By NYK in Frugaldom
A daily dose of frugal living to help our new members cope with the trials and tribulations of living on an ever tightening budget. Don't spend rainy day money unless it really is essential - stop, take stock and prioritise your spending now.
20 servings of home soup for around £2.00
December is one of the most expensive months of the year if, like many others, you leave Christmas shopping until the last minute and then discover you have overspent on the food budget throughout the year, leaving yourself potentially skint over the festive period. Worse still, you may find an increase in visitors, unexpected presents 'needing' to be bought and family or friends expecting to be fed and entertained during the holidays. My number one tip is MAKE SOUP!
Soup can be made from almost anything and costs just a couple of pounds to make sufficient for up to 20 servings. I store mine in recycled margarine cartons, which hold two portions, or in the plastic screw cap jars, which can hold 3 servings. The plastic screw cap tubs cost about 65p each and come filled with instant hot chocolate powder! Bonus! (Never bin anything that has reuse potential.)
EASY TO MAKE HAM AND LENTIL SOUP
- 1 pack cooking bacon (currently around 65p from supermarkets)
- 500g lentils
- 4 chopped carrots
- 2 chopped onions
Simmer the meat in water to make the stock- I do mine in the slow cooker for at least 3 hours and this also contributes to the overall heating of the kitchen - and then strain the meat and fat from the water. Separate the meat from the fat (if you are health conscious) and set it aside while making the soup. You can either add this later or use it in other meals, like ham and pasta bake, carbonara, pie or even eat it on sandwiches.
Add in the lentils and chopped vegetables then simmer until ready - add more water as required.
Once cooked, season to suit your own taste. You can add in the leftover bacon to turn the soup into a luxury, meaty broth that can be served as a meal on its own, probably followed by pudding, if you are anything like us here in Frugaldom, but when the budget is really stretched, I recommend using the bacon for something like pie-making so you get another meal out of it.
SUDDEN LOSS OF INCOME
Thankfully, this has not happened to me this month but it happens to people all the time - pay offs, lay offs, redundancies, illness, accidents and even, in tragic cases, sudden death. There are any number of reasons for a sudden change in circumstances and we cannot always be prepared for them. So how can we best cope?
First, no amount of panicking, shouting, tears or tantrums will instantly resolve the problem and despite being a very difficult fact to absorb, we have to remain level headed for the sake of our own sanity and those around us.
STOP - TAKE STOCK - PRIORITISE
Touch choices can mean tough love! I'm focussing on income here, so for the purposes of being prepared, frugal living means maintaining a basic supply of essential foodstuffs, like salt, flour, pulses, dried and tinned goods suitable for emergencies and budgeting to run the household on less than what you normally average. I'm not talking about extreme preparedness, only a basic common sense approach to avoiding empty cupboards when we most need them to be full and paying the bills without bankrupting ourselves, while still setting aside something for the future. THIS 'SOMETHING' DOES NOT NEED TO BE MONEY!
I did a quick freezer inventory while the soup was cooking and listed every item this lifesaving ice box contains. In saying that, it is only lifesaving while there is electrical power, so I prefer not to cook any meats before freezing them just in case they defrost and need to be cooked before refreezing. Ready cooked meals are done on a surplus to immediate requirement basis, so a batch of Bolognese sauce or lasagne would be OK, along with the frozen stewed fruit that gets used up over the winter months after the growing season has ended. Soup is always available and gets replenished as soon as the last tub gets used. I have several recipes and posts about homemade soup, feel free to read those, save them or share them.
During my inventory, I discovered enough food to last us the remainder of the year, excluding Christmas dinner. I could manage a celebratory dinner on what's here but have family visiting who expect a bit of tradition, so we're preparing the meal between us.
List your overheads and prioritise your necessary spending - rent or mortgage, council tax, essential utilities all need to be paid. Review contracts, if you have any, to find out which can be cancelled. As a general rule, frugal living means saying no to all contracts, so things like mobile telephones, satellite television and subscriptions of any description are an absolute no-no! Many don't realise the damage these can do while there's money flowing in, it's only when the contractually agreed payments get missed and start accruing debt at an alarming rate that we suddenly realise the hidden dangers. No more contracts - get rid of them as soon as possible and learn to live without whatever luxury it is they were providing.
CHEAP, HOME-BASED HOBBIES
This is my knitting project that I started yesterday. It will eventually become a multi-coloured, multi-textured, warm, woolly blanket made from all the odd balls of wool that others often discard at the ends of their own projects. Both the blue and brown mottled wool are from unravelled home knits made by others. I am not a knitter but these plain (or garter) stitch strips are a dawdle to knit, even for the most inexperienced of us. This and the fact that there are fewer squares to sew together at the end of it make it a much less arduous and almost therapeutic task. Relax and unwind your yarn this winter.
My own kids are now grown, one has kids of her own, so my kids are grand kids. Children of all ages demand to be entertained, amused, fed, bathed, clothed and pampered - so do some adults, come to think of it! Money does none of these things - people do! A child can have just as much, if not more, fun playing outside with those responsible for their welfare and, contrary to belief, getting dirty isn't a life-threatening situation. As long as you have the time to spend with children doing simple, cost-free activities, children will be happy. If it's cold indoors because you can't afford heating on all day, wrap them up warm, get them out into the fresh air and then wrap them in home-knitted blankets until the house warms up a bit.
Many of us still don't have double glazing, insulation or central heating and nor can many afford to burn electricity in the absence of gas. Coal costs a small fortune and log drying can be next to impossible during the prolonged wet weather we endure here, but making the smallest room in your home acceptably warm shouldn't be impossible, even if it means converting your living room into a bed-sit come dining come games room. It makes family time seem fun all the time. If you're a telly addict, get headphones rather than bark orders to shut up at everyone else in the room who has no interest in what's on at the time. Sorted!