Thursday, 30 October 2014

Writing, Tree Planting and Money Saving Entrepreneurs

I suspect November is going to be a very busy month, possibly the busiest month of my life! Frugal living, as a lifestyle, is quite time consuming, what with money challenges, gardens, cooking from scratch, DIY, taking up to 10 times longer to get anywhere when cycling or walking and let's not overlook many hours at the computer, eeking out a living. So what's so different about November?

Image design by Elizabeth Doyle

First of all, November is NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - and it has been running since NYK was publishing 'Now You Know', which makes this challenge 15 years old! It is literally a challenge in which anyone interested can attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words within the month of November. I have registered to take part!

Next, we are expecting to take delivery of 420 mixed native species trees that the Frugaldom Project has been awarded as part of the Woodland Trust's nationwide World War I Centenary. The saplings are being delivered to Thrift Cottage during the first week in November, along with canes and protection spirals. We will be having a Frugaldom planting event on site to create a brand new harvest woodland to commemorate the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18.  This is quoted as being, "a once-in-a-generation tribute for those who lived and served, by creating a growing legacy that will stand tall for centuries to come." More than 16 million people, not to mention countless animals, died during the conflicts. Throughout Britain, people will be planting trees out of respect. We hope to have all our trees planted in time for 11th November and then continue developing this project in any way possible.
Fast approaching the 13th and 14th of November and the Scottish Business Exhibition, which is another event I hope to be attending. It's for all budding entrepreneurs and frugaleurs, an opportunity to learn from some experts. Tickets can be claimed free, you just need to register through The Scottish Business Exhibition ( or New Start Scotland ( web sites.

That almost takes us up to the 17th November and the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week ( which is when we start our 2014 moneymaking challenge in the Frugal Forums at This year, once again, we are working with a budget of £10 start-up capital to see how far we can take, or how much further we can develop, our business ideas.

I think that's enough to be going on with for now. In the money savings stakes, I have been fortunate enough to bag myself some of that super-duper, ultra cheap sugar that Pound stretcher is currently selling ay an incredible 49p per kilo. This is thanks to someone in the family who is coming to stay for a few days and asked the question, "Is there anything you need from the shops?" Not sure they expected me to ask for a load of sugar, mind you, but the same bag costs over £1 in the village store and a visit there involves a 7-mile round walk or cycle!

NYK in Frugaldom

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Motoring Moneysaving Tips Pre-MOT

The cost of keeping a safe, reliable car on the road can amount to a fair chunk of any frugal living budget, especially if that car is needed on a regular basis.
Making a few preliminary checks and doing the simpler things yourself before your MOT is due can save you a small fortune on potential garage bills. Here are a few moneysaving suggestions.
Information and graphics by also available here

Visit the frugal blog for more moneysaving hints, tips and suggestions.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Frugal Kitchen Makeover.

Photo blog of a frugal kitchen makeover.

We have had wind and rain almost every day since we started painting the barn, which was the same day my old bike almost met it's untimely end. Since then, it's been stay indoors and 'try to make the house a home' weather, so the kitchen is being decorated.

I'm sure you will all remember the painting of the barn - we got one side done before bike damage and bad weather scuppered the plans. As a result, we haven't been out there for over a fortnight, despite having invested in 'Blossom', my super-cheap, pretty in pink, pedal bike.

Instead of fieldwork, I have spent some time trying to organise the long-standing chaos that is my kitchen.

Kitchen makeover - Giving a room a simple makeover needn't cost the earth. In this case, it has cost me £50.23 plus the time it took to rummage for make-do-and-mend bits and pieces and put everything together. I haven't used everything bought, so the budget is actually under £50, but I'll work out the exact costs later.

Kitchen makeover

Painting the walls - Anything goes and most of us can find some magnolia paint about the house at most times. If not, why not? It is my second default colour, after white, and can be used pretty much anywhere in the house without looking out of place. So, my kitchen is the default white ceiling and magnolia walls, spare paint is one of those 'always kept in stock' items in the same way as flour or sugar.

Work space - No fancy fitted kitchen here, just a few base units bought in an Argos sale a couple of years ago plus a salvaged unit and some old work top. In order to make the most of it all, I need to be able to see it and use it without it being covered in clutter. Herein lies the reason for my love of hooks! I've found that the best way of screwing them into the wall is to add a strap of wood, so the weight is spread across the framework behind the plasterboard, so that's what I did. The strips of wood are all from scrap.

Homemade kitchen roll hanger

Kitchen roll dispenser - A pair of hooks saved from an old over door hanger have been turned upside down and used to suspend a smooth branch from a tree, which is now supporting the kitchen roll. Works just fine and it can be easily replaced when the time comes to do so.

Window dressings

Window dressings - Who needs curtains or blinds when you are looking out onto your own back garden? This is some hemmed fabric that a friend gave me several years ago; it used to hang along the front of my kitchen units at the last house we were in, hiding the state of the old units there. Now, I have simply looped it over the extending rail in the window and tied it up using ribbons that I had among my crafting supplies. I believe they arrived as a gift during the love bomb dropped on me by Frugal Queen during our participation in a previous money challenge. The jars on the windowsill contain herb cuttings and my celery stalk that is now growing me more celery.

kitchen makeover

Interior design - The most expensive purchase for this makeover was the wallpaper border, as I needed three rolls of it to go all the way around the kitchen and the adjoining (soon to be) cloakroom. The wooden wall hangings are homemade, shaped from off-cuts of board and painted by resident artist. The corner kitchen stand is of unknown age or origin, as it was purchased several years ago from a charity shop.

Hooks and looks

Culinary delights - Like most frugal cooks, I do like my favourite pans, herbs and spices kept to hand, so here is what I did with mine. Yes, it's a piece of wood with even more hooks! Most of the wood used has been reclaimed from an old wooden bed frame we dismantled. It seemed too good to use as fuel in the fire, so I'm glad we kept it. The little spice racks were bought for £1 each several years ago in, you guessed it, a pound shop. The chalk board, just visible on the top left, was homemade around 2008 and has served us well through three addresses, to date.

Mini fish tank

Designer décor - Can anyone remember this? I bought it around 2004 and it has travelled with us during our past 3 house moves. It holds about a gallon of water and we used to keep tiny tropical fish in it. I'm not sure what will go in here next, as tropical fish keeping is a bit of an expense, what with heating, lighting, filtration and the cost of the fish, especially if there's a lengthy power cut, so it may end up with nothing more than some tiny shrimps or a couple of small cold water fish. Whatever, it has now been scrubbed and set up in what I am calling my 'cosy corner café.

cosy corner

Cosy corner - When I say cost, I really do mean it. With no heater of any description in the kitchen, I decided to hang the 250w infra red heater from the ceiling. (Costs under 4p per hour to run.) It is one I have had for several years, meant for brooding chicks after they come out the incubator. I haven't needed it for that purpose since moving here because I haven't been breeding many hens. I have to say, the cat greatly appreciates this corner and has claimed the seat directly beneath the heat lamp! No doubt she will be even more delighted to have fish to watch swimming around, once we get some!

Food preparation areas - Few people even notice that I don't have an actual cooker. I have a twin hot plate that fits nicely into a shelf on the corner kitchen stand for storage. Along with this, I have a microwave, slow cooker, steamer, toaster, bread-maker and the mini oven rescued from a charity fair back in 2008. I am no cordon bleu chef, so this lot does me just fine. The old work top has the stainless steel worktop saver bought via eBay on top, providing an excellent cutting and food prep surface that is easy to keep hygienically clean.


Cloakroom - Adjoining the kitchen is a small hallway, so this has now been painted and decorated to match the kitchen. The freezer has been moved in there and I am currently hanging shelves and coat hooks to make this into a walk through storage cloakroom. It isn't quite finished yet, but it should be soon. I've now found a suitable length of wood to attach to the wall for adding a load more hooks.

Here endeth my wet weather interior design exploits - for now!

Eco Arts - Meanwhile, out in the studio, resident artist completed the commissioned driftwood heron and it has now been delivered to its delighted new owner, with visiting rights agreed.

Ecoarts driftwood heron

October Challenge Round-up - This has been a rather spendy month, even although our challenge was to have an austere October, buying only what we really needed and charting every single penny spent. Results for these challenges can all be found in, where you can also follow the November challenges. Hopefully, I may be able to entice a few more of you to start posting there and taking part, as we have some fabulous plans for future projects and, as always, these are all free to join.

NYK, Frugal Blog

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Joys of Cycling

Frugal living and green living aren’t always easy to combine so switching to bikes after giving up the car seemed like a good idea in 2011. Here we are, in 2014, and my £40 second hand bike has reached the point of uneconomical repair. No shame on it, after carting a variety of heavy ‘stuff’ like logs, groceries, paint and me about the place for the past few years. In the past year, I think it has done about 1,000 miles carrying extra weight.
This is what happened next – we really do live in times of plenty where everyone can pretty much have everything the need and even we of the frugal ilk can have much of what we want! Read more by clicking here…

Monday, 29 September 2014

They, We, Them and Us.


OK, enough pussy-footing around and playing at penny-pinching then posting like you're some sort of saint when you claim to do without a bottle of wine in the name of charity - I've had enough of it and this blog is about to get back to the real basics - back to how it used to be in the previous century! If you don't like it, don't read it, SIMPLE!

When your earned income dictates that you fall below the Government’s definition of poverty, it can get really frustrating!
290914_thumbnailFrugaldom, as well as now being a real place, is the act of living a frugal, thrifty or austere lifestyle at nobody's expense except your own. We have no problems with sharing our surplus or helping support one another. How we source our income, spend our income and live our lives is our own business. Sharing the wherewithal to pursue such an existence is paramount to the success of frugaldom and it is a project that means the world to me - it is my world!
In the mid-80's, many of us were forced to learn the hard and fast way of budgeting to within a penny of bankruptcy and homelessness. By the 90's, many of us were still licking our wounds and struggling to climb back out of debt and take full control of our finances after some very turbulent times of society unrest, disillusionment and what many perceived as injustice. But we survived. Just like generations before us, through wars, famines and enforced displacement. Do we learn from it? I'm not sure! One thing I am sure of is that everyone has the capacity to learn in their own way and we all do it in different ways. Academics is not the only way!
In 1998, NYK, which, in this case, stands for 'Now You Know', established its first official challenge, not simply about money but about sharing a mutual goal, whether it be arts, crafts or writing. Most would agree that securing a guaranteed, long term income as a writer (or artist) was a dream that came true for only the chosen few. But we pooled our talents and we said 'do or be damned'. Our voices counted, no matter how much bullying and intimidation was experienced.
Some of us learned the lesson of the past and that lesson was self-responsibility, with the added security of knowing that help would be at hand to support us if we fell below a certain line. Despite the billions of pounds of debt being accrued each year by Government spending, the safety net would remain... or so we thought! We were walking a financial tight rope - we still are - except the safety net is shrinking. Sadly, for some it seems to have vanished completely. But surely the question shouldn't be, "What are 'they' going to do about it?" Surely, the question should be, "How can we help?"