Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Uber Frugal Month Update

So we're into August now and Uber Frugal Month is officially over.  We also dedicated this month as "No Spend Month".  So let me tell you how it went.

We began the month really well, no spending at all.

We immediately switched out my youngest child' disposable nappies at night for cloth which was a super easy swap and I can't believe we didn't do it sooner.  We also took nappies off my 3 year old at night as we felt he was ready to go dry through the night.  This all went well.  I also started using cloths for going to the toilet.  This also went well thought there was a small increase in washing.

We cancelled our Netflix membership so that's a small monthly saving. Then we were invited to a party one of my children's friend's.  I thought at first I would make a gift, but completely left it too late and ran out of time so had to buy something.  I felt ok about this as you could argue it was an essential purchase, but I  was disappointed with my lack of preparation.  We were planning on cancelling our membership but needed to download to family tree so that ended up not happening. (Still planning on cancelling this as soon as we have figured out how to download the thing.)  Things carried on well after this, just buying our weekly food and other consumables.  Then we got ready for our holiday.

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We did have one sunny day!

We saved a lot of money on our holiday by camping (probably half the amount we would usually spend on a weeks holiday).  Unfortunately things went a bit downhill from here.  I had to buy some footwear for us all that we could use in the showers, so we ended up buying myself a paid of cheapy crocs and some jelly shoes for the boys and some sliders for my husband. On holiday things went even more wrong. We bought snorkels and goggles for the boys and a selection of brightly coloured buckets and spades.  I also made some purchases at a Museum for both myself and the boys (though my purchase was educational so somehow feels justified?!) We also ended up spending quite a bit of money on the camp site washing machines and dryers, and on reflection using cloth over the holiday was probably not cost effective compared to disposables because of the expense of the machines and dryers (it rained so no chance of line drying.) We also spent more on food by eating out and a fair bit was wasted due to not having a fridge. I think this could have been solved with better planning, and now we have done it once, I think we could be more efficient with meals in the future.

When we got back from our holiday my husband bought some new trainers which were on sale and I ordered some too, though sent mine back because, although they were cheap they weren't quite right so decided it was better to get pricier ones that fit perfectly for running in the future when I really need them, than cheaper ones that might bother me (and were also not essential). He also bought some trousers and I bought a new set of paints, (again justified by saying it's for my art business?!)

Unfortunately, because of eating out and other bits and bobs on our holiday we have ended up with both our bank accounts over drawn, but I am hoping that we are less overdrawn than we might have been had we not been "Uber Frugal" this month.

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This in my sold painting, but more paintings available HERE

On the whole it has been a positive experience and I am still taking what I have learnt through August.  I am questioning every purchase rather than just buying things without thought, and looking at things with an is-it-value-for-money mindset rather than thinking "it's too expensive" or "I can't afford it" which are not abundance ways of thinking.

On a positive note, I sold a painting this month!!  And I launched another mama's retreat day, this time an all day art fest!

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Seven Days of Vegan Dinners

I am so happy that so many of my friends are choosing a compassionate vegan diet.  I have had lots of comments, messages and replies asking for vegan recipes so thought I would put together 7 days of vegan dinners to help people transitioning to a vegan diet.  All the quantities serve about two adults and three small children, but you can easily adjust the quantities to suit your family and appetites.
Some ingredients I haven't given quantities for such as the rice, potatoes and pasta etc, so just use how much you normally would for your family. Apologies for the lack of images for each of the meals. I will try to add images as and when I next do these recipes.

1. Pasta sauce and sausages:

this is a great staple and good for kids, the sausages will probably fool a meat eater in this dish.  You could also swap out the veg and tomatoes for a shop bought jar of sauce, or add a few veggies to a shop bought sauce if you prefer. I have chosen wholemeal fusilli but you can use whatever pasta shapes you prefer.

Wholemeal Fusilli pasta,
Olive oil,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 Onion,
1 Courgette,
1 Red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 cloves of garlic,
Vegetable stock cube,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pack Linda McCartney sausages,
(Optional) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion, garlic courgette, pepper and mushrooms and fry gently in olive oil until soft, add can of chopped tomatoes, herbs, seasoning and stock cube.
Meanwhile cook the sausages and pasta.  When the sausages are done (15 mins in the oven) chop them up and add to the vegetable sauce.  Serve as you like, I prefer to mix my pasta and sauce together before serving. Add a little vegan cheese on top if you like it.
You could also do this as a pasta bake if you like.

2. "Chicken" curry:

This is a tasty general curry, add or takeaway spices to suit your own taste.

1 pack Vegan Quorn chunks,
1 can of Coconut milk,
2 Stock cubes,
1 Onion,
3 garlic cloves,
1 pepper,
Tin of chick peas,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 tbs tomato puree,
1 tsp Curry powder,
1/4 tsp Mustard powder,
1 tsp Garam Masala mix,

Fry onion, garlic, pepper and the spices in a little olive oil, add chick peas and quorn pieces.  Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stock cube.  Meanwhile cook the rice in the coconut milk and a stock cube (you may need to add a little water). Serve with poppadoms.

3. Hot and smokey chick pea salad:

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This is a really meaty salad, the flavours in the chick peas and the sun dried tomatoes give a really meaty taste like chorizo.  Then the creamy avocado makes you feel like you're eating some sort of sour cream.  Very tasty.

Mixed lettuce bag/ chopped up lettuce leaves and a handful of spinach leaves,
Red pepper,
Cherry tomatoes,
5 or 6 Sun dried tomatoes,
I Can of chick peas,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Smokes paprika,
Pinch of Cayenne,

Arrange the leaves on a plate and add chopped pepper and cucumber, and the tomatoes and the sun dried tomatoes chopped up.  Cook the chick peas in a frying pan with a little olive oil, add the seasoning, cook till hot through.  Sprinkle the chick peas on top of the salad followed by the avocado chopped into cubes.

4. Fajitas,

A fun family dinner.  If you're not keen on the Quorn you could use butter beans or soya meat balls.

Tortilla wraps,
Vegan quorn chunks,
1 Onion,
1 courgette,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 Cloves of garlic,
1 tsp Tomato puree,
salt and pepper,
1 tsp Smoked paprika,
Pinch of cayenne,
(optional ) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion and other veg and fry with a little olive oil, add the quorn chunks, tomato puree and seasoning and cook till all soft.
Serve in wraps with finely chopped lettuce, cucumber slices and sliced tomatoes, avocado and a little vegan cheese if you like.  If you're feeling adventurous the check out cashew sour cream and add this.

5. Bean Casserole,

This maybe my favorite recipe (sorry for the poor quality image).

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1 can of mixed pulses,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 tsp tomato puree,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves of garlic,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
stock cube,
1 tsp smoked paprika,
1 tbs soft brown sugar,
1 tbs cider vinegar,
1 can coconut milk.

Fry all the veg, add the puree and chopped toms, add the seasoning and stock cube and the can of pulses, add the sugar and vinegar for a bbq taste. and cook till veg is soft.  Meanwhile cook the rice with the coconut milk and a stock cube, add a little water if needed. You can serve with some tortilla crisps if you like.

6. Lasagna,

I have been assured by my meat eating friends that this is a very tasty lasagna. You can get dairy free garlic bread in most supermarkets or make your own with an oven bake baguette, some vitalite and crushed garlic.

Wholemeal lasagna sheets,
Frozen Soya mince,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic,
1 courgette,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pinch cayenne,
1 jar of vegan white sauce (or google a recipe for cashew white sauce)
Vegan cheese.
Garlic bread to serve.

Chop up then fry off the onions, garlic and other vegetables, add the chopped toms and stock cube and seasoning.  Add the soya mince and cook. Layer the mince sauce, lasagna and white sauce as you would normally and top with the vegan cheese.

7. Cottage pie.

Is this cottage pie or shephears pie, or neither?  I am not sure, but it tastes good so who really cares!
If you like you can switch out the chopped tomatoes for gravy granules and a little water.

Frozen Soya mince,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs Tomato puree,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
Stock cube,
A dash of Almond milk,
1 tbs Vitalite,
salt and pepper,
(optional) vegan cheese or nutritional yeast.

Chop up and fry the onion, garlic and other vegetables, add soya mince and tomatoes and cook.  Add seasoning.  Meanwhile steam the potatoes then mash with almond milk, vitalite and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Layer in a dish and cook as you would a cottage pie, you can add some vegan cheese on top if you like or some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour.

I hope you enjoy these vegan meals and they inspire you to start including more plant based meals into your weekly menu.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Uber Frugal Month

Hi friends,

In July I'll be taking part in Uber Frugal Month.

This is a month long money saving challenge. You can read more about it HERE, and I'm starting today.

We aren't an extravagant family, we rarely splash out on material things, but recently we have had a lot of payments going out and no improvements on money coming in.

There are several reasons I am participating in this challenge:
  • To recharge my commitment to non-consumerism/ materialism,
  • To learn new ways to save money,
  • To make steps towards paying off overdrafts,
  • To make steps towards putting aside money for things we need (new living room floor, kitchen units) and things we want (holiday). 
  • To be able to put more money aside to donate to charity,
  • To focus on the important things in life that money can't buy, family, fun and friendships. 
By the end of this month I don't expect to suddenly have a bank account overflowing with money, but I do hope that we are able to see a future where we have money to spend on things our family needs and some money left over for the things that make life enjoyable (like more camping trips), unlike our current situation where we seem to be working every month to pay off the overdraft. As well as avoiding waste and needless purchasing. I hope we will have re-focused our minds to non-consumerism, so that we need and want less, this is good for us as well as the environment. 

Where I would like to see us in 10 years time is for my husband and I to both work part time.  I would like to be able to make a living from my art so that my husband can work half as much. This way we can share the massive burden of childcare and home education and there is less of a burden on my husband to be the "bread winner". 

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts HERE  we are living in a very small house in a very pricey area, so another part of my ultimate goal would be to be able to move into a larger house (specifically three bedrooms with a second toilet and utility room, (easily pleased)).  I don't dream of mansions and fast cars and loads of clothes and jewellery (too much responsibility) but on a purely practical note, our house is getting too small for our needs and a little bit more space would make life less stressful.  A lot of boxes would have to be ticked for us to be able to achieve this goal, so in the mean time I would like for us to have enough disposable income to be able to pay someone to look after the children perhaps a couple of days a month so I can work on my art and business. 

In the longer term, I would like to see us being able to take our children travelling, to see the world a bit and to be able to live mortgage free, moving towards self-sufficiency. 

So this month is just the start of a much bigger plan and I know it won't be easy.  Children are demanding and the nag factor is hard to resist.  Buying things is just so easy these days I do it without thinking sometimes, I'll buy a book from Amazon that I could have borrowed from the library, or I'll buy something brand new that I could probably have got second hand somewhere, but that takes more effort. So effort is something I am going to need in bucket loads, but I'm making that commitment to the challenge. (I'm going to miss our takeaways on a Friday evening).

So what am I going to be doing to save money in an extreme way?
  • I'll be eliminating all non essential spending, (I'll be calling this a "no-spend month") so we'll be cutting our things like monthly payments to online subscriptions,
  • Reducing gas and electricity bills by being more careful with gas and electricity use (easier in summer!)
  • Reducing expenditure on food, by eating what we have already got in the cupboards, buying at the market, and having a fast from all processed foods, planning ahead, and by price comparing and buying from the cheapest place,
  • Seriously think about our need for a third car.

These are the steps I have already taken on the first day:

  • Cutting up an old dressing gown to use as reusable cloths,
  • Putting my one year old in a cloth nappy at night to reduce our use of disposables (he wears cloth during the day but disposables at night),
  • Putting my three year old in pants at night with an absorbent sheet to eliminate use of disposables (we already have a pack of the sheets so no extra cost there),
  • Setting up a monthly direct debit for my car tax so I can account for monthly out goings more easily and we can work on getting out of the overdraft,
  • Cancelling subscription to and Netflix, 
I'll also be hustling to get more money IN through my business and have a variety of things up my sleeve that I am going to implement and put into place in the next month, so stay tuned for that.

In conclusion I want to make it clear that we aren't about being miserly or having an attitude of lacking, I want our family to have an attitude of abundance throughout this challenge and that may well be one of the hardest parts about it, the frugality should be our first step towards wealth accumulation. 

Wish me luck, and let me know if you decide to join in with the Uber Frugal Challenge too. 

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