Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (19 – 26 November 2017)

 

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How was last week? Did you pick up any bargains on Black Friday – or did you shy away from the stores?

Here in Bath the Christmas Market has begun. As a Bathonian I feel I have to love it and hate it. Working in the local tourist industry I realise how important it is to that sector. It does also make Bath look even more beautiful and it’s hard not to feel Christmasey when I look out at all the chalets. But the streets are crowded (I can’t get out of the office at lunchtime), the traffic is bad (I have resigned myself to being late home because the bus is stuck in traffic) and I wonder how much debt people accrue by buying things from the market that they don’t really need.

Having said that, I have made it my mission to explore those lesser known stalls; the ones tucked at the back of a street or located across the road that not many people visit.

  1. So last week I bought two small decorations:

The Nativity scene came from a cooperative based in Bethlehem and the Father Christmas ornament was from a stall run by nuns from a convent in Belarus. I also plan to visit the charity stall in the Christmas Market, and pay a visit to a homemade candle stall run by a friend from our village.

2. Speaking of candles, I spent some time melting and re-moulding some old candles at home. You can see a tutorial here.

3. I picked up a couple of our favourite Denby side plates for half price. We received the Denby set for our wedding 18 years ago and use it on a daily basis. A while ago we lost a few plates, due to general wear and tear. They are expensive to replace, though, so I wait for them to go on sale and buy a couple at a time.

4. At the weekend my husband and I went to Wales to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It wasn’t the most thrifty weekend but it was wonderful to spend some time together, and enjoy the company of good friends. We were supposed to bring a hat to wear to the meal on Saturday night. Having scoured the charity shops I decided to make do with an old  hat I had at home, rather than buy anything new.

5. We were also very lucky as the hotel upgraded our room at no extra charge.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

This week’s Thrifty Finds (4-10 September)

 

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I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I last posted! I hope you had a good summer and, if you went away, you had an enjoyable break.

We had a lovely holiday and if you follow my instagram posts you may have picked up a snapshot of what we did. While away, I used my net shopping bags for fruit and veg and we religiously used the free drinking water on the campsite (why do people have to buy SO many large bottles of water when they’re abroad? It’s only France for goodness sake and none of us got ill from drinking from the campsite’s water taps!)

Anyway, now we’re back and the kids have returned to school I can slowly get back to normal and post our Thrifty Finds from the past week. Please let me know what your Thrifty Finds were – or any you made over the summer holidays. I’d love to hear!

1. The Veg Box came when I wasn’t expecting it! So I had a glut of veg and fruit that I have been trying to use up. Last Sunday I spent the morning making soups and a plum flapjack cake.

2. It’s the start of the ‘free apple’ season in the village. A neighbour left this lovely sign outside her house and I helped myself to a few of the apples to make a fruit crumble. This also allowed me to use up some frozen stewed apples, rhubarb from the veg box and even some blackberries I had picked and put in the freezer last year!

3. Like many of us, Back to School means a lot of expense buying uniforms, supplies and shoes. This September I have staggered the purchase of shoes to fit in with the monthly wages. So, my youngest daughter got new shoes in June as her feet had grown quite substantially; we bought shoes for my middle daughter at the end of July as soon as schools broke up; and my 15 year old picked up some (cheap but fashionable) school shoes at the beginning of this month. If I had paid for all three girls to buy school shoes from Clarks at the same time it would have cost  £120! My eldest has really outgrown their styles anyway and, as she will be finishing after GCSE exams, I don’t mind if she has a less hard wearing pair of shoes.

4. I read on another blog about being able to get a free audio book download from Audible. So, before we went on holiday, I signed for a free trial and picked up ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ (narrated by David Tennant) for free! This weekend I cancelled the subscription so that I won’t be paying for it once the trial finishes.

5. I also cancelled a magazine subscription that the girls weren’t reading. I felt quite sad as it was a science magazine aimed at kids, but they just weren’t interested 😦

And finally … my September task is to look at our existing budgets and adapt them for the new school year. The girls seem to be doing less paid for activities but I also want to plan for the next 12 months. Once my eldest leaves secondary school we will need to pay for her transportation costs to college. My middle daughter will be starting secondary school so we need to look at uniform and travel costs for her. There are also school residential trips, extra GCSE tutoring, end of school Prom etc to pay for. And who said state education was free?!

If you have school age children how do you pay for uniform, supplies and activities?

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (19-26 June)

 

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How was last week? Have you cooled down since our mini heatwave here in the UK?

Here are some of my Thrifty Finds from last week:

  1. The weather was really hot here! It got up to 30C plus which is hard to live in when you don’t have air conditioning and life has to go on as normal. I located our two portable fans from the loft and we got by on closing windows, drawing curtains and staying inside (our stone cottage stays lovely and cool downstairs; upstairs is a different story though). We also did things differently: at the beginning of the week I took the girls to the play park at 7.30pm because it had only just started to cool down then! I also said ‘no’ to a picnic lunch at work because it was too hot to go out.
  2. When the weather cooled down towards the end of the week I did go out on my lunchbreak for some charity shop browsing, which I hadn’t done in a while. While I resisted a couple of dresses (see my Instagram feed) I bought a pile of books (total £4.60)

second hand books, charity shop books

Two of the books are for my holiday reading pile. I thought this one was particularly prescient, given the recent heatwave (and hottest day since June 1976!)

second hand books, charity shop books

3. These two books were for a friend who had a nasty horseriding accident and has suffered a badly broken leg 😦

Shell be immobile for most of the summer; I thought a couple of good books might help her to get through it. I’m just so relieved the accident wasn’t more serious.

4. Friends came round for a meal on Saturday night and we ended up with some leftover pudding (which they kindly made).

5. We survived to payday with very little food in the house and ended up eating the last of the freezer meals on Sunday. However this past month has been rather chaotic, shopping wise. I usually place one large supermarket order to last the  month, and then top up with regular veg box delivery/trips to the greengrocer in Corsham, plus doorstep milk delivery. This past month, however, I did a smaller online delivery and, as a result, we have been spending a small fortune each week on ‘top up shops’ and have gone way over budget! So it’s back to one large monthly shop for July and if we don’t have it, we don’t buy it (apart from fruit and veg).

By the way if you are a UK reader have you been watching the latest series of Eat Well for Less ? It’s a really informative series that tries to help families who are overspending on, and throwing away, a lot of the food they buy. Every episode I find I am picking up some useful tips (and recipes), even if I think I am quite organised when it comes to meal planning and shopping.

What are your tips when it comes to food shopping? I’d love to hear about all your Thrifty Finds. Please  share them on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

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Last week was a rather strange one, given that it was bisected by the General Election.

1. Pre election I managed to get back into cooking and baking, and using up leftovers. I made soup from some Sunday lunch veg and baked cakes with some brownish bananas (the latter to keep us going on election night).

2. not quite a Thrifty Find but I do need to make a decision as to whether I continue with my veg box. I ended up composting a fair bit of it last week 😦

 

3. On election night I was very good and, at the North Wiltshire count* I avoided the pre-wrapped biscuits and disposable cups and bought my own snacks and reusables.

4. We received a few gifts last week. Friends came to dinner and bought some homemade goodies:

l-r: biscotti, elderflower cordial, chipotle ketchup 

5. And we had a visit from Grandad who gave the girls a new (to them) Wii!!

*my husband stood as Green Party candidate; see my previous post for more.

What were your Thrifty Finds! please share on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (3-10April)

 

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This past week we continued to eat our way through the once a month delivery of food. To top up supplies I did:

  1. Change my regular veg box order from medium boxes of veg and fruit to just one small veg box (no potatoes). Some weeks I do really well with my veg box but other weeks some of the stuff can end up in the compost, which I know is a complete waste of food and money. I’m trying to be better and only order when I really need it, and change the order depending on what we need.

2. With this in mind, I made sure I used up most items within a few days, even if we didn’t eat them. I roasted some of the tomatoes and courgettes, to make a pasta sauce later in the week. I also tried my hand at wild garlic pesto (stored in an old Nutella jar):

Wild garlic pesto organic veg box

Wow! Normally I add the wild garlic to a little salad or soup a little half heartedly – and then end up composting the rest.But this recipe really worked to help extend its shelf life. Although I added a couple of spoonfuls to some pasta, the taste was a bit TOO strong (although it would have kept vampires at bay!). But, I have kept it stored in the fridge and am now using it as a replacement for garlic cloves in recipes, adding a teaspoon at a time to dishes.

 

3. On the food front I also topped up the olive oil in my cupboard as I ran out earlier in the week and hadn’t ordered a replacement. My local Holland and Barret store has a large oil refill station. You buy the glass bottles, fill them with oil and then pay. Next time you return to the shop, you just refill the glass bottle and pay only for the oil. I love that mainstream stores are now offering zero waste products and services. When I saw the oil and sesame oil reduced I had to buy it. Once I’ve used these bottles I can keep returning to the store to fill up, thus encouraging repeat custom.

 

 

4. My daughter helped to collect the eggs from the school hens and came home with some beautiful eggs on the last day of term – perfect timing for Easter!

Multicoloured eggs pastel hens eggs

5. On Saturday night we went to a fundraiser for Alzheimers Society. We took part in a quiz, enjoyed a ploughmans meal and bought a few raffle tickets. We ended up winning a Ghostbusters 1 & 2 dvd plus big bag of popcorn – perfect evening entertainment for the school holidays!

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (23-30 Jan)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comI’m not sure if they count as Thrifty Finds but this past week has found me trying to use up leftovers and struggling with the whole veg box thing…

  1. We finished off a few things that had been hiding in the freezer. We seem to have lots of packets that just have one thing in them, ie one pizza, one veggie grill. Still, the kids don’t seem to mind the mixing and matching that goes on. Thanks to some forward planning by my husband who cooked a load of bolognese, we had an easy to cook meal after a busy day at work as well.
  2. As I mentioned I am struggling with the veg box. Now that I’m busier with work I don’t always have the time to cook meals that will use up items like cabbage, celeriac, beetroot and winter lettuce. I find that I have to be quite imaginative when it comes to getting the girls to eat these ingredients. I’m not sure if a veg box is right for us still and find it a challenge to use it all up (looking back at previous posts it seems I had exactly the same problem two years ago!) . On the plus side, a friend lent me the Anna Jones cookery book and, over the weekend, I made a winter salad plus celeriac steaks and sweet potato fries.

using up the veg box via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

3. I also got my ‘baking mojo’ back, having not made much since Christmas. I used up the beetroots in the veg box to make some brownies and also baked some banana cake and muffins.

4. On a non-food related matter my husband and I sneaked off to the cinema during the day. Such a treat! It was a Monday and so we got cheaper cinema tickets.

5. I decided that this January I was going to ‘re-read’ my bookshelves. So I have been going back to some favourite novels that haven’t been read for ages. I just finished ‘Starlight’ by Stella Gibbons and am now halfway through ‘Every Man for Himself’ by Beryl Bainbridge. I am really enjoying reading them again and I haven’t had to go out and buy or borrow any new books. So, possibly the ‘Thriftiest Find’ of all!

re-reading the bookshelf

Do you ever go back to any favourite novels you’ve kept on the bookshelf – or do you do give them away once they’ve been read?

Don’t forget you can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Zero Waste Week (Days Three and Four): Waste Free Food and Shopping

During Zero Waste Week I’ve been tuning into #zerowasteweek hour on twitter for some great tips and ideas on reducing waste. One of the most common topics has been food waste which got me thinking about our household.

I like to think that we are quite good on reducing food waste. I meal plan for the month so that I know what we need to buy. I’m still struggling with emptying all the contents of our veg box but now that we’re (almost) into soup season this should be less of a problem. I also have this very handy note attached to the inside of my cuboard door to remind me how much pasta or rice to cook for our family (originally from Love Food Hate Waste website).

Zero Waste Week: rice and pasta measurements

But there is definitely more that I can do to avoid an overflowing compost bin. So, as I tend to do one large supermarket shop each month, I sat down and meal planned everything (breakfasts, lunches incl packed lunches and evening meals). This meant I could order the right amount of food. Yet even when I know what food we have and how to turn it into meals there is still the problem of packaging.

For convenience sake (I don’t have regular access to a car, I try to stick to a strict budget) I order one large supermarket delivery every month, interspersed with fortnightly veg and fruit boxes, regular milk deliveries, some refills at local health food stores and small trips to the local shops. Apart from the first activity (which I try to order as waste free as possible) I have learnt to make the other shopping trips as packaging free as possible.

This week I was able to pick up fruit and veg from the local greengrocers as I had transport – and I tried out a new independent butchers so was able to get my meat from there (with far less packaging, but it would be great to re-use my containers for this). Because I use the brilliant Onya produce bags, and our greengrocers have paper bags my shopping haul looked like this:

Zero Waste Week: package free grocery shopping

I was also able to pop into Harvest Health Food Store in Bath and refill my washing up and laundry liquid containers:

IMG_0083

I also decided to go all out this morning and do a massive baking session so that we can rely less on pre-wrapped cakes and biscuits. This is what my kitchen looked like afterwards (there was a lot of washing up so lucky I’d got by bio-d refills the day before):

Zero Waste Week: home baking

But the end result was: stewed plums and apples; plum flapjacks; oat and apple muffins; fruit cake; gingerbread dough (to freeze and make biscuits with at a later date) and fairy cakes (I always make a batch of simple fairy cakes when the oven is one – I just freeze them and the kids decorate at a later date).

Zero Waste Week: package free (and home baked) goodies

So we now have fully stocked cupboards, freezer and I hope we will have an emptier bin and compost as a result!

 

Supermarket Free Lent: the verdict

I realise it’s been a little while since I last posted on my Supermarket Free challenge (the warm weather and Easter hols have kept me busy in the garden). The Supermarket Free challenge finished on Easter Day (5 April) so it’s high time I wrote about my thoughts and observations:

1) I gave up early (!!)

Big confession here but with the Easter weekend looming and a real lack of food in the house for guests etc I gave in early and went supermarket shopping three days before the end of the challenge. Apart from that I think I did pretty well to manage seven weeks without venturing into a supermarket (except once sort of by accident in the first week).

2) I spent more money

It’s been hard to keep an exact tally of everything I spent as I found I was only buying a few items at a time and some local shops didn’t give receipts (and I kept on forgetting to ask). I calculated that I spent, on average, £58 per week on supermarket free shopping. This excludes my fortnightly veg and fruit box and milk delivery (except when I ordered orange juice). My normal budget is smaller than this one (about £40) as I try to do just one large shop a month so I’m not tempted when I keep on going to the shops, and can meal plan better.

3) I needed my own transport

Although we have made a conscious decision as a family to live in a small village and only have one car this does present many problems. We have a limited (and expensive) bus service that only goes into Bath so if I need to visit the other smaller market towns I have to use the car. If my husband is at work this can’t be done. I’m lucky that I can borrow my parents’ car from time to time but this isn’t a feasible long term answer. This is why I have relied on doorstep deliveries, from veg boxes and milk to supermarket orders. I also work on Saturdays and feel very reluctant to shop on a Sunday as it’s our only family day together (plus independent shops will be closed). I can’t see us acquiring another car in the near future and it would seem ridiculous to buy one just so I could shop more locally. I did enjoy shopping from Ethical Superstore and having the goods delivered and I also added items to my veg box and milk deliveries. I also used our local shops more, although they are expensive (£1 for a can of tomatoes!).

4) I enjoyed the slower pace of shopping

I also discovered more of some of my local towns in the search for independent shops, and ventured into some places (ie butchers) for the first time.

5) I discovered so many more shops

The personal highlights of this challenge was discovering that the local butchers are not more expensive than the supermarket and their meat tasted better. I enjoyed visiting the local street markets and using shops for more inventive purposes, ie purchasing toilet paper from a Factory Seconds shop. I was also pleasantly surprised by the low cost, yet good quality, of the local meat I picked up from the garden centre.

6) There are a few shops I will keep on using

For many reasons (transport, financial, time) I am back to using supermarkets BUT I have now discovered some great independent shops, especially butchers and greengrocers, which I will try to incorporate with my regular shopping

And finally…

7) I realised how easy and convenient supermarkets are (hence their success)

BBC Two has been running a great series called Back in Time for Dinner.It features a family who are challenged to cook, eat and live as a family would from all post war decades (1950s through to 2000 – the 1990s edition is on tonight). In the 1950s and 1960s episodes the mother had to rely heavily on local independent shops but the difference to her time and working life changed radically when the supermarkets arrived as everything could be bought in one place. The series has also highlighted how little we spend on food nowadays compared to previous eras.

I’m not sure if I will take part in Supermarket Free Lent next year as it is a long time but perhaps I will create my own version of shopping more locally.

Supermarket Free Lent Days: Days 16-30

I have now gone past the half way point in my quest to shop without supermarkets for Lent. The last couple of weeks have been rather busy and chaotic. There has been a lot going on at home and, having very limited access to a car, means my shopping trips have been infrequent. I’m not sure this is something I can do long term as I’m beginning to realise that supermarkets are so much more convenient (hence their popularity). I’m not sure if they are cheaper as I plan to compare expenses at the end of this project. They certainly feel less expensive but this may be due to my limited choices and the kind of products I have bought.

Over the past 15 days I have shopped in the following places:

– Village Costcutters shop. This is very convenient but also expensive. I’ve struggled to buy supermarket free wine (I promise I’m not an alcoholic!) but this has been one place I’ve been able to buy from.

– Petrol Station. Technically speaking this is a supermarket as it’s a Budgens but it’s been very convenient when passing by to pick up those things I could only get from a supermarket (garlic bread, coconut milk, tomato ketchup).

– Garden Centre. This is usually one of the most expensive places to shop but I was delighted to pick up locally sourced meat here for a good price.

– Market. This week I was able to make it to the twice weekly street market in our nearest town. There were only a few stalls but I was able to buy different cheeses (which I’d been struggling to find), butter, bread and sliced ham.

– Ethical Superstore. I have been itching to try out this online supermarket and was very pleased with the order and delivery service. My goods arrived in one huge cardboard box (pictured), which had rather too much plastic packaging. I could track the delivery and the driver had no problem locating our house (which can sometimes be a problem as we’re off the beaten track). It was pricier as many of the goods are organic/Suma brand. I also made the classic mistake of ordering the wrong quantities for some things.

– I’ve also continued with my veg box, milk delivery and infrequent trips to local towns and their respective green grocers, health food stores and bakeries.

What I’m learning from this experience is that it takes time to locate supermarket-free sources for food. I have had some frustrating experiences (local butcher being closed on a Monday) but have learnt to adapt from my shopping list and meal plan. I have also been pleasantly surprised by some discoveries which I hope I will continue to make use of when Lent is over.

Supermarket free for Lent

It’s been a while since I took on a challenge in the blogging world. This year I’ve promised myself to only take part in those projects that I think I can complete and that I feel are really calling to me. A couple of weeks ago I had two frustrating incidents with online supermarket shopping. For a variety of reasons I have been doing a monthly online shop for the past year. I’ve felt slightly uneasy at doing this but it has just been very convenient.

But last week I came across the #supermarketfreelent challenge via Westy Writes and decided this was for me. It’s time to break the supermarket habit and re-connect with both my village stores and the wide range of independent shops in my nearby town.

Starting from the beginning of Lent on tomorrow (18th) I’m going to shop locally and independently for the next 40 days. Having recently taken delivery of a month’s worth of groceries this is a slight cheat. I will need to top up with some items, though, and will carry on with my veg and fruit boxes.

Watch this space….