Saturday, 22 October 2016

Five fabulously frugal things I've done this week #7

Banana ice cream - cheap, easy and tastes great. Big tick.

Wow. It's been crazy busy, head down, hard working, 'what happened to lunch?' kind of week.

One reason for the whirlwind was that I was writing an article about investing for the Money section in this weekend's Sunday Times, so it will be exciting to see it printed in the paper tomorrow.

But in the mean time, here's a round up of the frugal things I managed to fit in.

Golden stone on the Corn Exchange, Bury St Edmunds

Outing to Bury St Edmunds

Last weekend, my husband took my son to play in a mini rugby festival over at Bury St Edmunds, so my daughter and I went along for a day out.
As it was grey and raining, Isabel and I headed for the cinema.
We chose a "Movies for Juniors" early morning showing of "Ice Age: Collision Course", and with an extra 10% discount for booking online via a free "My Cineworld" account, the tickets for two cost a bargain £3.60.
I managed to steer clear of the pricey cinema snacks in favour of four Wispas for a pound from a nearby Co-op, and we took a packed lunch for later.
Afterwards we stopped in a local park while the sun was shining, and then headed on to the Abbeycroft Leisure Centre.
We'd never been there before, but Isabel loves swimming, so we paid £8.40 for the ominously named "Wet n Wild" session.
Turned out to involve multiple swimming pools, with shedloads of floats and balls in one, a full on pirate ship in another, a slightly chilly jacuzzi and two huge and quite terrifying flumes. I passed on the flumes (coward), but Isabel was overjoyed.
In better weather we'd have spent more time in the beautiful Abbey Gardens, but for a day of indoor activities £13 for the two of us didn't seem bad.

See: Mr Whippy stylee

Whizzing together banana ice cream

Confession time: I was sceptical when a friend swore blind that ice cream made from frozen banana tasted great. But I gave it a whirl, and boy was she right (Hi Sharon!).
It is so easy, and the kids were really keen to get involved.
All you do is freeze some banana cut up in circles:

Top tip: peel the bananas and cut into circles BEFORE freezing them.

Then get them out of the freezer for a few minutes so they're not rock hard, whizz with a food processor or stick blender till it looks like Mr Whippy (hang on in there, it takes longer than you might expect).
Then refreeze the mix in a tub or moulds. Or just scoff a bowlful that wouldn't fit.

I used three yellow-stickered bananas, and the teddy bear lolly moulds I found in a charity shop last year, so it cost all of 15p for six lollies and an extra helping.

My son has got all keen on chopping up bananas and shoving them in the freezer to make more.
So far we've just tried plain banana, but you could chuck in anything else you fancy, from frozen berries to chocolate chips.

If you search on Pinterest for banana ice cream or banana nice cream, there's a mind boggling array of flavours, but I've pinned a couple to my board.

Free mug - cheers Adnams and St Elizabeth Hospice!

Winning an Adnams mug

I was delighted this week when a parcel showed up from Adnams, the Suffolk brewers based in Southwold.
Over the summer, we did a couple of family trips to Ipswich to follow the Pigs Gone Wild trail in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice.
Loads of local businesses sponsored and decorated models of pigs, named them with painful puns (Ed Sheerham, Frankenswine and Elvis Porksley were particular favourites) and set them up as a sculpture trail round the city centre.
Each pig had a QR code you could scan using an app on your smartphone, and most of them had competitions to enter.
I cheerfully entered as many competitions as possible, figuring not too many other people would. Good plan - I ended up winning a very smart seagull mug courtesy of Sir Bradley Piggins.
It's now stashed in my present cupboard waiting for Christmas (relatives look away now) but I like it so much it might end up sneaking its way into our kitchen.

So many vouchers, so little time

Cooking up a storm with Gousto

Ever seen those vouchers for money off Gousto food delivery boxes?
I've stashed away several in the past, but this week I finally grabbed the chance to try a discounted delivery box.
With a crazy busy week, I was worried I wouldn't have time to cook, and we'd end up fed up with fishfingers or ordering expensive takeaways. During my October savings challenge I really wasn't keen on the idea of splashing extra cash for dinner, or letting the contents of the fridge turn into sludge!
With recipe boxes from the likes of Gousto, you get to choose from a selection of meals, and then a box shows up crammed with fresh food, all measured out to make the recipes.
It means you can cook from scratch without the faff of meal planning, shopping and forgetting vital ingredients.
Anyway, I'll be writing a proper post about Gousto, but it's been such a relief to have this week's evening meals sorted. We've had huge fun cooking them, and even more fun eating them.

(And if you want to try a Gousto box sooner rather than later, you can get one with 50% off by clicking on this link and using the code SAVE50)

Handy for International Gin & Tonic Day. Yes, that is a thing.

Still saving in October

And talking of the October savings challenge, I am still staggering on with small daily changes to spend less, earn more and save a chunk of cash towards Christmas - I just haven't had much chance to blog about them!

I posted this week about Day 11: Chasing Money Owed, and I'm glad to say the £70 invoice I finally sent has already been paid. Many cheers.

Aside from booking the discount Gousto box mentioned above, so we didn't go crazy on takeaway spending, other money saving measures included:
- ordering cut-price store cupboard staples from Approved Food (previous post here). Obviously tonic water counts as an essential in our house...
- taking advantage of bargain gift cards from Zeek
- squeaking in a Sainsbury's order for fresh food just before my "£12 off a £60" spend voucher ran out
- snapping up free Pringles and half price Cumberland sausages via the Shopmium supermarket cashback app
- getting confirmation my Bounts direct debits would be refunded
- opening a high interest current account, to earn some interest on the savings from balance tidying and hoarding £2 coins

So there are lots more things I'd like to write about! Just a small matter of half term this week.
Maybe I'll even manage to get the posts up before we get as far as Christmas...

Anyone else have any money-saving measures to report? Inspiration for thrifty activities to survive half term? I'd love to hear!

I'm joining in with the #5frugalthings blog linky. If you'd like to join, or just want to check out other thrifty suggestions, hop on over to visit Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family, Becky at Family Budgeting and Emma at Emma's Savvy Savings

Monday, 17 October 2016

Save in October Day 11: Chasing money owed

Never lend money you can't afford to lose, especially the flashy new fivers.

This is just a quick update on the small changes I'm making each day in October, trying to spend less, earn more and save a chunk of cash towards Christmas.

One quick way to raise more money is to ask for anything you're owed.

Maybe you bunged someone a tenner when they hadn't been to the cash machine, or helped out a family member in a bind.
Maybe, if you're self-employed like me, you're owed money for work you've done.

Sometimes it's easy to say "Oi, can I have my tenner back?", or suggest the other person covers coffee/lunch/the cinema next time.

Sometimes it can be hard to ask for money back, especially if you've put off any discussion for fear of embarrassment.

I reckon the best approach when it comes to lending to family or friends is to say no - while checking out how else you could help, perhaps in time, childcare or emotional support.

However, if you do part with some cash, best to view it as a gift, not a loan. That way, if you never see the money again, it won't wreck the relationship, and if you do get paid back, it will be a bonus.

On my work front, usually if I do written work, I can attach an invoice at the same time as sending the finished article. All sorted, done and dusted, if the work gets published than it's tricky to argue that the invoice didn't arrive in the same email.

Yet earlier this year I did some work for a friend, editing some articles. Originally it was meant to turn into something more, so I didn't invoice immediately, and then life moved on.

He even reminded me to send in an invoice, but I felt a bit embarrassed after the delay, and because we hadn't finished the project.

Anyway, on Day 11 we discussed the cost of some completely different work, and it inspired me to finally create and email the invoice. Makes me wish I'd done it earlier!

Running total for the October Savings Challenge - Day 10

Save more: £16.15 from balance tidying and hoarding £2 coins
Spend less: £19.49 from ditching direct debits and maxing out supermarket vouchers
Earn more: £27.26 from supermarket cashback apps, joining Quidco and invoicing for money owed.
Total: £135.61

Over to you

Anyone else chased succesfully for money they were owed? Or do you end up letting things slide?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Five fabulously frugal things I've done this week #6

Apple and marmalade tart, when entertaining on a budget

It's been a heads-down, hard-working week, from one extreme to another.
On Wednesday I went for a whistle-stop trip to London for work, but then spent Thursday afternoon as a parent volunteer helping six-year-olds sew hand puppets. Never have I threaded so many needles in so little time.
Here's my round up of the frugal and thrifty highlights!

Unusual peppers at the revampled Hadleigh market

Searching the stalls at Hadleigh Market

There's been a market in Hadleigh for more than 750 years, so I suppose it was about due for a relaunch. 
Last December, I was concerned that the market was dwindling, but more recently a new market manager has reinvigorated Friday mornings. 
New stalls have been encouraged to set up alongside the greengrocer, fish van and the Cheese & Pie Man, a fine purveyor of Bob's Knobs.
The newly arrived Wooster's bread stall even sold out one week. The stalls do seem to vary, but when I nipped along last Friday I admired the cake-selling ladies, local honey from Beehouse Honey and Mena's amazing Indian food and spice mixes
I came away with a couple of unusual coloured peppers - pale green and purple - for 50p, and a big box of 18 satsumas for £1.50. 

It must be autumn, the hotties are back.

Hugging hot water bottles

The nights are drawing in, and the weather is turning chillier. Rather than rushing straight for the central heating and associated energy bills, we've been looking for more frugal ways to stay warm.
I've dug my mammoth fleece out of the wardrobe, the Morrocan blanket has reappeared on the back of the sofa, and my husband has been indulging his inner arsonist by lighting the woodburner.
Now that we've unearthed the hot water bottles to take to bed at night, I declare it is officially autumn.

Ingredients for game casserole. I meant to take a photo
of the finished article, but only remembered after we'd eaten it all.

Entertaining on a budget

On Sunday, we were delighted that a couple of friends from my husband's old job were able to come for lunch (Hi Vic and Pauley!).
Originally, I'd planned to roast a leg of lamb hoarded in the freezer since Easter, but when I discovered lamb wouldn't go down well I had to find a plan B.
Luckily I'd also been hanging on to some yellow-stickered packs of diced mixed game, picked up at the Co-op in a fit of enthusiasm for trying something new.
The packs were reduced to £5.26 for 700g of venison, wild boar, pheasant and pigeon, and seemed suitably autumnal.
Having never attempted cooking game before, I turned to Mr Google for help.
Much to my delight, the recipes I found for game casserole or game pie used loads of ingredients we already had - the half pack of bacon remaining from the night before, bay leaves and thyme from the garden, chicken stock made after last week's roast meal, some yellow-stickered chestnut mushrooms and storecupboard staples of an onion, flour and Worcestershire sauce.
I substituted a satsuma from the market for an orange, replaced port with the end of a bottle of red wine, and switched redcurrant jelly for some cranberry sauce made for Christmas.
The casserole simmered away for a couple of hours, and made a really meaty stew. We ate it with mashed potato from the big sack from Morrisons (£3 for 12.5kg) and steamed carrots and broccoli (39p each on offer at the Co-op).
For pudding I did apple tart with yellow-stickered apples (pic at the top, rough recipe here, although I made pastry this time and used home-made marmalade instead of apricot jam) and toffee sauce.

Charity shops came up trumps for a work outfit

Checking out charity shops for work clothes

I work from home, so rarely need to get gussied up for my job.
No-one can tell if I'm wearing jeans and multiple jumpers from the other end of a phone line (I hope).
However, this week I headed off for a meeting in London where I needed to look slightly smarter.
Unfortunately, I only remembered to take my work dress to the dry cleaners on Monday. Bad plan. Turns out Hadleigh doesn't stretch to same day or next day dry cleaning. Monday morning drop off meant I would only get the dress back on Friday - not ideal for a Wednesday meeting.
So on the way home I dived into an assortment of Hadleigh's charity shops.
Charity shops might not seem an obvious choice for smart work clothes, but a lot depends on the local area. Stoke Newington was good for vintage clothes, while Hadleigh does a fine line in mother-of-the-bride outfits.
I ended up with a smart black dress with contrast chrome zip, livened up with a red and black bamboo patterned jacket, from the East Anglian Children's Hospice shop.
It cost more than I would normally spend on charity shop clothes, at £36, but I suspect a Gerard Darel dress and Caroline Charles jacket would have cost distinctly more brand new.

Squeezing savings out of tight spaces.

Continuing the October savings challenge

I'm still plugging away at the October savings challenge, to spend less, earn more and save a chunk of cash for Christmas.

I've continued making small changes each day, including:
Day 7: Triple whammy food shop savings
Day 8: Ditching direct debits
Day 9: Cashing in on cashback websites

As of Day 10, the running total has reached £67.71 with some additional balance tidying and an entire extra 25p from a cashback app on milk.

I've also been beavering away behind the scenes, negotiating some giveaways if anyone would like to share in the October savings challenge, so do watch this space!

Anyone else have any frugal triumphs to report? Or brilliant buys from charity shops? I'd love to hear!

I'm joining in with the #5frugalthings blog linky. If you'd like to join, or just want to check out other thrifty suggestions, hop on over to visit Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family, Becky at Family Budgeting and Emma at Emma's Savvy Savings

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Save in October Day 9: Cashing in on cashback websites

Cashback: save as you spend, and bank a nice bonus.

Fancy getting paid to go shopping? Welcome to the joys of cashback.

I'm a big fan of getting money back on spending I'd do anyway, so I'm keen to make the most of cashback during my October saving challenge.

Even for someone like me, who avoids buying much of anything, and always aims to spend less when I do, it's still possible to earn a bit extra.

On Day 4 of my October savings challenge, I claimed the cashback from food shopping via the Shopitize supermarket cashback app, and discovered the joys of Shopmium and free chocolate (check out all the details here).

Then on Day 8, I finally saw an incentive that made me sign up for the cashback website Quidco.

Cashback webites

If you haven't come across them before, I'm talking about websites like TopCashback and Quidco, which will pay you back a proportion of your spending.

Basically, if you want to buy something online, check the cashback websites first, see if the retailer is listed, and then click through from the cashback website to the website you want.

Buy as normal, and then - kerching - you'll get credited with a percentage of the money spent.

Admittedly, the money doesn't materialise immediately. Sometimes you have to wait weeks, or in the case of insurance contracts, months, before the money shows up.

Also, remember that cashback isn't guaranteed. Sometimes your claim gets rejected, or the money just doesn't show up. I have to remind myself that cashback is a bonus, not to be relied on until it's actually in the bank.

However, once cashback is confirmed, you can pick and choose how to claim you money. Usually you can opt for cold, hard cash in your current account or PayPal account, or get a bit extra by opting for a giftcard or voucher for somewhere like Amazon.

I wrote about cashback websites last year, and how the small amounts here, there and everywhere do add up. You might earn the odd pound shopping for clothes or toiletries, but for the chunky payouts think bills and banks. You are more likely to earn big bucks in cashback when signing up for gas, electricity, mobile phones, landlines, broadband, pay TV and roadside assistance, or for bank stuff like current accounts, credit cards and insurance policies.

Apparently, on average members of Quidco earn £280 a year in cashback, and £325 at TopCashback.
Even someone as shopping-averse as me has still managed to rack up over £450 in cashback in my four years since joining TopCashback.

As ever, the trick is to earn some dosh from spending you'd do anyway, not get hypnotised into buying something solely for the cashback.

Grabbing £75 cashback on a £300 insurance policy sounds great - but not if you could get the same policy for £150 elsewhere.

Follow the freebie

I hadn't signed up for Quidco before because I was hanging on for a decent freebie to entice me to sign on the dotted line.

Then on Sunday, I got a newsletter from Andy, a blogger over at Be Clever With Your Cash, which offered a £15 incentive for new people to sign up for Quidco and make a purchase that day. (Andy really knows his onions about making the most of your money and bagging bargains and deals, so do nip over and say hello)

A free £15 sounded good to me, so I duly clicked through, signed up and racked my brains for something I actually needed to buy.

I ended up buying a train ticket for a planned trip to London via But then I re-read the conditions, and was concerned I wouldn't earn any cashback because I wasn't a new customer at

So I bought some of my contact lens fluid from Boots' website, after a quick search to make sure I couldn't buy it cheaper elsewhere. My £20 odd payment is due to generate an entire 66p in cashback.

I also had a go at claiming £1 cashback on a big bottle of milk, after Jo tipped me off about the offer via Quidco's ClickSnap, in a comment on the October savings challenge.  

So by hook or by crook, I've accrued some cashback with Quidco, and now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the promised £15 will actually show up.

Running total for the October Savings Challenge - Day 9

Save more: £16.15 from balance tidying and hoarding £2 coins
Spend less: £19.49 from ditching direct debits and maxing out supermarket vouchers
Earn more: £27.26 from supermarket cashback apps and today's cashback from joining Quidco, Boots and ClickSnap.
Total: £65.61

Over to you

Anyone else keen on the cash from cashback websites? Or have you never quite got round to having a go? I'd love to hear!

Disclaimer: I do genuinely use cashback websites, and no-one has paid me to write this post. However, if you click on a link to Quidco or TopCashback, sign up and earn cashback, it may bring a small amount of money to the site, but at no cost to you.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Save in October Day 8: Ditching direct debits

Bank statements: let the joy be unconfined.

When was the last time you looked at your direct debits?

(And no, this isn't some kind of strange euphemism).

Now, I appreciate bank statements might not make rip-roaring reading.

Checking online banking hardly makes me want to punch the air with delight.

But direct debits have a sneaky habit of siphoning off cash when you least expect it.

Sure, they can be a great way to save money on bills. Agreeing to pay for the likes of gas, electricity and phone by direct debit usually gets you a cheaper tariff than waiting for a bill each quarter.

With other direct debits, it pays to keep an eye on your account, and check from time to time whether they're worth the money.

Ditching direct debits

So on Day 8 of my October savings challenge, I resolved to double-check any direct debits and standing orders, and ditch any that I no longer use.

Much as it saddens me, there's a whole long list of direct debits I can't just scrap.

This includes debits for:
- Council tax
- Water
- Energy bills like gas and electricity
- Home phone
- Broadband
- Mobile phones
- Life assurance

We tend to pay for other forms of insurance (buildings and contents, car insurance) once a year in a lump sum, as it's usually cheaper than spreading the payments out via monthly direct debits.

There are also some direct debits and standing orders set up to sort out our finances.

I'm thinking here of the direct debit that pays off our credit card bill in full every month, the standing orders into regular savings accounts and the merry-go-round of standing orders to fund assorted interest-paying current accounts (of which more in another post - once I've written it...).

The ones to watch out for are:

- the gym membership you never use
- in fact any membership that doesn't get used, for anything from the National Trust to your kid's karate club.
- the mobile phone contract for the phone you've lost
- the magazine subscription that started small, but shot up after the offer ran out
- current account fees if you don't use the benefits
- charity subscriptions that you no longer support

So on Day 8, I thought I'd double check our direct debits, to help with the "spend less" part of the October savings challenge.
Now I keep a beady eye on our accounts, so I didn't think there was much I could ditch.

However, I did remember to cancel the direct debit for a web analysis package, where the free trial period was about to expire. Free membership was fine, but I didn't fancy paying $10.99 a month for the privilege, or whatever that comes to in pounds when sterling is skiing off a cliff at the moment.

Bounts app: back in the days when you could swap your steps for shopping vouchers

I also finally hardened my heart, and rang to cancel my premium membership of the bounts app.

If you've never come across bounts, it's a smartphone app that pays you to walk.
I remember the first day I downloaded the app and connected it to a fitness tracker. I ended up walking around in the rain for a hour, carrying a frozen chicken. It was all in a vain effort to rack up enough steps to earn points to turn into gift vouchers.

I've benefited in the past to the tune of a £10 Morrisons voucher, but now I can never find anything in stock on the Bounts website.

So I emailed to cancel the heady heights of my £1.49 a month subscription. By switching back to free membership, I can still earn points, just not so fast. And it all seems a bit pointless, if there's nothing in stock for me to buy with my points.

(And if after this truly rave review, you still want to give the bounts app a whirl, bung in the code faithhome65809 and we'll both get 100 points)

I don't think I'll be funding Christmas from Bounts alone, but every little helps. Stay tuned because later in the month I want to look at making money from my direct debits.

Running total for the October Savings Challenge - Day 8

Save more: still £16.15 from balance tidying and hoarding £2 coins
Spend less: £19.49, adding the cancelled bounts subscription to the supermarket vouchers
Earnmore: still £13.21, mainly from supermarket cashback apps.
Total: £48.85

Over to you

Anyone saved a bundle by cancelling unused direct debits? Or is your current account completely spick and span, with any regular payments pared down to the minimum?

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Save in October Day 7: Triple whammy food shop savings

Saving on food shopping in oh so many ways

Why choose one way to save on your food shopping, when you can save in so many more?

During the October savings challenge, I'm making small changes each day, aiming to spend less, earn more and save a chunk of cash towards Christmas.

On Day 7, I nipped round our local Co-op before meeting up for coffee at the front of the store.

I didn't buy much, but it's a great example of how lots of small changes all add up.

Combining small changes in a single shop

The main reason I dived into the Co-op was to claim a free bar of Green & Black's via the Shopmium supermarket cashback app, an offer I discovered on Day 4 of the savings challenge.
Turns out there's nothing quite like free chocolate to send me on a money-saving mission!

(If you fancy this freebie yourself, just download the Shopmium app on your smartphone and enter the code KFKKAMKL when registering. More details in this post)

While I was there, I thought I'd check out the reduced sections, looking for cut-price yellow-stickered bargains, as described on Day 5.

I found some half-price ham, which I needed as a topping for home-made pizzas that night. Fridays are movie night in our house, when we eat pizza and watch a DVD from the library together.

By making our own pizzas (recipe here), we can choose our own toppings, use up odds and ends from the fridge, and save cash compared to a takeaway or even a supermarket pizza.

If I freeze the rest of the ham, it will come in handy for my husband's packed lunches - another money-saver compared to forking out for shop sandwiches every day. (More inspiration for thrifty packed lunches in this post!)

I also picked up a yellow-stickered half-price pack of four teacakes, down to 39p. I pack snacks like multipack drinks and crisps plus a couple of teacakes or hot cross buns when I take the children to their swimming lessons.

They're always starving afterwards, and it diverts demands from the expensive vending machine. If I freeze the packet, I can take a couple one week, and a couple the next.

The total came to £3.58, so I was able to pay with a supermarket voucher as described on Day 3.
I used my last £4 Co-op dividend voucher, which unlike most vouchers will actually pay out some change when used for a smaller amount of shopping, so I got 42p back.

As an added bonus, on Fridays our local East of England Co-op offers free fruit to kids. I checked with the lady at the till, and took home a couple of pears for my children.

Ta dah the receipt, if proof was needed!

Shopping summary

At normal prices, my small shopping trip should have cost £5.57:

£2.19 for Green & Black's butterscotch chocolate
£2.00 for 120g ham
£0.78 for 4 teacakes
60p for a couple of pears

However, I paid with a voucher, got 42p in change, and Shopmium have since paid the £2.19 for the chocolate into my bank account.

The combination of:

- using a supermarket cashback app
- bagging yellow-stickered bargains
- maxing out supermarket vouchers
- taking adantage of the Co-op's free fruit on Fridays

meant that rather than spending £5.57, I made a profit of £2.61.

As an added bonus, the shopping and submitting the receipt to Shopmium all took distinctly less time than writing this down!

Running total for the October Savings Challenge - Day 7

Save more: £16.15 from balance tidying and hoarding three £2 coins
Spend less: £18 in supermarket vouchers
Earn more: £13.21 from supermarket cashback apps, plus change from the Co-op voucher
Total: £47.36

So at the end of the first week in October, my savings challenge has made nearly £50 difference, and that's without adding any savings from yellow-stickered food.
The vouchers help with spending less, rather than adding anything to a savings balance.
However, I have stashed away nearly £30 in cash from saving more and earning more, just by making small changes each day for a week.
Every little helps!

Over to you

How do you combine different money-saving measures to cut the total at the till? Do share your ideas!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Five fabulously frugal things I've done this week #5

Growing up a storm on the kitchen windowsill 

Many cheers, it's the end of another week and time to reflect on being frugal.

It's been a quiet week for us, with the whole family struck by colds to a great or lesser extent.

I suppose the silver lining to pottering around at home was that we didn't spend very much!

Freebie tickets, first thing on Sunday morning

Booked free tickets to a preview of Storks

Last weekend, before the colds hit, we did all get out.
On Sunday morning, my daughter and I went to see a preview of "Storks" over at the Colchester Odeon, while my husband whisked my son off to rugby.
We don't normally go to see films when they are first released, but wait until they're on offer at cheaper kids' showings. (More info on cheap tickets in point 4 of this post)
However, I took advantage of free cinema tickets offered via my Times and Sunday Times subscription. I've just checked, and if we went this weekend, it would have cost £18.50 for the two of us.
I booked online and had to print out the email, but then we just handed the piece of paper to the usherette at Screen 1, and could pick whichever seats we wanted.
Reckon my 8-year-old daughter was pretty much the perfect audience for a film cram packed with babies, more babies, storks, comedy wolves and a mad female inventor.
Her review; "So cute it was bursting with cuteness!".

Bageltastic packed lunch

Rustled up a packed lunch

With four of us flying in all directions on Sunday morning, we were unlikely to make it home much before 1.30pm.
I decided to make a speedy packed lunch before we set off, to quell any hunger pangs in the back seat.
Taking packed lunches, rather than grabbing food on the go or eating out, definitely helps keep our bills in check.
I resurrected some of yellow-stickered cut-price bagels from the freezer, and bunged in assorted combinations of soft cheese, ham and stilton depending on preference. I also raided multi pack crisps and drinks, chucked in cucumber, tomatoes, carrot sticks and satsumas in a nod to health, and added a little blue box of sliced peach for my satsuma-disliking daughter.
If you need further inspiration, check out my post on top tips for thrifty packed lunches.

One roast chicken, fresh out of the Aga

Stretched a chicken over several meals

Before we left on Sunday morning, I dug a half-price chicken out of the freezer.
After the thrifty packed lunch, I decided to do a full-on roast meal that evening, which would also provide speedy meals later in the week.

I stuffed the chicken with garlic, lemon halves and a bunch of tarragon from the garden, rubbed the skin with a bit of butter and poured some lemon juice under the skin.
We ate part of the chicken with roast carrots, roast parsnips and my daughter's favourite mashed potato and gravy.

Afterwards I stripped the remaining meat from the bones, to be boxed up in the fridge.
I then made chicken stock by boiling up the bones with a litre or so of water, a couple of bay leaves from the tree in the garden, a few black peppercorns, half an onion, and the peelings from the carrots and parsnips. It made the kitchen smell amazing, and will make a base for soup or risotto.

I made sure to cook more than enough mash, to accompany a meal a couple of nights later. Once my husband had shifted his cold, I steamed some broccoli to go alongside the leftover chicken, mash, carrots, parsnips and gravy.

Gratuitous pic of leftovers night, with broccoli added to Sunday's food

There was even enough left to make a chicken and peanut stir fry with rice the night afterwards.

All in all, the £2.45 yellow-stickered chicken provided enough protein for 6 adult meals and 2 children, and there's still soup to come. Stretching food to make several meals helps save time as well as money. Check out previous posts on stretching roast pork and sausages too.

Moneyboxes: a catwalk display

Started an October savings challenge

With the first day of October on Monday, I decided to start a month-long savings challenge.

I was shocked by recent research that more than 16 million people in the UK have less than £100 in savings. Yet some low earners can and do save. According to the report, nearly a quarter of working-age adults on less than £13,500 a year have £1,000 in savings, and 40% save every or most months.(More details in this post)

I've been posting my small changes each day, aiming to spend less, earn more and save a chunk of cash towards Christmas.

With apologies to regular readers, so far I have started:

Day 1: hoarding £2 coins
Day 2: balance tidying our main current account
Day 3: maxing out supermarket vouchers
Day 4: claiming cashback from supermarket shopping apps
Day 5: bagging yellow-stickered bargains

As of Day 6, the running total for these small changes was £40.75, after my husband and I both got given some £2 coins in change.

For Days 6 and 7 I'm going to dust down the direct debits on our current account, to check if there's anything unwanted that needs cancelling, and catch up on my spending diary.

No photoshop, honest

Celebrating Instagram with insanity

I wish I could pretend this was a fifth frugal thing about wholesome crafty activities with the kids.

But no, I wanted to celebrate the small success of reaching 250 followers on Instagram, as I track the passing of the seasons in our garden by posting a different flower each day.

Trudging home from the school run, I was inspired by the idea of taking a photo of leaves with the numbers cut out.

After battling with templates, an uneven lawn and the joys of the autumn breeze keen to whip away dry foliage, I can safely say this wasn't my best plan.

Do come and follow me over on Instagram, but feel free to remind me that taking nail scissors to leaves is an insane idea, should I ever contemplate it again.

But, on the plus side, it was at least free!

Basil update

For those of you on the edge of your seats, after three weeks the 49p basil plant still lives!
As you'll see from the pic at the top of this post, the kitchen window sill is going great guns with the basil, the accidental hydroponic mint, the remains of some coriander and a miniature rose which I'm hoping to resurrect.
In the middle you can also see the 25p pot of living salad, bought this week as part of the yellow-stickered shop on Day 5 of my savings challenge. Any bets on what survives till next weekend?

Anyone else have any frugal triumphs or crafty disasters to report this week? I'd love to hear!

I'm joining in with the #5frugalthings blog linky. If you'd like to join, or just want to check out other thrifty suggestions, hop on over to visit Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family, Becky at Family Budgeting and Emma at Emma's Savvy Savings