July 19 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 29

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Make soup
  4. Do one Big Production with Encores
  5. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

 

Category: The Habits
July 5 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 27

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Lift cash and put it in marked purses for different areas of spending.
Category: The Habits
July 5 2014

Move along, there is nothing to see

We are on holiday in Orkney and will be back mid July.

As I type this I am watching a gentle breeze ruffling the fields of barley over the garden wall.  The heads of the barley are blushing in the early evening sun (it’s not actually early evening – the sun sets later this far north) and the sea is sparkling as it gently nuzzles the bay at the foot of the hill.  I am thinking that setting up a holiday-savings account back in January has turned out to be an excellent idea because, as I sit here, wine glass in hand, watching a hare playing in the field over the road, I am not one bit worried about whether or not we can afford to pay the overdraft this is racking up.  Because, this year, it isn’t.

Good luck with your own holiday plans, and may your breaks be as lovely – and thrifty – as ours this summer.

Tartan Thrifty will be back in two weeks.

Category: Buy Happiness
June 28 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 26

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Make soup
  4. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time each month, I will

  1. Take Stock and plan how to enjoy the things I already have
  2. Review my spending for this month
  3. Write a budget for next month
  4. Share some of what I have left over this month with other people
Category: The Habits
June 27 2014

Try A New Free Activity: A Vintage Bus Ride Around The West End

How To Buy Happiness

How To Buy Happiness

It has been a few months since I started trying a new activity each month.  It was an attempt to Buy Happiness - to invest in doing not having.  Positive psychology research suggests that we get better value for money if we spend it on activities than on material goods, and more satisfaction from variety than volume.  So we have embraced that and aimed to try out one new family activity each month to mix it up a bit.

We have not run out of new things to try and we score extra Thrifty Points for mostly finding free ones.  (Strictly speaking we paid for most of them with our Council Tax already).   During June we went nuts and tried something new every weekend:  the annual West End Festival was on, with a packed programme, much of which was free.   We have had a lot of fun, but this weekend was the winner.

 IMG_9892IMG_9879Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trustbig red bus
runs a free vintage bus service around the West End for one day of the Festival each year and Sunday was The Day.  After a short walk in the sunshine we boarded a lovely old bus and trundled along to the Riverside Transport Museum.  Tiny Tartan was delighted to find a seat right behind the driver’s cab, and watched the driver intently through the window.

 

IMG_9887IMG_9880The bus was full of  happy passengers, the pavements full of smiling pedestrians pointing and taking photos, the streets full of other vintage buses with passengers waving cheerily to each other, and cars hooting hello to their new elderly neighbours.   A mundane trip through familiar streets turned into a big adventure.

 

IMG_9913IMG_9920IMG_9905More classic buses and a gleaming collection of vintage fire engines were parked outside the museum for the day.  Enthusiastic volunteers showed them off and let the kids sit inside, while they chatted to us about what drives them to spend their free time restoring old vehicles.
IMG_9927We spent so long enjoying the fire engines that we never did make it inside the museum and instead boarded another lovely old bus home.  We are already planning to make a whole day of it next year,  with more stops along the bus route to soak up the festival atmosphere.   If we had paid for it, it would have been great value for money.

 

June 24 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 25

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping
Category: The Habits
June 20 2014

Tackle One Big Spend – Cutting the Cost of Running A Car

Old-Christmas-Photo-Card-PedalCar-GraphicsFairy-thumb-150x150A car is a BIG Big Spend.  We spent over two grand last year just on tax, insurance, breakdown cover, repairs, MOT and petrol for the Tartanmobile.  That’s before you even consider the actual purchase price if we had to replace it.

Watched Over By Motoring Pixies

Watched Over By Motoring Pixies

I shop around each year for cheap insurance and breakdown cover, use a reliable local garage instead of an accredited dealership to cut repair costs, pay the year’s tax in full so I get a discount, and use this site from time to time to find the cheapest petrol station.  And if I didn’t entirely trust the garage we use not to take us to the cleaners, I would also take Martin Lewis’s advice and use a council MOT test centre.  I even have a bank account just for car costs and pay into it monthly by direct debit.  Yay for me.  What I don’t  ever do is think about routine maintenance.   Instead I treat my car as though it is watched over by the Motoring Pixies who sprinkle magic dust over it nightly and ensure it will run on diesel and neglect forever.

Routine car maintenance will reduce costly repairs, prolong the life of the car (so we don’t have to pay for a new one) and increase its resale value.   Ignoring routine car jobs is NOT THRIFTY.  So something has to change.  I have scoured the internet this week for advice on taking regular care of my own car like a proper grown up and they all gave the same embarrassing piece of guidance:  everything you need to know is right there in your car manual.  The answer was in my glove box all along.   And if I ever actually cleaned my glove box, I might have found it before now.

So I have read my manual, and Auto Repair And Maintenance For Dummies and condensed it all into a set of monthly to-do lists.  Like this…car maintenance checklist - New Page  My plan is to hang it up in the kitchen and tick tasks off as I do them.  It will niggle at me each time I pass but, as time goes on, it will also encourage me as I see how many tasks I have ticked.  And even if I don’t manage them all,  it will still be more than I did in the previous twelve months.

Click here if you would like to download a copy.

 

June 14 2014

Thrifty Habits: Week 24

Today, and every day, I will

  1. Check my bank balance
  2. Stick the day’s receipts in my high-tech data capture system (a clothes peg) so I can analyse my spending at the end of the month

 This week, and every week, I will

  1. Batch prepare a lunch and put it in the freezer
  2. Batch prepare a snack and put it in the freezer
  3. Make soup
  4. Do one Big Production with Encores
  5. Check what food is in my cupboards, fridge and freezer; plan the week’s meals around what is in there, and write a shopping list before I go shopping

This week, and at this time every month, I will

  1. Tackle one Big Spend
Category: The Habits
June 12 2014

Grow Something: Pea Shoots On The Kitchen Windowsill

IMG_9619It’s been a month since I introduced the Grow Something habit.  I decided to start with pea shoots.  A bag of supermaket pea shoots costs at least a pound.  A bag of  seed peas specially bred for shoots cost me just over two quid.  They contain enough peas to keep us in shoots for years.  And they claim to give fast results – first harvest in just 3 weeks.  (Actually, according to Vertical Veg, I didn’t even need to buy special seed peas –  cooking peas are fine.  When my special peas from the gardening centre finally run out, I will raid the kitchen cupboard.)

I’m going to level with you:  I wasn’t full of hope.  If pea shoots cost that much to buy,  I figured, surely it’s because they are tricky to grow?

IMG_9465Tiny Tartan did all the work.  We started by filling a seed tray with compost (any container a couple of inches deep will do).  Tiny Tartan sprinkled peas on the surface of the compost and then covered them with a second layer.  Then he watered them and put them on the not-very-sunny kitchen windowsill. In a matter of days he could see green shoots cautiously lifting the surface of the compost, then poking through, before gradually unfurling their first little seed leaves.  He took great pleasure in checking their progress and watering them every day.

IMG_9626After three weeks the shoots were 6 inches tall and ready to eat.  Tiny Tartan took a little bit of persuading at this point but eventually agreed to chop the tops off them if we left the rest behind for him to keep growing.  (Which is fine:  they will continue to produce tips for us to harvest for several more weeks.)

IMG_9625We cooked a batch of gnocchi and flaked some lemon and parsley smoked mackerel fillets from Aldi.  Then we tossed the gnocchi and fish with chives from the garden, butter and a generous handful of oatmeal before we added the pea shoots.IMG_9630  Boiled potatoes tossed with butter and oatmeal is a traditional Scottish accompaniment for fish.  Sounds odd, tastes awesome.   Try them with whole smoked mackerel and a green salad.  We were too impatient to wait for potatoes to boil, hence the gnocchi.   It was delicious.  Tiny Tartan  was very proud of himself for having grown the whole family’s dinner.

June 8 2014

What’s for Lunch? A Free Downloadable Planner For A Week’s Packed Lunches

Vintage-Line-Art-Picnic-Basket-GraphicsFairy-150x150I have been batching lunches for a few months now.  At first, I had just one lunch a week stowed in the freezer, then two, then three and by the end of that first month I had several weeks of packed lunches in the freezer, ready to go.  Tartan Boy and Tartan Dad liked their lunches.  I liked the savings –  the money, the time and most of all the hassle.  In the mornings instead of dashing around in a panic I flitted about the kitchen like Snow White packing the dwarves their lunch.  “This is working!”  I thought.

And it was.  The freezer, as it turns out, was not.  “This sandwich,” observed Tartan Boy, “is soggy.”  I checked the freezer.  All the sandwiches were soggy, or stale, or tasted a bit odd.  They had clearly thawed a little and refrozen.   I chucked out the lot and went back to my old, chaotic morning self.  More like Shrek making the dwarves their lunch.

4872131_R_Z001A_UC1196873Defrosting didn’t do the trick.  I bought a fridge/freezer thermometer and was appalled to discover that the unit was running a good fifteen degrees higher than it should be.  Meanwhile our lunch costs shot back up.  The freezer was old and the man in the white goods repair shop shook his head and told me it would cost more to repair than to replace.  I admitted defeat and spent most of the money I had saved by batching lunches for the last few months on a new freezer.   It cost £139 from Argos.  In lunch costs alone it will have paid for itself within a year.  But I still feel a little guilty because jt didn’t occur to me to find a reconditioned one.  Next time.

So now I am ready to re-stock the freezer with thrifty, nutritious and delicious packed lunches.   What's For Lunch?This time I am armed with a handy planner to print out once a month and stick to the fridge door.    It has space for me to note what will be on the menu each day of the week and also (crucially for me) reminders of what types of food to include to make sure each lunch is nutritionally balanced.  It will make me even more organised or at the very least make me look like I am organised.  Which is half the battle.

This month’s menu is below and you can click here to download a blank copy.  Why not comment and tell me what you are packing this month?  I would love to know What’s For Lunch? in your house.  (Mainly so I can steal your ideas…)

 

What's For Lunch in June?