Another Frugal Friday

Another week over and so here’s five more frugal things I’ve done this week…

Ate broccoli stems

This is what you might call ‘nose-to-tail’ eating, but for vegetables instead of meat. For some reason in this country we have a tendency to just cut off the florets and then throw the rest in the bin, whereas the broccoli stems are completely edible. I usually peel them and chop them into thin strips. They taste just like the florets. The stem is probably the heaviest part of the plant so by throwing it away we are putting the most expensive part of our purchase in the bin.

Washing in cold water in summer isn’t so bad

Washed my face in cold water

I used to run the tap until the water became hot and then put in the plug and fill the sink. Now I just run the tap and immediately put the plug in, so it just fills with cold water. With the weather having finally warmed up, the cold water on my face is quite pleasant after a warm night, but I am not sure if I will be able to keep this up when it gets cold again.

Turned the lamp off in the lounge as I wasn’t in there

We have a light on a timer in the lounge. I think Mr Simple believes that it deters burglars when we aren’t here. He was away and I wasn’t using the room, so I turned it off. Simple, but it’s the little things that can make a big difference.

I love poached eggs for breakfast

Used vinegar from pickled onions in poached egg water

This was Mr Simple’s idea. I frequently eat poached eggs for breakfast and have a bottle of vinegar in the cupboard to put in the water. Mr Simple is a lover of pickled onions, although not for breakfast, obviously. When the jar is empty of onions and only vinegar remains, I use it for my poached eggs. It’s like getting two different types of groceries in one jar.

Bought second hand books

Mostly I try to get books out of the library, but they don’t always stock what I want. After reading David Bach’s ‘The Latte Factor’ and ‘The Automatic Millionaire’, I then wanted to read ‘Start Late, Finish Rich’, which at my time of life seems more relevant. Although I ended up buying a copy I only spent just over £3 on the book and delivery, which didn’t seem too indulgent.

Let me know your frugal activities from this week and don’t forget to check out the other posts by Cass, Emma and Becky.

Ideas for relaxing

The by-line of this blog is ‘Ideas for simple living, saving money and being well’ and I feel that recently I haven’t talked enough about being well. With that in mind I decided that I would introduce you to Dr Rangan Chatterjee. Dr Chatterjee is a general practitioner (GP), and you may know him from the BBC One series ‘Dr in the House’. The basic format of the programme was that he would stay with people who were suffering certain medical conditions, which were often caused by their lifestyle. Once he had made his assessment he would then ‘prescribe’ certain activities, foods and therapies in order to treat their conditions. I really liked the approach that he took, looking at the causes of the medical problems rather than just treating the symptoms and helping people to make permanent lifestyle changes to address their difficulties.

I then started following his podcast in which he interviews people from all areas of the wellbeing spectrum, from other doctors to sleep experts and chefs. His interviews often lead me to discover some really interesting individuals and then I can explore their ideas and maybe even buy their books.

Dr Chatterjee has himself written two books. So far, I have only read one, ‘The Four Pillar Plan’. This is an affiliate link (my first one), so if you click on here and purchase the book I will get some money. Alternatively, do as I did and get it out of the library, but if you decide to buy a copy it would be nice if you remember where you heard about it first.

According to him ‘The Four Pillar Plan’ tells you how to:

‘Relax, eat, move and sleep your way to a longer, healthier and happier life. This book is the solution to help you feel better than you ever have before.’

This is a pretty steep promise, but I do think that it lives up to it. The book gives lots of simple and easy-to-implement advice about how to make small changes to your life in order to see big improvements to your health. I got it out of the library at first, but liked it so much that I decided to buy it. I thought that I would take you through the four chapters – relax, eat, move and sleep – over my next few blog posts to give you some tips on how you can improve these areas of your life.

So here goes….

RELAX

According to Dr Chatterjee the health problems of the majority of patients that he sees are driven entirely by their lifestyle. The source of their problem is the way they’re choosing to live and their conditions are often exacerbated by the fact that they’re very busy. In order to address this he suggests the following:

Regular Me Time

Every day, for at least 15 minutes, enjoy some time for you. It must not be an activity that involves any electronic device. Examples of phone-free me-time you might consider are:

  • Having a bath
  • Going for a walk
  • Sitting in a café having a drink
  • Sitting on a park bench relaxing
  • Reading a magazine
  • Reading a book
  • Singing
  • Playing music
  • Gardening
  • Cooking with your favourite album playing, or in silence
Focusing on the positives can improve your state of mind

Keep a gratitude journal

This is a popular tool which I have come across in a lot of literature. Dr Chatterjee suggests that every night before you go to sleep, you write a list of all the things that have gone well for you that day and what you’re grateful for. He believes that this can be really effective at changing your thoughts to a more positive outlook.

Practise stillness every day

I have written about the benefits of meditation before, but that can seem quite daunting. Here Dr Chatterjee has some very simple and easy suggestions for creating a small period of calm in one’s day. He recommends making time to practise stillness for at least five minutes daily. A simple way to create a similar state of mind to that of meditation is through simple breathing exercises. He says that when your out-breath is longer than your in-breath, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which you can think of as your relaxation mode.

Stillness interventions you might think of trying:

  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga breathing practices such as breathing in through left nostril for four, holding for four and breathing out through the right
  • 3-4-5 breathing: breath in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds.
  • Five minutes of colouring in

Reclaim your dining table

Dr Chatterjee states that in the last few years the importance of social connection to physical health has started to become clear. In order to increase our social time with loved ones he recommends eating one meal a day at the table, in company, without your devices. He believes that we’ve evolved as tribal creatures living happily in large groups so the brain interprets social isolation as a major problem. Apparently the levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to be higher in lonely people, so we need to make more social connections with others.

There we have it, chapter one. How do you relax? I find cooking, listening to my favourite comedies on the radio or pottering in the garden are times when I can forget about my work day and feel relaxed.

Let me know your thoughts on his recommendations or maybe try a few of his suggestions and see how you get on. I think in our busy world we all need to find time to relax or and to make the most of the time that we do have to cut off from the pressures of the day.  

Frugal Friday

Well it’s Friday again so here’s yet five more frugal things I’ve done this week. I’m not sure that I am going to be able to come up with five every week, but it’s week three and I am still going, so here we are:

Used butter tubs to freeze leftovers instead of freezer bags

Now this is something that my mother does – you get to 50 and you start turning into your mother. Inevitable I suppose. The plastic tubs are easy to stack in the freezer. I put labels on them so I know what they contain. You always think you’ll recognise what’s in it, but I have found out that that isn’t always true. I only have a limited number of butter tubs, so I still use freezer bags, which I of course wash out. It can be a bit fiddly, but it seems such a waste to throw them away after one use.

Turn radiators off in rooms that you don’t use

Turned the heating down in the spare bedroom once my sister had left

For most of the time we haven’t had the heating on recently, even though summer is only visiting sporadically. With my sister visiting though I thought I had better turn up the heating, well turn it on really. When she left, although I turned the thermostat down back to 19C I also turned the radiator in the spare bedroom off so even if it gets very cold the radiator won’t come on at all.

Ate leftovers from the freezer when Mr Simple was away

You may have seen that June was an expensive month for food, but I did spend one week eating out of the freezer. This was because Mr Simple goes away to work, usually for a day or two, but this time it was for a week, so I made the most of the opportunity to keep food simple and ate leftovers that I had shoved in the freezer. I am less fussy than Mr Simple and happy to live on chilli and rice.

Walked into town

We live just a mile from a small town, but despite that I am often tempted to drive in if the weather is bad. Last Saturday it was lovely and warm so I walked there. I had to carry some heavy hardbacked library books, which wasn’t ideal, but on the way back I only had one small paperback.

Exchanged plants with a friend

This was not something instigated by me, but by my friend, who I know through work. She very kindly offered me two everlasting sweet peas and in exchange I gave her some lemon basil. This is such a good way to get free plants. We have foxgloves in our garden that seed themselves every year. I always pot some seedlings up for the annual village plant sale and this year I also gave some to a friend in the village.

Let me know your frugal activities from this week and don’t forget to check out the other posts by Cass, Emma and Becky.

June Review and Spending

It hasn’t felt like June, mainly because the weather has been so disappointing. Even as I sit here writing this at the end of the month it may be sunny, but it is very windy, which means that t-shirt and shorts are out of the question. Every day that it’s like this a life in France seems more appealing.

This month started with a week in the Yorkshire Dales, which was a fairly frugal holiday in a small cottage, during which we mainly spent time walking.

£4 spent on ice cream

Socially, it was a quiet month – a few drinks with friends in the village one evening and my sister visited for a weekend. We ate at home and I only spent £4, which was on two ice creams for us after a walk along the coastal path. I did spend more than I usually would on desserts from the supermarket, but it wasn’t as much as if we had eaten out.

I had 66 more visitors to the blog, but 109 fewer page views. I don’t know an awful lot about blogging, but I think that means that people take a quick look and then disappear. Obviously not everyone likes what they see, but there we go. Although I read about people having thousands of page views after a few months, this is only a hobby so far and the fact that anyone actually bothers reading it at all seems amazing to me.

So, let’s look at the figures…

We paid £1111.21 off against the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £536.21 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £575.00. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £78,263.13.

Savings are up thanks to the stock market

My savings are at £34,026.57.  It would have been more, but I realised that I made an error in my calculations earlier in the year and had to pay £160 into my stoozing account. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been mostly up this month and by 30th June I had made a profit of £268.04. Woohoo!  I made my usual savings of £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to the Nationwide.

Interest on my Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was £5.19. That makes a total of £17.18 since I opened the account at the end of January. It isn’t a great deal, but it’s free money as long as Tesco is giving me 0% on my credit card.

Food was £154.45 which included an indulgent Waitrose shop for our holiday in the Yorkshire Dales and a delivery from Tesco. I am reading ‘The Complete Tightwad Gazette’ by Amy Dacyczyn and she questions why we shop weekly and buy in small portions. I realised that I come home with a few bottles of beer, a couple of tins of mackerel and a few packets of crisps each week, when I could just buy a month’s supply. So that is what I did. I looked through the receipts from the past few months and made a list of what I usually bought, worked out how much we would need for a month and then Tesco delivered it. I also added in our normal weekly shop of groceries such as milk, vegetables, fruit, etc. The total came to £145.57 which was divided between me and Mr Simple. Therefore this month we went slightly over budget, but that should mean that we don’t spend nearly as much next month. The problem is going to be stopping Mr Simple eating all of the chocolate and crisps before the month is out – I have already had to hide the chocolate – at his request, as he tells me that he can’t resist.

The monthly shop may have been a large expense, but I did have a week of eating out of the freezer, as Mr Simple was away working during the last week the month. My meals were either chilli and rice, veggie burger and salad or pesto and pasta. That was a very frugal week.

Petrol £35.57 – this was very under budget. It’s partly due to being away on holiday when Mr Simple drove. I gave him money towards the petrol, but that came out of the holiday budget. I obviously just haven’t been anywhere.  

Pilates – £24.00 – I missed one week as we were away in Yorkshire, so this was less than usual.

Toiletries –  £6.00 – again very under budget. It included moisturiser and half a bottle of suntan lotion (Mr Simple shared the cost). We had three very old bottles which Mr Simple said weren’t working. He seems to burn more easily than I do, so I splashed out and bought a new bottle. Let’s just hope we get enough sunshine to use it.

Miscellaneous – £55.84, which was more than budgeted as it included money for my nephew’s birthday.

Expenses from bills account – expected regular/annual expenses

Eyebrow wax – £7.50

Hair cut £16.00

Holiday spending £124.96 i.e. balance on the Yorkshire Dales break.

Physio £32.00 – only one session this month.

Italy holiday balance – £220.57. I am going to the Italian Lakes in September with my mother to mark my 50th year. I have paid for most of the holiday out of the allowance I get for using my car for work. I used to receive this on a monthly basis and so just spent it along with the rest of my wages. Now I receive it annually, a bit like a bonus I suppose. I haven’t missed it in my wages. It’s amazing that when amounts are automatically deducted before you see them you just get used to having less. I have decided to use it towards a holiday each year.

Oil – £14.33. My car is burning oil and so I had to buy some to get it topped up. I am having it serviced next month and I am hoping that they can find out what is wrong with it and hopefully it won’t be anything too expensive – fingers crossed.

So there it is. Any observations or suggestions? Tell me how your June was.