Friday, 30 December 2016

Comping reviewed

This has been the year that I have started to "comp" (enter competitions) systematically and it is proving to be great fun.  

My wins this year have included
My latest win!
Fridge storage boxes, 
A one hour life coaching session 
Tickets to a West End show,
Tickets to a country show, 
A pair of "designer" trainers, 
Four different selections of books
Selection of Milton hygiene products
A mobile phone
Tickets to a clothes show
A huge selection of gel nail products
A dinosaur toy

Some of these have been used, some given away and a few sold on eBay.

I seem to be particularly successful in winning books.  I suspect that these competitions have less entries than others.  

I spend about an hour every day entering competitions, usually first thing in the morning when I am barely conscious and not really up to doing much else!  It is not sure-fire way of acquiring something I want nor is it a quick way of making money but it is still fun waiting to see what the postie will bring.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Not a good start to December

Today is a day for kicking myself.  I went off to Brigg market and discovered that although I was in Brigg, my purse was in Caistor.  Fortunately I was meeting a friend for coffee so I used a credit card in Tesco then borrowed a little from her to do my market shopping.  She is a very good friend!

I am very ill prepared for Christmas.  I have two parcels almost ready to send to swap partners and I shall try and post those tomorrow.  I've got the fruit ready for Christmas pud but it should be made by  now.  The envelopes for the cards are addressed and the cards made but I need to get busy writing.  You get the picture?  So much is half done, nothing completed.

Anyway, today is a new page on the calendar so I shall make my Very Merry Berry Pudding.  It's not really a Christmas pud as it doesn't contain currants or raisins but I prefer it.  Here's the recipe.

Very Berry Christmas Pudding

100g (3½oz) sultanas
50g (2oz) each dried sour cherries, dried strawberries, dried cranberries and dried blueberries
50g (2oz) each ready-to-eat dried prunes, apricots and figs, roughly chopped
2tbsp fruit liqueur, 
100ml (3½fl oz) ginger wine
Zest and juice of 1 lemon  
Butter for greasing
75g (3oz) shredded suet
50g (2oz) self-raising flour
125g (4oz) fresh breadcrumbs
½tsp each mixed spice and ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch each of salt and freshly 
grated nutmeg
75g (3oz) soft dark brown sugar
2tbsp black treacle
1 Cox's apple, grated
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g (2oz) pecans, chopped (optional)

Method
1 Put the dried fruit, raspberry liqueur, ginger wine, lemon zest and juice into a non-metallic mixing bowl. Cover and leave to soak overnight. Lightly butter a 1 litre (1¾ pint) pudding basin and put in a cool place. Put a 35.5cm (14in) square of foil on top of a square of baking parchment the same size. Fold a 4cm (1½in) pleat across the centre and set aside.
2 The next day, put the soaked fruit into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix together until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, pushing it down firmly, and level the surface. 
3 Put the pleated foil and parchment square (foil side up) on top and smooth down to cover. Using a long piece of string, tie securely under the lip of the basin, then knot. Bring the excess string over the top of the bowl and knot to the string on the other side to make a handle. 
4 To cook, put the pudding on an upturned heatproof saucer in a deep pan. Pour in enough water to come halfway up the basin, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4½-5hr, topping up as necessary. Remove pudding from pan and cool. Leaving it covered and in the basin, wrap tightly in clingfilm. Store in a cool, dark place for up to three months.  

To reheat Take off the clingfilm wrapping. Cook for 2hr, following the instructions in step 4, until heated through.



Friday, 4 November 2016

Hooray for Ziffit!

(Very) long time readers of this blog may remember that I have been trying to declutter.  I am not very good at decluttering.  However, I press on and slowly, slowly, bit by bit, stuff is leaving the premises.

Some is given away.  The Salvation Army, the Brownies and various friends have been recipients.

Some is ditched.  I try hard to recycle and I visit the local recycling centre to make sure as little as possible goes to landfill but sadly some things can have no other destination.


But some things can be sold.  Until recently my selling activity had been restricted to eBay.  I like eBay.  I use it for buying as well as selling but have to admit that buying is easier than selling as everything has to be photographed and described and then quite a lot doesn't get sold anyway which is frustrating.  


I have quite a lot of books to dispose of so this week I had my first trade with Ziffit.  All I had to do was to enter the barcode from the back of the book and Ziffit told me how much they would pay.  The prices were not wonderful but for an assured sale and very little effort I'm quite happy.  There is a minimum trade of ten books or £5 value.  

When I had completed my trade I did an internet search for a promo code.  I managed to get a 15% bonus!

The books then needed to be packed into a stout box, a label printed from the site and the books need to be taken to a Collect+ collection point.  These seem (mostly) to be convenience stores and they are listed on the Ziffit site.  I got a receipt for my package.

About a week later I was paid via Paypal but they will pay by BACS or a cheque.  I'm not only better off by £29.67 but I've got slightly less clutter in my home.  Can't be bad!


Monday, 17 October 2016

Water on my brain

I don't often give much thought to water although Wateraid is one of my favourite charities.  It's just that sparkly stuff which appears when I turn the tap clockwise.  However, this last weekend two things happened - first I got the annual water bill and secondly the drain which deals with water from the kitchen is not happy.  This has meant that I can't use the washing machine, the dishwasher or the kitchen sink.  Instead I've had to wash up in a bowl then carry the water outside to an alternative drain.  This is not my idea of a fun way to run my life.  

I decided straightaway to keep cooking to a minimum and to use batch cooked meals from the freezer when I am fed up with sandwiches.  Microwaving results in far easier washing up than does cooking from scratch.

However, I decided to look at my water bill in more detail than I normally would.  I have a metered supply and I pay £17 each month by direct debit so that's about 56p per day,  My bill tells me I use 37 cubic metres annually.  (The £17 is also surface water and waste water disposal.)

I consider I am careful rather than frugal with water.  I take navy showers; the loo often has yellow water in it, I make sure I wash only full loads in the washing machine and the dishwasher.  However, disability makes hand watering in the garden very difficult and I'm not keen on the other measures suggested on some other blogs.  One friend think's it hilarious that I bother with "if it's yellow, let it mellow" whilst another tells me there is no way that using a dishwasher can be economical with water no matter what the manufacturers tell us.

I wondered how my water consumption compared with the national average so I checked with the Consumer Council for Water.  The average water consumption for a single person household is 54 cubic metres.  My 37 cubic metres doesn't look bad at all.

PS I'd just finished writing this post when I got a phone message to say that the plumber is on his way.  Normal kitchen activity can be resumed!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Inexpensive kitchen equipment

The first thing I do each morning is to put the kettle on for a coffee.  No day starts without coffee here at Frugal Follies.  I don't drink tea at all so coffee is my go-to drink and each day I drink four or five mugs.  I have my favourite blends and they don't include any instants!

The problem with coffee is two fold.  Firstly it can be messy and secondly it can be expensive. When I use a cafetiere/French press  coffee grounds seem to get everywhere when I wash it.  I know that a machine would cause less mess but machines are expensive and those disposable pods are not exactly environmentally friendly.  I don't want another large gadget on my kitchen worktop either.

So I use a reusable filter.   This handy gadget is stored in a coffee mug in the cupboard and then I use a scoop of coffee in the filter in the mug.  It needs less coffee than a cafetiere and also less water.  It has handles to allow it to rest on the edge of the mug.  The grounds are kept in the filter to be tipped into the kitchen bin but nothing else gets thrown away. 

I still like to use cafetieres when I am entertaining.  They are more elegant and because I use them more rarely I enjoy the sense of occasion.  Will I replace my filter when it finally wears out?  You bet I will!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Kitchen equipment 2

Magimix 4200

When I retired all I asked for was a recipe book - but a very special recipe book.  I wanted people's favourite recipes, written out in their own hand so I had something very personal.  Someone then mounted all the recipes in an album and I have the most personal of reminders of the people in my old parishes.


But those lovely people also had a whip round and I got a cheque as well.  I decided to spend some of the money on a good quality food processor to help when making up the recipes.  I'd had cheap ones before but had hankered after something better so I bought one of these.  It's one of the gadgets which stays on the work surface all the time because I use it so much.  

Cheese is grated and frozen as soon as I buy it so there is less temptation to nibble.  Homemade coleslaw knocks the shop bought version into a cocked hat.  Soups are wondrously smooth.  (I have a hand held blender but this Magimix is much more thorough.)  Old crusts are made into breadcrumbs before freezing.  Items needing chopping whether it's to make stuffing or make Christmas pudding cause me no headaches.  Lemonade is a breeze.

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.  My Magimix is versatile, strong and valued.  It helps me use up tatty ingredients in soup, makes cheese and other ingredients "go" further, and generally is a great ally in the kitchen.  

Would I replace it if it broke down?  Well, part of its value is that I treasure it because it was part of my retirement gift so I will be sad when it can process food no more but I think it will see me out anyway.  If it breaks down before I do, I will probably replace.  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Kitchen equipment


I am told that I am a very difficult person to buy presents for but I suspect that could be said of most ladies "of a certain age".  We just don't want more "stuff", we get picky about toiletries, we don't want calorific treats - the list of what we don't want goes on and on.


All this means that if I express the smallest interest in something there is a real danger that someone will remember and I receive it for my birthday or Christmas.  I happened to mention yoghurt makers last year and this came in my stocking.  It's an electric model from Lakeland and it makes lovely yoghurt, about 500g at a time.  I've had a lovely time buying various live yoghurts and using them as cultures.  I've also bought Easiyo and some dried cultures.  

I like the dried cultures best.  I make a batch using UHT milk and skim milk powder, eat it, and use the last little bit as a culture for the next lot.  Some of the yoghurt gets turned into cheese and if one ignores the initial cost of the machine, it's very economical. 

But there's the rub.  I can ignore the cost of the machine as it was a gift.  I make a batch most weeks and I reckon it's about 20p per 500g cheaper than an equivalent natural yoghurt so over a year I will have saved £10.  I'd have to make and eat steadily at that rate for two years to break even and that ignores the cost of electricity.

I like my yoghurt maker.  I find it convenient and I enjoy the yoghurt and the cheese that I make.  Will I replace it when it breaks down?  I doubt it.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A September joy

It's sad when the runner beans come to an end.

It's sad when the curtains have to be drawn earlier and earlier each evening.

It's sad when lovely summer clothes have to be packed away to make room for warm jumpers.

But today I knew a special September joy for one of the joys of winter is to load the slow cooker before going out and then come home to the tempting aromas of a lamb casserole just waiting to be ladled on to the plate.

Maybe winter isn't so bad.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

I'm a winner!

It's only a month since I last posted about comping but I've had another win!  This time I've won some cosmetics including a "wide awake pen"  (supposed to do wondrous things to the area below the eyes), a cleansing balm. a set of six bronzers, day dew, mascara, lipstick, and an eye liner.  Some will go into my own dressing table, some may be Christmas gifts.  


Monday, 5 September 2016

Free Learning

It's a while since I did a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) but I'm starting one today and one next week,  Both are free.  Just go to  https://www.futurelearn.com/.

This week I'm starting a course on Cyber Security, something which concerns anyone using t'interweb.  This one is offered by Newcastle University and it's a three week course exploring practical cyber security including privacy online, payment safety and security at home.  The organisers reckon you will need about three hours a week to complete the course which sounds to me like nine hours very well spent. 

Next week I'm starting another MOOC:  Financing Fundamentals, Managing the Household Balance Sheet.  That's a four week course again needing three hours per week.  It's offered by The Open University

These free courses use videos, quizzes, short articles and interactive games to teach important subjects in an interesting way.  I don't normally do more than one at once but I think these two subjects are so important that I don't want to miss out on either!

Most Futurelean courses are available to students in other countries to but I am aware some aren't and unfortunately I have no means of checking availability outside the UK but why not nip over to https://www.futurelearn.com/ and see what's on offer.

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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Scrabbling around in the fridge

Yesterday the latest incarnation of Cheeky Bottom Soup made its appearance at Frugal Follies.  This time a scrabble around the fridge yielded yellow courgettes, green courgettes, tomatoes, runner beans and onions.  All bar the onions were free food from my own garden or the prolific gardens of friends,

I bunged the whole lot in a roasting tray with a glug of olive oil and a wallop of garlic and a plonk of pesto in a moderate oven for an hour, then blitzed them.  Some was combined with a little vegetable stock for lunch but the rest will be frozen without stock (to save freezer space) and pulled out in the winter when I need a reminder of summer sunshine.  

Friday, 26 August 2016

Childhood Treats

Writing about pop yesterday started me thinking about childhood treats.  Pop was very, very rare back then.  It never appeared at home, only if we were out for a day and we called at a pub on the way home.  A bottle of fruit squash appeared at birthdays and Christmas but otherwise it was water or milk.

The oddest treat I can remember was sandwiches cut on the diagonal.  Let me explain.  In our house sandwiches were normally cut "square", i.e. the cuts were parallel to the sides of the bread.  Birthday sandwiches were cut on the diagonal, as most sandwiches are cut today.  Don't ask me why diagonally cut sandwiches were considered to be a treat: it's totally illogical but I think Mother was very crafty in making me THINK that they were a treat.

And maybe that's a skill which I need to re-learn, the skill of finding modest treats, inexpensive treats, simple ways of making things special.  Too often treats are associated with spending money rather than taking care or using imagination.  My current favourite treats of this sort are freshly ironed sheets and vegetables put onto the table in pretty serving dishes.

Anybody got any more ideas?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Pop


That's what it was called in the days of my youth.  Pop.  I can't remember when I last heard a youngster call cola/lemonade/fizz "pop" but that's what it is.  (Note for Americans lemonade means lemon fizzy here.  We also have old-fashioned lemonade which is more like yours.)


I'm a bit of an addict.  Actually I'm a lot of an addict.  I drink far too much of it.  Until a few years ago I was a tap-water-left-in-the-fridge-for-a-few-hours kind of gal but somehow the can of coke or lemonade has taken over my life.  Just as some people get into the habit of buying coffee out almost every day I'm in the habit of three or four cans of Coca Cola or Schweppes lemonade and cola is one of the few things where I am fussy about brands. 

Last night I had a Tesco order and was horrified to realise that of the £66 I spent £39 was for pop!  In my own defence I haven't bought any fizzy for two months but even then it is crazy.  I've now checked the fridge and the store cupboard and I have 140 cans having taken advantage of special offers.  

This lot has to last until the new year.  128 days.  The most shaming thing about this is that I can even think of it as a challenge.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Making the best of a disaster

I had a feeling of uncertainty each time I walked across the kitchen.  Something didn't feel quite right.  The vinyl flooring was lifting slightly.   Nothing major - or so I thought.

As I am planning on redecorating the kitchen this year I decided to ask the landlord to check.  So a chappie came.  You know the sort of chap.  Favourite phrase is "Tut, tut" uttered just after a rapid intake of breath.  Drives you crazy.

Unfortunately he couldn't even manage a "Tut, tut".  The kitchen floor will have to be replaced.  I am not looking forward to it.  Emptying a kitchen so that all the floor standing cupboards can be taken out is not a prospect which fills me with glee.  The thought of all that mess doesn't make me happy.

I don't know when all this joy will be visited on me.  The surveyor has to come and this will not be a cheap job so the landlord will need a budget.  Oh dear.

So, I have decided that one sensible thing would be to eat down my food stores to minimise the stuff which will have to be stored whilst the kitchen is out of commission.  Ah well, that should benefit the budget.  

And as the contractor will have to make good I won't have to pay someone to decorate the kitchen myself!  

Friday, 12 August 2016

Comping update

Earlier this year I decided to have a go at doing on-line competitions.   You may remember that I won some fridge storage boxes but there have been other wins.

So far this year I have won, those fridge storage boxes, a one hour life coaching session (interesting experience), tickets to a West End show, tickets to a country show, a pair of "designer" trainers, two books, and my latest win, a selection of Milton hygiene products.

Now entering a competition for Milton products might seem strange for a childless woman in her sixties but the first prize was a whole-house spring-clean.   Anyone who knows my housekeeping habits would think that to be a good idea and the cousin whose daughter is expecting her baby will receive the products I don't need,  Can't be bad.

Further update  The postie has just been!  The Milton stuff has arrived but so has a parcel of books from a competition I didn't know I'd won!!!!  Postie enjoyed my glee.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Sometimes I quite like Amazon

Actually, my life would be a lot more difficult if it were not for Amazon but it's not really my favourite company.

A couple of weeks ago I received a parcel of stuff I hadn't ordered.  The address label was correct for me but I hadn't ordered the stuff and when I checked my account I hadn't been charged for it either.  So, grumbling under my breath at the necessity to waste my time contacting the company, I started an on-line chat.  I won't go into details but the result was that I was asked just to keep the things or donate them to charity.  I think the total value of the things would have been about £30.


Two items went to the charity shop but with a big "Whoo Hoo" I kept the third.  It was a pack of Sugru.  Sugru is mouldable silicome which sets just by being exposed to the air.  I'd heard about it and wanted to try it and now I could do so at no cost.  The pack I got would have cost £12.99.


It is fantastic!  I mended the handle of the bowl of my Magimix.  I was making do with a bowl with a broken handle as a new bowl would have cost £42.12.  I had a lovely play with the sugru (it's just like playdoh!) and I've saved myself £42.12,  This is the handle with the repair - you may have to look extra hard to see it.  It has been through the dishwasher several times since it was repaired.

Quick update.  I've just had to contact Amazon about something marked as delivered but not actually received by me (the reverse of the above situation) and they have refunded my money and given me an extra month Prime membership in compensation.  The non delivered goods were worth £8 and an extra month prime is worth over £6 and I get my stuff anyway.  Thanks Amazon!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Surveys 2

A couple of people have contacted me to ask about the survey sites I use so here's some of the lowdown.  I must repeat what I said in the first post about the huge numbers of screen-outs and the very low rate of pay but if you want to have a go I can suggest several sites.  Please remember that I am UK based although some of the sites I mention operate in different countries.

Have a look at https://yougov.co.uk/  This is a site which sends one or two invitations to me each week.  A survey earns me 50 points and when I have collected 50000 I get a payment of £50 via BACS.  The surveys are well written and if I get an invitation I know I will be able to complete the survey - no screen-out.  It takes about a year to earn £50 so don't get too excited!

I get a lot of invitations from Toluna but I also get a lot of screen outs which is very frustrating.  However, I complete enough surveys to get a £15 voucher every six weeks.  Until recently I had Tesco vouchers but last time had Sainsburys but they offer garden vouchers, book tokens etc.

If you care to e mail me (go to my profile and there is an e mail link) I can send you referral links.  Good luck but don't expect to get rich quick. 

I'll write about some more sites another day.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Frugally Challenged

I was reading blogs for quite a while before I took the plunge myself.  Maybe you are in that position now.  You need some sort of user name (maybe your Real Life name?) so you can leave comments on other people’s blogs.  I was reading a lot of blogs about living very frugally and I have to admit I was amazed at the lengths that some people go to in order to save money.  I was very aware (and still am) that I wouldn’t be going as far as some people so rather tongue-in-cheek, I chose the user name “Frugally Challenged”.

I was brought up in the fifties when the make-do-and-mend mentality was much more prevalent than today.  The sleeves of my school sweaters always had darns in them.  There was no choice in the food I ate – I had to eat what I was given and clean my plate and whether I liked the food was totally irrelevant.

In some ways I’m glad those days have gone.  It is only in recent years that I have learnt to listen to my body and stop eating when I am full.   My body shape tells me that is a lesson I should have learnt much sooner.  In other ways I think the ideas of my childhood were absolutely right and I am re-learning and re-adopting them.

Each of us has to choose the right level of frugality.  I am aware that my standard of living is lavish compared to many as I have an adequate pension which allows me to satisfy many of my wants as well as my needs.  However, there are still things I want to do, ambitions I want to chase, dreams I want to do more than dream.

I want to live a rich life, rich in experiences rather than possessions, but experiences can cost money so I want to live as frugally as I comfortably can.  My choices may not be yours (nor yours mine) but the choices I make are allowing me to have a great time in retirement.  I’m no frugal expert:  I am definitely Frugally Challenged.


Friday, 24 June 2016

Expensive but essential

It's nearly two years now since I bought my car.  The old one had become just too old.   Fuel economy and expensive repairs forced me into the decision to dip into my savings and buy a new-to-me car.

My old one had seen me through caring for my disabled Mother and the final years of ministry in my parish.  It had had a lot of hammer and owed me nothing.  However, my lifestyle is now vastly different and I want this car to last as long as possible.  It was quite expensive for an eight year old car but it had less than 7,000 miles on the clock and it had the necessary ramp so I can get my trundle truck in so I bought it.

 I need to take care of it mechanically and aesthetically so it is always regularly serviced and Jack often runs a sponge over it to keep it looking good.   I insure it for 10,000 miles per year.  I allow myself a "mileage budget" of 800 miles each month and any miles I don't use are added to the "float" of 400 miles which is very handy when I want to go on holiday.  I bought my car 1st July 2014 so my year runs July to June and this year I expect that I will have 1000 miles in hand before I zero my budget on 1st July 2016.

Motoring is expensive and there is no getting away from that.  However, for me it is essential.  The nearest bus stop is over half a mile away but I can barely walk a hundred yards and that's on a good day.  Errands however are clustered so that mileage is kept down.  With care I can still afford a car.  Other things get cut back but I'm hanging on to my wheels!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Tubes, scissors, tubs and designer labels


My tube of hand-cream ran out today.  I have a skin problem and I use a lot of hand-cream but today I couldn't squeeze anything from the tube.


So out came the scissors and I cut the tube to shreds to get at the last bit of hand cream.


Using my fingers (so that  they got creamed whilst I did the job) I scooped out all this cream from the "empty" tube.

And put it in this tub which was originally filled with a very expensive face cream sent to me for testing.  It looked like a very useful pot (as Winnie the Pooh would say) so I removed the label and kept it, because I don't like displaying labels and I do like my plain white toiletry dispensers.

And designer labels?  Well you won't find many labels of any kind in my house.  When I was a child showing labels on anything especially clothes, was not acceptable.  Mother refused to pay for a carrier bag displaying an advert for Tesco, Asda or wherever.  She did have some favourite brands (I always had Clark's shoes!) but the idea of her handbag or blouse showing the maker's name would have been anathema to her.

My plain white dispensers for shampoo, conditioner and shower gel feel more stylish to me than any brand label, no matter how trendy.  It would never have occurred to Mother that she was teaching me frugality but she did.


So I've got at least a week's worth of hand-cream, just because I take an alternative view of stylish.  Whoopee!   

Monday, 20 June 2016

No pheasant will get the better of me

It was all the fault of a pheasant.  Pheasants exemplify the phrase "bird brain" as far as I am concerned.  This one made its latest suicide bid between Tesco and home on Saturday evening and I did an emergency stop to be proud of.  Unfortunately I could not be so proud of how I had packed my shopping and I broke three eggs.  

The eggs stayed (more or less) in their shells but they had to be used fairly soon.  I'd noticed earlier in the week that bread crumbs were making their bid for world (or at least freezer) domination so the solution to both problems seemed to be bread pudding.  It's got to be over twenty years since I made one but I just flung things into a mixing bowl.  Breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, muscovado, spices all went in but I decided to add dried apricots instead of raisins or sultanas.  

It was wonderful!  The apricots gave it just a nice degree of tanginess.  I've cut it into sixteen pieces so there will be scrumminess in the freezer for quite a while.  
I might even forgive the pheasant.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

I don't believe it!

Just occasionally my inner Meldrew gets out.

Well not really.  I don't think I'm ever that miserable but "I don't believe it" does occasionally pass my lips.  Today I am definitely NOT miserable.

Having written about payouts for market research surveys this week I was amazed that after the cheque for £50 mentioned in my last post I then received £45 in Tesco gift cards from another company.  I was short of ready cash this month but last night's trip to Tesco was free!

Research companies pay out in various ways.  The commonest, especially for small amounts, is either Amazon or PayPal and I'm happy with either.   It's just those with a higher payment threshold who use cheque or BACs payments.

I've never had anything like this level of payment in one week before and doubt if I will again, but somehow the endless questions haven't looked quite so inane these last few days

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Surveys

I had a lovely letter in the post yesterday.  It contained a cheque for £50.  At the moment I’m watching the pennies extra carefully so it was truly lovely.  It was from one of the companies whose on-line surveys I complete on a boringly regular basis.

I am registered with a lot of survey companies and each day I get seemingly dozens of invitations to complete surveys.   I get screened out of 95% of surveys even when I have been invited which is a bit disheartening.  Surveys can take up to forty minutes to complete and are normally paid in points which have to be collected (the value of points varies between companies) and when one has reached the payment threshold payment is made often by PayPal or in Amazon gift cards.  Some send BACs payments, others various gift cards.  That £50 cheque represented two years of filling in mindless questions for the company concerned although I reach most payment thresholds quicker than that.

If I were still working I don’t think I would bother with surveys as the rewards are too small and the time required too great but my earning potential in retirement is very limited and I do like to earn a little.  I reckon I earn about a pound an hour but I can do the job whilst watching TV or having a cuppa between other activities.  I occasionally get asked to test products like laundry detergent, face creams and “butter” spreads and have also done one on line focus group and I’ve been to a company’s head office to test their website as a user and those opportunities come through the survey companies. 


I reckon I average about £60 a month, enough to pay for an annual holiday.  And if there is WiFi available I still do surveys whilst on holiday!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Life has given me lemons

I sorted my fridge today as I usually do on Fridays.  I seem to have a lot of lemons.  Well, you know what they say - if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

I've always loved homemade lemonade but years ago it was quite a faff to make it - grate the zest, squeeze the lemons - you know the drill.  Since I've had a food processor it's easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Just chop three lemons very roughly including the skin and pith (each one into 4-6 pieces) and bung them into the processor.  Whizz to a pulp.  Add about six tablespoons sugar and whizz again.  

Strain the pulp and sugar mixture through a sieve.  Don't push it through, just leave it to do its own thing for half an hour.  Then pour about a pint of cold water through the stuff left in the sieve and let that drain into the strained juice.  You now have lemonade which you can put in a jug and chill in the fridge.

This is not a cheap recipe unless you can find cheap lemons on RFQS but it is a treat fit to be served to anyone.  (Or just kept for yourself!)  Enjoy.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Rhubarb cordial

I am a very lucky lady!  When I moved to my present house I had to leave my rhubarb crown behind, which as far as I was concerned was a tragedy.  I missed those first succulent pink sticks of tangy pleasure.  I have to admit that towards the end of the season I got fed up with the sight of rhubarb - it's one of those plants which doesn't know when to stop - but the first few sticks!  Bliss!

I happened to mention my rhubarb separation anxiety one day and that was the start of a tidal wave.  As I say, rhubarb doesn't know when to stop so anyone who has  a good crown and hears about someone else who has no such crown tends to be more than happy to pass on a few goodies,  My problem is that I have quite a few friends who have prolific rhubarb crowns.  I don't like to say no but one really can have too much of a good thing.  There are only so many crumbles, pies and fools that can go down one woman's throat.

However, I have now discovered rhubarb cordial.  Sadly I have drunk the lot so I can't photograph it and show you the beautiful pink colour so you will have to make some for yourself.

Just cook in a saucepan as much surplus rhubarb as you can get together.  Cook unhtil it is mush then strain it through a sieve or colander.  DO NOT PUSH IT THROUGH!  This is important as pushing it through will result in a cloudy cordial.  Just leave it overnight in the strainer.  Then measure the liquid and add 500 grams sugar  and 50 ml lemon juice for every litre of juice.  Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar then bottle it in sterilised bottles.  Keep chilled.  Drink diluted to taste.  Dilution with Prosecco has also been recommended.  I couldn't possibly comment.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Tesco

A couple of years ago I bought a Delivery Saver Pass for midweek deliveries from Tesco.  It seemed like a good idea as going to anything other than a convenience store involves a round trip of about twenty miles so £30 for a year’s deliveries was AOK.


A year later I got the same pass for £15 which I paid mostly in Clubcard vouchers but during the year the minimum delivery went up from £25 to £40 so I stopped using it so often.  It was great to have frozen food and heavy items delivered right into my kitchen but a delivery every two or three weeks was a better idea.

A few weeks ago I decided that I wouldn’t renew the delivery pass again.  Some delivery slots are just £1 and I am very flexible about when I can have deliveries so £30 didn’t seem quite so much like a bargain.  And then I sat back to see what would happen.

Sure enough I’ve been sent coupons for £9 off the next delivery and £6 for the following five.  Unfortunately each was for a minimum spend of £60!  I’ve decided to use the £9 one and hang onto the others in case I want another large shop before 5th June when they expire.

In the same post Mr Tesco sent another letter telling me that May will be the last Clubcard Boost event.  This is a blow as I have previously bought my spectacles effectively for half price.  I’m not sure how I will use my vouchers now.


Asda has a minimum delivery of £25 and I understand Iceland deliver free.  So Mr Tesco you are going to have to work a lot harder for my custom.  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

In the dim and distant days of my youth

In the far distant days of my youth I was financially feckless and sadly that fecklessness lasted well into middle age.  I should be a wealthier woman, indeed I would be a wealthier woman if I had been as careful with my money as I am now but you can't put an old head on young shoulders.

Anyway, no good crying over spilt milk.  Things have now changed and I am rather more prudent.  I wanted to mention two things which have facilitated that change.

The first is that a few months ago I won some budgetting software.  It's You Need A Budget (YNAB) and I can't speak highly enough of it.  The software which I won was a one-off download with continuing support and but sadly new customers have to take out a a monthly or annual subscription service which I would not find so appealing and I would have to think long and hard before I made the financial commitment to that.  However, the general fact remains: I have found a method of budgetting which suits me and which I actually enjoy using.  I never thought I would say that I enjoy budgetting but I enjoy budgetting!

The second thing which has helped me change is t'interweb itself.  On-line shopping is a terrible temptation, there are sites a-plenty encouraging us to buy the latest this or the most expensive that, but the fact remains that for money saving ideas and strategies the web is superb.  There are price comparison sites, cashback sites, coupon and voucher sites but best of all there are blogs written by ordinary people who need to stretch their pennies.  There is an incredible amount of inspiration out there!  

Thank you , all you lovely bloggers who share your stories.  

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Serendipity Casserole

Serendipity

I love that word - serendipity!  It makes simple things super without adding calories.

Last weekend I hosted a birthday lunch for my aunt and I was more than a bit shattered but I had invited a friend for lunch on Tuesday so I had to do some cooking.  I really didn't want to go shopping so the meal had to come from the freezer - and my head!

I'd got a bag of frozen chicken thighs lurking in there so that was the starting point.  I love chicken thighs - not only are they the tastiest part of the bird they are also the cheapest.  Anyway, I put the whole bagful into the slow cooker.  I chopped a couple of onions and sweated them with a little oil and then added a little cornflour.  I then added to the onions a can of chopped tomatoes and some crushed garlic, chopped ginger,  coriander, saffron, cayenne and cinnamon.  (Sorry about the lack of quantities but this is a serendipity casserole!)  A little honey seemed like a good idea so I added that.  I bunged the lot into the slow cooker with the chicken.  I found a can of chickpeas in the food cupboard so that went in along with some dried apricots and prunes.  Last but not least I chopped the last few carrots from the fridge and added those.

Four hours later I served it with couscous and sultanas.  It was wonderful.

Yesterday I found a pack of haricot beans in the cupboard.  I'm going to have a bash at the same recipe using these beans instead of chicken and chickpeas

Monday, 7 March 2016

Incorrigible hoarder!

I have a lovely electric jam pan which I bought when I could no longer stand for long enough to stir the jams and chutneys which I love to make.  I am an enthusiast so in 2014 I made enough preserves to feed a small army and put out an appeal among my friends and family for jam jars.

2015 saw me eating my way through my stores and I didn't need to make any more but the jam jars kept coming.  And coming.  And coming.  And coming.

I shall be getting the jam pan out again this year and was confident that I would have enough jars.  Enough?  I sorted fifty to give away to a friend who makes jam to sell for charity and I still have plenty for my own use. 

So that's fifty jars, thirty doggie items, seventeen books and three miscellaneous items - my first hundred items GONE!

And there's plenty left where that came from.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sad sorting

I used to have a lovely cocker spaniel called Fido.  I had never met a dog called Fido and I found that a lot of other people hadn't either until they met my little dog.

Sadly I had to have him euthanised a while ago.  I sent most of his stuff like his baskets and bowls to the local dog rescue but I had never got around to sorting the rest of his bits and pieces.  Anyway I've done it now and much of this lot will also be going to dog rescue.

4 packs wormer

3 grooming tools
1 extending lead
1 tugging toy
1 de-odouriser
2 blankets
1 string plastic sausages
1 squeaky bone
2 packs dog food
1 bag poo bags
2 packs wormer
1 pack joint care sticks
1 muzzle
2 hide “bones”
2 hide chews
1 detangling spray
1 pack ear drops
3 packs flea treatment

If/When I get a another dog we'll start afresh with toys etc.  In the meantime some other dog and its human may as well have the use.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Making a start

Saturday is normally a very quiet, rather lazy day in this house but I actually made a start on sorting stuff yesterday so I have got twenty items ready to leave the premises.  I knew if I didn’t get started yesterday I wouldn’t get started at all!

I had a quick look through some of my books.  There seem to be quite a lot of bloggers who have worked in libraries and I’m one of them.  Including my years at Library School I worked eleven years in various libraries both here in the UK and in Nigeria when I was doing Voluntary Service Overseas.  I take a real joy in handling books but what I like is not the physical ownership of a lot of tomes but the wonderful stuff which is in them.  I have had my years when possession of books was very important to me, but these days I am happy to use my Kindle, and even more important I am happy to use the public libraries.

I never thought that the day would come when public libraries would be a service under threat but that day is already here.  The library here in Caistor is run by volunteers who do such a good job that it is now open seven days a week.  I have taken a very deliberate decision that I do not need to own books in order to own knowledge or the pleasure of reading.  Libraries need my support so I shan’t be acquiring to make up the stuff I have sorted for the charity shop.


Apart from seventeen books I’ve sorted a storage jar, a foot scrubber and some make-up sponges.  I hope Sally Ann enjoys them

Friday, 26 February 2016

Frugally Challenged Challenges Herself!

Enough is enough!

I have had quite a lazy couple of months but the last few days have seen me emerging from my nest and getting out into the world - it's amazing what a bit of sunshine can do.

Although today's weather is far from wonderful I'm getting the feeling that Spring is on its way and a bit of spring sorting (maybe even spring cleaning?) is A Good Idea.  The house looks lethargic and needs to look lively.  I know, I know, it's really me looking a bit lethargic and needing to look lively, but waking up the house might make me look livelier too.

Anyway, Frugally Challenged Challenges Herself!  My plan is to get rid of 350 items between now and the end of March.  I've been counting and there are 35 days to 31st March so that makes for an average of ten items per day but I'm planning on there being a lot some days and not so much on others.  

The truly dreadful thing is that I think this may be achievable!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

I do like freebies!


I have to spend quite a lot of time sitting but I'm never idle.  I knit and crochet, make cards and write letters whilst I'm in my armchair but I have to admit that I also spend rather a lot of time on t'interweb.  One thing I have discovered is on-line competitions or comping as the aficionados seem to call it.


This is not a way to make a fortune (although I think some compers do turn a profit) but it's a wonderful way of getting the occasional treat or replenishing the gift stash.  Anyway, a few weeks ago I got an e mail telling me I had won a competition.

And yesterday the prize arrived - and what a useful prize it is!  I use lots of margarine tubs, yoghurt cartons etc but a few better quality boxes never came amiss especially when they are FREE!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Frugally challenged ? - not!

I keep an eye on my finances day to day but I have to admit I don't always count the change in my purse and record all my purchases, reconciling the two every day.  However, every so often I do just that.  Every penny leaving my purse has to be accounted for and recorded, usually over a period of about a month.

I've been doing that since the beginning of the year.  Sometimes I find I have a little more money than I should have, sometimes a little less but I keep a money box and use that as a float so I can balance things if necessary.  I emptied my float on 1st January but had been aware that I was putting the odd penny in since.  

Today I decided to check the box and this is what I found.  

To save you the trouble of counting I will tell you there is £7.77.  How did that happen?


I am a financial genius!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Oh! Wow!

I'm not a great one for watching cookery programmes.  Sentences including the words "paint" and "dry" seem to sum up my feelings.

However, I did enjoy watching "Eat well for less" and this morning when I was doing some batch cooking I decided to make the vegetable crisps which were demonstrated.
Fortunately I photographed them because they are no more.  Oh!  Wow!  A tasty snack, low fat, and very economical.  

My carrot crisps about an hour ago
I had the food processor out for other jobs so I sliced a carrot very thinly in the processor.  I then spread some tin foil on a baking sheet, sprayed it with oil and arranged a single layer of carrot slices.  I put them in the fan oven at 150C until they were crisp which was about 25 minutes.  (I think 150 Celsius is about 300 Fahrenheit.)  I then sprinkled them with savoury yeast flakes but I reckon salt and black pepper would be good as well.  I just prefer to minimise my salt intake.

Next time the oven is on I may experiment with parsnips, sweet potato or courgette.  Hard life I've got.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Knowing its value

I didn't make any resolutions at New Year but I've now thought of a project for 2016.  In 2015 I worked to have less messy places in my home but really that isn't enough.  I want beautiful places, places which feed my spirit.

I've never been a good housekeeper. Let's be honest - I'm a lousy housekeeper.  It's just so tedious!  I'm hoping that if I look at it as creating beautiful places I might feel a little more positive about it.  We can live in hope!

This is the first beautiful place I have created.  I had to go to Tesco today so I treated myself to a bunch of daffodils and I've put them in a favourite vase on my great granny's chest of drawers.

Last time I posted I quoted, "Frugality is not just about knowing the cost of everything. It’s about knowing its value too."

2016 will be about valuing the beautiful and creating more of it.