Thursday, 22 November 2012

christmas tree hair clips and others

More for sale - when I get around to listing them!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Chocolate Mufffins:Home-made versus shop-bought

One of the treats that we like to pick up when we do our weekly shop is Double Chocolate Chip Cookies or muffins.  Even with special offers they set us back at least £1 for 4, (although if you buy them singly at Tescos they are 80p each!).  Normally though I pay on average £1.50 for 4 big sized muffins (38p each) for the kids lunchboxes once (or maybe twice!) a week.

After a quick search I found this recipe which should make 20 muffins (albeit smaller than the ones I usually buy) and they should freeze so they don't get snaffled by a the family gannets!

The recipe uses the following ingredients:

  • 140g plain chocolate
  • 375g self-raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 55g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 375ml milk
  • 140g white chocolate chips

Although I followed the recipe I substituted a the same weight of basic chocolate bars chopped up for the white chocolate chips- naturally the plain chocolate was basic too so about 30p a bar
Here's the costings courtesy of the Tescos website for convenience.

2 x 100 g basics dark chocolate bars (half of one of these to make chocolate chips) @30p each= 60p
1 x 100 g basic white chocolate bar (chopped to make chips)= 30p
basics self raising flour @52p for 1.5 kg = 13p
own brand baking powder @99p for 170 g (1 tbsp is about 15g) = 9p
basics cocoa powder @£1.29 for 250g = 29p
sliver spoon caster sugar @ £1.08 for 1 kg = 10p
everyday value eggs @ £1.50 for 10 = 20p
vanilla extract @ £1.04 for 38ml (1 tsp is about 5ml) = 28p
sunflower oil @£1.39 for a litre (tablespoon is about 15ml) = 13p
milk @£1.18 for 2.2 litres = 21p
cake cases @55p for100 = 11p

total for 20 muffins - £2.44 or 13p per muffin (before fuel costs...)

So assuming that I use the oven when something else is in there so that the fuel cost can be disregarded that would save me 38-13=25p per muffin.  If my 3 children have chocolate muffins twice a week (regardless of school weeks or home weeks for once) that could save me 25p *3*52 = £39 across the year.  
Of course the one item that really sticks out as making the whole thing very expensive is the vanilla essence - I for one would not have thought that vanilla essence would add 28p to a recipe; in fact if pushed I would have guessed at about 5p.  Maybe future experiments can see if this can be halved or even omitted without spoiling the recipe.  If I can get away with no vanilla then the cost would be £2.16 or 11p per muffin saving another £3 across the year. Maybe worth thinking about.....

More updates :
Music Magpie - £24.46
Saved from housekeeping budget over last month - £317.15

total savings - £859.90+24.26+317.15= 1201.31

1.7% of total.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Car boot sale

Another £85 for the pot from the things we don't want via a car boot sale as manned by OH.
Savings to date :£774.70 + £85 = £859.70
1.2% of total. from March 2012 to my sons 18th birthday is 113 months (just under the 10 year target I set myself in March) 6 months have already gone - 5.3% of the time ; not looking good is it? Must do better as school reports are prone to say :) never mind onwards and upwards and onto the next challenge.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

More decluttering with music magpie!

Another £12.18 for the pot from Music Magpie.

Savings to date -£762.52 + £12.18=£774.70
Still 1.1 %

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Claiming refunds etc

Our people carrier broke heavily in April and has been at the garage ever since.  However it has now been sold and although the £3000 we got for it after the garage bill has already been allocated somewhere else (out-building roof) we had filled in the SORN forms at the beginning of June once it became obvious that it was not going to be a quick fix and the car was going to be off the road for a while.  This means a refund on road tax of £110 - well worth the 10 minutes it took to fill in and post the forms but one which in the past I probably would not have bothered with since it is a hassle to get stamps and take it to the post office.  (stupid huh!)
Other things I probably would not have bothered with in the past include the printed coupons you get given at the checkout.  This month I managed to bag £9 worth, (provided that I can be organised enough to use them within date!)
£119 for the pot takes me over 1%

savings to date = £643.52 + £119= £762.52  - 1.1% of total

Friday, 17 August 2012

School holidays updates

The school holidays have thrown my budgetting into chaos thanks to the extra diesel, food and expenses generally.  A reporter this week was throwing round the figure of £500 per week to keep little people amused during the school holidays - not in this house! (Although my in-laws wouldn't agree as they disapprove of all our belongs generally and what we choose to spend our money on ) We did our usual thing of raiding the pound shops for cheap craft materials and activities, using the library for free, going to £1 showings or midweek showings at the cinema (I also registered with Cineworld which gets us 10% off when I book online - and they have scrapped the booking fee too), painting pots from the garden centre for our garden and this summer we upcycled some redundant p.e. tops from school with tie dye.

 Other updates since my last post include:
More savings from my second purse style of budgetting - my stockpile value now stands at £117.88 and the "money" in my second purse itself is £38.24 ; I've yet to put anything into my third purse!
Tescos giving away vouchers since the last week in July (spend £20 and get £5 off your next £40 shop) as well as double vouchers at the moment meant I was able to get £48 of Skylanders figures (for A's birthday) for free.
£4.20 on money off per litre of fuel voucher (Morrisons)
Another box for music magpie £12.33 when the money comes in.
Left over housekeeping from last month from scrimping and saving generally £56.37

savings to date : £643.52 - 0.92% of total

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A more healthy menu from a MSE poster

One of the posters on the £7 per day thread was very concerned that I was peddling unhealthy stodge as a long-term diet.  Of course if you read the other posts you'll see I'm recomending it as a temporary short-term emergency menu only.
Anyway this menu was kindly suggested as an alternative.
In summary:
drinks: tap water
breakfast x 7 :banana omelette
lunch x 7: chicken and quinoa soup
dinner x 7 : spaghetti and cheese

and the costings for food items given as per the Tescos website.

£7 per person with no storecupboard week 2

£7 budget for week 2 plus 15 p carried over from week 1 = £7.15 to spend 2% increase on last week!

teabags carried over from week 1  - 0 p spent
sugar carried over from week 1 - 0 p spent
milk - 1 pint whole milk -49p by buying whole milk I could water this down half and half and end up with 2 pints semi-skimmed for the price of 1

49 p spent £6.66 remaining

cornflakes carried over from last week 0p spent
sugar carried over from last week 0p spent
milk - from above 0 p spent

49 p spent £6.66 remaining

margarine carried over from week 1 - 0p spent
Tescos Everyday value garlic sausage 12 slices - 55p
Bread Tescos own label medium sliced loaf 69p about 22 slices
everyday value baked beans in tomato sauce 420 g i.e 2 servings 26p

2 rounds garlic sausage sarnies
2 rounds garlic sausage sarnies
2 rounds garlic sausage sarnies
2 rounds garlic sausage sarnies
2 rounds garlic sausage sarnies
beans on toast
beans on toast

2 slices garlic sausage over

£1.99 spent £5.16 remaining

3 portions spaghetti carried over from week 1 - 0 p spent
2 slices garlic sausage from above
4 sausages from week 1 - 0 p spent
1/2 head of garlic from week 1 carried over - 0 p spent
Tesco Sieved Tomatoes Passata 500G 29p (3 servings)
tescos everyday gravy garnules 20p
Tesco Everyday Value White Potatoes 2.5Kg Tray 89p - assume 250g per serving  (tessco uses this as its serving size for nutritional information) -gives 10 servings
tescos everyday value mushy peas 4p!!!!!!!!x 2
Onions - tescos everyday value onion pack 69p - contains about 12 small onions, better than buying 1 large and having to cut it in half
tescos everyday value vegetable oil - 1 litre (so should last the remainder of the month easy) £1.29
everyday value stock cubes 10p for pack of 10
Tesco Everyday Value 12 White Rolls 35p - use 1 freeze remainder
2 carrots loose 16p
Tesco Everyday Value Cooking Bacon 500G -74p use 50g a time gives 10 servings
3 bananas 36p (just cos we can now!)

pea and garlic sausage soup - for 1-2
chop 1 small onion and brown in 1 tsp oil.  Add 1 tin of mushy peas (drained) plus 1/2 stock cube and enough water to cover peas, bring to the boil and simmer 

for a few minutes until heated through.  Blend until smooth (or mash with a potato masher). Add 1 slice garlic sausage chopped fine.  Serve with a bread roll.

bacon hash serves 1
Peel 250 g potatoes and boil until tender and allow to cool.  Cut into chunks (alternatively if you have left over mashed potato use this instead) Peel and chop 1 small onion and fry along with 50g bacon (diced).  Add potatoes and fry until heated through.

pasta with tomato and garlic (use 1 75 g portion of the spaghetti plus 1/3 passata and 1 crushed clove garlic)
pasta with tomato and garlic (use 1 75 g portion of the spaghetti plus 1/3 passata and 1 crushed clove garlic)
pasta with tomato and garlic sausage (use 1 75 g portion of the spaghetti plus 1/3 passata and 1 slice garlic sausage chopped)
pea and garlic sausage soup with roll (see recipe above)
sausage and mash with carrots and gravy (2 sausages from week 1, 250 g spuds 2 carrots)
sausage and mash with mushy peas and gravy (2 sausages from week 1, 250 g spuds 1/2 a tin of mushy peas)
bacon hash with mushy peas (see recipe below and 1/2 a tin mushy peas)

spent £7.10 remaining 5p

carried over to following week:
10 small onions
9 1/2 stock cubes
gravy granules
7 servings potatoes
2 servings cornflakes
11 bread rolls
38 teabags
9 servings bacon

Day 1
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast -Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -garlic sausage sarnies
dinner -pasta with tomato and garlic 
Day 2
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast- Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-garlic sausage sarnies 
dinner -pea and garlic sausage soup with roll 
Day 3
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-beans on toast
dinner -pasta with tomato and garlic sausage 
Day 4
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -garlic sausage sarnies
dinner -bacon hash with mushy peas
Day 5
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-garlic sausage sarnies
dinner-pasta with tomato and garlic 
Day 6
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast- Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -beans on toast
dinner -sausage and mash with carrots and gravy
Day 7
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-garlic sausage sarnies
dinner-sausage and mash with mushy peas and gravy 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

£7 per person week1

  • £7 only for the whole week; precludes buying cheaper (larger) value packs at the beginning of the challenge
  • 3 meals a day plus drinks for 1 person
  • No offers sought
  • No vouchers/coupons redeemed or reduced (e.g. for quick sale) items included
  • No free food or swaps from family and friends
  • no storecupboard; we have actually had this happen when we moved back from Germany, but had budgeted for it so that we could restock the first supermarket shop - v. expensive though!
  • Prices are from Tescos for ease of use and may or may not be cheaper elsewhere for particular items; were this for real I would be using a price book and comparison sites such as for the best deals
  • If you haven't got a storecupboard you probably haven't got a freezer or food processor and other such fancy stuff so minimum of expensive equipment used
If I can keep within the budget with these limitations then anyone doing it for real would be able to snap up deals and do it for even cheaper or add more variety.

Unfortunately I cannot function without a cup of tea in the morning and at the start of week 1 that means teabags, milk and sugar and a big hit on the purse just for the wet hot stuff. I am assuming I could limit myself to 3 cups a day and this would use 1 pint of milk and 1/2 a small bag of sugar (just a guess as I don't use it myself but we are going for worst-case finances here), the rest of the time I would make do with tap water. 
Tesco everyday value teabags (80 bags) - 27p - assuming 3 cups a day about 26 days worth
1 pint whole milk -49p by buying whole milk I could water this down half and half and end up with 2 pints semi-skimmed for the price of 1
granulated sugar -(500 g) 79p
£1.55 spent £5.45 remaining

Using my other pint of milk cunning scavenged from above along with the sugar I could have breakfast cereal.
Tescos everyday value cornflakes (500g ) 31p - Tescos own figures give a serving size of 30 g so this is 16 days worth of cereal.
£1.86 spent £5.14 remaining

Bread Tescos own label medium sliced loaf 69p about 22 slices
Margarine - everyday value sunflower spread 500g 75p
everyday value baked beans in tomato sauce 420 g i.e 2 servings 26p
everyday value cooked ham - 10 slices 61p

£4.17 spent £2.83 remaining

Spaghetti - everyday value spaghetti 500g 24p assuming a 75 g serving this is 6-7 servings
Tesco Sieved Tomatoes Passata 500G 29p (3 servings)
head of garlic 30p (assume 6 cloves garlic)
jacket potatoes (4 in packet) 75p - serve as jacket potatoes or as mash
everyday value coleslaw
tescos everyday value pork sausages 8 in packet 56p
4 (loose) carrots 34p
spent £6.91 9p remaining

carried over to next week:
3 portions of pasta 
4 sausages
19 days worth of teabags
9 days worth of cornflakes
half a head of garlic
half a tub of sunflower spread
half a bag of sugar
plus 9p 

shopping list
Tesco everyday value teabags (80 bags)
1 pint whole milk granulated sugar -(500 g)
Tescos everyday value cornflakes (500g )
Tescos own label medium sliced loaf
everyday value sunflower spread 500g
everyday value baked beans in tomato sauce 
everyday value coleslaw
everyday value cooked ham
everyday value spaghetti 500g
Tesco Sieved Tomatoes Passata
head of garlic
jacket potatoes (4 in packet) 
tescos everyday value pork sausages
4 loose carrots

Day 1
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast -Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -2 rounds ham sandwiches
dinner -Jacket potato with coleslaw
Day 2
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast- Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch- 2 rounds ham sandwiches
dinner -Pasta with garlic and tomato
Day 3
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch- Beans on toast
dinner -Sausage carrots and mash
Day 4
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -2 rounds ham sandwiches
dinner -Jacket potato with coleslaw
Day 5
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-2 rounds ham sandwiches
dinner-Pasta with garlic and tomato
Day 6
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast- Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch -Beans on toast
dinner -Sausage carrots and mash
Day 7
3 cups of tea throughout the day – otherwise tap water
breakfast-Cornflakes with milk and sugar
lunch-2 rounds ham sandwiches
dinner-Pasta with garlic and tomato

As a first attempt it has the right number of meals (so it can be done) but is a tad repetitive and you would have to like baked beans and tomatoes an awful lot!

£1 a day menus with no inital storecupboard

One of the forums I regularly lurk on - if not contribute to now and again is the Old Style Forum on Money Saving This is a wealth of information and support for the usual household expenses that everybody has and the recipes are ones that I am not ashamed to say I copy in my own weekly menus.  The generous and supportive folks there have got me out of many a pickle and it is nice to know when the pay cheque is late that you are not on your own!

One of the threads that surfaced recently was linked to a annual global charity event where you had to survive on £1 a day (or roughly equivalent currency) and the excess that you normally spent was donated to a certain charity (if I find the link I'll post it).  This sparked a second thread about living on a pound a day which despite a rocky start (experience has taught us that posters are not always what they seem) is turning into a mine of information for when things really hit the fan.  You would not want to follow this kind of lifestyle for any length of time of course as you would be unhealthy and bored of the monotonous food but for a temporary crisis I hope it helps others when the chips are down.

Anyway it got me thinking.  Could I manage everything (including drinks) on £1 per person a day? I'm lucky in that I have a good storecupboard and a stocked freezer so a temporary crisis would not be so bad for me as for someone who did not have any backup stores.  Also I have a family of 5 and so can buy larger packs which work out cheaper per 100 g than smaller ones.
So, here is what is for me (lucky person that I am) a pencil and paper exercise.  Several weeks menus for three meals a day for 1 person starting from absolutely nothing.  If this was real life (and unfortunately for some poor souls it may be close) you would be able to carry over stuff like oil and spices to the next week but the first week is the toughest and most monotonous food-wise.  Prices will taken from Tescos website (simply for ease), this may or may not be the best prices around; if you really are in this situation use a price book or an on-line supermarket price comparison site like to see if you can get a few pennies off the total.  This is a situation in which every penny really can make the difference if you have a choice of supermarkets near you.  It goes without saying that if you have to spend more than the price difference getting there (in fuel or bus tickets for example) it if not worth it.  Also if you have all your money at the beginning of the month you may be able to do one big shop then 3 little ones and take advantage of bigger packs this way - not everyone has this luxury so I'm sticking to £7 each week (although any pennies, like the food, can be carried over to subsequent weeks).  This is a worst case scenerio starting point and any thing else like stuff already in store, discount supermarkets, money off coupons, and being able to buy larger packs will bring the overall price for the week down to below the £7 ceiling (I hope)!

In order to avoid a massive post I'm going to split each week into a different post and edit the links in later.

Week 1 - no storecupboard!
Week 2 -
Week 3
Week 4

Monday, 2 July 2012

Third Purse Budgeting

Like a lot of people I struggle to see if the moneysaving tips etc that I am using make a material difference.  The trouble is everything gets taken out of the black hole that is my bank account and more often than not the balance at the end of the month does not reflect the time and effort that I have put in.  Of course that's when it  is all too easy to wobble and fall off the wagon.  The other day though I came across the Third Purse concept for household budgeting.  This shows you clearly what you have left in your monthly budget, the value of what assets you have stockpiled, and the combined savings you have made and can therefore put towards your wish list.
The system is one devised (as far as I know) by a forum user called Mothership over at here is the challenge post which explains it all in detail and includes many tips and ideas - although the offers mentioned are UK based the method would work anywhere.

The idea is that you have three purses (virtual or real depending on how you run your finances)

Purse 1 contains your monthly budget.  In my case this is for food, pet food, and household stuff and is £500 a month.

Purse 2 contains a float of extra money for you to dip into if you want to buy items (on offer) to stockpile.  So if I buy extra boxes of teabags say because they are £3 rather than £5 this is the purse that I take the money from. This float is replenished when you use something from your stockpile as you then transfer some money for that item only from purse 1; in effect you are buying it from yourself rather than the supermarket.  You can choose to give purse 2 the full (pre-offer) value, the offer value (for those things you wouldn't ever consider buying unless they are on offer) or (if purse 1 is empty near the end of the month) nothing. Obviously the float will increase fastest if you stick to paying purse 2 the full price. The money in purse 2 increases until a maximum value is reached - for ease of use most people on the forum pick a round number like £100; as a beginner though I am going to use £20 as my start point and the stockpile I already have as my own "shop stock" so this should go up fairly quickly.  In the beginning I also plan to transfer £10 a month to top up purse 2 at the beginning of the month until £100 is reached.

Purse 3 contains the savings you have made.  Whenever purse 2 goes over your maximum value then transfer the overflow to purse 3.  This is the money available for your wish list.

In order to keep abreast of which pot has what I plan to use a spreadsheet although a pad and pen would also work.  If you hate paperwork then using real cash and 2 separate real purses could be the way to go.

So here is my summary statement for my household budget for the start of July
Purse 1 - £500
Purse 2- £20
Purse 3 - £0

Hopefully by August purse 3 should be filling up too.  We'll see.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hair Accessories for sale

Our school has a summer fair where people can sell things they have made for a fee of £10 per stall.  Over the last month I have been building up a steady supply of these
Hair bands/ slides/ elastics for a stall for myself and my daughter (10yo) to run together.  
I have tried to use materials from my stash at home so outlay (including the fee for the stall) runs to just below £20.  
Here's hoping 1) we get good weather so lots of people turn up! and 2) people like the designs I have made - so far with a week to go I have about 50 to sell with an average price of £1 (these things sell in the shops for £2-2.50).  I'm just hoping to get any profit but lots of valuable feedback I hope:)
(For anyone tempted to make some of these for themselves I used this crochet tutorial for the flower decoration)

Update:The fair itself was cancelled - not due to the weather but due to lack of parental support, not enough parents came forward to help with manning the stalls (we volunteered to have a school activity alongside our hair-clips but only 2 other parents volunteered!) Luckily some of the parents already intended to buy some hair-clips so they have approached me separately and so far I have sold £20 worth.  Combined with the return of my stall fee I'm in profit!

Savings to date:£512.32 +10.30 (from hair-clips)=£522.62  (0.75% of total)

Friday, 11 May 2012

Cheap and Cheerful Recipes: Pancake lasagne and my meat suce

Having been a long time poster on the MoneySavingExpert Old Style forum  I remembered one lady who fed her family of 4 on £100 a month.  Her "name" is weezl and she left off her epic thread posting to set up her own blog and website dedicated to sharing some of her recipes and plans.  Sadly these seem to have fallen by the wayside during the last year but since starting this challenge I re-visited to see if there is anything that I could use.  Then last night I discovered that some child, who shall remain nameless, had emptied (as in eaten) the whole box of raw lasagne that I was planning to use for tea tonight.  Luckily weezl provided the answer as one of her recipes was for a lasagne made with pancakes instead of pasta.

Here is her brilliant (veggie) recipe priced last year at just 18p a portion. Wow.

Unfortunately whilst I think I can swing pancakes rather than pasta with my fussy hoards this time I think red lentils will need to to crept up on.....Even with the substitutions its still pretty cheap and will freeze just the same.

My meat sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, grated
1 courgette, peeled and grated (no tell-tale green bits for the kids to see!)
1 carton of passatta - plus rinse out the carton
250g minced beef
2 tbsp porridge oats
1 tsp marmite OR a stock cube
Soften the veggies in a little oil before adding the meat.  Stir to break up any lumps (no free-form meatballs allowed!) this will allow thinner layers when you assemble the dish.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes.  Use this sauce for lasagne (made like the recipe linked to above) or with pasta shapes, rice, couscous or baked potato.  This can also be frozen.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Cheap and Cheerful Recipes - Sausage Casserole

Since my last post life has rather dumped a load onto us that has meant that we are struggling to stay afloat at all rather than saving money for the challenge.  A new boiler, hole in the roof to be repaired, £1,500 MOT bill for one car and another car which has had to be replaced after a whole month in the garage have all meant that we have not had any spare pennies at all and maybe won't for a while!  Of course this hasn't meant that we aren't doing everything we can to save money; just that it has had a different destination.
Whilst looking online for inspiration I found this site Good to know - money saving.  It has lots of articles including a weekly "7 Dinners for under £1 a head" post which uses a named supermarket and the my supermarket website for its prices.  Duly motivated I hit the freezer and came up with something different than we normally have for tea tonight.

Sausage Casserole (serves 4)
1 pack of sausages
1 onion
2 peppers
1 carton passata (if you don't have passata use a regular 14 oz can tomatoes and a squeeze of tomato puree but this will actually cost you more...)
1 kg new potatoes
Chop the new potatoes into chunks and place in the casserole dish.
In a frying pan brown the sausages, onion and peppers.  Add to the casserole dish.
Pour over the passata and rinse out the carton with water and add this to the casserole dish too- the contents of the casserole dish should be just covered.
Bung in the oven at Gas Mark 5/ 375 F/ 180 C for about 1 hour whilst you do something more interesting with your life!
When the potatoes are soft when prodded with a knife it is ready to serve.  OH had his with chunky bread and butter on the side.
N.B. had I been more organised (wouldn't that be dangerous!) I could have cooked the whole thing in our slow cooker. If you want this to feed more people pad out with more root veggies and serve with garlic bread.

Savings: nothing to add and no-one wants to see a minus figure right :)  Still fighting though!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Reduce reuse Recycle:watering cans from plastic milk containers

Having bitten the bullet and planted some seeds my kids are getting interested in gardening again!  One source of tension though is the lack of kid sized watering cans.  What is so radically different about kid sized (proper) watering cans that makes them twice the price?
So, to save my sanity I was going to buy 3 more normal watering cans (at about a tenner each!).  Then I found this pin on Pinterest.  Now I have as many watering cans as I want all for free.

Packed Lunches

If, like me,you have to provide lunches during the week you know they can be more expensive than a hot lunch at home. But a packed lunch you make at home can be substantially cheaper than one that you get on the run.
For example:
Sandwiches at Tesco (according to the website) range from about £1.00 to £2.50 just for one round of sandwiches.  If, like my husband, you like 2 rounds of sandwiches that could be £5
An apple will cost about 25p
A single packet of ready salted crisps is 49p
A carton of juice or water (if you buy them singly as 500ml bottles) can be between £0.48 and £1.48
so a single lunch on the run of just 2 rounds of sandwiches, an apple, crisps and a drink could set you back £7.22. That's over £36 a week (or £1696.70 a year!)

If we cost the same meal made at home: (all costed from Tescos website)
Bread =£1.20 a loaf for a nice seeded loaf (800g) assuming there are about 18 slices of bread in a loaf (800g loaf / 44 g slice) four slices of bread will set us back 28p
Margarine - something like "I can't believe it's not butter" is £1.24 for 500 g,  Even if we assume we use a generous half a tub per week for sandwiches that's 12.4 p per day
Assume we use 1 tomato per round of sandwiches and that they cost about 14p each (organic tomatoes on the vine that is...) 28p
sandwich meat - roast beef or pork OH will not eat just normal sandwich ham:( £2 for 100 g; that's about 4 slices so about half a pack per day £1
apple 25p
value ready salted crisps are 68p for 12 (about 5p each) but even if we buy the premium ones at £2.89 for 20 that is only 15p each
mineral water is about £2 for 6 (prices vary by quite a lot) so 33p per bottle (or 15p per carton if we choose the value orange juice  cartons as in this example here)
Total =£2.41 per day (or £2.25 if using fruit juice cartons)
We could downsize this even more by using the supermarkets own brand, value where possible, and using home grown veg and cheaper meat it could probably be below £2 easily.

to summarise:
on the go £7.22/ day £36.10/week £1696.7/year for a 47 week working year
made at home £2.41/ day  £12.07/week £567.29/year
potential annual saving =1696.70 - 567.29 = £1129.41/year

From this you can see that the cooked meat is the most expensive part of the whole thing.  Due to this we tried something new this bank holiday weekend. As usual we had a roast dinner (roast pork this time) and instead of using the leftovers for main meals we sliced them up ready for sandwiches.  With 505 g of meat left over this should last us the entire week for OH (school holidays).  Pork joints for roasting are £5.49 per kilo.  Cooked sandwich roast pork is £2 for 132 g. - yes I did have to cook it but I would have used the oven anyway so the fuel is, in this case, free.  We use 4 packs of sandwich meat per week (DS1 doesn't like the texture, autism thing, so he has sausage rolls instead)  If I could bear to do this across the entire year =(4*£2)*47 = £376 per year v.  (4*0.132)*47*£5.49= £136.24 = another potential annual saving of £239.76

"Ah yes" I hear you cry "But I'm extremely busy and I don't have time" (yep this was me folks!)  In reality it takes me approximately 5 minutes to make 2 rounds of sandwiches.  If you stop and think about it you couldn't have made to order sandwich bars if it took longer than this.  Or, in other words, it takes about the amount of time it takes to make a hot drink in the morning. How long does it take you to "pop out for lunch"? I bet its longer than this too!
So, saving both money and time, bring back the sandwich box!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

More Music Magpie...

Another £7.47 for the pot from

Savings to date=£504.85+£7.47=£512.32
0.73% of total.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Decluttering and making money with Music Magpie

If you need some extra room on your shelves then you can sell your old CD's DVD's and games at  Easier than listing on E-bay or Amazon (although you may get less money in the end) you enter the barcode on the packaging and a price they will pay you comes up on screen. They even give you a FREEPOST label to send the stuff to them. I listed some items that didn't shift at the car boot - the minimum was 30p each.
One box down and £7.12 back (reviews say they do pay up but it takes a while).
Right, off to find more boxes to fill...

Savings to date = £497.73 + 7.12 = £504.85

Friday, 30 March 2012

Movies for £1 per person

Going to the cinema is something that we like doing BUT these days it is normally confined to someones birthday or other special occasion.  With 5 people in our immediate family it can cost over £40 to go and see the latest release.  Luckily these days most cinemas offer deals (usually midweek) when you can have a reduced rate.
Our local cinema (part of the Cineworld chain) has a good deal every Saturday where they show one or two children's films for £1 per person.  They are not always the latest of releases but for us that doesn't matter so much.  Today they are reshowing Puss In Boots (part of the Shrek series) and A is desperate to go.  In the past we have taken the whole of the R and A's class (about 18 people it was a tiny village school) for a cheaper alternative to somewhere like a soft play place for a birthday party; we then took everyone to a pizza place (they let us bring our own birthday cake) and it was still less than booking a soft play. often has details of this kind of "days out" deal, along with lots of other good money saving advice and it is free.  The forum is also packed with lots of different boards and literally millions of tips and whatever your situation everyone is very supportive so take a look and subscribe to the email for the latest deals right to your inbox.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Growing your own

Having a notoriously black thumb (despite having an honours degree in Biology!) this is one area where in the past I have spent money out and had virtually nothing in return.  However, in the spirit of if you don't try you'll never learn how we decided to give it a go in pots in the back garden again this year.
So far I have spent:
£10 (mini plastic greenhouse from Wilko)
£4 seeds from Wilko (buy 2 get third free)
£1 seeds from Lidl (about 30p a pack)
approx £15
One of the ones I am curious about are salad leaves seed mats from Wilko.  These are a pack of 2 mats which look like coffee filters with seeds stuck in between the two layers.  In theory all you go is put these in an 8 inch pot already filled with compost and sprinkle a little more soil on top.  All you have to do then is water and wait.  Leaves can be picked when the plants are about 2 inches tall and you can take up to 4 harvests from each plant.  The cost of the packet (without the offer) was £1.48 which is about what you can pay for bagged salad at the supermarket anyway.  Should be good for OH's sandwiches instead of greenhouse tomatoes. We shall see what happens...

Check your interest rates on your savings!

It is easy to assume that if you are putting your savings into an ISA then you are getting the best interest rate you can BUT it is always worth checking to see if 1) your ISA is the best rate and 2) there is not another saving account paying better interest.
This year we have swapped to an online ISA (giving us 1% more ) but I have found that I can get a 12 month deal (as a new customer) with ING that gets me 3.03% - that's 0.78% more than my online ISA.  True after this the rate is pants but I can use next years ISA allowance at the end of next March if another deal does not present itself!
So, is it difficult to compare all these savings accounts - nope; is free and presents the info in tabular form for ease of use.  Click here to go to the savings part of the site and check how many other pennies you could be getting on your hard earned savings.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Well we have finally had our first car boot sale.  In glorious sunshine my OH stood for about 6 hours selling most of the stuff we had packed into our people carrier whilst I was on babysitting duty at home.  We had lots of kitchenalia (mainly duplicates from Germany) plus toys and books which we sold for pennies.  The best deal of the day was a whole reindeer skin (OH's from a holiday in Norway decades ago) which went for £40. In total he raised £179!
I also cashed in various other things this week and raised another £236.
At the end of this week I will be able to tally up my expenditure for the month and work out those hidden savings (i.e. the ones from choosing a cheaper brand at the supermarket); it is easy to see the ones that come from vouchers and multibuys but overall savings depend on whether I have also stocked up on too many other things!
One of the things I stocked up on recently was cheap sandwich bags from Morrisons.  Their value range ones are 50 bags for 42p.  Sainsburys ones are normally 60 bags for £1.40.  I use about 1070 of these for OH and the kids lunches across the year.  Sainsburys would cost me £24.97/year Morrisons value ones cost me £8.99 - another  saving of £15.98/year.
Savings to date:£31.88+ £236.44+£179.31(carboot)+£50(float)=£497.73
0.71% of goal

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Juice for school lunches, a price book example.

If you spend anytime round the hardcore American style thrifting sites you will come across pricebooks. The basic premise is that there is often a slight variation in price amongst the big supermarkets and so by buying  at the one which works out cheapest for a particular item, rather than say the supermarket that is the most convenient, you can save pounds across the year.
Of course in reality it is not possible to go to visit several supermarkets each time you shop; time, and (especially in the UK) fuel, mean that a little compromise sometimes has to be made.  However for those items which store well it is worthwhile knowing which store to stock up in.
In order to do this you need to be a little organised and keep a record of prices and stores for the products you buy together with the unit price; this allows comparisons between different sized packs - and will give you a baseline to see if that special offer on a substitute product is still value for money.  Lowtech implementations of this are just a notepad and pencil; or you can go all up market and use a computer spreadsheet or even smartphone.  Adding a date as well as a store name and unit price can also allow you to spot any seasonal variation in prices.

So can it save you significant amounts of money?

As an example, I live in a rural area and so have to travel to the supermarket; the ones I have to choose from (in order of distance) are Sainsburys, Morrisons, Tesco and Adsa.  I have three children who will (from September) need cartons of fruit juice in their packed lunches.

Since living in Germany Capri Sun fruit juice is the one they would choose - these come in a pack of 5
Sainsburys -£2.81 ; cost per drink = £2.81/5 = 56p each
Morrisons -£?
Asda - £2.48 ; cost per drink =£2.48/5= 50p each
Tescos -£1.50; cost per drink =£1.50/5=30p each

Now across the year I buy 3 (kids) x 5 (school days per week) x40 (school weeks per year) = 600 drinks
By buying the CapriSun at Tescos rather than Sainsburys for one year I could save:
56-30 = 26 pence per drink
600 *0.26= £157.20 per school year!

Even when you factor in the additional cost of travelling to Tescos (8 miles away)  rather than Sainsburys (3 miles away) that is a significant saving across the year on just one item without even changing brands; It costs about £2 more (round trip) to go to Tescos rather than Sainsburys, so if I stocked up when I went I could maximise the savings I make, especially as the trip to Tescos is always combined with something else these days anyway to justify the deisel.

However I can go even better than that.
If I substitute the supermarkets own small cartons of juice instead of Capri Sun (which even my children agree tastes just the same, we did our own taste test to be sure)

Sainsburys (pack of 3) 89p - 30p per drink
Morrisons, Asda, Tescos (pack of 3) 45p
(To be fair Sainsburys own is not the basics one.)

Now if we do the comparison for 600 drinks at 15p each instead of 56p each
saving per drink =56-15p per drink=41p
600*41p=£246 a year!

If you are not sure if all this hassle is for you (and lets face it we can all just want an easy life from time to time) the website will do the hard work for you across the stores Asda, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tescos, and Ocado.  You can use it on an item by item basis, or type in a whole shopping list (if you can't be faffed with driving all over the place) and compare the bottom line on the whole basket.  I am told it is clever enough to even suggest cheaper substitutions.
Right, I'm off to work out other things I buy on a regular basis......

Savings- refund on Nursery fees (closure due to illness)£9+ £5.00 (small change jar)

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pinteresting Recipes:crockpot bacon and cheese potatoes

The groceries part of the budget allows the most wriggle room for us saving normal expenditure without compromising anything.  Normally we spend about £150-£200 per week; for a family of 5 plus one cat for all meals including lunches and drinks. Toiletries and household stuff also comes out of this budget but I tend to stock up when I can (hence the £50 a week variation!).
Whilst one of the ways we can save is by buying our usual fare when it is on offer, the best way to drive the bill down is to combine this with substituting cheaper recipes for some of our more expensive ones.
Pinterest is great for inspiration in this area and this post from Stockpiling Moms caught my eye.  Cheap ingredients and I use the slowcooker which is better on fuel than the oven; win-win.

Although I plan to try it pretty much as is if it works OK I guess you could substitute cooked chicken or sausage for the bacon.

Savings to date: £10.50 (petrol voucher) + £7.38 (multibuys on groceries)= £17.88

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fuel Prices - can we afford cars in the UK any more?

Fuel prices in the UK are at the highest ever.  The Government is under huge pressure to reduce the duty on fuel by even 1p per litre and the cost per litre continues to climb ever nearer £1.50 per litre for diesel (in my case).  With a whopping £250 per month going on fuel for myself alone - never mind OH we are in fuel poverty from Diesel, not counting other amenities.
So what can I do to reduce this bill.
Obvious but cut unnecessary journeys.  A round trip to the supermarket for something I have forgotten is a staggering 24 miles.  Or if I think of it in terms of fuel up in smoke £4.80 (assuming 20p per mile to make the calculations easier!).  There is also the saving that you make from not buying the extra things that the supermarkets tempt you to buy when you pop in for "just a loaf"; my pop to the shops trips usually cost about £15 a time.....
Cleaning unnecessary stuff out of the car.  Less weight less fuel used.
One of the tips often touted is to never fill up the fuel tank (again less weight less fuel).  This is one I won't be using as modern diesels have an additive that gets squirted into the fuel to make it burn cleaner every time you open the filler cap.  It is calibrated to assume that a full tank goes in each time and at about £50 per litre for 4-5 litres is expensive to have to refill; not to mention that the particle filter or the cat will get knackered too and could land me with a garage bill for 1000's.
Driving style.  "Driving like a saint" can cut the cost per litre dramatically.  Basically only press the accelerator when you really have to (hills are wonderful things providing you are going down them!) and think ahead, if the car can slow under engine breaking without you pressing the break pedal that is more effective too.
In the wake of such high petrol prices some supermarkets are offering a few pence off per litre when you spend over the threshold amount.  One that was most recent was Morrisons where a huge 15p litre was in return for a £60 spend, hopefully this time limited offer is one they will repeat.  In my case this equates to about £10.50 if the tank is nearly empty and is well worth having providing that I needed to send the £60 in the first place.  This is the voucher that I am off to cash in today and will be the first savings to go into my new account.  Over the course of the month I intend to write down other fuel costs and anything saved on the £250 monthly budget will go into the savings earned.

savings to date=£0

Need an Income to get an Income

Since my son was diagnosed as autistic last year we have been startled by the statistic that only 1 in 6 autistic adults in the UK manage well enough in the community to hold down a full time job.  Pretty frightening when you consider that many typical offspring also cannot afford to leave home because of student debt and high house prices etc.    So what do you do when faced with the possibility of financially supporting your children not only for  your lifetime but for theirs as well?  Add to this the double whammy that supporting a children with autism needs a lot more extra time for visits to therapists etc. (not to mention a preschooler thrown into the mix)  and having a standard employer becomes a nightmare.
What I need is a passive income - that is one which will bring in the pennies but not require  the effort of standard working hours or putting it another way earning money whilst I do other things- the holy grail for many I suspect!
I have decided that the long-term plan should be to become a landlord and  therefore be able to pay a management firm to manage a property for me - very little effort on my part so it ticks the "passive income" box, but fiendishly expensive to start.  Lets face it I can't buy a house outright (no real savings!) I can't get a mortgage (no income so not a risk the mortgage companies will take) so a lost cause perhaps?
Never one to give up at the first hurdle I have set myself the challenge of saving £70K over the next 10 years by unconventional means; car boot sales,e-bay,etsy, and hopefully other sources as and when we find them.  All this without compromising the quality of life we have now!  Maybe just for once I have bitten off more than I can chew - we shall see!

savings to date  - £0