Monday, 27 February 2017

Thrifty Times :: February Update

Hello Lovely people,
I'm back taking about  money (well my attempts at saving it) today. It's a slightly odd feeling as it's not something I usually share here, but I had so many great and helpful comments on my first Thrifty post HERE I thought I would carry on with a monthly update.

I've got quiet a few random photos so I'll explain those first and then record some other money saving and waste reduction ideas I've been trying.

First up is food storage. Lately I've been keeping more fresh food in the fridge. My fruit bowl now only contains bananas. With apples and citrus fruits kept chilled to last longer. I'm really pleased with this more green tangerines :0)

I did start putting my potatoes in the fridge too, but apparently that's not advisable so I had to stop.

Moving from the fridge to the freezer. I have a large upright freezer that I inherited from  my Nanna. I LOVE it. She had it to store all the produce from Grandad's allotment.
I use it to take advantage of offers on both frozen and fresh food. I also stock up on bread for the week at supermarket prices. Here I've divided a loaf to freeze half for later.

My freezer is great for bulk cooked items too. Last week we enjoyed crumble made with free berries the boys were given back in July.

There's still some left too.

I've also been making an effort to meal plan. This is not like me, but having an idea of what the main meals are going to be for the coming week makes it much easier to shop efficiently and avoid buying things we don't need. It makes me look in the cupboards, fridge and freezer to check if we already have things before I go shopping as well.
 In fact I've been trying to base the meals on ingredients we already have, or trying to think of low cost, healthy meals.

Here I was using up half a red pepper and a glut of eggs to make an omelette.

It was lovely with a jacket potato and some salad

Wednesdays are often baking days for me. I'm at home and I make something oven based for the evening meal (usually jacket potatoes) , and add a cake....or in this case two.
 Here I was baking for a friends bake sale, but I want to try more batch baking and cooking as well. It makes sense time and energy wise.

While we are on the subject of baking I've discovered Aldi's flour is a bargain compared to my usual purchase (45 pence for a 1.5kg bag) .

 I've been shopping at Aldi and my usual Morrisons this month. Trying to make savings is a bit of a frustrating thing sometimes. Change is not always a success. Nobody comments on the change of bread or flour...but try and swap the ketchup...yikes! :0)

I will persevere though. Savings on the grocery bill will help our budget. Lots of small savings will add up. Well that's what I hope.

 I love nuts and seeds as a healthy snack, but they can be expensive. The cheapest place I've found to buy them is Home Bargains. I make up a big container full and then take a small pot to work with me most days.

I'm gradually getting a more frugal mindset. We don't like strong tea, so why did I always use a tea bag in every cup? Much better to make two cups from one bag for hubby and I. I also only boil the amount of water needed...that's been something I've always done.

Also on the subject of drinks, we have found Aldi's Pure squeezed Orange juice , and from concentrate apple juice to be as good as the branded varieties I bought before. In the past we had this with most meals and the boys would raid the fridge for it between times as well.
 As Pure juice now has a bit of a bad reputation for the sugar content I'm sticking to buying less as well. Another saving...and better for their teeth. Water or milk is always available.

In the bathroom I've been looking for ways of saving and reducing too.

 Have you ever noticed that the cheaper (and often the expensive) Bubble Bath comes in a bottle with a wide neck, meaning you glug out more than is needed? I have kept a bottle with a small, squirty nozzle, and I refill that.
 Again the bottle on the left is an Aldi basic version we like.

Are you bored yet? I do hope not :0)

Here's a tip I read online for making bottle of liquid soap last longer. Place a small elastic band ( I used the sort you get on a bunch of Daffodils) around the narrow part of the plunger.
My boys were getting through a large bottle a week, and while I'm glad they wash their hands I didn't like the rate we got through this stuff and the amount of waste plastic it created. Now a bottle lasts two weeks.

My next experiment will to be to refill this bottle with the bubble bath I showed earlier. Apparently it's a popular money saving trick...and there will be less plastic waste created. I know we could go for bar soap...and I may still try that in the future. 

Also in the bathroom I've been carrying on with my usual home hair dying. I just use semi permanent colour to cover my increasing amount of grey hair.  

Of course this is much cheaper than salon prices, but I do need to cover the bathroom in old towels to avoid ruining every surface :0)

One of the great suggestions in the comments of my previous thrifty post was to write down everything I spent for the month. This was such an eye opener and gives me a record of our spending, along with highlighting areas I need to try and improve.

The main non-household essentials expense I had was my car. It had it's yearly service and MOT, so that, along with the fuel costs made it stand out as a big expenditure. As it's 10 years old it also needs some work that I'll have to pay for in March. I really need it to get to work so I can't consider getting rid of it at the moment. It just highlights the fact that we need to start saving for replacement vehicles if we want to avoid expensive loans in the future though.

All the thrifty efforts this month have meant that I have managed to pay off the credit card debt from Christmas. So whilst I haven't managed to start saving yet It's a good feeling to know that's gone. 

I've also gone through all our direct debits and repeat credit card payments and managed to end a couple of those. I feel annoyed with myself for being lazy about this before. One was for product support on a laptop that's been defunct for years. It was hidden in my credit card statement ( or rather I did not study it properly). In the end it was so easy to cancel by just phoning my bank. 

I think the most effective change I have made this month is using cash. Withdrawing a set amount each week and knowing it has to cover the weekly shop and other incidentals really makes you think about what you really need....want some half price Roses on the 15th of February? 

No thank you.

I'm slowly adjusting to the new normal. I always like to find a bargain and it feels good to waste less money and resources. It's just sometimes little purchases do cheer you up, but I know that's short lived and having savings for emergencies and to fund bigger projects will make me happy. I guess I'm just impatient for that to happen.

In March I want to do more decluttering ( spring cleaning and all that) and maybe even try and sell a few things we don't want any more.
I also need to try and get a better deal on our house insurance which is up for renewal at the end of the month.
I'll keep writing meal plans and hopefully spend less on groceries, without sacrificing quality.
I also want to use my bread maker again. Maybe it's not cheaper than bought ( I will try and work out the cost) but it is tasty and has less additives.

The dishwasher will only be used once a day and I'll try not to use the tumble drier now that spring is here...please play ball English weather :0)

Jacquie x

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Snowdrop Time


 This morning eldest and I set off on a Snowdrop finding mission, because I just can't get enough of these little flowers and he is happy to come along.

We headed to Calke Abbey as we have done THIS walk before.

Eldest seems to be getting broader across the shoulders...and skinnier everywhere else.

Dimminsdale nature reserve was formerly a  stone quarry.

From the pools you climb up.

and further up.

before descending down a wooden path. I was so happy that the sun had come out that I may have run down these boards.

because I knew we were very close to this, and I wanted to see them in the sunshine.

This little hollow did not disappoint.

 I love the natural setting and the backdrop of the fallen tree.

A carpet of white.

Happily the sun continued to shine and we walked a little further.

 More sweet little snowdrops greeted us. They looked so pristine and perfect.

Ha, I took loads of failed attempts to get a snails eye view.

But it was worth it to get this.

 There was one more area with a mass of flowers to swoon over.

Then, as quickly as they started, they ended.

Further along the footpath we did see little shoots and wondered if they might be a later variety of Snowdrop?

Here we crossed a road and climbed uphill.

 Through more sunlit winter woodland,

 We loved this view

Lovely Oak trees

If I walk this way again I may well recall the conversation we were having as we walked along. The view reminding me of a forgotten memory. Does that happen to anybody else?

 The young oak trees here were still clinging to a few leaves.

and the catkins were a jolly sight.

Here our walk took us back into the Calke Parkland.

The house looked pretty in the sunshine and as we still have National Trust membership we decided to take a look in the gardens. Happily they are open again after the winter closure.

This sheet in the stable block made me smile. It was a good day for drying ... but as my washing machine is broken at the moment there will be none of that :0(

It's a lovely approach to Calke Abbey.

but the gardens are situated away from the house.

How perfect is this.

I suppose there were formal gardens close to the house in the past, and this area was part of the kitchen gardens.

We loved this display of snowdrops.

 Each with a label, as they are all different types.

Who knew there were so many?

The tiniest...awww.

There were several different glass houses.

So, despite the lack of flowers, there was plenty of interest.

We loved all the old tools and equipment on display here, not to mention the blue walls.

 Eldest loved the tunnel we found.

which led to more snowdrops :0)

But it was time we headed home.

I hope you enjoyed our four mile walk today. Thank you for coming along.
Jacquie x