Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Frugal living

c/o womansday.com
A friend is soon going on a career break and was looking for some tips on living on a smaller income. I thought there may be others out there that would benefit from the links/ideas I am collecting for her, so I'm going to put them all in one place.

We moved to a one-income lifestyle nearly 5 years ago when I closed my business to be a stay at home mom and there were some immediate changes. Number one, I didn't need a car any more. So we got rid of mine and I have rarely missed it to be honest. We are lucky to live on major bus routes though, and my husband can walk or cycle to work if he needs to. So that was the most obvious cutback. It saved us over 3,000 euros a year in petrol, tax, insurance etc.

The next change we made was to start holidaying in Ireland. We had started this anyway when our first son was small, I didn't like the idea of getting on a plane anywhere, so we began renting houses in lovely towns around Ireland. We had some fantastic weeks away in Kenmare, Kinsale, Kenmare again and again. Walking home from the pub, baby asleep in the buggy, the warm summer rain, I mean air on your face. Good times. We've been abroad with the kids maybe 3 times, but at the moment Ireland is more appealing to my stress levels.

c/o 10best.com
I gave up my leisure pursuit of shopping. I used to spend money for fun, about 60-80 euros a week on clothes, shoes, bags, whatever. That had to stop obviously, because that's kind of gross to be honest, but it was the boom, I was earning, I didn't realise how lucky I was. So no more fun shopping trips. I learned about "fast fashion", the slave trade, and wouldn't spend like that even if I DID have the money. I embraced thrifting and am now quite the expert.

Food waste never concerned me before. I'd sometimes let a week's worth of produce go bad and throw it out, buy the same stuff again the next week and ... sometimes end up throwing it out again. That doesn't happen any more here. Kind of like the "fast fashion" lesson, I have learned the "cheap produce" lesson, and I prefer to buy organic, seasonal and local produce for the most part. Spending more on it makes me value it more, and there is no more food waste here.

Cooking frugally means for me, learning tips and tricks to jazz up the staple recipes my family enjoy. I've learned to cook my own pizzas, curries and asian dishes, because takeaways are not on the menu either. Not really from a financial point of view, more a health point of view. We will eat out occasionally, but we're not phoning the chipper every Friday as before. My Romanian friend couldn't believe that we expect to eat a different home cooked meal every day of the week. In her culture they cook a huge meal (stew/casserole etc) and it does them for days at a time. We really put the pressure on ourselves to do it all, don't we?

c/o terryruns.wordpress.com
Frugal food preparation also means using my freezer wisely. Batch cooking a double amount of a meal and freezing it. Using a slow cooker. Re-using leftovers in a new way. Yes, my kids are fussy eaters, well one of them is. I'm veggie and my husband is on a specific diet, so we can end up with 3-4 different meals for the one dinner. But I try to make them around one staple that we will all eat, i.e. rice. A big batch of tomato sauce can be a pizza topping, soup, curry base, it's all about how you dress it up.

I bulk-buy most of my store cupboard ingredients. Lentils, beans, spices, tins of coconut milk, bottles of passatta, big bags of nuts and seeds, huge tins of olive oil, rice, couscous etc. Every 6-8 weeks I'll do a big shop in the Polish/Lithuanian shops near me and buy rye bread, frozen fish fillets, frozen plums and berries, kefir, jam, honey and maybe some berry wine. About once every 3-6 months I'll stock up in the Asian supermarket in Fonthill, usually after a home education meet-up in Liffey Valley (see, being frugal means you plan ahead to save on petrol!) I'm not a "prepper" like some of the people I've seen online, but I do like the idea that if we were sick/snowed in we could survive for a few weeks on store cupboard stuff. At the very least I'll always be able to rustle up dahl and rice or a chickpea curry.

We'll do a supermarket shop once every 3 weeks or so, bulk-buying cheese, butter, almond milk, toilet paper etc. I visit the farmer's market every week or so for fresh fruit and vegetables. One store cupboard staple here is almond butter, I've found an online stockist of our favourite brand for about 40% less than the health food shops and buy 4kg at a time, saving about 35e. I sometimes meal plan for the week ahead, it's fun to look forward to Taco Tuesday or Quesadilla Wednesday, and I will know what to defrost/buy/prepare the day before so it takes a bit of stress out of the equation. I rarely cook a full dinner in the evening, preferring to use leftovers or defrost something I made double of in advance. Case in point: tonight I boiled up a pot of rice and defrosted a bowl of chilli I made about 2 months ago. I had thought it was curry, but nope, chilli. Need to start labelling.

c/o thefreegeorge.com
I don't use shop loyalty cards, collect points or do any voucher shopping at all. I don't buy what's on sale either, unless it's something we need. I do buy seasonally with fruit and vegetables, which means that we are totally sick of apples, carrots, beetroot and celeriac at the moment, and dying to get some Irish spring vegetables. But buying seasonally is also best for your health, your budget and the environment. I don't have a shopping budget, nor do I know how much we spend on stuff per week, but as long as nothing is wasted, it shows me we're not wasting money, right?

For clothes shopping, as we have growing kids, we get pre-loved clothes from family/friends, or I buy stuff online/in a charity shop. Gone are the days of trying to drag the kids around getting them shoes, they arrive in the post, everyone's happy. I'll do a shop online maybe twice a year for shoes / underwear and other things they need, and of course we pass on what we are finished with too.

Gifts are another area it is possible to save money in. Our kid's main Christmas and birthday presents are often secondhand, bought through a dealer in the case of computer games/consoles. We ask family to give toy shop / cinema vouchers if they are stuck for ideas. Cinema trips are a luxury we have cut way back on, but we still go a few times a year. We save money by bringing popcorn from home (freshly popped and in a paper bag), sweets from their Halloween / Easter / birthday stash. It's healthier and the kids are still too young to really care.

c/o junipas.co.za
We have built up some lovely family traditions, weekly ones which differentiate the working week from the weekend. This is essential when home schooling, because otherwise every day could feel the same. We usually walk to the local sweet-shop on a Friday and the children pick one treat for the movie night, and one small sweet to eat on the spot. We usually make our own pizzas on a Friday, the kids like to top their own pizzas and I make the base (spelt/celeriac etc) and watch a film on a projector.

For internet links to sites I've found helpful, please check out the great Wholesome Ireland here, an Irish mama who shares supermarket deals weekly on her blog, and has some great frugal recipes and tips.
The Minimalist Mom has a great round-up of sites on her blog here.
Youtube has brilliant ideas for "freezer meals" and "slow cooker freezer meals" where you spend an hour or two and prepare a months worth of slow cooker dinners in advance, bagging and labelling them to throw in the slow cooker each morning.
One good blog post on crockpot freezer cooking "40 meals in 4 hours" is here. Some of the US sites have a lot of processed ingredients in their recipes, using a tin of soup as a base for example, but you can always make substitutions, or use the soup if that saves you time.

Best of luck with the frugal steps, it's a journey, so take one step at a time. By the way I hate the word "frugal" it is way too reminiscent of "gruel" with all its connotations. So I tell myself I'm a "savvy cook" or a "clever shopper" and I still make sure not to compromise on the little daily pleasures that make life worthwhile.

Nee x

9 comments:

  1. Well timed post, budgeting the 5 of us for the rest of the month is giving me palpitations ;) Where do you get the Almond butter btw ? Did you find your slow cooker a good buy? I usually boil the pot of what ever up then turn it off but can be annoying and unreliable especially if out for the day. The thought of another dust gathering kitchen contraption is not appealing !! Anne xx

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    1. Hi Anne, I'm really glad you liked my post, thanks for the comment. I did some slow cooker posts when I first got it, you'll find the "slow cooker" label on the right hand sidebar on web version of this blog. In short, it's essential for me. I'm about to load it up with about 3kg of fresh tomatoes and leave them cooking overnight for a soup/pasta sauce tomorrow. Really brill to know dinner's sorted right after breakfast, and you can even do lasagne! xx

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  2. Great blog Niamh! There's also lots of second hand Moses baskets and slings available for new moms.I weep to see first time expectant parents buying tons of brand new stuff when there is so much second hand stuff available. And so many more times to save her as the kids get older!

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    1. Thank you, that's right, there are so many barely used baby items for sale. Luckily Facebook is full of buy and sell groups now, I hope moms know about them!

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  3. Great article. And may I randomly say that I love your blog!

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    1. Not random at all, always relevant to hear, thank you so much! xx

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  4. Loads of great tips there N. Thanks a million for sharing the blog. I hope you're looking forward to starting the seeds again this year! Cx

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    1. Thank you, you are the first port of call I send people to :) xx

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  5. Great post!
    Please keep sharing.
    These small things help us to live a simple and frugal life. Spending less on unwanted things is the best way to save money.

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