Spring planting

IMG_8200IMG_8201Spring is supposedly in the air but Scotland doesn’t seem to have noticed yet! This year for my vegetable growing I’ve tried to be infinitely sensible. Instead of starting seeds on the 1st January, when they have no hope of developing into beautiful healthy crops, I waited. Then I waited some more and some more and then the snow came…

It has been the most snow that Scotland has seen since 2008 and it keeps on coming. Everytime I think the weather is turning another flurry of snow or icy winds comes in from the East. It’s driving me crazy! It’s also making growing challenging.

This is the year that I am trying to be more organised in my growing. I’ve completed a garden plan so I know where all my crops are going. I just need the ability to clear the space. Currently my vegetable patch is a riot of roots, bulbs and far too much heather that is smothering everything. I need to dig it all out and then start warming my soil. This is where the weather is killing me, I can’t even see the ground for the snow. Even if I could it’s so frozen that it’s not worth trying to pull anything out. Now I know I should have put my garden to bed at the end of the last season. Unsurprisingly I didn’t, I just left it because I wasn’t organised at all last year so now I pay for my sins by trying to eek an hour here or there digging.

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I’ve also started my seeds much later. I sowed my first batch just over 2 weeks ago which should have been the perfect time. They however are also thwarting me. Only about 50% of the crops I’ve sown have sprouted. Some of the veg hasn’t done anything at all apart from mock me with its bare brown soil. I know that a lot of this is due to temperature. My poor chillis and aubergines want the tropical climates to get themselves up and going and all I’m giving them is a weak bit of cold sunlight and some artificial heat every few hours. It’s just not good enough for them.

I will not be defeated in my quest to have a glut of veg this summer though. I was up with the dawn again today to sow my second batch. I’ve currently planted basil, autumn sprouting broccoli, peas, aubergines, cucumbers, patty Pan squashes, onions, garlic and Rosso peppers. I’m also going to get my potatoes in bags and boxes before the end of the month I hope. I planted them all again today and I’m trying a couple of different things. I’ve tried planting them in smaller pots to start off, see if I can get some heat in them. I’m going to cover the tops of the pots with warming fluff to incubate them and put them further into the house where the heat lingers until the first leaves poke through. I’m also trying to cloche some of them off and watering with lukewarm water to get that soil going. I hope to report success in the next week or two and continue with my planting schedule. C’mon weather- give me a bit of a break please!!

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Forward February fantasies! (Hopefully realities)

IMG_7259For a new challenge in February (and onwards) I want to try and reduce my plastic usage. There are so many things that I didn’t even consider had plastic in them. I definitely haven’t made enough of an effort to reduce my usage in the past and I want to rectify it. I’m not currently looking to cut out all my plastics, my aim is to reduce just now with a long term view of eradicating most of them.

I did a post last year on making beeswrap, it has been really useful for carrying my sandwiches to work but I have also still been using clingfilm! I’ve just used less than I would have because of the beeswrap. I think that if I make some more and invest in some resin for this lot then I’ll be happier that I can keep all of my foods protected when in the fridge or my lunchbox.

I’ve been reading through some articles and I’m amazed at some items that have plastic in them. I’m also guilty of not even thinking about some of the plastics I use because they’re such a ‘norm’ in my life. For instance I never even considered the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic! It seems ridiculous but it just never consciously entered my mind. I also tend to make things from scratch for meals so, again, I just didn’t think about the fact that my passata cartons are coated inside with plastic lining, my cherry tomatoes come in plastic tubs and of course bin bags are plastic as well…

Some of these things I think I can make changes on quickly and easily. For others it’s going to require more research and shopping around. I’ve decided that the things I’ll change just now for definite are:

– switching to loose leaf tea instead of tea bags
– Buy all condiments that I can in glass jars (including my passata etc) and then keeping the jars for future storage
– Make the change to non plastic handled toothbrushes
– Try and source shops where I can buy pulses etc in bulk and by taking my own containers
– Experimenting with different non plastic wraps to go on the freezer

The non plastic wraps for the freezer may be my biggest challenge. I use my freezer as my main way to store our food. We buy meat in bulk for husband and I portion and plastic bag or clingfilm it before putting it away. It means a lot of waste when I take it out as I won’t wash and reuse a bag that chickens been in. I’d be too scared of contamination! We are also looking to get our chest freezer up and running which will mean even more space where I can store goods. I want to get a handle on the plastic usage before that happens.

If anyone reading has ideas or ways they’ve reduced their plastic usage then I am all ears!

The other thing I definitely want to do in February is to start costing our meals per portion. I’m feeling a bit stagnant when it comes to our meal budget. It costs me £30 per week to feed two of us for all meals and some light snacking! It has been at that level for a long time though. I also already use fillers like lentils (much to husbands dismay) to stretch our meals further. I watch a lot of the money saving programmes for families whose spending and waste is out of control. We don’t really ever waste anything if I’m honest with food so I’d like to do a per portions spend. I think it’ll give me a new lease of creativity and budgeting- well that’s the plan anyway 🙂

I’ve done my first meal today which was a really warming curry. It’s vegan and made with squash and lentils, chickpeas, butterbeans, sweet potato and tomatoes so full of nice things. I’ve costed it out to 54p per portion. If anyone wants to know an actual recipe then you can let me know. Alternatively if you have any great and cheap recipes then please also let me know!

 

Debt update anniversary!

January debt update!

Well what a difference a year makes- this year we have absolutely no debt excluding our mortgage. 100% consumer debt free!

I wrote our first blog post one year ago on the 5th January. We had 12.5k in debt and a holiday to Florida still to pay for along with some other things. We set the goal to clear it in a year and we did, through Gods grace clear, a total of £21,162.

This year it’s a whole different outlook although still an intimidating challenge!

We relaxed a bit over the last month since we became debt free. We wanted to reward ourselves and enjoy the festive period but we are totally back on it now!

Currently we have £600 saved in our emergency fund and will add another £1000 to it by the end of this month. Our debt free goals for this year now are:

– Save 10k in an emergency fund
– Reduce our mortgage term from 30yrs to 15yrs
– Take an additional 5k off our mortgage capital
– Cash flow a kitchen and a motorbike

It is a lot but we just need to have the same drive that we did when we were trying to get out of debt. That seemed unachievable at times and we couldn’t see how we would make enough money to do it but it happened.

What we need to decide now is how to allocate our money. I received a text from our mortgage company yesterday saying our yearly statement is in the post for us. Im genuinely excited (sad I know) to get this in as all last year we were making overpayments. It means that we should see our capital have dropped another 1k. It doesn’t sound much but that’s roughly what we actually reduce our capital by each year through monthly payments. Essentially we’ve doubled what we pay! It will get better once we have the next baby steps sorted.

What debt goals is anyone else working on?

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

13 months
£21,162 debt cleared
£377 p/w average paid to debt

For every time we’ve said no to going out.
For every time we couldn’t buy new things.
For every time we’ve sat and budgeted instead of just spending.
For every time we had to ask our friends to do something free… this was why ❤️

As most of you know we’ve been determined to be debt free (aside from our mortgage) before the end of this year.

Well we’ve made it with a full month left to spare. It’s been a hard slog for us to be honest and has completely changed how we think and how we act. A lot of this year has been about learning that it’s ok to say no to things. We can say no to each other; say no to other people and say no to instant gratification because we have a long term plan. However that ‘no’ doesn’t mean that we can’t live now as well- we’ve just changed the things that bring us joy.

A year ago if you’d asked us what we wanted when we were debt free I have no doubt we’d have listed a big bunch of expensive things. Now, while it’s true we still want some of them, the top things we’re looking forward to buying are a bit ridiculous. I cannot wait to be able to buy a new liner for my slow cooker and some branded rubber gloves. For husband he wants basmati (instead of long grain) rice and to be able to buy some crisp snacks on a weekly basis when we shop. That might seem a bit sad but sacrificing little things like that for the last year has all added up to being debt free now!

We will finally be in control of the money that we earn. It still feels a bit unreal that when I get paid at the end of the month we don’t have to give that to anyone. It’s just ours, to save, give and spend as we see fit! Normally I get paid, it goes into our joint account and then straight back out to pay the loan or credit card. We own absolutely everything in our lives now apart from our house. No credit cards, no overdrafts, no car finance, no finance at all actually. It’s all ours. Our motivation now is to try and save almost as much as we have been paying to debt. If we can get anywhere close then we’ll have our emergency fund sorted in the next 6 months which would be amazing.

It has absolutely, 100% been worth knuckling down for a year. It has changed our spending habits for life and made us allergic to debt! We mucked it up loads of times as well so if we can do it then definitely anyone can ❤️

 

 

The stigma of money

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on this debt journey is it becomes easier once you take away the stigma of money.

In general people are incredibly open about every other area of their lives, but when it comes to money that all changes. You’re not supposed to know how much your friends earn, you can’t know what debt they have, what they spend on things in their lives or what they have saved. It’s considered vulgar to talk about and rude to ask but, for us, it’s made it so much easier when we can talk about it!

We have great friends in our lives and the ones that we are closest too are the ones that we talk about money with. Just as it’s made our marriage even better by talking about money, it’s also made our friendships better as well. At the start it was a softly softly approach, the mention of a budget or a passing comment on paying off debt but then we realised how great it was to just lay out the numbers! We started telling people in detail what our numbers were. I started talking about how I was working on bringing areas of my budget down or started explaining why I was saying no to going out. All our friends know what we earn and it’s not to show off, it just gives a perspective on the debt payoff that we’re aiming for. The more I’ve talked about it the easier it’s got too talk about it.

Once we did start talking about it a fantastic thing happened- other people started talking to us about their finances as well. We realised that (although our numbers may be high) we’re not actually the only idiots in the world who didn’t know where their wages disappeared to!

It worked for us in three ways when we opened up about our money.
1- it’s easy to tell people that we can’t do something or suggest an alternative, free, plan of events
2- it took a bit of the guilt away for getting into this situation. We realised that everyone has debt in a varying degree and it didn’t make us terrible humans
3- it made us a bit more accountable for it. If you’re talking about it and being asked about it from people outside of your relationship then you want to keep on track that little bit more.

Peer pressure is a very real thing, it’s just changed now so that what we want to be doing well in is paying off debt, being self sufficient and planning for retirement 😂!

Have you found anything that’s made it easier to get debt free?

The hardest thing to change

I wanted to put into words what has been hardest for me on our debt free journey. The simple answer is changing me-but most importantly giving.

I don’t actually class myself as a spender. Now obviously in some way I am or I wouldn’t have debt. However I’m not one to go to the shops to buy things for myself. A day in a shopping centre is not my ideal day at all, in fact I’d avoid it if I can. I live in clothes until I literally can’t wear them out the house because it would be indecent, crowds of people make me feel irate and I despise trying on clothes!

Where I do like spending my money though is on other people and on giving to other people. I was very lucky in my upbringing and have emotionally and financially generous parents. I saw them give to people constantly and offer things for people and I subconsciously learned to be the same. I’ve heard all my life that ‘its only money’, and while it was instilled in me that you need that and to work to get it, it also taught me to not need to hold onto it. I need enough to live but if there’s any ‘extra’ then I should use that for others. All my immediate family are the same. If you go out for dinner with us then you better be quick with your card or someone else will have paid it! We also don’t keep track of our debts to each other. You know the scenarios, you’re out and someone doesn’t have cash out so you pay for whatever the thing is as they cry ‘ I’ll give you the money back’ which you then decline so it turns into a never ending game of ‘I’ll get the next thing then’ to make up for it.. It was the thing I found weirdest about husbands (now my) family. They actually keep track of what they owe each other and pay it back! This isn’t to peg them as miserly in any fashion as I’ve married in to another exceptionally loving and extremely giving family, its just a different ethos. It’s maybe as well why husband found it easier to get on board with the debt plan than I did.

My problem comes with what counts as extra money. Prior to our debt journey extra to me just meant that I had the ability to provide that money. It didn’t matter to me if that was my overdraft or credit card because I was paying it off. The fact that I was getting in debt to do it barely registered. So without a doubt its the hardest habit I’ve had to break. 

When I want to do things with my friends or family I’ve had to accept that we may have to half the bill for what we’re doing. Alternatively I’ve even had to accept that they may pay for me…a horror I feel deep inside. I hate other people having/ offering to pay for me, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have taken up their time or asked and accepted their offer to do something. I feel constrained in my giving because when someone’s sad or mad or happy or has their own money worries I can’t step in and fix that. I loved being able to surprise people or make their day with a wee tea and a cake or a tiny gift. I can’t do that at the moment because its not in the budget and its what’s left us in debt for such a long time because I wouldn’t change. We technically started this plan three years ago but because I wouldn’t commit, and both of us couldn’t say no, then that’s what’s kept us in debt. It is only since January that we’ve committed and surprise surprise its only this year we’ve made a difference. 

The big words that I keep repeating to myself are both Dave classics. The first is biblical and says to get your own house in order. Unsurprisingly I got into trouble here as well. My house to me includes my family and I want to give to them. So the first thing I had to do was understand that my house is my marriage and I need to show respect there first before I try to sort out anyone else. The second is to live like no one else so that later we can live (and give) like no one else. Whenever I waiver, and it is at least weekly, I think of how I’m going to be able to give and provide in the future. If I can just get through these last few months then I’ll be able to see the difference. I’ll also be able to resume some of my previous giving habits but this time tempered with what we can afford. I’ll hopefully have learned balance like I think I have. 

So that’s it, the one debt problem that I struggle with every day. Its good to write it down and talk about it so that it doesn’t become an area of continued weakness. I look forward to being financially secure in the future so I can give. 

K xx

Meal planning and budget

Its the end of the month for us and so the budget has been done ready to go into August. This means that there’s one big thing left for me to do- our meal planning!

I am trying to be a lot stricter with this in terms of budget and also look for more ways to save. Roughly a year ago I did a big over haul of our eating and food spending habits. At that point I cut down our monthly food budget from around £210 per month to on average £130 (that’s for 2 adults, 3 meals a day). After that initial cut I feel I’ve plateaued, the saving was great but I still feel like there has to be so many other ways I can cut the budget even more. So that’s what I’m trying to plan for and do!

My mantra for this year is definitely ‘can I make it myself’. Therefore every meal we make, if we’ve had to buy any ready made ingredients, I want to know if I can do it instead.

The first thing to go was shop bought pasta sauces- this one for me was purely a laziness factor. It initially felt a lot easier to just open a jar than to make one up. I have now stopped being lazy though and started making my own (FYI it takes roughly 1 minute more to make my own basic tomato sauce). This has saved me from spending up to £2 on jarred sauce and instead only costs me 60p for my home sauce ingredients. The eventual dream is that I’ll get good at growing tomatoes and be able to make my own passata base as well.  The next thing that has saved us some money is that I am now mainly vegetarian – much to husbands disgust! It means that our meat order goes twice as far because its just husband eating the meat and I use pulses or meat substitutes instead which are a lot cheaper.

The other area where we’ve saved a lot of money is by me getting a good pizza base recipe. We committed in June that we would stop getting takeout. It was our Saturday night treat to order in pizza. A treat for me that I didn’t have to Cook and a treat for husband cause he loves pizza. However, because he dislikes sharing pizza, it was costing us around £60/£70 per month just on 4 meals. That 50% of our entire months food budget. An absolutely ridiculous waste of money when we’re trying to clear debt. So instead I’ve been making the bases and we’re having delicious cheesy pizza for pennies instead.

Aside from this we also chose a cheaper supermarket to shop in which has helped as well. Although due to the nature of that shop it doesn’t always have everything we need so we do still go to another store once a month for bits and pieces!

How I actually meal plan is simple. I take an inventory of the freezer and pantry first of all. I have a good rough idea so its really just firming up that I have what I think I have. Then I print out a blank monthly calendar and write in all my shifts that I know. That then just leaves me to match food to days. We have a basic ‘bank’ of meals that we eat with the occasional experiment meal thrown in so I try to cycle through them as I go. I usually start with the nights I won’t be in for dinner as these have to be meals husband can make himself which limits the possibilities. Then I choose what days I want lazy meals so ones I can quickly prep or shove in the oven. That just leaves my days off when I have time to make more elaborate meals so they go in as well. That gives me my full months dinners and I make my shopping list on a weekly basis for the fill in ingredients from the planner. The calendar gets stuck up on the fridge and that’s it all done =)

TOP TIPS

– don’t be swayed by brands: own brand is normally just as good. There’s only one or two things we still prefer branded.

– plan round how tired you think you’ll be: I used to be terrible for not taking into account what I was working. I would plan in a meal that took time to prepare and then be to tired and hangry to cook. When that happened we would end up buying takeaway…

– always label the extra portions that go into the freezer. I have too many mystery boxes in the freezer that I was convinced at the time I’d remember what they were.

– weigh your ingredients. I weigh out our pasta and rice portions and cheese etc. Its good for a not being fat point of view but also saves on waste.

– make use of your freezer. I buy frozen instead of fresh for what I don’t grow generally. For mushrooms and peppers I buy, chop and freeze on the day.  For our big meat order I spend a couple of hours on delivery day portioning and wrapping it and then put it in the freezer.

– plan in advance to use any leftovers from dinner and change them into something for lunch the next day.