Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Charity Begins At Home

Some of you may remember my earlier post titled Care in the Community in which I mentioned recycling that could benefit the community.  I still take my papers to the Community Centre recycling bank but now I am in an organised  frame of mind I wanted to combine decluttering with recycling whilst knowing it is benefiting somebody.  Normally, any unwanted clothes go to a local charity shop but I have since joined a local group on Facebook (you may have them in your area too) where you give away your unwanted items and people ask to be added to be in with a chance of winning your item.

I know charity shops do a fantastic job and I do still give to them, but for me, I wanted to know if my things would help somebody within my local community.  I would sooner give away stuff to a local family in need of it.  Not only that, by doing this, I am getting to  meet some fantastic people from all generations who really are truly grateful for what they are given, and likewise, I too have had things that I have needed.  This little group has brought a lovely community feel back to the area.  This has not happened overnight but the impression I am getting is that people are talking again.

Take Saturday for example, somebody posted that a keyboard was needed asap as her son had to learn a song that week for school. I can fully empathise with children telling you they need things at the last minute. I didn't have one but knew Unthrifty Sis did, and hated it.  I told her the story and would she be willing to lend her keyboard to someone whom she had never met.  She jumped at the chance.  Not only did it benefit the lady needing it, but my sister was able to off load an annoying item and now had an excuse to do so.  The lady was very appreciative and promised to return it a week later to which Unthrifty Sis said it didn't matter as she could have it.  Two people very happy thanks to this local group.

I sorted some of elder 2's clothes last night.  They think if they wear it more than once to go out in, it is no good.  Hence, my airing cupboard  is bulging at it's hinges.  Some stuff is brand new and that will be going on Ebay.  The rest will be given away.  I uploaded a few photos and by 6pm everything had gone.  The clothes had gone to good homes and I was now able to see a little gap in my airing cupboard.  It was a win win situation.  I'm off now to sort out a bit more.  I'm hoping to get round to tackling my bookcase in the near future but I seem to have more of an attachment to books than to clothes. Although, as you can see, it does need sorting!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Whoever said Sunday is the day of rest?

Today feels like the longest day ever which is a good thing really as I've been able to cram loads of things in. 

Firstly, we'd organised a trip to Cheshire Oaks outlet village early on in the week as we are due to go on holiday shortly for Hands On 40th birthday.  Hands On, like myself, is not a great fan of shopping and don't very often buy ourselves new clothes.  Yet with the holiday looming, going away with silicone stained work wear is not going to be a hot look.  We decided on Cheshire Oaks as we went about 8 years ago, and at the time seemed a good place to get decent clothes.  But they were the days before thrifty frugal mindset had taken hold.  We traipsed the shops, gasping  how expensive things were, got annoyed at the over-crowdedness of it all, and yawned through boredom of trying to find summer clothes in winter. After 2 hours of this, Hands On managed to buy 3 t-shirts and pair of boots. Mini A got a couple of t-shirts and a hoody.  I, on the other hand, could not even be bothered looking for myself.  I shall be taking what I've already got. 

However, I did come across a kitchen shop and suddenly I wasn't so bored.  There were so many things I would have liked to buy but asked myself, do I really need it?  Beautiful cake stands, fabulous pans, etc. No, I don't need them.  I then spotted a steak knives set.  It was crying out to be bought.  Do I need them? Yes!!  Saturday night is steak night (takeaways are out, so the cost of a few pieces of frying steak from the butchers still works out a lot cheaper) yet trying to eat steak with a blunt table knife is pretty hard going, so I indulged.  They are rather pretty.  Hands On couldn't see how knives and forks could ever be pretty.  I have to disagree!

Back home, it was still early enough to make the most of the rest of the day.  Hands On pottered about and I set about clearing some more junk.  I've started looking around my house and asking myself :

A: Do I need it?
B: Have I used/worn it recently? 
C: Can somebody else make use of it?
D: Can it be upcycled? 

These 4 questions are helping me not only declutter my house but also my mind.  Sorry if I'm sounding a bit weird but when my house is organised I feel organised in my head. I've got a firm grip on my finances so now one of my next challenges is this.   I've given myself the task of doing a little each night and bit by bit I'm getting there.  It's almost therapeutic in a way.  One thing that did get the chop was the television in the bedroom.  We couldn't remember the last time we watched it and it's only purpose was to gather dust.  That will be put on Ebay and that's another electrical item less in the house.

After doing that I've prepared tomorrow night's evening meal, Beef and Guinness Stew.  So simple and I already had the ingredients in so that is simmering away nicely.  Peeled the potatoes to accompany it so that is all done! 

Now I'm off to bed to finish Northern Lights by Philip Pullman otherwise known as The Golden Compass in film form but a lot more exciting, and surprisingly deep, for a young adults book anyway.  Another challenge of mine is to tackle my enormous book collection (books are my weakness) and then I can pass them on and make room on my poor overloaded shelves.   So I read a little in bed each night and not only does it help me unwind but I'm also still doing a little bit of tidying up in a way which ensures me a good night's sleep.

What do you do to unwind?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Frugal Halloween

I was determined this year not to spend any money on Halloween costumes for Mini A.  Too many times in the past have I searched Ebay and Amazon for good costumes only for the kids to wear them once.  They are then discarded to the back of the wardrobe never to be used again except for anybody who bought them from the charity shop I donated them to.

We never make a big deal of Halloween, something else that is far too commercialised, but Mini A's dance group are having a party and she wanted something different to go as.  Rather than the usual witch, vampire, skeleton...yawn.. we decided for a head in the jar.  I came across this idea on Pinterest and it does look really effective.

However, no matter how good the intention if you haven't got the materials it ain't gonna work, and since the party is on Friday that doesn't leave me much time to get everything.  Believe it or not plastic bags were needed, tons of them, and because I always use my 'bag for life' I didn't have any, or a man's trench coat, a large shirt of Hands On wasn't big enough and the jar kept getting steamed up.  After much thought and deliberation I decided, as brilliant as it looks, it is not going to be very practical for a party.  Time for plan b, if I knew what plan b was.  For weeks I had in my head what I was going to do but it was my own fault for leaving it 2 days before the party.  Time to rummage. 

I came across a faux fur very long pillow case.  I cut a head out and slipped it over Mini A's head.  Next I cut out 2 arm holes and cut it jagged at the bottom.  Yes, you've probably guessed...a cavewoman...not very imaginative I know but when time's not on your side you have to make do.

With the left over material I cut out 2 circles and cut a little hole in the middle of each.  This is for Mini A to put her feet through and the material will fall over her boots.  I used an animal print scarf for a belt and the last remnants of the faux fur to make a headband.  Getting into the spirit of making the costume, Mini A came up with the idea of having a bone necklace to finish it off.  I made the dough and let her get to work.

I know the costume isn't brilliant but we've had a fun night making it, which is what she will remember in years to come and that's something money can't buy!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Keeping An Eye On The Pennies

That's another £31.25 saved per month, might not seem a lot but it all adds up.  The grocery bill has been sliced almost in half, we all take packed lunches to work and school so I was trying to see where else we could save money.  I know exactly what direct debits are coming out of my bank so I decided to scrutinise Hands On current account.  He's brilliant with his hands but when it comes to organising monetry matters he's not the sharpest tool in the box.  With having a mortgage, we know we have to have life insurance, which was coming out of his bank, but there was another direct debit not accounted for.  After searching the documents folder I found we had 2 life insurance policies for exactly the same thing.  I forgot that in January he was sold another policy but forgot to cancel the existing one.  The new one was over £6 cheaper, but I could kick myself for failing to notice this as it is £312.50 that could have have been spent (or saved as the case is now) elsewhere.  

Wanting to get this sorted asap I phoned to cancel.  But not before checking http://www.saynoto0870.com/ .  This site is my new best friend as it has a huge database of companies that use these 0870, 0844, 0845 etc etc numbers and it tells you the geographical dialling code, and sometimes freephone numbers.  I definitely recommend trying it as it will save you quite a bit in telephone bills. It angers me that more and more companies are resorting to these numbers to squeeze even more money out of Joe Public.  By the way, always dial 141 before dialling the new geographical number.  Some firms have even resorted to not answering calls if they know you have dialled this.  Fight fire with fire is what I say.

Also, the home insurance was due for renewal this week.  After spending some time searching for alternatives I found one that was £34.72 cheaper than my original provider.  Furthermore, because my money management skills are becoming a lot sharper we have managed to pay the amount in full saving a further £11.22.  It might not be much but, as the saying goes, 'it's better in my pocket than in theirs'.

Finally, another money saving tip that has been working for me is not to throw all my loose change in a jar.  In the past it has always been too easy to pay for everything with a fresh clean note.  '£2.56 you say, here have a fiver.'  Now I rummage in my purse for the exact money.  Sure it takes a little longer at the checkout and you have to put up with some disgruntled customers behind you and the cashier gives you an impatient, exasperated look when you hand over a load of small change but so what, it's legal tender and my notes get to stay a little longer in my purse.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

What a difference 5 weeks has made!

Well, that's it..catalogues gone, furniture bill gone, credit card gone and overdrafts paid up.  We are finally in the black and out of the red (nothing in this game for two in a bed...for all of you that remember Jim Bowen's Bullseye on a Sunday afternoon).  However, my joy was short lived when I realised I am still in debt... by a massive £57,000...the mortgage.  I know, by a lot of people's standards that is not a large amount but I want shut.  So that is my next goal.  I'm not setting my sights too high just in case I don't achieve it, but, if I can have it paid off by the time I'm 45 I will be more than happy.  That leaves me just over 8 years to do this. 

It's surprising how much can be saved when you scrutinise your finances and manage your money accordingly.  However, not everything has gone swimmingly.  The washing machine died on me early on in the week which meant paying out on something not accounted for.  However, due to having an emergency fund, the housekeeping budget has not been touched and rather than give these big stores our money (my husband's words, not mine - see I told you my frugalness is rubbing off) lets have a look on Ebay.   I know there is always a bit of risk when buying second hand electrical goods, but £100 for a washer that is only 10 month old seems to be a gamble that has paid off.  We collected it 14 miles away from where we live, the machine was immaculate and the lady even wanted one of our business cards should she want any work doing in the future. 

Hands On (who I shall refer to from now on) husband promptly had the old one whipped out, new one plumbed in, and a testing wash on the go by the time I had tidied away upstairs. So what better way to reward him than by baking his favourite Victoria sponge..oh, and I also made some gingerbread.  That and the fact I had bought myself 2 cake stands today for five quid from the car boot sale and I didn't want them to look naked in my kitchen.  I know it's supposed to be Stoptober, but with saving the money from the washing machine  I gave into temptation and splurged out a bit.  That will be it for a while.  All in all a very good day :)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Eat Well to Keep Well

This blog has been the kick up the backside I needed to alter the way I live.  I didn't intend it to be like that, it sort of just happened. I have always cooked and been careful with money but feel now this has stepped up a whole new level.  As well as wanting to reduce my debts, I am cooking everything from scratch (just the name of them famous golden arches makes me feel a little bit sick in my mouth) and I love passing this knowledge and enthusiasm onto my husband and children. Although, it has taken a few weeks to sink in. After reading Frugal Queen's blog about how much she spent on takeaways I realised this was another area where money was being spent needlessly.  

 I decided to use my poor unsuspecting family as guinea pigs for an experiment to show how much money can be wasted on takeaway food.  The first week I banned all takeaway, but going cold turkey only made them crave it more the second week.  So I then decided to let them have a takeaway whenever they wanted whilst also offering the option to cook something.  They chose takeaway.  Thursday had become takeaway night simply because it is payday. Friday because it is the end of the working week.  Saturday lunch because I work and nobody could be bothered cooking anything, and Saturday night because they didn't have time to wait for something to be cooked.  This was all well and good...until the Monday.  A whopping £54 had been spent on junk which left almost nothing for the rest of the week.  When asked why there was nothing (i.e. treats) in the cupboards this was the reason why. It is paying off as I have noticed a significant turnaround this week - they have not even mentioned eating out at all and have started to show an interest in what dish I am going to serve up next.  I made them homemade fish, chips and mushy peas courtesy of  a recipe from Frugal Queen (again) http://frugalincornwall.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/fish-and-chips-twice.html and even Mini A cleared her plate.

 I've also been making sure everyone takes packed lunches to work and school.  The butternut squash soup that I batch made on Sunday has been used for eldest one to take to work a couple of times.  The rest of us have taken sandwiches or barm cakes which I purchase on a daily basis from Heron Foods as it's only round the corner from where I work.  I often read on other blogs about doing the weekly shop or ordering in bulk but I like to shop daily as it works best for me, I work in a small town, walk to and from work so only buy items I need for the day as I have to carry them home.  Also I  have access to the 'short-dated' box, this week I have picked up- eggs=30p, single cream =5p and barm cakes= 10p all because the use by date was in a couple of days time.  This little lot would be well gone by then.  I avoid supermarkets at all costs and use Heron, my local butchers, delicatessen and market for all my food needs.

 I've still a long way to go (if I want to look half as glamorous as the lady in the picture) as I am spending a large amount in the kitchen at night, not leaving much time for anything else, so need to get more organised there. But knowing my family are being fed properly and I'm saving a packet in the meantime only has to be a positive thing, hasn't it?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The downside of being an optimist and Butternut Squash Soup!

A bit of an oxymoron but as the title suggests being an optimist can sometimes have it's downsides. When I started this blog I had a couple of ideas in my head of what I thought would interest people but it has done more than that.  My whole lifestyle is altering through being inspired by other people's blogs, becoming more self aware and also learning something new every day.  And that is where the problem lies.  I have always set myself goals which I must admit, have more or less reached but when I don't reach them I feel disappointed, as though I have let myself down somehow.  I have all these ideas swimming around in my head, of new achievements I want to accomplish, of things I want to do and areas in my life I want to organise but where are the days going at all?  I've only just realised how long it is since I last posted. Something else I feel guilty about. But never one to be down for long (I'm far too busy for that) I want to share some of the things I have been doing this week.

As you know I love my market produce and 2 butternut squashes at 50p each I wasn't going to leave, likewise with a bag of 7 onions at 50p.  I have made Butternut Squash soup in the past but it is only through reading other blogs and the mention of batch cooking spurred me on to do the same.  We had this for supper on Sunday (fed a family of 5) and still enough to fill 7 ziplock at 250ml bags for the freezer.  Below is the recipe for the amount I made of butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 litres of veg stock
  • salt and pepper

  1. Peel and dice the butternut squash (I always find butternut squash so hard to peel)
  2. Put oil in the pan and add the onions until softened.
  3. Add squash and potatoes and cook for a minute.
  4. Pour in veg stock and cook until squash and potatoes are soft.
  5. Blend until smooth.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This was served with homemade bread made from my little breadmaker, which is turning out rather nice thanks to Cumbrian's recipe (see comments on Help Needed From Fellow Bread Makers).