Saturday, 23 December 2017

Yay! Then Hiss.

I have finally finished building furniture! Yay! The relief is amazing. Unfortunately my ceiling height (or lack thereof) necessitated a rearrangement. You can just make out the relocated Christmas Tree, which is presently helping to screen my desk and chair. But see that three foot gap behind the white sofa? That's the Bash Zone. All I can really use it for is stashing junk, and even that is a dangerous thing to do. I have (so far) hit my head viciously on those two beams six times and I'm not even counting the times I have bumped my head gently. It seems I haven't caused myself quite enough pain to make me actually remember to watch where I'm going (but watch this space).

Now I just need to rid myself of all the ridiculous empty cardboard boxes.

My go-to website for buying discounted gift cards (Zeek) seems to keep selling out of most of the items that I want, and only offering the ones that are one percent off - the price of popularity! - But I managed to pair it with cashback and came out in front, by first clicking through from both TopCashBack, then I spent the money on Zeek credit first, and redeemed that credit on a supermarket gift card, which will come in the mail.

A very much hiss was my disgusting foray on eBay earlier in the week, where I bought what can only be described as selfish and unnecessary items, totalling about £30. On the plus side I did get some cash back and I did finally order my toaster from a different site. I also got a small kettle and a mini oven, which should mean I use less power when I need to cook something for one person (it always strikes me as wasteful to heat that huge oven just for a little meat pie).

I sold one item for five pounds - technically I sold another item, but one of the buyers was a pain in the proverbial and decided he didn't want it. Simpler to cancel the sale than to get the negative feedback later on, ho hum.

On the right is the latest sweet treat to go into my mouth: Apple Crumble Slice with Custard (28p & 8p, respectively, from Tesco). It was delicious. And I used too much custard on this, it would have been fine with a quarter of the tin.

Freebie this week: A latte from Costa (thank you, Wuntu) and also a perfume sample in the mail.

It's Pay Week, so I plan to go grocery shopping soon, but before I do, I'm going to check out some online retailers. I shy away from them in general with the reasoning that I won't find yellow stickers, but I think it's only fair (to myself) to at least take a look for bargains.

* links are referral links, where I get a small bonus if you join. I only ever include links that I genuinely believe you can benefit from.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Slowly, Slowly

When I first got here almost a month ago I spotted a great rug in a charity shop, brand new. It was 45 pounds which was really way over budget, but I loved it so much that caution was thrown to the wind and it came home in my arms. I didn't have enough hands to carry a lovely wall picture that I spotted on the same day for £10, so I left it behind. I assumed it would be gone so I didn't bother to go back.

Well guess what was still there when I checked? Here is my living room so far and I'm quite pleased with it:

The ottoman on the left was also £10 from the same shop. The right hand ottoman was £30 and is new, and the sofa was £55 and is also new. You might have noticed my sloping ceiling there. I haven't got any wall space that can host anything tall, so allllll my storage needs to be at floor level. There are two low cabinets on the opposite wall which I'll try to remember to snap when the rest of the room is done. I also have a new sofa bed still in the box which belongs beside the Christmas tree. I'm working really hard on summoning the energy to assemble it :D

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Holiday Mode: On

I am finally on holidays until the end of the year (insert wild applause). It means I can finish sorting out my flat, which has been a bit neglected and has suffered from my rampant procrastination.

Yesterday was my Christmas breakfast party with work, making it a really frugal morning with a delicious cooked breakfast served up by the managers. I also got a lovely Christmas gift of a years' subscription to Headspace, which has stacks of meditation and mindfulness podcasts. They also gifted me some Sony bluetooth headphones (!!!!!!!) which I was very excited about, but as I don't need those myself I'm going to make sure they end up under someone else's Christmas tree.

Unfortunately in the afternoon I realised that there was no lunch happening. I think I sort of expected morning tea to be a feature. But no, and it meant I had to buy lunch. I'll admit I was lazy and shelled out the £3 for a "meal deal" meaning that along with my sandwich was a packet of Doritos and a bottle of Coke, two items I realistically could have done without. Oh well, I'm excusing it by saying it was my last day of work for the year.

I have absolutely zero excuse for what I did on the way home. I went into a pound shop and emerged £14 poorer. These shops are a trap, I tell you! Sure, I can pretend I needed all the things I bought, but really, I could have done without most of them. Except the chocolate. That was an essential.

In other news, after a tip from an EE rep, I got Experian on the phone to ask about my missing credit score. The nice lady on the phone did something magic, and my credit score suddenly appeared. This missing credit score was probably the reason the bank knocked me back for a home loan earlier in the year. I have a rubbish score mostly due to me not having lived here very long, but it's a score, which is better than no score at all. Within two minutes I had applied for and been approved for a credit card at 56% p.a. interest, and I have applied at a second bank as well, which will let me know shortly. (Danger danger Will Robinson: don't go nuts with credit or loan applications, as the applications themselves could harm your credit rating.)

I can hear the gasps. No, I don't plan to spend that credit. I am not crazy - 56% interest for goodness' sake!!! - I simply need some way to begin improving that score, and credit cards are all I can really do for now. I did read the fine print and provided I pay out the balance in full every month, I should have no fees or interest. So I plan to actually load it with my own money in advance then use it while shopping.

PS. Considering how many of my posts are arriving late, I'm dropping back to posting twice a week.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017


I argued to myself that if I buy myself some treats from the supermarket, I'll stop wanting to buy food at work. This sort of mostly works. I went ALL last week without buying anything during my work days (dance). And then on Monday I accidentally left my treats AND my lunch at home, and it was on a day that free breakfast didn't happen.


So I bought myself a mushroom omelette (30p) and it was lucky I did, because there was no free protein meal at lunch either. I had the free fruit and salad. And a free latte for the trip home.

So I bought a Tesco four-pack of muffins on the way home for my treats for the rest of the week (£1 coin from my remaining change stash). Salted Caramel! They are amazing. And then I really just wanted something hot for dinner and I wasn't in the mood to eat another omelette but I really haven't got cash to spare. So I dangerously went into Sainsbury's knowing there was £10 left on my Sainsbury's gift card, and came home with a reduced instant Hoisin Duck meal for $1.49. Oh and a whole lot of other things, but hopefully I have enough meals now to last me the 12 days left until payday.

I put a tenner onto my electric key.

I have enough in the bank for my bus tickets, thirty pounds in my purse, a handful of coins, and two pounds on my Sainsbury's card. I'm equal parts horrified and energised by the budgetary challenge. As soon as I get paid I'm planning to buy a new Sainsbury's £50 gift card for my grocery shopping. In theory this will stop me spending over my budget (let's see how that goes).

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Single Room Thing

So I happen to have a one-bedroom flat, with "heating". But the heating in the living room just... isn't up to the task. It tries, but the best it really achieves is taking the chill out of the air, and on keyed electric (boooo!) I was spending about £20 a week just trying to stop from freezing. I kept waking up shivering and then having to turn the blow heater on in the mornings just to get dressed, and that's not so fun when you're heading out into temps close to zero.

I'd intentionally kept the bedroom door shut and out of use until I received all my furniture, which happened yesterday, so I have boxes everywhere. But when I switched on the heating in there to help dry the newly-cleaned carpet, it's like an oven! So... guess what I've done for the past two days? Yep, set myself up in the bedroom. I have my desk and laptop in here, and my bed. I figure the space is smaller and it should save me some money if I just stop heating the living area during the week. Realistically I only need the living room for making my meals - maybe I'll feel differently once all my lovely living room furniture is in place in there! :)

I've also gotten cheeky a couple of times and left my front door open for half an hour when I arrive home from work... being at the top of the warm stairwell, it helps warm up a cold room nicely.

In other news I have sadly failed in signing up to a contract for my mobile phone. I get a corporate discount if I join EE. But I keep failing the address check verification when EE tries to confirm my card, even though I've confirmed that EE have the correct billing address. The bank says it's EE's fault. EE say it's the bank. I'm tired of making phone calls... will try again once I have received and returned the official "change of address" form for the bank. In the meantime I had to buy more pay-as-you-go credit with my current provider, so that's twenty-five extra pound down the drain that I really didn't want to spend... hey ho, not much I can do about it now!

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Washer Debacle

I've mentioned my washing machine more than once... I love the idea of that tiny washer, but truth be told this particular one has been a nightmare. It arrived banged up, broken, dirty and definitely not new. The seller had seemed willing to split the cost with me, but after repeated requests I'd gotten nowhere. Long story short it's now been returned and I'm waiting on a full refund from eBay.

That refund will come in handy, since ka-ching-wise, I'm scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.

I must admit, it's easier not to spend money when you simply don't have it. But I'm a little bit nervous about finances and lasting until payday. I haven't bought a single Christmas gift either, but I'm trying to put that aside until I get paid... all my gifts will be bought online (and apparently all on the two days before Christmas).

I do already have one gift... bought with Nectar points. Thumbs up there, I know I could have used those points more efficiently on something for myself that I needed, but never mind, it's one less gift to worry about.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


I'm late with this update, but I've been pretty busy.

This week I've been updating my Level 3 First Aid. It's amazing how much I remember, how much I had forgotten and how much has changed since I last did my training. I am thoroughly in awe of new defibrillator machines, they now talk you through and are quite reassuring considering it's what most people would consider a scary thing to witness.

So how is this frugal? I'm adopting poetic licence here. I am going to say instead that First Aid Training is incredibly good value. Think about it, people. What is the point of paying all our bills, saving all our pennies, getting financial independence, if we don't have our health and the health of those we care about?

If there is one extravagant purchase you make in 2018, make it a first aid course. Humans only have three minutes of oxygen saved up. Ambulances never arrive in that first three minutes. Putting it quite simply, you need first aid to live. If you're in trouble, your life - or the life of someone you care about - depends on someone near you knowing what to do. And watching "House" on tv is not good enough!

First Aid Saves Lives.

Please do this for your loved ones.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Whirlwind days, that is. Or should I say, my weeks. Only one day off work this week and a day of rest and relaxation was not to be had!

I've been busy still trying to arrange my flat (suitcase living is not so fabulous) and also get the caravan ready for the winter... rather late. More than once I've caught myself thinking: what's this full-time malarkey?

Anyway. Unsurprisingly there have been unexpected spends, but on the plus side I've been reasonably good at bringing lunch from home. I only have a four-day week (thank dog!) and as I'll be off-site there will not even be free fruit or salads or coffee, so the gauntlet is thrown: can I manage to stick to packed lunches for the whole week? (Challenge accepted!)

Unrelated purchase with no excuses offered: Christmas tree £2, baubles £2 (half are still in the box as they're too big for the tree), lights £7.

Friday, 1 December 2017

It's December Already

Eeek! Of course I'm aware that Christmas is around the corner but even so, I still do a double-take to see Christmas decorations up in the shops. I think it's because I'm mostly disconnected from it this year, I'll be off work and spending Christmas by myself (no sympathetic responses please as I'm perfectly ok with this).

I suppose I should update on my latest purchases?

Jumper £2, scarf £1, hat 50p and a belt 50p which somehow escaped the photo. Nothing fancy but some basics so I look vaguely respectable when leaving the front door.

Casserole dish £1 so that I could feed a guest.

Entertainment which I'll leave in the caravan for guests - £12.50 for the three (Trivial Pursuit was a tenner, which was a bit of a nostalgic indulgence).

I cannot wait until I'm in walking distance to my local car boot sale!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

El's Budget Fish

Again this isn't a recipe, just posting what I've eaten for my dinner :)

I grilled this, and I am not usually a fan of fish, but it was absolutely delicious so I can definitely recommend the brand. As you can see the fish portion is generous at 100g.

Cost (November 2017)
Tesco value breaded fish (100g portion) 24p
Small potato 6p
½ cup mixed frozen vegetables 6p
Squirt of lemon juice 3p

cost per portion 39p

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Into Gear

I've finally gotten my new flat arranged and collected the keys - about time! It's been an absolutely exhausting time at work lately, with a really long commute and barely any time to even fart.

Because of the timing of my new job starting, my pay this month is also really, really tiny. I'd expected this, but the reality of seeing it in black and white is quite sobering. On top of that, I own zero furniture for my new place, so I have to buy everything and time is against me. I've been keeping an eye on free items, but without transport it's a little tricky and I'm virtually forced to buy it all at once, from one place, to keep the delivery charges reasonable. So I took a trip to two used furniture charity shops, but unfortunately I've come away disappointed. One was frightfully expensive and all I bought was a tiny ottoman and a rug. The second one had good prices, but they didn't have any furniture that really met my needs. On the plus side this second one has some lovely accent pieces like mirrors, lamps and wall art, so I'll go back there when I am a little richer...

So the most practical/frugal has been to buy the furniture brand new. Ouch. On the plus side, I do work for a great company, and I have been incredibly fortunate that they've given me three days' paid leave as a thank you for relocating to another store, an interest-free loan to pay the flat deposit, plus a VERY generous one-off staff discount in our own store, to help me furnish my new place. End result is that I ordered a houseful of furniture from them so their coffers are quite a lot richer, but I did get £270 in discounts and will get an extra months' rent as a loan in my Christmas pay cheque. So all up, I think that's a win.

In not-so-great news it won't be delivered for several weeks, so it's very lucky that there's an air bed in the caravan which I can take with me! :)

Friday, 24 November 2017

What's New?

Well, I'm completely and utterly exhausted. But that's to be expected given that I've moved job locations and am currently enjoying (hahahaha!) a ridiculously long commute via shank's pony and public transport. Yesterday involved two hours of walking, two and a half hours of bus, three hours of car, and six hours of training at a new position. Today there is no brain in my head.

Salted Caramel Latte at M & S Café
Not only that, I've fallen off the wagon a few times in my frugal efforts. The new team is a lovely bunch of people so I must admit I've left my packed lunch in my bag a few times and gone for lunch with them. I might be sad that the money is gone, but I don't regret making the choice - we silly humans spend a LOT of our waking hours at work so it's really, really important that we're doing something that we love, and getting to know my colleagues and enjoying my time at work, that's a must for me. It helps that we're doing so much travel - we took a "road trip" selfie yesterday and had some laughs at our silly facial expressions (not pictured - I can't be sure they'd like to be featured in my blog!)

Golf. And from only 9 holes.
A friend came to stay with me recently for a weekend on the park, so we spent some time in the arcade and drank cocktails at home. We did go through some cash playing the mini bowling (I won, by the way!) and also on the air hockey (I lost), but compared with going out on the town, it was definitely the frugal option. We also played mini golf, where I was soundly defeated. That one was free entertainment :)

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

El's Beef Casserole

I adapted this from a recipe titled "Chinese Pepper Steak", because, quite frankly, there is nothing remotely Asian-inspired about this in the least. Also because when I think of Pepper Steak I imagine a rump steak crusted with peppercorns, which this is not. Ahem. But anyway, this is what I cooked up for my buddy when he visited recently and I still have leftovers in my fridge and they're delicious.

Not my pic, because I forgot to take a photo - but this is what it looks like!
As it's made with beef, it's not really the cheapest food in the world, but it's definitely a yummy budget casserole when we're talking about beef.

If you have a slow cooker, you can use that, otherwise preheat your oven to a low temperature. On cheap meats we cook very slowly so they're nice and tender. The temperature you use will depend how much time you have. The minimum time is two hours (at 160 C) but if you have the time and are happy for the oven to help warm your home, 120 for six hours will make it melt in your mouth.

400g beef, sliced (you can use the cheapest cuts you can find - and remember this is probably in steaks!)
splash of vegetable oil
half a teaspoon of garlic powder (or one fresh garlic clove, crushed and added to the beef)
2 tbsp flour
1 can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 stock cube (I use chicken, but any is ok)
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (any colour but green is usually cheapest)
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tbsp soy sauce (optional)

Sprinkle the beef with the garlic powder then brown the beef quickly on a hot frypan in a splash of oil. As soon as the beef has some colour, tip it into your pot. On the same frypan, stir the flour over the heat until it's toasted brown. Add to the pot.

Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water. Add it in, plus all the other ingredients, and mix well.

Cover your pot and put into the oven. Wait some hours. Then enjoy! I do mine with mashed potato, but you could have rice, cous cous, noodles or pasta with it. Serves 4.

Tip: you can skip the frypan to save time (use cornflour dissolved in a little cold water, instead of plain flour).

Cost (Tesco November 2017)
Beef  £2.60
Oil 1p
Garlic powder 2p
Flour 1p
Tomatoes 31p
Stock cube 5p
Onion 8p
Bell peppers 65p
Soy sauce 11p
Total cost £3.96

96p per serve

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wage rise

In what is absolutely brilliant news, the Living Wage Foundation announced its new hourly wage for 2018 not long ago, and it has gone up by 30p to £8.75 per hour (cheering goes here). This happens to cover me, as my employer is a voluntary signatory to their scheme. :)

But what's the reaction? Trolls, trolls and more trolls, whining at huge volume that either they don't get a payrise or that the new rate is still a pittance. I must confess I'm taken aback. The clincher was one commenter who lives on the living wage and posted his expenses, to "prove" to us that he can't afford to live on it - and in it was his food expense of £300 per month.

There is only one way that a single person can manage to go through that much food in a month and it's quite simply by wasting money. Either they're buying caviar, they're ordering take-away, or half their food goes into the bin. Even if I bought all ready meals and brand names I am not sure I could go through that much food. Maybe if I were also buying takeaway for lunch and tea every day.

I completely understand that there are people whose full time jobs involve a long commute and they're left exhausted by the end of the day without the energy to cook. Right now I am facing 14-hour days next week unless I manage to rent a flat nearer to work (please cross your fingers) and I know that will leave me drained, at least in the beginning. But I am sure not going to "solve" that issue with a quick call to a pizza place every evening! Even buying ready meals is cheaper than that, and I'm sure that if I drag my butt into the kitchen on a Sunday for a couple of hours, I can create five home-made meals for a fiver.

It's not rocket surgery! If money is tight then stop wasting it!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Double Savings

It's been an interesting week - I say "interesting" because as I noted before, the tiny caravan freezer just wasn't up to the task of freezing more than one or two items at a time. It became too frustrating to be unable to cook in bulk, so I've just shopped online for a new freezer. Since the tiny freezer will be fine for a family just wanting to store tonight's instant pizza, I'll be able to take the new one with me to my new place.

But I'm rather chuffed at the one I found. First of all, I nosed around some of the big retailer sites and a few lesser-known ones, and I found that the cheapest one was even better, on sale. (Applause!) In a fit of rather late, but uncharacteristic intelligence, I checked out TopCashBack to see whether they had a deal for this retailer. They did! (More Applause.) So I cleared my cookies, started from the TopCashBack website, clicked through to the retailer and added the freezer to my cart.

I then saw their checkout page had an option for applying a gift card. Did perhaps have any of their online gift codes for sale, at a discount? (They did! Extra money off! More Applause.) So, a quick trip over to the Zeek site to buy an online gift code at a discount, and it was instantly ready to use. Typed it into the retailer's website and entered my delivery details (Free Delivery! The Applause continues.)

Within a few minutes I had my order confirmed and TopCashBack emailed me that there was cashback in my account.

This is the first time I've used TopCashBack and I have to say I'm impressed. So what is the catch, I hear you ask? Of course there's a catch. The catch is that some customers will probably choose to shop at retailers which are partnered with TopCashBack. Retailers get more business, which is the reason they can offer deals like this through the partner site.

But you and I are smarter than the average bear. We won't waste money just to get a cashback and we won't be tempted into adding extra things into our shopping cart and spending more. So... there are ways to always come out in front and now you know how. Stay frugal, friends!

*join links are affiliate links, so I get a small bonus when you join. However, I only post such links when they really can benefit YOU.

PS. Of course I didn't get it perfect. I found out later that Zeek is also a TopCashBack site, which means I could have got a further cashback for the voucher code that I bought. I will remember this in future!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

El's Budget Microwave Frittata Lorraine (Crustless Quiche)

A triple-serve of yumminess.
When I'm eating on a budget, eggs are my go-to for getting my daily protein. They are one of the cheapest non-vegan protein foods you can get, and sometimes I feel like eggs just seem like a nicer food than ten cups of lentils or a truckload of beans.

This is a simple frittata recipe that you can easily adapt to the number of servings you need. And no, there's nothing difficult or weird about "frittata", it's just quiche without the pastry. Or if you like, it's a yummy omelette.

Serves 1 as a side dish, which you can have with salad, vegies or even toast. If you want to make this to feed more than one person, just double or triple the amounts.

1 egg
about 50mL milk
10g cheese, finely cubed (about a tablespoon)
20g tinned sandwich ham, or sliced lunch meat, finely diced
a sprinkle of black pepper

In a small bowl or a pie ramekin, lightly beat one egg, then add the same amount of milk a little at a time, mixing well. Add most of the cheese, then the ham. Sprinkle with black pepper, then the remaining cheese. Use the fork to push all the cheese and ham under the surface.

Cook for two minutes on high, in the centre of the microwave. You will know it is cooked when you insert a spoon into the centre, push the mixture apart slightly, and you cannot see any liquid egg mixture. If you are cooking more than one serve at a time in the same bowl, cooking time will be affected. Add at least 90 extra seconds for each serve.

You can experiment with the flavours by trying mushrooms, spinach, broccoli or whatever cooked leftovers you have on hand.

Cost (UK - Tesco October 2017)
Egg 8p
Black pepper 1p
Milk  3p
Cheese 5p
Ham 7p

24p per serve

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Yellow Stickers and more

I've keep coming across pictures that I've taken and forgotten to post. Oops!

Here are my bargains from Tesco the other day. I must admit that I pour scorn on the idea that these are "cooking" peppers. Green peppers, perhaps you can say that, as sometimes they're bitter. But I adore orange & yellow in salads, and this sort of price definitely made them in my kinda budget. Salad vegies stay fresh for a good amount of time in my crisper, so I never panic over dates on them unless something is obviously wilted or going soft.

As for the other item, that might be a bag of five jam donuts reduced to 32p. Might. I also might have ripped greedily into the bag before I remembered to take a photo. The donuts had a same-day best-before date, which meant they were fine to eat for two more days, and also fine to freeze for another time.

I also need to show an update on the endive seedlings. Here they were in their five-day-old glory. Yes, I forgot to post this on time as well. You'll have to trust me that this is day five. :)

Friday, 10 November 2017

Washing the Laundry

So I knew that eventually I'd need a washer if my rental doesn't have one, and I had my eye on a little portable model that I could use here at the caravan in the interim. But I thought, no, for the time I need it, it will be cheaper for me to use the onsite laundrette. So I checked out the prices of the laundrette and in five loads of washing I'd have paid for a new twin tub camping washer. Here is my reaction to the price for each load, as posed by the Skype emoji model:

So I found and bought a brand new camping washer online and went to collect it from the next town, and managed to get it home on the bus. Since nothing in my life is ever simple, I opened the box and (fantastic) the washer was neither new nor intact, and the damage was definitely not done by me. It's got lint in the filter, a broken carry handle and a dinged-up cover, but does seem to work. So, faced with the brouhaha of getting it replaced and waiting and collecting it all over again, I've spoken politely to the seller, who assures me that we can split the cost if I'm happy to keep it. This works for me, so I'll call it a silver lining :)

Two of my eBay auctions sold (out of ten) which is a disappointing strike rate, but on the plus side, one of those sold for a very decent price. So I'm walking/scootering over to the town postbox today.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

El's Easy French Toast

French toast is easy to make, it's delicious, and it costs pennies - each slice costs about 9p.

I promise it wasn't burnt, as this poor photo makes it look!
1 tsp cinnamon 5p
pinch salt 1p
3 tbsp sugar 3p
2 eggs 16p
2 tbsp milk 2p
4 slices bread 10p

In a small bowl mix the cinnamon, salt and sugar.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten, then add the milk and mix it together. Add in the spice mix and stir it well. Pour this onto a small plate and dip each slice of bread into the mix, making sure both sides are coated.

Heat a saucepan to medium heat. Place the bread onto the pan and cook until golden. You can also serve it with a knob of butter, or some cream, custard, sliced banana or ice cream.

It's versatile too and can be a breakfast or a dessert, and you can add almost anything sweet you can think of. YUM!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Windowsill Endives, Day 3

Endives day 3
Aw, isn't it cute? There were actually two other seedlings emerging at the time I took this pic, but I don't think they're really visible in the picture. It's even possible that it's grass coming up. Hopefully all the emerging plants end up looking the same, otherwise who knows what will end up in my salads?

Today I am waiting for a text to tell me that my package is ready to go and collect - the portable washing machine I ordered, which (long story) didn't happen back when I first ordered it. I am not holding my breath, something tells me that I won't get the collection notification before the weekend, which is beyond inconvenient. Because who wants to hand-wash a double flannelette duvet cover? Not I.

I tidied up yesterday, and I even vacuumed! I'm calling this frugal, for reasons of carpet preservation. Let's go with that, shall we?

Also very frugally, I have had the heating completely off for a good portion of the day. The sun is absolutely glorious today and merrily greenhouse-effect-ing my living room, keeping it nice and warm.

Irritatingly, as I have a bad habit of doing, I haven't eaten all my ham by the use by date of today. This is due to laziness and me wanting to eat fresher things instead of using up what needs to be eaten. I will make myself create a quiche tonight for dinner and then freeze the rest for future sandwiches and quiches. Yes, you can freeze sliced sandwich ham - now you know - I just roll each slice and pop it into a sealed container, or you can put a piece of plastic wrap between each slice and store it all flat. It's perfectly fine once defrosted, in fact you can just pop the frozen slices into your sandwiches and they're ready within minutes. Thumbs up for that one!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Surveys For Extra Cash

I've been doing surveys with a little bit more gusto of late and one of them I was a member of in Finland, so I know it actually sends out surveys and actually pays. I have rejoined it now that I've moved over to the UK. It's YouGov, which you might have seen on the tv and in the papers, since they often ask people their opinions on politics or something that's happened in the news. The earnings for each survey are decent and every penny helps, right? Here's my referral link if you would like to join:

I am still discovering things that I don't have in my new place, and having to buy them. Not very frugal really. Also, I had planned to go along to a car boot sale in a nearby town (I haven't been to one of those in more than eight years) but sadly, the first bus going in that direction would have gotten me there four hours after it opens. Good thing I checked that, as they have casual work going and I almost applied for the job! "Erm sorry boss, I will be four hours late for work today..."

Endives, day 1
I had also decided that I wouldn't plant anything until I move into my rental. Huh? Well, the place I bought (a static caravan on a spectacular park) will become my side-project income, and I will need to live somewhere else (a flat, nearer to my work). I'm staying in the caravan for a few weeks in the interim. So as I said... I was sure I wouldn't plant anything until I move. Well obviously I was kidding myself, looking at my lovely warm living room window every day. So, a compromise. This rather unassuming fashionable plant pot is a hunk of dirt from outside and some endive seeds which were a gift from my old boss Johanna <3

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

El's Budget Chicken Curry

I just called it "my" recipe but realistically this is just a "how to eat something nice, on the cheap", not a recipe.

I tend to assume I'm doing ok in the budget books, but a friend asked me the other day why on earth I'm buying cooked chicken - even the supermarket brand - when I can get a whole chicken for two pound in Tesco?

Turns out he wasn't quite correct, but I will admit I had been ignoring the raw meat aisle lately because of my lack of freezer space. Anyway, I decided to give it my best shot and I went home with a pack of six chicken thighs for £1.49 (750g). Here's my dinner from tonight and here's the cost to make it. I cooked three and froze the other three.

2 small carrots 4p
3/4 cup of frozen beans 14p (I used fresh, which costs double this, but again with the lack of freezer space. Ouch.)
90g rice 4p
3 chicken thighs 75p
half a jar of curry sauce 15p (I used a different one which I had in my cupboard, but I've costed it on the Tesco value curry sauce.)

Incidentally, I cooked the whole lot in the microwave. I'm not keen on heating my gas oven unless I'm doing a lot of cooking, so I tend to go with the electric option. Microwaves are insanely cheap to run and generally a lot cheaper than both the oven and the stovetop.

I cooked the chicken thighs with the curry sauce in a container with the lid slightly open (a "vented" container) for about 14 minutes, stirring a few times. I knew they were cooked when I cut into a thigh and the juice ran clear. I then took them out of the micro, closed the lid and let them sit while I cooked the vegies and rice. I add a cm of water to the vegetables and they are cooked for about 5 minutes or until I see that the water is bubbling (again, remove them from the micro, close the lid and let them sit, the steam will continue to cook them). The rice is also really easy, measure the rice you need into your handy Sistema microwave soup cup, cover with water, cook 2 minutes at a time, stirring, until all the water is absorbed, then cover with water again and continue. Adding only a little water at a time helps to stop it overflowing everywhere in your microwave if like me you do not have a microwave rice cooker :) Repeat until the rice is tender.

The pic is taken on a rather small plate. I will admit I am not fond of huge portions, so I deliberately chose a package with six smaller thighs - most of the packages in the supermarket were five-packs. If you're a bigger eater than I am, aim for the bigger thighs and increase the vegetables. Adults generally need about 100g of meat per day to meet their protein needs and these chicken thighs are about 125 each including the bone, so the protein portion size is fine.

Cost per portion, about 38p (or 49p if you like a larger serve)

I have two "ready meals" now made up and waiting in my fridge, ready to eat during the week.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Scooter - Acquired!

It was a decidedly unfrugal day for me. While I paid for the scooter a few days back, I had to travel by bus to collect it from Argos. I did manage to make that bus trip do double-duty though, as I met my new boss for a chat (frugal!) but as we were meeting in a coffee house, I had to buy a coffee (not frugal, but at least it was lovely coffee).

So then I went to get the scooter, and of course I didn't have the right allen key to assemble it - and it was far too heavy to carry the scooter home in pieces, in its box, which made for some very awkward box-dragging shenanigans through the shopping mall to buy a set of allen keys. I then sat merrily on the floor of Wilko, ikea'ing myself a scooter. I'm sure the staff were a little bemused. (Yes, "to ikea something" is a verb. Shake your head if you wish, but I guarantee if you tell someone you're ikea'ing some furniture that you have just bought, they will understand immediately what you mean.)

I managed to test the scooter just a little bit after getting off the bus again. Then I stopped in at Tesco for the short list of essentials that I needed, and that has blown the £50/month food budget. Ah well, couldn't be helped, I needed too many things that don't get bought often.

Dinner tonight was a fish finger sandwich with lettuce and mayo. I'm calling this "fast food" as I was tired and didn't feel like creating anything fancy. Besides, I made up for it by eating an apple afterwards. That counts, right?

Friday, 27 October 2017

Hooray Bonuses?

So after the sale of the Helsinki apartment, I knew I'd have a capital gains tax bill. Fortunately I'm UK-resident, where the tax is lower. But this week I learned, while reading another blog, that UK residents also have a capital gains tax-free allowance (currently about £11,000). And I'm well below it. No tax bill for me? Score!

I also listed ten items for sale on eBay. None of them are worth very much but it'll hopefully be a few extra pounds in pocket.

What's been frugal in your week?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Welcome to the super-fancy yogurt corner

One of the guys I used to work with had a yogurt addiction. Now before you all start thinking super-cheeky thoughts, hold your horses. It was these fancy yogurts that come with some kind of stuff to sprinkle into the yogurt. Chocolate, or toasted muesli, or sweets, or whatever fancy new invented sprinkly product they can come up with to get you to part with your cash.

He was eating one of these every day, and that canteen was definitely not supermarket prices. I reckon he lost a fiver each week to this addiction. But seeing them in the shop recently it got me thinking about what might work as an alternative.

Morrison's sells budget yogurts (peach & strawberry) for 8p each! I think you'd have so much choice for what to sprinkle into it and still stay under 25p per yogurt. All you need is a little bag with your chosen sprinkle. Some ideas are crushed digestives, a handful of muesli, sweet cereal, coconut, fresh or dried fruit, choc chips. There are also similar desserts for not much more - like creme caramel and chocolate mousse.

Think about it, if you managed to go for the cheaper option just for a month, you'd have saved enough money to buy a Christmas present for nothing. And I reckon my old workmate could be 200 pounds better off if he managed it all year!

PS. In the interests of scientific research, I tried this with a crumbled digestive biscuit (pictured below - 1p per biscuit, from Tesco). I knew you'd need photographic evidence so I settled the chunks lightly on top, but I made sure not to mix it into the yogurt, just in case I didn't like it. I'm happy to report that not only was it edible, I went back for another biscuit. The chunks stayed crunchy and went really well with the strawberry flavour. It's not miles away from being a slightly runny cheesecakey sort of snack. I have to say it improved my enjoyment immensely and it might just become a permanent habit as a dessert!
10p chunky digestive yogurt- yum!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Five Frugal Fings

Fings? Well, it started with "F". But here are five frugal things I've done recently.

A toast to a new town, anyone?
1. I drank tapwater. I know, I know, plenty of you are probably thinking I was a moron for ever buying bottled water. Even I think I was sort of a moron for buying bottled water. I must admit I hated doing it, but I just couldn't stand the taste of the tapwater. Turns out that my new town has water which tastes great! So I'm very pleased to be back to the free option.

2. I rescued my vegetables. Seems like a silly thing, but I just couldn't stand to see all my vegetables ending up in the bin just because they had defrosted. I turned them into soup.

3. I walked to the supermarket. At the moment I don't have a car, and I could have taken the bus and saved myself the effort. But I saved a few pounds by walking instead. And let's hope it also stopped me from gaining any more weight... a girl can dream, right?

4. I watched tv. My new place is entertainment-central, full of things to do and places to see. When a neighbour remarked that the town carnival was on, I almost went into town. Truth be told, if I hadn't been so tired I might have, but I also know that I would have come home with less money! So I stayed in and watched a stand-up comic programme on the tv.

5. I bar-soaped it. I inherited some lovely, fragrant liquid hand soap here which is a little bit of luxury for free, but I'm not going to get addicted and add to that! Bar soap suits me just fine, so for the shower and my second bathroom, bar soap is what I use.

All up, I'm pretty chuffed at the things I've done lately to save money, but there is always room for improvement. What do you do to save a few pennies, or even a few pounds? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Frosty Mood For Me

I was quite pleased to nab a loaf of bread for 26p on the weekend because it was close to date. Yellow stickers make me happy :) I promptly bagged most of it into portions and settled it into my tiny freezer compartment, and then ate the remainder fresh for a couple of days.

Well on day three, when I reached in for the frozen bread to stick in the toaster, I was most dismayed to find that the top half of my bread was still soft. Turns out my little freezer compartment just isn't up to the task and only freezes the items right at the bottom. :(

Bread isn't a major cost saving when it comes to using my freezer, so not being able to freeze bread is not really a huge deal. But it sort of throws my general meal planning out of whack and means I'll need to buy the freshest bread I can get instead of yellow-stickered loaves. I hurriedly ate my "treat" meal last night (an instant Thai green chicken curry, which was thankfully frozen solid) and moved my fish fingers down to the bottom.

All this will mean I can't freeze many things from here on and will need to shop more often. More opportunities for temptation, arrrrgh! Give me strength...

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

El's Budget Hearty Vegetable Soup

Micro-safe soup cup by Sistema, HIGHLY recommended!
As I mentioned earlier, my house move resulted in some very soggy frozen vegetables that I needed to use up. The soup they created was delicious and made lots of leftovers, so I figured I'd share how I made it. It's not rocket surgery - often my cooking is by "feel" and I just throw in whatever I have lying about - but since my kids have become adults and started cooking for themselves, I've realised that not everyone can cook by feel, not everyone can instinctively know what will work in a recipe, and some people prefer a neat and orderly list of what to use. So, here it is :)

Serves 4.

1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cups hot water
1 chicken stock cube
1 sachet chicken & vegetable soup in a cup
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Dump the water, chicken stock and chicken soup into a pan and stir it well to make sure there are no lumps in the mix. Stir it over heat until dissolved. Add the other ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.

Hot tip: to make this go even further, add an extra cup of boiled water and a few tablespoons of tomato ketchup. As you can see, I took the photo before I did this, and my soup was ridiculously thick! :)

Cost (UK - Tesco October 2017)
Tomatoes 31p
Stock cube 5p
Soup sachet 8p
Frozen vegetables 20p

16p per serve
with two slices of buttered bread, about 25p per serve

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Move complete!

Some of the food I brought from the old place was in bad shape when I arrived and had to be thrown out (well, these things happen). I then realised the freezer was iced over, so more food thawed while I defrosted the fridge. End result was that I was forced to eat a frozen (thawed) cheesecake, and I cooked a huge batch of vege soup to deal with very soft frozen veg.

And, trolleys cause spending. I guess it's probably not news to most people, but I did a decidedly "duh" thing on my first shop at the new place - I used a shopping trolley instead of a hand basket. Now you'd think I would still be extremely cautious considering it's been an absolutely horrific two weeks in terms of spending. Not so. I went a bit crazy replacing all the things I threw in the bin before moving house, and The bill was ridiculous. Not to mention extremely difficult to carry home.

One-third of today's cost was buying new sheets (this new place has more beds than I have linens... ho hum). On the plus side, I paid for it all using a gift card I bought a few months ago. This doesn't make it free, but it does mean my bank account didn't take the hit. And despite the sheer amount I bought, it was a somewhat planned shop, and fingers crossed, should have all I need for two weeks (the convenience store nearby is very expensive and I'm trying to avoid it as much as I can).

Here's the part where I admit to throwing a few too many treats into that supermarket trolley...

I am eyeing off an electric scooter to try to mitigate the 45 minute walk to the supermarket & major bus route. I can see my work commute being rather tedious if I don't speed it up somewhere - as it stands it'd be three buses over two hours in each direction. A scooter could cut that to 90 minutes and two buses. I have a few of them on my watch list on eBay - second-hand :)

Tomorrow: I plan to pamper myself frugally. Relax, take a walk on the beach, then think about baking a cake. The following day it's busy time as I plan to start listing all my gift stash for sale on eBay and make a little bit of cash to stop the savings from haemorrhaging.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Busy few weeks

So I may have mentioned I had a little bit of cash after the sale of the Finland property. I've been looking at that amount and pondering what to buy with it, and fate has stepped in and shown me a lovely little place for sale in Devon. It has sea views and is literally a ten minute walk to the beach. It's lovely, beyond what I dreamed actually. The bills will be relatively high, but I will have no mortgage - hooray. It also has excellent scope for AirBnB.

I sign on the dotted line next week. I am very, very excited. Please cross your fingers and send all good juju my way, for no weird complications to crop up... a big one is the "can I get internet access there" question because silly me forgot to actually check while I was there, and reviews say that mobile phone coverage is poor...

In decidedly unfrugal news, it's costing me a lot to get my driving license back. With me being about to buy a property, I'm counting every cent. There's a discount supermarket across the road, but it just so happens I have gift vouchers for the one across town. I'm actually contemplating how far I'm willing to walk in order to get milk for my coffee :D

Monday, 11 September 2017

Lovely Saturday

I did work (as I always do all weekend!) but despite it being a terribly busy time, it has been a satisfying few days. I went to visit that second town, and two words: nailed it. The feel, look and energy of the town are all spot-on. It is definitely touristy and busy, and the place that I need to be. While I was there I checked out a couple of flats for sale. Mixed feelings on those but that's ok, this was just a reccy mish (reconnaissance mission... er, a trip to do research). The Finland apartment is sold (woot) and I've been invited to an in-person interview for the job I am after (woot woot).

So that last trip and this upcoming interview, two jagged holes in my wallet. I will even have to stay overnight for the interview trip, because of the timing of the transport.

I got some free scented oil in the mail this week.

PS: I wrote this a while back and accidentally saved it as a draft instead of posting it. I didn't get the job but was offered another one, so that's ok. Will update further later on.

PPS: I was re-reading my blog as I am wont to do on occasion and I realised that there is a glaring omission which might perhaps leave people perplexed. So, here is the Reader's Digest version. My husband and I separated over the summer. I won't go into detail, just wanted to note it in case it left anyone scratching head, etc. We remain the best of friends.
 - ff

Thursday, 27 July 2017

I said no to shopping

I'm not even sure how I managed it, but coming home from work today, knowing I'd be home tomorrow and didn't have much to eat at home, normally I'd pop into the shop for "just a few things". It's never a big spend so I tend to reassure myself that it doesn't matter... but the small spends add up over time.

Well I wasn't feeling the greatest this afternoon, so I skipped it. That's a few extra pounds that I'll still have at the end of the month. I'll raid the cupboards and use up what I have. I keep meaning to try to pare down the food I have left, but like everyone else, I usually prefer the food I haven't got at home already :)

I've submitted my video interview for the position I'm going for. No news yet. Perhaps next week when the submission deadline passes.

I got a free razor in the post this week, so that made me happy. I also made and used a really inexpensive home hair lightening treatment. It wasn't as effective as I had hoped (actually I suspect it was simply that the conditioner was far too runny) but on the plus side it smells lovely and my hair is nice and soft, so it didn't really waste anything. My favourite of one particular cosmetic is almost empty and I found one at half the price that seems just as good, so there's another few pounds saved.

I am on track to save about three-quarters of my pay this month! Since my rent has already been prepaid, it would have been one quarter. I'm still quite pleased with this since I know I will be quite skint when I move towns in September and that last quarter will be swallowed up in higher housing costs.

Oh, and in wonderful news, we have received a purchase offer in on our Helsinki flat that looks 99% sure to go ahead. We'll know for sure in about a week and sign on the dotted line a week after that. I also discovered that thanks to the UK's tax treaty with Finland, I'll save a hefty chunk of the tax I had expected to pay on the profits. All very useful for financing my next move! ::thumbsup::

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

So this happened

I went to visit that town I mentioned, and I came away with mixed feelings. It's a lovely place and I can definitely feel that it would be good for the tourist trade. What made me hesitate was looking at where I could afford to live and its proximity to the town centre (I don't think I would nail my preferred radius of a 15 minute walk).

I realised I would never get "perfection" and that if I expected that, I'd never make a decision at all, so I had resolved myself to going ahead. I was all-but set for a transfer - the restaurant manager in our sister store was happy to take me pending a short interview. And something still made me hesitate before setting up a time with him.

In the meantime a twist happened - because this is me we're talking about and life would be boring without them, hey? I went home to procrastinate over the weekend before calling that manager and I discovered that the brand new store opening next year, the one I would have wanted anyway, is hiring much earlier than I expected.

Application: in. It's a team leader position. I know I have fierce competition and I may just not have the experience they want, but I am hoping they will consider me based on who I am and what I've done in previous roles. I really hope I at least get an interview.

Either way I actually made a decision (whoa!) and if I don't get it I'm still moving to that town. It's brilliant for tourism and the housing costs are lower.

Mood: hopeful. Positive either way.

Next up I have to find somewhere temporary to live for a month (ouch).

In frugality matters I got a nice gift from work, of a cloth bag, tough bag, chocolate bar, throw blanket, lettuce seeds, watering can and stuffed toy. :) I've also received five free moisturising lotion samples in the mail this week.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Box thinking

As has been hinted elsewhere, my lease is running up soon and in addition, I no longer have my investment property. I've enjoyed the last half a year or so as a bit of a "holiday" away from tourist hosting, but truth be told the income I can get from it is just too attractive to stay away. The difficulty is that since I'm not in a position to buy, it would have to be via a rental, and this time it would need to be in the home I live in. Unfortunately the town I live in just hasn't got the tourist trade I would need. My research has shown that I'd get quite a poor income trying to do it here. So I bit the bullet and spoke to my boss, and she has been lovely. She admitted that I'd broken her heart in telling her I'm leaving, but she has offered to speak to other managers and see if I can get a transfer in September.

I've been looking at properties that might work in other towns, but it's disappointing to see how expensive anywhere with a suitable layout is going to be. I'm seriously considering whether I should just rent a studio with a carspace and buy myself a van... and sleep out there whenever I have a paying guest - my work (even if I transfer) has shower and kitchen facilities.

Tomorrow sees me onto the early train to visit another town and check out the tourist vibe there for myself on the ground. It's a bit hard to judge the tourist demand in each area. I need to do this research.

I've also learned to my irritation that I'm expected to steam clean my carpets here before the lease is up. For someone who never wears shoes indoors and whose room is kept neat as a pin, that cost sort of grates. Based on my searches I'd be up for about £60 for the rental of a steam cleaner, taxi rides there and back, and the shampoo. Guess who just arranged one online for £56 including shampoo, with free delivery, and gets to keep the cleaner afterwards? This tightwad :D

Downside: I'll now have three "suitcases" -worth of stuff to move when I do! Perhaps four, if I remember my bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Failage Update

About 18 months ago I made a post in which I confessed the ways I fail. Every now and then I read back through my blog, and luckily for you, today I'm revisiting some of my human failures and where I'm at with them. (After all, Frugality is an ongoing process, not a one-off.)

#1 - Meal Preparations. I used to say that I rarely prepare anything from scratch. This is now hit-and-miss. I often eat at work for free, and when I'm home, I do prepare a lot more salad from scratch and eat more fruit - I'm definitely healthier, and I feel it. But I now live alone, and I must admit, after cooking all day at work, I often lack the motivation to cook for one person once I'm home. So I'm eating ready meals about twice a week, but they're generally the frugal versions of ready meals.

#2 - Eating Takeaway. Zero takeaway meals purchased in the past three months. I have bought a couple of "gourmet" ready meals as a treat but it's quite rare.

#3 - My Coffee Addiction. Snapped, broken, gone. This was bad and I was drinking coffee all day before, but it's now no longer something I do on autopilot. I generally sit down with a vanilla latté when I first arrive at work - it's free, and it's my chill-out, calming preparation for tackling my work day. When I'm at home, I drink one coffee a day in the mornings.

#4 - Soft Drinks. I no longer drink them at all. I haven't bought any in the past three months. In the beginning I drank the odd one at work (free), but now all I have is water or fruit juice at work (still free).

#5 - Electricity and Water use. This has changed to become a fixed cost as it's included in my rent now, but good habits have stuck and I am conscious of saving as much energy and water as I can.

#6 - My Toys. I've just bought a new laptop and I'm getting rid of the desktop computer. It was an expensive swap, but I got it half-price by using a buyback deal and choosing a model that's just been discontinued (thanks, husband-detective!). On the plus side, laptops do use less power. I have also just bought a fitness gadget, not strictly necessary but something I wanted so that I could track my fitness a little. It's a very inexpensive one.

#7 - Movies and Games. I no longer pay for Netflix and I'm taking advantage of local tv programmes, since my tv licence is paid for and I can view them on my laptop. I haven't bought any games recently and I'm revisiting my old favourites one by one. I do still play the one that burns a hole in my pocket but I'm trying to be more conscious of what I spend there.

#8 - Bottled Water. Ugh. This one is new, and I hate it. The tap water in my new city is, quite frankly, foul-tasting. In the beginning I was downing lime cordial just to mask the taste, but all that sugar and acid would have killed my teeth. I now buy bottled water. It bothers me that I'm adding to waste, so I have found a very inexpensive one in a huge bottle, to limit the overall amount of plastic.

#9 - Driving. Well, not yet. But I've been evaluating the time I spend on public transport, and as much as I love its frugality and reliability, it is eating into my time more than I'm comfortable with on weekends and bank holidays - I'm simply not being fair to myself commuting for three hours a day, and I work every weekend and most holidays. Getting home at midnight can also be a concern in terms of safety, since I'm a solo female and walking well away from the main street. So I'll shortly be thinking more seriously about car ownership. It will be delayed until I move house to a place which has free parking available.

#10 - Clothing. In my new city I did check out the charity shops - and there are a lot of them! Unfortunately, I'm a Lady Of Size™ and there's very little in my sort of dimensions. There are a couple of good places to shop for new clothes though, and I'm making the most of sales items. I am losing weight, slowly but steadily, and as I do so I expect to have more options when it comes to buying used clothing. On the flip side I'm already having to buy new clothes as the old ones are too big. But I'm ok with this, since my health is more important than my money.

#11 - My Rent. I got a great deal on my apartment, or so I thought, as the landlord knocked the price down right as I signed the lease. Unfortunately, I've just received notice that the rent will go up by almost 10%, and when I check out what else is vacant around here, there are now way too many similar places vacant for him to justify charging me that much. I have about a month to figure out my next move, as locking myself into another fixed term lease didn't fit into my medium-term plans (ie possibly needing to move cities if I see an interesting job with a sister store of my workplace). I may need to move into another apartment locally and delay my Career Progression™ hopes, which will cost me a bit. We shall see.

So that's where I'm at in terms of major spending. If I think of any more, I'll update.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A spring update I suppose?

I am still quite the newbie when it comes to navigating spending in the UK. It's still a work in progress to know where I should be shopping when I need particular items. Quite a few things have been stumbled-upon in the pound shops. :)

I have limited storage space here, not to mention limited capacity to use up certain food items before they expire. I still have a good amount of fruit and veg in my crisper that I bought a month ago (!!) and the used-by dates are mostly hogwash. It's not like things sprout on a tree with a used-by date. These are not processed or cooked foods and aren't high protein or high-risk foods, so use your eyes and fingers to make sure they look and feel how they should, and they're fine.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes. As I'm walking and bussing wherever I go, I split my shopping between Tesco (near home), Sainsbury's (near work) and the pound shops near my bus stop. I finally signed up for both rewards cards, and I can see on my phone or laptop that a few cents rack up each time I shop. That's a definite win.

A new way to save money on shopping - Zeek

And on my travels today I came across another site named Zeek, which sells discounted gift cards. Signing up is easy, you can use your Facebook, Twitter or Google account to join in seconds. I just bought a Sainsbury's gift card for £8 off the face value, with free postage (!!!) very frugal, I mean who'd say no to knocking £8 quid off their bill, right? Once you sign up, entering the promo code 2Y6T8FLF will give you £5 free credit*. I saw gift cards in there from £10 up to £200 and they're for all kinds of places, Tesco, Curry's PC World, Starbucks, iTunes, Primark, Thomson Holidays, you name it, it's probably there. So if it's a place you shop anyway, it's an easy saving.

One tiny unfrugal note for me personally. In my quest to live healthier, I'm trying to limit my intake of starchy foods (rice, breads & cereals, potatoes) and stick mostly to fruit, veg and protein. Unfortunately that makes a fair few of the free work meals off-limits. Boo. On the plus side they always have free fruit and salad, so I do try to eat that.

Stay frugal people... and let's keep more rubbish out of landfill while we're at it :)

* yes, it gets me some sort of bonus too.

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Frugality: destroyed! I'm about to do something that kills it, because plane trips are not frugal. But I'll do it as frugally as I can...

About 20 applications in, I got 4 interviews and 3 of them wanted me. Gobsmacked. I got to choose where I work. Amaze. Perk: free meals from my work (frugal!) Perk: paying better than minimum wage. Perk: free uniform (frugal!). Perk: great bus services in the place I'll be living and working (frugal!). Perk: excellent leave policies mean I'll be able to visit Finland pretty regularly to see everyone.

I have booked my flight back over to England (the third time in a month - this time a one-way ticket). I've started applying for apartments. Tiny apartments (frugal!). Two showings later this week (please cross your fingers the landlords like me).

I start work in a week. Petrified, of course, but also excited to sort of build an Elisa life from scratch, something I've felt like I've been missing for, I don't know, 21 years. That, for anyone wondering, was the reason I sort of went on this odyssey, I have felt increasingly stifled and wanted to "be" something, which I'm sure sounds really pretentious to those who'd have liked the luxury of barely working for the past ten years. For years I've struggled with not having any goals or feeling like I could ever achieve anything other than treading water - incredibly depressing - but about a year ago I figured out what it is I want, and it's to forge my own life, to have an identity. Totally taboo subject to admit that you feel like you've lost yourself when you become a parent, and if I'm honest, I also sort of lost more of myself when I came to Finland, even though it's a beautiful country. I don't belong here. I'm not going to belong here.

It's like a holiday that never ends. People love holidays but anyone will tell you it's miserable to live out of a suitcase. Finland has been a long, extended holiday for me. The gloss of it faded in the second year. The misery began in the third. Then came the boredom, then the frustration, then a small wave as I started doing tourist lets, bought a lovely investment apartment, and then - and then - it still wasn't enough. So here we are.

Visiting England confirmed what I felt. How ridiculous to find a supermarket soothing, but it was. I could find the food I wanted. I didn't need to embarrass myself with a shopkeeper or go home with the wrong product or with none at all. I could comprehend every packet. Understand shopkeepers. Read street signs. Speak to bus drivers. Go where I wanted, be out as late as I wanted, hog the shower, live on crackers and fruit all day, not cook dinner. How pathetically juvenile to revel in being a grownup and making my own decisions all by my big self. But it was too huge to ignore and affirmed that it's what I absolutely, positively need to do.

It has been too long and it's too overdue; I'm already furious at myself for not having had the courage to do this a year ago. I'm frustrated that I couldn't do this in Finland; it would have been a lot cheaper and far, far nicer not to have to be apart from my husband for several weeks at a time.

But it is what it is and I'm going to make what I can of it, starting now.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lately #2

Of a decidedly frugally-unrelated nature, I am presently looking for work in the UK.

Reasons are varied, but suffice to say, I will be living super-frugally while there - by necessity, as there will be the regular flights back to Finland. Plus, while I took this office/dungeon on so I could write, it turns out that it's a good exercise in practicing solo frugality.

Fridge accidentally turned down to lowest setting = milk, cheese, leftovers and ham into the bin. :(

Small fridge & no freezer = inability to buy perishables in bulk. I have to admit, I was peripherally aware that singletons have it tougher when it comes to shopping (small portions cost more) and don't necessarily have the time for frugal food prep. But wow. This tiny box fridge (40L) has forced me to confront it head-on, and it's not pretty.

I stay here for 2 or 3 days at a time, and I can't buy a loaf of bread here! Of all the simple things that are now inaccessible, this one hurts the most. People on drastically low incomes - of which there are many - being unable to buy a loaf of bread unless it goes into the freezer. One of the most frugal, versatile foods there is.

Bread rolls - triple the price of two slices of bread
Baguette - six lunches, but goes stale in two days

Fortunately, flour tortillas keep in the fridge, so I now eat wraps for lunch quite religiously. Salad ingredients are fine too (lettuce takes up a lot of room). So does two kilos of carrots (sounds like a stupid purchase until I tell you it was cheaper than buying three single carrots). But every meal now has to include carrot or I'll never use them up.

It's the first time that I've had to assess every item in my basket for its shelf life and how much space it will take up. On the plus side, no freezer, so vegetables are always prepared fresh and I'm eating a lot more salad. That's good, I suppose?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

What Lately?

I have an office now, sometimes referred to as My Dungeon, and said dungeon came without a kitchen (just a sink in what had been used as a cleaning room). My duty, should I choose to accept it: convert said cleaning room into a kitchen. Naturally, I strapped my fists to my back and set off in search of adventure.

Side question: how is it that cleaning rooms are so disgustingly dirty?

Fun part 1: dirty. Etc. Cleaning, etc.
Fun part 2: sink only sort of attached to wall. Also, as I was cleaning it, I felt the joy of water seeping into my sock. Look down and there's lovely foul water on the floor where the drain had overflowed. Overflown. Er, filled with water and then kept going.
Fun part 3: it was all cruddy and crusted over and I didn't have a plunger. (Trip to the hardware shop.)
Fun part 4: plunging sink did nothing. That was draining just fine... straight into the floor drain beneath it, which was overflowing onto the floor.

Well an entertaining afternoon was had involving me pulling a sink entirely off the wall and disassembling all the parts. It was not fun cleaning out that foul floor drain or despairing mightily when the plunger at first did not work. Ultimate success though and it's now all reassembled with the sink even on the wall properly.

Was it frugal? Well not really since it cost me a bus ride, a plunger and plumbing tape, and the landlord really should have had to send a plumber. But I gather he's not a very hands-on guy and I'd prefer not to annoy him with expensive things if I can do them myself for a lot less.

Along side the sink shenanigans I bought a sideboard to become the "kitchen". I also bought a small trolley for the microwave to sit on, and a faux-leather computer chair. Delivery hurt a bit but the total was probably a quarter of new price (thanks, Recycle Centre). Also went to Ikea and found a table top which had been on display (three euro, cheers) plus four table legs (two silver, two white... not matching but who cares). Total cost eight euro. Not bad. I even managed to get it back to the dungeon on the free Ikea bus. Frugal.

I had an hour to kill waiting for that bus so I had a plate of Swedish meatballs. Not frugal. I'm an Ikea Family member so my coffee was free. Frugal. Dungeon in general: costs money (not frugal) but is an adapted basement so is inexpensive (frugal). I bought a laptop for it (not frugal) but it was an insanely cheap new laptop (frugal).

One might say I have been a bit hit and miss with the frugality of late!