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

Getting stuck with stuff

Hello Friends,

I posted about the return of the girls from uni for the summer on Monday, and suddenly clutter and stuff seem to be on my mind.

I’ve visited a couple of friends’ houses recently and it has struck me how calm the atmosphere in them is.  I think it was because there was simply less stuff around.  To be honest, I never feel all that calm at home.  There is stuff everywhere and it’s as if it is all working away to distract me.

Last autumn I did a lot of clearing in the playroom as you will have seen here:

IMGP3894At the moment, the playroom is full of suitcases, books, hard hats and all the other typical student belongings. Both girls are working on having a big clear out of all their old clothes so all this stuff should go upstairs soon.

I started thinking about how we’ve ended up with all this stuff.  We have lots of hobbies and interests between us.  So as we all play at least one instrument, there are guitars, flutes, a piano, violin, and clarinet together with all the accompanying music.  We love books although I am beginning to weed out those we wouldn’t read again or want to keep for reference.  Bee and I are into crafty things, so there are bags of material, wool and drawing materials.

I think OH and I still remember our grandparents attitude from the war years – you didn’t throw things away in case they came in handy.  Unfortunately, that means we both find it hard to let things go.

When I was on holiday last week, I found a to do list from 2009.  One of the items on it read: ‘Move bookcase, filing cabinet and bedside cabinet out of bedroom.’  These three pieces of furniture do not belong in our bedroom, they have just been squeezed in there because there is nowhere else to put them.  They are still there five years after I wrote the list…

I’m not sure quite how to get unstuck at the moment.  I am taking several large sacks to the charity shop on Saturday as a start, and I am being much more ruthless about not letting stuff in the house and throwing things out.

Have you managed to conquer your clutter problem once and for all?  How did you do it?

Until next time, Tawney x

Returning from university – how to fit all the stuff into the house?

Hello Friends,

Life is calming down again after several frantic weeks.  Every time I decide to slow down, life happens and I end up doing even more.

Recently we’ve had to move both Edie and Bee out of their respective university accommodation.  When I collected Bee, we had the largest car in the car park and it was full to the roof.  Something tells me we have gone wrong somewhere, especially when you are stuffing cutlery & other items into wellington boots because that is the last space left in the car.

To make things a little more complicated, we were heading off on a camping holiday, so our stuff was piled up to go out of the house just as Bee’s stuff came back in.  We came back from our camping trip last Saturday and unloaded.  On Sunday, OH went off to Sheffield to collect Edie from her house.  In the meantime, I put the camping things away.  Unfortunately, with Edie’s stuff unloaded, it looks as if the house is about to burst and chaos has ensued.  🙁

Both Edie and Bee have already sorted out their old clothes which will be going to the charity shop shortly.  As for the rest of it, we’ve put as much in crates as we can, and will have to find places for it to live.  I still think they have brought back more than they left with.

What has your experience been of children returning from university with all their belongings?  How did you manage to cram it all in to your house?

Until next time,

Tawney x

A cunning plan

Hello Friends,

Back again after a bit of a break.  I’ve just been doing the usual stuff, busy with family, friends and the dreaded work.

Over the last few weeks I’ve bumped into quite a few people who have ‘retired’ early.  I wouldn’t really say that they have retired – they’ve just walked away from the myth that wage slavery is the be all and end all of everything.  They’re still doing things, not sitting in front of the TV all day.

It’s no secret that I don’t enjoy my job.  I’m only doing it to pay for the girls to get through university and as time goes on it becomes more deadening.  I want to get out, but I want to make sure that I will have enough to live on.

All those who have left work successfully have planned it.  I’ve had a bit of a topsy turvey life with career and family.  Nothing has quite gone to plan, and when I reached some of the goals I set myself, I realised I didn’t actually want them after all – they were things I thought I ‘should’ do or they were somebody else’s goals for me.

So I’m not sure about how to start planning escape.  There’s no way I’m going to be able to work until I’m 67.  The men in white coats will have taken me away by then.  I guess it’s time to make a start…

Have you got a plan for finishing work?  What was your first step?

Until next time, Tawney x

Catching up

Hello Friends,

I don’t know where the last month has gone – all has been a bit busy here on Frugal Hill. I’ve also been unwell on and off over the last few weeks – just overtired I think and ending up with a horrible cold over the whole of last weekend sandwiched between two two-day migraines.

I’m not really on top of anything as a result, but I’ve just been doing a few little bits here and there.  I’ve dug over a couple of the raised beds and noticed there are lots of worms in the soil.  This is a good sign, and as we are now on the third year with them, it looks like the soil is improving.

I’m going to limit the seeds I plant this year – I’ve not planted any seeds yet, as I’ve found planting seeds in March is a bit too early for where we live.  I found a plastic box with a load of seeds in from last year which are still in date, so I will use those.  I’ve just bought four packets of seeds one of which is sweetcorn at OH’s request.  I’m not sure if it will grow here, but we’ll give it a try.

Are you planting up already?  How is your gardening going?

Until next time, Tawney x