November clutter update

 Hello Everyone,

As it’s half way through the month I thought I would give an update on our de-cluttering.

I’ve taken three bags of clothes, shoes (including children’s walking boots about 3 sizes too small which says how long they have been sitting around the house) and unused kitchen items to the charity shops.

I’ve taken huge amounts of recycling to the paper, plastic, glass and cardboard banks. I’ve targeted a number of hotspots around the house where clutter has gathered such as the end of the kitchen table and the stairs.

I’ve been very loosely following the Fly Lady system for de-cluttering and cleaning (see the link on the left). This involves spending a week working on one area of the house over a month. I don’t have a lot of time available – I work full time, and evenings are taking up with other activities (very little TV watching I hasten to add!). I also have a fundamental belief that life is for living, not cleaning BUT I am sick of the cr*p we have in the house and want to create a peaceful uncluttered existence.

One thing I’ve become aware of during this month is that I’m constantly shifting stuff from one area of the house to another. It’s entirely possible that some ‘stuff’ will make an entire tour of the house and never end up with a home. I think the challenge for the next month is to try and move more ‘stuff’ out.

Until next time, Tawney

New ideas for tracking spending

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday I wrote about how I’m trying out new things and new ways of fixing our finances. I’ve kept a record of our spending on spreadsheets from the beginning of this year. This is split into two major categories – essential items such as food, mortgage, utility bills and non essentials.

What I’ve realised belatedly is that the overspending occurs on the non essential half of the spreadsheet. Some of the yearly totals make me wince and we need to cut back. I’ve always put in a round figure for discretionary spending, thinking that would cover everything. It clearly doesn’t, so I’ve set up too new spreadsheets to try and sort this out.

First, I’ve set up a monitoring sheet. Each time I spend, I take this off the total as shown below. I’ve used the groceries budget as an example because this figure is fairly stable.   

Groceries     300.00
To 11/11   200.29 99.71
12/11/11   9.20 90.51
13/11/11   4.50 86.01

The second sheet I’ve set up is a budget for discretionary spending. It might sound mad, but I’ve never done this before.  I have a figure I put in every month which I think covers all the bits and bobs, but carrying out this exercise has made me realise how unrealistic my estimate was.  I’ve tried to include everything: the new hard drive we had to buy for Edie’s laptop, the tickets for the school Christmas concert, the work Christmas lunch, a £10 mobile top up for me, Bee and OH.  The estimate came out at almost double my usual monthly figure – ouch.

It’s time to get tough with ourselves.  There are areas where we can cut spending, and I’ll be looking to do this from now on.  I’ll let you know whether we managed to reduce our discretionary spending and keep to our budget at the end of December.

Trying something new

Hello Everyone,

Setting up this blog has taken me well out of my comfort zone.  I’ve had to get over the fear of writing for anyone to see and comment on.  I wanted to set up a free standing blog, and this has meant working out ways of doing things I see happen on other blogs for myself.  I’m not a computer scientist, and I struggle to understand the terminology.  I nearly gave up a week or two ago, frustrated with my own lack of understanding about how to put a blog together from scratch.  In the end I tried a few different things and got through that problem, but there are more technical challenges to come.

The big thing that has come through my battle with the blog is that you have to try different things to see what works.  I’ve realised over this weekend that perhaps I need to apply this lesson to our finances and try out a few different things to see if I can get a better grip on them.  We’re both lucky to be in work, but the money isn’t going as far as it used to, so we need to look at how we can control our expenditure.  I’ve come up with some new ideas, and I’ll be writing about these tomorrow.

Until next time, Tawney.

Planning the garden for next year

Hello Everyone,

I’ve started thinking about next year’s gardening.  I’d really like to grow my own vegetables, lots of my friends do, and we’re lucky enough to have plenty of room to do so.

We face a number of challenges.  First, being on a hill, most of our garden is at an angle of 45 degrees.  Second, the soil is thin in places and the bedrock is visible.  Third we are about 160 metres above sea level.  In winter this means the garden can be quite cold and sometimes we keep a frost all day.  The growing season starts about a month later here than it does in the south of the country.  Finally, we lose the sun behind Frugal Hill in the late afternoon, so I need to find the most sunny spot in the garden.

I’ve decided to start very small.  To overcome the problems of the slope and the lack of soil, I’m going to build a couple of raised beds and build these up with compost and bring in top soil if necessary.  I’ve picked a spot near the garage where the slope is less steep and which gets the most sun.  I’d like to have a go at growing strawberries and some salad crops.  I think the key is to keep things simple and manageable, especially as both I and OH work full time.

How did you start your vegetable patch off?

Until next time, Tawney

Craft Group

Hello Everyone,

Every month I meet up with a group fo friends in the evening for Craft Group.  We all bring along something we are working on – this has included knitting, crochet, sewing on brownie badges, willow weaving, writing, anything at all – and we sit around a kitchen table with a cup of tea or glass of wine and catch up with what is going on on Frugal Hill.

I used to knit a long time ago, but dropped it as a hobby when Edie and Bee came along.  Going along to Craft Group has got me back into it.  At the moment I’m making a cushion.  As you can see from the picture below, the pattern is quite complicated. 

Cushion cover - first side nearly finished

The pattern is actually a bit too difficult for me but I’ve kept going and have nearly finished the first side.  Luckily the back is plain!  I had the idea that I would make everyone cushions for Christmas, but my progress has been a litle too slow, so I’m just doing this for fun.

Taking time out to rediscover a craft and catching up with friends is what living a rich life is all about for me and it’s an integral part of the Frugal Hill Way.  What crafts do you enjoy?

Until next time, Tawney.

Sunday soups

Hello Everyone,

We’ve never really done a formal ‘Sunday Lunch’ in our household, preferring to keep our Sundays flexible on the food front.  I usually cook soup for lunch on Sundays.  I used to buy tinned soup for speed and convenience, but the price has gone up and up and at 75p for a tin, it’s too expensive. 

We currently have a fortnightly veg box, and this has provided a source of inspiration for soup.  Some combinations of vegetables have been more successful than others – the brussel sprout soup experiment will not be repeated.

This week we had a cauliflower in the veg box.  I never quite know what to do with cauliflower, so one of the recipies I use is for a spicy cauliflower soup. 

Ingredients for spicy cauliflower soup

I heated 2 tsps ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp turmeric in olive oil for a minute just to release the flavour, then added a chopped onion, 1tsp ginger, 1 clove garlic and one cauliflower divided into florets.  I let the vegetables heat through for a couple of minutes and then added 1 1/4 pints of water, brought the soup to the boil and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes.  I used to use vegetable stock, but I found that the stock overpowered the flavour of the vegetables.

Finally, I allow the soup to cool and then liquidise it.  This quantity served the three people.  Bee and I enjoyed it, but OH was a little less keen!

The finished soup

Until next time, Tawney.

Being proud of Bee

Hello Everyone,

Bee is going skiiing with school in February.  It’s a bit of a dear do, but we manage it by putting money away every month towards the cost.  She went skiing a couple of years ago and loved it, so we said she could go again. 

Edie (no 1 daughter) went skiing once and we hoped that when Bee went she could use her sister’s skiing gear.  No such luck.  When Edie went skiing at the age of 14 she was a size 6 and about 5’3”.  When Bee went the first time at age 15 she was 5’9 and a size 10/12.  We had to buy from scratch again (apart from things like socks and mitts).  Luckily we’ve got a Decathlon near us, so we didn’t have to spend a huge amount.

Now we are getting closer to the next trip, I half expected that Bee would be expecting us to buy her all new kit.  She likes her clothes and she likes having new things although I’m trying to breath the frugal spirit into her, often it feels like we live on different planets.  I asked her the other day if her ski helmet still fitted.  It did, and I then took a deep breath and asked if her other skiing clothes fitted.The reply took me back. 

“Oh yes,” she said, “I tried everything on the other day and it’s all fine.  I definitely wasn’t expecting you to buy me all new stuff when I know you are trying to save money for university.”

I’m immensely proud of Bee and her mature attitude.  At 16 I think she’s beginning to get the frugal thing.  If she carries on like this, she’ll do just fine.

Until next time, Tawney.

Learning when not to buy………..

Hello Everyone,

I did something a bit silly the other day.  I tumble dried a pair of my work trousers.  I did check that they could be tumble dried and just assumed that they would be fine, but they’ve come out a little bit tighter, shorter and strangly wrinkly and clingy.

Clearly wrecking my clothes in this way isn’t terribly frugal.  I don’t have a huge work wardrobe and the one pair of black trousers was a staple part of it.  I decided I needed a replacement and fast.

I live in a semi rural area 12 miles from the nearest town of any size and so decided to try and buy some trousers in one of the few women’s clothing shops locally.  Now I know that this shop’s trousers don’t fit me very well – their fitting just isn’t my shape, but needs must.  I worked my way through various pairs of trousers, but the only ones that were long enough (I’m 5’9”) were about an inch too big around the waist.  

I nearly bought them – and then I stopped myself.  I realised I’ve done this before – bought things that don’t fit or aren’t quite right because I’ve been unable to find anything else.  Those items are never worn for long and are just a waste of money.  It’s a bad habit and I’ve decided that I’m not going to do this any more.  I will wait until I can go to a shop which I know fits my shape.

Have you managed to overcome any bad spending habits?  How did you do it?

Until next time, Tawney

Recycling my clothes

Hello Everyone,

I am a bit of a girl and I do like clothes.  I find things I like and then I keep them for a long time, often until they fall apart. 

I’ve just got my winter clothes out from under the bed and packed my summer clothes away.  It’s quite good fun to bring old favourites out again that I haven’t seen in a few months.  It’s almost like having a new wardrobe.

I’ve extended this idea to putting away clothes I might have worn frequently and started to get bored with.  They go under the bed for a few months, and then when I feel like wearing something new I go and have a rummage rather than buying something new.

Today I went and had a look for something a bit warmer to wear to work.  I found a lovely Next checked jacket I’ve had for years, and a black jacket which will  pretty much go with everything.  New clothes, and nothing spent!

An old favourite rediscovered

Do you have any tricks for recycling your wardrobe and saving money?

Until next time, Tawney.

Cider update

After a week of waiting, our cider finally seems to be doing something as you can see below.

Bubbling away nicely

I spent quite a while looking at different cider recipes.  I wasn’t keen on those which involved the use of lots of chemicals.  I guess that’s to allow the cider to keep longer, but as we are only making a small amount, no more than 3 litres, that isn’t going to be an issue for us.  Some recipes also advocated adding yeast to get the fermentation going.

In the end I asked around among my friends who have made cider.  Most of them had just put the apple juice in a demijohn with an airlock and left it to ferment, there being enough yeast in the apples to allow fermentation to take place.

We decided to follow this advice and started off leaving the demijohn in the kitchen.  Our kitchen wasn’t particularly warm last week and nothing much seemed to be happening.  After a few days we moved the cider into the shower room where it sat next to a radiator.  Still nothing happened.  One of my friends then told me how he put his cider in the airing cupboard – we moved the demijohn in with the water heater and within 24 hours fermentation had started. 

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the cider will be drinkable eventually.  This year is a bit of an experiment, so I’ll post again to let you know how it turns out.

Until next time, Tawney