Wednesday, 31 October 2012

We're back!

Sheringham on Monday afternoon

We left the caravan at 8.45am this morning, and reached home via Tesco at 10.45am, so that was not bad going at all.  We had to get some fresh veg on the way home, and there was no sense in going back for it later when we were going past the door on the way home!

The FH has been out to his lunch club and the YFG has been delivered to her party this afternoon.  The FH has now got his feet up watching a film, getting his rest up for his first trip of the week to Papworth tomorrow.  I have got the washing machine going to catch up.

Kelling Heath woodlands - a walk yesterday afternoon - photo by the EFG on her phone!

Arriving at the caravan on Sunday afternoon, we had to get the heating on quick smart as it was FREEZING in there!  It was just like an ice house, and the beds and everything were very chilly, so we bustled about and got things warm.  We settled in for the afternoon and evening, and sorted out our various amusements - knitting, reading, watching tv, the girls disappeared off to their room to watch a DVD at one point, and we all enjoyed a rest.  

On Monday, all of us enjoyed a lie-in until 9am - it was bliss!  We pottered around in Cromer and Sheringham, visiting our favourite shops, and purchasing the much loved Christmas jigsaw by Ravensburger. We were home again by 3pm and enjoying our time of peaceful relaxations!  Much knitting has been done these few days, and whole books read!  I have read a Lee Child thriller, from the library and the girls each chose to spend the pocket money my dad gave them on some books, and they have read them already.  The YFG's sense of achievement at completing a book in several hours has been a joy to see.  The weather on Monday was dry but dull and cold.  

We found the house in Cromer which I am interested in renting as a holiday home for a week sometime next year, and I think is very suitably positioned - just off the main street past the church, at the back of the RNLI museum and slipway - close to the shops in one direction and the beach in the other.  What more could I ask for?!  The cinema is just around the corner too...

Also from yesterday's walk - from high on the caravan site in the woods, across the fields to Weybourne village and out to sea - Sheringham Shoal wind turbines are just visible to the naked eye when you are there but the camera on the phone hasn't been able to pick them out.

On Tuesday we headed inland to Holt after a very laid back morning - I read my book in bed until nearly 10.30 after fetching tea and breakfast!  Holt has an altogether different feel from the other two towns, and I like it just as much.  We went round to the Christmas shop, where we just looked at the glitzy decorations.  I bought some fresh rabbit for the pot from a butcher just along from there, and froze it to bring it home.  We had a delightful rummage in a little shop in the courtyard near the car park, called Great to be Green where my thoughts turned immediately to Froogs because I found a large collection of utility ware crockery in palest green, blue and yellow.  I resisted the temptation to buy a jug just like the one my mum used to have, but I did purchase a lovely white embroidered tablecloth for just £3 for the chapel.

It was lovely to drive home this morning through the trees, as it made me feel very autumnal.  The colours of the foliage are just glorious at this time of the year - all the yellows, greens, russets, red, orange, and browns melting together in one riot of colour.  We have to drive through some heavily wooded areas where the road goes under canopies of trees, and it is quite gloomy under there, and then the road bursts out the other side, and if the sun is shining, the contrast is amazing.  I was happy to be able to get out with the girls yesterday and take some time to walk through the woods, enjoying the scenery and the fresh air.  I am very glad to be home today and able to sit by the fire tonight, but we have enjoyed our little Norfolk jaunt.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Christmas cake preparations

Inspired by the blog by Ruth Clemens at the Pink Whisk, I have started to soak my fruit for the Christmas cakes.  

I haven't been soaking my fruit for six weeks already as she recommends in her blog there, as I only started mine off last Thursday!  I didn't follow her recipes either, for the fruit in the cake...I hadn't got any dates, apricots or figs, and it is Stoptober remember, so I just used what I had in the cupboard.  I have some beautiful golden sultanas which I bought some time back from Approved Food, and they are gorgeous - huge and plump.  You can see them in the picture above.  

My sultanas are soaking in the sugar and brandy mixture, along with some AF raisins, some peel and some cherries.  I made the weight up to the same amount, and used the brandy which I had had lurking in the cupboard for some time.  

I am stirring it each day [or UJ is whilst I am away] and then it will be stirred weekly until I am ready to make the cake.  I just wish we had smellyvision as the aroma coming off this each time I stir it is just Christmas in a bowl!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Chillier days are here

The clocks have changed and we are looking forward to snuggling up and keeping cosy through the winter.  The FH has stashed lots of wood away in the workshop so it is beautifully dry, and we are already enjoying having the woodburner alight in the evenings.  At the weekends, it is sometimes lit in the afternoons, as it was on Saturday, when the rain was lashing down and all was gloomy outside.  The meal plans for the weeks ahead are going to be including lots of warming foods now - I do love casseroles, stews and slow cooker feasts.  I hope you are all ready for the colder days too.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Toodle pip!

We are off now!  UJ has arrived and been given all the instructions, so we are going.  Hope you have a good few days, whatever you are all doing, and I will catch up on the blogs when I get back.  See you Wednesday!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Scurrying to get ready

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This photo shows Weybourne station on the North Norfolk Railway.

We have been having a busy day getting everything ready for our few days away starting tomorrow.  To add to the preparations for the trip, the housecleaning and the packing, I have also had to collaborate with another lady to prepare the Sunday service for tomorrow - so it has been all go always, I am looking forward to a rest from housework whilst I am away!

The weather is looking very dodgy, but we are packing books to read, homework to finish, F&W course to do a little more of, knitting to try, and the girls will have technology as well in the form of a Kindle and Nintendos.  We also have a little stash of DVDs that we have been saving to watch again.  We plan to go out to Sheringham and Cromer on one day, and Holt on the other, and that will probably be as far as we venture.  I particularly want to find a house in Cromer which I have seen on a holiday cottage website, and I would like to see exactly where it is situated before I book it for sometime next year.  It appears from conversation with UJ that they [he and my sister] might be considering selling the caravan, so this may be our last visit.  As I have said before, members of our family have had a caravan on that pitch in the trees since I was nine years old, so it will be sad to see it go, if they do decide to sell it. 

Now I have to go to empty the airing cupboard and pack a few clothes for myself and the FH.  Goodnight!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dove Giveaway

I expect there are a few of you wondering where your conditioner samples have got to!  I am almost ready to post them - the envelopes are bought and the samples are here, but I am just waiting for Gill's address!  [Waving frantically to Gill - please send your address asap!]

I will try to get them sent out before we go away, but if I don't, it will be the job at the top of the list when we get home.

Radio Times offer for UK - today only

There is a special offer HERE for the Radio Times for 12 issues for just £1.  Just put it in your diary to cancel the subscription after the £1 has been charged to your account!

Thanks to the forums at MSE for that great moneysaving idea - we pay 90p most weeks for a Saturday newspaper just to enjoy the TV listings and this way we get a magazine as well.  Twelve weeks will see us over the Christmas viewing as well - bargain - just saved about £9 there over the period!

[I have come back to put a note on this post and to let you know it won't work - apologies.  I followed a link in good faith from a poster on MSE, and the Radio Times website accepted my purchase, but whilst I have been on holiday, I have received an email saying that this offer was for particular people only, and my email address wasn't one of the people it was intended for - so I suspect yours won't be either.  Sorry.  I'm disappointed, too.]

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Shopping and scanning etc

I did OK with this the first week and everything was duly zapped before it was put away, but I picked up some fresh food yesterday when I was shopping for the chapel Harvest Supper, and before I knew it, all the shopping was stashed away and I had completely forgotten to zap any of it!  Botheration......but I know we will be going to Morrison's on Sunday so we can have a zapping session when we get to the caravan!

My frugal laundry strategy is being severely challenged with this dull and mild weather which we are having at the moment.  The washing is not getting dry fast enough in the verandah because there is no sunshine to warm the verandah up and "bake" the washing dry.  The woodburner is getting some of it dry on airers, but they don't get put close to the fire until it is dying because otherwise they obstruct the FH's view of the TV.  Time for a room re-arrangement?

The trouble at the moment is that the washing is piling up faster than I have room to dry it....answers to the challenge?  Well, I could get more airers made, I suppose, so that I can hang more of it on them and use them in the verandah as well as near the fire.  The FH could probably make some more, but it may be cheaper to buy those plastic ones rather than the wood to make wooden ones.  I'll look into that.

I have been sorely tempted by the lakeland heated airer, but at nearly £90, I shall be thinking more than twice about that.  I am resisting temptation and looking for more frugal methods first.

Doing less washing would be another option, but actually, we are pretty good here at not washing everything after using or wearing it just the once!  We do have to challenge the girls over towels occasionally - a towel doesn't need to be washed just because it is damp from having been used as a turban on wet hair, but it would seem that sometimes it is easier to lob it into the washing basket than it is to hang it up to dry on the rack!  They are learning, though.

I have to say that I am really looking forward to the cold snap which is forecast for these next few days as the clearer skies will mean that the sun will shine on the verandah and the temperature will rise in there!  Time to get the washing machine going, and make the most of the opportunity, I think.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Harvest Festival

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The Harvest Festival service at the chapel on Sunday was really lovely with the village band playing for the hymns.  Tonight has been the Harvest Supper, with friends from the village coming to the chapel to share a meal, and enjoy an auction of Harvest produce and donated items.

We have had such a laugh tonight!  And raised about £400 for the chapel into the bargain, with the ticket sales, the raffle and the auction.

The atmosphere in the chapel was great, and people were enjoying the chatter as well as the food.  We have been really blessed.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Pay savings first

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I agree that the idea of paying money into savings first is the best, and I have done it this month in particular - perhaps a little too well.  But I am determined to manage with what I have got left in the pot, and the Stoptober plan is helping with that.  By shopping primarily from the store cupboards, I can afford the little holiday we are planning next week, and I am able to pay the bills due before we go.

I am not kidding myself that this is easy, and although some people may be incredibly disciplined, I am not, and I admit that I find this difficult sometimes.

I say "Thank you" every day for the blessings we enjoy, and I know that we are very lucky to live as we do at the moment, and that for many, many people, they live the Stoptober way as a daily challenge just to get through life, not as a choice to bump up their savings account as I am doing.  I know that there are people out there who would ridicule this challenge, but I find it makes one appreciate things more.  It flexes my money muscles, and helps to grow my confidence that in the future, if times get rough for this family, we will cope, just as others have to do.  It also challenges me to think outside the box, so to speak, and to find other ways of doing things, cheaper options, frugal opportunities, and fun pastimes which are free.  

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Elderly woes

The FH has a friend in the village who is in his early 90s, and generally quite fit and well for his age.  He is a bit of a cantankerous old chap at times, but they get along and he is one of the mates that the FH takes out on trips.

Unfortunately, he has no close family, and his relatives (late wife's sister and her daughter) live about 50 miles away, and don't come to see him as often as they used to.  He has lately started to telephone us around 7am in the mornings, saying that he needs the FH and doesn't feel was 6.45am on Monday, and this morning it was much as I understand that he is an elderly chap, and might be ill, most of the time when the FH gets there, he just wants to sit and have a cup of tea and a chat.  He may have had a sleepless night, and has been lonely overnight and wants company.  I understand that - night times are always the worst if you are feeling rough, or lonely.

He has expressed a desire to go and live in a nearby residential home, so he asked the FH to take him there to have a look.  This was done, and he liked the look of it.  When he was due to go to spend a day there to see if it was what he imagined, he was ill.  He has since said that he wants to die in his own home, and then said again that the home is where he wants to go.  He can't seem to make his mind up, and I see that it would be an awfully big upheaval for him at his time of life, and perhaps quite overwhelming for him.

Can anyone offer us any advice if they have helped an elderly person in this sort of situation?

My concern is that the FH is not a young man himself and can't keep running to this chap's bidding in the early mornings two or three times a week; it would be different if he was really ill, but he hasn't been.  The FH has called the doctor out to him twice in order to have him checked out, and he is there again now, waiting for another doctor to come - it is a Sunday service, of course, so he will have to wait some time as it is not the village doctor.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Freezer loading

I have made my version of Frugal Queen's faggots, but all I can say about mine is that they are inspired by hers, although the ingredients are quite different!

I used lamb mince, lambs liver and hearts - and it all got chunked up and mixed with some stuffing, but mine was cranberry and something from AF, so I am sure the flavour was quite different.  They didn't hold together that well, but the folks enjoyed them and they ate up the portions they had for tea with mashed potatoes, carrots and cabbage.  I have five more meals for three people stashed in the freezer, so although all the lamb parts cost me £9.85 today, the return on the investment is good.  I have made 36 faggots, at just about 30p each probably - the stuffing mix was negligible as I think they were 5 packs for a £1, so if I include them, the faggots still come in at just under 30p each.....I know that then there is the onion gravy to include, the mash and the veg, but I am sure I am still feeding the gang a meal for less than £1 each [that's allowing two faggots each at each meal, with the FH getting bigger ones than the girls!]

Just editing to explain why I bought and used lamb for this recipe today when the original instructions were for pork.  If you remember from my mutterings before, the YFG can't eat pure pork, so I wasn't going to invest a lot of time and money in making something that could make her ill, and then have a load of faggots that half the family couldn't eat - the investment meant that I wanted at least the other three to all be able to eat the creations.  I can't eat them because of the stuffing that is added, but I can cope with me not eating something - that is pretty par for the course here!

Quite exhausted tonight from everything I have done today - gym coaching, chicken keeping, laundry, chauffeuring the YFG, etc and then the cooking tonight, and more laundry and washing the kitchen floor...and then the EFG let slip that the FH languished in bed until 1pm today!  Words fail me.........

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Shopping and halfway financials

It being the 18th, we are just over half way through Stoptober, and it is time for me to reflect on how we are doing.

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I am keeping my records diligently, and they show that although I am not being as strict as I had hoped to be, I am still making good headway.  £700 has been moved to savings accounts this month, which is really good going, and it means that I am going to have to be really careful over the next two weeks to have enough money to do things with, especially with the holiday [3 nights away] now on the horizon.

I do find it more effective to pay the savings account first and then live with what I have got left, rather than save what is left over, as it is harder to make the pennies add up to savings that way - they seem to get spent if you are not extremely careful.   

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Today I have been to our local Sainsburys in one of the local towns; I have mixed feelings about Sainsburys these days, just as I do about other supermarkets.  Why didn't I go to Lidl?  Because I wanted a change, I suppose, and a fresh look at what was on offer!  In terms of temptations, Sainsburys for us here is smaller than Tesco, so there are less lines to be tempted by.  Lidl would be even better, but hey ho, I'll go back there next week refreshed!

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This was the first time I had been shopping since last weekend, so although it would have been nice to just spend a little, the fresh requirements were mounting up, and I managed to spend £29.14 on fresh fruit and veg, bread and fridge items, mostly.  I love those baskets and have one just like the larger, but the girls think that baskets are just too old fashioned and they refuse to let me wander round the shops with mine.  I shall do all manner of things when I am old and can please myself!!

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I also bought a few of the gifts I need for Christmas presents.  I wasn't planning it today, but then I saw the perfect item for two girls who are tricky to buy for, and now 16 and 17, so it is hard to know what they like as we never see them.  But I saw these items, at just £3 each and so easy to wrap and post that I could not imagine finding anything more suitable.  

Meal planning is definitely helping and I am staying out of the shops 5 days a week, just going to one shop or another on one weekday and on Saturdays.  Usually I might have gone shopping on Tuesday, but the girls weren't at hockey this week and I didn't need any fresh items, so I didn't go.  That pushed my "fresh" shop to today, which means that I won't need to go on Saturday, and I hope I can hold out now until next Tuesday.

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I will have to make a confession, though, for the sake of keeping this real and truthful - I placed an order at Lakeland this week.  Last year, I left it until late November to place my order, and it didn't arrive.  I complained, and they sent it out again by Parcelforce next-day, and then three days later the original turned up!  The chap who delivers parcels around here had got so snowed-under with parcels that he had just been packing them into his garage and had taken far too long to catch up with himself.  The companies kept delivering more than he could deliver in a day!  But this time, I needed some items fairly soon, like the cellophane bags I pack biscuits in for the cake sales at chapel, and other wee baking bits that I can't find cheaper locally [I do try, Susan, I really do!!] so I placed the order.  It has been dispatched today, and it is a wee one, I promise.  

I haven't looked at Amazon, I haven't bought more corned beef to add to my stash, I have avoided buying clothes, and the car is almost empty - that desperately needs more diesel tomorrow, but I have made it last as long as possible.

How is your Stoptober shaping up?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

One left!

I still have one of these to give away!  And I need your address, please, Gill.  Thanks x

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A meal plan again

There's one thing about these meals - they keep coming round, everyday!  I read something somewhere along the lines that a woman spent the first twenty years of her life wondering who she would marry and the next forty years thinking about what she would cook for dinner!  Obviously that is a little old-fashioned in its views, but you get the point.....dinner comes around every night...

Today, Tuesday, I made a beef casserole, and cooked it this morning so that the folks could just cook some veg and heat up portions of it whilst I was at gym, and I have just scoffed my portion now.

Tomorrow is going to be a horrendously busy day - I am in school at 9.30 for a meeting, 2.45pm to do the gym after-school club and then again at 6.30pm for a committee meeting.  So they are having tuna pasta again.   You will notice a certain amount of repetition in this meal plan - we are in Stoptober, we are using up what we have got, and we have plenty of pasta!

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Thursday, the FH has a bee club meeting, and I have to take the girls to town to piano lessons, so there will be a small window of opportunity to get everyone fed.  Those that can eat FB pies [that's Fray Bentos, not Facebook!} will have one of those with mash and veg and those of us who can't will be getting small lamb steaks with the same.

Friday's plan from last week of hot cheese sandwiches and soup went down very well, so they can have those again!

Saturday, I am inspired by Angela at Tracing Rainbows to try Froogs' Fabulous Frugal Faggots!  They look lovely and I am hoping that there will be some for the freezer to enjoy later the next week too.  I have a little more time on Saturdays for cooking, so it is the time to try something new.

On Sunday, I need to invest time in making two batches of ragu sauce, and we will eat one batch on Sunday as a Shepherd's Pie, and sink the other batch in the freezer for a quick supper later in the week.

On Monday I will be at school all day interviewing, I hope, if we have some applicants!  So that night will be a quick veggie stew with herby dumplings.  Made in a few minutes and enjoyed by all.

Tuesday night there is no gym next week, so I am free to help at the Harvest Supper at the chapel so there will be no supper cooked here.  If anyone doesn't want to come to chapel, they will be having something simple at home of their own making - beans on toast, perhaps, or pasta.

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I plan to bring that other portion of ragu sauce out on Wednesday and make some Spaghetti Bolognese with it.  Fast and easy, but still home made.

Thursday's plan may change, but at the moment the YFG won't be here as she will be eating dinner at school and helping out at a new intake evening.  It is the ideal opportunity to have pork, so we may have sweet and sour pork that night.

Friday I think we can continue the soup and sandwiches routine, or perhaps I will make a home made pizza. No gym!

On Saturday we will be having a bit of a use-it-up meal as we will be going away the next day after chapel, and leaving UJ in charge.  Not fair to expect him to eat our leftovers, so we will take care of any odds and ends lurking in the fridge that night!

I found it very helpful last week to have this all planned out, and it was a good week, without me flailing about wondering what we could have!  I am pleased with the outcome, so I am going to attempt to commit to doing this every week.  Hopefully it will become less repetitive over time, but as I said, this is Stoptober, so we are using what we have in the freezer and cupboards.

Norfolk awaits

We have agreed terms with my sister and booked the caravan for three nights.  She has put the price up a little to account for the price of the gas going up, so at least there should be gas to keep us warm!

We will be going after church on the Sunday, and staying until Wednesday morning.  Therefore we will basically have the Monday and Tuesday to get out and about.  The girls are a little disappointed not to be there on the Saturday for Sheringham market day, but other appointments are making that impossible this time.

We can still go to Sheringham (below) and mooch through the town, towards the sea front.

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We also like to visit Cromer and perhaps partake of some fish and chips from MaryJane's shop.

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Holt is a beautiful Georgian town just inland a few miles, and between Fakenham and the caravan.  There are some lovely independent shops there which we enjoy browsing - we are keen to see if the Christmas shop is still there!

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I just know that we will have to stop at Morrison's in Fakenham on the way to the caravan!

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And this might be the venue for a day out - Holkham Hall - a very fine Palladian mansion house on the coast.  We have been there before, and the girls and I love to walk around the house and have the tour, whereas the FH prefers to doze in the car!  We may not get around to this on this occasion as time will be short, but it is an option.

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I hope that if the weather stays fine, we could be doing some walking in the woodlands at the caravan park

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I am sure I will be taking some of this with me to keep my hands busy in the evenings!

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But before we go, I will have to be doing quite a lot of this to get the house ready for UJ to caretake!!

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Monday, 15 October 2012

Free gifts and vouchers

This week, I am trying new things!

I signed up some time ago to be a BzzAgent, where I try things out and then tell my friends and family about them - I get the items as freebies too.  On Friday, my first product to try arrived - the girls were excited about the box before they even knew what was in it - you can tell it is Stoptober as Amazon hasn't delivered here for ages!

In the box were some shampoo and conditioner samples.  A full size shampoo and another of conditioner, and then five 50ml samples of the conditioner.  They are all from this range:

Dove hair therapy - Damage solutions - Colour Radiance - Express Treatment Conditioner
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They also sent me some 60p off vouchers from Tesco to give out as well!  Very generous package all round.  The instructions say to use the big ones myself and to give the little ones and the vouchers out to my friends.

Slight hitch with that plan - I can't use the conditioner as it contains hydrolyzed wheat protein, but the shampoo is fine.  The EFG is using them both on her hair, as we coloured it again at the end of the summer holidays, so she qualifies to use it.  She washes her hair every day, so I get a waft of the gorgeous aroma of this product pretty often...but the point is that it seems to be helping her hair - it is definitely shinier, so she is pleased!

GIVEAWAY ALERT - I am happy to send the five sample tubes of this conditioner to the first five people to comment on this post and indicate a wish to try one.  You'll also get a voucher.  When they are gone, they are gone.

And the other thing I have signed up for is Shop and scan.  I have to scan everything I buy and it is market research.  Some people have been scanning their shopping for years, so I thought I would give it a go.  I get "rewarded" in vouchers, so I am looking forward to those.  The scanner gadget should be heading my way this week and then I will start scanning - beep beep!

I am still doing surveys at YouGov, which I have been doing for a number of years - I cashed out a £50 voucher early last year, and I am now up to about £20 on my next one so it is quite slow going, but the £50 is a nice bonus when it arrives!  The surveys are not hard to do, and I always do them much faster than the time the website indicates that they are likely to take, so I don't regard it as a chore.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Here I am, Lord

We sang this song at the chapel this morning, and it really hit a chord with me, so I'd like to share it.

Fab muffin recipe - so simple!

I found a great, highly recommended muffin recipe on the Australian Simple Savings website, in the forum section.  It is economical because you can bung in whatever you have handy for the flavourings, and it uses a very simple base recipe that anyone could remember!  We have a Simple Saver called Lauren to thank for this one!

The recipe is basic, so basic, but SO effective.  This is what we did:

I took two cup measures of SR flour, and added a cup measure of caster sugar to it, and mixed them together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, I mixed together half a cup of oil with half a cup of milk and an egg.  I beat them together before adding them to the dry ingredients.

For the flavouring of this batch, I wanted lemon, so I grated the rind of one [rather old] lemon, and put that in a little dish with some caster sugar and gave it a jolly good stir.

I prepared the muffin cases in the tins, and then put a blob of mixture in the bottom of each case, before adding a half a teaspoon of lemon curd to each.  I topped each one off with a little more mixture, and then sprinkled each with about half a teaspoon of the lemon sugar mixture.

I was then surprised to find that the quantities only made a dozen, so I set to and made it all again!  These cook in about 15 minutes in my oven, set at 160C [it is a fan oven].  The top of each one went beautifully crisp and golden, and the family thought they were delicious.

Since I had the oven on to cook a chicken for supper today, I made a further double batch of these, and another double batch of chocolate ones, in which I added two dessertspoons of cocoa to the dry mixture and added a tiny square of chocolate to the middle of each one!  The YFG says they are lovely.

I have all the remaining chocolate ones and two dozen lemon ones in the freezer, and the YFG has stashed one lemon one in her lunchbox for tomorrow.

I haven't worked out how cheap these are to make, but I know that each one is going to cost just pennies, and the basic recipe is so versatile that I am sure I will be trying out other variations!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

New recipe inspiration

I have been having a look around this afternoon, mulling things over with a cuppa, and found some new foodie blogs to surf through and enjoy.  I thought you might like to see them too.

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Anne's Kitchen - she helped to raise some money for Macmillan recently by having a little bake sale at her work.  She has two particularly scrummy-looking cheesecakes in here too!

The way the cookie crumbles - O joy!  I have linked you straight in to my favourite [so-far] post here where she compares her favourite chocolate chip cookie recipes.  That special recipe still eludes me, as I would love to be able to make the kind of cookies that it is possible to buy in speciality shops at exhorbitant prices!

Lavender and Lovage - This is a beautiful blog and has such a wide variety of recipes to share.  One to keep now, I think.

Green Kitchen Stories - where I hope to find some inspiration for vegetarian meals to reduce our meat intake.  But this one is worth visiting just to drool over the gorgeous photography - go on, have a look!

And finally, there is the Grocery cart challenge lady.  I used to have her in my blogroll, but moved her out when I had a shake up a while ago.  I do check in there now and again, although I think she is posting less often these days.  She does post a menu most weeks, and I find it helpful that she links through to recipes, and have come back to get some fresh ideas.

I'll need to think about our menu plan for next week.  We are having a roast chicken tomorrow, and then we will be freezer-diving again!  Hope you are all having a great weekend x

Friday, 12 October 2012

Choices in Stoptober

(my photo)

The peace and tranquility of the north Norfolk coast is beckoning me again!  My sister has let me know that there is a convenient vacant week at the caravan she and UJ have in the Kelling Heath woodlands, so we could hire it for a few days if we wanted to......

We have been in the October half-term before, and the caravan is warm and cosy, so the weather poses no problem, and we can wrap up warmly when we go out and about if needs be.

We like the area, and we love pottering around Sheringham, Cromer and Holt, and rarely actually venture much further than those towns when we are there.  We are creatures of habit and prefer the familiar - that might sound boring to some, but we enjoy it there.  Fakenham means a stop at Morrison's and the YFG and FH get to share some of their preferred doughnuts!

Our window of opportunity is limited to three nights, because I am helping with the Sunday service on the 28th, and the FH has to be back on the Wednesday to go to Papworth for a check up early on Thursday morning.  Nipping off Sunday lunch time is feasible.

The girls want to go, and UJ is available for chicken sitting duties, so there is a lot in favour of the mini-break.  My sister has even told me how to access the internet on the site in case the girls have any homework they have to do that week.

BUT it is Stoptober, and I made that commitment in my head to spend the minimum amount this month, and going away will incur costs - the caravan will be £120 [if she hasn't put the price up] and there will be fuel, activities, and some shopping probably - I know that there are a couple of shops we haven't been near for three years that would have to be visited.  

Botheration!  We will decide tomorrow, perhaps...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl

Since I have helped with the #shareniger awareness, I have been asked to help to highlight the plight of young girls in early arranged marriages.  World Vision have a campaign on the go entitled "International Day of the Girl" which is today, to try to bring this to more people's attention.

Amira - whose quote is below - picture from

I was aware of arranged marriages, and had heard vague stories of young girls being spirited away from the UK on holiday and ending up married and living with their new in-laws in remote areas of India, for example.  But I hadn't given it a lot of thought.  Shame on me.

I should have done.  I have two daughters, aged 13 and 16 this year, and if they had been living in some of these countries, they could both have been sent away, married and had several babies each by now.  They would have lost their independence, their choices in life, and their opportunities to have careers.  It seems that these girls are being traded like commodities and not treated as real people with thoughts and minds of their own.  Thank goodness that people are waking up to this and setting up support groups to prevent it happening.

There are a number of things we can all do to help, and you should have a look at the World Vision website here: and see if there is anything on their list of suggestions that you can do.  Even just blogging raises awareness, and that can be the start of something much bigger.

Reading through the material, I found quotes like these and they are heart-breaking:

“When my father told me I was going to be married off, I felt my life had been ruined. I visualized a life like that of my mother - marriage, lots of children. All dreams shattered.” Chaitali, 10 – Bangladesh
“I couldn’t believe my ears. I burst into loud cry and my eyes were filled with tears. I begged her kneeling down to cancel the marriage, but she said no.” Amira, 10 – Ethiopia. 

“It was not voluntary and I became very angry when I heard about. It was a sudden agony to me. I felt I would have no chance for education. My hope for development darkened.’’ Kassa, 14 – Ethiopia

"I was 17 years old at that time. I don't know if I had a choice or not. All I knew is that I had to obey my parents." Krishna, 24 - India
 ‘Early marriage is dangerous for a girl. I was thinking that if I got married at that age it was nothing but to choose the cave of death. Promita, 16 – Bangladesh.

Keeping track of everything

I do love a good spreadsheet!  

This year, I have been using a big pink lever arch file - a repurposed one which the EFG had been using for Biology - and in it, I have a set of dividers, marked up for each month of the year.

(image from

Behind each month, I have a calendar page for that month, on which I can write appointments and commitments for everyone; this doesn't replace my diary, where I have a whole page to a day and can write in more detail, but I use the page to indicate things like "Gym", "Piano" "Hosp 1.30" so that I know what is going on each day.  I usually print the pages from a website like this one although there are plenty of others like this out there.  Of course, people do design their own as well!

On that calendar page, I write the credit cards' due dates and amounts so that I am sure to pay them on time!  We have three cards and keep them all for separate things - I have one for specific use on one particular website, another more general one that I use, and collect points on, and there is one for the FH to use, which I don't use!  They are all paid up each month, quite faithfully.  Once they are paid, the note has a huge tick put through it, and the date I paid it on.

I will also write notes on the calendar page about things like house insurance running out, MOTs expiring or memberships needing to be renewed.  I look at this page every day so it is a good place to make sure I note things that I don't want to forget....

(image from

Behind that page each month, I have a "spending page" where I record all the spending each month.  It is broken down into categories like "Food", "Fuel", "Toiletries", "Books/Gifts/DVDs" so that I know exactly what is being spent in which area.  I also have a column for "Savings" so that I know when I have transferred money over and how much.  At the top of each column is an amount which I would like to stick to [or under] for each category for the month.

This spreadsheet does not take into account the direct debit payments which come out of the bank automatically each month, for Council Tax, electricity, etc and that sort of thing.  All that stuff is recorded on another one, but by focussing on the discretionary spending each month, I can make changes to the budget and to the money we are saving month after month.  These are things upon which we can make more detailed choices and where I find the biggest impact on the budget.  I can't alter the Council Tax, so there is no point worrying about that, and the electricity bill is another thing that I can't alter month on month - although I have lowered it by switching suppliers.

In the monthly sections of the folder, I also file all the credit card bills for that month, any other bills which come in, and are paid that month.  Any important letters from hospitals, schools, etc are also filed in the relevant month, as well as receipts and delivery notes from places like AF if I have a delivery.  School trip letters are filed in the month of the trip, not the month it was paid for, as there is often important information on those letters about clothing requirements and pick up times.

I have gone paperless on bank statements now, but earlier in the year, I was also filing bank statements in these sections.

I have been really pleased with this system for us this year, and I think I will do it again next year, unless I find a better way, as I know that there are lots of options out there.  For me, it is the balance between keeping my finger firmly on the family's financial pulse, and keeping it simple.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The fastest crumble

Last night, I got home from the gym/hockey trip at just gone 9pm.  The FH had been muttering about a crumble for his supper all day, but had not fetched the cooked fruit from the freezer, despite me "reminding" him three times. [He knows in which part of the depths of the freezer he has stashed the fruit, I don't!  He has to be responsible for some things around here, after all ;)]

When I got home, though, a tub of apples was out on the side and was about 80% defrosted, so I was able to tip it into a pyrex dish, quickly sprinkle a little sugar over it, and then go to the fridge and get a tub of leftover crumble topping [from about two weeks ago] and cover the top with that.  20 minutes in the mini-oven and he had the crumble for his supper that he had been wanting.  [So simple - he could have done it himself!]

And my point?  Well, I secretly find all the preparations for making a crumble quite a faff.  I know that it is the work of just a minute or two, but I dread it!  Having the tub of topping in the fridge was a revelation, and I have decided to invest in future crumbles, by making the stuff in bulk occasionally and having it ready to go!  We have so much fruit like this in the freezer that the FH could easily eat a crumble every week, so it is no ill store.  He will be happy, and I won't dread it in quite the same way.....

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Week two meal plan

This week, the freezer is becoming depleted, and the meat stocks are lower...but they are not "low" yet, just less than they were, which is a good thing, after all!  The cupboards are still looking very healthy and we have plenty of most things.  It is just the fresh stuff which needs replenishing really.

The meal plan for this week looks like this:

Tuesday [gym/hockey night] - Shepherd's Pie - made and chilled for them to help themselves as this worked really well the other week.  And there was a little left for me when I got home!

Wednesday [Guides night] - Sticky chicken - chicken thighs cooked in a simple sauce, and easily done in the mini-oven to reduce electricity costs too.  This will be served with veg.  I will be at home in the afternoon so I can have this ready to eat before Guides.  The FH will have eaten a meal at the lunch club, so this is just for the girls and I; he and UJ will have a sandwich and a piece of cake.

Thursday [Piano lesson] - Sausages/pork chops - the YFG can't eat a piece of pork but she can eat sausages, so we have to accommodate that when we have pork.  Two pork chops have been languishing in the freezer for quite long enough!  This will be served with veg and gravy.

Friday [gymnastics] - Soup and hot toasted sandwiches - I won't be home until 8pm and I will be tired, so  I am planning an easy night - there is soup in the freezer as well as a few tins in the cupboard, so they can choose soup and have some hot cheese sandwiches with it.  Easy night all round!

Saturday [gymnastics & ballet] - Meatballs and spaghetti with sauce - and possibly veg as well.

We do eat a lot of veg and I currently have fresh cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and cabbage in the fridge, along with peppers and mushrooms.  The YFG is not keen, but will eat fruit like nobody's business, and the EFG is very good with her veg.

Sunday will depend on what we fancy and what is left in the depths of the freezer - there is some fish in there, some belly pork, more mince, and lots of chicken breasts, so there are plenty of options.

Last night was a DIY kind of menu...the FH took a friend out to look at a local residential home in another village and was treated to a steak and kidney pie lunch in a pub, so he didn't need a lot for supper!  He just had the leftovers of the casserole and dumplings meal from the night before, but probably didn't eat as much as he would have done if he hadn't had the S&K pie.  The YFG had the last piece of battered fish in the box, and the EFG and I shared two lamb steaks from a pack reduced to clear in Tesco.  We all had veg with our various bits and pieces!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Almost a No Spend Day

Well, one has to send Dad a birthday card when he is 83!  I didn't have to buy a card, though, as I have such a stash already.  I chose a lovely card with a handmade flower on the front of it, which I received in a little bundle from a favourite blogger friend [you know who you are!].  I was tempted to just pop a second class stamp on it, and send it on its way, but I hesitated over the thickness of it, and nipped in to the post office to make sure...good job I did, as it was ever so slightly too thick for the normal rate, and I spent 90p to post it off.  Money well spent, I am sure.

That is the only money spent today, as I have had a day studying - hard at it on Faith & Worship, so I have just been able to email the latest assignment off to the tutor.  He will be surprised, but I seem to be on a roll with that at the moment - long may it continue.  Unfortunately, it has meant that there has been no housework done whatsoever, and the heap of ironing still looks like Mount Etna, so that will be tomorrow's work...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Frugal food

This is what the FH and the YFG enjoyed for their supper this evening.  It is a sort of very quick casserole, made with an onion, a chopped pepper, some carrots, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a couple of Tesco own brand mini salami sticks, well chopped up,  and a tin of Highlander's Broth (from AF) with some herby dumplings, courtesy of a quick packet mix from AF which was a Morrison's own brand.  All I had to do was add water and mix it up - very quick and easy.  I served this concoction with some broccoli on the side and they tucked in quite happily.  It was a mixture of using up what was needing to be eaten, and making use of the storecupboard basics.

The EFG and I had some haddock [frozen, from the reduced section of the supermarket], broccoli and carrots.  The stew actually looked and smelled more appetising, but it doesn't fit either of our plans, and we still managed to by frugal by eating cheap but nutritious food.

The meal plan for the week ahead will be considered tomorrow....

Charitable conundrum

(image from

The minister went in to the kitchen at the chapel to make a cup of coffee one day last week - most unheard of, as he always gets coffee made for him!  He was surprised that the chapel doesn't have Fairtrade tea and coffee for refreshments.....I'm not surprised at all.

There are two sides to this.  From an ethical stand point, it would make excellent sense for the chapel to purchase from and support the Fairtrade organisation when buying tea and coffee.  But the point is that the chapel itself [ie the chapel as an organisation] NEVER buys anything like that at all, ever.  It is ALL donated by the congregation and the ladies at the Knit & Natter groups, for example.  I took in some "One Cup" teabags of which I had bought vast quantities from AF, and another lady donated some coffee.

It seems to me to be wrong to have to say to people that we welcome donations but they have to be Fairtrade; we are just extremely grateful for anything we are given.

It is like this in life, and I would never look a gift horse in the mouth, as the saying goes.  If someone has something to give me, I am always grateful for the thought, if not the actual item every time, and accept whatever it is that they are giving to me.  I may then keep it, donate it to a charity shop or give it to someone I know who has a greater need for the item.  But I am always polite to the person who passed it on to me.  If you are rude, I am sure that your supply of donated items would soon dry up.

We are clearing out the spare bedroom this afternoon, and some old paint spattered clothes are heading for a rag bag, but I have set aside some of the YFG's black school trousers for another child I know who has less muscular legs, so I think that they will fit her.  I have sorted out a heap of books which will be offered to the school next week, and I think I have found a box of colouring pencils which can go in the colouring cupboard at chapel.  My collection of Dickens books are one thing which the FH and I are disagreeing upon; in the year of Dicken's 200th anniversary, they are definitely not getting passed on!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Realising how blessed we are

Image for Episode 1
(image from

The FH and I watched a programme one night this week about life in India.  It was eye-opening, and I was  shocked at how people live in what I thought was a reasonably developed country - I know it is not up there with the US and the UK in terms of living standards, but I hadn't realised just how far behind some areas of it are.  And yet the programme description shows that it sets out to celebrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the two main people that this programme was about - one man who makes a living sweeping the streets of the jewellery district in order to collect gold dust, and another man who lives in a shack on the beach with his family, has debts with the local moneylender, and who has a "pub" in his house most evenings selling illegal liquor.

We saw the chap who deals in gold dust being lowered into a street drain in order to excavate the sludge from the drain, so that he could sell it to another person who had a large organisation where the sludge could be washed and refined to extract the gold from it.  He went to look at a room in a house, and he was shown the shared "bathroom" which was filthy beyond my wildest imaginings and it seemed to be shared amongst all the rooms on the staircase.

The man who lived in the beach shack had to tear it down one day to prevent it being destroyed by the council bulldozers, and then his wife had to build it up again when they had gone - she was a little peeved that she had to do most of the work.  And she was serving customers the liquor as she was rebuilding the little house around them.

We also saw a gang of young guys who sell books to people in cars when they are stopped at a junction at traffic lights - they are illegal copies of books, and they sell them at knock-down rates.  The gang live in the open air in the local cemetery, where we saw women cooking over fireplaces made from bricks, and then they all bedded down for the night on covers on the ground, including a very tightly swaddled baby, which was then just laid on the ground and covered up with another blanket.  They live like that, but they have mobile phones - one's mother was calling him from her home in a village outside the city to see if he was OK.

It made me think of the Mennonite saying that we should "live simply that others may simply live" and it reminded me of the child I am helping to sponsor in Niger through the Parent Bloggers network.  Perhaps I should live even a little more simply in order to be able to help more.  Food for thought.

Frugal weight lost

I have successfully shed a stone and a half since May, and people are beginning to notice now.  The smaller trousers are coming out of the wardrobe, and I wore a skirt and jacket to my party last weekend that haven't seen the light of day for years.  It feels great!  I know I should still lose a little more, probably another stone, but I am not rushing things.  It will come off, just as the rest has, in its own time.  The scales are just dipping under the 11 now, whereas they were heading towards the 13, and it was time to stop that movement in it's tracks before I lost control!

A lady at the school asked me which diet plan I was using, or whether it was just my own plan.  It is a very simple, and frugal, plan.  "Eat less.  Feel hungry.  Move a little more."

I think that we live in a culture where hunger is not appreciated.  Hunger pangs help you to know that you are truly hungry, or perhaps even just thirsty, and it helps you to know that you are not overeating if you do occasionally feel a little hungry.

I used to snack a lot, and rarely felt hungry.  Now I eat when I am hungry, and it makes a difference.  I have to restrict the foods I eat because I can't eat wheat and dairy, but those helpful supermarkets produce plenty of unhealthy "free from" stuff that I could eat.  I've stopped eating that stuff, because it is full of sugar, and it has made a huge difference to me.

Perhaps those thoughts will help someone else to lose a few pounds if that is what you need to do.  But it is MY plan, and it works for me.  The EFG has a different plan, which I have discussed before, and that is working for her, albeit a little more slowly than my plan, but she is a different person.  Each to their own.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Avoiding temptation

It is no small matter to try to avoid the temptation to spend money!  It is one thing to make a conscious decision to stay out of the shops, but it is another to have to battle your way through the offers in one's inbox in the email account!

Just in the last two days, I have had several notifications from Approved Foods of new things which have come into stock, an invitation from the Book People to take advantage of a 10% off event, and scores of other emails from companies which I deal with, trying to prod me into visiting their websites and parting with some money....

Whilst I would say that the easiest answer is to unsubscribe from all these temptations, the reality is that I do take advantage of some of these offers occasionally, and I rely on some of these companies to tell me when they are having sales because I don't visit their websites very often.

But this month, the quickest way to avoid the lure is to delete the email quick smart!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Grocery shop #1 for October

I could easily have done a grocery shop on Sunday, but that would have been cheating, in the spirit of stocking up for the event.  I didn't want to do that, and so the first shopping has come in at £23.90 - ever so slightly over budget for the week, but we had run out of a lot of things!!

2kg frozen veg (mixed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots) 1.98
335g bunch of fresh broccoli x 2 = 1.50
Grapes = 2.00
2 cauliflowers for 1.00
Bananas 1.00
Potatoes 2.00
Braeburn apples, 2 @ 1.80 = 3.60
Cheddar 2.50
Mushrooms 0.97
Carrots 1.00
Ham 2.00
Assorted other cheese 4.35 (Babybels etc)

I would have taken a photo of this little haul, but we have started eating it already!

The menu plan for the week has looked like this:

Tuesday - Toad in the Hole or plain sausages with veg
Wednesday - spaghetti bolognese with carrots & broccoli on the side
Thursday - Tuna pasta bake with veg
Friday - Slowcooker chicken [for after gym]
Saturday - leftover chicken with vegetable risotto
Sunday - Home made pizza/Haddock and veg

I have the makings of all of this in the house, either in the stores or in the fridge/freezer, so no more shopping is necessary - thank goodness - and I will be making plans to shop alone next week, somehow!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Day 1 menu

Last night was a true use-it-up menu - and consisted of two meals.

The FH and the EFG had sausages from the freezer with fritters which she makes from onion and carrot with cream and seasoning.  There was plenty of cream left over from the party on Saturday, so she used some of that up, as well as some tired-looking carrots.  That meal fits in with her plan too.

The YFG and I shared a packet of lamb steaks and some broccoli from the freezer, and I had mine with the last two mushrooms and a piece of the last courgette from the garden and some of UJ's lovely fresh tomatoes, and the YFG enjoyed hers with a tin of spaghetti from the storecupboard.

This morning I have had the last few grapes with a banana for my breakfast, and the FH is about to get another banana on a Weetabix, as the YFG needs some help eating the packet of Weetabix.

We have no fruit or veg left, apart from a few tomatoes and two bananas....tonight I will have to do some shopping whilst the girls are at hockey.  I will be buying apples, grapes, carrots, mushrooms, bananas, and whatever I can find in the reduced section.  I may also have a look at some frozen veg which would keep longer, of course.  I have the budget in mind too!

Monday, 1 October 2012

End of the month round up of the budget

(image from

Oh dear!  The end of the month round up of the figures has just proved what I already knew - September has been a bad month for spending!!

Looking back at my records, I have had a number of payments to make for various people which have added to the burden for the month:

  • £20+ on Chemistry text books for the EFG
  • £30 on the half term's ballet fees for the YFG
  • £37 gymnastics membership and insurance for the pair of them (annual payment)
  • £17.50 on a Bible commentary for my Faith & Worship/preaching studies
  • £47.98 on printer ink!
  • £27.90 on school jumpers for the YFG and £12 on new school shoes for her
  • £28.78 on the annual supply (2 litres) of gin for the sloe gin
  • £25.00 on photographs of the YFG at her last gymnastics competition
I would say that only the last two items on that last were really extravagant!

All these add up and make a difference - some of them are one off payments, and others, like ballet, are regular but not monthly.  

The good news [there had to be some somewhere!] is that I have managed to get £650 into savings this month on top of coping with extra expenditure.

The party and the Macmillan coffee morning at the weekend are also another drain on the budget for the month - I provided all the cakes for the Macmillan event bar one, as well as about 12 raffle prizes.  These have been saved up and bought cheaply in sales throughout the year, but they still have to be acquired.  This is a very worthy cause, and I am looking on my outlay as my donation to the cause.  The party itself probably cost me about £150 or so, in terms of food, flowers, decorations, birthday cakes, etc.  But I haven't had a birthday party of any kind since my 21st, and I doubt there will be another in a hurry, so it was money well spent.

This month we have the house insurance renewal due so I will be looking round for savings on the renewal quote, and doing some  investigations through cashback websites.

And that C-word - CHRISTMAS!!  We have the fudge recipe, the truffle recipe, and plenty of fancy card in the cupboard to make wee boxes, so I think that local friends are sorted that way.  I'm still looking for things I can post further afield.  On the subject of the truffle recipe - Tesco now sell orange flavoured chocolate spread so methinks there might be another possibility looming there.  A recipe adaptation might be on the cards.

And so, looking forward to the month ahead, I am hoping to make inroads into my £5000 savings target for the year.  The total this morning sat at £3091.13 so I have a way to go, but if I can get £1000 in there this month, I will be very pleased.  That's the this space for an update on the reality!

Joining in with Froogs

I am going to be joining in with Frugal Queen's Stoptober challenge this month.  Although I think the name came from an anti-smoking campaign, Froogs is using it to make us think about Stopping Spending!

Today is the first day of Stoptober, and I will be taking some time to do a menu plan for this week, and look deep into the depths of the freezer to use up what is left in there.  Sue over at the Quince Tree has been doing a storecupboard challenge, and I have been admiring her beautiful photography as usual, as well as taking note of some of her recipes.  I may be able to use a few of them this month.  I am also going to be having a look at the huge list of recipes on the Grocery Challenge on the Old Style boards at MSE.  There is also a list in the first one or two posts there about how to save money on grocery shopping and cooking.  I think I will be running back to back $21 challenges as I did back in January.

But it is not just about food!  We are going to have a spending halt on lots of areas of spending.  Both cars have pretty much got full tanks of fuel right now, so that should keep them going for most of the month, and we will be careful about using the cars.  No one needs any new clothes or shoes, the house has enough cleaning materials stocked in the garage to keep it clean for more than a month, and there is no need to buy anything for the garden.  I am happy with the number of books I can get from the library, and I will not be buying any magazines this month, at all.  [That may be slightly painful, and Gill will understand!] I have plenty of wool for knitting, pens and paper for writing, and I have no need of many other things.

Why am I doing this?  Well, the party cost me quite a little wad of money last weekend, and the children going back to school also had a financial impact with new bits and pieces that they needed.  We have already had one letter about a school trip for the YFG....It is appropriate to stop and take stock sometimes, and to be grateful for what we have, to make the most of the things we already have in the house, and to be released from making purchasing decisions for a month.  The decision is made, and in most cases, we won't be buying it.

I'll be doing a round up of September's budget and spending later on today.