The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: April review

amaryliis opening budThe best bicycle that I ever owned was my first one. A red fairy cycle with creamy white wheels and the promise of freedom and speed. My mother didn’t believe in fitting stabilisers. She ran behind the bike holding onto the saddle. I was impressed that she could run so fast. One day we seemed to be moving at an unbelievable speed.

I glanced round and spotted her tiny in the distance. She had let go. The shock of realising that I was actually cycling solo was so great that I immediately fell off. I can remember lying in the grass and daisies and feeling so grown up and free.

Saving money this year reminds me of that day. Growing up brings freedom and restrictions. You have to pay for the things that you consume. Like those early cycling lessons, there have been lots of hiccups and tumbles and moments of sheer frustration. Times when I despaired. Found myself behaving like a mad dictator, checking the electricity meter and feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of cutting costs.

As the weeks flew by, I have discovered that our new budget has created a clearer world. We are happier than we have been for years as we are beginning to feel in control.

Four main things have helped:

  1. Having a partner who is up for the challenge and applauds every saving – even his own!
  2. Changing from an alpha carnivore diet to good vegetarian/veggievore meals four days a week.
  3. Sorting out the larder so that I can see what we have at a glance and avoid buying a surfeit of perishable food.
  4. Making the challenge a game that I’d like to win rather than a heavy unwieldy yoke. There’s a freedom knowing that we can live well whilst save money. Suddenly, I feel less shackled and more creative in my approach to all spending. I wish that I’d tried this years ago.

It’s easy to cut back and suffer. This happened to me in January and February. Once I twigged that cutting back on spending does not always equate to buying the cheapest ingredients and living on gruel, my imagination blossomed. There are ways of having treats on a budget. It needs three ingredients. Time, imagination and hope.

I love good bacon. Now I am making my own for much less than the average middle of the range bacon. We are now eating wonderful deluxe bacon, far beyond our budget in the bad old days. If I see cream on offer I make butter . This is cheaper than the unsalted French butter that we’ve always adored as a treat. Our butter is fresher and tastes almost as good. Salami was dropped from our shopping list as it’s expensive and doesn’t significantly affect our quality of life. I discovered that I missed it enormously. Now I am making our own salami for a quarter of the price. So far the results are promising.

Budgeting is all about planning ahead, buying the right stuff on offer (loo rolls, washing up liquid etc). I’m now actively condensing shopping trips into town to save petrol and time.

I agree with Sharon at Finding Simplicity the occasional treat is a must have. Barnsley chops were scoffed last week as a reward for running the gauntlet of the soya mince. In fact we enjoyed both meals but the lamb was savoured and cooked with as much care as the soya mince and far more care than before.

Finally we are riding our bikes alone, without the safety net of a bigger budget. And loving it.

Some of our savings have been reinvested in equipment such as netting and poles for fruit cages (in past years I have lost so much bounty to the birds ). This year I’m determined to get the maximum harvest from my fruit canes and bushes by making study netted frames. The raspberry canes are snug in a bird proof world. Hopefully the currants, gooseberries and soon to be espaliered cherries will flourish under the same.

So how did we do?

We saved just over 30% in April 2008. And we are fractionally slimmer. Making our own pork pies is a dangerous activity.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kay

    Thanks for the suggestions. Store cupboard meals sound like a great challenge and also the œgrow your own meals. I’m definitely going to try both of these, although D™s face dropped at the last suggestion.
    œThat would just be a plate of vegetables.
    A new challenge indeed!.

    Hi Pumpkin-Power

    We are saving money but it’s still challenging not to buy too much and use everything up! It’ll be easier when the kitchen garden is a bit more productive. As we can harvest what we need rather than what I think we need!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Pumpkin~Power

    Wowzer! 30% is tremendous. You must feel so proud to not only be saving money but also being more self-sufficient too with your homemade produce. There is nothing quite like it 🙂 Hmmm Raspberry Jam…. You have certainly inspired me to be more aware of my purchases and not to over spend. I have always tried to use up any left overs but I am now making a more concerted effort to not buy to much and use everything we buy. Thank you for the inspiration (or kick up the backside!) to behave more responsibly and cost effectively! Good on ya….

  3. Well done you! It’s good for everybody (and the planet) to cut down on unecessary consumption and spending. Are you doing store-cupboard meals once a week? It really tests your ingenuity to look at your tinned and dried goods and concoct one meal that uses only them (and uses up stuff that you keep pushing to the back of the shelf, if you’re anything like me). We also have grow-your-own meals once a week in summer – cooked only with what we can harvest from the garden or allotment.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sally

    We are finally having fun with this challenge. A lot of it is tying up lose ends – the larder, the fruit cages etc. I’ve found that new projects have been good too – pork pies, bacon, salami. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Pat

    Thanks for the idea of the list. I definitely need to do this – for the larder and the freezers.

    Good luck with cutting back on spending.

    Hi Sam

    We’ve turned our heating off too and it’s a bit chilly in the evenings. When the rooks have finished nesting in the kitchen chimney I’m going to clean it and put a cowl on the top so that we can use the wood burning stove again!

    Your trip to London sounds fun! Everyone needs a treat once in a while.

    Hi Wendy

    I’m so pleased that you are enjoying the blog. Comments like yours make it all seem worthwhile!

    Flowers from the garden was my first challenge and by the end of the year I was loving it. It made me relate to the garden in an entirely different way.

    This year’s challenge is a bit tougher but equally rewarding, so far.

  5. Have just made my daily visit to your page and it is so inspiring today. I have been buying toilet rolls in bulk as we have lots of storage space but I know that there is lots more I could do although I am always diligent in using up left overs. I also like your monthly flower arrangement and always do one myself now from bits in the garden and take a photo of it.
    Just had to say (even though I will probably make you blush) that I am never disappointed in your blog as it is always there for me when I log on and I also love reading the comments left for you by your friends.
    Love to Mrs. Boss and the Min Pins. x

  6. samantha winter

    Hi Fiona
    Well done! We turned our heating off last week and I’ve cleaned out my cupboards.
    We did go out for lunch today and we have just replaced the fridge and freezer.
    Now I’m determined to have a frugal May – but the car needs servicing, it’s out duaghter-in-laws 30th birthday, we’ve booked a weekend away in London using the theatre tickets our children got us for Christmas. What hope!!!!!!
    You however should be proud.

  7. Well done Fiona!! We have been working on trying to cut back here on some of our spending. But like you said we don’t have to sacrifice quality. There are creative alternatives.Have made a list of all the stuff in my cupboards and crossing it off when I use it up. Like you it helps to know what I have. Good luck for the future.

  8. 30%! That is impressive. You’ve given me the push – I can certainly start with numbers 2 3 today. (We eat too much meat and the larder could do with a clean out. Right, I’m off to do that straight away. And, plan menus for the week ahead.)

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