Friday 12 April 2024

Where are we at, then?

Well, it’s been a while (again), no? Here we are having been in our glorious new house for SEVEN FREAKING MONTHS - how did that happen? Well anyway, we have, and so here we are at just the right time to start focusing on the garden! 

First up - some scene setting. Our sellers liked being “in” the garden but also liked it being fairly low maintenance, so we inherited some plants (the most fabulous campanula, a large and possessive lavender, some ornamental grasses (bleurgh - not a fan), a very pretty jasmine, some foxgloves, and invading through the fence from next door a winter jasmine (hurrah - as our cuttings brought from our old one which in turn was originally bought in memory of HRH The Cat and Jazzlet-Doglet didn’t survive) and what might be a honeysuckle - we’re still waiting to see on that last.) We also inherited some gaps where some of their favourite plants used to be, and a fair number of quite determined weeds… there is a small lawn, and then quite a lot of patio - far more than two people who enjoy sitting outside, but only need a relatively small area to do so, needed, so a plan was hatched… 

A couple of weekends ago, lovely-Steve-the-Handyman came round with an assortment of tools and a good deal of determination, and cut/prised/bashed away at a roughly 4’ x 12’ area of patio - to create a new vegetable growing bed. It turned out to be a little more challenging than he (and we!) expected - in places the concrete base was over 3 inches thick, and there was more hardcore and rubble than you would even believe underneath it! Eventually though after about 4 hours of his time, one ever so slightly poorly drill, a fair bit of swearing, several chunks of slab and concrete that even he and MrEH between them struggled to move, and a further 5 hours of our time the following day involving a lump hammer and brick bolster, plus 4 tip-runs (and several more still needed) we ended up with a hole in the garden that would shortly swallow what felt like sufficient compost to keep a small garden centre going for months. And THEN, we ended up with this…

And yes, we’ve already started planting in it! In true “EH Style” we’ve gone as frugal as possible - and our planting is designed and planned to provide us with foodstuffs which either we use a lot of, or which are expensive or difficult to buy. In the back right corner is a redcurrant. We had one at the flat, and briefly debated whether we could move it, but had to decide that it wasn’t going to be practical. The new one was acquired from the half price section at our local branch of a large orange DIY chain, and doesn’t seem to have objected to the lengthy delay in planting it’s had to face while we got our act together with the garden! The other large plant in there is, as you can probably spot, a rhubarb - high on our list of “plants we want when we have space”. Along the edge there are a couple of small sorrel plants. - which won’t mind the shade that the rhubarb will undoubtedly (hopefully!) end up casting…


… and a thyme, which should quite enjoy what might end up being a fairly sunny and liable to be dry spot in that corner, as well as clambering around the edges of the slabs a bit to soften things. The other end has courgettes - three plants, which from past experience is enough to leave us needing to eat a LOT of courgettes AND casting around trying to find folk to give them to. We’ll also be getting some potatoes in there (excellent for breaking up the soil in the bed’s first year) and also probably some rainbow chard - we’ve grown this before and it’s a really good versatile leafy summer veg. I will probably also be adding some more bits here and there round the edges - almost certainly more herbs - I’d like a fennel for the back left corner, and I already have thyme seedlings on the go ready for more edge-softening… the back “might” get raspberries - that one still requires thought. 

Elsewhere in the garden we have also been busy - and busy reusing resources we already have so far as we can. Having removed a big chunk of patio in one place, we’re now increasing it’s size a little elsewhere - a line of reclaimed slabs along the “top” end now have herbs in pots on them…

…and some more are being used at the bottom end to widen the path there and make the area more user-friendly. It won’t be the most aesthetic result, but it will be functional. More reclaimed slabs have been used to line around the edges of the compost bin - we had a bit of an annoying vermin issue there when we first arrived - and the whole and part bricks and blocks we dug out of the new bed have been used to make a rough and ready “wall” across the back of the new bed to avoid any risk of a garden fork skewering the electric cable that runs there. Three gooseberry plantlets carefully dug up from the flat are all settled in and doing well, sadly it’s starting to look like the Bay we also brought with us might not have survived, although we do still have a spare in a pot if needed. 

Lots of sowing of seeds has also been happening - the mini greenhouse (bought for a bargain price in Wilko’s closing down sale - the price was so good we bought a spare one, too!) is full to bursting…

…masses of potted-on tomato plants, sunflowers, a big pot of miniature round carrots, various herbs (parsley, choices, that thyme, coriander, lots of basil) and various other odds and ends. 

In one of the raised beds on the other side of the garden we have a little thicket of Broad beans - SO nice to be able to grow those again as they are one of my favourite veggies! 

Meanwhile a trough of cut-and-come-again salad leaves and spinach is going great guns on the patio table - we’ll be able to start lightly harvesting from that soon, and I will be getting another trough of each sown at some stage too I think. The table is enormous, was left (with our agreement) by our sellers, and is far bigger than we need, so we’ll be using a good bit of it for now for various pots of salad we think - hopefully it might keep them out of the way of slugs and snails and will also make them super-easy to harvest too. 

Still to get sown in a few weeks will be more beans - runners this time, and back to our long standing favourites “Polestar” there. Most of our seeds were bought at the end of the growing season last year for very reduced prices - we’ve always favoured this, and as long as they have enough date left on them to enable them to be sown the following year it can be a good way of making home-grown even more affordable. Once the shops want to clear the space for other goods, they often sell seeds at rock-bottom prices so it’s well worth keeping your eyes open. Other little money-saving ploys in the garden include using the run-off from water for washing up (our boiler is in the loft so it takes an age to run through hot) to fill watering cans - as we are now metered we are paying for it, so I’d sooner it went on the garden than down the drain! 

So there you have it - your whistlestop tour of our little fledgling garden. It’s not huge - just an average sized town garden really, but it’s plenty for us to be getting on with while we get back into the swing of having proper growing space again. Just so you know, this entire post has been written sitting in the garden too which has been rather delightful. From my comfy seat in the corner it’s rather nice to survey the space which is hopefully going to go a good way to feeding  us, as time goes on - and yes, of COURSE I’ve been enjoying a cup of tea, too! 


Friday 26 January 2024

Frugal Friday…

 Time for an update on that grocery challenge I mentioned I think, don't you? 

Obviously we're now approaching the end of the month, I’m pleased to say costs have stayed generally  low in comparison to normal, and I'm beginning to feel that I am getting back to basics on the way we plan meals, ensure that food waste is nonexistent and make the best use of the resources we have.  There was a slightly bigger than expected shop in week one as I had lots of coupons from ThaT SupermarkeT which it seemed wise to use - they provide us with a combination of  additional loyalty points (and those points are then doubled in value, mostly to be used towards things which we would otherwise pay cash for) or indeed actual money off, not to be sniffed at! So we topped up on a few things, hit a spend threshold, bought a few bits which while we might not need them right now, we will certainly use, and wandered out with a not-too high spend and a nice wodge of extra points. We also took the decision to head to the Farmer’s market last weekend as we are unable to get there in February and I wanted to make sure we had sufficient meat to take us through. 

One thing I have found really helpful to make sure we make the best use of the food we have in is to run with a rolling meal plan - so once a week or so, I jot down the things I've got planned for the  next few days, then whole of the following week, and then some rough ideas to choose from for the week after that. I start with thinking about what we have in the freezer, fridge and cupboards (no larder any more, sadly!) - do we have eggs nearing the end of their date? Is there half a butternut squash in the fridge that needs using? Is there still a tub of that nice bolognese sauce I made the other week and froze a few portions of? I fit certain types of meals to particular nights of the week, too - Mondays are generally something really quick - a previously batch cooked pasta sauce from the freezer with some spaghetti for example, because who the heck wants to cook anything complicated on a Monday evening? Tuesdays I do something that can easily be split into two as MrEH has rugby training - couscous with roasted veg and some form of protein element is a big favourite - he can either eat it cold or heat it up depending how he feels, but all he needs to do when he gets home is assemble and eat. Wednesday and Thursday nights often involve a bit more cooking, and Fridays are usually something tasty, that might involve a bit more prep and cooking time - occasionally even an actual recipe! Weekends tend to be a bit more of a free-for-all depending on what else we have going on - on a Saturday I'm often just sorting lunch for myself for example as MrEH has headed off to rugby, so soup and bread or a toastie hits the spot nicely. Where possible I love to do some form of roast dinner on a Sunday - and that always provides us with more than the one meal as well. Last week's roast pork gave us a generous helping each for Sunday, then fed us again on Tuesday (with couscous) and Wednesday (stir-fried) plus there are another two double-helpings in the freezer - one in the forms of slices ready for another roast, and the other in chunks - that will probably be stir-fried in a future week.

I know I have said this before but starting with a quick review of anything you might have about that needs using is probably the best way I know of avoiding food waste, beyond the obvious planning and buying just what you need, of course!  As I mentioned the other week, it's often possible to prevent things from going past their best by making something out of them there and then - my soup was a good example. However, you can also sometime rescue things which you're not in a position to cook with immediately. Sweet peppers for example can be chopped and frozen (ideally spread out on a sheet of baking parchment or baking liner, then tip them into bags or tubs when frozen solid). Mushrooms hovering on the edge of slimy can be chopped and oven roasted with a drizzle of oil, then frozen in the same way. Green veg benefits from a light blanching in boiling water - then cool it as swiftly as possible and again, loose freeze for ease of use. we do, after all, spend a fair amount of our annual income on ensuring that we are fed - so it does make the best use of that money. 

One thing I have switched up recently is that I am doing a lot more of my shopping at a budget or “discounter” supermarket - and I do think it’s saving me money too. The one I use most these days also has a nice app which rewards you when you reach certain spend thresholds in a month - today for example I went back in after my main shop as I was able to claim a free bakery item - a nice crusty sourdough style loaf worth £1.99 - like all these things the trick is to shop normally and not be seduced into spending more to hit a particular level - although it has to be said if I was just a pound or so off one of the levels the week before the end of the month I might add something for the storecupboard into the trolley to push us over. If you shop there a few times a month, the app will probably be worthwhile for you though.

We’ve resisted the call of the takeaway this month although there was a meal out - pizza in a pub with pals last weekend, and most delicious it was!  (And also from our personal spending money, not our food budget!)

I know - not particularly frugal! (Tasty though!)

It’s looking like we’ll have about a £75 underspend on our January budget - possibly slightly less, but in that region, and I’m pleased with that. It’s been really good to properly focus back on a frugal challenge again this month, and I do feel that it’s also been beneficial to get back into the habit of proper meal planning again too.  Allowing that we are still fairly well stocked, I’m going to roll the challenge on into February as well so I’ll keep you posted on how we go. There will be no Frugal February his year I don’t think as we do have a couple of things planned through the month which will involved (planned and budgeted) spending, so having something to focus on and keep our heads in the thrifty game would be good! 


Thursday 18 January 2024

Plotting and planning...

River Stort - 14th January 2024

I was doing some reading back over the blog (on the basis that at least someone is still reading it, then!) and it's got me all inspired to maybe make some fun plans for the new year to share with you all - what do you think? First up - and as always really the cornerstone of everything, will be the financial stuff...

With the new house, our financial situation has changed fairly dramatically - although the new mortgage isn't particularly huge by many people's standards, we are working on precisely the same approach as when we had the mortgage on the flat (which was in fact slightly smaller than this one!) - that being, that we want to see it gone! As a result, and learning from our experience first time round, we made our first overpayment this time immediately - in fact, technically, before the first contractual payment was made - which was a pretty good feeling! We've overpaid each month since then, and will be continuing to do this going forwards. As before, the "saved" money from the two "free" Council Tax months will also go across to the mortgage as this has always been a good easy win. One thing that is an absolute joy this time is the ease of making overpayments - a complete contrast the faff last time round with having to phone up each time we wanted to make one, now I can simply pay money across whenever I feel like it from our banking app! It feels like a great novelty, even if I am perhaps driving MrEH (who keeps a proper tally of our overpayments, interest saved etc) just a little crazy by occasionally paying off odd amounts to bring us up to a nice round number outstanding! 

We're now working to a completely new budget as you might expect - and that is under fairly constant review at the moment. We are also still aiming to stash a decent chunk into savings each month - currently we can save at a higher interest rate than the mortgage is costing us, so while it makes sense to pay some money off against the mortgage, it also makes sense to ensure that the majority of our monthly surplus is still allocated to savings.  We have new savings pots - for things for the garden among other things - and are also having to adjust to having to carefully pick and choose what we say yes to doing, as the balance of what we want to do financially doesn't allow for the fairly regular weekends away we were able to agree to previously. We're also actively working to make savings where we can - and as always, as those savings are made, that money will be squirreled away into our Mortgage Overpayments Pot - from there, each time the balance reaches £100 a little chunk is paid to the mortgage. 

One substantial change we have to our plans for 2024 is that there will be no Great British Beer Festival - the decision had to be announced that we were unable to hold the festival this year due to issues with the venue. It's disappointing - as these days it forms a massive part of our year - but we will still be working hard in the background to ensure that when the festival makes its return in 2025 it's the best it has ever been. From my perspective this will mean some changes to the airshows I can attend as well - plus enabling me to do the whole of the Royal International Air Tattoo for the first time ever - although it doesn't actively clash with GBBF, it is at the time of year when MrEH and I are both frantically busy with stuff relating to it, so I shall be making the most of that one this year. As always, I am saving monthly towards airshow fun and games to come - this means that I always know that the money is there for the tickets and accommodation for the places I want to go - a real win! 

On the house front, there really isn't a huge amount of work we need to do - but there are a few things we would like to get done in due course. Of these the most pressing is to remodel the garden which currently has rather more patio and less growing space than needed - to a man with an angle grinder will be required to change this, and we want to get it done early in the spring as that will then make a big impact on what we can grow to help with feeding ourselves in 2024.  Beyond that, there are a few internal cosmetic bits and pieces - which we mostly have the paint for already, and then we are into potentially slightly further off jobs which we may start pricing up but are unlikely to do anything about actually getting done in the near future.

Personally, I'd really like to get back to more regular running again. A back injury last year lead me to stop running AND cycling - as the type of injury it was can be made worse by both those things. There's been no improvement for not doing them though, so I am now beginning to add a little bit of running back into  my life again - and I'm loving it! So nice to be back out there again - and all the more so because I am being kind to  myself, if it's wet, I'm not going. If it's so cold I know I will be uncomfortable - not going! So mostly when I'm getting out there at the moment it's lovely bright crisp sunny weather and that is by far the nicest weather to run in so far as I am concerned, so that's brilliant! The gym has been completely abandoned at the moment as that definitely was making my back worse, but I do want to get back to adding in some proper strength work again - that will be home-based, for now at least. Oh - and yoga! I KNOW that's good for me - helping with suppleness and strength - so that is something else I want to add back in - but let's take this one thing at a time, eh?! 

How about you then? Is there plotting and planning afoot? Have you changed things in your life dramatically and are now having to readjust to the differences those changes mean? Do stop by and tell me! 


Friday 5 January 2024

Frugal Friday…

Happy new year all, and, let’s be honest, there is nothing like a new year to rekindle thoughts of frugality and generally making sure that we look after our money so it can look after us, eh?

It’s been a while since we’ve done a FF post but it feels like time again - probably not for weekly posts, but certainly for one every so often.  Along with a few others on the lovely Money Saving Expert forums, I am planning a “how low can we go” month for grocery shopping this month. December always tends to be a steep one for most of us for food shopping doesn’t it - from the components of the traditional Christmas dinner, through to the snacky bits for boxing day and beyond, and of course all the treats because after all, it is a Christmas! As long as they can be afforded - and even better if they are budgeted for - then all well and good, but having spent our money on it, it makes sense to extract every last inch of value from it. And after all the spending in December, and undoubtedly for many of us still having plenty of leftovers from that, January is the perfect month to really make use of the resources we have and keep our costs below budget. 

Like many of us, I bought plenty of the supermarket 15p veg in the run up to Christmas week - while some items like the broccoli got used up fairly soon thereafter, I deliberately bought extras of items I knew would keep well - including several bags of parsnips. We love them with a roast dinner anyway, but the bulk of them were always designated for a favourite of ours - curried parsnip soup. It was made today, and turned in to quite the “use it up” meal too.

I started off with some of a  15p bag of shallots, cooked off in a little knob of ghee, then added the chopped parsnips and cooked the lot off gently for a while until everything had started to soften. While that was happening, I ground my spices that I had already toasted off a little earlier - coriander, cumin, black peppercorns and black mustard seeds, plus a little shake of smoked chilli flakes for a bit of background warmth…

Those were then added to the pot along with several big palmfuls of red lentils - these cook off to nothing but add some bulk and some protein to the soup - before it was time to add some liquid. This time round I used ham stock from the Christmas gammon - made up to the full quantity with an equal amount of vegetable stock. No salt being added this time as the ham stock is quite salty already. 

Then  it’s a case of stick a lid on and leave it to simmer until the lentils have essentially disappeared and the parsnips are starting to disintegrate, then off the heat and go and find your stick blender, ready to blast the heck out of it. Make sure to keep the blender fully submerged in the liquid too otherwise our next frugal Friday task will be “cleaning the kitchen with minimal products” - no need to ask me how I know… We’re looking for a completely smooth soup here, no lumps.  

Final step - and a bit more “using up” here - to add some creaminess you want a good slosh of cream, or, in my case today, half a tub of crème fraiche which is on the very end of its date…blend a bit more, and voila…

You end up with a pan of extremely tasty - and very economical - soup. I reckon this pan full cost around £1.50 in ingredients, plus the electricity to cook it - around 25p at a guess,  and it’s made 5 hearty portions, so around 35p a portion. It’s less than half the price of  supermarket tinned soup, and far tastier! Even with fully priced parsnips, it would still be really economical (and without the shallots, I’d just use a perfectly ordinary onion). 

This will be a good start to our month of minimal grocery spending as we’ll each have a bowl of this for lunch tomorrow along with some part-baked rolls we already have (gained as a freebie at the Good Food Show!) Meals are planned for the week ahead using ingredients we already have in too - with the only food on our shopping list this week being fruit, veg and milk. And who knows, I might even come back and update you on this little challenge - we’ll see! 


Saturday 11 November 2023

Big things and new beginnings…

 I’m a shockingly bad blogger - I know. Tease you with mentions of a “big thing” happening, start a Frugal February and then go AWOL yet AGAIN - and let’s be honest, it’s far from the first time that’s happened, but still. 

I did finish February in a similarly consciously frugal manner. Clearly by now though I have no recollection of what our spending levels might have been, and to be honest I think things have well and truly moved on from the good old days of almost cash-neutral months thanks to various survey sites paying out copious vouchers and that sort of thing. Seems amazing thinking back that it was ever even possible, does it! About the best we can realistically hope for these days I think is that sense of mindfulness about what we are spending and how we are making our money work for us. 

I’m sorry, what? Oh - the Big Thing? Ah yes, sorry, got distracted there didn’t I! Well in many ways it could be said that it was far from frugal, as it did in fact involve us spending more money than we have ever spent in our lives before,  and even going back into debt again - but don’t fret, it is all in a good cause! Yep - those of you who guessed that we might be thinking about moving house would be right on the (considerable sum of) money!  We made the decision just before Christmas last year - various things have changed in our lives in the past few years and for now, we have accepted that the eventually intended move up to the Hebrides is right for us, but not right for us right now -  so with that in mind we decided that a more local move was right for us at the current time. Our flat went on the market in the new year, coincidentally at pretty much the moment the bottom fell out of the market in the area for flats of its type,  and we started casting an eye around to see what sort of thing we might want to buy. Our wish list was essentially fairly simple - our search area was most of the town we live in currently, and a couple of small towns close by, we knew we wanted a three bedroom property to allow room for MrEH’s working from home and also the voluntary role we fulfill with the Great British Beer Festival. Beyond that we were open to ideas. We had an offer accepted on a fabulous little house with the most wonderful garden - the history in it was incredible with it having been lived in by the same lady from when it was built in the late 1950’s until she died a short while before. Sadly due to the aforementioned issues with the market for flats, the property was then put back on the market - at the time this felt like a real low point as we had rather fallen in love with “one careful owner” as it had been dubbed during the process. 

Finally in May we received an offer on the flat at a level we felt comfortable accepting. In the meantime we had also done some thinking - we had been assuming we would buy at a lower price-point with a view to doing work - extending perhaps, knocking through a kitchen into a dining room…but remembering back to the upheaval of having what amounted to pretty substantial works done on the flat with the back-to-brick renovations of first the bathroom, then the kitchen, we began to question whether we really wanted to face living in a property while major works were done again. We second-viewed One Careful Owner - realised that on top of our other plans it would also need a full rewire, and with heavy hearts had to accept that at this point in time it just wasn’t for us after all. There were other reservations there too - a very small living room,  and a general lack of storage compared to what we had been used to. It was a tough decision because emotionally we were very invested in the house - but it was definitely also the right decision for us. 

Within days of getting the acceptable offer on the flat, a browse on one of the property websites showed us a fabulous house in our very local area - more than we could have dreamed of but equally right at the very top of our budget. We both agreed we wanted to view it as quickly as we could, and the second we walked in through the door we knew we had found our new home. We offered the next day, and after a little negotiation over the days following, we reached an agreement with the lovely sellers very quickly. We could hardly have dreamed of finding somewhere more perfect for us - a large kitchen diner, three decent sized bedrooms, a garden, an outbuilding providing a separate office space for MrEH, and the cosy sitting room I am in right now, in front of a blazing fire… 

See - pretty decent, eh? We’ve been here since the beginning of September - but it feels in many ways like we’ve always lived here. The sellers were downsizing, so we were fortunate in that they were terrifically generous with furniture they no longer had space for - a dishwasher, large fridge freezer and leather three piece suite sold with the house for a ridiculously low sum, and several other pieces left (by agreement) free of charge. It’s made a huge difference to our set up costs in a place which is basically double the size of what we moved from. We’ve also been fortunate that their decorating style is also very much aligned with ours - lots of soft colours giving the ability to add splashes of colour with soft furnishings made is ideal. We’ve made one change of colour in the kitchen diner changing a panelled wall to a deep, inky blue - the  light flooding in through the three velux windows in the extension roof means the room can definitely cope with dark colours - and we have plans to use the gorgeous soft brown we used in the flat in the third bedroom, now being used as a combined reading room and dressing room. Other than that though, there is essentially nothing much we need to do at all - inside, at least! We absolutely love the house though - coming home here make me smile every time I walk in through the door! 

So there you go - a big enough “thing” for you?! 


Friday 24 February 2023

Frugal February...


I'm viewing this as a week of small wins. Grocery spending was - for us - high, but in our defence it was a farmers market week which always bumps things up. The minced beef, mutton shoulder and sausages we bought though will provide a good many meals between them - I'm fully expecting that we'll get a minimum of 18 meals for the two of us from the £28 spent on those so excellent value really for good quality produce. We also made an unusual additional supermarket visit as Friday evening tea time loomed without any inspiration at all - I'd been considering making curry, but realised too late that I was out of onions (not at all a regular occurance in our house!). There was a brief discussion about a takeaway, but that was nipped in the bud pretty swiftly in favour of "Let's go to the supermarket and get pizza and garlic bread" which was what we did! Then during out main weekly shop I made a conscious effort to buy fish to make fish pie - a meal we both absolutely love and which for some reason I've not made in ages. I spent a fair few minutes in front of the freezer cabinet in store working out which fish would be the best options for this, and ended up settling on a pack of the "budget" white fish fillets, a pack of salmon pieces, and a pack of raw tiger prawns - those last will each be carefully cut in half to make them go a bit further, and each of the packs of fish will do several helpings for both of us. 

Another "small win" this week was finally getting round to linking my bank cards to the "Airtime rewards" app - this is a clever little app that rewards debit card spending with money off your mobile bills with some providers - and as EE, who I am with, are signed up, I figured I may as well give it a go. My mind was focused on this because of doing the shopping using the debit card for the next little while as some of the supermarkets are part of the scheme - I may well be able to end up getting double rewards! Longer term readers will remember that we have "back in the day" done pretty well out of cashback - notably through credit card spending. We're always fans of being paid to use financial products like this! (But only if we don't end up paying interest, naturally!) 

Also on both the "Small wins" and "cashback" front was the world's smallest TopCashBack payout of £2.40 - well it all helps, no?! This has been transferred straight across to the savings account I have running for expenses related to the "big thing" we're in the middle of trying to get sorted. (I know, sorry, it's annoying - I will tell you eventually, I promise!) I'm a big fan with both cashback and survey earnings of not letting them sit around gathering dust when they can be in one of my accounts earning even a tiny bit of interest!

Finally under the heading of “small wins” comes using what we have, and avoiding waste. The fridge has had a clear out this week with some elderly beetroot being roasted - half eaten at the time and the other half frozen for a future meal.  A couple of carrots were also converted into a salad addition to a meal for me by adding a handful of sultanas and a spoonful of peanut butter let down with lemon juice as a dressing. Then a head of chicory, the last of the carrots, and half a small cabbage were turned into a stir fry which also used the final bit in the jar of Char Sui sauce. Today’s “use up” is likely to be the last of a tub of Greek yogurt which will go into flatbreads to have with tea tonight which will be the delayed curry (I do have onions now!)  There is satisfaction in using things up - knowing that you have had your money’s worth from a purchase and have avoided adding to landfill. With the current shortages of various veggies too it becomes even more important to use every scrap of the things we spend our pennies on, I’m sure you’ll agree! 


Friday 17 February 2023

Frugal February...


Hello fellow frugalers - halfway through the month already, goodness! 

 We're now in a position of trying to get things back on a rather more "normal" footing after a difficult few weeks. MrEH sadly lost his Dad fairly unexpectedly at the end of last month, hence this has left him doing a lot of travelling up and down the country to spend time with his Mum and his brothers - and both of us were down there for half the week last week too for the funeral and some family time after. All went very well, FIL would have been extremely impressed with his send off I think. 

The higher than usual diesel spend this month is "one of those things" - I knew when I started the challenge that it was going to be a rather different shape to previous ones I've done! Some of the extra is balanced off against less travel into London for MrEH, and two less commutes for me, too. Other "extra" spending has included some food bought out, and our share of a family meal to celebrate oldest brother in law's birthday at the weekend too - we've never been minded to say "No" to the good, quality time stuff when finances do allow it, and the money for this stuff was all stashed away in our "fun" pot ready for when it was needed in any event, so all good. This is why we budget! Had the joint account not been able to absorb the diesel money there were assorted other pots it could have come from and at a pinch, in the circumstances, our Emergency Fund would have taken the hit.

In terms of general personal spending I'm still keeping things pretty low - I paid for a breakfast for both of us while we were down in Devon - we'd gone to meet friends & family out at the Castle, but annoyingly the cafe there wasn't open so we ended up having a slightly more spendy breakfast when we got back into the town. (MrEH bought lunch one day when we all headed to the beach so this balanced out). My personal spends account is still looking distinctly healthy! 

The mission for this week has been reviewing some more of our savings pots. Another maturing regular saver has been transferred into the highest interest "Limited access" account we have, meaning it's earning fractionally more interest than it would otherwise - and it all helps. I've set up a new monthly Regular Saver account too - as they finish at the moment we're being a bit cautious about how many new ones we set up as if our current plans come to fruition we will before all that long not be as well fixed to continue "feeding" them - this one should fit in with any new budgets that are needed though.  The other thing I've been doing savings wise is giving some thought to whether I should find a new home for our Emergency Fund. It currently sits with a provider where we've had an account for a while - a former "highly recommended best buy" of the likes of one Mr M Lewis, but in recent times said provider has kept up less well with interest rate rises. As a result our funds have been sitting at a rate around 0.5% lower than we could, for the past couple of weeks, have been getting elsewhere for easy access.  The issues around moving this money are several: because it IS our EF, it does need to be easy access. Also because it is our EF it needs to be easily accessible by either of us, when needed, and many of the current "best buy" options don't allow joint accounts. Finally right at the moment it doesn't suit me wonderfully well to risk getting a credit check on my file - and while there are options we could take which wouldn't credit check, a lot might, so this is another negative. In the event, this week has seen a (small, but still) increase to the interest rate in question, so for now at least the money will stay put. Sure, it could earn a bit more elsewhere, but it's still earning an awful lot more than it was last year, even! 

One money saving thing we have started this week is using our debit cards for grocery shopping - to earn the 5% cashback currently being offered by our bank. We usually use the credit card, then just settle up from the grocery budget at the statement date, so using the debit cards will make things a little more complicated, but as there is a decent payback on it we figure it’s well worth it! Now I just need to remember to use the right card when I pay!