Forging a new path

It’s Day One of my latest spending challenge and already, the goal posts have been moved. The Friday night takeaway is no longer applicable and I added the remaining change from my purse to the pot. So I set off to go shopping yesterday afternoon with £17.37 for the week.

I have become increasingly aware of the damaging nature of the meat industry and fear for the ecological future. I have decided to live as sustainably as I can, within my means. A book has triggered my new mindset, more about which in a future post. Even though my budget is minimal, I will be buying local, free-range, sustainable, organic produce where I can. Also, I’m avoiding waste like the plague. I’m making the most of every scrap, so I can make the most of higher quality products.

In Sainsbury’s on Sunday, I bought:

  • SO caramelised onion chutney
  • Tin foil
  • Reduced Black Farmer’s Daughter chipolata sausages
  • SO bananas (6)
  • Reduced Free From Gingerbread man (a snack for me and the chap whilst shopping)
  • Toothbrushes

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The reduced sausages were a great buy. The label reads “British Outdoor Bred Freedom Food Pork.” What more could one ask for? I bought foil, which is not environmentally friendly, but I’m not perfect, goodness no, I’m just trying to do my bit to help the planet. And yes, organic Fairtrade bananas are more expensive than regular Fairtrade, but not by much, and the whole idea is less food of a higher quality.

I then visited Waitrose to get my free coffee (Fairtrade!) and pick up supremely delicious milk. Less than 20p extra compared to Essentials, but I think the flavour is noticeable. Plus, it’s a donation to charity as Duchy is affiliated with the Prince’s Trust.

You might think I’m mad (the chap does!) spending more on food when I could get similar items cheaper. But it’s not just about the money. Personally, I would rather cut out television and instant internet access than nourishing food. It’s starting to feel illogical to live any other way.

I spent a total of £10.77 on my Sunday afternoon trip, as I also purchased a Basic chopping board with the intention of using it solely for meat. I have £6.60 in my purse to last until next Sunday.

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PS This is why eating up the stores is so much fun – my Sunday lunch; GF ciabatta from the freezer, drizzled with garlic oil, topped with the last of the Cornish cheddar, accompanied by carrot batons with the last of my previous jar of chutney and cucumber. Pudding was the last of the packs of finger cakes from last week’s afternoon tea. All raided from the stores but felt very decadent!

PPS: Today, Monday, I have spent £4.40 in the greengrocers and local co-operative. I have £2.20 left.

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 . . .

Flat Number Five

Friends, I have made it to the other side. After a lengthy day of exertion, three of us managed to move my worldly possessions into a studio flat in Southampton. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this outcome.

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Choosing to live on your own immediately after graduating is not a simple path. But it was always destined to be the right one for me. After other options were discussed, this was the direction that I was drawn to the most. I wanted to live by myself due to many contributing factors, but this choice is not without its sacrifices.

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Luckily, water and gas central heating are included in the monthly rent, but I still have a hefty council tax bill to deal with every month. There is no roommate in which to fall back on – it’s up to me. I have to pay a round pound coin to the little box under my kitchen counter in order to continue using the electricity. I cannot afford to own a television and personal broadband is a luxury beyond my means. So I will go without.

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But this is no true hardship. In a sense, it very much appeals to my thrifty nature. I’ve always enjoyed budgeting and such, it’s just now the stakes are higher. I like to see how much electricity I can use before adding another coin. I’m writing to you from the local library, who offers free use of their internet for up to two hours five days a week. I’m reading more and dancing to the radio every chance I get. Just because I don’t have a Sky box leaking money in the corner doesn’t mean I am in any way deprived.

The cooking is yet to begin in earnest, but I have batch cooked a Bolognese for hot meals this week. I’ve also saved some vegetable water with the intention of making soup on my next day off. I can see much of my free time being spent in the kitchen, it’s my favourite place to be. And besides, I have a freezer to fill!

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I’m off to battle the rain and continue with my chores. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the week.

Over and out

After a bout of ill health that has struck me this week, I could not be more relieved to be disappearing on a jet plane later on this afternoon. The chap and I are off on our hols, and about time to if you don’t mind me saying so. This summer has been a struggle, a truly turbulent time when I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going from one week to the next. I plan on spending this next week abroad doing all of my favourite things, including eating, practising yoga, exploring historical sights, drinking cocktails and reading. Then, on my return, I can at last get down to the serious business of finding a permanent base and setting down my roots. I’ve been longing to feel settled and content for awhile now, but I know that sensation is right around the corner. 

But for now, I’m going to indulge in some R&R and ready myself for the challenge ahead. We’ve been saving for our holiday for awhile, so there is no harm in a few treats. But the lunch boxes are packed and magazines have been borrowed instead of bought; it makes no sense to completely forgo frugality for the sake of it. 

Wishing you all a lovely week and I shall return soon.

A balancing act

My sincere thanks go to Declutterbug for nominating my humble blog for an award. I’ve been so erratic with posts lately, I’m sure I don’t deserve such praise, but thank you so much for the nomination.

I’ve been living in Southampton for a month and I thought things would get easier after payday. But I have been scuppered with unforeseen expense that have forced me to constantly adjust my budget.

I now have a spread sheet detailing my food shopping lists for the next four weeks. They are all based on the system of rationing that I am so enchanted with. This scheme was organised by the best nutritional scientists of the age and their recommendations still correlate with healthy eating advice today. I bought my first allocation of weekly rations on Monday, but I’m already running into difficulties.

The main reason I return to wartime rationing is that it helps me to eat health food on a budget. I went to the beach yesterday and had a glorious time. Ice cream wasn’t rationed during the war, but was rarely available. Not healthy, not cost-efficient, but I still ate it.

Dried fruit and nuts was rationed as part of the points system, but how do you calculate the points value of a 30g snack pack?

My housemate bought 9 eggs as they were the cheapest to buy, but says she won’t use all of them within the “use by” date. They have become “house eggs” and I’m free to use however many I want. Surely no member of 1940s society would have turned down free eggs?

I am facing certain challenges whilst trying to stick with my rationing guidelines, but I think if I ensure I don’t eat more sweets than my ration, and stay within my money budget, I think this scheme will be beneficial overall.

Pros and cons

The best thing about living near the high street is the vast array of shops and not having to rely on one supermarket. The worst thing about living near the high street is the vast array of shops and not being able to rely on one supermarket.

            In my past life in Winchester, I would make a weekly pilgrimage to the giant Sainsbury’s nearby. I also knew what to expect, I could plan accordingly and I had to take or leave what was there. Occasionally, I would purchase items from stores in town or the farmer’s market, but most weeks, a single trip to Sainsbury’s was all I needed.

            Imagine my delight when I ventured into my new playground. That’s the best thing about living in a multicultural area, you get to purchase great food! There is also a charity shop every few paces and fantastic independent retailers selling everything under the sun. Stock changes on a daily basis and you’ll never know what’s going to be on offer at the greengrocer’s next. All of this is just a mere stone’s throw away, but that is where the conundrum lies. It’s far too tempting to pop into the shops when essentially, I don’t really need to. Products may be cheaper here, but I still have a budget.

            The first strategy I have employed is to stop carrying money. I had a snack, a water bottle and a fully charged mobile phone in my bag for work – there was no need for cash. This will stop me darting into shops at that perilous time of the day when I’ve just finished a shift and my tummy is rumbling.

            The next technique I plan to try is getting my cash out for the week and when it’s gone, it’s gone! I know several thrifty people who use this idea, and I’m going to try it out myself. That way, I can still enjoy touring the high street a couple of times a week, without overspending.

            It’s the balance of want and need and spend and save that I need to get accustomed to in this new environment. Got any tips? I would love to hear them.

Frugal Fridays #19

Moving to Southampton has been a costly affair. What with paying for the rental of the van, contributing to bills within the house and purchasing the necessary garments for my new job, my allowance for July has gone down shockingly during these past four days. But I have a wealth of frugal knowledge to call on, most of it gathered from a glorious selection of blogs. I know how to make the most of what I’ve got. So I was feeling confident as I stepped out to do my shopping with only £7.29 in my purse.

(I would like to throw in a disclaimer here to say I do have extra funds available if I ever did seriously run out of food. But this is a good chance to challenge myself.)

My first stop was the greengrocers, a new discovery of mine. The high street has an excellent greengrocers, stocked with all of the fruit and veg you could ask for. I made my selections carefully, making the most of the reduced section and came out with this haul all for £2.04! I handed over the exact change gleefully. I know I will become a regular customer at this shop.

My next destination was the huge Sainsbury’s at the end of the high street. Although it poses a menacing figure over the local shops and establishments, the area is still thriving. There is only one boarded up place along the entire road. So I didn’t feel too guilty about popping in to pick up some essentials.

I stocked up my cupboard with lots of Basics products. The rice packets are destined for lunch boxes, along with the tuna and sweetcorn. I know I can make good use out of everything I bought.

And one more trip on my thrifty shopping outing – to the library! I registered with the local library the day after I moved in and I’m so pleased I did. There wasn’t enough space to bring large supplies of books with me, so I’ll still be able to get my reading fix, for free!

In total, I spent £5.99. I came back with enough food to last me the week and two books to boot. A very successful outing, if I do say so myself.

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.

And so we keep on writing

I have attended my last formal class at University. In truth, it was a tad disappointing. My lecturer was forced to cover another class, so we were permitted to leave after only half an hour. A shame, but I did spend the next couple of hours chatting with dear friends.

Although classes have finished, my University experience isn’t over yet. I have two assignments to be submitted after the Easter break. This period after Easter will also be filled with lots of social events. Graduation takes place in October, so it will be autumn by the time I close this particular chapter.

But, until then, I have plenty to be getting on with. Now we are on holidays, I can increase the intensity of my job search. I need to have the guarantee of secure employment before I can commit to a new home. I can admit, I’m very much looking forward to living by myself for awhile. As much as I adore my housemates, the thought of having an entire kitchen to myself can only be compared to paradise. I cannot comment on long term plans, as there are too many ifs and buts to contend with. As it stands currently, I’m seeking a suitable job and flat to allow me to remain close to the chap. Yes, moving to the parental home is the most lucrative option, financially. But I know in my heart of hearts that such living arrangements would make me miserable.

So I’m taking the difficult route, but this path isn’t foreign to me. I know I can take all of the knowledge I’ve gathered at University, academic and domestic, and employ it correctly during the next stage. The margins and budget might be smaller, but hopefully, my happiness should be greater. I plan on making the next chapter just as successful as its predecessor.

Priorities

After my research last week led me to new realms, such as vegetarianism and veganism, my taste buds were altered. I was experiencing major fruit cravings. The odd apple every so often wasn’t enough to quench my appetite. I needed a serious fruit kick.

I took some of my precious allowance to the produce section of the supermarket and filled my basket. Over the past week, I’ve dramatically increased my fresh fruit intake and my body has responded wonderfully. I have more energy and more readiness to go outside to run. My skin doesn’t look as pale as it once did. And after a day where fruit featured heavily, I felt satiated. This was something I had previously been struggling with; never quite feeling full.

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I spent most of January surviving on whatever was cheap at the supermarket. I can see now that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients to remain healthy. I can’t go back to that, not after feeling such benefits. So, I’ve made a decision about increasing my budget. Dramatically. I have doubled my monthly budget to £200.

Of course, this will mean I won’t have a stash available to me after Uni. But, there will still be some left over. And I’ve realised that living now, and living healthily now, is a matter of high importance. My health should come before trying to save money. However, I’m not going to use my increased funds as an excuse to not be frugal. I’m still going to be hunting for bargains to the best of my ability. And this money is marked for fresh, healthy food. Not extras, like books and unnecessary clothes.

£50 a week is the sum I used to live on during first year. It feels apt that my finances have come full circle in this, my final semester at University. The relief I feel confirms to me that this is the right choice.