L is for Lunch

Day 12 of the A to Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge.

And by lunch, i mean making your own…

I work full time and that inevitably means that i have a mealtime while i am there. Now, i am quite lucky that my place of work has a complete kitchen that i can access in order to cook something should i so wish, however, time is not always on my side in order for this to happen.

There was a time when i would think nothing of saying that i didn’t have time (read as couldn’t be bothered) to make a packed lunch and i would then buy sandwiches/wraps or pasties (gotta be done when you are Cornish) for my midday meal. This adds up though. Even getting the local shops meal deal at £3.00 a time x 5 equals £15.00 per week. Multiply this by 48 (omitting four weeks holiday per year) and you have a total of £720.00. Add this onto the total of over £800 for take out coffees that i talked about in K is for Keep a Diary or Journal, and you have a costing of over £1,500.00!

How many holidays can you take for that?

Lunch doesn’t always have to be boring either, you can be the envy of your workmates with a little creativity. Fresh salads with added extra’s that you would never get in a shop bought one. Wraps or sandwiches filled chock full of so many foodstuffs that tickle your tastebuds.

Personally, i add my home made chutneys to both salads and sarnies adding that personal touch and flavour that i just cannot buy anywhere.

Autumn chutney jars

 

I don’t sell these although that is my label. I just like them to look cool when i give them away as presents.

 

 

 

I also make a lot of soup with random flavours, depending on what vegetables i have in the fridge, and add herbs and spices to flavour exactly to my taste.

Occasionally i will just take an egg, some milk and some bread in with me and make scrambled egg in the microwave and a couple of pieces of toast. It takes approximately 3-4 minutes and you have a nice filling meal that cost you pennies.

And if i’ve cooked a big batch meal the night before, then box full of the leftovers is always tasty the next day!

Be creative with your lunch and see how much money you can save over a very short time.

And don’t forget the lunch bag as well – you can be really cool and funky with your choice of those…

You can find a PDF tutorial on how to make these bags in my ETSY shop Baby Dreams Stitchery

Let me know what your favourite home made, quick and easy lunch ideas are.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

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K is for Keep a Diary or Journal

Day 11 of the A-Z alphabet blog challenge.

It is easy to lose motivation once the initial impetus has worn off so i find it helps to have a visual record to remind me of my goals and achievements so far. The best way i have found of doing this is to keep a diary.

Writing on knee

Diaries or journals can be anything you want them to be. Personally, i stick with plain A5 size lined notebooks where i am not constricted in the amount i write. I guess you have noticed that i have a tendency to waffle a bit and my diary is no exception. They do have to look pretty though.

Notebook and pen

 

Although, i’m not always quite so fussy on my choice of pen…

 

 

 

In the past i have written:

  • Daily journals: detailing what has happened during the day.
  • Craft journals: detailing the items i have made and working out the costings for them.
  • A Happiness journal: during a particularly sad part of my life when i needed to acknowledge that there were good things that happened within the day as well as the sad things.
  • And a Spending journal: to show exactly what i spend in a day/week/month and then identify where the wastage is and what can be cut back on.

If you want to be able to see where those stray pennies go when you aren’t looking then start to write them down, pin them to the page so that, even if they do try and go walkabout, you can drag them back and make them account for their wandering ways.

If just writing in a diary or a journal is too plain and, quite frankly, boring for you, then make it fun. Doodle some pictures, learn some funky writing, download some pictures from google images and stick them in to highlight your point or look in the pound shops for one cheap and cheerful stickers. There are lots of really funky ideas over on Pinterest to spark your imagination.

Also, don’t just write an accounts book for it – that really would be boring. You can see that on your bank statement.

Write how you felt about the spending, before you spent, what made you decide to buy that item?

How did you feel when you handed over your card or the cash? A heady feeling of exhilaration as you heard the familiar ching of the cash register?

How did you feel after you got the purchase home? Pleased? Or guilty?

Acknowledging why and how we spend is half the battle to becoming in control of our own spending, learning what part of us we are trying to appease through the handing over of our cold, hard earned cash to a stranger in return for another piece of stuff, another cream cake, another mug of steaming vanilla latte from the coffee shop on the corner where they just taste too good to go without – my diary worked out that i was spending over £800 per year on regular take out coffees during my working day. That was just two coffees per day on average, 5 days per week. It is amazing how much it adds up.

So, if you want to see where your money goes, track it, write it down, make it fun, identify your motives and stop what no longer needs to be spent.

So far this year i have spent less than a fiver on take out coffees. That is about £245 saved already.

Oh, and i’d recommend the happiness diary as well. It helped me out of a really deep hole.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

J is for Junk

Day 10 of the A to Z blogging challenge

There is an age old saying of one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and i really enjoy finding treasure of my own amongst other peoples junk.

Bins

I’ll admit, i’m not quite brave enough to go skip diving in someone’s front garden, but give me a charity shop or a car boot and i can be quite pleasurably entertained for a fair while. Basically, i just love a bargain and what can become of junk once you utilise your crafty skills quite often leaves other people calling you a fibber when you say what it used to be.

charity-clip-art

My first go to shelf in the charity shops is the books which admittedly don’t get up cycled because, well, what else would you do with a good book apart from read it…although i am tempted to try and make one of those little coffee tables out of old books that are then glued together into a seemingly random and haphazard pile…watch this space for that one…

book table  Not my photo, but really cute eh?

My second go to shelf, or rather, rack, is of the curtains, sheets and duvets. Not for my house, i don’t need anymore of those items, the ones i have are perfectly good for at least another few years, but because they are a gold mine for fabric. Have you ever looked at how much fabric there actually is in a double bed size duvet cover?  This fabric i use in all sorts of ways.

  • I have previously stated that i am a qualified seamstress. If i’m attempting to make a new garment that i haven’t made before and i think the fit may be a bit tricky then i will make a ‘muslin.’ It is a trial garment in a cheap fabric where it doesn’t matter if there are mistakes in it or if it doesn’t fit quite right because you can then use this to alter the fit before you cut into your expensive final fabric. Believe me, it’s very depressing to find out that something doesn’t fit after you’ve made up a jacket using three metres of fabric that cost £20 a metre…A cheap sheet or cover that only cost a couple of quid is perfect for this.
  • They are also good for patchwork, cushion covers, bags.
  • Reupholstering stools, chairs, sofa’s etc.
  • Using as dust sheets when you are decorating.
  • Building tents in the garden with the kids or grandkids.

In my mind, if you have a good length of fabric then you can turn your hand to making anything look good.

And unique.

Next, i will have a quick perusal of the clothing, again, mainly looking for fabric opportunities (i get most of my denim in this way) although i’m not averse to getting some clothing for myself if i see a bargain. I picked up an Animal hoodie the other day. Barely worn, retail in a shop is around the £40 mark and this one was written up at £4.50.

No way was that sucker staying there, and i really don’t care either that it was two sizes too big.

Finally, i will have a quick look at the games. We are great believers in this household of family games nights and, although we have our old favourites, we like to try something different. It can, however, work out a bit expensive to keep buying a new game every time all the family can get together, but it is often in these shops that you can find something a bit different to the supermarket specials. We have had great fun with a game called Hummbug where you have to get across the board before your opponents by picking a card and having to guess what song is being hummed. Admittedly, we had to adapt the rules a bit to suit us because my sons didn’t really know much of the 60’s era, but isn’t that also the beauty of the games night? Just having a laugh and making it work for you?

hummbug--family-game-night-free-uk

Let me know what your favourite section of charity shopping is and what you look for. I’m always open to new ideas.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

 

I is for Internet

Day 9 of the A – Z blog challenge.

The internet can be a major help as you strive towards a make do and mend lifestyle. Not least because a simple Google search can tell you how to make and mend just about anything that takes your fancy.

Obviously Youtube is the place to start with any type of new craft or DIY skill that you may find yourself lacking in.

  • I have fixed my dishwasher when it wouldn’t drain properly – had to take the drain section to pieces and found a piece of glass blocking it. As this was on Christmas Day it would have been a while before an engineer could come and fix it for me at i don’t want to think about what cost.
  • I have taught myself the finer points of crochet.
  • I have learnt how to reattach the zipper of a zip after it comes off the teeth in your hand when you are altering a wedding dress… ooo, that was not a good moment i can tell you…
  • I have found the songs i require to teach singing and signing sessions at work as well as finding some that are really not quite so suitable – but fun all the same.
  • I have found out what some never used (and probably never will be) sewing machine feet were meant to be used for after i found a random bag of them lurking at the bottom of my sewing box.
  • I have learnt jewellery making techniques i didn’t have before.
  • I have learnt how to work with Fimo – made some minion keyrings, they were really cute and friends and family loved them.

Minions

  • I’ve tried yoga – it wasn’t successful – don’t do a downward dog with a loose bra on. It doesn’t work. Invest in a sports bra. Or don’t have boobs.
  • I’ve been entertained by funny animal videos, ever seen a hedgehog being fed a treat? It’s hilarious, go find it, you won’t be disappointed.
  • I could probably continue ad infinitum, no person could possibly live long enough to watch everything that is available….

As well as Youtube, there is good old Google itself. The answer to every question in the universe plus a few that have never been asked before. Probably.

It is no longer necessary to have a costly encyclopaedia in the house, the internet can get you the answer to that query before you’d have had chance to open the first page. Although it may take a while for you to find the actual piece of information you were looking for. The trawl through the sites can rake up some stuff you never wanted to know though…or see…

Shopping is where the internet really saves you money though. Sites such as Ebay and Amazon are gradually taking their toll on the traditional high street while those seeking individual hand made items can use sites such as Etsy or Not on The High Street as well as many others in order to show their unique identity.

On top of this there is the possibility of having your supermarket shopping delivered. I believe this does save you a lot of money, even after factoring the delivery cost, by you not actually having to visit the shop yourself. You have your meal plan for the week, you have your shopping list to facilitate your planning and you buy just what is on the list because you aren’t physically in the shop to see all the special offers and impulse buys that the supermarket is trying to tempt you with. On top of that, there is the fact that you have no transport costs to get you there and back. You save on shoe leather from not walking around the shop. You don’t get stressed out by the amount of people blocking your way as they chat to that friend they haven’t seen for absolutely ages right in front of the milk aisle. This means that your diet also stays safe as you don’t reach for that huge bar of chocolate that is sitting conveniently by the check out, just crying out your name, as your reward for having to go through that hell week in and week out…

Or is that just me?

Finally, we have education.

I could not go to university when i first left school. I wasn’t actually even allowed to attend college, i had to go straight into work to start earning a wage as soon as my legal schooling days were over. Admittedly, i had no strong aspirations for any particular career, i didn’t know what i wanted to do so i didn’t put up any fight either.

Years later, when i did decide i wanted to further my education i was married and had children. I went to evening classes at the local college but that was never going to improve my career prospects. When my marriage failed, i had even more need to gain some qualifications but even less ability to go to a university to get them when i had three boys to feed, clothe, house and keep warm.

I turned to the Open University. I could stay at home, go to work and gain a degree at the same time. It wasn’t easy. Trying to fit study hours in was excruciating at times, but the flexibility of study and the range of study materials and peer/tutor support available was second to none. My first degree, a BSC Hons in Health and Social Care was sort of my introduction to computing that wasn’t being beaten at space invaders by my brother in the late 1980’s. This was in the early 2000’s and was delivered by a combination of online support and snail mail assignment postings.

 

My second degree, an Open BA, was in the 2010’s ish,  and was mainly delivered online.

Graduation Torquay 2014-15

They’ve grown a bit haven’t they!

I am currently three quarters of the way through a Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree with the Open University and it is completely delivered online.

With the increase in technology i have gone from no hoper, straight out of school and into the local factory where her mum worked to a person who can hold her own, live independently and believe in herself and her abilities. I could not have come anywhere near that without the internet and the ability to study at home without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in student fees and living costs.

So the internet is amazing at helping you save money in so many ways.

Have a happy day,

Anita x

 

 

H is for Healthy

Day 8 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

It goes without saying that we all want to be healthy. Often though, that means that we feel we have to spend money on things that we don’t really want to. You know what i mean: the gym membership, all those vitamins and minerals in tiny little jars, premium foods that promise the earth, quick fix slimming plans and diets, alternative treatments…i’m sure you can think of many more to add to this list that are pertinent to you and your current lifestyle.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to stay healthy though. Here are some areas where you can cut your spending right now, and still feel the benefits:

Exercise is actually free.

takesteps

  • Take a walk. Take a jog or if you are really motivated (or mad?) Take a run.
  • Do some exercises at home, press ups, sit ups, jog on the spot, squats, bungee jumps.
  • Play football outside with the kids, get a skipping rope and see how many jumps you can do before you trip over it.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk the rest. Unless you have a physical or mental disability (or a baby/toddler where safety is paramount) that means you have to be in the parking spot closest to the supermarket door. It is actually possible to park at the back of the car park…there are spaces there too and quite often, they are empty because everybody thinks they have to park as close as they can get to the supermarket door…
  • Similarly, no car? On the bus? Get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Dance to your favourite music and sing it loud and proud while you do – although if your voice is anything like mine then i suggest you close the windows first so you don’t upset the neighbours…

noisy neighbours

Basically, anything that gets your heart rate up is classed as exercise, and the more you do, the more you will benefit from it. And isn’t it better if you can get that for free?

Eating doesn’t have to cost more to be healthy. 

  • Buy foods that are in season, they are much cheaper then and don’t forget, you can chop them up and freeze them ready for quick meals another day.
  • Batch cook foods and freeze them so you aren’t tempted to buy something in when you are too tired or running short of time another day.
  • Buy out of season vegetables from the freezer section. They are cheaper (because they were probably picked and frozen when they were in season, see the first point)
  • Plan your meals in advance to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates etc that you need every day. And stick to it.
  • Unless you have a specific medical reason for taking vitamins and supplements, the odds are, they aren’t doing a thing for your body, they are just making your pockets lighter. If you eat a full balanced diet then you should be getting everything you need in it’s natural form.
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables (See my post, G is for Grow your Own). It is cheaper, you get some exercise while you are tending to it and you can’t possibly eat any fresher than straight off the plant.

Eat clean as part of a normal healthy diet.

  • The quick fix diet plans may work in the short term, but they are expensive and more often than not, once normal eating is resumed, the weight creeps up again too.

Ultimately, don’t be a sheep.

It is not necessary for you to shell out on the latest fad because social media or your peers tell you that it is THE thing to do. Make up your own mind. Find what works for you.

And just do it. Follow the crowd

Most of all though, whatever you choose to do, enjoy it. You’re more likely to stick to a plan if you are enjoying the experience rather than thinking it is a chore that has to be got through.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

 

G is for Grow your Own

Day 7 of the A to Z blogging Challenge

There is something really satisfying about going out to your garden and picking fruit, veg or herbs and bringing it back into the kitchen to put straight into your meal or preserving it for later use.

For me it is the freshness of it and the fact that, apart from the initial outlay of seeds and equipment, it is free.

I know that i am lucky though, i live in the middle of Cornwall, UK, and i have a garden. It’s not very big – a veg plot is out of the question, as is a proper greenhouse – but it is big enough for a few fruit bushes, some pots and a small plastic grow house type thing that i have to anchor against the wooden fence to prevent it blowing away in the wind.

I also live on top of a very big hill. It gets a tad windy up here. To say the least. But it does look really cute in the snow (apart from the collapsed washing line – you’ll be pleased to know that i have fixed that, not bought a new one).

I remember as a child, my parents had a massive garden. They weren’t rich, council houses down here traditionally have huge gardens. My dad used half of it as a vegetable plot, the other half was lawned. We had five apple trees – 3 cooking apple and 2 eating apple – and could never get through all the apples they produced. My parents did do a rather good, rather potent job of making apple wine with it- although not as potent as their rice wine, boy, would that blow your head off – but it was criminal to see the wastage each year lying on the ground.

Dad used to grow so many vegetables that we didn’t have to buy very much at all. Potatoes, runner beans, onions, shallots (his pickled onions are still revered today in certain circles – i try to emulate them, but i don’t think i come close), carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber…all the old favourites back in the 70’s and 80’s. My biggest memory though is of sitting in the garden, hiding amongst the leafy greenery of the pea plants as they stood  tall, shielding me from the onlooking, beady eyes in the house and popping those juicy pods, stuffing the fresh peas into my mouth as fast as i could before i got caught. It really wasn’t as much fun at harvest time when i had to help pick and shell all of them to go in the freezer though.

peas1-lead_t640

My garden now doesn’t have any pea bushes sadly. But it does have redcurrant, cranberry, black currant, raspberry and gooseberry plants permanently planted into my fruit bed. In outside pots i grow my strawberries (they run rampant if grown in beds), mint (which also grows rampant if their roots aren’t contained), chives, parsley, potatoes and rhubarb.

home grown spuds

In the conservatory (which is also my sewing studio) i usually go for a tomato plant and a few chilli and pepper plants.

Conservatory

As i said, i know that i am lucky to have a garden at all, there are times that i wish that it was a bit bigger, but, in all honesty, i probably wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly if i did. That is one of the reasons i don’t apply for an allotment, but if that is an option that is open to you, then go for it.

Believe me though, you can’t beat the taste of home grown, or the satisfaction of adding your own fresh food to your cooking repertoire. If you have room for a few pots, try some chilli’s or peppers. Pick them straight off the plant, quick wash and dry with a paper towel, freeze on a baking tray (so they don’t stick together) and then pop them into a container in the freezer. You’ll have more than enough to spice up your dishes all year long. Or make some Sweet Chilli Jam (this is the recipe i use) and give it as part of a homemade Christmas hamper (more about that in a later post). Your friends and family will be begging for more.

And it saves you money.

Big bonus!

Have a happy day.

Anita x

F is for Freezing

Day 6 of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

By freezing i don’t mean literally sitting wrapped in blankets with icicles hanging off your nose. I’m really not that mean…well, not all the time anyway.

freezing person

I mean F is for Freezing your Food.

This has to be one of the biggest areas where wastage occurs and money can be saved.

I have always been a skint single mum. I have raised my three sons to adulthood almost single handed from the ages of 7, 5 and 3. They are currently 24, 22 and 20. I’ll be honest, i have no idea how i didn’t break them in the process, but we got there somehow and they are now my best friends.

But anyway, bringing them up and keeping their stomachs full was a pretty major task and one that i like to think i have excelled at, and that is mostly down to the canny use of the humble freezer and home cooking.

I have always batch cooked as well as buying reduced, on the date goods and frozen them. It is only in recent years though that i have acquired, in my opinion, my biggest money and time saving options which i still use regularly even though i am now down to only one son living at home and i really wish that i had known about them when the boys were younger.

The slow cooker and the soup maker. They both make large amounts, without much effort (i work full time and am studying for a Masters degree, i don’t have much spare time) and with virtually fool proof results.

I also find that if i am home alone for my evening meal, i quite often can’t be bothered to cook for one and that is when i reach for rubbish food or the cake cupboard. Having the ability to take out a home cooked frozen meal and just add some sort of carbs to it suits both me and my purse admirably.

The soup maker makes approximately four bowls of soup in about 20 minutes. At the weekend, i gather up whatever veg are lying forgotten in the bottom of my fridge, rough chop it, add a stock cube and some seasoning and press go. I then portion the finished soup into four plastic containers (the reusable kind) and pop them into the freezer. Soup for lunch for most of the working week sorted. Butternut squash and sweet potato with a bit of paprika is a particular favourite of mine but i quite often end up with random taste experiences such as ham, sweetcorn and mushroom, mushroom and carrot, leek and parsnip….and of course, just random vegetable soup…although it usually has mushrooms in it, i like mushrooms…

As for the slow cooker? I can give you any number of meat or vegetable dishes that can be cooked and then separated into containers and frozen for consumption on another date, but I have yet to find anybody else who knows that you can cook perfect jacket potatoes in a slow cooker. Just prick them, wrap them in foil as you would for the oven and bung them on low for about 8 hours. Bearing in mind that the slow cooker uses approximately the same amount of electricity as a normal light bulb that is not as excessive as it sounds. You then come home from work to yummy jacket spuds and all you need to sort out is the filling. My other trick with this is to cook a whole big bag’s worth and freeze in pairs what i don’t eat that evening. Then i just need to put them in the microwave the next time i want one or two for my tea, or i can take them straight to work to heat there. The possibilities are endless and have you seen the price of those frozen jackets in the supermarkets? Bet mine taste nicer.

 

Only thing to remember is to not freeze them still in the foil…it’s a bugger to pick it off a frozen spud, don’t say you weren’t warned!

Have a happy day.

Anita x