Thursday 30 May 2019

Plastic -v- the World - part 2!

Last time I did one of these posts I was talking about beeswax wraps, and wanting to find alternatives to some of the more "disposable" sorts of plastic bags that we use. Shopping bags are easy - both cars always have a stash of re-useable shopping bags, and there is always a pile of them at home as well, plus folding ones in my usual handbag - dead easy to grab one of several when needed and we just don't even think about taking a carrier bag in a shop, these days. Once actually IN the shop though, and wanting to buy loose fruit and veg, things get a bit less simple. Things like onions are easy enough - I tend to usually buy just a few at a time, so I just leave them loose. Mostly now I don't even have to stop the assistant at the checkout trying to put them into a bag for me, either! There are other things though that either I buy in greater quantity, or that are a little bit more likely to get damaged during handling or even just in the trolley or on the way home, plus things like loose potatoes which might well have mud or dust on them that the poor checkout operator doesn't want to be dealing with, so I have been on the hunt for some reuseable produce bags.

Last week, as if by magic, I spotted that Sue over at her Smaller & Simpler Life blog had posted about buying some that looked ideal from Lakeland (well, where else?!) - and so when we found ourselves near to the H-U-G-E Lakeland store at Windermere at the weekend, I couldn't resist popping in.

Here you go - a couple of pictures to give you an idea about them - Sue has a good shot of them all laid out showing the comparative sizes over on her post so I've not bothered recreating that here also, but I love that they come with minimum of packaging, and all pack neatly away into the smallest of the bags for safekeeping too. I've stashed mine into my work bag as that means that they will at least be somewhere "known" and readily available - the challenge will be remembering to grab them when I go shopping! 

The other challenge of course will be finding the things I can actually justify buying loose over pre-packaged. Tomatoes are a great case in point here - I can generally buy nasty tasteless watery Dutch or Spanish ones loose, or British ones pre-packaged. Frankly the British ones are always going to win as I prefer my tomatoes to actually taste of something (preferably tomato!) Mushrooms, too - often the loose ones are Polish, but I can easily get British pre-packaged ones (less bothered about that as we do at least re-use the punnets they come in!). I was deeply narked yesterday to find that Tesco value carrots, in a plastic bag and hailing all the way from Spain, are cheaper to buy per kilo than the British ones, sold loose - so we are paying MORE for a product that has travelled less distance, and had less done to it. Come on Tesco - time to sort this nonsense out. Had I wanted to buy my British Braeburn apples loose, rather than pre-packed I would also have paid substantially more for them. Courgettes are from the same place of origination but it costs 11p more per kilo to NOT have someone pre pack them for you. If anyone can explain the logic of this then I'd love to hear it! In the event last night I used just one of my new bags for my (loose, British) carrots, and for the other things I purchased I either couldn't justify the price difference, or chose British & pre-packaged over foreign and loose. 

Let me know if you've found any other ludicrous pricing in supermarkets - I'm sure it can't just be Tesco doing this! 


Friday 24 May 2019

Frugal Friday...

Ok people, you have Kendra at The Lazy Genius to thank for this rare appearance of a Frugal Friday post - reading one of her blog posts on kitchen essentials, and notably not buying stuff because everyone else has it/the internet tells you to/feeling like your kitchen should need it made me think about my kitchen, and the fact that these days, we have it pretty much as we want it, and that in turn made me think about the stuff we have, the stuff we use, and where we've found buying cheap to be a false economy.

I'm going to ignore the actual kitchen itself - I covered the rebuild, trauma and all, in a previous post I think. (I did, didn't I?) It cost us a lot of money. Was it frugal? Well yes, I'm going to argue that it was, for us. We saved every penny of the cost in advance, we now have a far more practical kitchen that it gives us joy to be in, and perhaps more to the point we learned where to compromise to meet a budget, and where to spend money as a long term investment. it also costs less to run as several appliances were updated to more energy-efficient ones, and replacement window, doors and door over the meter cupboard also mean that it suffers from far less heat-loss during the winter. What the full strip out and rebuild also achieved for us was to streamline the things that we use, that we find essential, and which make our lives easier day on day, and that is where I'm going with this post.

It's easy to get pulled along with the latest fads on kitchenware. Check out your local freecycle, freegle or similar site and you'll find countless kitchen gizmos being offered just because people bought them, used them once, found them a faff to use/clean/whatever, and they've gathered dust ever since. I suspect (non scientific basis of "a guess" being used here) that juicers are right up there on this one. Is a juicer a great investment? Well yes, if you regularly buy premium juices and have done for enough years to be confident you're not going to stop any time soon, it may well be. If however your routine buy is a smoothie, then get a blender instead - you can use it for all sorts of other stuff too, and it will be easier to clean. (Tip: if you want to use that blender for hot soups as well then get a glass one OR heavy duty plastic rated for boiling liquid). Second most popular item in the "gathering dust" stakes I'd just bet is a breadmaker. Mmmm...waking up to the smell of home made bread, or the ability to whip up a delicious airy loaf in an hour - amazing, right? Well yes, but it still requires the actual ingredients to be weighed and measured and put in the pan, and that "inside an hour loaf" is likely to be rather more weighty and brick-like than the fluffy cloud-like texture of your dreams. If you eat bread daily and currently buy a couple of loaves, or a loaf and rolls, weekly, then a breadmaker, if you have room for one, might be your new best friend. Ours gets used often twice a week, occasionally more (but almost never on the super-fast programme!), we've used it for bread, rolls, pizza dough, cornbread and it can also make cakes and jam apparently. We're now on our third one - the first didn't last as long as we hoped it might but number 2 did well, and has now morphed into no. 3 which is almost the same model, was snapped up for £5 from a charity shop, was initially butchered for its bread pan when the other one buckled - and since then body of the machine has been swapped into use and the bread pan replaced again by buying online - slightly in the manner of "Trigger's Broom". (Note: bread machine pans DO buckle after a few years use - fact of life). The first two machines cost around £50 each - and each time we make bread (or rolls) we save around 60% or more on purchasing a product of a similar quality in the supermarket. Each of the earlier machines paid for themselves inside a year. For us it's a no-brainer.

Other gadgets we have & use - food processor (the difference, for me, between "being able to make pastry" and not). Blender (came with the FP). Mini chopper/stick blender/electric whisk - all bits of this get used often enough to justify their cupboard space. Microwave (combi oven/micro - the oven setting used to get used a lot but less since we've had the main double oven - if I was replacing now I'd just buy a good quality regular microwave and save the extra cost). Electronic scale (gets used constantly - often several times daily). Slow Cooker - we actually have a large and a small one and both get used regularly through the winter months in particular.  Finally a coffee machine - it was a moving in gift from my parents when we bought the flat and is used by MrEH every weekend, pretty much. I occasionally have a mocha using coffee from it. Oh alongside that (neither in the kitchen though) is a coffee grinder which MrEH also uses pretty much every weekend! Other than the standard kettle/toaster/sandwich toaster that's it. Bottom line is we don't have space for any others, if we had them they would be stashed away out of sight and we'd never use them anyway!

In terms of investment - the single best thing I have ever spent money on in the kitchen is my knives. Yep - you read that right - they are indeed "MY" knives - they pre-date the existence of MrEH in my life by some years. They're quality ones scrimped and saved for and bought one at a time  - I have a carving knife, a chefs knife, a small veg/general chopping knife and a slightly longer and more flexibly bladed regular knife, and I adore them. The latter three have even been on our Hebrides holidays with us more times than I can count as I just can't be doing with cheap, blunt knives, even for a fortnights holiday! I also have a good steel for sharpening, which means that those knives are as sharp now as the day I bought them. A note on sharpening though - 1) a steel is superb but you do have to know how to use it and have a good technique. Therefore 2) learn how to use your steel - my Dad taught me years ago, but I just bet there are decent tutorials online too. Finally 3) decree that one person is your house is the official knife sharpener and they are the only person to do the task - knives "learn" how they expect to be sharpened, and crazy as it sounds because of the tiny differences in technique, someone different sharpening can take a knife from blunt to "seriously blunt" in a couple of sweeps, and thus seriously shorten the lifespan of the knife. I just had a quick think and I reckon my Sabatiers are around 24 years old now and still very much going strong.

Second best thing we spent money on was good pans. Anolon - hard anodised aluminium, and of a construction that will happily take intense heat and go straight from hob to oven, I've been through countless "standard" non stick frying pans prior to finding these and the coating simply peels off within months - turns out I cook at industrial rather than "home" temperatures - the Anolon ones cope fine though. The original set have now been replaced (after about 12 years I think) with set 2 - and have also been augmented over the years with added small frying pan, medium frying pan, a roasting tin (a huge monster of a thing which is awesome!) and a bun tin (christmas mince pie overspill - soooo easy to clean!) - basically if I see a bit of Anolon cookware at a bargain price, and I know I will use it, it IS going into the basket. I've bartered in shops, and struck a hard deal at food fairs to get the bits I wanted in the past - not an ounce of regret EVER - these pans do require hand washing (but then generally speaking good cookware does) but it's little hardship as they are so easy to clean) but they are a joy to use too. When set 2 are past their best there WILL be a set 3 - guaranteed!

Before spending money on kitchenware it pays to think through your own habits and the sort of thing you cook. As you're performing tasks think what might make that task simpler, or more pleasant, and then plan accordingly. Spend decent money on pans UNLESS you're going to put them through the dishwasher, in which case buy cheap (but heavy for better heat-conduction) and replace as needed. If you can't be bothered to learn to sharpen good knives, then buy cheap but be prepared for frustration. If you're prepared to care for them a good set of knives will repay your investment, but buy in a shop, handle them - a bit like buying a camera, if it's not comfy in your hand you'll never use it, so try before you buy. We use measuring jugs endlessly but always buy cheap plastic ones as they stack together in the cupboard and so are easy to store. The flip side of that is graters - I'm not a fan of the cheap but long-lasting knuckle-grating box graters so have spent more on the "bladed" style flat ones (Microplane is one make, but, showstopper coming up - Lakeland also do their own and they are equally good and sharp, and FAR more resilient than the branded equivalent) instead. I also own a mandoline - just a domestic use plastic one, but it's very good and very sharp (always use with the finger guard - I have the scars that prove why that lesson was learned!) and that makes things like coleslaw, home made oven chips, and sliced root veg for bakes an absolute breeze. That was bought on special offer at the food show. For chopping boards I'm a fan of the heavy gauge plastic "flexi" mats which also go straight through the dishwasher - we pay a few £'s for a set of 2 from IKEA and replace when they get manky, but I also have a big wooden block which I love and would not be without. Mortar & Pestle - mine is a great big lumpy granite one bought on clearance in Boots sale after Christmas one year because I liked it. It's stayed in use because of its weight (something that heavy ain't going anywhere while you're in full crushing mode!) and the fact that its slightly roughened surface makes crushing spices etc a breeze, yet it's still simple as you like to clean. My microwave rice cooker has been kicking around for years, gets used at least once a week, and it's as easy as pour in the rice, cover with boiling water, cook at full power for around 6 - 7 minutes (slightly longer for brown rice) and voila - fluffy rice with no difficult to clean pan.

The much loved hanging rack.

In terms of regular utensils I love metal ones that hang on my wall rack (I've talked about this before) and so are easy to grab - but then my cookware is sturdy enough to take it. If you're using standard non-stick then silicon or plastic are probably your best way forwards. Stuff that sits out on the worktop in a utensil tub (next to the knife block!) are my everyday wooden spoons plus a single hand whisk - another utensil pot inside our pull-out unit has spatulas, the tin opener, serving spoons and the odd sort of scoopy spoon thing that's just perfect for stir-frying.

Your "perfect kitchen stuff" may look very different to mine - and that is the whole point. The stuff that adds value to your life should be personal to you, and nobody else, and should be chosen with your own needs and requirements in mind. What one thing would you not want to be without in your own kitchen? And if there anything that you'd really love if only you had space/money/need for it?


Tuesday 21 May 2019

#CCC - one week in

I'm not promising regular weekly updates to this, but I do plan to try to update it on at least an irregularly regular basis, preferably when I feel we have something to say.

We've long been fans of ensuring that not only is our money used wisely, but so is our time, and sometimes a compromise between the two things is needed, or just chosen. MrEH was away over the weekend doing preparation stuff for the Great British Beer Festival (August, Olympia, be there or be less full of really good beer!) so I had the need of finding a couple of lunches just for myself for a change. I already had an idea in my head that I fancied something vaguely burger-y, but also vegetably-y. We had some brioche buns in the freezer, and I had a vague thought of making some of Jack Monroe's 9p burgers (you know, the things with kidney beans, and carrot, and onion) but then while shopping on Saturday morning I spotted a couple of packs of yellow stickered Falafels, and rather than the time taken to make the burgers, they seemed like a good option, also saving me from needing to buy additional carrots for the burgers too. One pack went straight into the freezer, the other was used across the two weekend days stuffed into the buns with mayo and salad. I also really fancied some cheesy nachos - and that again played into the hands of "stuff we already had" as a pack of tortilla chips had been sitting in the storecupboard for a while, and we have rather an excess of cheddar at the moment thanks to bringing half a block back from holiday with us to add to the half block already in the fridge when we went away. While "too much cheese" isn't a phrase that ever bothers us overmuch, it did seem to be a plan to actually use some of it, and I never need much of an excuse to eat cheese. A little ceramic pot stuffed with tortilla chips and grated cheese, and popped into the oven for the last 3 minutes or so of the falafels baking time to melt the cheese, absolutely hit the spot. My lunches on both days were completed with some greek yogurt along with more yellow-stickered bargains - some reduced price British strawberries and some blueberries - both checked carefully to be sure that they were worth the price being asked for them.

As well as trips to one of the budget supermarkets and a larger one featuring the letter "T" in it's name, we also popped to our most local farmers market on Saturday morning. Always enjoyable - we've been going there long enough now that the stallholders we buy from regularly recognise us and always have a chat, and we trust their quality and know what are the best bargains to look out for. This time £19 was spent - we pounced on the lamb man's last pack of sought-after liver, and also nabbed a half-shoulder from him for a roast in a future week as yet unspecified. The beef stall netted a pack of their delicious haslet, for lunchtime rolls, and a piece of beef skirt which will get lobbed into the slow cooker at some stage with assorted veggies for a delicious stew which will probably feed both of us for two nights. The lamb, too, will be used for several meals after being slow-roasted for long enough to ensure that the meat gets an almost "pulled" texture.  Unusually for me I'd not meal-planned in a particularly structured way, opting to wait until after we had seen what was available at the farmer's market - but a plan of sorts was sketched out verbally on leaving there and so my shopping list was formed from that. Without question shopping from a list saves us money and cuts waste - and I like the feeling of knowing when I reach the end of a week "everything has been accounted for" or will carry over to the following week to make meals then, in some cases. So the pack of bacon that was part used for Friday night's fry-up will also feature again as co-star alongside that liver tonight, and in an omelette for MrEH tomorrow. Half of the pack of sausages that were also cooked for Friday's tea have been set aside in the freezer and will  make sausage & onion pasta along with the last of this week's mushrooms and tomatoes, on Wednesday. The last of the YS'd fruit will be eaten after tea tonight with yogurt. The lettuce that was bought on the Aldi Super Six offer will be added to lunchtime rolls through the week. Nothing will be wasted.

I also seized some time over the weekend to go through my wardrobe, musing over the contents. A few bits were selected to add to the charity shop pile - a skirt which is an unflattering shape and length, a top which just feels "wrong" on in spite of being a shape and style that should really suit me. A dress which is just plain too big now - it gapes under the arms and doesn't flatter in the least. For now everything else has gone back - there are a few more items which I have earmarked as needing an eye kept on them - if they don't get worn in the near future then they will also be joining the charity shop pile, and one shirt which I have worn today has helpfully reminded me that the reason I was considering getting rid was that it's really not comfortable, so after a wash that will be heading to the charity pile as well!  Some more wintery items will be making their way to storage in the large plastic box in the top of the wardrobe - it will be interesting to see if I actually remember they are there when Autumn rolls around - if not then those too will be able to go. At some stage I need to reflect on what items I might need for the summer, and what needs replacing ahead of next winter - those will make it to a list and then I'll make a plan for purchasing as I see the right item at a decent price. I already know that winter boots will be on that list - my knee-highs are fine, and one pair of ankle boots are still OK, but my second pair are past the point of redemption and will certainly not see me thorough another winter. By planning ahead now I stand the best chance of getting something that I really like, at a good price, ahead of the point when I need it.

Also last week I made good use of a freebie - I buy a monthly gym pass for the gym I use close to where I work - and that pass is cheaper bought through a third party (Hussle) than if I bought it direct from the gym. Hussle have recently re-branded and as a result were offering a click-to-enter competition with the chance of winning various prizes - but just for entering I earned a free day pass to another gym of my choice, which I decided to use on one local to home - the fitness centre of one of the local hotels has a nicely equipped small gym and a little half-length 4 lane swimming pool which I visited at zero cost on Friday morning.  It fitted in nicely as I had missed a regular gym visit earlier in the week due to plans changing at our end - so great timing and always nice to get something for nothing!

Finally for now and also related to the gym, the water bottle I've been using for the last 9 months or so gave up last night - the drinking spout pulled straight out of the top so it wasn't fixable, and rather than taking it home I popped in into the bin at the gym where it will go for recycling. As it's been used multiple times a week since I've had it I do rather feel I have had my money's worth from it!  Instead of going to buy a replacement I will find a spare one at home and put that into use.

Are there any areas that you are trying to focus on being more conscious about currently? If so what are your goals in that area, and how are you working towards them?


Friday 17 May 2019


I HAVE AN AMAZING BODY! Five words I never imagined I'd start a blog post with - and anyone who knows me is probably wondering who's hacked the blog by now, too! Before you all decide that I must have got wildly above myself - or possibly taken a nasty knock to the head - let me explain.

It is currently Mental Health Awareness Week - and the theme this year is Body Image. While I've never been someone who'd describe myself as hating my body, it would be fair to say that for a good many years I didn't particularly like it, either. I looked in the mirror and saw the things most women see, and my internal voice came up with the same negative thought patterns that an awful lot of people do, I'm guessing. Of course you don't realise that the thoughts are forming patterns, repeating as a habit, so you never question it. Boobs too big, could do with losing a bit of weight, legs are too chunky, bingo wings, lumpy bum...until almost without realising it that's all your body is to you.

Generally speaking bodies pretty much just work without us thinking about it - the heart pumps the blood, the lungs provide the oxygen, the muscles move you about and the skeleton keeps the whole show on the road - all without the brain ever needing to give it any conscious thought. Pretty astonishing, eh? No batteries or external electrical supply required. It's only when things go wrong that we have cause to stop and think, and stop taking things for granted. The point at which I had my little brush with mine damn nearly shutting down altogether at the end of 2017 was my warning siren, and possibly for the first time I started appreciating all the things that lumpy, too big, chunky body could do. It wasn't immediate by any stretch of the imagination, but over the course of the last year and a half, rather than thinking about negatives, I've tried remembering about all the reasons why actually, my body is pretty damned special. It can walk or run for miles at a time, those "chunky" legs can leg-press nearly 30kgs more than my bodyweight in the gym and take me up hills so my eyes can see the view from the top. My arms can propel me through the water in the swimming pool, and can carry heavy bags of shopping. I've even started feeling a little more positive when I look in the mirror as a result of those conscious, positive thoughts - I'm never going to end up on the cover of vogue, right enough,but actually, for 46 years on the planet and a fair amount of fun had, it's not so bad - indeed I can't think of too many things I own that are any older and in better condition!

Next time you find yourself running through a silent list of criticisms about your body when you're getting dressed in the morning, or trying on clothes in a changing room, try to turn just one of those thoughts to a positive one instead. Look how you can balance to stand on one leg to pop the other neatly in to your trousers or jeans! Think how cleverly your hands can go from dealing with a zip, to a button, to slicking on some lipgloss all in the space of a few minutes. Focus on the fact that you can brush your teeth, have a conversation with your significant other and all the while still be listening with half an ear to the traffic news, or the weather forecast. Think about all the things your body can do without you ever needing to instruct it to perform those actions - and remember that you too have an amazing body!


Wednesday 15 May 2019

#CCC - virtual decluttering

I decided that there was no better place to start blogging about my Conscious Consumption Challenge than by talking about some decluttering on the blog itself!

I love my "cloud" of tags on the right hand side here - it makes it easy to find posts on a particular theme easily, but over time the cloud had become rather more widespread, let's say. Sometimes I blog something that needs a particular tag because I'm joining in with others. Sometimes I start a tag thinking I'll do more round it, then in my usual style get utterly distracted by something else and never blog about that thing again. Sometimes I forget exactly what tag I might have used before for something and use something that seems about right - only to realise afterwards what the "standard" tag for the subject was. Either way it has meant that I had quite a lot of tags over there that had only one or two posts on them, and quite a lot of others which while they had a good few posts, duplicated almost totally with another, similar tag. So in a few minutes of spare time I sat down and began methodically working through the tags, getting rid of quite a lot, and adding additional tags to some posts where I felt they would fit better. It's a bit of a work in progress really - there is more to do, but already it is starting to look a bit less cluttered.

In the process of working through the tags I also found posts with expired links which I have deleted, and even a few full posts which for various reasons are now irrelevant, so those have been deleted as well. Again - a work in progress, I suspect there is more to do, there is after all 10 years of posts on here, even if some of those years have been less prolific than others!

Another task I undertook while I was at it was to go through my reading list - some of the links on there were to old blogs that no longer exist and look unlikely to ever make a reappearance. Others are from people who stopped blogging some time ago, or now blog elsewhere. Then the real nitty gritty and where the value in this exercise lies - those blogs that I still have on my list because I enjoyed them at one stage but now I just skim past. Some others that I followed out of duty to particular people who were in my life at the time, but who I have now drifted away from, removing the need for a "loyalty follow". That done I added a few new ones that I had gleaned from the sidebars of other blogs that I DO still follow, to add value to my list. This should mean a less cluttered reading list and blog feed, and not missing stuff that I actually want to see amongst a tide of stuff that sparks no joy or interest whatsoever.

It's another step towards remembering that decluttering can happen on all sorts of levels - a while ago a friend told me how she manages a "zero inbox" for her emails - and while I've not managed to get mine to zero, I drastically cut down the amount of stuff sitting in both my personal and work emails, and do a weekly "filing session" tidying up both and making sure that anything that needs attention, gets it. The result is far less clutter, less stress over the possibility of missing something that needs a reply/action, and items being put in folders meaning that they are easier to find later if needed.

While the classic perception of decluttering is about physical "stuff", the virtual clutter can also serve to drag us down mentally, and should probably be considered as worthy of attention as the books, CD's, clothes etc that we usually picture in our minds when the concept comes up. when was the last time you undertook a virtual spring clean?


Tuesday 14 May 2019

The Conscious Consumption Challenge

I'm feeling a little in need of a non activity based challenge at the moment - so far this year a lot of the challenges I've set myself have been around exercise, or specifically running, but this time I wanted something different, and it feels like a while since there has been a food/home/money type challenge on here, so that steered things a bit too.  Also I have recently discovered that Sue formerly of Our New Life In The Country is blogging again - and blogging ALL about challenges, in fact, so I'm further inspired by that!

We've had a few fairly big but very necessary expenditures recently - electrical works on the flat, followed by a long outstanding and fairly chunky bill which has been being argued over becoming payable as the dispute was resolved, and then my 12 year old car started showing signs of some nasty corrosion so needed replacement - and while we bought pre-loved, obviously, to get what we needed going forwards with things like Ultra Low Emission Zones creeping across London over the next few years required a spend of just over £8,000 - ouch! Some of that spend was cobbled together from surplus in our car expense account and elsewhere, and a chunk got put onto a 0% credit card to be paid off slowly over the life of the deal, but there was still a big lump taken out of our emergency fund to cover it. Of course this is why we HAVE an emergency fund - but it still leaves us feeling a little vulnerable as the level in there has fallen so much, and is one of the reasons for the challenge being, at least partially, money focused.

My challenge is not going to be "rule driven" but instead goal driven. Some of it is about using what we have, so saving money on not buying things that aren't needed. Some of it is about making better choices and getting back to the basics on stuff that we used to do, and have drifted out of the habit of a little. All of it is about trying to stop and think, and make better, more conscious, choices not only for our pockets, but also for the environment and even for ourselves.  I intend to scrutinise what we spend again, tackle any frittering that has crept in (not much I don't think, but generally when you start looking, you find odds and ends!) and look to target the money we do spend as well as I possibly can. Any surplus in our joint account at the end of each month is going to be directed at the ISA to start the rebuilding process on our poor depleted EF, so anything saved will speed the process up. Again I have no hard and fast figures in mind about where I want to be with this - indeed the challenge itself isn't really one with a fixed end point, either!

We actually made a start on this process before we went away, when I firstly checked our electricity use against our suppliers projection and discovered that the direct debit could be reduced a bit, and second got on the phone to Sky to tell them (again!) that our TV/Phone/Broadband was too expensive (again!). That resulted in a reduction down to pretty much a "bare bones" package at £33 a month, which does everything we need and more, and saves us a good chunk of money each month. The savings from both of those, rather than being transferred to the "money we didn't know we had" account, as we have traditionally done, will instead be left in the joint account to form part of any surplus that is there at the end of the month, and will then be transferred on to the ISA, where our EF lives.

Several of Sue's challenges on her blog have been about using up stores of goods, and as we seem to have been caught in a never ending cycle of that for a rather long while now that was also a natural focus, so we will be turning our attention to the larder, fridge, freezer and cupboards as well. I'm also intending to do some decluttering - items that have been stored "in case" we need them for too long, food items that either need using or binning, clothes that realistically I'm not going to wear again because in many cases they are too big, books, CD's and DVD's that can go to the charity shop to do someone else a turn for some cheap entertainment. In many ways this is going to be fairly similar to some of the challenges I've done before so don't expect anything ground-breaking here - you might get some reminders of stuff that makes you think "oh yes, I used to do that, too!" though!

Another thing I'm not setting any targets for is how often I update this on here, either - all I'm going to say is that I DO intend to update on here,. So while the blogging mojo is strong, there may be a lot of posts, when it wanes again, or life gets busy, less posts. If that happens though feel free to give me a nudge on twitter (@Essexhebridean) and I'll at least reassure you that I'm still alive!