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.

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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.

The wanderer returneth

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see the WordPress “New Post” interface on my computer screen. It feels like it’s been too long, which of course it has. I handed in my completed dissertation on time and to the best of my ability. I shall bear that in mind when I finally receive the mark back – I know that I tried my best. Since then, my attention has been occupied with other assignments, as well as various social outings to celebrate such a momentous stage of my University life. That life will soon be over, but I’m determined to fully enjoy my last few months as a student.

This was just a quick post to announce my return to the blogging world. I shall now proceed to browse around various blogs and catch up on all that I have missed. I may not be able to leave comments on every single post, but I will be reading through the archives to familiarise myself with my favourite sites.

Hopefully, I shall return to more frequents posting as soon as possible. It feels good to be back in the saddle.

The best course of action.

Important decisions are not easy to make. If something’s worth doing, it’s going to take both time and effort to complete it properly. The art of balancing is what I think University life is all about. It’s a complex period of negotiating your time between work, play, family and friends. The past two and a half years of my learning here at Winchester all culminate in a final assignment that is worth the biggest proportion of the final grade. The dreaded d-word: dissertation.

For my creative writing degree, this takes the form of the opening chapters of a novel, alongside an essay describing your own writing process. It matters, this piece of writing. It’s a daunting prospect to a novice writer like myself. 10,000 words seems impossible right now. So I’ve made the decision to focus entirely on my dissertation. I need to put in 100% effort if I want to achieve the grades I think I’m capable of.

I will be taking a blogging break commencing now. I shall hopefully return by mid-March, once the dissertation deadline has passed. I hope my kind followers will stick with me through this break. I’m not leaving my blog permanently, just for a short time to concentrate solely on my degree. I’m sure you understand.

Best wishes to you all.

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?

Less is more

Blog reading is one of my favourite past times. It’s entertaining to be allowed an insight into previously unknown realms. I follow a variety of blogs, many of which are a fountain of knowledge on a broad range of subjects. I know my cookery skills have developed after picking up hints and tips from different sites. I’ve also been inspired to try new craft projects after seeing the results posted online. But I’ve not had my outlook on life altered by a blog before. It has been an enlightening experience.

I clicked through to Just a Little Less from another blog. A post on minimalist food first caught my attention. But after further delving into a back catalogue of posts, I begun to appreciate the message the writer conveys. I know that I have too much stuff. There are moments where I wish I could pack my essentials into a suitcase and everything surplus would just disappear. It’s not that simple, and living with less does require some effort. At least I could give it a go.

I started with my jewellery collection. Most of it was unworn or basically tat that I had accumulated. I spent about an hour or so sifting through the good, the bad and the ugly. I re-packed my chosen pieces into one, single jewellery box. It was incredible to see the amount of stuff I’d willingly separated myself from. Why had I been hanging on to it all?

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I decided to take a step up for my next de-cluttering endeavour and opened the door to my wardrobe. I don’t think I’m the worst for hoarding clothes, but I am aware I have too many. And yet I only regularly wear a handful of them. I emptied the wardrobe and laid the garments on my bed. I decided only 40 items would be returned to the closet. I will admit, I started with 33 in my mind, inspired by Project 333, but couldn’t quite stick to that. Still, after the clothing cull, I had filled up two generous carrier bags. They, alongside a bag of jewellery and a few other unwanted oddities, are ready for the charity shop.

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I have re-discovered forgotten treasures in my wardrobe. I now get to conjure up new outfit ideas to get the best from my 40 items. I would encourage this method to anyone trying to downsize their own wardrobe.

Thank you, Just a Little Less, for furthering my desire for a simple, minimalist lifestyle.

The art of eating

I’ve been really impressed with the latest series of Food and Drink. It’s the only cookery show extolling the virtues of budget cuisine. And they mean what they say. Not declaring a meal as purse-friendly, and then pulling out crabmeat or sirloin or the like. Too many TV chefs do this, in my opinion. But Food and Drink has been refreshingly different so far this series. For example, guest chef Tom Kerridge served a lamb dish that was accompanied by broccoli stalks. Frugal cookery at its finest.

Later on in Episode 2, Arabella Weir raised an interesting debate about poverty and healthy eating. She made some very matter-of-fact points that I personally agree with. On the other hand, Kerridge came across as out of touch. He said, regardless of budget, we all care about where our food comes from. I’m not making a personal comment when I say that this sounds like the chef has never felt true hunger. If you’re only having one meal of the day, I doubt you give two hoots about where in the world your supper came from. Naturally, we’d all like to make the right choices, but if it’s a decision between dinner on the table or not, there is ultimately one answer. As Arabella argued, what keeps you full for longest at the cheapest price? The sad truth is junk food. But education and knowledge is pivotal, and I think Food and Drink is doing a grand job at providing such information.

One of the best ways, I think, to eat well on a budget is to bulk buy. Thanks to my recent boost of funds, I have ventured down a new path. For the very first time, I’ve completed an online shop. And I must say, it was awfully exciting. ASDA provided some competitive prices where their gluten-free produce was concerned. It was also nice to get some variety after being mostly dependant on Sainsbury’s for these past three years. £30 worth of groceries will be whizzing its way to me on Monday. I shall inform you what I bought and my first experience of online shopping then. It will be wonderful to have the cupboards full once more.