Creating Daily Pleasures

notepad with Sunday written on it
Do you just live for the weekend?
living for the weekend

The habit of living just for the weekend is something that I encounter on a regular basis. A belief that pleasures can only be enjoyed on Saturdays and Sundays or when we’re away on holiday.

There seems to be an expectation that Monday mornings are something to be endured and going back to work after a period of leave something to be dreaded. I think that it is sad to go through life living for only two days of the week or wishing away your life until your next vacation.

squares of chocolate
Do you eat too much to cope with the stress of daily life?
Overindulging

How are your weekdays? Do you feel as though you just struggle through them, wishing each day away until you get to Friday evening when you feel that you can actually enjoy yourself? When you come home at the end of the day do you feel that you need a large glass of wine to help you cope with life? Natalie Bacon calls this ‘overing’ e.g. overeating, over drinking, even over ‘working out’. Our thoughts about our day cause us to feel negative emotions. In order to deal with those emotions we indulge in one of these ‘overing’ behaviours, hoping that they will make us feel better. Unfortunately we all know the truth about that hope. By the next morning you’ll either have a headache from too much red wine or feel guilty about all the chocolate you ate and promise yourself you’ll start that diet next week.

cup of tea on top of books
Want to spend more time reading?
add small pleasures to every day

Maybe I’m lucky that  I enjoy my day to day life. Like everyone I have good and bad days, but on the whole I have a nice life. Yes, it involves going to work, which can sometimes be stressful, as well as doing chores on the evenings and weekends, but everyday there are things to enjoy. I believe that we can all find small pleasures to add to our every day so that we have things to look forward to on a daily basis and not just on weekends.

Try making a list of all the things that you enjoy doing. Maybe it’s listening to music or learning from a podcast. Do you want to enjoy a quiet cup of tea in bed before the kids get up? Enjoy curling up on the sofa with a good book? Now look at how you are spending your time. Are there opportunities to fit those small pleasures into your day? It’s not always about finding more time, which can be hard to do. Instead of listening to that DJ drivelling on each morning when you’re driving to work try listening to a podcast instead. The thing that I love about podcasts is that they can be very inspirational. You not only learn, but they give you the motivation to make changes in your life. And, they’re free.

Add inspirational podcasts to your daily commute
podcast ideas

I’ve recently started listening to Everyday Courage by Jillian Johnsrud. She is a mother of six children who has achieved financial independence. She realises how precious time is and so her podcast episodes are short. If you are interested you can listen to Jillian’s story on this episode of Afford Anything. Another good one is The Before Breakfast Podcast by Laura Vanderkam, the queen of time management. Laura gives you great ideas for managing your time in just five minute slots.

shift your day

Getting up earlier in the morning can be a way of finding time for yourself. Maybe you think that this isn’t possible as you already don’t get enough sleep. Have a look at what you’re doing with your time in the evening. Are you just flopping on the sofa in front of the TV because you’re too tired to do anything else? Do you fall asleep whilst watching your favourite programme? If so you might as well be in bed. Do you think that you can’t go to bed before 10pm or maybe even that seems early to you? Remember, there aren’t any rules about what time you retire every evening. You can make your own rules. Instead of spending an hour asleep on the sofa every night think about what you could do with an extra hour every morning.

Mr Simple and I always used to wake up every day at 6.30am, but in order to find time to jog in the morning I changed it to 6am. Initially Mr Simple complained, but he has now got used to it. The knock-on impact is that we tend to go to bed earlier. By the time 9.30pm comes around I’m usually thinking about going upstairs. Again, Mr Simple protested at this at first, but more often than not he now joins me in bed before 10pm.

green and white iron
Can you make everyday chores more interesting?
pair chores with pleasures

Are there pleasures that you could pair with your chores to make them more bearable and maybe even create something that you look forward to? When I make dinner on a weekday evening this is usually accompanied by a comedy or drama from Radio Four Extra. Every time that I jog on my treadmill I watch videos on YouTube. When I make my fortnightly call to my mother I spend my hour and a half’s conversation doing the ironing as well.

If you just live for the weekend or your holidays, my homework for you today is to have a think about how much time you spend planning your holidays or your weekend nights out, as opposed to making your ordinary days more enjoyable.  Instead of just living weekend to weekend or holiday to holiday could you put more effort in to creating that same anticipation when you wake up each morning? How could you make your days more enjoyable by adding little bits of pleasure? I’d love to know your ideas or if you’re struggling to think of how to make your days better then let me know and maybe I can give you some ideas.

Lessons from the older generation

A week away with my Mum made me realise I can learn a lot from her

In September 2019 I went away to Italy with my mum. We stayed on Lake Maggiore, which was fabulous, but it is certainly not a frugal holiday destination. We saw luxurious hotels (although unfortunately weren’t staying in one) and a classic car show, sponsored by a Swiss bank. Amidst all this excess we found a couple of ways to save a bit of money.

When the restaurant wouldn’t give us tap water we brought our own
bring your own

As is usually the case on the continent, tea and coffee wasn’t provided in the room. You could get it in the bar, but obviously at a cost. In order to save money Mum brought a small kettle, two cups and some tea bags with her. This enabled us to retire to our balcony overlooking the lake of an evening and have a mint tea. It also allowed us to have a cup of tea in bed in the morning, something which us Brits can’t live without. There was a fridge in the room and so we could keep milk in there for the morning cuppa.

The restaurant in the hotel refused to provide tap water at dinner. When I asked for it I was told that they don’t have tap water. I am not sure how they washed the dishes or boiled the potatoes. I didn’t bother arguing with them and after the first night we just brought our own. Mum had a small plastic bottle which she could fill and take down in her handbag. My water bottle is rather large and wouldn’t fit in my handbag. Mum suggested keeping the small wine bottle we had from dinner, which had a screw top, and then I filled that with water from the bathroom tap and took it down to dinner with me. Other guests were spending €4 a time on a bottle of water.

Mum bought a few of these in the market, but otherwise we saved our pennies
choose what you want to spend money on

As well as saving money on drinks I think that we also resisted buying things for the sake of it. We went to a market one morning and whereas previously I would have bought something just if I liked the look of it, as I didn’t need of anything I didn’t spend a penny. Mum bought two wooden spoons for cooking, for a grand total of €5.

We did spend a lot of money on food, partly because the evening meals in the hotel weren’t very special and as Mum said, we wanted to sample real Italian food. I feel that we spent money on experiences, which included all of the optional trips of the holiday, and a nice lunch everyday, rather than buying more possessions.

Mum always made our clothes when we were kids
learning from the older generation

This was the first occasion that Mum and I had spent time together since I discovered FI/RE. We live 180 miles apart and although we speak on the phone once a fortnight, we only see each other a couple of times a year. One of those is always a week’s holiday together. Often we go away in the UK, but as it was my 50th birthday this year we thought that we would do something special, hence the Italy trip.

Spending time with my mum made me realise that she is a fabulous example of how to be frugal. Firstly, she is a great fan of charity shops and whenever we are away in the UK she always wants to go into charity shops and will often tell me that what she is wearing was bought in a charity shop. In respect of food, she grows fruit and veg in her garden, she cooks from scratch and she and my father rarely go out to eat. She can sew, so makes her own curtains, tablecloths and in the past, her children’s clothes, when we were young.

As well as her thriftiness, she is also a great example of how to set up a side hustle. My mum is not very academic and never had a career. When my siblings and I were young she stayed at home to look after us, doing part time work from home so that she and my dad could make ends meet. When she was 50, her father died and left her some money. It wasn’t a fortune, but she used it wisely. She bought two rundown properties and renovated them, doing a lot of the decorating herself. The rental income provides her with a pension so that she doesn’t have to rely solely on the state pension.

Listening to our parents can be like going back to school
modern ‘needs’

All of this made me wonder what we could all learn from our parents. Although my mum never went out to work until I was a teenager I never felt that we were poor. We always had food on the table, my parents owned their own house, we had two cars, albeit second hand ones and we went on holiday every year, although sometimes this was camping and we always stayed in Britain. I find it strange nowadays that both parents often seem to work full time and an oft-used phrase is that ‘she had to go back to work’.

I am certainly not advocating for women to stay at home, as I am a feminist and glad that society has moved on from that view, but to me it seems that both parents only need to work full time nowadays to fund the extravagant lifestyles that we lead. New cars, the latest iphone, a TV in every room, weekly takeaways and meals out, designer handbags and clothes. The desire for all of these takes parents away from their children.

I had a great childhood, but it didn’t feature any of these things and I realise that my mum gave us a great life because she found ways to make the best of what we had. I do feel that today’s generation could learn a lot from their parents and grandparents about what is actually important in life and instead of working just to keep up with the Joneses, choose to work less and enjoy more time with their family

conclusion

So if you’re reading this and you’re middle-aged, what could you learn from your parents and if you’re in your twenties, maybe you need to have a chat with grandma and granddad and see how they have managed their money over the years.

What are your views? As someone who doesn’t have children am I being harsh? Do you feel pressured to work full time so that your kids don’t miss out on possessions when really you would like to be at home more?

Stretching the Food Budget

Bowl of tomato stew
Make easy meals that you can put in the freezer
do a monthly shop

As you know from this previous post, in an effort to help with the food budget and meal planning I am ordering our staples once a month from Tesco. This includes items such as butter, cheese, juice, milk, flour, oil, beer and crisps. Then I top up each week with perishables.

When I first started doing this I was still buying foods such as milk and juice every week. I have since realised that juice lasts for about a month and milk is perfectly fine even after its been frozen. My weekly shop is therefore pretty much confined to fruit and veg, along with cold meats for Mr Simple. I have to say that this arrangement is going really well and has completely taken the stress-factor out of the weekly shop. I usually whizz around the supermarket in about 15 minutes every week.

meal plan for a whole month

The second tactic that I am using to reduce the food budget is by meal planning for a whole month. Almost all of the articles that I read about meal planning recommend doing it on a weekly basis, but I think that it only takes a little longer to plan meals for a month as it does for a week.

Having a plan for dinner is particularly good when I am going to be late home. For me late is 6pm, which I know for many of you is early. We have dinner about 7pm and so 6pm is the latest time when I like to start thinking about cooking. It’s so much easier when I know what I am going to cook. Throughout the month I include recipes where I can make double the quantity and freeze the left overs. If you want some ideas of the type of meals that I freeze you can find a few here.

the food budget

I allow £140 for my part of the food budget. We don’t split it 50:50 as Mr Simple eats chicken and ham in his sandwiches, which tend to be expensive, as well as he drinks more alcohol than I do. Therefore most of the bill gets divided in half and then we each pay for the specific items that only we eat. For me it’s avocados – I did give them up for a while as they are expensive, but I do really like some with my eggs for breakfast.

Doing the monthly shop obviously means we spend the majority of the budget in one lump sum, so when you shop this way it can feel like you’ve spent all of the food budget at the beginning of the month. There’s no need to panic though, because if you’ve planned well, all the meals you have in the freezer will carry you through until the end of the month.

pot of ice cream in an empty freezer
You should have more than this in your freezer
making the most of your freezer

We have two freezers. One is the bottom half of the fridge freezer and the other one is just a small upright freezer that belonged to my great aunt before she died. During the first half of the month I spend time filling the freezer with the meals that I cook. Most recipes are for four people and so I cook the whole amount and then as we are only two people, half of the meal gets put in the freezer. I used to use freezer bags, but now I mainly put food into old spreadable butter tubs. This is a trick that my mother uses, which I stupidly ignored until I discovered frugality.

repeating meals

Although I say that I meal plan for a whole month at a time, really you only have to think up ideas for half the month. This is because you will cook double the amount that you need and put the rest in the freezer. You therefore have to be prepared to eat something twice in a month. Not all meals lend themselves to being frozen, so you’ll probably need to come up with recipes for slightly more than half the month. In an emergency we have frozen pizzas, something that I’ve mentioned before and an idea which I took from Mrs Frugalwoods. Unlike the other items these are not homemade, but useful in an emergency.

maximise your freezer space

I have suggested to Mr Simple that we buy another freezer which we could put in the garage. He has agreed, but needs to do some work on tidying up the garage. With all of the work on the house that he is doing the garage is being used to store materials. Maybe we might get around to purchasing one by next summer. 

Hopefully has given you some ideas. How do you organize your shopping and meal planning? Please let me know your ideas for reducing your food budget, meal planning and taking the stress out of cooking and shopping.

Monthly Meal Planning

Last month I mainly bought tins of tomatoes, beer and crisps in my online order

Do you struggle with deciding what to eat each evening? Maybe you plan for the week, but find it hard to make time each weekend to do this. Find out why I moved to monthly meal planning…

Buying for a whole month

In my June review I mentioned that I had been reading ‘The Complete Tightwad Gazette’ by Amy Dacyczyn and that as a result I had decided to make a monthly online grocery order for July. I have to say that went well. I mainly ordered tins, beer and crisps in bulk.

Long use by dates

I decided that I would do the same thing for August and started questioning whether I could actually buy more than beer and tinned tomatoes in bulk. Being mainly a vegetarian household we eat quite a lot of cheese, such as paneer, feta and halloumi. I then wondered what the use by dates might be on those and when I looked at the ones we had in the fridge the shortest date was in two months’ time, with paneer lasting for four months and halloumi for a year. Why then do I buy them a couple of times a month when I go to the store? I therefore added them to the monthly order – two halloumi, two paneer and three feta. We are unlikely to eat these all this month, but they will last into next month and I can then just top up next month.

Our juice will last for a month

As well as cheese I found that the orange juice that we buy, which is in the fridge section and not long life, will last for a month. We only drink juice at the weekends so I bought just two cartons. I was a bit worried about the space in the fridge, but in fact it wasn’t too bad as we do have a large one. If we run out of juice this month I will buy three next month.

The pros and cons

So far, the benefits of a monthly online order are spending less time in the supermarket and not having to carry several large bags of heavy shopping when I do have to go to the store. The downsides are that they charge for delivery, although I only spent £1.50 on this. The arrangement they have may not suit everyone as in order to get such a cheap slot I had to choose a long window during which they might deliver. Then, on the day of the delivery, they sent a text message giving details of the actual hour during which they would arrive. As Mr Simple is home a lot of the time this is fine for us, but may not work for everyone. For some reason they also charged us 40p for bags. For my July order the items just came loose in the large plastic crates and we had to empty them and give the crates back to the delivery driver. This time the food was all in plastic bags in the plastic crates. This isn’t great for the environment and when I do the shopping myself I take reusable bags with me. Apparently you can give the bags back to the driver and I have kept them and plan to do this for our next delivery. I need to look into why we had so many bags this time as I wouldn’t want it to be a regular thing.

Local veggies

We are fortunate to have lots of vegetables growing in the garden and at the moment we have lots of courgettes, some green beans, cucumbers and the tomatoes are just starting to go red. Therefore, when it comes to the weekly shop I only need to buy a few veggies and then fruit, milk and ham and chicken for Mr Simple. I think I’ve said before that a woman in the village has a small market garden where she grows vegetables. Every week she sends out a text message letting you know what she has, you order what you want and then collect it from her on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Along with our veg from the garden, this means that we aren’t buying too much from the supermarket at the moment. At this time of year our food miles for veggies are nearly zero.

The move to monthly meal planning

For quite a while now I have struggled with meal planning. I read all of those frugal blogs saying that you need to do a weekly plan and go to the supermarket knowing what you want i.e. with a list. Now, I am good at that, as I always make a list, but I am not good at planning what we are going to eat before I go. I just buy a variety of vegetables and then our usual staples. The trouble with this method is that some recipes call for ingredients that we don’t ordinarily have and so I end up popping out to the local shops for it or just not cooking what could be a really nice recipe.

A bullet journal is a really adaptable planner

This month, having done a monthly shop, I just thought to myself, why not change to monthly meal planning. So that’s what I did. I think that it partly came about as Mr Simple and I have started the 5:2 diet this week and I had to plan what we were going to eat on those days. I also have a lovely bullet journal which lends itself readily to drawing out a nice table. I knew that we would have a lot of courgettes over the month, so I searched in my cookery books for as many courgette recipes as I could find and sprinkled them throughout the month. Even if you don’t have veggies growing in the garden you may want to think about what is in season as that may be on offer in the supermarket. I then added the fasting day recipes and a few curry ones, some from a new book that I found in the library by Dan Toombs, called ‘The Curry Guy Veggie’, and that was it. Surprisingly it didn’t take me much longer than doing a weekly meal plan.

Now, just because we have a plan we don’t have to stick to it rigidly, but use it as a guide. I have already swapped some of the recipes from one day to another, but I have to say I feel so much less stressed about what we are going to eat every evening. When it comes to the weekly shopping list, I can look at what I’ve put down for us to eat over the next week and buy the extra ingredients that we wouldn’t usually have.

So, how do you do your shopping? Do you meal plan? Have you tried monthly meal planning? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more ideas for simple living, saving money and being well, on your road to financial independence don’t forget to subscribe. You’ll get my ‘Frugal Tips’ sheet as a thank you for signing up.

Treat Yourself

Photo by Viktoria Alipatova on Pexels.com

We had some friends for lunch yesterday. They were passing through on their way to a week’s holiday with family and stopped by to say hello. Their suggestion was to go out for lunch, but I kept to our current frugal principles and offered to make lunch at home. We have a lovely house and a fairly nice, albeit very much ‘in progress’, garden. A much better place to eat than a dark pub on a bright spring day, and much cheaper.

During lunch Mr Simple surprised me. When I talk about FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) I don’t always think that he is listening, but yesterday he mentioned it to our friends and asked me to explain it to them. We talked about our staycation in March and how we had found pleasure in being at home. We also talked about changes that we have made to save money. One of them being that since we have become more frugal we are cooking much less fish (I am pescatarian and Mr Simple is a meat eater), so our meals are mainly vegetarian.

Our friends, who live in London, invited us down to stay and we talked about the great variety of restaurants there are in the capital, as compared to where we live. As well as economising on our home cooked food, we don’t go out to eat very often and that is when Mr Simple gets to eat meat. One would expect that he has been missing it, as now he only gets ham or chicken sandwiches, but never meat for a main meal. Some months, we don’t go out to eat at all, therefore his meat consumption at dinner is zero.  Surprisingly, Mr Simple shared than going out less often means that he enjoys it more when we do. He said that it feels like a treat.

So how do you define a treat? According to my little Oxford dictionary it is something that gives great pleasure. So, what makes it a ‘great’ pleasure? Back to the dictionary and one possible definition of ‘great’ is ‘more than ordinary’.

And that’s it isn’t it? It’s not something that you have every day. It is something that is out of the ordinary or extraordinary – unusual or remarkable; out of the usual course of everyday life. When you have your treat every day, or at least several times a week, that event doesn’t stand out anymore and therefore it’s not something to look forward to with anticipation.

Pleasures have become the mundane, the every day.

Having things less often means that you take more pleasure in them. In this day and age, we have forgotten what a treat is, as we treat ourselves every day.

In some ways I feel sorry for those who treat themselves every day. Their pleasures have lost their sparkle, their thrill. Maybe they have to spend more and more money to get that same feeling that I get when I buy a latte from a coffee shop once a month.

So, what treats do you have in your life? Or are there things that used to be treats, but aren’t anymore? How about giving them up for a bit and then just letting yourself have them occasionally? Try it for a little while and see how you feel when you do finally get that treat. You might just enjoy it all the more.