A year of less stuff

Hello Friends,

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few weeks, you’ll know that Edie is off to Tashkent for a year.  As I write this, her plane is about to take off from Heathrow.

This is her case for the year.

10603409_796864653699615_5096727720807933010_nShe has had to pack for winter and summer.  The case contains a thick winter coat and snowboots, a couple of pairs of shorts and her work clothes.  She had to think very carefully when choosing what to take so that she could put together a number of outfits from a limited number of clothes.

When she went on her year abroad as part of her degree course, she took a lot of books and was over on her baggage allowance.  This time she has taken an e-reader and her case weighed 18 kg.

This has got me thinking that we could all manage with less stuff, and the exercise of living out of a suitcase for a year is an interesting one. It involves shopping consciously and deciding what is essential and what you can do without.

After we got back from holiday last year, I made a list of what I didn’t wear or use.  This year I left these things out of the suitcase and found I took a lot less stuff.  This year, there were one or two things which didn’t get worn, so I will try and cut down again next year.

I think this would be an interesting exercise to apply to other areas of the home and decide what I really need.

Have you ever had the experience of living with a pared down amount of stuff?  How did you get on?

Until next time, Tawney x

Sale bargains

Hello Friends,

I’m not very good at sales.  I don’t like the feeling of being overwhelmed and hunting through things as if you are at a jumble sale.  I’ve also had a few sale disasters.

I have, however, had a few successful purchases in the last couple of weeks..  As you will know, Edie flies to Uzbekistan for a year on Friday.  She needed some new walking shoes – she’s had her old walking boots for about 6 years, they don’t fit properly and are split down the side.  They are also very heavy and she is on the limit of her baggage allowance.

We spotted some suitable lightweight shoes in a shop today.  As she has a only few days left here, I decided to bite the bullet, even though they were a bit on the pricey side.  When I got to the till, I found they had 20% off making them a very good buy indeed.

My second bargain has a couple of lightweight macs (the sort that pack up small in a bag) for Bee and I.  I had a lightweight Rohan mac which lasted about 10 years – I loved it, it folded up small and was very versatile.  It cost quite a bit at the time, but the length of time I owned it brought the cost per wear down considerably.  Unfortunately, I really did wear it into the ground and despite reproofing it now leaks like a sieve. The new macs were reduced to £15 in a sale, and although they probably aren’t as waterproof as my old one, they will do the job.

My final bargain was a new purse.  I’d been looking out for one for a while, and seen a particular one I liked in a sale – with a 10% discount.  However, I still felt I didn’t want to pay that price so I left it.  While I was looking for something else a few weeks later, I checked again on the purse to find it was now reduced by 50% so I snapped it up.

What have I learned from my recent sale experiences?

  • Sometimes you just get lucky, as I did with Edie’s shoes
  • Sometimes it’s worth waiting until the end of the sale to get a real bargain, as I did with the purse
  • If you are going to buy something anyway, as with the macs, it’s worth hanging on for the sales

Have you bought any real bargains in the summer sales?  What are your top tips for sales success?

Until next time, Tawney x

Simple holiday meals

Hello Friends,

When I’m on holiday I like not to have to think about anything much. This includes cooking. The last thing I want to do is to spend half a day of my precious leave in an unfamiliar supermarket, trying to find unusual ingredients, and then work out how to use a different cooker before spending another two hours cooking.

I have now fallen into a pattern of simple holiday meals when we go away. If we are with a large group, I’ll cook something I’m familiar with and scale it up. Cooking for 11 isn’t the time to conduct elaborate experiments. I usually do something like spaghetti bolognese or chilli. The advantage of these meals is that you can substitute vegemince if there are vegetarians in the party (Bee has been veggie for nearly 10 years) and you don’t have to cook a separate meal.

Whether it is for two or four people or for a big group, I try to plan meals from a small number of ingredients and which will take no more than an hour to cook. Some of my favourites can be put together in 15 minutes. This is my top list of holiday suppers which can all be adapted for vegetarians:

pasta bolognese
chilli con carne + rice or wraps and salad
beans on toast
pizza with salad
ciabattas with various fillings
vegetable curry

What are your favourite holiday meals?

Until next time, Tawney x


The best time of day

Hello Friends,

At the moment I am a morning person.  I like to get up early, do whatever I have to do and then go to bed relatively early.  It hasn’t always been like this.  When I was a student I used to get up at 11 am and go to bed at 2 am.

I find that if I work with myself rather than against myself, I achieve more.  So now I try and do things which need a lot of energy or mental effort earlier in the day.  My worst time is after lunch, I then fall off a cliff with exhaustion around 4 pm before getting a second wind in the early part of the evening at about 6 (this is about the time I’m writing this post today).  This lasts until about 9 pm after which all I can do is flop.

I have a bit of flexibility around the times I can start and finish work.  What I have now started to do is to plan my job hours so that I use my energy more effectively for the creative things outside work which are important to me.  I might do extra violin practice or writing before going in later, or alternatively, finish early if I’m cooking something a bit more complicated for tea.  Since I’ve been doing this, things have been on a bit more of an even keel and life has got a bit simpler.

When is your best time of day?  How do your organise things to suit your energy levels?

Until next time, Tawney x

Funny shaped fruit and saving money

Hello Friends,

I’m always trying to shop for food as cheaply as I can.  I am a great believer in cooking from scratch whenever I can and this saves a lot of money.  There are some things I won’t compromise on such as tea bags :-)

The supermarkets have led us to believe that all fruit and veg must be of the same size and perfectly formed.  This isn’t the case – fruit and veg can be in all shapes and sizes and still taste just as good.

If I’m not able to get to the market, I will always rummage around the basics ranges to find what I want.  I love having a few bits of fresh fruit on my breakfast.  Here are some grapes and blueberries I bought the other day: IMGP4051

There is no difference in taste at all between them and the ‘perfect’ product.  The only differences I could see were that:

a) the fruits are different sizes

b) they cost around half the price of the ‘perfect’ fruit.

What are your best finds among the basics ranges or in the market?

Until next time, Tawney x

Procrastinating on the difficult jobs

Hello Friends,

I’ve got a number of outstanding jobs I need to do, but can’t quite get around to at the moment.  They are:

  • things I don’t want to do
  • things I don’t quite know how to do
  • things I want to do but just haven’t got time.

In the first catergory have been things like cooking.  Normally I like cooking, but the heat has sapped all my energy in the last few days, so I’ve been picking things I can cook quickly and easily.  Tomorrow night we’ll be having fish which I will just put in a tray, cover with tomatoes, olives and parsley and just put in the oven for 20 minutes.

In the first and second category lie sorting out the Frugal Hill website.  This is a self hosted blog, which gives me lots of freedom, but without a degree in computer science I struggle at times.  The service I used to use for commenting has ended.  There is a way around it, I’ve got to download a plug in and get into the programmy bits of the site.  I’ve done it before, but because it doesn’t come naturally to me I find it all a bit scary.   I’m sorry I’m not commenting on our blogs at the moment, but I promise I’m still reading.

In the third category are things like carrying on with painting and decorating the hall and play room.  I did a lot last autumn after Bee and Edie went back to university, so I think it’s just a question of timing.  It isn’t practical at the moment with a printers, hard hats, strings of fairy lights, suitcases and other student paraphenalia in the house – I’ve just got to be patient.

How about you – what are the things you find it hard to get round to doing?

Until next time, Tawney x

Frugal food shopping – which supermarket to use?

Hello Friends,

I usually shop at our local ‘Big Four’ supermarket which is about a mile away.  Living in the country, we don’t have a lot of choice locally and I’ve often wondered if prices are adjusted to reflect the lack of competition.  I buy my meat from one of the three butchers in town, and my fruit and veg off the market.

I buy very little processed food.  There are times when I’m tired or late and I’ll give in and buy a pizza or something to put in the freezer if the girls are around, but mostly I cook from scratch and buy raw ingredients.  I buy the cheapest own brand label groceries I can get away with.  So we have the basic range loo rolls but the next brand up for tea bags.

Quite a few of my friends swear by Lidl and Aldi.  I used to shop at Lidl when we lived in Chesterfield, and I was always happy with what I bought there.  I’d not been there for years, and yesterday after work I decided to have another visit.  Our nearest Lidl is about 8 miles away, so I worked out what it would cost me in fuel so I knew how much I would have to save.

I bought things like soap, loo rolls, pasta etc. and most things (but not all) were cheaper than my usual supermarket.  However, when I got home, I found I had only just covered my fuel costs with the savings.  The drive was also horrible and busy, as the shop isn’t that far from the M1 and everyone was rushing to get home – it took an hour of my time just in driving.

My conclusions?  If I lived closer to a Lidl or an Aldi I would definitely shop there in preference to the big supermarkets.  If I’m passing I will call in, but I will probably stick with the local supermarket rather than make a special trip due to the fuel costs involved and the limited time I have outside work.

Where do you do your food shopping?  If you live in the country, do you find yourself making long journeys to supermarkets or other shops?

Until next time, Tawney x

Getting tough with the stuff

Hello Friends,

Well there’s been a pretty big clear out this week.  Yesterday I took 5 big bags of clothes, books, bags and shoes to the charity shop.  I gift aid it as well, so it means more for the charity.

Bee’s room looks amazing.  She has finally tackled all the paper clutter (old school papers going back 2/3 years) and it has made a big difference.  The recycling bag is going to be overflowing this week, but at least it is out of the house.

As we’ve kept going with the de-cluttering, I’m finding that I’m getting much more ruthless.  I’m asking myself if I ever will get around to selling things on ebay, am I ever going to wear things I haven’t worn in the last two years?  I love books, but I’m even looking at the bookshelves now.  I’ve just put three cookery books in the charity shop bag.  I’ve only used one recipe out of one of them, so I’ve written that down in the book Edie gave me last Christmas and sent the book off to a new owner.

Apart from getting rid of stuff we don’t need or use, I know I now have to think about how I stop stuff coming in.  I have learned to say no when offered things for free by others – if I won’t use it or haven’t got room for it, then I can’t store it.  I also need to change my habits – I am not perfect, and books are my downfall.  I think it’s going to have to be one in, one out from now on.

What are your tips for stopping the stuff crossing your doorstep?

Until next time, Tawney x

Weekend clear out

Hello Friends,

Well I can see the floor in the play room again.  We’ve now moved all of Edie’s stuff upstairs to her room and she will have to sort out what she needs next week.   She had all four wisdom teeth out this week and is still a bit sore, so I’ve not chased her too much.

It’s been quite a long day de-cluttering, but I kept taking breaks and coming back to it.  The landing is now clear.  I’ve moved loads of stuff up to the loft, including some Christmas stuff I should have put away months ago.  I’ve managed to find a temporary home for the girls’ suitcases in our bedroom.

What was interesting was that while I was working, I heard rustling in Bee’s bedroom.  When I put my head round her door, she was busy sorting through her stuff.  When she had finished, we had one full rubbish sack, a bag of rags for the charity shop and two bags of clothes and books to go as well.  A couple of storage boxes have emerged which I will be able to use to store things elsewhere in the house.

It’s interesting how we all seem to be becoming more ruthless with letting go of stuff.  The challenge now is going to be stopping more stuff coming into the house.

Have you managed to change your habits and stop stuff coming into the house?  How did you do it?

Until next time, Tawney x

The Tour de France and a bit of lateral thinking

Hello Friends,

We live in north Derbyshire not far from the border with Yorkshire.  For months now, everyone has been going Tour de France mad.  At the end of May, OH and I went on a cycle touring weekend in the Yorkshire Dales.  Part of it followed the Day One Tour de France route.

We heard stories of £200 a night camping, and two stories of people who had put rooms overlooking the route up on ebay and getting bitds of £900 and £4000 respectively.  Car parking was also looking expensive at £10 to park in a field some miles from the route.

We thought about driving over to Glossop and then riding to Holme Moss, but I had a feeling it would be rammed.  Our next plan was to catch the train up to Sheffield for the finish.  On Saturday we heard about 3 hour waits for trains home, so I decided I didn’t want to risk this on a Sunday evening.

I knew I wasn’t capable of a 60 mile round cycling trip and standing at the side of the road all day.  I looked at the maps, did a bit of lateral thinking and realised we could drive to Hathersage, park in a district council car park for £5 for the day and then ride 11 miles to High Bradfield.  I got up early on Sunday morning, made some sandwiches and got some snacks together.  We drove up to Hathersage with the bikes in the car.  It was clear one or two other people had the same idea, but we got parked easily.

The ride was quite challenging in places (pretty hilly) but we managed it in about an hour and a half and found a brilliant spot right next to the road.  We had a wonderful time – the atmosphere was amazing and we were right next to the race. We also managed to attend the event without spending too much – it’s easy to overspend at these kinds of things if you don’t plan.

Have you managed to attend a major event without spending too much?  Did you see the Tour de France this weekend?

Until next time, Tawney x