#FrugalFebruary – 10 Frugal Fun ideas

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Inspired by an email I received from reader, Wendi, Here’s a post on Frugal Fun. After all, the weekend is coming!

Even in frosty February*, here is a list of 10 things you can enjoy when you want to be frugal but still have a great time. These may be especially useful to you, as half-term approaches.

 

Voluntary simplicity

Those of us who belong to what Juliet Schor** calls ‘The Voluntary Simplicity Movement’ will naturally tend towards activities that limit spending. This means taking the ‘slow’ route to activities that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive.

Here’s my list!

10 Frugal Fun ideas

Get outside

Enjoy some fresh air, get some Vitamin D on board and get that heart pumping! Here in the UK, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy access to open country via public footpaths or public rights of way. Walking Britain has some fabulous walks. Check out the ones in your area.

Amusing museums

Modern-day museums are streets ahead of the latter-day, stuffy homes of dusty relics!

Last year, I was really inspired when I visited home of the codebreakers, Bletchley Park. Closer to home is Coventry Transport Museum whose admission is FREE!

Reading groups

Love to read? Start  (or join) a reading group. Our local library lends sets of books for reading groups or you could borrow a book online to discuss with your group. The group could be physical or virtual. What about a virtual group for aspiring minimalists?!

Libraries

In this era of Kindle, iPad and Amazon, it’s often that we forget about one of the last bastions of civility: the library. Take some time, stop and read, borrow some books to take home and discover new authors or topics. Libraries’ resources are often more plentiful than just books. What else can you borrow?

Meet-up

Meet up with a pal, or make new friends via local meet-up groups. Check out Meetup; some groups offer free classes or have activities you can attend for FREE.

Rediscover a love of music

There are times in our lives when music is a constant backdrop. I remember summer 1990 when I was living in London and Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U was topping the charts and street entertainers belted out the Stones’ Angie

So, relive your youth by checking out Spotify or another digital music service. Better still, make your own music!

Bake

Baking or whipping up something special is a lovely thing to do. Even better, if you can get the kids involved, you’ll make something tasty and enjoy some time together. Don’t forget, it’s Pancake Day soon!

Treasure Trails

Adopt the role of tourist in your own area and enjoy a new perspective on familiar places. Check out Treasure Trails online for ideas.

Film Clubs

Newly-released films are expensive to see at the cinema. Instead, why not establish a film club at home? Bring friends together, make some homemade popcorn and watch your favourite movie. My local second-hand bookshop runs films nights; these are a great way to enjoy a movie-night experience without the attendant costs of going to a movie-theatre.

Stay in bed

Whether a duvet-day for one, or a snuggle with your loved one, get the newspapers or your favourite book, enjoy some tea or whatever you fancy.

Whatever you’re doing, enjoy the weekend and check out my upcoming blog post in the #FrugalFebruary series: next up, we’ll be talking about habits.

And if you’re a regular visitor to the blog, do join our community to receive unique content and news items straight to your inbox. 

Notes

*If it’s sunny where you are, substitute any other (more pleasant) weather-related adjective for “frosty”

** Juliet Schor is an Academic and author of books including The Overspent American

#FrugalFebruary – 8 Tips to Minimize Everyday Disposables

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If we return to the true meaning of the word ‘frugal’, it’s about being sparing in the use of precious resources. This is especially true when it comes to everyday items whose repeated use impacts on the environment. So, here are 8 tips to minimize everyday disposables, as we continue our #FrugalFebruary series. 

Editor’s note:

This is a guest post, written by Cheryl Magyar from Handcrafted Travellers

8 Tips to Minimize Everyday Disposables

Everywhere we look we can find areas to minimize in our lives.

From the kitchen to the closet, most of us have enough stuff to keep us going for a year or longer without having to buy anything new (food and toilet paper aside), so why do we keep accumulating?

If we take a good look around our homes and start to analyse our clutter, it may appear that our stuff is, or was at one time, more ‘wants’ than ‘needs’. We frequently fall, all too easily, for impulse purchases and keep things in our store for that one day when we may need it. In any case, everyday disposables are partly to blame for the random clutter in our homes.

We are, often unknowingly, creating an ecological mess for the sake of using disposable plastic, a material that breaks fairly easily and will definitely outlast our lifetime. Most plastics purchased today will still be here 450 to 1,000 years later, ultimately ending up in bits and pieces in our rivers, lakes and oceans.

So, limiting, or even eliminating plastic is a serious factor to consider whether you are furnishing your home, creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe or simply going about day to day life.

If everyday disposables have your eco-conscience in a quandary, imagine how you could make the green switch to using longer lasting, quality products, many of which are recyclable.

8 areas where you can minimize everyday disposables

1. Bottled water – it comes in plastic, but if it came in a glass bottle would you be buying, and willing to carry, the same amount every week, or is it a convenience to sip every time you get thirsty? Truth be told, water fountains have gone out of fashion, yet we should all have access to clean drinking water, so where can we get it? Well, most of us still have access to water via the tap and it is only a matter of habit to carry our own water bottles made from glass or stainless steel. If you are out and about, chances are you can go without, until you get home, that is.

2. Plastic sandwich bags – they are reusable up to a point, but how many of us actually take the time and have the patience to wash and dry a flimsy bag? Food has been carried since the beginning of lunch and with human ingenuity it should not be such a difficult decision in modern times. Wrapping our meals in leaves is not the only green option. Stainless steel containers come in a plethora of shapes and sizes and a glass jar is perfect for carrying a salad to work in a pinch, just remember to put the dressing on the bottom and turn it upside down to coat the greens before eating your sustainably packaged meal.

3. Plastic cutlery – yes, plastic finds a way of showcasing its disposability again, yet in the realm of cutlery there are so many alternatives. Set an example and bring your own metal forks, knives and spoons when you know you will be dining out in a place that uses disposable stuff. Nowadays there are biodegradable and compostable utensils made from a variety of materials: bamboo, millet, corn and wheat. These are novel disposables, so it is wise to use them with limitations, keeping in mind that whatever you can use for longer is best.

4. Paper towels – great for a quick, hygienic clean-up and in many instances are not such a bad thing to have for accidental spills in the kitchen, so long as you do not take advantage of their presence. A true eco-alternative is reusable cloth, perhaps hemp, linen or organic cotton. You can buy them at the store, and if you have a sewing machine or simply have some DIY energy, thread and needles, then you can make your own cloth napkins and wipes at home. Stored on the counter or tucked away in a drawer they will never be too far away, just remember to wash/dry them as you use them. As a bonus, you can match the colour of the cloth to the interior of your home, becoming more than practical item, they can add an element of design as well.

5. Tissues – of the Kleenex, blow-your-nose, wipe-your-makeup kind. The convenience of small packages should set off alarm bells if you are wanting to minimize your impact on material production. Packaging waste will always be with us to some extent. In the meantime, however, would you consider blowing your nose with a fabric handkerchief?

6. Cosmetics – while not everyday disposables on their own, they do contribute to much cotton and chemical waste if the products you are using come from questionable origins. Try making your own facial cloths or consider the experience of living life with less makeup to reduce your demand. If you aren’t ready to give it up completely, make it a commitment instead to search for ethical brands that use only ecologically certified ingredients, such as mineral pigments. You could also use coconut oil liberally as a makeup remover and moisturizer.

7. Shopping bags – in some places you have to pay for plastic bags if you forgot your own. Again, it all comes down to creating good habits. Have a set of cloth bags and choose different weights of fabric for each sack, so that you can carry ten kilos of potatoes from the market or have one small and light enough to fit in your pocket.

8. Coffee and tea – we all drink it because, like water, it is essential to life! But it does create waste one way or another. If you stick to making it at home, you are already ahead of the game – you can use a stainless-steel strainer for loose leaf tea or slow brew your coffee. Whatever you do, avoid those non-recyclable coffee pods. When you do go out for a treat, take your own mug wherever possible, refuse plastic straws and never take more than you need.

Challenge the notion that plastic is the only option – it always has an alternative! It may have a higher initial cost, but the environmental benefits or reusable items quickly outweigh the convenience of a one-time use object any day.

About the writer:

Cheryl Magyar is an eco-minimalist. She lives out of a backpack and currently resides in the Romanian countryside with her husband and daughter – together they are Handcrafted Travellers. Subscribe to their newsletter here.

#FrugalFebruary – Food and groceries

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The first blog post in this series looks at one our most significant spending categories: food and groceries.
After your mortgage (or rent) and any car payments you might have,  your food and grocery bill may be one of the largest items in your budget. But how can we combine our desire to eat healthily with our quest to keep costs down?

How we do it

First of all, eating healthily comes at a price, so don’t beat yourself up if your grocery bill is one of your highest expenses. We work hard to stick to our budget each month. There are some things you can do, however.

Shop online

Although I’ve previously written about slow shopping (which I do enjoy), for this significant spending category, I shop online with my recipe book in front me.

Walk around the kitchen and look in the cupboards before ordering anything. You may have enough of a particular item or have forgotten that you’d stocked up.

I typically buy what I need to make 3 or 4 different recipes (plus one dessert or sweet snack such as energy bites). After that, I improvise with what I have around.

When your online basket is complete, check if you can substitute anything you have selected for a cheaper version. Maybe you don’t really need something at all? Keep an eye on the way the value of an item is listed (i.e. £ per 100g or £ per 1kg). These aren’t always comparable. Offers on things you normally buy are worth having, but don’t be tricked into buying something you don’t need if it’s going to end up wasted.

Next time you shop, check what you still have. That way, you can make new recipes with existing supplies just by supplementing existing food items with one or two fresh ingredients. You’ll save money and use up what you have.

Finally, if you can’t shop online, don’t go to the store when hungry. You will spend more.

Watch the quantity or size if you’re buying online

Online shopping can be deceptive. Make sure you’re ordering size you want – check the weight or size before you order.

Consider the delivery charges

We paid £60 for an annual delivery pass with Morrisons. It’s well worth it when you consider that a premium delivery slot could add £5 to your bill. We benefit from the logistics of Ocado* (Morrisons’ logistics supplier) but pay Morrisons prices for the food.

Learn about food

When the fridge looks empty, an experienced cook will identify possible combinations that will help feed the family until the next order comes.

Eggs left over with a chunk of cheese? Make a cheese soufflé (I can do this, so you can!). Mixed beans in a can and some red peppers in the fridge? Concoct a chilli. The BBC Good Food website has some simple and tasty recipes that you can reply upon when you only have some carrots and a bag of lentils to inspire you.

Really use your recipe books

I’m down to just five books now and tend to get my culinary inspiration from one of them each week. I place a sticky tab against the recipes for which I’ve ordered ingredients, so I can remember why I bought a particular food item when it arrives.

Also, because these favourite books use the same ingredients in lots of recipes (Tamari, for example), I often have the basics in my storecupboard.

Make two recipes out of one

I’ve just made red pepper relish to go with home-made falafel. When warm, the relish will make a yummy pasta sauce. So, provided we go steady with the sauce on the falafel, we’ll have tomorrow’s dinner from this meal, as well.

Beans on toast never hurt anyone

You don’t have to deliver a gourmet meal to the family every night. There’s no reason why you can’t have something super simple. Some friends of ours always make a pizza on a Friday. When our fresh food stocks are down, we’re more inclined to make an omelette or simply have beans on toast. Boiled eggs and soldiers are yummy! These dishes are filling, homely and will be kind to your budget.

How do you do it?

How do you combine a desire for healthy eating with keeping a check on the pennies? I’d love to know! Do get in touch.

 

*Ocado is the UK’s premium online grocery store. Morrisons has both a physical and online supermarket presence.

 

Coming up:

Next, we look forward to a guest blog post from Cheryl Magyar of Handcrafted Travellers who offers 8 tops tips on reducing everyday disposables.

If you haven’t yet done so, Join the community for unique content and news updates.

 

Welcome to #FrugalFebruary

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Those of you who follow the blog (thank you!) will know that I’ve been focusing on moving towards a clutter-free life during January, with my #Unclutter 2017 series of blog posts.

In February, I’ve decided to focus on money matters, with #FrugalFebruary being my phrase of the month.

Frugality

Frugal is defined as “sparing in the use of things” according to T F Hoad’s English etymology. This is especially true of the use of money and resources such as food.

Why Frugal February?

  • February is a super-short month, which offers just 28 days to kick-start some new habits.
  • It’s a month in which we may have fewer bills to pay. Post holiday credit card bills may have been paid in January and (for those of us in the UK) there is no Council Tax to pay this month or next.
  • It’s not too late to build savings. On Twitter, check out the @PTMoney 52 week challenge. In January, those of us taking part put away just £10. Do that now and you’ll be on track to join the challenge for the remainder of the year.
  • For those of us in Northern climes, the kids are back at school for the spring term, the festive season is over but the summer holidays are still some time away. Now’s the chance to save.
  • If you’ve been decluttering in January, you might still have some stuff to sell. Now’s the time to do this to give your finances a mini boost!

So, even if we’ve not necessarily stuck to our New Year’s Resolution of starting that diet, or getting physically fitter, let’s get our finances in shape!

If you’d like to focus on anything in particular, let me know or Join the community so that we can engage one-to-one on email.

First up, we’ll be looking at one of your biggest spending categories – food and groceries.