V is for Vouchers and Deals

Day 22 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Vouchers, gift cards and coupons can be a very good way of saving some money on things that you want to have or to do and they come in many different forms.

The best deal that i use most days is that of the Co-op card. It gets swiped every time you img-coop-card-03shop and gives you 5% back on selected in store goods. That money is stored in your membership account and can be redeemed against another purchase whenever you want. I like to wait until i get up to about a tenner on it and then feel like i’m getting a load of shopping for free. Quite often, when you swipe your card, you will also get a coupon spat out of the till as well giving you money off other products in store. And it’s usually products that you will use. i got one yesterday for 50p off milk products.

NUS cardOn top of this card, i am also a student and therefore qualify for an NUS student card. This one isn’t free, it costs about £12.00 per year, but you get so many discounts you’re better off clicking the hyperlink above rather than me trying to list them. One of the participating stores though is the Co-op where you get 10% off your shopping. Tie this in with their own community card and you really can’t lose.

The NUS card also gives you access to Amazon Student Prime. 6 months free prime andAmazon prime then about £40 for the year instead of the usual £80. this gives you free one day delivery on Prime products, access to the Amazon Prime video streaming service and lots of other offers (these are just the two that i use regularly).

together-4-standard-2608As you are by now no doubt aware, i am into crafts. Therefore, one of my favourite shops is The Works who also have their own Together Rewards Card. Here you get 5 points for every £1.00 you spend and then you get an email every three months telling you how much you have to redeem. The email will also give you a date you have to redeem the points by. They do not rollover, so make sure you cash them in when you get them. There is so much choice in that shop for craft items or books that it is never that much of a hardship. Again, as long as you are only buying purchases that you need in the first place, you can’t really lose.

I also save towards Christmas using Love to Shop Vouchers. I save for mine through Parklove2shop-gift-vouchers-1 Hampers, but you can go to the above website and buy them direct. Personally, i prefer to spread the cost of them throughout the year rather than just buy them outright. Once i have finished paying into my account the full amount of the vouchers i wish to purchase, they are sent to me direct and i get to use them like Monopoly money going into whatever shop i wish to (that accepts them obviously) and pop presents for everyone (and maybe a few for me) into my basket without feeling guilty. I usually make sure i have enough to last me into January as well. This also makes present giving to far flung relatives easier as you get to post them a lot cheaper than you could a present.

There are so many other Vouchers that can save you money.

Going on holiday? Get the local paper for your destination and see if it has any money off vouchers inside for tourist destinations. And don’t forget the Sun newspaper tokens that can help you save a packet on a whole family holiday.

Shop at Tesco? See if you can convert the club card points to buy magazine subscriptions, days out or money of your weekly Tesco delivery (that you are now doing online so that you don’t succumb to those impulse purchases).

There is only one proviso with using vouchers and cards though.

It is only a bargain if you were going to buy it anyway.

If you are swayed into purchasing something just because it is a money off deal but you don’t actually end up using it, then you aren’t saving anything at all in the long run.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

Q is for Quilting

Day 17 of the A – Z blog challenge

Quilting is the perfect way to use up all those odd bits and pieces of fabric you have left over from other projects. It always seems strange to me that it is possible to make a perfectly good item out of the odds and sods that would normally be thrown in the rubbish bin because they are seen as scrap.

In times gone by, when we weren’t quite such a disposable society as we are today, you would never find good fabric thrown away, no matter how small. It would be sewn together into patches and made into blankets or clothing that were unique and timeless.

It doesn’t have to stay in the past though, quilting and appliqué (it’s got a Q in it!) can go a really long way in helping you to make something out of nothing.

With my own quilting, i like to do things a bit different to the usual. The family tree is a padded wall hanging backed onto wood. The bunny is made from the odds and ends of so many different projects that i made while the boys were growing up. The photo cushion is also made from preloved fabric and the photo is one of my three boys playing in the front garden about 15 years ago (the eldest is just climbing over the wall in case you are wondering how you missed one of them).

That’s not to say that i can’t do it ‘properly’ when i need to – that blue boat quilt has a really comfy blue fleece backing on it too…

And if the bits you have left are too small to do the traditional squares, you can always do triangles or use the bits for an appliqué design within the squares –

Applique square

A square i made for inclusion into a charity quilt a few years ago.

JodieOr, you can just use the bits and pieces for a complete appliqué design and then quilt the top appropriately to fit the design…

This wall hanging was a present to a beautiful woman who owned a yellow ukulele.

I’ll let you guess what her name is…

 

And it doesn’t have to be pieces of new fabric from sewing projects that you can use for these projects, you can repurpose any fabric.

Those denim jeans that have worn through in one spot but the rest is fine? Now, i know that you have

made yourselves funky handbags out of the body section, denim handbag  but there is still a load of good denim left in those legs…

…So how about some really handy utility aprons???

Although they aren’t strictly quilting…

…But these are…

Quilt tops denim

And when saving the little pieces, remember the trims. That butterfly on the denim quilt top was a patch on a pair of jeans.

So before you throw out those scraps, old clothes etc, take a closer look and see what else it can be used for. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

G is for Grow your Own

Day 7 of the A to Z blogging Challenge

There is something really satisfying about going out to your garden and picking fruit, veg or herbs and bringing it back into the kitchen to put straight into your meal or preserving it for later use.

For me it is the freshness of it and the fact that, apart from the initial outlay of seeds and equipment, it is free.

I know that i am lucky though, i live in the middle of Cornwall, UK, and i have a garden. It’s not very big – a veg plot is out of the question, as is a proper greenhouse – but it is big enough for a few fruit bushes, some pots and a small plastic grow house type thing that i have to anchor against the wooden fence to prevent it blowing away in the wind.

I also live on top of a very big hill. It gets a tad windy up here. To say the least. But it does look really cute in the snow (apart from the collapsed washing line – you’ll be pleased to know that i have fixed that, not bought a new one).

I remember as a child, my parents had a massive garden. They weren’t rich, council houses down here traditionally have huge gardens. My dad used half of it as a vegetable plot, the other half was lawned. We had five apple trees – 3 cooking apple and 2 eating apple – and could never get through all the apples they produced. My parents did do a rather good, rather potent job of making apple wine with it- although not as potent as their rice wine, boy, would that blow your head off – but it was criminal to see the wastage each year lying on the ground.

Dad used to grow so many vegetables that we didn’t have to buy very much at all. Potatoes, runner beans, onions, shallots (his pickled onions are still revered today in certain circles – i try to emulate them, but i don’t think i come close), carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber…all the old favourites back in the 70’s and 80’s. My biggest memory though is of sitting in the garden, hiding amongst the leafy greenery of the pea plants as they stood  tall, shielding me from the onlooking, beady eyes in the house and popping those juicy pods, stuffing the fresh peas into my mouth as fast as i could before i got caught. It really wasn’t as much fun at harvest time when i had to help pick and shell all of them to go in the freezer though.

peas1-lead_t640

My garden now doesn’t have any pea bushes sadly. But it does have redcurrant, cranberry, black currant, raspberry and gooseberry plants permanently planted into my fruit bed. In outside pots i grow my strawberries (they run rampant if grown in beds), mint (which also grows rampant if their roots aren’t contained), chives, parsley, potatoes and rhubarb.

home grown spuds

In the conservatory (which is also my sewing studio) i usually go for a tomato plant and a few chilli and pepper plants.

Conservatory

As i said, i know that i am lucky to have a garden at all, there are times that i wish that it was a bit bigger, but, in all honesty, i probably wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly if i did. That is one of the reasons i don’t apply for an allotment, but if that is an option that is open to you, then go for it.

Believe me though, you can’t beat the taste of home grown, or the satisfaction of adding your own fresh food to your cooking repertoire. If you have room for a few pots, try some chilli’s or peppers. Pick them straight off the plant, quick wash and dry with a paper towel, freeze on a baking tray (so they don’t stick together) and then pop them into a container in the freezer. You’ll have more than enough to spice up your dishes all year long. Or make some Sweet Chilli Jam (this is the recipe i use) and give it as part of a homemade Christmas hamper (more about that in a later post). Your friends and family will be begging for more.

And it saves you money.

Big bonus!

Have a happy day.

Anita x

F is for Freezing

Day 6 of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

By freezing i don’t mean literally sitting wrapped in blankets with icicles hanging off your nose. I’m really not that mean…well, not all the time anyway.

freezing person

I mean F is for Freezing your Food.

This has to be one of the biggest areas where wastage occurs and money can be saved.

I have always been a skint single mum. I have raised my three sons to adulthood almost single handed from the ages of 7, 5 and 3. They are currently 24, 22 and 20. I’ll be honest, i have no idea how i didn’t break them in the process, but we got there somehow and they are now my best friends.

But anyway, bringing them up and keeping their stomachs full was a pretty major task and one that i like to think i have excelled at, and that is mostly down to the canny use of the humble freezer and home cooking.

I have always batch cooked as well as buying reduced, on the date goods and frozen them. It is only in recent years though that i have acquired, in my opinion, my biggest money and time saving options which i still use regularly even though i am now down to only one son living at home and i really wish that i had known about them when the boys were younger.

The slow cooker and the soup maker. They both make large amounts, without much effort (i work full time and am studying for a Masters degree, i don’t have much spare time) and with virtually fool proof results.

I also find that if i am home alone for my evening meal, i quite often can’t be bothered to cook for one and that is when i reach for rubbish food or the cake cupboard. Having the ability to take out a home cooked frozen meal and just add some sort of carbs to it suits both me and my purse admirably.

The soup maker makes approximately four bowls of soup in about 20 minutes. At the weekend, i gather up whatever veg are lying forgotten in the bottom of my fridge, rough chop it, add a stock cube and some seasoning and press go. I then portion the finished soup into four plastic containers (the reusable kind) and pop them into the freezer. Soup for lunch for most of the working week sorted. Butternut squash and sweet potato with a bit of paprika is a particular favourite of mine but i quite often end up with random taste experiences such as ham, sweetcorn and mushroom, mushroom and carrot, leek and parsnip….and of course, just random vegetable soup…although it usually has mushrooms in it, i like mushrooms…

As for the slow cooker? I can give you any number of meat or vegetable dishes that can be cooked and then separated into containers and frozen for consumption on another date, but I have yet to find anybody else who knows that you can cook perfect jacket potatoes in a slow cooker. Just prick them, wrap them in foil as you would for the oven and bung them on low for about 8 hours. Bearing in mind that the slow cooker uses approximately the same amount of electricity as a normal light bulb that is not as excessive as it sounds. You then come home from work to yummy jacket spuds and all you need to sort out is the filling. My other trick with this is to cook a whole big bag’s worth and freeze in pairs what i don’t eat that evening. Then i just need to put them in the microwave the next time i want one or two for my tea, or i can take them straight to work to heat there. The possibilities are endless and have you seen the price of those frozen jackets in the supermarkets? Bet mine taste nicer.

Only thing to remember is to not freeze them still in the foil…it’s a bugger to pick it off a frozen spud, don’t say you weren’t warned!

Have a happy day.

Anita x

E is for Economics

Day 5 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

 

According to the British Dictionary the definition of Economics is ‘the social science concerned with the production and consumption of goods and services and the analysis of the commercial activities of a society.’ 

Or to put it in my way, making sure you don’t go broke by buying stuff you can’t afford.

‘It makes sound economic sense’ is a phrase that i have often heard although i will admit to not always adhering to the message.

I’m not going to sit here and preach about what you should or shouldn’t buy, you are the one in control of your purse strings and you are the one who decides whether to open it or keep it shut. But all i am going to ask is that you think before you make that final decision to purchase.

And the only thought that i ask you to consider is the one i mentioned above: Does it make sense?

Particularly if you have to go into debt to be able to afford it.

Look into whether you can afford the repayments. What the interest rate is? How long will you be paying for it? How much will the item have depreciated in value by the time you have paid it off? How much will it cost you in total if you do buy it on credit?

How confident are you that you will still be earning the amount you currently do for the length of the borrowing term?

Will you actually use it? Do you actually need it?

When you have answered these questions, then you will have your answer as to whether it makes sense or not and can make a rational decision whether to sign on the proverbial dotted line, or flash the plastic numerous times, forgetting the purchases almost immediately and then panicking when the bill comes in two months time.

Better still, leave the plastic at home, odds are, if you have to go back to the shop a few days later then the impulse will have passed and more than likely you don’t buy it anyway.

never-spend-your-money-before-you-have-earned-it-quote-1

My dad always told me to live within my means. Earn it first and save up for the big stuff. I’m no hero, i didn’t always do as he said and i learnt from my mistakes.

He also told me to always reverse park into a parking space because you never know what pillock will have blocked you in while you were away from your car. I have always listened to that advice and been thankful for it many, many times.

Maybe i should have listened to his economic advice earlier……

And no, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t my dad…

But my dad was my hero…

179998_1740615728428_1629734270_1651101_3686853_n

 

Have a happy day.

Anita x

Reference

British online dictionary, Economics, Available at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/economics?s=t

 

D is for Disposable

Day 4 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

Today’s society relies far too heavily on the use of disposable items. We are the throwaway society that i talked about on Day One, A is for Action, and it can’t all be solved with the use of Beeswax Wraps no matter how much i love mine.

It’s not just the obvious plastic utensils, paper plates at parties, takeaway containers when we fancy a proper fish and chip supper etc, it is in just about everything we do and everything we use.

We don’t get things mended anymore. It is just so much easier to go and buy a new item to replace one that is broken or torn and yet there is, quite often, so much life left in an item if it’s just given a little bit of TLC.

I am a qualified seamstress. I first used a sewing machine back in my secondary school in the 80’s and have rarely been without one since. I feel bereft when I am without access to one. I know that makes me sound sad. On top of my day job i also take in alterations and repairs for clothing but the value of this occupation has diminished considerably over the last decade or two. Generally, it is not considered as a costly thing to do. I have lost count of the amount of times i have been asked,

‘Can you just replace this zip?’

And i take a look at the pair of jeans. I know how much of the waistband i have to unpick, how many belt loops have to be taken off, how difficult it is to get the old zip out through three rows of stitching without damaging the surrounding fabric, inserting the new zip and then replacing the belt loops individually into the replaced waistband. Oh, and not forgetting that i  am usually expected to go and buy the new zip as well, it is rare that the customer brings one with them so add on the fuel and the time to get to the shops and back. Online shopping is not often particularly good for this type of service, or maybe i’m just too picky…

And so i reply,

‘Yes, i can do that. It will take me about an hour to an hour and a half. I charge £10 an hour plus the cost of the zip which will be around a fiver. So, between £15 and £20. Is that ok?’

And the customer says,

‘Twenty quid? It’s only a zip. I can get a new pair for that!’

And so we have the definition of the disposable society.

It is quite often cheaper to throw it away and buy a new pair of jeans than it is to get the old ones repaired. They go into landfill and the clothing shop owners who make and buy in mega bulk and sell at mega cheap prices are rubbing their hands all the way to the bank.

I’m not saying we should all stop buying from these places, although i do believe that, in some cases, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a £2.50 T shirt to not shrink in the first couple of washes – my tip, buy a bigger size to account for it, believe me, it will fit perfect after a few spins in the washing machine – but i do think we need to take a bit of time to consider our purchases and what we throw away. Sometimes, just a little bit of thought can save us an awful lot of money.

And it’s amazing what you can do with a pair of old jeans…

Have a happy day,

Anita x

B is for Beeswax Wraps

The A to Z Blogging Challenge

A recent discovery in my bid for a more sustainable lifestyle are Beeswax wraps. I am so totally in love with these!

Beeswax wraps-2

I take a packed lunch with me every day to work. Quite often this consists of home made soup which i make in batches and freeze in reusable plastic containers that i can then put straight into the microwave. However, when i have had a lazy weekend which involved me not getting around to making said soup i revert to the good old favourite of a sandwich which would then be put into a plastic sandwich bag. This piece of plastic would then go in the bin once i had eaten my lunch. In my hunt for a more planet and purse friendly option i came across these. If looked after properly, they can be reused again and again, they are chemical free and the perfect alternative to cling film, sandwich bags and foil.

What makes them so amazing? They use the heat of your hands to fold around anything, i have recently seen them referred to as ‘self cling fabric’ as well.

And the cleaning? You just wash them in hot soapy water with your normal dishes – not the dishwasher though, that is too hot, and will make the beeswax melt. Similarly, these cannot be used in the microwave (i just bung a plate on top of any bowls etc). It is also recommended that you don’t use them for raw meat because of the risk of contamination through not being able to clean them at an incredibly hot temperature.

On my search for these i also looked out how to make them and where to source the ingredients, mainly because i have a fabric stash a mile high that needs to be used up. The ones in the photos are wraps i made myself and when my next delivery of beeswax arrives i will be having some up for sale on my ETSY page and my Facebook page, both of which are called Baby Dreams Stitchery. So keep an eye out here over the next week for some fab designs – don’t you think the Minnie Mouse one is adorable? That particular one is currently sitting in my fridge covering half a tin of mushy peas…but i have a fair bit of that fabric left to make more. I also have some pretty funky vintage Paddington Bear earmarked for this project as well, although i don’t have much of this fabric left so there won’t be very many made.

So, as far as i am concerned, beeswax wraps are the bees knees. They have resulted in a considerable drop in the amount of single use plastic i use in the house (that tin of mushy peas would previously have had a sandwich bag pulled over the top) and my family are gradually nicking the ones i have made faster than i can make them – the ones for Baby Dreams Stitchery will be hidden from their prying eyes and thieving fingers…

For those of you who are vegetarian, it is also possible to get soya wraps which are purported to work in a similar way, but i cannot comment on these as i have not researched them…yet…

Check back tomorrow to discover what my C is going to be in this alphabet challenge and seriously take a look at making the switch to beeswax or soya wraps, i mean, how much clingfilm and how many sandwich bags do you get through in a year????? I bet you’d be horrified if you stopped to work it out.

A quick google search has told me that in 2017 there were 260 official working days in the year… i’ll let you carry on with the math from there as only you know how much single use plastic you use in each lunchbox for your family…

the-scream-edvard-munch

Feel free to let me know your answer…

And above all,

Have a happy day.

Anita. x