Thrifty Ways


Frugal Friday

Keeping to a budget and eating healthily ( part #3)

We are following the principles of the Eat Clean diet by Tosca Reno at the moment. When I first looked at starting this diet with my family I was a little daunted at the prospect of how to incorporate this into our daily lives. We eat as a family. I have never been a parent who cooks separate meals for different members of the family. What is for dinner is for everyone. If someone chooses not to eat it , then that is their choice - there is no other choice on offer. I am not saying I think it is wrong to offer alternative, just that I don't have time to be cooking various meals each day.

So , although my children aren't following the detailed diet principles to lose weight on this plan, they are eating the healthy Clean Meals and I have cut back on some of the more sugar filled items in the larder for them to snack on. 

In some ways it was a ridiculous time to start a new eating plan. My cooker had just been cut off , leaving me with a microwave, a narrow, one shelf electric oven and a one ring induction hob. However, it has been simple - lots of one pot meals and salads, baked potatoes and steamed fish - easy. I am missing having batch baked meals stored up in the freezer. I find this is one of the easiest ways to keep the budget down and save myself time. Hats off to those of you who cook fresh every day - I find it relentless. My new mission is planned leftovers - I have to have a couple of easy cook nights a week.

These are the changes I have made to help me on my journey to eating clean:

  • I make a batch of cakes and/or biscuits at the beginning of the week. (If I had a freezer I would freeze half- roll on new kitchen!). I know what I am putting in these compared to not knowing the quantities of sugar hiding in most shop ones. I have made some with limited sugar and some cookies from Tosca Renos cook book which are sweetened with honey.
  • I make my own bread so I know this has minimal amounts of sugar in. ( 1 tsp)
  • I have stopped buying cereal that has any sugar listed on the ingredients. I have made some homemade granola ( even the "healthy" granola in the pretty packets has sugar in it at the supermarket). 
  • I've been trying wholemeal pancakes with the children for breakfasts - sweetened with some maple syrup.
  • I am using more olive oil for cooking with.
  • I have switched white rice for brown and pasta for wholemeal pasta. The children are coming round to the taste. I find mixing the two a happy compromise.
  • I am including more fish in my meal plans.
  • I have introduced the idea of planned leftovers to give myself a day without cooking from scratch. This replaces the days I used to have my batch baked meals from the freezer. I can't wait to go back to this.
  • We are eating more fibre. An interesting addition during the first week - fairly smelly in the Appleby household!

Week 1
Week 2
Mexican chicken and wholegrain wraps with salad
Frittata with new pots in skins and asparagus
Roast chicken roast veg/pots tray, steamed broccoli
Roast beef, roast veg/mini pots/sweet pots/butternut squash/steamed veg
Steamed cobbler fish, brown rice, asparagus
Chicken and bean one pot with rice, broccoli
Spaghetti bolognese with wholewheat spaghetti
Turkey bolognese with wholegrain wraps
As above with veg
As above with wholegrain pasta and salad
Turkey lasagne and salad
Poached cod and olives  with baked pots and veg
Poached salmon baked sweet pots salad
Egg and home made chips/sweet potato chips with peas
I think the thing I have tried to keep in mind is that any step along the way is positive. I could go totally organic and shop at only whole food shops etc, but I do need to keep my budget down. With any diet you can be quite radical and restrictive, but with a family it is hard to do this so I am trying to be sensible about it . There are meals and recipes that suit us and our lifestyle that I have adjusted slightly and continue to cook. It is all about balance. However, I do feel strongly about cutting out sugar from our diets as much as possible. I have a child who has some health issues and who is hyperactive - sugar is a huge trigger for these issues. It is hidden in so many of our every day food stuffs - see here.

Here is the recipe of the homemade granola. Breakfasts are a hard one to get right. Cereals are so full of sugar. I have been offering my children wholewheat pancakes - I got an electric pancake maker which is so easy to use and makes fabulous pancakes. 

Clean Granola

2 cups rolled oats
I cup rye or spelt or other flake
I/2 cup flaxseed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup bran
4 tbsp oat bran
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup walnut pieces
4 tbsp unpasteurised honey
2 tbsp honey
spices - cinnamon, ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup chopped apricots
1/2 cup of dried ( unsweetened) blueberries

  • Line two baking trays with baking paper
  • Place oats,rye,bran,flaxseed and wheatgerm on one and seeds and nuts on the other.
  • Bake in the oven at 180 degrees until browned. Give the trays a shake to ensure even browning.
  • Combine honey and coconut butter over a low heat and add spices - keep warm.
  • In a large bowl combine the cereals, nuts, seeds and honey mixture.
  • Spread the mixture back onto the two baking sheets and bake for a further 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Allow the granola to cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container.
See my instagram feed for photos of the granola and breakfast muffins.

Here are some photos of my wholewheat pancakes made on my electric pancake maker!

Eat Clean wholewheat pancakes

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013

All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.


Keeping to a BudgetAnd Eating Healthily ( Part 2)

Frugal Friday

As I said in my last post on this subject - two of my favourite topics rolled into one!

Eating Heathily

I mentioned previously that we have been following  Tosca Renos Eating Clean diet.

Tosca Reno - Eat Clean

The reason behind this was twofold. While, on the whole do eat pretty healthily and I cook most of my meals from scratch, we were becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of sugar we consumed without even realising it. My husband also wanted to lose some weight that he had gained through being unable to exercise due to a damaged muscle.

The Eating Clean principles see you cutting out processed food and sugar, and adding in as many natural food elements as possible. You eat a lot more protein  than you would naturally do. You are also encouraged to eat 6 times a day to keep energy and metabolism stable. This is the biggest change for me. I could easily eat porridge for breakfast then go all day without anything before crashing at 4pm and eating toast and jam. Not good!

Do you realise how many items contain sugar ? Do what I did and go through your cupboard and look at the ingredient lists of the sauces and cereals you have. You may be a little shocked - as I was. Sugar features in everything. Here are some interesting articles on processed sugar.

If you want more details of the plan have a look at her site here. It makes very interesting reading. Basically the longer you spend in the fruit and veg aisles and the longer you spend buying products that look like they did at the beginning of their journey ( pre processing) the better you will be doing.

My husband has lost just over a stone so far. I would say he has been doing this seriously for about a month. He is still unable to exercise. The loss has been through the eating plan alone. I am hoping that it will help me with my immune system and my health as I return to teaching too.

Keeping to a Budget

However, my dillema of course is how do I keep my budget down and still maintain this healthy lifestyle? We are a family of 5 so our food bills could easily run away with us. Despite this I have realised that just because we are eating healthily it doesn't have to cost lots more. The only item I find increases my food bill considerably is meat so I am careful about how much I factor in. Fresh fruit and veg does not need to cost the earth and can be a useful filler of stews and soups. I have found a local bulk supplier of my nuts and seeds which keeps that cost right down. I think sometimes we feign horror at the cost of some healthy foods, yet we don't hesitate when throwing a multi pack of crisps or biscuits in the trolley without a second thought to the cost. Just a thought.....

Can we put a price on our health?

The kids are embracing the meals, but to be honest they eat anything that I don't lock away so that doesn't surprise me! 

This is what I have learnt so far:

  • Plan your meals
  • Protein doesn't have to come just in the form of meat
  • Plan to have leftovers that you can use for meals the following day.
  • Buy items such as nuts and apricots in bulk . SO much cheaper.
  • Find reliable local suppliers of meat and veg. They may not be organic, but are as good as, but cheaper. The organic standards are quite high and some suppliers just haven't been trading long enough to meet the requirements - thats all.
  • The tinned and whole foods asiles are eating clean havens and not expensive. Black bean curry with wholegrain rice - yum.
  • Buy organic on the things that matter to you and that you can afford. 
  • Make reasoned, sensible decisions.
  • Cut back on/out the expensive unhealthy snacks, more money for the good stuff!
  • Make your own healthy cakes, snacks, granola - cheaper and you know what's in them.
A lot if these principles I was following anyway. I think the biggest changes have been:

  • The removal of sugar from our diets
  • The increase of protein and wholegrains
  • Eating more often and regularly
  • Smaller portions ( for hubby!)

Have you tried the Eating Clean Plan at all?

How do you continue to keep your food budget down and yet maintain a healthy element to your menus?

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013
All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.


Keeping to a Budget

AND eating healthily.

Frugal Friday

Two of my favourite topics all rolled into one!

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will be aware that I like a bit of a bargain me! I hate to pay over the odds for things. 


I don't think so - just wising up a bit in my old age to how quickly the old dosh slips through the fingers when we don't think about how we spend it. 

I like to have money spare to spend on clothes, make up, holidays etc and this only happens if we are accountable in other areas .

One of the main areas of expense ( as I've said before) in our house is 


I try and shop wisely so my family can eat well and we don't over spend each month, but there is constant temptation to buy cheap when it is available. However this of course doesn't always equate to quality and I always try not to compromise quality over price.

We are trying to follow a few of the EAT CLEAN by Tosca Reno principles at the moment. I juice regularly anyway as I find this keeps my energy levels up, but for health reasons we are trying to eradicate some other elements from our diets.

Tosca Reno

This often means buying products that are more expensive and organic and obviously the consequences are that cost goes up.

At a time when we are paying out on building works I can't really afford to allow the budget to run away with us. SO to accomodate our changes in diet these are the things I find help keep that budget down.

  • Shop in bulk for items such as nuts and wholegrains - this works out soooo much cheaper in the long run.
  • Shop in bulk for the everyday items such as toilet roll, fairy liquid, soap, washing powder etc
  • Spend money only on the things that really matter to you for organic produce - e.g meat and a delivered box of veg
  • Check in advance for deals that are coming up on produce at Lidls and Tescos.
  • Use every voucher you can get your hands on. I plan on doing my first Sainsbury delivery - to get a £12 off!
  • Shop in bulk and store items that you use regularily when you see they are on offer - again this saves you money in the long run.
  • Be inventive with veg - not every meal has to have expensive meat in. Protein is in many things other than meat.
  • I would say batch bake ( but I no long have a freezer - boo hoo)
  • Plan, plan,plan - shopping lists and meal plans - then there is little waste and you only buy what you need. 
  • Get the kids on board with the planning and the cooking. They are more likely to eat what's on offer if they are involved ( and the clearing up - unpaid of course - this is their house too and they should contribute... did I say that out loud?)
My budget each month for food and household essentials was hovering around £400. We are buying more organic items and fresh fruit to juice. I am spending about £50 more at present. This still keeps me below my £500 threshold that I don't want to go over. 

I know some families who feed their brood of 8 for less than I feed 5 and others who marvel that I spend "only" £450. I suppose it comes down to what you are used to spending or what you are prepared to spend. I know I could spend less, but I don't wish to compromise on the quality of what I feed my children or eat myself. I could feed more meat (other than mince) and the budget would go up an awful lot, but they are good eaters and are happy with meals bulked out with sweet potatoes, veg, lentils and the like. They love big home made soups and rolls and are beginning to cook again every Friday too now. My son did us a chicken mexican in wholegrain pancakes last week - yum yum. I'm not sure we will get such adventurous meals now my gas hob is out of action though. 

My cooking is being done on this induction ring and a microwave at the moment!

Do you include organic produce in your menus or do you think it is a waste of money?


Frugal Friday


We probably would all confess to liking a good deal.

Spending money and shopping is not frowned upon in our house,quite the opposite, but doing so without getting the best deal is looked upon as a waste of hard earned cash. 

However, eventually the questions do begin to arise about where we draw the line between getting a good deal and keeping what we value intact.

 I think the majority of us over recent years have learnt to make the most of our money, whatever financial situation we find ourselves in.

I do find I have this constant struggle in me of the tensions that arise between getting a good deal and keeping my values intact. Life with kids is expensive and if I can cut costs I will, but there are lines I won't cross. However, sometimes I find I have compromised what I value all for saving a few pounds.

Consequently there are times when I choose to pay more.

Do you find that? 

These are the questions I find I wrestle with.

I know for us , and this will be different for everyone, I resent overspending on food items, children's clothing and branded homewear.


Groceries have been in the news constantly lately with the arrival of 'the horse' in many products. I must confess to wondering if our constant need to have all our shopping in one place at a cheap price has driven a part of this . I almost always get our beef and now chicken from a local farm shop as I know it is a superior quality and is the same price or in the case of the mince cheaper. The chickens are free range and I can get two for £10.99 when they have an offer on. 

Sometimes we need to be clearer with ourselves about what we really want. 

What is the most important. 

Is is cost?

 Is it quality?

 Is it both? 

Do we have to have our groceries all in one place?

 Do we buy it cheap because it is cheap or would we drive further, pay more for better quality meat, from a British supplier? I know I went to my usual butcher to buy my usual bulk order of mince and he had sold out as so many people had been switching to buying from them since this "horse" scare. People are changing the way they shop. The only meat left was way out of my price range, but as I am a regular he knocked £10 ( yes I did say £10) off a £23 pack of mince for me. I also got pork and apple , beef steak and 2 free range chickens for £10. I have been known to be drawn into paying less for chicken that is not free range even though I place importance on happy chickens , sometimes this value slips.

 Children's clothing 

 How often do I pick up a cheap pair of jeans and then find two weeks later they have gone through at the knee? However when the same happens for the pair of £20 jeans I realise my money is better spent on one nice outfit for best and cheaper outfits for play. The dilema that then rattles around my head is - how do they make them so cheap? 

Are children making my children's clothes?

 I hate spending loads of money on kid's clothes, especially for my boys, as they get wrecked, but also want to check where they are made. If we pay more are we ensuring good working conditions? Not always. It is good to check your source if this is important to you. I constantly slip on this through busyness and tiredness and needing to find an item quickly.  

 Branded Home wear 

This is a no brainer for me. I resent paying for a product with a name when I can create a cheaper copy that is unique. However, quality items that are more expensive because of their workmanship I can understand. It is an item by item approach for me here. I will not buy a product simply because it has a "brand" name, but neither do I immediately discount it. I find it is sometimes more practical to spend that bit more of a solid item that simply lasts longer with kids around - branded or not!

Having said all this, one of the reasons I shop at Lidls is because I find if you keep an eye on what offers they have coming up you can pick up your favourite "branded" goods for so much less than you pay at other supermarkets. Yes, you have to be flexible, but I would bulk buy when I can to make a saving on a favourite product. This applies to toiletries too. Today there were Simple face products, Lynx shower gels and sprays ( which my 12 year old has developed a liking to), branded tampons, Nivea, Sure, Dove - all at heavily discounted prices. It is definitely worth a look on their website. 


It just takes a little planning. 

What are the questions you wrestle with when trying to keep to a budget?

What is your most important value when shopping- cost, quality, availability etc?

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013
All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.


Keeping to a budget....again.

We have a had a lovely week of fresh Spring sunshine . Bitterly cold still when walking along the sea front, but I can handle that with the sun on my face. It has been just glorious having the children home from school with no sickness and the sun shining. It  makes all the difference doesn't it?

However, I always find despite my best intentions, having the children off always bumps up the budget, mainly for food!

 I don't spend a lot on taking them to paid days out. We spend enough on their sports clubs during the term times to be doing this as well. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the country where we have entertainment that is free of charge within minutes of our house. The children are members ( £9 a year) of our villages tennis court which is 3 minutes from our house. We have a full size football pitch 2 minutes from our house. The park is at the bottom of our road. The beach is a 5 minute drive away. The list continues. We enjoy these "free" activities to capacity before spending on expensive days out.

I  find I get to this time of year, the sun peeps out and suddenly I am yearning after new clothes and fresh decor and plants for the garden. For some of us it just seems to be in our nature! I am always planning and scheming about the next thing.

Fortunately this year I have our extension to keep me occupied, but usually these are some of the things I keep in mind to help me stick to a budget:

  • I ask "Need" or "Want"
  • If "Want" then wait and save for it.
  • Plan, Plan, Plan. I enjoy a spend so much more if I have planned it in, decided what I want and am saving for it.
  • How will I "feel" next week if I buy this today. Sometimes we buy things for that quick , instant feel good factor. That wears off. Avoid emotional buying.
  • Walk away and think about it.
  • Don't go into the shops you love if you know you shouldn't spend.
  • Don't deny yourself all the time. I find this ends up with you "falling off the wagon" and having a big splurge. It is better to have a reasoned spend from time to time than constantly deny yourself the things you like to do. ( As long as you can afford it)
  • Write down what you have spent each day- it will shock you how the small purchases add up
  • Take out your "spending money" each month in cash. That way you won't be tempted to just "pop it on the card."
  • Don't take your credit card shopping with you.
I think there is a whole other blog post on "Emotional Buying" in there somewhere, that if we were honest a lot of us have struggled with at some point and at times probably still do. 

How do you deal with the temptations of new Spring clothes, fresh decor, booking a nice hot holiday, treating the kids when they are home etc etc.........all within a budget?

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013
All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.

Dead Ringers

If there is one thing I have learnt about being frugal and careful with the money we earn, it is you don't need to give up the styles and trends you love.

120aShabby Chic FurnitureThe White Company Bathroom Toiletries

However, neither do you need to pay the inflated prices for brand names to get the look you are after. There are so many "dupes" and similar styles on the market now to our well loved popular brands that you can easily replicate the look you want with a little effort and know how. This applies to clothing and home decoration, although today I am talking about home styling in the main.

So often all you are paying for is the name.

When I am making a purchase I always check the quality. Just because you are buying a well known brand will not always ensure you are getting quality - not always.

Although I am not a huge fan of her overly floral items, Cath Kidston is of course top of many people's lists when it comes to home styling.

 However, this budget does not suit many a pocket. 

Cath Kidston

There are so many different fabrics and designs on the market now for a fraction of the price that you can easily replicate her , floral, shabby chic style, at a fraction of the cost. You will of course be unique in doing this as your choices will not simply be a copy of everyone elses Cath Kidston decorated home. 

The other option is to pick a few items , maybe some bunting, or a couple of cups or a jug and leave it at that.

I find taking a look in a fabric shop is a source of great inspiration, even if you don't buy. I picked up some red spotted UPVC table covering for under £5 at my last visit. This happily covers my kitchen table and looks Cath Kidstonique enough for me, but I certainly didn't pay the prices.

Charity shops are also a great way to pick up a few unique items , especially pretty jugs. I even found a Cath Kidston plate for £2.50 in our local store. Yes, I did buy that one!

 I also love to browse the local "junk" stores or auctions. You can pick up solid wood furniture for next to nothing and treat this to a simple makeover with a tin of paint and a bit of wax. Before you know it you will have a unique item that would have cost you £100s if you had purchased in a well known shop. Give it a go - it is so satisfying! Start simple , like a mirror or a picture frame. 

Painted wooden mirror

I often will purchase pretty toiletries to display or give as gifts that have the look of a more expensive brand, but at a fraction of the price. I do check contents, but to be honest often the difference is the packaging or name and not a lot else.

Orla Kierly like hand cream

Cath Kidston like Bath Soak

I must admit my preferences for home decor tends to lean towards clean lines nowadays. I love greys and whites, slate floors and granite surfaces.I love the White Company and the palette they use. However, apart from the decadence of some bedding I have tried to replicate their style in other ways. I would choose plain sofas adorned with a variety of cushions of varying shades of a colour palette rather than the country cottage look , pretty though it is. I purchased these slate grey kitchen canisters from Tescos for our new kitchen ( yes I know it hasn't been built yet) as they are so similar to the Rowen and Wren ones, but again a fraction of the price. 

I also love seaside themes, and the blues and pale pastels this introduces. Can you tell I am getting excited about styling our new rooms? I just need to go through the pain of the building first!

What are your home styling preferences?

How do you go about getting the style you love for less?


Frugal Friday - How to cut that budget!

Fact 1:  We all have to eat. 

Fact 2:  We all would like to spend less at the supermarket.

Fact 3: We are all busy and running about like headless chickens most of the time!

So here is a reminder of some of my tips for cutting the budget further.

  • A bargain is not a bargain if you did not want or need it in the first place.
  • Do not get dragged into 3 for 2 offers , without checking other prices first.
  • Drop a brand on your everyday products .
  • Buy in bulk ( unbranded goods can be really good quality and value. eg £5 for a 3kg bag of rice)
  • Check out prices at your butchers for meat - they are often cheaper than supermarkets. ( Tesco supermarket butcher is also cheaper than the pre packet items. e.g free range chicken for £5)
  • Write a menu plan and a list - stick to it.
  • Batch bake meals. This means you have meals in the freezer and you don't need to shop as often.
  • Shop online. You are less likely to impulse buy.
  • Don't shop when you are hungry.
  • Try a cheaper supermarket e.g. Lidl or Aldi. Shop for a month if you have to drive further.
  • Stockpile products you usually buy when they are on a good deal.
  • Make your own bread, pizza bases, rolls etc
  • Check online sites for coupons and vouchers everytime you shop.
  • Organise yourself - this saves panic buying last minute.

One of the things I have learnt about trying to be careful about how I spend is the last point in this list. I have to be organised. It is so easy to spend more if you don't plan and organise your spending and your time. I wrote a post on my daily organisation yesterday and have a few posts coming up explaining some other aspects of the way I get organised over the next few weeks.

On another note, a lovely reader did point out to me very sweetly this week that sometimes it is easy in our quest to save money on our shopping to forget those things that are important to us. Sometimes holding fast to our principals does mean spending a bit more occasionally and there are times when this is definitely worth doing. It is not all about the pennies! 

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013
All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.
 Frugal Friday - Chicken in Breadcrumbs

 My kids love these chicken pieces and it is one of those meals that I do as an alternative to the shop freezer meals . They are inexpensive to make. I got my chicken from Lidls this time - 100% British and less than £5 for two packs. This made enough for a meal for five and a sandwich snack for the boys the following day. One pack would be plenty for a family of four.


Small chicken fillets 
Olive Oil


Place the chicken fillets inbetween two pieces of greaseproof paper and bash knock gently with the end of a rolling pin ( or similar) . They need to be fairly thin ( about 2mm). 

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and season with seasalt and a little pepper
Place the milk in another bowl.
Dip the chicken in the milk, then dip in the breadcrumbs until evenly covered.
Lay on a baking sheet until all are done.

Warm a little Olive oil in a pan , add the chicken a few at a time and fry gently on each side until brown and cooked through ( about 3 mins each side). 
keep warm in the oven until all pieces are cooked. You can wipe the pan between each turn if you wish.

Serve with fresh veg and mash in the Winter or salad in the summer months.

You could grill these with a dash of olive oil if you didn't want to fry them .

Yum. Also gorgeous in homemade rye rolls with crispy lettuce and tomato chutney.

Design ©2012 Another New Day 2012 - 2013
All personal images are owned by Another New Day
unless stated otherwise.

Images may not be downloaded,manipulated or reproduced without prior written permission. All rights are reserved.
Commercial or Private use without explicit written consent is prohibited and action will be taken through UK and worldwide copyright laws.


Frugal Friday

The months of December and January are probably our most expensive months of the year. Christmas, followed by numerous birthdays, in addition to some large yearly bills mean our account is drained alarmingly quickly at this time of year. Thanks goodness for budgeting and planning ahead!

So January is a month for getting back to it.

Not only do our finances take a battering, but my freezer supplies were depleted over the Christmas holidays to the point where I have nothing left in reserve other than a pot of beef stock and some breadcrumbs.  

So as soon as the children were back at school this week it was back to batch baking each time I cooked a meal. As I have said before I could not cope with the busy lives the children lead without having meals in the freezer that I can defrost and use. The thought of having to cook from scratch everyday, for me, would be overwhelming.

So I made Mammoth Meatballs on Wednesday (with the addition of chopped apple) and have two meals in the freezer. Friday is lasagne and I will make an extra one for the freezer. So already with not much effort I have 3 meals done for the next few weeks , waiting in the freezer. 

The meals I batch bake are simple, hearty, family meals. Nothing particularly fancy about them, but they fill the family up and are healthy and inexpensive to make.

Here is my two week menu plan ( starting from last weekend). I always plan my meals as it keeps my shopping budget to a minimum.

Week One
Week two
Carvary out as a family
Brisket, Roast Pots,veg  SC
Chorizo Pasta and salad
Beef, mash pots, carrots and peas
Roast Chicken and Mash pots, brocoli and carrots
Homemade pesto/ tagliatelle and salad
Mammoth meatballs,* rice and peas
Spaghetti Bolognaise *
Sausage Casserole and pots SC
Homemade Beefburgers in rolls F
Lasagne and salad and homemade garlic rolls **
Loaded Baked Potatoes - tuna, cheese and beans
Chilli and Rice *
Chicken Curry * and rice

SC = slow cooker
F = a meal from the freezer 
* = make an extra meal to put in the freezer

I do change days around if needed, but generally I do stick to a menu plan once I have it written . I'm too lazy  busy to rethink it!

Another of our favourite, quick and easy meals is a good old fashioned Steak Pie. I usually serve this with mash, peas and gravy and the family fight over the last slice of pie! I do spend a little more on the meat for a pie as I find if you serve up a pie with chewy, stringy meat, no one will touch it! However, most meat, if simmered slowly in a good gravy in the slow cooker for 5- 6 hours will be tender and delicious.

Steak Pie ( the quick way)

I usually make 2 or 3 pies in one go, but these are the quantities for one. It seems pointless to make one at a time - the slow cooker will be almost empty - give it a go, making an extra one for the freezer if you haven't tried it before!


1- 1 1/121b of good quality braising steak chopped. ( Amount depends on the size of your pie dish and family.)
one large onion
beef stock - 1 - 1/2 pints
Knorr liquid stock - a couple of glugs! 
herbs - what takes your fancy.

  • Soften the onion , then add the meat and brown gently ( I do all this in the slow cooker dish).
  • Mix in a couple of tablespoons of plain flour  and cook through .
  • Add about a pint to a pint and a half of beef stock and stir in to thicken the sauce.
  • Add herbs, knorr stock ( if you have it) and seasoning.
  • Put on slow cooker and cook for 5 - 6 hours until tender and gravy has reduced.
I use pre made shortcrust pastry sheets from the supermarket which I buy when they are on offer. I cannot make it this cheap then! Also my homemade pastry is not my best asset. (shhhhhh) . Later in the day when the meat is ready in the slow cooker : 

  • Place meat into a pie dish ( or similar) and cover the top with pastry. Keep any spare gravy to pour over the pie when serving. 
  • Seal the edges and trim.
  • Cook for about 30 mins at 180 degrees.

NB: I freeze these pies before cooking the pie, as the pastry tends to change it's consistency when it is frozen if cooked. 

Rough and ready looking, but absolutely gorgeous.(This is actually my homemade pastry!)

I have now been given two fluted, proper pie dishes as well. I can't wait to use them. I feel like a proper grown up now I have pie dishes!

A couple of pasta dishes next week, with a delicious homemade pesto!

Happy Baking.

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Frugal Friday

Mummy's Mammoth Meatballs

After a few treats over Christmas, it is back to being careful again in our household. We are not hard up in comparison to so many, but with 3 kids money can disappear very quickly! As I have said before I resent spending our hard earned money without thought and am learning to be more intentional about where and how to spend, resulting in some good savings and more money available to spend on the things we really want.

Frugal Friday 2013

I have had a few requests for some of the recipes that I use for my batch baking family meals so I thought I would start 2013 off with some of those. I need to stock my freezer up again as we relied heavily on these freezer meals whilst I was ill over Christmas, but it meant that everyone still ate well!

I am one of those cooks whose recipes tend to change slightly as the mood takes me and as the larder allows, but I think this adds variety! So do change the things you don't like about this recipe. Adding chilli flakes is a good one. Throw in a spare box of stuffing mix to bind these meatballs together - this is another favourite. Or cut down on the liver if your kids are not big fans.

They are pretty robust. 

There is not much damage you can do with them!

The name Mummy's Mammoth meatballs is not of course the proper name for this dish . It is actually Faggots, which has a different meaning in certain parts of the world and I don't like the name anyway. However, a faggot ( in food terms!) is a pork and liver based meatball, but when the kids saw how big they were compared to the normal beef ones I make they declared 

"Look at Mummy's Mammoth Meatballs" 

....and of course for good or bad that is what they are called. It gives us a good laugh every time anyway.

 Rename as you wish!

These are the measurements for a meal for 5. I make 3 times this in one go and freeze 2 meals. The meatballs are about the size of a tennis ball ( just a bit smaller), but make them the size that suit you - too small and they may fall apart.



750g pack of mince pork
400g minced lambs liver ( or chopped yourself in processor)
Quarter a loaf of breadcrumbs 
One large onion
Fresh chopped herbs ( what you can get - sage and rosemary. Fennel or coriander to add taste.)
One egg
Flour to place meatballs on


Basically to create a 'gravy' for them to cook in. I make a tomato based one as that is what my kids like. Anything goes here.....

Carton of passata
One large onion
Large blob of butter!
Plain Flour
Vegetable stock (1/4 - 1/2 pint depending on how thick you like it) ( or Beef if you prefer)
Tomato puree
Worcestershire Sauce


Chop the onions  
Fry the chopped onion until soft.
Place half the onions in a large bowl with the minced pork, minced liver, breadcrumbs , egg, herbs and seasoning. Put the rest of the onion aside to go in the gravy.
Mix well with your hands.
Flour a surface.
Form the mixture into firm balls about the size of a tennis ball ( excuse the terminology here) and place in a baking dish.
Cook for about 30 minutes at about 180 degrees, turning halfway until cooked through.

Whilst the meatballs are cooking through make the 'gravy'.

Make a base for the gravy by starting with butter and flour then adding the stock with the water. I always use a whisk to make sure of no lumps whatsoever. I then add passata, garlic,herbs, puree, w. sauce, seasoning, the rest of the cooked onion and whatever else you have in the stock cupboard to make it extra tasty! Cook through for a few minutes.

Take the meatballs out of the oven and pour the gravy over the meatballs and return to   the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes until the meatballs have absorbed some of the flavour from the gravy.

Serve with mash or rice and peas.

They freeze beautifully and taste even better second time around! I freeze these once they are totally cooked so they only need to be defrosted and warmed through.

Size of meatballs - never the same!
Ready for cooking.

And two meals for the freezer.

This is one of the cheapest meat based meals you can make. Minced pork and liver are both cheap and easily available. I turn old bread into breadcrumbs and freeze when I get to the end of loaves of bread so I am never short of breadcrumbs. The rest of the ingredients are stock cupboard basics.

Hope you enjoy them!


Being Frugal without being Cheap.

I was utterly delighted with my first proper successful shopping trip to Primark a few weeks ago. I posted a picture of myself decked out top to toe in all my  Primarni glory! However, and there always is a however isn't there?, I always have in the back of my mind a voice of caution playing as I don't want to fall into the trap of buying cheap for the sake of cheap. I prefer to mix and match my items when I can and be a bit individual. I find buying items at charity shops an ideal outlet for this. They are usually good quality, but cost next to nothing. A no brainer really. Don't be afraid to be unique and be yourself. Don't feel you have to follow the crowd and get the latest items that are on trend because everybody else has. Go with what you choose, what suits you and your budget.

I believe this stands true for most products whether it be food, clothing, beauty or home goods. It is a case of being wise with your money, but getting the best possible outcome. Having a wardrobe or a house full of cheap items will look like just that. Cheap. Although, if you mix and match, your cheap items take on a life of their own:

  • Dressing up a Primark outfit with a Whistles scarf and your best boots make it look a cut above. 
  • Making sure the meat you buy is a good quality and you haven't compromised on the freshness of your other products when you cook. Adding plenty of herbs and spices can create an expensive tasting, healthy meal for next to nothing. 
  • Beauty products can be sourced cheaply from places such as Cheap Smells or alternatives found from Superdrug for your Spa favourites if your budget is tight. These often do as good a job as their more expensive rivals. 
  • Throwing a few designer cushions on an Ikea sofa make it look unique and individual.

Make your choices where the costs can be cut, where they don't make too much of a sacrifice. Be prepared to spend a little bit more in those areas that really matter to you. Life is to be enjoyed. For me enjoyment comes out of making the best out of our hard earned cash! I tend to shop around for designer clothes, if thats what I want. If I want a particular brand of a beauty product, I hunt down the best price. When I am planning to buy something for around the home I always check for vouchers and money off codes first. 
There are ways of getting the items you want for much, much less. Being careful and frugal with your money does not mean being cheap. It means getting the best for your money - squeezing every last ounce out of every penny you earn! Sometimes it means saving, not spending until you can afford what you need ( or oftentimes, want!).

Try out these sites for cut price deals on designer items:

Try these sites to cut those food bills:

Try these sites for money off beauty products:

Try these sites  for money off vouchers:

Look into signing up to a cash back site - you can shop at main stores like Boots and get 8% cash back and still receive your points.

And a word of caution as we head into the sales. 

Sale - Angle 2
  • Don't buy it if you don't want it, just because it is a bargain
  • If you don't go you won't spend
  • Don't get swept along and regret it later
  • Keep the receipts - you can return things you regret buying later
  • Don't buy the dregs of the sales just because they are under £10
  • Set a budget, write a list, stick to it
And best of all:

  • Avoid the sales altogether - some lovely Spring wear will be in the shops soon - save for that instead!

When being Frugal simply isn't worth it.

In this financial climate when the majority of us, if we are prepared to admit it, are looking for ways to cut back our outgoings, the awkward question does pop up of 

" Is it worth it this time? "

Is there a time when it is better to spend more on something ,when you are trying to be frugal with your hard earned cash?

My answer would be a resounding Yes.

There are times when being frugal for the sake of being frugal is not worth it in the long run. Some products, whether it be food, clothing, beauty or household goods are worth investing in. Buying the cheapest product in some cases will not serve your budget well in the long run. If products are not well made they break or wear out sooner, hence costing as much or more. 


In my house, if I go too cheap, I find I begin to compromise on the content of foods and that for me, with a growing family and our health being important, is not worth the sacrifice. I find that if I buy cuts of meat that are too cheap , certain members of my family will not eat them, so there is more waste, again not a good use of my money. I try to take the middle ground, cutting costs where it is not noticed so much. I try not to waste anything. If fresh foods, such as veg are coming to the end of their life I will make a soup or cut them up and freeze them. The joys of freezing food means that you can use up most of what you purchase, freeze it into meals, soup or veg portions and it doesn't sit in the fridge or larder going off. I have an organic veg box every other week - I squeeze every last drop out of this box! The veg is just so tasty . I will top up on some things, but my OH loves his veg and is particular about what we use. So out of respect for him I try and make this an area not to cut my costs. It is about finding that balance of tasty, healthy food at a reasonable price.

yeg boxClothing
Cheap clothing is not always the best buy. I will always look at the fabric, stitching and quality of what I am buying and make a decision if it will last, or whether I should spend more on a substantial, longer lasting item. I knew when I purchased my Primark coat that the belt was not of a good standard. Within a day the metal surrounds on the belt holes had worked loose. However, I had taken this into consideration when buying it and the rest of the coat seemed well made so I got it. Sue from Susie So So had the fab idea of using a black leather belt instead. I'm going to do a post to get you to help me to decide the best belt and get Susie to give her opinion ( shes good at these things!! Check out her blog!) I have tried a few already and someone told me today they assumed the coat was designer! However, I do think if you are not convinced about the quality then go up a price bracket or label and compare the quality. Of course higher price does not always guarantee better quality. I also think that the joy and pleasure you get from saving up for a certain coveted, designer item and then buying it can never be underestimated. If you are like me, then that item will get cherished for years and earns it's keep ten times over. 

Primark Coat


You can save in this area, but it will be a case of trying products out to see what suits you . You will need to look at the content of products and make decisions on where you are happy to compromise. This is an area where I mix and match again. I find if I buy facial products that are too cheap , my skin will react. I have found that I can compromise on some styling products with my hair, but when it comes to shampoo and conditioner I tend to stick with a good branded product. At the moment I am in love with the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner for dry hair. I do cut costs on items such as shower gels and soap and look for offers and deals on family products that we all use. When it comes to make up items, I do love high end products, but will admit there are alternatives for a fraction of the price if you shop around, that are almost as good. A treat every now and then is lovely, but 'keep it in check' is now my motto, having been a product junkie for many a year.

'One' of my make up bags!

House Goods

Ok , so this is where I may need help. By house goods I mean things like washing machines, driers, cookers, fridges, furniture etc. I often buy our kids furniture from ikea, but know it will be replaced after about 5 years. I got a good white chest of drawers from there 4 years ago which is still going strong, but wasn't cheap by ikea prices. I do think you get what you pay for around the home. Our sofa was expensive and is 15 years old and still immaculate. However, our fridge was a cheap one and needed replacing after 6. I'm on my 4th hand held mixer in 3 years - would a 'kitchen aid' have been halfway paid for with that and still be going strong? However, the way I do cut costs on furniture is to go to second hand stores and auctions and buy solid wood furniture for barely anything and revamp it ( when I have the time) . Maybe it is similar to clothing? It is a case of examining the quality and going from there!?

This is a toy chest that cost me £10 from a local junk yard. Cost me £3 for the fabric and I used paint I had in the garage. It is a beautiful toy chest for my little girls room!

So how do you decide when to save and when to splurge?




Frugal Friday

Buy One Get One Free Offers - are they what they seem?

It is NOT Christmas yet
I have never seen an individual tin of these chocolates priced at more than £5.00 . When this offer is not on, the price becomes £5 a tin. This seems to be a way to get you to buy two at the usual price.
I have always had a bit of a suspicion about the offers that are thrust in our faces at the Supermarkets and whilst some do appear to be good deals I have learnt to approach them with a degree of caution. At the end of the day Supermarkets want to make a profit and want us to spend our money and I suspect that motive is what lies behind these offers.

How we shop is looked at closely by retailers and how they display their stock is obviously designed  to capture our attention. They will make what they want to sell most visible to us - at eye level in the middle of aisles. Brands will be charged large fees for the optimum placement of a product as they know it will sell better.
Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department
 Speed is often of the essence for shoppers. How often do you actually look at the price of a product? Could you tell me how much a pint of milk is or that pot of jam you got last time ? We tend to buy our products based on other visual clues and the supermarkets know this. Their aisles are full of signs of rewards and offers and deals which draw our attention rather than the actual price you are paying for a product.

It all sounds rather cold hearted, but you look at the research and it comes down to business. The loyalty cards? They are about data collection to facilitate sales.

This is why I like the filter of My Supermarket ( they are not aware I am doing this post) as they will highlight good and bad deals, direct you to the best deals available on the products you want and present you with cheaper alternatives where appropriate. They save you £17 on average each time you shop. If you shop online then I do recommend that you check them out. You check out, pay and get your goods from your usual supermarket ( Tesco, Sanisburys etc) , but do your shop via My Supermarket. Their site is fantastic, easy to navigate and they have introduced cashback on some items if you have a paypal account.
How much is that stuff?
So,back to these offers. The "Buy One Get One Free" and the " Two For The Price Of One". The multibuys - Are they worth having? I think you have to look carefully before you throw them into your trolley. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I intend buying this?
  • Do I need two items and will I use them?
  • Is there a cheaper alternative that I would usually buy?
  • Is this a better price than usual?
I would then check down the aisle, as these offers are generally displayed at the end of aisles. Last month I did find 2 bags of oven chips displayed for 2 for £3 which looked a good deal until I looked and saw a large pack, with more in ( the same brand ) for £2.50. I also don't buy chips, I make them myself so was almost drawn into that one! I read an article in Which Magazine recently that highlighted these deals saying that one in ten multibuy offers actually increases the price of the product. Here are some daft examples from Which Magazine:

  • Nestle Munch Bunch advertised as a multibuy at 2 for £2, but generally over the past year this product had been priced at £1 a pack so however you buy it , it is £1 for one.
  • Goodfellas's Deepan Pepperoni Pizza. For 6 months costs £1 when not on multibuy. On multibuy it increased to £4.50 for two!
  • Garnier Moisturising Lotion Milk. It was usually £5 when not on offer, but £7 for one or £10 for two when on multibuy.
  • Pampers baby wipes. These are £1 when not on offer. On multibuy they are 1 for £2, 2 for £2.50 and 3 for £3.
It all makes for interesting reading! There are some good articles around if you want to read further like this one called Multibuy rip off revealed . I think we have to be aware when we shop of the hidden motives and be wise about what we put in our trolleys if we don't want to overspend.

 I still think the best and most simple way to avoid all these pitfalls is to write a list and stick to it! Learn to turn a blind eye.

What are your thoughts and experience of the Multibuys at the Supermarkets?

Frugal Friday
Store Cupboard Essentials

I tried to move these pictures to the bottom of my post, but blogger is not playing today so you get this first! These are the meals I have frozen and the way I organise my freezer. It is a fairly good size 3 drawer freezer with a smaller tray drawer at the top.

Naan breads and Breadcrumbs
3 steak pies, 1 lasagne
One spag bol, one mince base ( can be converted into anything!), one veg pack

one meal of faggots, one tub of steak gravy and some mince ( triple wrapped)

I have 3 steak pies and a lasagne, a spaghetti bolognaise and a mince dish that I can convert into whatever I choose, a portion of meatballs ( faggots), some steak gravy, a veg pack from my veg box, some frozen mince, some breadcrumbs made out of old bread and some naan bread I picked up on offer.
 Cooking in this way means I get a few easier nights a week and also means I don't get those days any more when I panic buy expensive food because I don't know what to feed my family. It is cheaper and easier. The only thing I have to be is organised to start it off. Once I am up and running with some food in the freezer it is great. So much simpler. I just cook an extra meal each time I am cooking or every now and then give an afternoon, evening or couple of hours at a weekend to stock up on a few meals. For example, if I am making a spaghetti bolognaise it is no extra effort to make an extra one and a chilli to put in the freezer. Three evenings covered! Give it a go if you haven't yet. Clear one shelf out in your freezer. I can get four meals on a shelf/drawer. Also if anyone has some good recipes that freeze well for chicken , let me know. I would really like a huge freezer so I could freeze more. I often see great bargains in the supermarket that if I had more room could pop in the freezer for a later date. It is on my wishlist for our new kitchen next year. Lets hope the budget stretches that far!! Actually I have rather a lot on my wish list. Have a look at my pinterest page on kitchens . I have been posting ideas and colours I like here!

You can make most meals from these ingredients.

This weeks Frugal Friday post is a look at my stock cupboard and the ingredients I use. Often the first thing to suffer when you are cutting costs is the quality and that is something I am very careful about.

 At the moment although I have a tiny kitchen without any surface space I do have a small walk in larder. It is great to have shelves where you can see your ingredients and can grab what you need easily and quickly. The downside is the kids also like to go in there and grab food quickly too! Those of you with hungry kids - how do you stop them clearing out the larder within minutes? I am tough and controlling about it otherwise it would all be gone within a few days. Am I being too mean? They do have plenty to eat. There is always a fresh supply of fruit and yoghurts on offer. I generally have a homemade cake and homemade bread for sandwiches and toast available and plenty of cereal. However, biscuits and other quickly consumed items are restricted and there are times when I don't allow them to eat ( pre meals and once the kitchen is cleared up at bedtime - I say the cafe is closed!)  I have a large basket that I keep high up out of reach for food they will snaffle without thought. They know to touch this will encur great consequences!

I have said before , I don't take the totally frugal route with my cooking. I tend to take the middle ground and go for a reasonably priced product that is good quality. If a supermarkets basic range has in it what I want and has proven it is a good enough quality, then thats good enough for me. I  shop at Lidl in the main as I find they have higher branded goods at lower prices. They also have a range of products that are incredibly cheap (we are talking pence here ladies), but really good quality too. All their meat is also British. I have tried and had success with their pork, mince and chicken. I had one bad result with their beef steak, although I would try again as I think it would cook well in the slow cooker. If you haven't yet got into using a slow cooker I really do recommend it, especially if you have a family to feed. Check out the selection on Pricerunner here. The only other supermarket we have within a few miles is Tescos and I will shop here about once a month to top up on items I can't get at Lidls. My beef and steak usually comes from a local farm shop as I get a good deal if I buy larger quantities. It is not completely lean, but the flavour is ten times better. I always drain any fat off after browning mince anyway. Definitely don't assume that the supermarkets will be the cheapest or best quality!

10lbs of mince for £16. Makes 5 to 6 meals.I buy 4 or 6 of these at a time.

 I know if I were to be totally frugal with my shopping there are more savings to be made, but the content of the food is important to me and my growing children. My two boys I have to budget as adults - they eat more than me so really I am feeding 4 adults and one child. 

One of the reasons I can shop less often is that I keep my larder stocked up with some basics that I can make many meals from. Often these can be snapped up when they are on offer, so cutting the budget even further. I got Seriously Strong Cheddar this time  on a buy one get 2 free offer for £4.99. These offers are not always good deals to rely on, so I always make sure I check the aisle for better prices first. The supermarkets will put what they want you to buy on view at eye level, not nescessarily what is the best deal for you. 

We buy pasta and rice in 3 and 4kg bags as they work out cheaper than buying them in smaller quantities. My husband is convinced they have priced the rice wrongly as it works out so much cheaper, so much so he got 3, 4 kg packs the last time he went. I am,needless to say, still working my way through this rice.

Family meals such as Chilli, Lasgane, Spag Bol and pasta sauces often start with the same base so it is easy to batch cook these as well as having the ingredients in . I find, as long as I have a stock of the following ingredients plus some meat and rice/spaghetti or potatoes, I can rustle up a meal. We usually have one or two mince based meals a week for their convenience and the fact that everybody wolfs them down. 

These are the items I can make so many meals from and make sure I always have:

  • Plain Flour - for thickening sauces
  • Olive Oil
  • Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Mustard Powder - for adding flavour to stews and soups
  • Liquid Condensed Beef Stock
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tomato Passata
  • Basil
  • Beef/Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • Tomato Puree
  • Chorizo Sausage - to slice into stews,soups and pasta dishs ( £1.99 at Lidls)
  • Chilli Flakes ( below)

Chilli flakes add flavour to anything

Of course I have many other things in my larder, but these I would struggle without. I tend to switch around with the stock cubes depending on what I can get at Lidls ( it changes ) and the only expensive item, but does make a difference in flavour is the Beef liquid stock, Touch and Taste. A splash of this in stews and spag bol makes a for a rich sauce - yum yum.

Planning your larder and making sure you keep it stocked with good basic ingredients to make the meals from your menu plan will help you keep your grocery budget down. I am strict with myself and do not fill my larder with items I know I will hardly ever use. They will just be a waste of our hard earned money. Supermarkets will constantly try and tempt you with offers and buy one get one free deals, but always ask before you buy....will I use this and is this really a good deal?!

What is your most vital ingredient in your larder?

Frugal Friday
Saving Money Around The House.

Without Much Effort.

Here is my menu plan for this week and next week. My husband has been away this week so not only did I get some time off working, I got away with easier meals too! Monday on week 2 I am planning to top up my freezer meals. I have to do this about every 3 weeks, but so appreciate it in the time in between as it makes the evenings so much easier, especially on the days I am not in.
F = freezer meals I have previously made
SC = Slow Cooker meals
* = indicates I am cooking extra for the freezer

Week One
Week Two
Lunch: Pumpkin Soup
Dinner :Roast Chicken
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner:Pot Roast - Brisket
Faggots and Mash/peas   F
Chilli *and rice                
Risotto                       SC
Loaded Baked  Potatoes
Pasta and bacon/cheese
Beef Stew  *  SC ( will make a pie too )
Lasagne  F
Cheesy Macaroni
Egg and Homemade oven chips
Lasagne and garlic rolls  F
Lunch: Sausages in homemade rolls 
Dinner:Steak Pie mash and veg F
Lunch: Soup and rolls
Dinner:Italian tuna balls and spaghetti

My motivation for writing these posts is two fold. One is because we are trying to save a little more in preparation for an extension project we are starting on our house next year. We have been saving for about five years , but it's never quite enough is it?! The second is that I really resent spending our hard earned money on products I know I can get cheaper elsewhere. The retailers have us right where they want us and I feel like fighting back. I want to choose where and what I spend my money on!

Ok rant over!
money and savings

This weeks Frugal Friday is focusing on simple changes you can make around the house that can end up saving you hundreds of pounds a year. With the pace of life today , it is so easy to overlook some of the simpler things that we can do to cut back on our everyday outgoings. Each one of these tips may not seem much on their own , but tot them up over a month, a year, five years and they soon add up!  

There are so many I could choose, but here are my top 20.

  • Switch your light bulbs, as they run out, to energy efficient bulbs. They cost more up front, but can save you £7 a year, per bulb in running costs. That's £60 per bulb before it needs replacing.
  • Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree could save you up to £100 a year.
  • Turn your radiators down or off in rooms that are not used.
  • Install thermostatic radiator valves so you can control each radiator individually. Money up front that will save you money in the long run.
  • Bleed your radiators regularly so they run efficiently.
  • Switch appliances off standby. This can save up to £50 on your bills a year.
  • Turning your washing machine to a 30 degree wash instead of a 40 or 60 degree wash and save 40 degrees of energy thus saving money.
  • Get a good clothes airer and hang your clothes to dry whenever possible. Driers cost between 14p and 50p a 7kg load ( depending on size and energy rating) to use. This soon mounts up.
  • Drop a brand at the supermarket and see your grocery bill go down.
  • Start collecting coupons - you can cut your grocery bills by between 15 and 50%. Check out online sites - print off coupons.
  • Be vigilant about how much water you use if you are on a meter- don't leave the tap running whilst brushing teeth, take shorter showers, flush only when necessary etc.
  • Pay off your credit card every month to avoid interest charges.
  • Make a packed lunch for work, take flasks of coffee.
  • Turn off lights when you aren't in the room.
  • Use a slow cooker instead of your oven.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Always write a shopping list and plan your menus.
  • Go through your bank balance and cancel direct debit for things you don't make the most of - gym membership?!!
  • Use your library.
  • Stop trying to keep up with the Jones's.
tesco energy saving lightbulbs


Christmas Cracker Series - 
Part 1 -Decorating the House

Christmas Crackers


I will admit up front with no messing that I am controlling when it comes to decorating the house. I am that parent who will let the kids decorate the tree, smile sweetly, then redo it after they have gone to bed, or at the very least rearrange the branches that have 15 ornaments hung on them.

Just call me Monica.

I always think that decorating the house for this festive season divides people into two categories. It's either Santas grotto in your house or subtly reigns supreme. We have both types amongst the members of our family so I will be careful how I proceed. 

If you wish to decorate every nook and cranny with all the bits of tinsel and baubles and flashing snowmen that you can find then you go ahead, but I'm probably not the one to give you advice on that! I'm sure my kids would love me forever if I did, but I'm not, so there you have it. 

I'm a tree,candles and lights gal.

So can you decorate and make your house festive on a budget at Christmas? 

The first question is, "real or fake tree?" Hmmm. I love the smell of a real tree and thought I would never go down the route of an artificial tree , but when we had our second baby 9 years ago I could no longer stand the hourly destruction of the lower branches of the tree. Needles galore! So we purchased what we thought was a pretty good artificial tree at a cost of £49.99. Over the past 10 years (it will be it's tenth outing this year!)it has more than paid for all the 'real' trees we would have purchased of course, although that was not my motivation at the time.

If cost is your primary concern then I would suggest looking at an artificial tree or a potted real tree that  you can re use each year. However, you can also pick up bargains last minute if you are happy to wait. One year, before we had gone down the route of an artificial tree ,when we only had one small baby at home and we were both in full time work we waited until Christmas eve to purchase our tree. It cost us 99p from B and Q for a 6 foot beauty!

If you are starting from scratch obviously it is going to cost you more so pick and choose from these 10 ten tips for what is relevant to you. We do opt to have a tree, but of course you don't need to if you want to cut costs further:

  • Keep things simple - you don't need to decorate everywhere.
  • Fairy lights can change the feel of a whole room and can be picked up as cheap as chips.

  • Some candles on the mantle piece with a few sprigs of ivy is a lovely simple way to change up a Christmas decoration.
  • Use greenery and berries from the garden or a friends - it is free and smells divine. I decorated our banister last year with ivy, a few sprigs of holy, some red baubles and some fairy lights - beautiful.

  • Make a decoration for your door. It doesn't need to be an expensive wreath. A few bits of greenery mixed in with a few silver decorations, tied with a silver ribbon looks very classic.
  • When you buy decorations, invest in ones that will last and store them carefully. Pick up new decorations in the sales after Christmas - never pay the silly prices they charge prior to then. Wrap them in tissue and pack in boxes. We also get the children to write a letter about what they hope for over the year to come and put it in with the decorations. They love opening them when we decorate the tree!

  • I do splash out on a bunch of lilies and/ or red roses . I try and get these before the prices go up for Christmas! If you get them tightly budded they will last right through.
  • A simple nativity scene, particularly if you have young children, adds Christmas spirit to the season. I purchased this papier mache one for £20 about 5 years ago. The children rearrange it regularly. I seem to have missed out a shepherd - got them down from the loft to photograph during my sort out. I expect he is lurking in another box of decorations. We have had many funny combinations set up!

  • Buy a wooden advent calender for the kids. This will pay for itself as you won't have to buy disposable ones every year. I can fill it with chocolate for £1.00 . They take it in turns to open a drawer. It cost me £10.99.

  • For my last tip here are a selection of simple and inexpensive decorations to make and use, either as table pieces or around your home:

  1.  Pine cones sprayed in gold and silver
  2.  A glass bowl filled with silver or glass baubles
  3.  Candy canes grouped in a small vase tied with a red ribbon
  4.  A glass bowl with a bundle of battery operated fairy lights
  5.  Use empty wine bottles and spray silver,white or gold and put tall white candles    in. Cluster them together in the centre of the table.
  6.  A simple Christmas banner - Use some garden twine and hang an selection of items  along it. You could go really homemade and get the children to decorate brown tags and tie these on, or hang a selection of small wooden Christmas decorations or alternate two colours or 100s of small baubles ( these are so cheap to buy!)
  7.  If you are a bunting maker - make some simple Christmas bunting in red, white and  green to string around your room.
  8. Use the kids stockings ( or any stockings) and fill them with wrapped empty boxes for that ultimate Christmas feel. Hang along the banister or above the fireplace.
  9. Wrap a few small boxes neatly in brown paper and decorate with ribbon in one colour. Arrange on a surface.
  10. To display cards. Get hold of a child's hoola hoop. Cover it in Christmas wrapping and tie a ribbon at the top. Peg cards all the way around to make a card wreath.

All of these decorations are pretty basic and don't cost the earth. Of course if you have a bit more cash to splash you could make things a little more complicated and elegant, but I'm saving what I can for my new kitchen so I shall be keeping it simple this year!

What are your decorating tips?


Christmas Cracker Series -
Part 2 - Christmas Gifts

Christmas Crackers...

Cutting the budget on gifts.

Gifts must be the biggest outlay at this time of year, especially if you have children. It is a tradition that has has become big business and can mean the difference between a good and bad year for some retailers. Giving a gift as an expression of thanks and kindness is all well and good, but when it becomes an extravagance we can ill afford, I do question the sanity behind it all. In my post about giving teacher gifts at the end of the year I mention that as a teacher it is often more rewarding to receive a hand written thank you note or home made card than an expensive gift. The same applies to Christmas. In my quest to cut our Christmas budget I do a number of things:

Ask the question:
  • Who do you buy gifts for?
Divide them into 3 piles:

  • Give a gift
  • Make a gift
  • No gift
Be ruthless with your decisions if you are serious about cutting back on the amount you spend. If necessary talk with the people you think it is not necessary to swap presents at this time of year with. I tend to focus on presents at birthdays for close friends , but Christmas gets complicated with such a large family so keep it to the very closest or find an alternative way of celebrating with those you love , but can't buy gifts for. A girls night together when everybody brings a item to provide a manicure and some nibbles is one suggestion. Time spent together is priceless as they say. I am also contemplating trying again to suggest to both families that we focus on presents for the children not the grown ups! We have a lot of cousins and children to buy for - add in the adults and it starts getting really expensive! 

Making gifts is fun and personal . It is an inexpensive way to provide gifts. Making a couple of batches of homemade cookies and wrapping them in pretty tissue paper is a thoughtful gift. Buying a small canvas and getting the children to do handprints or a simple painting on them is a lovely gift for grandparents. Framing your own photos in individual frames you have picked up from charity shops and painted is another inexpensive idea. I also pick up pretty cut glass containers for a snip from Charity shops and fill them with pretty traditional sweets or bath salts . It is amazing what you can pick up from Charity Shops for a fraction of the price of the High Street. Making a playlist of songs you think each person would like and putting them on a CD is an individual and thoughtful present.

However, I know that homemade gifts are time consuming and time is something a lot of us don't have an awful lot of! Donating to a charity is a popular alternative - examples such as buying a goat for a village have become increasingly popular. Not a cheap alternative, but a possibility to do as a family together instead of swapping gifts this year?

We also only give Christmas cards to people and family who we don't see at Christmas. It got to a point where I was sending over 200 cards - extremely expensive and really not a good use of my time writing them all. I now only send about 40 cards to people who live away or we don't see much of.

 For those you are buying gifts for, whether it be children or a spouse or a parent, set a budget. Don't go overboard. Shop around for the best deals and look ( and ask) for money off vouchers and codes. I got both boys main presents over half price last year by using my vouchers at Tesco in their double up offer. I am setting myself a strict limit per child. I hate to see gifts ripped into and discarded because there are just too many. A few valued presents are worth far more.

Our Christmas day now consists of the children opening a stocking each on our bed. These are the usual chocolate coins, pencils and pens, a new wallet, sweets, a book, etc and one bigger present such as a DVD or DS game. We then have a croissant and coffee breakfast and open a few presents after breakfast. The dinner goes in the oven and then we head out to the Christmas Swim. This happens every year - mad people dress up and dive into the sea at 11am for a swim. Crazy. I watch. Don't intend joining in any time soon!

After the swim we congregate at a friends house for mulled wine and a few nibbles. We stay for about an hour and then return home for a late lunch . We eat about 2.30pm, then open the main presents and then collapse for the rest of the evening. Last year our elderly neighbour joined us as she was on her own. She ate more than any of us and took the left overs home with her!! Brilliant!

Whatever you decide to do this Christmas - make it your decision and enjoy!


Frugal Friday 

Feeding a family - without it taking over your life and your bank balance.

In this weeks Frugal Friday post I am looking at how I keep the food budget from running away with me when cooking main meals for my family of 5. Our groceries were costing us more than anything else each month and so a while ago I decided to rein this in and try and cut what we were spending. I have big eaters in my family. There is no way around that. They eat just about anything. I do get a little annoyed when people say to me that I am lucky that they do. I'm not lucky, I persevered when they were fussy and battled on. I am pretty strict when it comes to meal times and I wont treat the kitchen like a cafe where they can pick and choose what they want. I worked hard to get them not to be fussy. All us parents know what it is like when a child won't eat. It can be soul destroying when you have spent ages cooking something you think they will like only to have them turn their noses up. You just want to feed them and for them to thrive, but I persevered and they came through it. They do know that if they don't want to eat what is on the menu they can go without. They never do! I don't intend cooking 2 or 3 different meals every night for fussy children. I may sometimes do pasta as well as rice or  offer custard as well as ice cream if we have a pudding, but that's as far as I go. Am I mean? I don't know, but it's what I can manage! I spend too long in the kitchen anyway! Now they tend to inhale their food they are so hungry, especially the boys.

I also resent spending hundreds of pounds at the supermarket every month on easy food when I know I can make a better version for less. I'd actually rather spend it on something else if truth be told. Food is not my passion! So, although it is more time consuming initially to cook everything from scratch, that's what I do. I feel happier that I know what is in everything and I can control what I am spending. I would say though, once you have a few meals in the freezer you can easily have one or two nights 'cooking free' a week so in the long run it actually releases time.

 Although getting things at a good price is a big consideration for me, it is not the only consideration, I do also look at what is in my ingredients and try and keep an eye on those too. I won't buy something just because it is the cheapest if it is full of rubbish. However, sometimes it seems the difference between many products is just the packaging . The contents are usually pretty much the same . They charge more for a pretty box!

I do my main shop at Lidls now as I can keep it at around £50 to £60 per week. The quality is really good and their meat is all British. I tend not to buy my mince or stewing steak here as I can get it cheaper elsewhere, but for chicken and Pork it is ideal. Of course they don't always have what you want or need at Lidls so a degree of flexibility is needed here. Fresh fruit is always of a high standard and priced so you can compare between products easily. I always follow these rules:

  • Have a menu plan for two weeks
  • Write a list
  • Don't deviate from the list unless something you would normally buy is on offer and you can stock up
  • Buy enough for two weeks ( apart from fruit)I try and go as long as I can between shops.
  • Don't shop when tired or hungry
  • Check for codes,coupons and vouchers before you shop
There are always some items I need that I can't get from Lidls and I will , about once a month pop to Tescos to bulk buy these items.I try not to let myself run out of everything at the same time, but keep items topped up to prevent having to do huge panic shops. I again spend about £50 here. We also have our milk delivered to support our local service more than anything. This cost is additional to my Lidls and Tescos costs. I have a veg box delivered every other week now from our local farm shop. This costs £18 and I make it last two weeks, just topping up the potatoes. So, In total my monthly spend for a family of five for groceries ( including all cleaning products, soap and loo roll) is around £350 - £400. I could cut this a lot more if I went totally down the frugal route by dropping to basic brands on absolutely everything, but there is a quality controller in my house who calls himself The Husband. He isn't so keen on the value brands. Food is his thing ! So I take the middle ground. Can't have an unhappy and hungry man around the house now can I ?

Here is my last two week menu plan. Meals marked with an * mean I batch bake and freeze one or two extra meals. Sometimes I allocate a whole day to cook various meals to freeze. I change this each two week block as I get bored easily as do the children so although some meals feature often e.g spag bol, stew, faggots , I add different meals in to keep things interesting.

Week 1
Week 2
Lunch - soup 
Dinner - Roast Chicken
Lunch - Soup 
Dinner - Roast Beef
Chicken Casoulet and Peas
Coq au Vin and mash
Dinner - Faggots* and Rice 
Spaghetti Bolognaise *
Sausage Casserole and mash
Stew and mash
Lasagne * and salad/ homemade rolls *
Lasagne and salad and homemade rolls
Pasta and bacon bits with cheese.
Steak and Kidney pie *
Lunch - soup * and rolls
Dinner - Chilli *
Lunch - Soup * and rolls
Dinner - Chilli

There are three things I could not do without in my weekly drive to provide good quality meals for less:

1. Freezer Meals/Batch baking.
2. Slow Cooker.
3. Breadmaker

1.By freezer meals I mean meals I have cooked myself and frozen. I do this by batch baking on certain days and freezing a few meals for the weeks ahead. This means I always have a selection of meals in the freezer ready to use. It means when I cook a meal I will either freeze any leftovers or I spend a day batch baking meals. My best freezer meals are LasagneChilli, Steak pie, Faggots, Spag Bol, Veg burgers - I could go on. Recipes to follow in future posts. This is invaluable on busy days with the kids and also if I need a night off cooking. This minimises waste in that you have planned your meals, purchased exactly what you need and used it.

I buy my meat in larger quantities from a farm shop - the quality is better and it works out cheaper. I buy 10llb of mince as I get that for £16 . For mince it is £1.60 a Lb. Tescos is £2.84 for 500g at the moment ( just over 1lb) . I can make 5 family meals out of this and sometimes squeeze an extra individual meal to freeze out of it! That works out at £3.20 a family meal of 5 or 64p per person, for the mince per meal!! The faggots are made with pork mince and lambs liver and work out even cheaper. I spend about £35 in total. The veg burgers cheaper again. Why would I buy processed ready meals, full of sugar and preservatives that cost far more? My other ingredients are not expensive. For example my tomato passata is 29p a box,  my puree 30p a tube etc. 

2.The slow cooker is a must for anyone with children and a busy life. You can cook just about anything in one of these. They are not expensive to buy. Check them out here  on Price Runner from £15. I got mine at half price for £30 in Tesco's double up deals. I can pop a stew or a risotto in the slow cooker in the morning or at lunchtime and it is ready when we get home. Make sure your slow cooker has a stay warm function on it. I will be posting some of my favourite recipes in the weeks to come.

3.My breadmaker is a Panasonic and it has more than earned it's keep! We have used it for white bread, wholemeal bread, spelt bread, bread rolls, speciality breads, pizza dough. I know it is not the same as a homemade loaf, kneaded and proved and loved, but I don't have the time for this everyday! You can make a loaf of bread very cheaply indeed if you are happy to go down the value route ( as little as 27 - 30p a loaf) , but I tend to get better quality flour as it improves the taste. Our bread averages out at about 60p a loaf, more if we are using organic spelt flour as a treat! ( This is really lovely bread, but it doesn't last long in our house) .We make a large loaf each time. A large fresh loaf at Tescos would be £1.20 so it is about half I am saving. However if I were to be picky we don't get as many slices as we cut it thicker! So I think I probably save around 40p a loaf. It still adds up over the year with the amount of bread that gets consumed in our house! I also like that I know what I am choosing to put in the bread my children eat. We go through a loaf or two a day . The bread maker goes on at night and then again in the morning. Nothing beats that smell waking up in the morning. Ok maybe fresh coffee does.

1. Freezer Meals I have done this week. ( Didn't catch them all on camera before they got snaffled up!)

One hot meal, one freezer meal.

One hot meal, one freezer meal, one individual freezer meal

One hot meal , 2 meals for the freezer ( not shown)

One freezer meal, cooked at the same time as the chilli

One hot meal, one freezer meal. Rough and ready looking, but taste great!

2. Slow Cooker Meals This Week

24 sausages in this baby pre cooking!

Picture before going in the slow Cooker

3. Breadmaker Examples

Random tips:

1. Be on the constant look out for vouchers and coupons you could use. Online, newspapers and magazines. 

2. Beware of offers or coupons that give you extra points to purchase something you wouldn't usually buy. This is generally not a good use of money.

3. Check "Buy one get one free" and "3 for the price of 2" offers thoroughly. Often they are not quite as good as they seem. Check the aisles for other prices and deals.

4.If you have vouchers to spend stock up on items you would usually buy in bulk.

5. Don't feel you have to buy the knives or luggage your supermarket has given you vouchers for and told you that you can have for half the price....unless you really need them and you have researched the price!

If this is all too much in one go, try one thing. Drop a brand at your supermarket next time you shop. If you don't notice the difference in the product, then keep buying it, if you do, return to your usual brand! It's a start! 

What tips do you have for keeping your grocery budget down? 
Where do you shop?


Charity Shopping - Hints and Tips

Back in the day we wouldn't have been seen dead in an item that had been brought from a charity shop, however 'vintage' or 'retro' it may have been. It just wasn't the done thing then! I think the ground would have swallowed me up if my mum would have wandered in through the front door with a " You'll never guess what I found you at the Hospicare Shop" shriek ! 
Today it is a whole different story. It has been made more acceptable to be seen rummaging amongst the purple rinses looking for gems and bargains. Recycling vintage items of unique clothing or bringing old pieces of furniture back to life with a lick of paint. Being thrifty has become a necessity for many of us in the current climate and I know for me I hate to part with money unnecessarily that has been earned through hours of hard graft. I do think there is a bit of a knack to charity shopping and you do have to persevere to get a bargain or two. We don't have any charity shops in the village where I live so I travel to the nearest town or city and make an outing of it. I take a bag of clothes and items to donate too. One mans junk is another mans treasure you know! 

These are my tips and hints for a trip out Charity Shopping:

  • Have a rough plan. Know where the shops are and which ones you are going to visit.
  •  Have an idea in your mind of the sort of things you are after, although be prepared to look for other things if you've time.
  • Shop early in the week. People usually clear out at the weekend and drop off their goods then. They will be on the shop floor by Monday or Tuesday.
  • Take cash and set a budget. You can overspend in a charity shop! I have known some shops not accept cards under £10 on the rare occasion.
  • Check labels for brand names and fabrics. Check for genuine designer items. Take your phone so you can check and validate things online.
  • Check for rips, tears, stains, missing buttons etc.
  • Check the size, not just the size label. Be open to altering something or dyeing a white item another colour if it is a good buy. I am a size uk 8 - 10 , but I look for items up to a size 14 sometimes.
  • Think outfits when you buy, the same as you do when you buy from new. Don't buy random items you will never wear.
  • Look for items you may sell on E.Bay. Designer names. 
  • Good finds are usually - leather belts, scarves, unique jewellery, jackets .
  • Take a bag of your own unwanted items to donate. Recycing clothes in this way helps reduce textile landfill.
  • Take some antibacterial handgel , just in case you feel a bit grubby after rummaging!
It really is worth it and to encourage you further just look at these bargains I have picked up this week!

  • H and M  lined skirt. This looked new to me. £4.00

  • Michael Morpurgo Kensuke's Kingdom 70p ( usually £5 new)

  •  Toast fine cord lined skirt. Perfect condition. Beautiful detail. £4.00

  • Fat face girl's age 5 skirt £.2.50

  •  Topshop wool blend sleeveless wrap around top. £3.00

  • Kookai blouse size 40 , but they come up small so I risked this and it fits ! Looks new. £2.25

  • Topshop fine pinstripe blouse - lovely pink buttons. £3.50

  • Faith leather boots with buckle detail £4.50 

  • River Island leather belt with statement buckle £1.50

  • Necklace with the word love. £1.00

  •  Coral necklace - this was brought by a friend from a charity shop for me because she knows I love coral from reading my blog! Thank you Hayley! X

  • Human Nature wool mix cropped cardigan £4.00

I don't usually buy all this in one go, but needed some props for a competition entry that I had to submit a you tube video for. I decided to talk about how you can save money by shopping at charity shops for your clothes, but you don't have to forgo style. The benefit is I get to keep and wear all these lovely items! I will post some outfit photos as I wear and style them.

I saw these definitions online and found them helpful so thought I would share with you. People do bandy the word Vintage around fairly freely nowadays to describe anything from a second hand modern cardigan to a genuine 1950s tea dress. So, as I understand it these are the loose definitions and boundaries:

Vintage - this is roughly the period from 1920's to about the 1970's. Look for labels, zippers, tell tale signs that your item comes from this period. Here is a good link to explain how to date vintage clothing.

Retro - This is the 1960 - 1970's period.

Antique - This is really the period pre 1920's

Charity or Thrifted - Pre used clothes that may include any of the above!

Are you a Charity Shopper or do you avoid them at all costs?


Charity Shop Finds

More treasures!

I seem to be having a run of good fortune with the charity shops around here at the moment. I shall share my collection of treasures over the next few days with you, starting today with a fabulous pair of Faith Ankle Boots and a Studded Leather Belt! Check out my previous finds here.

Bargain or what?!

1. Faith Black Leather Ankle Boots - almost new condition. £4.50

2. River Island Black Studded Belt with Statement Buckle. £1.50.

If you haven't yet tried shopping at a charity shop then do give it a go! I have a post coming out later in the week called " Getting the best out of your Charity Shop." Do pop back to read it if you're interested.

The time to be Thrifty - What Does it Really Mean?

"There are people who have money and people who are rich "            

                                                                                                                Coco Chanel

I went to an event with some other bloggers recently and we had a discussion about what the word Thrifty really meant. If you read my blog regularly, you may have picked up that one of the things I try and do is look for the best use of my money when I purchase things - although this doesn't always mean the cheapest.

Thrifty = careful and diligent in the use of resources

With the current climate and being careful with our finances becoming a necessity for a lot of us, it is a great concept to explore and discuss. Expenditure quickly mounts up and before you know it, debt can be staring even the financially well off in the face.

We all find ourselves in different situations and stages of our lives that can govern our spending. For me, I would say we are in a stage of our lives now where money is not as tight as it was in the past. We can afford to send our children to music or sports lessons. We live in a large house in a lovely village, we go on 'nice' holidays, I drive a new car, but all this comes at a cost. 

So,I am careful that I get the best deal when I do spend. I don't waste money on things I know I can get for a much better deal somewhere else. I say no to my children and make them wait for the things they ask for. I don't want them to have a consumer mentality that just throws away stuff when they tire of it and replace it with the next trend.

Being Thrifty for me does not necessarily mean living cheaply . It means living well, but within our budget, getting the best out of our money at the same time as considering environmental factors such as waste. I do shop at charity shops - who doesn't love a bargain and to recycle clothes, but I will also treat us to a pair of designer jeans when we can afford it. I would rather spend money on clothes that stand the test of time than ones that have to be replaced after a few outings because the zip has broken or the knees have worn through too quickly. 

I must admit that my conscience does get bothered when I buy a cheap top I may well love, knowing it will only last me a few months. At this point I will discard it and buy another. Is this really the best for my purse and for the environment? However , there have been occasions when I have spent more on items I have thought would last , only to find them falling apart long before their time! It's quality, not price that counts! There is a great debate hidden in there somewhere.....

Here is my latest find at a local charity shop - a pretty, lined, rough edged and fitted jacket in autumnal colours for £5. The pockets were still sewn up so it was obviously fairly new.

Here are some interesting quotes I found:

There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I'm almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn.Paul Clitheroe 

The amount of money you have has got nothing to do with what you earn.. people earning a million dollars a year can have no money and.. People earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It's not what you earn, it's what you spend.Paul Clitheroe 

The Best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without

“To earn what you can; spend what you must; give what you should, and save the rest—this is thrift.” ~ J.O. Engleman, 1918
 "Being frugal does not mean being cheap! It means being economical and avoiding waste." --Catherine Pulsifer

What does being Thrifty mean to you at this stage in your life?

Do you have any interesting quotes?

Look After the Pennies

I am always reminded of my Grandmother at this time of year as it was her birthday. I was very close to her and loved her dearly. My Grandmother , Grandy as she was known, used a well known saying that has stuck with me a long time " Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves." She lived a long and happy life, passing away at 102 a few years ago in her sleep. We had a plaque made in her memory and put on a bench at the local Botanical Gardens where she liked to sit and think.

She lived life very frugally, but was always very impeccably turned out . Always a smart twin suit with a matching hat and Mappin and Webb snap handbag. Her clothes were good quality and she made them last years and looked after them well. I love that until the last week of her life, when we read a entry in her diary that said " not right, don't feel well, not sure why" she dressed carefully and put her make up on everyday. A bit of blush on her cheeks and a pink lipstick on her lips, and she always smelt of talcum powder......

Happy Birthday Grandy, and if I have inherited just a tiny amount of your style and grace then I will be content !  X


Teacher's Gifts

End of term is fast approaching and being an ex teacher myself, I do like to put a bit of effort into the presents I give to the teachers and teaching assistants ( please don't forgot the TAs , they work sooooo hard!). This term  my eldest son is leaving primary school to go to secondary and he has been with a fantastic teacher for the past few years so I want to make a special effort with her. I do enjoy shopping around for interesting and unusual gifts that don't cost over £5 - otherwise with 3 children it costs an awful lot each term! I try not to go down the quick box of Roses chocolates route. I think my record one year as a teacher was 16 boxes of chocolates! I didn't eat them all I hasten to add - I shared some of them.

Gifts I have given so far have included seasonal chutney in a kilner jar at Christmas ( this was a bargain at £3.50), luminous metal book markers, Cath kidston mugs , recyclable shopping bags in the shape of a strawberry, pretty bath salts in a toilet bag ( £2.00  from Boots), pencil cases with named pencils in  - the list goes on.

I found this mug this year that my son loves and I am going to fill it with a box of Miles  ( made in the Westcountry) tea for one of the male teachers.

A Cath Kidston Mug is always a good one as well - a lovely mug for a fiver - filled with bath salts, a selection of tea or traditional sweets and pretty tissue paper. I have also put a collection of some of the unwanted samples from my beauty box in one - makes a lovely gift and a good use of those products too. I have often got a multi pack of more expensive Cath Kidston soaps and creams and split, mixed and re wrapped them in pretty tissue paper to make them go that bit further.....

I managed to get a 4 pack of owl themed mugs from Tesco today as well for around £5. I spilt these and then added a small present to each one . Not expensive at all, although mugs can also be a overused present given to teachers so make it a pretty one that could be used in the staff room ! It worked out at £1.25 for each mug and then £2.00 for each additional present, so £3.25 per present. 

A pretty notepad and some pens or pencils are a nice little gift too - this one was from Wilkinsons - the pencils were 75p and the notepad I think less than £2.00. It really doesn't need to be expensive.

Home made pencil pots by the younger kids , shows they have made some effort and contributed. Or a picture drawn or painted by your child and framed in a simple Ikea frame doesn't cost a lot at all.

I have been inspired this year to have a hunt around the charity shops and see what bargains I can come up with there as well. I am always on the look out for vintage glass jars for my kitchen and thought I could buy some bubble bath, relabel and decant it into some pretty bottles. Or filling some glass jars with pretty bath salts or old fashioned sweets or marshmallows looks lovely too. These ones ( see below) are from Next - the larger is £12 the smaller £6. They are actually sweet containers from my kitchen that I have had for about a year, but an example of the sort of idea I am talking about!

I picked this glass jar up for £2.50 today - just need to fill it ...I'm thinking pretty bath salts for this one?

I found a lovely necklace on line with the word "inspire" that I would love to get for my son's teacher, but I'm too late now and it wouldn't come in time. Lisa Leonards Designs USA

There is so much out there and it only takes a bit of thought and effort and really not much money - even buying a bunch of roses and giving one to each teacher with a ribbon on it shows your appreciation for the effort they put in with your children. I often pick things up when I see them on offer during the year - these packs of shower gels/creams cost me less than £2.00 each, but are ideal little thank you presents.

To wrap the presents I will often get a 5 sheet pack of pretty tissue paper and some raffia ribbon as it works out cheaper, but the cheapest of all is to buy some traditional brown paper on a roll and then get the children to decorate it with drawings or stickers. If you want to be really clever you could pre cut the paper and do some paint designs on beforehand or some splash art and leave to dry before wrapping. Labelling the gifts with luggage labels to match is also a nice touch.

If you really don't want to, or can't spend anything at the moment how about getting the children to write a few lines in a thank you card or letter - as a teacher myself I know you build such close relationships with the children you teach it often brings tears to your eyes when they say a few words of thanks back!

One of the biggest reasons I do this if I am honest is not only to say thank you to all of the staff at the school , but to also reinforce to my children the importance of saying Thank You.

Do you give thank you gifts - what ideas have you had - always looking for fresh inspiration!!?

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