Saturday, 1 August 2015

Not helpful

Something came up in my Facebook news feed this morning which has become typical of the current social media mentality - "25 Ways to save a fiver with the Cash Queens" from the Mirror website.

Unfortunately, there are no great moneysaving ideas there at all - just a list of various things you can now purchase which are £5 cheaper than they used to be.....not helpful to folk with limited resources to get through the summer holidays!

Thank goodness for some really good bloggers who do give us ideas about serious money saving and thrifty ideas - look back at the Queens post of the other day, and check out my sidebar of blogs that I love!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Gardening in the Fens

 Just because I wanted a photographic record of how my garden is growing at this point in the summer, I mooched around the garden late this afternoon and took some pictures on my phone.  It then took about three times as long to transfer them to my laptop......enough said about that!

Just to "keep it real" here and show you that not everything is great, the courgettes have got the lurgy. They are perhaps the worst courgettes I have ever had the misfortune to grow, and the leaves are covered in this horrible black stuff, which UJ reliably informs me is the poo of some insect. Lovely. The courgettes themselves are edible, but strangely bumpy.

The Ferrari French/dwarf beans are doing well and I had a good harvest off them today. A little sit in the sun armed with a pair of scissors and they were topped and tailed and ready for storage in the fridge [for this week] and the freezer [for the winter].  

We do have wildlife in the garden - some of it pretty!

Tomatoes ripening up nicely. Probably Gardener's Delight but UJ gave me the plants and he couldn't quite remember. They taste good!

Peppers in the greenhouse. A dozen plants from Aldi, growing well. Three large peppers are already in the fridge and there are more coming along beautifully.

Raspberries continue to ripen.  We lost a lot in the damp weather as they just rotted off before we could pick them but these look like they will make it from plot to plate nicely!

A few self-seeded runner beans are winding their way around the old swing frame again. The ones I actually planted around a wigwam are not doing quite as well - typical.......

These are six really special tomato plants. They were self-seeded from some tomato plants I had in one of the veg beds last year. UJ potted up these plants and put them in the greenhouse until they got big enough to put out and now they are flourishing.  They were Sweet Million, I think.

And my gorgeous sweet peas.  I have to go out there to inhale their lovely scent several times a day.  Love it!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Another Queen?

I'm sure you've met Frugal Queen, and then there's MeanQueen, but are you aware of the Budget Menu Queen?  I've been following her over on Facebook for a little while, where she pops up occasionally.  This week she has shared a week's worth of recipes, provided a shopping list and costed it for four supermarkets [Aldi was the cheapest] which I think could be really useful for a lot of us - me included.....

Can I confess?  Our food is lacking inspiration lately!  Lack of time and that inspiration has meant that the YFG and I have been eating from the freezer and fridge, in a rut - I grab sausages, chicken, fish occasionally, and I serve it with a heap of veg, and that has been that.  We have had risotto, baked potatoes, beans on toast [for her], scampi and chips [again, for her] and even, in dire emergencies of no time at all - rice and jam!  And no, that isn't rice pudding and jam but just plain boiled rice and a good dollop of jam........not often though, and probably better than ordering in a take away, so I am not feeling TOO bad about it.

The EFG cooks for herself now that she is a vegetarian, as even when we have a veggie risotto, she doesn't like rice!  She has become more adventurous than I ever thought she would, and has embraced lentils, chickpeas, black beans [not too keen - too much wind produced!] and all sorts of other stuff like halloumi which was beyond the realms of our experience a few years ago.

So, I have to give myself a bit of a kick up the behind and get some of the recipe books earning their keep - especially with two students to feed from the end of next month.  Between the Budget Menu Queen and Feed your family for less than £20, I am intending things to improve around here......

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

End of the month offers

Well, not so much offers as temptations, I think.  I have noticed over the last couple of months that around this time, my internet pages are littered with advertisements for "payday weekend" offers in the shops.  It seems that the retailers realise that most of the month, people are being quite careful about s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g every penny but they hope that when the bank accounts are topped up with the wages, they might hope to part us from some of that hard-earned cash with a tempting treat or two!

We aren't falling for it here, and I doubt that you are, too, if you are the kind of person who comes to read my ramblings!

I said yesterday what a spendy month we have had, but every expense has been planned for or seen coming!  When I look back at the month, I have spent a heck of a lot of money [for me] but it has been careful spending, not treat spending and certainly not reacting to some adverts!

For example, the oil purchase was done after careful monitoring.  Monitoring of the usage of the oil in the tank, so that I knew how much we were using each month, and was able to roughly estimate when we would need more.  We don't actually Need more yet, as I would estimate that there is still about eight  months' worth of oil in the tank at summer usage rates, but we are coming towards the autumn and winter when usage will increase, and we have to also keep an eye on the cost of the oil itself.  I'd been tracking the prices, and was confident that the prices were good enough to make the purchase now. They may still drop further, but being of a cautious nature, I was satisfied that they were low enough!

There is no way that I would have just got up one day and said, "Hey, let's order some oil!" the way that the advertisers seem to expect us to say, "Hey, let's spend a grand on a new sofa!"

Planning, tracking, monitoring, saving - some of my favourite words!!  These are the words that are keeping us out of the red and firmly in the black.

Monday, 27 July 2015

A thrifty kind of day

We've been waiting around for the plumber to come today to install the shower over the bath for visitors/guests/girls ie anyone other than me!  It will be a boon to not have other people traipsing into my ensuite shower room.  He was planning to be here mid-morning, but that turned out to be plumber-speak for noon in the end, and then he was sans shower.....the plumbers' merchant hadn't unloaded it so he came and did some of the pipework and will come back in the morning to install the actual shower.

Frugal? Yes - more showers and less baths, I hope, and the money has been set aside for some time, so no debts incurred in the process.  He is taking the water from the hot tank so there is no expensive mile of cable to wire in an electric shower either.

I had to take the Skoda for its MOT this afternoon.  It passed - thank goodness - but the mechanic did make a comment about the miles on the clock: over 165000!  She's going very well and all he could find fault with is some corrosion on the silencer, and some weird wear on one of the tyres, which I shall get checked out this week at the local garage.

Image result for black Skoda fabia 05
(image from powerflex.co.uk)

Frugal? Yes - keeping her going another year is saving me money yet again!  This lovely old banger is doing remarkably well for her age, and mileage, and I shall do whatever it takes to look after her and keep her on the road for another year. I had the cam belt changed in January and we think she's good for another few years at least.  I feel safe in her, which is worth a lot to me.

I dropped the car off and walked the half mile into town and I spent 95p on a stamp to send in the girls' bus pass applications.  And that is all.  I actively avoiding mooching around the shops by going in to the library and reading for half an hour - and then I picked up two books to check out and bring home to read for the week.

Frugal?  Not spending money and then borrowing two books from the library? How could it be anything else!

Supper is all thought out too - beans fresh from the garden and corned beef hash.  Tinned tomatoes from the stores, onion, pepper from the greenhouse, potatoes from the garden.  Home-grown less only metres from the stove so it has got to be fresh and frugal!

I am looking forward to the end of this month as it has been an extraordinarily spendy month and I am planning on a super-saving August!


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Money to burn

I don't like seeing my money go up in smoke, so the news that home heating oil had hit a five year low, according to Boilerjuice, was fantastic news.  I can remember paying over 60p a litre for the precious stuff, in the past!  

Image result for oil tanks
(image from mkoilboilers.co.uk)

This week, the price dropped to around 32p a litre, so it was time to stock up!  I have been watching the prices tumble for sorme weeks and day after day, the price had dropped. Then, it seemed to start to waver, with some days' prices being higher than the day before, so I decided to bite the bullet and order 1000 litres.  I also told an older lady at church about it last night - she doesn't use the internet and when she runs her oil down, she just rings up and gets more delivered, so I thought it was worth mentioning it to her. She didn't think she had room in the tank for her usual 800 litres, so I did encourage her to think about getting 500 litres whilst the prices are low.  She was glad I had told her, so I was pleased I had thought to mention it to her.  I know that she doesn't haggle with the oil company the way I do because she hasn't got the ammunition from the internet, so she just pays whatever they quote - whereas I saved £30 on the original price that the local company quoted by being able to say what I could get it for from elsewhere.

Image result for woodburner
(image from telegraph.co.uk)

We have lots and lots of wood stacked up in the woodshed and the workshop - the "proper" logs are in the woodshed and the rougher stuff which is chopped up bits and pieces and pallets, is in the workshop. The rough stuff gets the fire going and then the proper logs hold the fire in, especially if we are nipping out for an hour or two, or I want to keep the fire in longer overnight, perhaps to get some washing dry.  The good stuff cost me £80 for a load earlier in the year, and there is still half a load of last year's there, so we will be using that first.  We don't stack it around the wood burner like this picture, though!  Next thing will be to organise the chimney sweep for the annual brush-out of the flue.  That was £30 last year, so I am hoping that that cost hasn't gone up too much either.  Got to be done, though.

The realisation that it will be August next week makes me wonder where time is going but I do like Autumn, so I am sort of looking forward to September in a way!  However, I am trying to make the most of Summer whilst it is here, and I am looking forward to all the flowers opening on my sweet peas this week and putting on a good display!  

Hope you all have a blessed Sunday xx


Friday, 24 July 2015

Our weekend away

 This write up has been a long time coming, as I have had to wait for the EFG to download and send me the pictures from her camera, and then we had to negotiate who was going to use which photos on which media sites, which then left me with a few to choose from!  The EFG shares some on FB with her friends, whereas the YFG puts hers on Instagram.  You get to see my choices here!

We spent a lot of the mornings watching these little chaps charging around the area, nicking the toast that the neighbours had put down for the birds, and being generally very inquisitive! 

The caravan park is beautiful, and the YFG and I went for a walk on the Saturday afternoon, when we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a muntjack deer in the undergrowth. Sadly, by the time that the YFG had got the camera out and worked out how to get the lens cap off, it had jumped off into deeper cover!  The squirrels just seemed to love to pose in contrast to the more timid deer.

We went to Sheringham on Saturday, and enjoyed mooching around the shops and what was left of the market by the time we got there. I bought a couple of cheap secondhand novels to read, and the girls bought odds and ends.  We headed along the coast road to Cromer later on, and nipped into Morrisons for provisions as the shop on the site is rather expensive.  

Sunday morning we didn't move very quickly at all and it was lunch time before we got going!  We went back to Cromer and walked around, and got caught in a rainstorm on the pier.  I had a lovely chat with a lady with two small children as we hid from the rain under some cosy shelters on the pier. She was telling her children that they probably wouldn't go to the beach baptisms that night if the rain carried on, so I thought I would ask a couple of questions about that - full immersion baptism in the sea sounded exciting!  It turned out that she and the family had just moved to Cromer in April, and only from Peterborough - they loved Cromer so much and were spending so much time there that they thought they would move there!  What a great sense of adventure.  The children were excited to be living right by the beach and having their first holiday-at-home by the sea!  I have to say that I was a tiny bit jealous....

After the rain eased off a little, we went back into the town towards Mary Jane's fish and chip shop - the best in Cromer.  The YFG had the traditional fish and chips but the newly vegetarian EFG had to settle for onion rings and chips.....

An evening back at the caravan and we all settled down to relax.  The EFG and I both did some knitting whilst we were away, and I read some books - it was very relaxing, and I loved it!  I can completely understand the lure of the holiday home industry there as I would snap up a country retreat by the sea if I could afford to buy it, and had the time to nip away a couple of weekends every month.  Not at the moment though!  Now that we know that the site caravans are so well maintained and reasonably priced out of season, as well as having secured information about the one that my Dad and MB had stayed in, we shall definitely be going back.  Highly recommended x