Friday, 30 January 2009

February Challenges

Well it’s been another few days and my skin is still feeling great, so the other cosmetics are definitely out in my next recycling box.

I will be making some more of the oatmeal/honey/milk cleanser for the coming week, plus some actual face moisturiser and a body one, as my unrefined shea butter from ebay has arrived. I am expecting some rose essential oil too and I will then be set to go. A cheap Argos hand blender has been purchased so all in I have spent approx £9 to get these basics which will do me for at least 6 – 9 months which is an amazing saving compared to this time last year.

In addition, I will be able to use the rose essential oil to add to my homemade shower gel or handsoap if I want to, so that’s another plus, however this will be rare as I will use it sparingly because it’s not the cheapest oil – more likely grapefruit / lime etc will be used and I will save the Rose for face moisturiser or cold cream.


February marks the start of another month, another chance for me to beat the monthly challenges and they may be something you already do. Some I already do and some are ones I’d like to start:

- Monthly supermarket challenge – I try to stick to £120 for two people for all food, cleaning and drinks, but wine normally blows this budget to around £135ish. Let’s see how we do in February.

- Monthly No Spend Day Challenge – This is my personal challenge and every day that I do not spend any money at all, I mark it as an ‘NSD’ in my diary. My personal best has been 21 x NSD’s in a month – not bad but very rare that happens! More average is 16 or 18 NSD’s per month. I find that it focuses the mind though and I know that most times I won’t hit 18 NSD’s in the Summer months...

- Cash Only Challenge – This is a new one for me - I am going to withdraw cash in one go this month and not visit the ATM as much to make it stretch. Not only will it save me time but it will ‘hurt’ me more to get the cash out of the drawer and see it dwindling away there than in the bank, so hopefully I will stay away from the drawer!
Plus as the banks and savings accounts are offering such poor interest rates now, the justification to leave it in the bank is getting less and less of an issue, so this may help me put a few more coins in the piggybank at the end of Feb.

- Less Electricity Challenge – Another new idea - I am aiming to have one night each week where we get back from work and literally only have a radio on. This means we can catch up properly with eachother, read, enjoy quality time, file old paperwork, clean house and all those things that seem to build up with all the busyness of the week. I am hoping it will help us lead a simpler life with ‘less static interference’ – let’s see whether it happens!

February is a hard month for challenges - Valentines day is coming and for those in a relationship it marks an expensive time – will you be treating yourselves or saving money in the credit crunch?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Beauty is... fridge deep!

This week has been all about beauty. I have over the last 6 months been questioning the ingredients in my current beauty products – my skin is both dry and sensitive (this is at it’s worst in Winter). Anyway, my current staples are Clarins moisturiser (given to me by a friend), Superdrug moisturiser Vitamin E (to test against Clarins) and a L’oreal Rose cleansing lotion.

I recently read up on the subject of the ingredients present in most commercial products and well, the lists are scary. Surely, given how quickly us women go through these products, we don’t mind if it has a shelf life of say 2 months, but only around 4 or 5 ingredients instead of 15? I know my ‘shopper’ self believes all the marketing hype, but my money-saving and live-greener self is starting to question things.

So, to this aim, I have made some of my own products this week after some Googling. This site gives some interesting recipes that inspired me to make a natural face cleanser:

I adjusted it slightly and my ingredients for a cleanser were:

1 x Tablespoon Ground oatmeal (I used a pestle and mortar to get it very fine)
Drizzle Honey
1 x teaspoon Yoghurt
Drizzle of olive oil
Dash of milk

Mix all until you have a cleanser consistency to your liking, similar to what you might get in a store.
This lasts around 1 week, pop it in a sterilised lidded pot and should be kept in the fridge.

I estimate it costs around £0.20p, if that, to make. That’s around £0.80p per month for a nice natural cleanser, 5 ingredients worth, made in 5 minutes and you KNOW everything that went into – in fact, you know it can be eaten – I tried some to prove this!

Plus I can report it works amazingly well, my skin feels softer and I am definitely happier – my L’Oreal will be disposed of and recycled because I really don’t want to use more chemicals and prefer to spend £0.20 a week. So, £9.60 for a years worth of cleanser – that’s pretty amazing. I just need to make sure I make a new pot weekly.

My next experiment was Lip Gloss. That’s right – my last purchase was a Honey balm from REN which I seem to recall was around the £5 or £6 mark. Well, I was running short and almost bought another pot… Then I remembered I had bought some natural ingredient items off ebay last year in a moment of Shoppaholism. I had almond oil, jojoba oil, macademia oil and shea butter (unrefined). I found them all and made some of my own lip gloss – 2 pots worth and it worked amazingly well.

I now have 1 pot in my handbag and 1 pot on the bedside table – my hubby is also using it and loves that it’s natural. The recipe involves:

- Beeswax
- Shea Butter
- Jojoba Oil
- Essential oils
- Honey

I estimate these cost less than £0.50p per pot to make, compared to the £5 per pot – that’s something! I have as a result ‘Snowflaked’ £4.00 to my savings account, to cover the pot I *would* have purchased this week.

This site has some useful info:

and this one has some other recipes:

Of course you need to get the basic ingredients from a good seller, I liked ebay for this overall. Once you have them, you can make so many items – whipped body butter, lip balm, cleansers, cold cream and so much more. You can add the oils to shampoo, shower gel, conditioner etc.

I have also made a cold cream (see pic) with only a few ingredients – this site has an example:

This would have cost me around £3.00 to purchase, and only has a few ingredients instead of a long list of unpronounceables. I have made a pot and a half which I keep in the fridge, and massaged/cleansed my face with it last night, followed by a spritz of rose water onto a cotton pad and a final cleanse. In the mornings I am using the oatmeal/honey/yoghurt facewash which also helps to wake me up!

My home made whipped shea body butter worked out at around £1.90 for a whole tub:

This body butter contains many of the same ingredients and has simply been whipped with a blender, to add air and make it lighter.

All these are so quick to make, fun and natural plus I have noticed an immediate difference over the period of just 1 week.

I really don’t think you would regret making them, plus think of the a) money you will save, b) recycling you will avoid and c) happier skin!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Your best local supermarket offers

Today I noticed a great article over at Pomona Sprouts Blog - it talks about a wonderful site called Mad About Bargains:

Mad About Bargains

It seems these guys are doing for free, what other sites are charging for!

So get yourself over there and see what deals are in your local supermarket. You can click the column title and sort things by say 'Total Saving' too, which is dead handy...

[[[ ...Potters off to check out the wine and blueberries at Sainsburys... ]]].

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Painless Savings in painful times

Ok, so we all know the credit crunch is here to stay, and now economists are saying that this isn’t even the worst of it and could even topple from being a ‘Recession’ to a ‘Depression’ (The old joke goes that Recession is when your neighbour loses their job, a Depression is when you lose yours). Obviously, it’s no joke, so we’ve all got to do more than *think* about tightening the belt – we’ve got to get a thinner and longerlasting belt too.

Most of us are doing this already, but I thought what else can we do? It already hurts so much to work all day, and not really splurge even though every day is a slog in the 9-5 grind, or a fulltime job at home caring for others.

My thoughts this year, over and above what we did last year:

- Hubby will continue to have his hair cut Chez Moi, rather than a hairdresser. Perhaps he’ll go to them twice a year rather than say 8 times. Saving? Around £50.

- Less meat. So far we’ve only cut what what we spend by getting deals etc. This year we will actively cut back on meat, especially red meat, and enjoy more locally sourced vegetables, including reduced prices ones if we shop at our local market or late in the day at the supermarket.

- Less clothes. OK, it hurts for a girl to say this, but really I should try to cut back. I can then save money and if I buy good quality items at second hand stores, I will also be more eco-friendly as well as helping a charity. Win/Win all round. I make exception for shoes which I cn

- More pension – I currently pay into a private pension but if I can I would like to upp this, because in the current market your pension payments are buying you more for less than they used to. This is called Pound Cost Averaging – drip in slowly and you will hopefully have a safer time in these storms.

- Less waste. Eat whatever we buy – nothing goes in the bin. We have bought more and more from the fruit and veg market over the last 12 months, which means we can buy just 4 tomatoes if that’s all we need, rather than a shrink wrapped pack of 8, of which 2 may end up in the bin. It’s also greener as involves less packaging.

- More discounts – There’s no harm in asking, and if asking saves an average of 10% of some purchases, we’ve gained 10% in our pockets.

- More Free clicking – I will click as many offers and free cash-earning clicks as I can in 2009, to hopefully beat last year’s extra earnings.

- More working for ourselves – We’re self employed as well as having full time jobs, so the more we can earn the more cash we can save, and in the current market cash is king.

- Less energy – Use less gas and electric where possible and switch every 6 months if this offers significant savings, or other bonuses such as Nectar points, cashback or vouchers.

These are my ideas so far – what do you have planned – what are you going to spend more on (to reap rewards in the long term) or spend less on (to save cash)?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Good Ol' Granola... Tasty!

OK, so I really have been experimenting and keen to cook this week!

On Sunday I did a marathon session which included 10 portions of cottage pie with mash(5 dinners for both of us), 12 muffins, 4 portions of stifado greek stew (2 dinners), roast chicken (which made 4 portions/2 dinners and 6 portions/3 lunches as well as lots of chicken stock) and a litre of my homemade yoghurt. Hubby also made bread which was yummy and is now all gone.

I am saying all this because a) all the above probably only cost us around £12.90 in ingredients and b) because I had been hankering to cook properly. It kept me out of the 'dangerous' shops too... most dinners are now in my freezer in foil containers ready to sling in the oven and not have to cook for a night!

I made my own granola too, which you could have as follows:

Canned peaches or fresh chopped bananas
Big dollop of Natural Yoghurt
Granola sprinkled on top

I then also had a homemade muffin toasted with a little butter which was lovely. I felt sooooOooooo proud of myself to have made most of that breakfast! I can't work out how much it was but the muffins are 6.5p each, yoghurt maybe 20p and granola say 10p at a guess? It's a luxury breakfast compared to my usual porridge...

The Granola Recipe is as follows:


300g porridge oats
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
30g linseeds or dessicated coconut
100g flaked almonds
5 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

- Preheat oven to 180C
- Mix all dry ingredients
- Place honey and oil in saucepan and heat gently so it becomes more liquid
- Mix the honey into the dry inredients
- Line roasting tray with baking paper
- Spread the mix onto the paper evenly
- Bake for 15mins or so, maybe 20 depending on oven (may need to be stirred then roasted some more)
- Cool overnight than place into airtight jar
- Serve with jam or yoghurt or fresh fruit or all the above!

At the end of the day you can make the granola however you want by maybe using up bits you have at home - finely chopped dried apricots, raisins, crushed hazelnuts etc - anything that needs to be used. I like sunflower seeds and pumkin seeds as they are nutritious and not too expensive, but occasionally it's nice to have pecans / walnuts etc as a treat.

This batch made me a large jar full, which will easily last me a while especially as I mostly eat porridge, but when I want something different, the granola is ready & waiting to be sprinkled.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A gorgeous diary for... zero (just some time needed)

OK, I have to confess to you all that I am addicted to organisers / diaries / lists and so on ;o)

For me, ambling around a stationery store is a hobby, seeing different diaries, checking different paper and the different covers on notebooks etc... the colours, the textures, what content they have - it's all just a pleasure! But the ones for me have to be a certain way, I'm way too fussy...

So you can imagine that December/January is the time I make the huge decision of what pretty diary I will have for the year ahead... and well, they were never quite 'it'. So I discovered which has loads of templates to create your own 'book' whether it be for a diary, tasks, notes etc etc.

BUT I found it all... embarassingly confusing because I don't work in US sizes! So I feebly searched and then found:

Amanda's Site (thank you Amanda)

Which presented me with the option of having something custom made by her, that I could freely use.

All I did was 'save as' the images I wanted on her site, then pasted them into Word. I then changed them to the size I wanted each page to be (by right clicking on the image and going to the size tab).

Then after figuring out how to place 2 images on the page (to save paper), I printed lots of pages - around 28 as each one covers 1 week and I had 2 per page. I also managed to print some other 'Notes' pages on the back of each 'Week' one (lots of lining up and testing for this but it worked). In addition, also printed some 'Task' pages, because lists are the only way my befuddled head gets things done.

The design I preferred was this one as it suits me for each week. But there are lots to choose from.

Doing this gives me the option to print onto say scrap paper that I had at home, and use the 'good' side for another year's worth of stuff. As the template has no year or month, I have kept the Word document on my pc so it's just a case of pressing 'print' x 25 next year...

So for the sake of a couple of hours printing and cutting, I have my own thing which is cheaper and greener, and will do the same next year...

Another good site is Printable Paper for free paper download templates...

Saving: Around £6 plus keeps me away from the alluring stationery shelves spending money!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Washing Up Recipe - £0.10p per litre

Hi all, as promised I am also now putting up the recipe for homemade washing up liquid - very eco friendly and cheap! I got it from our office cleaners, who have just won a green award so I'm dead chuffed to take their recommendations on being a bit greener.

Washing Up Liquid Recipe:

3 x litres boiling water
6 x drops tea tree or lime or lavender essential oil (or just use lemon or lime juice!)
1 x heaped tablespoon soap flakes (DriPak make these)
1 x heaped tablespoon of soda crystals (DriPak again)
1 x tablespoon white vinegar

Mix together and place into containers with a funnel - again the 2 pint plastic milk bottles are good for this as they have handles, and you are re-using rather than recycling!
Add the drops of essential oils once the water has cooled down as otherwise the oils will evaporate with the heat of the boiling water.
Shake before use, add water as needed.

This is a guideline and you can adjust to suit your preferences. I find I can usually dilute with a little more water in the container near the sink too.

I worked this out at £0.10p per litre but costs may vary according to what you pay for the dry goods.

I also came across this interesting site for greener cleaning tips:

So £0.10p for 1 litre - compared to around £2.40 for 1 litre of fairy liquid, which is full of other chemicals. Saves £2.30 per time, perhaps say £2.00 a time if you allow for your 5 minutes work.

Homemade Laundry Liquid - around £0.10p a litre!

Thanks so much to Heidi for her homemade recipe - here it is for us all to try in 2009 and save a bunch of cash!


• 1 x bar of pure soap
• 1 x saucepan {an old one if you have it}
• 1 x cup soda crystals
• 1/2 cup borax
• 0.5 litre + 5 litres water
• 1 x large plastic clean bucket
• wooden or steel spoon

I use the American cup for measuring as I find it easier.

Grate soap with a cheese grater & place in the saucepan with the ½ litre of water. Heat this while stirring until soap dissolves. Take saucepan off the heat.

Fill bucket with the 5 litres of water. Add soda crystals & stir until dissolved.

Then add soap mixture from saucepan & stir until fully dissolved.

This will thicken as it cools - Adding some essential oil makes a nice scent.
Add more or less water depending on the consistency desired then transfer liquid into bottles using a funnel.

Use one cup per wash.

Note: this liquid does NOT make suds. It has no foaming agent that is usually added to commercial liquids. Despite this it’s an excellent “green” cleaner that contains no phosphates.

Takes about 30 mins to make 10 pints.

Cost approx £0.49 pence per batch.

Wow thanks Heidi! I will start saving suitable containers now. In fact I have a 'cubit' (5 litres wine) which is from France and empty from the Christmas season, that may well do the trick so I will 'recycle' it for this purpose...

I made some more washing up liquid this weekend (see right hand menu re 'Cleaning') - 3 litres and poured it into 3 empty 2 pint plastic milk bottles. Lovely scent in the kitchen as you 'cook' it and let it cool!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Save cash on food - great site!

Hi all just wanted to let you know of a great site called:

This site sells items for far less than the shops.

Most foods are either close to their due by date or past it, but still perfectly fine from the comments I have read. They have items like soup, crisps, chocolate, larder items, animal food and even household items etc etc.

Items start from £0.10p and I am placing an order Monday with some colleagues to split the delivery charge - will let you all know how it goes!

Think of it as a £1 store online, except most items are far less than £1 ;o)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Big Ideas for 2009

Many apologies for the delay folks - Happy 2009 and I hope you had a great Christmas and January isn't too painful - both weather-wise and financially!

I am pleased to say that from our moneysaving / voucher earning activities etc - we were able to only spend £50 on food at Christmas. The rest of actual Christmas food and alcohol was paid for from Cashback Clicking (see right hand menu), surveys etc.

We also emptied our coppers and changed them up in the machine at Sainsburys - this gave us £12.50 worth which was great.

Individually, we had saved silver coins in piggy banks, and on changing these up, we had around £40 each, which paid for our night out on New Years Eve which makes it even better!

I thought I would start a post for ideas for the year that we could all benefit from - creative ideas to get us spending less, using less and saving more.

For now here are my plans of attack for 2009:

- Stop buying paper towel for the kitchen - cut up cloths and rags into wipes and simply wash these regularly. This should save us around £6 per year.

- Stop watching TV for one night of the week - this will be hard to apply in Jan/Feb but I am sure I can do it. Could get reading / tasks / cleaning and time with hubby. This will save us electric and maybe increase our knowledge through reading. Plus it's quality time - maybe just the radio on and chilling out.

- Less plastic bags - Ensure I always have my tote shopping bag so we don't pick up too many plastic bags. We do this already but still, always room for improvement. Any plastic bags we do pick up get used for our bathroom bin.

- Reduce food waste - Over 2008 we were so much more aware of throwing out food that had gone off. Having a slow cooker has helped alot as you can throw anything in pretty much. Plus we always write a proper shopping list before even entering the supermarket. Having a weekly plan on a wipe board for meals has also helped. So now what we throw in the bin is almost always peelings etc rather than wasted food - which I had started to visualise as pound coins...

What are your ideas for this year?