Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Batten Down the Hatches!

The ball is rolling on the buyout, all financials are in place, and I am now fully committed to the programme of frugaldom-agogo.

This is hugely scary, and I feel tremendously wibbly, but I am trying to stay positive.

I am thankful for the  bounty of the universe, enabling me to cope. That includes a dull 20p I found in the car park this morning.

Thanks to a gift card from work, I have been able to secure some much-needed new bedding for nowt.

I had to buy some new socks - 2 for £1 at Poundland, which is great as some of mine were beyond a darn. And some I notice have not gone into a hole yet, but are like fine mesh around the heel. They seem to be pretty good at 50p a pair!

OH's watch which I got him for his 40th broke. Apparently, the guarantee was only for 12 months, so even though we managed to get it repaired under warranty the first time it broke, apparently it was going to cost this time. We sent it out for a quote at H. S**uels - £140!!! We only spent £80 in the first place!

What would you have done?

OH really wanted his watch, and had spied it was still on sale for £80 in the shop window, albeit with a different strap. Could they sell that to us and just swap the strap. Of course, they said, but my foot was tapping... had they been trying to fleece us? Now, they asked, would we like to pay extra for additional warranty, best value at 5 years. It's worth it, isn't it, OH asked, seeing as it already broke twice in 2 years?

I harrumphed, big time. "For a watch that has only been worn for best on a few occasions, I would expect it not to break at all during 5 years, let alone twice already. In fact, I would be tempted not to buy from this shop ever again!" OH did crestfallen face. "You'd have to make it worth it," I said to the assistant. "Especially seeing as we had to point out the watch to you. A discount?" Ten per cent? - Thank you very much - "Deal."

Plus, we just got £4 back from Quidco for the same sale. That's a saving of £52 on the original quote, plus an additional 5 year's guarantee. And OH has his watch!

It's not an actual saving, as we had to buy another flipping watch, but that's not staying positive...

Taking pleasure in the things that come for free...

  • TV - can't watch many things because I am so busy, and gutted to have missed out on Wolf Hall, but I have been enjoying Broadchurch, Catastrophe, and Uncle
  • Podcasts - The Infinite Monkey Cage is longer on Soundcloud than on R4 and is there for you to listen whenever. Answer Me This is also hugely entertaining.
  • Books - I'm now a bit of a Tom Pollock fan, really enjoying the Skyscraper Throne series. I have also started reading Wolves by Simon Ings and it is bleak, beautiful and dreamily sad. Thanks, the library!
  • Knitting - thanks to a generous gift of knitting paraphernalia from my MIL, I am making lovely things for the babies I know. I'm currently making an owl.
  • Online resources - I got an email this morning from someone who recommended Mind.org.uk - well worth looking at if you, your friends or family have any mental health issues.
Hello to new followers, Tracy, and  Jill on Bloglovin. I hope you enjoy my scary adventures.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Eat Well for Therapy?

It has been another busy week. I've been working hard. OH has been poorly, but getting better, fingers crossed.

I decided to have a glass of wine yesterday, and it may or not be related but I woke up at 4am feeling awful. This morning my eye-bags have bags and I have dandruff between my eyebrows, my skin is so dry. And I didn't really enjoy the wine. I left some in the glass.

Am I cured of booze? Should I just have had a cider?

With a busy weekend ahead, I'm not going to risk anything more daring than a rose lemonade.


A few of us have been commenting on the new BBC programme: Eat Well For Less

Aha. The sneaky question mark says it all.
This is a light infotainment programme in which two green grocers - one a famous eater of puddings, and another one -  plus a dietician help wayward families slash their grocery bills, primarily through the magic of brand-downsizing.

Actually, the programme isn't called Eat Well for Less, it's called Eat Well for Less? I think a lot of us failed to notice the punctuation there. It's a silent question mark - much like the one employed by Irish alternative metallers Therapy?

So far, I've seen one episode, where the Eat Well for Less? team helped a family of two Snorkas and their two little chipolatas who were spending £260 a week, mainly on sausages, which has annoyed a lot of people.  After making some brand substitutions for things they had tried and liked, but without giving them any further clues about available foodstuffs they could buy (salami, haggis, white pudding... vegetables), stock-taking, meal-planning, stock-rotation, stock photo man... etc etc, they were able to reduce their weekly bill by £70.

Well... good. But we frugalistas didn't think that went far enough. Those kids were lovely, but if they kept eating humongous quantities of sausages, things could only go from Brat to Wurst!

A number of blogs have re-named the programme Eat Slightly Cheaper But Just As Badly, thus making me wonder.... what would Therapy? have done?


Over to worrisome lyricist Andy Cairns to guide us through how to Eat Well for Therapy?

Meat Abstract - mince is fantastic. You can make lots of things and it goes a long way. Cottage pie. Shepherds pie. Rural worker of non-specific type pie...

Animal Bones - great for making stock or soup. Don't just put them in the bin after the roast is carved. You can pay top whack in some restaurants for marrow, you know.

Potato Junkie - they're not bad for you, you know, and they're full of Vitamin C and cheap. Don't worry about getting addicted, now! Use leftover spuds to make bubble and squeak, potato cakes or gnocchi, or of course some lovely Colcannon.

Neck Freak - I often see lamb necks going cheap in the YS selection at Waitrose. Freaky, but yummy.

Teethgrinder - there's no discernible difference between Ryvita and Supermarket own brand rye crackers. Don't be a brand snob.

Knives - you can have my life, but you can't hide the knives. However mine are rubbish. I've managed to stab my hand with a Kitchen Devil without even drawing blood, so they are probably safe with the subject of this song! I'm after some Japanese blades as soon as I can afford them - which will be in about ten years. It's about the only thing for the kitchen it's worth spending money on. And they will be hidden, blog-reading psychos.

Diane - learning how to make basic sauces can make a standard meat and veg meal into something rather special. I'm not sure the Diane of this song was a sauce, but I bet she was saucy, eh? Eh?

Jam Jar Jail - don't bother paying £2.99 on a fancy new Kilner. Re-use your old jam jars when making jam and decorate nicely. Then give to comedian Josh Widdecombe. He loves jam.

Stalk & Slash - don't throw away broccoli and cauliflower stalks - just get rid of the hard skin and they go lovely in soups.

Living in the Shadow of the Terrible Thing - I'm not wasting a load of eggs on making a souffle again. It's just a poncey Yorkshire pudding. Just make Yorkshire pudding with a lovely cheese sauce!

So, there, you go. Thanks, Andy Cairns!

Next week, Greg Wallace and Chris Bavin pollute their programme title with a load of green grocers' apostophe's.

Monday, 2 February 2015

If I Were Steve McQueen...

Hello to my new followers, Frugal Queen and Christine. Honoured to have you on board!

Apologies for taking so long to post a new blog. I am deep into a work project and it is a very anxious time for me as I want to do really well with it, hence I'm not around to blog very often.

Exciting times ahead. Now, if I were to tell you I'm just about to get into a big bucket of debt, you'd probably think, well, Frugal Wench - not doing too well at the old frugal thing, then, are you? But don't panic.

Don't Panic!

Thanks, Douglas Adams...

No, don't panic - it's all planned in, has been on the books for years and will stop the walls of my house falling off. And it will be my dodgy roof, as I will be part-owner!

Okay... I'll admit. I am a bit anxious. This a humongous thing I'm taking on, and it's oh-so-slightly eating into the big escape plan.

Steve McQueen: someone's nicked his bike.
No, the big escape plan.
It's a good plan, and I can see it clearly. Just like that pin on the floor, there.

Here is the plan:
  • Take on responsibility for the house I am living in. Fix the roof and windows. Put in a proper bathroom. If time and resources permit, build a TARDIS in the garden.
  • Work like a donkey. Live like a hermit - a hermit who has to get out there and network occasionally.
  • Pay back the banker a bit quicker than the 60 months on the schedule.
  • Get rid of that pesky mortgage.
  • Earn enough to live solely on my freelance and performance work - this is all weighted towards editorial work at present. Hard slog ahead.
It's a plan that has concertina-stretched from 5 years to 7, to 3, now back to 10. At times I despair a bit. My dreams have been vivid and frightening. I think the important thing though is to keep on pushing - yes, it's a bit of a never-ending endeavour, like Sisyphus, though as Camus said, "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." Which is something about trying makes you happy.
We have a few social engagements and work travel, all booked and paid for last year, so we shan't be confined in our misery. However, a few additional need-to-spends have cropped up - my dad is getting married, for one!  So it's unlikely I'll be able to make a uni reunion abroad, and we will have to re-think our holiday plans, as Alsace turns out to be a bit too pricey to get to. After some discussion, we may just wait to see what turns up in the bargain last-minute breaks, but as we're not really too much into being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Bontinentals with their international luxury modern roomettes and their Watney's Red Barrel, we're not certain what we'll be able to get. Torr-e-mol-i-nos!
Isn't it weird, how you can sometimes get a beach holiday with all-inclusive chips and lager for cheaper than a 'self-catering' flat with a two-hob stove and dodgy lino somewhere cold near a museum?

Does travel broaden the mind, or merely increase the tan?

I think I need to stop thinking about holidays... wrong kind of escape.

It has been a good start to the year on the no-booze front. I decided to drink on one day, in solidarity with a friend who has been told she can no longer have any yeast-based foods, so it was a last hurrah to cider. But the next day I felt like someone had taken a pumice to my soul. I am not one to get hangovers, and not a frequent drinker either, but it has taken this break to show me how much booze affects me mentally as well as physically. I am quite sure I will continue to snaffle the occasional 'free wine' at a book launch, but I have absolutely no itch to start drinking again soon. Plus, I'm sure I have a few extra quid in my pocket as a result of this dry period.

Very happy to be the opposite of Nigel Farage too.

I'm also getting faster again. I did the a 5km run last week in 32.09, and this week at Parkrun achieved 31.39. My PB is 29.52 from 2013 - I will be back!

My attempts to do knitting in the round to make a baby dragon from the Ravelry website ended in a big fail, so I'm working on cute owls instead. Hope to finish by March. Let's Knit sent me access to a free magazine from May 2014 though, and there are loads of good patterns on there too!

Right, I'll try my best to post again soon. Take care everyone!