The humble nasturium – my flower of the year

If there’s one flower that’s ticked all the boxes for me this year, it’s the humble nasturtium. I planted in small plugs at the beginning of the summer, simply in the hope that they would lure the little beasties away from my other fruits and veggies. And boy, did the nasturtiums do their job! With the help of some marigolds, all of our potager crops remained gloriously pest-free.

Nasturtium summer kitchen garden

So a few months on from planting in my nasturtiums, here I am on a sunny November Friday, waxing lyrical about my nasturtiums that are still blooming away like little pockets of sunshine on my plot. In fact, they’ve gone a little overboard and swamped (what was) the pea and bean support, and continue to boldly go where no nasturtium has gone before…

So why are nasturtiums my flower of the year? For several reasons really; they’ve not only proven to be a really effective companion plant,but have also proven to be a great edible addition to our little harvests this year too.

Yellow nasturtium flower

Then there’s the fact that they are a seriously fuss-free plant to grow. I barely watered and didn’t feed my nasturtiums this year, and yet they have thrived throughout the summer highs of 30C+, and our autumn lows of below 6C at night. They’ve nonchalantly withheld of the forces of several storms with high winds, and don’t seem at all bothered when I rip out a few of their trailing tentacles or somewhat savagely mowed over the overspill from the veg patches.

These plants are tough. But they’re so, so pretty too.

With the amount of seeds that the plants have dropped into the soil over the last few weeks, I’m sure this isn’t the last I’ve seen of my fiery beauties.

Here’s to another season growing these truly remarkable, yet humble flowers.

Orange nasturtium flower

November Frugal Goals

acers in november

So once again it’s time to set my frugal goals, and really focus on getting some funds banked in the savings account before the festive period. I can’t quite believe that here we are, already in November 2017 – two more months of the year to go, and two more months to really make 2017 the year that we got that little bit closer to where we want to be.

I feel that this time of year can be really tough if you’re living on a budget, with so many temptations to spend a bit here, and there. But with a bit of a plan, it’s entirely possible to stick to that budget and continue on your thrifty journey throughout the festive period!

Falling Back, Looking Forward

We were lucky to enjoy lots of sunny, uplifting days in October, and I hope November continues in the same vein! Although, last weekend the clocks went back once again, and my own internal body clock is still having trouble adjusting! Come 5pm, the world is once again dark and cold, and when I am unceremoniously awoken at 6am each morning, I’m still feeling my way around in the dark, not quite ready to face the day. As such, I have an inkling that this month is going to be a bit of a battle to resist the urge to a) put the heating on a lot, and b) go into winter foraging mode and eat everything. Everything!

This is partly why I think it’s useful to set monthly goals – to keep myself in check, to keep our energy usage and bills in check, and keep on a positive, frugal path that’ll see us debt-free in a few years. Otherwise I could end up centrally heating and eating my way into a heck of a lot more debt 😉

So on we go with my November Frugal Goals…

frosty garden

Introduce a pound coin saver jar
I know that some people like to do an annual challenge with saving £1 and £2 coins, but I’m an impatient type, and would rather save up my pound coins over a month, and then deposit them into my savings account regularly. I might not get a massive hit of cash, but I’m happy to top up little and often… and the urge to dip in and out will surely be less if the pot is emptied more often!

Continue skimming my bank account
I go with the ethos that no money I make can be considered disposable or as “profit” until I’m debt-free. One little trick I’ve picked up in helping to increase my savings a little each month, is to “skim” my bank account for a few pounds and pennies to get to a rounded-off number. For instance, if I have £374.38 in my account, I skim 4.38 into my savings, leaving me with a rounded £370. So no wasting money on treats and getting into the mindset that I have a spare £5 here or there… I keep chipping away when I think I have a little to spare, and into the savings account it goes. There are a few apps out there that do this automatically (ie CHIP), but I’m going to rely on my own judgement for now.

Bank another £250 in my savings
I have two short-term goals that involve making “big hit” payments. With all the skimping and saving that I’m doing, I’m hoping to make a number of “big hit” pay offs that won’t hurt my bank account. For November, I want to bank £250 in savings, to help me achieve this.

Pick sloes and make sloe gin for Christmas!
I see that sloe gin costs around £13-25 in the supermarkets at the moment. As one of my favourite festive tipples, I know I can make some seriously good, gluggable (eek! not too much!) sloe gin here at home, with a non-branded value bottle of super-cheap gin, available from your local discount supermarket for well under a tenner. Check out my sloe gin recipe here.

Spend no more than £60 a week at the supermarket
Yes, a repeat from last month. Already failed in this first week of November, but I’m determined to get there!

Enquire about getting a water meter fitted
I’m convinced that we could save a packet on water bills with a meter, and that having one fitted would make us much more aware of our water usage. Good for us, good for the environment.

books on a shelf

Send off my unwanted books to WeBuyBooks
We have a TONNE of books that we never read anymore, sitting in storage boxes in the house whilst we finish decorating the dining room, where the bookshelf used to creak under their weight. This month, I want to go through my stash and send off any books worth a few pence or pounds, and the rest can go to the charity shop. Definitely on a declutter mission this autumn/winter.

Find a frugal solution for shoe storage!
Bit of an odd one, but we seem to have a surprisingly large collection of shoes for three people. I admit, it’s mostly me not wanting to let go of old, battered Vans, or old tired Toms, as well as “what if” party shoes (I never go out to party, ever, boo, sucks to be me, NOT), so I really need to Marie Kondo the hell out of my shoes. And with what’s left, I’ve got to find a suitable shoe storage solution in our coat cupboard, that doesn’t involve a rickety old shoe shelf that falls over all the time. It annoys the hell out of me that our shoes are constantly out and on display, and E seems to enjoy pulling out the neat rows of shoes and scattering them about.

Batch cook a tonne of pies, soups and stews
I started with chilli last month, but we’re almost out! Tonight, I made a new batch of veggie curry, and over the next week I’m going to go for leek and potato soup, more veggie chilli, and some sweet potato and lentil pie portions. We’re actually starting to struggle for space in our little fridge-freezer, so I might have to look at cheap chest freezer options in the new year…

Spicy autumn soup recipe with butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot

Finish decorating the utility room
How does this fall under frugal aims, you ask? Well, it’s where I’m hoping we’ll be able to store bulk purchases of household goods, and we need to find a frugal solution for fitting the storage cupboards too. Do we refit the old, dated and wonky cupboards, or invest in new units that could last us much longer? It’s something I really want to get sorted as we’re desperate for storage space (and I also want to have a larder shelf too…)

Make a few more listings on eBay/Facebook selling pages
We have so much stuff to root through, that I’m going to try and make some bundles to sell on Facebook selling pages or eBay. I don’t mind if I don’t make a wad of cash, as it’ll be a relief to get rid of the “stuff” in our lives that we no longer want or need, without sending it to landfill!

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to end up with too many fails at the end of the month!

How about you? What are your November frugal goals? How do you think you’ll fare as the festive season approaches?

Autumn maple tree

Reflecting on October Frugal Goals

So at the beginning of the month I set myself a few frugal living aims for October, and I thought I should check in to see how I have done. In the past, I’ve been a bit of a talker and not much of a do-er, so I’m trying to be accountable to myself and stick to my goals and budgets!

Autumn leaves

This was my original list from my October Goals post, and underneath I’ve got some feedback on each frugal goal:

  1. Earn at least £200 extra on top of my normal salary
    So far I’ve got abut £120 saved up from this month, which is not bad considering that sometimes it feels as if I’m living on peanuts! But October is not over, and I’m hoping to add another £20 or £40 to the pot, so all in all although I haven’t reached my original goal, I haven’t done too badly either. 
  2. Don’t put ANYTHING on credit cards this month
    Yeahhhh, this one didn’t go too well as I ended up buying a big ecourse bundle to help with my freelance, and I’d forgotten that the Amazon Prime annual subscription was coming out this month too! Added to that, a few little shops prior to pay day meant that I added another £30 to the balance, but at least I’ll be able to pay that off straight away now that I’ve been paid. I thoroughly deserve a smack on the wrists for this one, though.
  3. At least 15 no-spend days
    I’m not actually sure, but I do know that there were many days where I didn’t spend anything! I think I shall have to get my old bujo (dotted bullet journal planner) out again and start drawing up my No Spend Day charts again so that I can track this one more closely. But I would definitely say that the spend:no spend ratio was much, much better this month. 
  4. Harvest the rest of the carrots in the veg patch
    I have harvested around 75% of all the carrots in the veg patch now, and we are eating our way through them. The Autumn King carrots have grown very well this year and are a really good size. I decided to leave the rest in as our well-draining soil is a great natural store for them. Once my supplies are getting low inside, I’ll clear the rest out and then it’s time to get the alliums in!

    Sloes for gin

  5. Make my own sloe gin in time for Christmas!
    As we’re still waiting for a frost, this one is on the back burner at the moment. Once the first frost arrives, I’ll pick the remaining sloes and into the gin they will go! 
  6. Batch cook more freezer meals
    This month I’ve been really pleased with how much more batch cooking I’ve managed to do, as it’s really made a difference with cutting down spends for lunch at work, as well as making easy, quick but healthy meals in the evening. I made a huge batch of veggie chilli which I will be making again for November, and I think I’ll also make my sweet potato and lentil pie portions too. I’m also planning on batch cooking and freezing leek and potato soup portions, as these are really lovely with crusty bread for lunch on a chilly day.
  7. Spend no more than £60 at the supermarket each week (a tough one)
    Well, no, this didn’t happen. But we have cut down our supermarket spends a lot since I’ve been concentrating on meal planning and doing the big weekly shop. I still managed to miss a few items that we had to go back for, but I noticed we have been going back far less regularly and have probably knocked £30 off our weekly spend already. I still maintain that we can get through a week with £60 for the three of us plus two cats… it’s not an easy task but definitely not impossible! 
  8. So a bit of a mixed bag on the October Frugal Aims front… I think it’s easy to slip into bad habits when the salary starts getting low before pay day, but I’m pleased that I’ve managed to put aside some extra earnings this month too to balance the bad bits. 

    How about November then? Check out my next November Frugal Goals post!