Wasting food, my secret shame

So, we’ve all read the articles and seen the TV programmes about food waste – 1.3 billion tonnes, was it? I read an article which said £60 a month is thrown away by the average family.

Okay, so I don’t throw away that much (being frugal-ish, £60 a month is over a quarter of my food budget) but I do throw food away. Last night’s victims were an elderly butternut squash (it’s crime was having lots of fuzzy, white mould or mildew on it, not just being elderly) and, the one that broke my heart, a honeydew melon that I had neglected then forgotten about. What’s that, £3 into the bin? Something like that.

So there’s my The Frugal Girl style confession – not quite food waste Friday but Saturday will have to do!

The one thing I do usually manage to save are the black bananas for banana bread –

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This one was a triumph – I think it’s the first one I’ve made that wasn’t soggy at the bottom, and it not only saved three bananas from the bin, it provided a less chemical laden snack for Mr Aspiring Frugalista to munch on over a few days.

I also like to donate to the local food bank run by The Trussell Trust – hey have drop off points all over the place and I was so glad to see that my local Tesco have FINALLY kept their donation point permanent this year. I’ve had tins etc that were bought in good faith for the hubs and when they remained uneaten (but still in date) they’ve been donated, rather than left to fester, go out of date, and never get eaten. If you can make room for a couple of pounds in your food budget to be spare, you’d be surprised what you can donate in food goods.

I’m also starting to frequent the Love Food Hate Waste site for ideas, and Abel and Cole have a great section on their site with veggie recipes, searchable by vegetable. Then of course, there’s the amazing A Girl Called Jack, whose site should be required reading for anyone wanting to cook on a low budget! She really can do so much with so little; and I admire the way she has used her success to benefit others and draw attention to the plight facing people on the poverty line.

And finally, please check out this Guardian article about food waste initiatives around the world – if nothing else it’s a really interesting read!

Thank you for reading, until next time!

 

Well Hello There!

I’m still around and doing my best. So much has happened in the past few months; I lost all of my focus on everything but kept plodding away at creating our own personal slice of freedom.

So far, we have made £1500 worth of overpayments to our mortgage. When I look at how much comes off the capital with each monthly payment that equals roughly 15 months! 15 months closer to our goal of completely owning our house, 15 months closer to my goal of being able to step back from working my fingers to the bone and enjoy life more! My next overpayment date is coming in January, what a way to beat the winter blues.

On a not so good note, The Princess had a tumour on her nail bed, which had to be removed. We decided to go all in and get a dental done, walking away with a slightly teeth grinding (pun not intended) bill for almost £400. She has her own savings account so it wasn’t too painful, and my husband did put in some cash too but it has depleted my spare cash down to pretty much nothing for a while. That’s okay though, she’s happier and not in pain so we can live with scrimping and saving! I’m starting to think that we must be getting a frequent flyer discount at the vet as they charge us very little for follow up visits. It’s always worth a box of Roses and a friendly disposition!

Also, my Grandfather passed away. It had been very difficult for us due to some family drama which I will not go in to here, but I went totally spiralling out of control for a while. I had rediscovered the Paypal pay after delivery option, which is great for getting the food for our foster hound, but not so great when you’re having an out of control spending spree. My bank account is now clear of all Paypal payments, but I’m having to very carefully budget for the next few months to be able to do all the things I want to do. I’m grasping on to my last shreds of control like a drowning woman, but I know that they are what will get me through.

Speaking of which, control is what’s getting me through. So many unpleasant and traumatic things have befallen us as a couple in the past months that I truly felt my life was spiralling out of control. I’ve gone from being truthfully calm and settled, to a seething pit of rage, to trying to get on the road to being me again. An important part of that has been regaining control of the two things in life I should always be able to control – what goes in my mouth and what comes out of my purse.  I’ve not spent an unbudgeted for penny this month! I know! Who could believe it? And part of that has been not going to the supermarket three times a day to fritter money away on snacks and god knows what else. (I appreciate it seems not far on in the month but my month starts on payday!)

Well, we’re being whipped around by Storm Desmond – no rain here yet but the wind carried me swiftly down to the post box and back and the dogs may end up in Kansas next time they go out. Stay safe!

Officially Mr and Mrs Aspiring Frugalista!

Hello there! In the midst of wedding preparations I’ve neglected my little blog something chronic. Well, the wedding is now done and dusted, I’m curled up comfy cosy in a Motorhome writing this post and contemplating the torrent of name changes I’m going to have to undertake!
 
 I’d like to share with you some of the ways we had a truly frugal wedding. I appreciate that it’s not for everyone, this doing it for under £500 lark, but it worked for us. We couldn’t justify spending a huge amount of money on one day when there’s so much that needed to be done in every day life. So, here goes (nothing I have linked to has been sponsored, just the choices I’ve made!):
 
 First of all, the clothes. My dress came from Lindy Bop. They do have a bridal section although I chose a bright blue number, for £30. Their dresses are beautifully made, I normally buy them for any occasion where I need to look smart. They also have a Made in Britain range, which can’t be bad. This dress will do double day for my work Christmas party this year too. I borrowed a petticoat from a dear friend of mine, otherwise that would have been nearly the cost of the dress! Mr AF bought a suit for job interviews, and wore that. To us, a suit is a suit. Well cared for it will stay looking smart for a long time, and he didn’t half look handsome! I think his suit, shirt (a two pack!) and his tie cost about £80 from Matalan.
 
 Secondly, the actual ceremony. There was nothing we could do about the cost of the licenses but I had found out previously at most registry offices do a midweek, early morning ceremony for not very much money. Neither of us have much in the way of family, so we opted for this with my parents as witnesses. Including the certificate it cost £50. The ceremony did take place in an office but… When we spoke the vows it was as if there was nobody else and nothing else in that moment. I’m glad we did it this way, although I appreciate that it really isn’t for everyone. But the option is there!
 
 Our cake, which is ridiculously delicious and moreish, was made by the fair hands of my dear mother. Can you make the cake yourself? Is there someone in your family that would? Perhaps they would do it as a wedding present to you. And if you get married like I did, a slice of cake sent to people to let them know seems to go down quite well!
 
 Our photographs were done by a family friend. He didn’t ask for any money although he did such a good job and stayed with us for so long that we have given him something. Do you know anyone who enjoys photography? Or anyone who would photograph your wedding in exchange for being able to use the photos in the portfolio? This one could be taking a chance though, so please tread cautiously.
 
 So, I’m going to get back to our honeymoon now! I will be back soon with another post, now life has settled down again. I really am learning to roll with the punches!
 
 

The Married Life Action Plan

So, now we’ve returned from honeymoon (post about the wedding coming soon!) and, er, slightly overspent (by about £30 so not the end of the world!) things have got to be stricter than ever. We’re back down to just the one income for now, though Mr AF has enough saved up to tide his bills over until he finds a new job.
 
 Our shared goal is to overpay our mortgage and my individual goal is to save up an emergency fund to cover my bills. So I’m alternating between saving for my goal and saving towards our joint goal (we can only overpay in £500 chunks).
 
 I’ve been hitting the Debt Free Wannabe forums over at Money Saving Expert – while I’m now debt free overspending is something that I will always struggle with, and these forums get that! You have to find support wherever you can. I’m participating more wholeheartedly in their challenges than ever before!
 
 My plan to cover the rest of the month is laid out below and I’ll revisit on the first of June to let you all know how I’ve coped!
 
 So, step one : spend no more than £10 (excluding groceries, from the 17th May to the 1st June)
 
 Step two : spend no more than £50 on groceries
 
 Step three : have as many no spend days as possible! Anything I want to buy is going on a thirty day wait list.
 
 Step four : spend nothing on petrol! My mother has used my car for he past ten days and it went out with a full tank and will come back with a full tank.
 
 I’ve made a few promises to myself at the start of my married life. I want to spend less money on dross – my life doesn’t need to be filled with consumerism to be full. I want to value and take care of myself more – how can I expect to be valued by my husband if I don’t value myself? And finally – I want us to have more fun. We both work so hard both in and out of our home and I often say I’m too tired to do anything apart from the things I have to do to keep life going. That’s simply not true and we can have lots of fun for not much money. Even the things that do cost – if I spend less on dross, I can afford to go out more!
 
 So, that’s the plan. I’m a planner, now it’s time to develop the fortitude to follow my plans through!
 
 
 

It seems strange to think…

That in five days, I will be personal debt free (mortgage I’m counting outside that). So, yay, that obviously means life is sorted out, right? Ummm… Not so much. I’m still running out of money before I’ve run out of month. But the fact that I don’t spend in that time, rather than ramp my credit card or overdraft up, says that I’m making progress. I did sign up for an Ancestry membership in a moment of ‘sod it, I’ll pay for it next month’ but… I cancelled it. The thought of putting money onto that squeaky clean credit card made me feel queasy. I’ll save up for it instead. I paid for the insurance excess on my car from the savings I put aside every month for car bills so there was no struggle there. Definite progress. Millie was so lonely without Roger and we knew that whatever we vowed, we would end up with another dog. An opportunity came up to be a long term foster for a beautiful old man greyhound and we knew we couldn’t say no. So we’ve done something good but at minimal cost to us as his bills are covered, and he’s bought so much joy into our lives and Millie’s life. The wedding on an *extreme* budget is one of the ways we’re making the money situation work. So far, we have spent £199. That’s suit, venue and licenses. Just my dress (about £40 ish) and his ring to go. The honeymoon is weighing in at…erm… Quite a lot. The Motorhome we’ve hired is costing us £1000 for ten days. But I can justify that! Kennelling fees for ten days would be about £200+, plus buying food out (even in self catering we would only be able to take so much food with us), would soon mount up. The Motorhome hire place is near us, so it’ll be picked up, brought back here, loaded up with food and all the goodies we need (no suitcases required!) and then at the end, brought back here, unloaded, cleaned and taken back. So I’d like to show you a big way I’ve been getting through a very lean time…

IMG_0294 I had a strange few days where all of a sudden I became terrified at the thought of not having anything in to get through if there was a flood, or a zombie apocalypse (I have OCD and my brain tends to latch on to thoughts like that and terrify me). Don’t worry; I didn’t take out a second mortgage to build a nuclear bunker or buy 6 years worth of dehydrated food packs. What I did do was hunt down bargains on shelf stable foods and household necessities. This past few weeks having these stores has meant that I can keep the shopping bill under £25 a week which has been incredibly helpful, although it does mean it needs to be built back up again!

The not so triumphant return…

I am finally feeling a little more myself, although I will never stop missing my sweet boy I am now able to look beyond that pain and see life again. I know some will not understand the pain I have been through in the last month or so (I have heard a chorus of ‘it’s only a dog’ already) but to me it was a very real loss and to be honest, my life will always be missing a piece.

Onto other things…

Although I have not royally stuffed everything up, I have been in fritter mode. My purse accompanied me everywhere and we all know what happens when I do that. £2.50 here and there mounts up; at least if I had been spending extravagantly I might have something to show for it rather than a bank account running on fumes and a few extra lbs on the scale. Meal planning went out the window in favour of as and when meals; shopping lists went a similar way so when I marvelled at the fact my weekly shop only cost me £25 or so I hadn’t realised I had forgotten half of it and bought loads of stuff that I didn’t need. Cue more trips to the shop. Fritter fritter fritter.

On the positive side, my debt is no bigger – my ‘institutional debt’ sits at £265; this will be paid off in 8 days. EIGHT DAYS PEOPLE!

Yes, I am a tad excited about that. One by one my manacles of debt are dropping off.

Another positive – we went on holiday and the cards were not touched, all expenditure was cash and a week’s holiday on approximately £145 is not bad, n’est pas? I could have cut that right back but the holiday did us good, and to be honest I don’t feel bad about that level of spending at all.

So, going forward…

I’m sticking to my diet. This is the final push to get the last of my weight off and I am NOT going to give up on myself. This also has a sideline of stopping the fritter-y snack-y spends.

The purse is being locked in the filing cabinet. I have no spend requirements whatsoever coming up, I don’t need it.

Meal planning is back! I’m ready for the week going forward and am going to sit down tomorrow and plan next week’s meals. In addition to this I’m going back to click and collect shopping, although I do have a Sainsbury £20 off £60 online shopping voucher, so one of my shops will be delivered :)

Time to get out of the mire and get back into the lifestyle I want to lead!

The Real Cost of Cheap Food

My grocery budget is often the thing I find it easiest to cut back on.
 
 I’m not so sure I want to do that now.
 
 I’m currently watching the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Supermarkets: the Real Price of Cheap Food’. I know these programmes are set up to provide shock value and a lot of the things I knew anyway but…
 
 I grew up in a farming community and I should know better, but I was moved almost to tears by the impact that supermarket promotions have on farmers. It’s made me determined to find a good green grocer or a market stall to buy produce from. But is even the produce there ethical? I cannot afford local farm shops, that’s for sure. I grow as much as I can myself.
 
 I know my few pounds a week won’t stop the big guys from ripping off their suppliers but maybe I can find a pocket that it’s better off in.
 
 

Last Month’s Totals and Trying not to Go Loopy on Payday

Hello hello hello :) well, I guess this marks the end of the first month (of many) of concentrating on being more frugal. Without further ado, here’s the totals-

Groceries – £191.77/£250. I’m SO pleased with this, especially as it has been a five week month for me. This month I’m going to give the grocery budget another little squeeze as I feel that there’s still room for improvement; recipes could have been more frugal, portion sizes could have been better, my shopping could have been more prepared (I had several forgetful moments leading to another trip to the shops). One thing that I’m very proud of is that my food waste is going down! This is another thing I need to focus on. On Sunday I did a big cook up because I do have issues with my energy levels dropping dramatically without warning due to my illness. So on Sunday, I made two meals for the freezer, one for the fridge and the dinner for that evening. These weren’t complex meals but they were meals requiring more energy than I ever have mid week and will help me to avoid splurging on ready meals. The remaining meals are low energy, quick cooks like fajitas and fish and chips.

Fuel – £39.89/£90. Another big win here! I have focused on driving more efficiently, and have set my car up to beep furiously at me if I go over 50mph. On my usual journey to and from work I have no need to go over this speed, and I’ getting used to driving in a more sensible fashion. Of course, this helps not only fuel economy but it reduces the risk of accidents and speeding fines. Win, win, win, all round. This budget will be getting a tickle as well next month.

Miscellaneous – £149.22/£0. This wasn’t specifically in my budget but I still wanted to track what I was spending. This total…is rubbish, let’s be frank, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. This will be given focus in next month’s budget.

Debt – £241.71/£170! Win! Win win win! I wanted to wrap this up on a high and I’m so pleased with this total. This month I have paid off my last interest earning debt (apart from the mortgage) and have started working on the ‘institutional debt’ kindly held by Halifax (the remaining debt is to a family member). This is now under £1000, and my aim this month was to pay off the balance transfer fee, and I’ve done that plus a little bit. It meant a lot to me to get it under £1000, and while I’m not on the home stretch with it yet, I can feel momentum building. Making payments to my debt gives me a huge thrill!

So the budgets I’m focussing on this month are as follows:

Groceries – £200. Judging by this month this should be fairly easily doable, as I will be in a four weeker for grocery shopping. It’s turning in to how low can you go whilst still feeding people!

Petrol – £75. Just a little squeeze on this one, I didn’t want to go too radical as I have a week off in this pay period and I’m looking to drive to spend some time with my mother. Still, should be doable.

Miscellaneous – £199. Still far, far more than I want to spend, but if I come in under this it will be an improvement, and that’s what we’re all about! After seeing what I spent last month in this category I felt making a budget for it was sensible, using that as a benchmark.

Debt – at least £200 paid to debt. Hoping with all the odds and ends left over from various budgets I’ll be able to smash this as so as payday! £170 is the automatic amount my debt gets, so raising this by £30 is just the beginning this month really.

Okay, well, that’s all from me tonight! Oh, and one last thing…

I’m still in the black

My Frugal Week!

This week has gone by in something of a blur. It’s the week before payday and I’m skinter than a skint thing in skintsville. I have 99p left in my bank account! I have cupboards and a freezer full of food, food growing outside, and all of my bills are covered, so I’m not too worried. I just want to make it through to Tuesday in that mythical state…In The Black.

Frugal successes this week have included another week of mainly store cupboard eating –

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Yes, one of those meals does indeed include salmon. A while ago I found some individually wrapped salmon in the chilled section, reduced to about £6 I think and I’m sure there were eight portions in the bag. Mr AF loves salmon, and served sparingly has lasted for months upon months. I love freezers. The plan is to eat down the freezers until there’s little enough to fit into the little one over the fridge to allow for some hardcore defrosting to make it more efficient and give me a bit more space in there. Also, keeping the food bill down, woohoo.

Another five. Whole. Days. At work. Ah well. 50 less hours I can spend frittering cash away. No extra cash in commission this week but that’s ok.

I mended a jeans button and an unravelled seam on a jumper this week too – why I put this off for so long I do not know as it took me about ten minutes in total and saved a good pair of jeans and one of my favourite jumpers.

I also dug the pound land potato bag. I uncovered a handful of baby new potatoes, I think you can see them in a couple of the pics above. However, I do know where I went wrong and I have a better plan for next year. However, at a cost of a pound, I’m not terribly fussed and the bag is folded up for use next year.

I found my library card! Ok so this only actually saved me a pound, but I found it and it’s still a pound!

I also bagged myself a free dinner courtesy of Mr AF, fish supper put paid to my diet that day but it was so good, didn’t cost me a penny and allowed me to use the planned meal for that night the next day.

All in all I’m so pleased with my successes this week. The week before payday normally sees me going spend crazy as I end up thinking ‘well, I’m broke already, what difference does being a bit more broke make?’ But now I can see what a difference that does make. Two days before payday, no overdrafts, no borrowing from savings, no putting inconsequential rubbish on the credit card. Today, I read this post on 1 Thrifty Thing about doing your best. It really resonated with me, and now I know better, I will do better.

Back on Tuesday with a budget update on payday!

…Too Frugal?

So I told Mr AF about this blog yesterday (shhhh, I’m a secret blogger) and he laughed and asked me if I just took a picture of my trainers every day.

Not as weird as it sounds….I’ve had these trainers for a good three years now, they were only cheapies from Sports Direct, and I do tend to wear shoes until they fall off my feet…

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Yep, that’s holes in the bottoms. They’re not quite worn all the way through though…so I can’t quite bear to throw them away. And it’s not raining, so what’s a few holes between friends?

Hmm, perhaps I am getting a bit carried away with this frugal lark…