O is for Organise Yourself

Day 15 of the A -Z Blog Challenge.

For me, the key to saving money is being organised.

For anyone that knows me, they will be well aware of how difficult i can find that ideal sometimes.

I am one of those people that tend to have a fair bit on the to do list, but will procrastinate and prevaricate until the very last minute and then get it all done in a rush. Sometimes, this isn’t necessarily the cheapest way of doing things and i am slowly getting into the swing of organising my time more effectively to achieve the best outcome for both myself and my purse.

  1. The first thing i had to learn to do was to actually write a list. I’m not good at writing lists. In the past, i have thought that the time spent writing the list of things to do could be better spent actually doing something that i have to do. In some cases that may be true, but for the large part, the focussing of the mind on the tasks that lie ahead can help to alleviate the problem of ‘what shall i do first?’
  2. Actually use the list. Yeah, this helps. I cannot count the amount of times that i have actually written a shopping list and then got to the supermarket only to find i have left it on the kitchen worktop at home. this means that i then fall into my old habit of wandering up and down the aisles, throwing things i think i need and might have written on the list into my trolley. then i get home and find that i’ve forgotten everything i had on the list but i now have 12 tins of baked beans…
  3. Meal plan…with a list. Look through your kitchen cupboards/fridge/freezer and plan what you are going to eat at each mealtime through the week. Then write it down and stick it somewhere that you will see. When you go to the supermarket, you only need to buy the items you require for the meals that you will be eating, not a random assortment of bits and bobs that leave you scratching your head for actual meals but the freezer is so full of vegetables, you can’t fit anything else in. I currently have three big bags of Brussel sprouts in my freezer. I hate sprouts. With a vengeance. As do two of my sons. The one who does like sprouts lives 200 miles away…..
  4. Consider online food shopping. With your trusty meal plan in hand, this can reduce your spending as you aren’t tempted by the sales tactics of the supermarkets flashing their impulse buys at you as wander around the store. You may also save on fuel depending on what the delivery charge is and how close or distant you may live to the chosen shop. A saving on time and shoe leather can also be seen as a bonus on this one.
  5. Organise the house so that it works for you. If it’s the only way that it will get done, then list what housework jobs you are going to do and on what days. Tick them off when you are finished with them. If this really helps, then start to write a journal, a plan of your work and the order in which you do it. Use colours, stickers, cut out pictures from magazines and glue them in. Make it your goal.

Make your life work for you rather than letting it happen and then being disgruntled at what little has been achieved at such a great cost.

Organisation and advance planning can work to help you to achieve what you want.

To do listOne of my first lists. It’s a work in progress.

Meanwhile…

Beans on toast with a side order of Brussels sprouts for anyone???

Have a happy day.

Anita x

N is for Needs versus Wants

Day 14 of the A-Z Alphabet Blog Challenge.

This is about taking a step back from your spending habits.

Before you reach for your purse or wallet, before you press ‘buy it now’ on the keyboard or phone screen just ask yourself the question:

Do I need it or do I want it?

Either answer is a perfectly valid reason to make a purchase but this simple query might help you to clarify your reasoning beforehand.

want-need-balance 3d

If you need it? If it is an item or service that you actually have to have then there is no option for you other than to shop around for the best value that suits your needs.

For instance. I took my car to have the tyres checked at a local tyre specialist centre at the weekend because one day last week i was running out of the door to go to work and spotted an almost flat tyre on the front. Not the best start to a Monday morning i must say. Luckily, there was enough air in it still to get me to the nearest service station where i pumped it up and carried on my way. Anyway, the upshot of the checkup was that my wheel alignment was really bad. So bad, that it had worn away the tyres on the inside (where i couldn’t see), one of them was down to the inner canvas. I was lucky that i didn’t have a blow out.

So, was this a Need or a Want?

Definitely a Need. I live in the middle of nowhere with a really rubbish bus service. I am three miles from my closest local shop. Whilst the exercise would probably be good for me, it is not practical for me to be without a car. So two new tyres and a wheel alignment later, my car is roadworthy again and I am a happy bunny, albeit a £200 lighter in the purse one.

If you want it? Then you can work out how great that want is to determine whether or not you continue to make the purchase. Again, this gives you time to step back and think about why you want it, and can you get the same item elsewhere for cheaper.

For instance. Back to the coffee at work scenario that i have talked about previously. I had fallen into a habit of buying a latte from the local coffee shop every morning on my way into work. It started the day off well and i didn’t have to wait for the kettle to boil in order to have it. The coffee shop also does a discount on takeaway drinks if you take your own mug in so that also helps to sway the decision to have one. When i added up how much i was spending over the year and it came to over £500 though? Ouch, that was bit of a shocker!

I don’t need a takeaway coffee every day. I can quite easily turn the kettle on when i get in, wait five minutes and then i have a cup of coffee. I’m not saying i’ve completely stopped. There are times when that want does become a need, i think i’ve had 2 takeaway cups since the New Year when i did the maths. But as you can see, i have drastically reduced what has been spent just by standing back and asking whether i needed it or wanted it.

Probably just as well as the money i have saved went on two new car tyres and a wheel alignment…

Ask yourself the question next time you are shopping. You might be surprised at the answer.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

M is for Make Do and Mend

Day 13 of the A – Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge

Hey, i’m half way through the month and as my theme is making do and mending then it seems kinda obvious to have that for my letter M.

For most of my life i’ve been a skint single mum so as much as i would like it to be otherwise, making do and mending has always been on the agenda.

Yes, i’m a qualified seamstress. Yes, i am interested in many crafts and have quite a few DIY skills but i sometimes wonder if i would have had them had it not been a necessity to gain those attributes?

I guess it started when i was a teenager (i wasn’t a mum myself then by the way, but i was skint). My mum would always say that she couldn’t even thread a needle which meant that if i wanted anything sewn or mended i had to do it myself. Once she found out that i was actually reasonably ok at threading needles, it is amazing how much my mending pile would grow…

When i was about thirteen i asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Mum and dad didn’t have a clue about sewing machines, and they were also skint, so they scoured the local paper and picked up a second hand one for me and put it under the tree. I loved that machine, it was an old singer, you’d call it vintage now (it was bordering on vintage then) and it would only go forwards and back but it meant that i could take in the legs of the 70’s flared jeans that my cousin passed onto me so that they fit the fashion of the 80’s.

Sewing machine vintage  This isn’t my old machine, but it is the exact version. I found this picture at Helen Howes Sewing Machines . There are plenty of other vintage machines on her site also.

I have had several sewing machines since this one, i am bereft if one breaks and i am without one – it happened when i couldn’t afford a new one once, i was without for about six months. It was emotional.

My current machine does a lot more than just forward and back. It does so much that i probably don’t use at least half of its capacity, but it does thread the needle for me and it also cuts the thread when i’ve finished sewing. It’s the little things.

sewing set up

But would i have been such a keen sewist if it hadn’t been for necessity? I guess i’ll never know, but learning and using that skill has definitely saved me money as well as helped me to earn some with Baby Dreams Stitchery.

And what of other crafts and DIY?

My dad taught me to wallpaper and paint from a very young age, i also learnt early that wood chip paper is a definite no no in the decorating stakes, no matter how bad the underlying wall state is.

I can also handle a drill and a screwdriver-yes, i do know the difference between a flat head and a posidrive. I am a dab hand at reading the instructions and then building flat pack furniture, the bunk beds were a bit awkward, had to get my (female) neighbour in to help me to put one on top of the other. The double bed in contrast was a doddle.

I think what i am trying to say here is that it is cheaper to fix something, or create it yourself than it is to discard and buy new every time. For me, the make do and mend lifestyle began as a necessity, and even though life isn’t quite so pressured financially as it used to be, it is still a way of life and always will be.

I was just walking around a certain upmarket home and fashion store and saw some really cute cushions with the phrase ‘Bee Happy’ appliquéd onto them…for £25….

I put them back on the shelf…

I can make it myself much cheaper than that…

But then, i don’t have to pay myself for the several hours labour it’s going to take either…

Have a happy day.

Anita x

L is for Lunch

Day 12 of the A to Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge.

And by lunch, i mean making your own…

I work full time and that inevitably means that i have a mealtime while i am there. Now, i am quite lucky that my place of work has a complete kitchen that i can access in order to cook something should i so wish, however, time is not always on my side in order for this to happen.

There was a time when i would think nothing of saying that i didn’t have time (read as couldn’t be bothered) to make a packed lunch and i would then buy sandwiches/wraps or pasties (gotta be done when you are Cornish) for my midday meal. This adds up though. Even getting the local shops meal deal at £3.00 a time x 5 equals £15.00 per week. Multiply this by 48 (omitting four weeks holiday per year) and you have a total of £720.00. Add this onto the total of over £800 for take out coffees that i talked about in K is for Keep a Diary or Journal, and you have a costing of over £1,500.00!

How many holidays can you take for that?

Lunch doesn’t always have to be boring either, you can be the envy of your workmates with a little creativity. Fresh salads with added extra’s that you would never get in a shop bought one. Wraps or sandwiches filled chock full of so many foodstuffs that tickle your tastebuds.

Personally, i add my home made chutneys to both salads and sarnies adding that personal touch and flavour that i just cannot buy anywhere.

Autumn chutney jars

 

I don’t sell these although that is my label. I just like them to look cool when i give them away as presents.

 

 

 

I also make a lot of soup with random flavours, depending on what vegetables i have in the fridge, and add herbs and spices to flavour exactly to my taste.

Occasionally i will just take an egg, some milk and some bread in with me and make scrambled egg in the microwave and a couple of pieces of toast. It takes approximately 3-4 minutes and you have a nice filling meal that cost you pennies.

And if i’ve cooked a big batch meal the night before, then box full of the leftovers is always tasty the next day!

Be creative with your lunch and see how much money you can save over a very short time.

And don’t forget the lunch bag as well – you can be really cool and funky with your choice of those…

You can find a PDF tutorial on how to make these bags in my ETSY shop Baby Dreams Stitchery

Let me know what your favourite home made, quick and easy lunch ideas are.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

H is for Healthy

Day 8 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

It goes without saying that we all want to be healthy. Often though, that means that we feel we have to spend money on things that we don’t really want to. You know what i mean: the gym membership, all those vitamins and minerals in tiny little jars, premium foods that promise the earth, quick fix slimming plans and diets, alternative treatments…i’m sure you can think of many more to add to this list that are pertinent to you and your current lifestyle.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to stay healthy though. Here are some areas where you can cut your spending right now, and still feel the benefits:

Exercise is actually free.

takesteps

  • Take a walk. Take a jog or if you are really motivated (or mad?) Take a run.
  • Do some exercises at home, press ups, sit ups, jog on the spot, squats, bungee jumps.
  • Play football outside with the kids, get a skipping rope and see how many jumps you can do before you trip over it.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk the rest. Unless you have a physical or mental disability (or a baby/toddler where safety is paramount) that means you have to be in the parking spot closest to the supermarket door. It is actually possible to park at the back of the car park…there are spaces there too and quite often, they are empty because everybody thinks they have to park as close as they can get to the supermarket door…
  • Similarly, no car? On the bus? Get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Dance to your favourite music and sing it loud and proud while you do – although if your voice is anything like mine then i suggest you close the windows first so you don’t upset the neighbours…

noisy neighbours

Basically, anything that gets your heart rate up is classed as exercise, and the more you do, the more you will benefit from it. And isn’t it better if you can get that for free?

Eating doesn’t have to cost more to be healthy. 

  • Buy foods that are in season, they are much cheaper then and don’t forget, you can chop them up and freeze them ready for quick meals another day.
  • Batch cook foods and freeze them so you aren’t tempted to buy something in when you are too tired or running short of time another day.
  • Buy out of season vegetables from the freezer section. They are cheaper (because they were probably picked and frozen when they were in season, see the first point)
  • Plan your meals in advance to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates etc that you need every day. And stick to it.
  • Unless you have a specific medical reason for taking vitamins and supplements, the odds are, they aren’t doing a thing for your body, they are just making your pockets lighter. If you eat a full balanced diet then you should be getting everything you need in it’s natural form.
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables (See my post, G is for Grow your Own). It is cheaper, you get some exercise while you are tending to it and you can’t possibly eat any fresher than straight off the plant.

Eat clean as part of a normal healthy diet.

  • The quick fix diet plans may work in the short term, but they are expensive and more often than not, once normal eating is resumed, the weight creeps up again too.

Ultimately, don’t be a sheep.

It is not necessary for you to shell out on the latest fad because social media or your peers tell you that it is THE thing to do. Make up your own mind. Find what works for you.

And just do it. Follow the crowd

Most of all though, whatever you choose to do, enjoy it. You’re more likely to stick to a plan if you are enjoying the experience rather than thinking it is a chore that has to be got through.

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