about what other branded cosmetics I use, and whether I truly need to replace them when the supplies run out.

 

What value range beauty supplies do you use? Any tips for a recent convert?

Frugal Fridays #18 – Online Grocery Shopping

I would deem my recent online shop with Asda to have been a success. I stayed within my budget, I selected a range of good value products and everything arrived without a hitch. After this experience, I would say that a large, online shop at the start of each month is beneficial to those of us living a thrifty lifestyle. I’ve compiled a post featuring my top five reasons for this. I do hope someone out there finds it useful.

Efficiency; You get what you need and only what you need. As long as you can resist clicking onto certain sections, the lure of temptation is far less. It’s a lot easier to ignore the siren song of unnecessary products when there are out of sight, compared to being blindingly apparent throughout conventional supermarkets.

Sticking to a budget; When I did my Asda shop, I was pleased to see a running total as I added each item into my electronic trolley. After I factored in the delivery cost, I had a clear view of my budget and how close I was to reaching it with each purchase. It was also easy to remove any items I no longer required, instead of walking across the store to return them.

Comparing items; I always want to get the best deals possible. By seeing the items on screen, I could judge which ones where the best value. I didn’t have to traipse up and down the aisles, squinting to see the £ per kg labels. For me, it also helps that I could see the ingredients list at a glance, rather than scouring the packet for the information I need.

Time-saving; All of the above points help to save time. Now, I’m normally willing to sacrifice a couple of hours to get a good job done. But by having access to all of the information, alongside a running total, my shop took less time than browsing a supermarket with a calculator in hand.

Also, it would have taken me two trips to my local supermarket to buy the same amount of groceries I did online. I don’t drive and I couldn’t physically carry £30 worth of produce. No time was spent travelling to and from the supermarket.

Variety; Like I mentioned, I don’t drive, so I’m somewhat limited to my choice of supermarkets. There is the big Sainsbury’s and . . . well, that’s it in practical walking distance. I could get a bus to get to Waitrose or Tesco, but by the time I’ve paid for a return bus fare, it’s more than the delivery cost from Asda.

By shopping online, I was able to get a variety of products. I’ve mostly relied on Sainsbury’s for the past two years, so it was pleasant to get some different items. I was delighted to see how reasonable Asda’s vast range of Free From products is. I’ve never had gluten-free cous cous before!

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There are, naturally, downsides to online shopping.

  • At Asda, you have to spend a minimum of £25 plus delivery, which is a considerable outlay.
  • You don’t get to browse reduced stock.
  • You don’t get to choose your own loose fruit or veg, so you are reliant on the integrity of the shopper.
  • Substitutions are offered in place of certain unavailable items. I was lucky this week, receiving 4 pints of milk instead of the 2 I ordered. But I have seen this go the other way.

Overall, I think a substantial top-up shop at the beginning of the month is a good idea. It gives you a chance to fill the cupboards with supplies you can fall back on towards the end of the month. Shopping online every week is out of my price range and my needs. I don’t get through £25 groceries every week. But I can see how this would be a valid option for families.

What do you think of online shopping? Yay, or nay?