The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: August review. Challenging expectations

Inca and stone dogI noticed fallen leaves on the grass this morning and realised that it’s Autumn. It seems to have crept out of the shadows of a summer that never really came alive. I planted a fragrant border beside the outdoor table. There was a week when we ate outside every evening. Just the one.

I also remembered that I haven’t written the August update on our save money 2008 challenge.

We are still beavering away with the challenge and saved about 60% in August. We are eating well, can have people round for supper occasionally and are now feeling content about cutting back. It’s the ideal state of mind. Paring away, looking at the budget on a monthly basis – if there’s suddenly an unexpected bill we can juggle and salve the trauma.

We shop at the Daily Bread cooperative once a month. This gives us loads of ingredients for endless vegetarian/store cupboard meals. Our meat bill has been slashed. We are eating well and enjoying the new terrain. After eight months we have happily emigrated to cost cutting. I enjoy the ducking and diving.

The recent fuel price hikes are scary, a lot of our savings will be gnawed by these. If we hadn’t started to shave our outgoings in January we’d be very panicky now. And we still could cut back a lot more. Before we reach the economical impasse that Danny refers to as, “The pasta with garlic and olive oil stage”.

The major change is that we try to avoid waste and get the best out of what’s available.
“Let’s have chicken on Sunday.”
Has been replaced with looking at what’s on offer. We also bargain a bit now.
“If I buy two chickens, would you give me a better price?”
Generally the answer is Yes.

Mark Hix wrote a good article on recipes that he ran up from supermarket offers . Danny was impressed. He also wrote an excellent article using an organic chicken, to create four meals for two people. Danny was not quite so dazzled by this.
“You cant beat a whole roast chicken for Sunday lunch.”
True. Although a few weeks later he took up Mary’s tip for halving a chicken to roast and freezing the other half. There are still lenough leftovers for sandwiches. If you are going to buy free range chicken joints, buying a whole chicken and jointing it is much more cost effective than buying packs.

The strange thing is that since we started cutting back and telling people about the challenge, rather than hiding away and weeping about our self imposed plight, we have learnt so much about saving money, resources, time and energy. Gradually we are tossing our old ‘standards’ away. If you want it, can you grow it, barter or save for it or even adapt what you already have? Rather than buy it now.

But old habits are deeply ingrained. I’ve become obsessed with bread makers since S.O.L. left a comment on the blog stating that they produce a loaf for 25p, including electricity. In fact I spent two hours Googling bread makers last night.

I finally tottered to bed and, as I slipped between the sheets, remembered that Magic Cochin at Purple Podded Peas had linked to Atomic Shrimp’s amazing home made bread making video. This video shows how simple it is to make a plump and tantalising loaf of bread using Tesco Value plain flour, dried yeast and water. I have tasted Magic Cochin’s bread using this method, and different flour and it was excellent.

As my fingers fly across the keyboard, a loaf is rising in our airing cupboard. In the old cash high days, the loaf would be rising on an electric heater switched on for the purpose! This loaf will cost about 50p as I’ve used strong bread flour. Still cheaper than supermarket bread and the Kenwood Chef obliged by doing all the kneading. Incidentally, the heater has been moved to the barn. If I get chilly, I put on my jacket.

The one thing that now makes me feel a bit crouchy are the past years of waste.

Despite this we are having fun with this challenge. I used to struggle to shave £10 off our weekly food bill. When I began to question all my preconceptions and expectations, I started to save substantially. There was one comment on the July post that has stayed with me, truly inspirational. Its S.O.L. again.

“It is becoming a game. How little can I get by on?”

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  1. Get a Panasonic breadmaker,they are excellent,well worth the extra.I even make lovely bread using spelt flour in mine (many say it is very difficult to make bread using just spelt but it’s easy in my Panasonic)I had other breadmakers before but they gave poor results.I make bread the oldfashioned way too,and have done for forty years,but breadmakers are very useful if you don’t have time for kneading etc.

  2. Hi Fiona, As promised in my earlier post I have made the bread using 800gm flour,594gm water,12gm salt and a sachet of dried yeast. I included about 4oz of strong canadian bread flour with the organic plain flour. I have just taken the first loaf out of the oven and we, together with my visiting niece have just had it with some red wine and I have sent her home(she lives next door!) with a loaf fresh out of the oven. Fantastic results. Thank you once again.

  3. Have you tried for a bread maker. I know loads of people who have bought one and never use it. Maybe somebody in your area is happy to give it away, all it’d cost you is the petrol to go pick it up.

  4. Hi- I have finally cracked bread making after 2 years of trying and now i’m addicted to it!! I have a question though. In regards to saving money- how do you work out how much you save? Do you write out all your outgoings? Is it just food or on everything? Or do you just work it out from how much you have left at the end of the month? Sorry to be nosey but we’re trying to cut back but still shop ethically but my boyfriend is terrible at keeping records so i was just wondering how you do things as you seem to do so well!! thanks

  5. My Mother lived through World War Two in London. She still lives by all the thrifty habits she learned then. We could all learn a lot from that generation!

  6. We swear by our bread maker and use it every day. No need for mixing or keading or rising so we are much more likely to make bread in a bread maker than by hand in a busy household. It also saves us money even when using decent very strong bread flour. Our fixed rate came to an end too last month and we are paying an extra £150 a month. Has any one tried to cap their fuel bills?

  7. Another one of your inspirational posts Fiona. I also like making my own bread and cook extra meals to go into the freezer from food on special offer etc. I have enjoyed looking at the links you mention.

    I do get depressed when I find that the fuel companies then take the results of my cutbacks. ˜Your direct debit must be increased™ etc as though you are using more “ not that they are charging more!

    So lovely to see your stone dog again, it™s like an old friend as we have two of these outside. Regards to the MinPins and Mrs. Boss. x

  8. HI Fiona! Here’s an invitation to “retreat” if you ever get to the US w/ your restricted budget.

    Last year your ‘buy no flowers challenge’ made me cringe; flowers are SO important! I did, however promise myself that I would put something on my little windowsill at the sink every week, something from my own garden.

    I have made bread almost all of my married life. Kate is right, you don’t need a bread machine; i used to make sourdough very simply and easily in one large bowl with my hands. I do use a bread machine now as a tool, and it has freed me up to do more weaving. (And I NEVER bake the bread in the machine…it just does not do good bread.)

    Nancy (who is looking forward w/ great anticipation to a very first trip to the UK in October)

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