Category Archives: February Challenge

Reducing the spending…a whole new year

I haven’t been here for a while but it is good to be back and yes I know I need to update my header for 2014 but that will be coming soon.

Last year I did make a big effort to cut the grocery budget and even though it wasn’t as much as I wanted (£10 a week over my budget of £50) it did make a big difference over the year against my previuos £70-80 week.  The weeks that I managed to write a menu plan in reasonable detail and stick to it helped to lower the costs substantially as did buying items only on offer,  unless we were absolutely desperate.

I work four full days a week so I can’t put heaps of time into this exercise but the new habits I did put in place have continued.  So this year I will be building on last years success.  Of course it will get harder as I am starting from a different place where the many obvious and easy savings have already been tried and tested.  Finding new ways to save money can depend on a number issues and for me eating organic is not negotiable even to save the pennies, whereas trying a different supermarket or method of shopping might be.

For anybody reading this who thinks that being frugal or thrifty is about a choice rather than absolute necessity they are quite correct in my case, it is a conscious choice.    Even though we had a 25% wage cut for the last 3 years we are not surviving on the bread line like some households – however, I would say that there is no room for frivolous spending or throwing money away needlessly, especially as retirement is looming on the horizon and we want to make sure we have enough put by not to be a burden on anyone else, including the state.  We also want to be able to enjoy our older years when they arrive.

Another reason for the mindful thrifting is I hate waste or buying for the sake of  – it seems like an insult to all the starving people in the world to be throwing any food stuff away.  My main and only reason for throwing food away would be for the safety aspect and by this I mean if I wasn’t sure if a food could still be eaten beyond the stated use by date without undue harm.

I will often stretch some foods beyond the use by unless it has mayonnaise in it like the deli pots of coleslaw then I take extra care.  Fruit and veg dates I completely ignore and I just use the visual test – if it is shrivelled and bearing mould it becomes compost.  This is not often though as I tend to make soup with any remains from the week.

Planning menus wisely does overcome this tendency to end up with a pile of items in the fridge at the end of a week that have only had a spoonful removed and have since exceeded their use by and beyond.

So of all the ways of saving on the grocery spending I am going to concentrate on the menu planning as I believe this is the one thing that promotes  both a balanced meal and big savings on food waste and food cost.

Having said all that I ended up in Sainsburys tonight without a list or a plan, the shopping expedition was a feat in itself, battling not with snow today but with the strong winds and lashing rain.  Sainsburys had to close off their automatic doors at one point.  I had no choice but to do a bit of a trolley dash so I could get on my way home.

I decided tonight was not the night to be exceptionally frugal with the groceries and although I was by no means stockpiling I made sure that we have a good stock of items to tide us over should the snow return.  Bare cupboards are fine if you don’t get marooned.

So here is the grocery spend £62.01 to be precise less £13.50 reward points – I found a few items on offer – to the right of the photo.

Food shopping

The Bargains

  • The Soya milk was a good buy 3 for £3,
  • Oatibix flakes £2 a box,
  • 2 x Spelt rolls reduced to £0.69,
  • Vivaldi potatoes reduced to £1,
  • 2 loaves  for £1.50,
  • cheese 2 for £4.50,
  • Milk 2 for £3.

So now I must set to and plan the menus around the shopping for this week – in fact I hope I can stretch this amount of food to a fortnight or maybe longer.

How is your food shopping / meal planning going so far this year?


February Challenge

Plans for Spending and Food Shopping





As I have now completed Carlas January Challenge (thank you Carla for getting us all motivated and taking the time to organise this) I will replace the time spent by concentrating on my Menu Plans and seasonal eating as well as the ongoing de-clutter

I need to have a clear idea of what is in season as I feel I am a little out of touch since I stopped growing our own veg and also it is so easy to forget when you can buy most produce year round in the supermarket.  I can also check out the prices in the supermarket so that I can answer my question ‘is the seasonal food really cheaper than the non-seasonal produce flown in from abroad’?

I have other reasons for wanting to eat seasonally in that I am all in favour of getting back to what is natural and that is one of the reasons I go for Organic because it is grown in a less artificial environment and without nasty pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

So after a little research on this site Eat Seasonably  where you can print off a handy little chart and Eat the Seasons I have found that the produce


  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Shallots
  • Swede
  • Turnips
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Lemons
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Rhubarb
  • Brazil and walnuts

Now I can hear a few mutterings of why do I continue to buy in the supermarket?  Partly convenience as I can do all my shopping after work on a Thursday and this saves petrol but also in my part of the country which is mainly dairy farms and sheep rearing we have a scarcity of anything that can be called a Farm Shop or farmers market and although the produce is fresh it is not organically grown.

I could on the other hand have an Organic box delivered from the wholefood shop in town but I would need to get my act together on this one as they are surprise boxes and I believe you have to plan your menu around the contents.

So one step at a time – I will firstly get into the habit of shopping to my plan and making the majority of my purchases seasonal before venturing into something more complicated and time consuming.

According to the above list then we will be settling down to lashings of Leek and Potato soup sprinkled with Walnuts accompanied by Orange marmalade and a Rhubarb Fool for dessert!

February Goals for Spending and Food Shopping

  • Buy 80% Seasonal Produce
  • Use the seasonal guide to plan each weeks menu incorporating any use up foods from cupboard clearance
  • Shop by menu plan
  • Continue to avoid any waste of fresh foods
  • Keep to the £50 or under for weekly main shop
  • Keep to £10 weekly personal allowance


Financial Plans





January was a tight month but we have made it through with careful budgeting and a no spend policy.  We had a trip to Shrewsbury and a visit form my daughter to allow for but we were as economical as the circumstances would allow.  I am sure we could have done even better with even more thought and planning but as they say practice makes perfect and as we will have many weekends away this year visiting my relatives and going to Scotland I should get better at it as we go through the year.

If you have been keeping up with my blog you will know that we did purchase a set of Alex Ikea drawers for our Craft come Office room as a guarantee that they would not be discontinued just as we were about to buy them, and also a draught strip for the Front Door.  I consider them to be wise purchases and we are already reaping the benefits of both.

We have yet to finalize our plans for February so our finances will be based around the jobs we do in the house and any visits to Scotland and relatives that we decide on.

A word about our biggest monthly outlay – the mortgage.

I spend quite a bit of time on other blogs and for many of them the main goal is to reduce their mortgage.  We are no different in that we use both passive income and earnings income to generously overpay each month but as we are on quite a beneficial mortgage rate at the moment (tracked at 2% over the base rate currently 0.5% making it only 2.5%) and guaranteed for the life time of the mortgage this causes us a dilemma.

In real terms this means that we are better to put any excess money firstly into ISA accounts that attract a rate over this amount and then ordinary savings where the net is also above 2.5%.  If mortgage rates then rise we can transfer any easy access money immediately over to our mortgage which is also penalty free for overpayment.

So our goals will not be to directly pay off our mortgage with all our saved monies but rather to increase our savings and with the addition of compound interest as well will subsequently increase our passive income and this will eventually be used to pay off our mortgage.

Although it is good to see that mortgage figure come down each month it is not beneficial to ignore what we can get in savings.  So my plan is to estimate what my outstanding mortgage figure would look like if we reduced the mortgage using the earmarked savings for this purpose.

February Goals for Financial matters

  • Continue in the No spend mode
  • Shop around for good investments – check interest rates available
  • Get new up to date pension advice
  • Learn more about Immediate Vesting Personal Pensions


De-cluttering Plans

Clothes heap

On the De-cluttering side I have managed to clear out the food cupboards, fridges and freezer and I am using up any old foods or items of mad moment purchase that had worked their way to the darkest corner of my shelves.

My toy boxes and Treasures are all in order, together with my planner and handbag diary that have been updated.  Barbie and Sindy have had a makeover and all their glad-rags washed and pressed so now it is my turn!  I must get my wardrobe in order and if there is any time left after dealing with the heap of clothes I will address the heap of photographs we have accumulated – (some our own and some acquired from packing up mum-in-law’s home) and the tedious job of shredding the dead financial papers from 2011 and replacing them with 2012 papers to archive.

February Goals for De-Cluttering

  • Completely go through all clothes and footwear I own, Summer and Winter, and anything in between
  • Finances – Discard and shred old archive papers in loft.  Archive last years Household Folder.
  • Photographs – put old ones into the albums with dates etc and go through Mum-in-laws photos to extract ‘keepers’ – duplicates and copies to sister-in-law

There I have set out my stall as they say so I am counting on all of you to hold me to account!!