Happy Blogging

Yippee! Just a little less is three today. Five years ago I discovered minimalism and three years ago today I started blogging about it. I'm very happy to still be sharing my minimalist journey with you. The best part of blogging for me is the support I get from readers and other bloggers. Thank you all for reading, commenting, following, sending friendly emails and putting me on your blogrolls. 

If you want to hear more about my thoughts on simplifying and minimalism I was recently interviewed by Mark and Laura at Enjoy Life Simply. If you go onto their interviews page and scroll down the Simple Living section you'll find me there. There are some interesting audio interviews there and some great ones to look forward to. Thank you to Mark and Laura for this opportunity.



Spending Report Week 4

Just a quick spending report tonight as I have other blog posts planned for the week. As you may know I'm tracking my spending for a year starting from 1st September 2015. My aims are to spend less on groceries and clothes and to save money for medium term plans. I hope to be a more mindful consumer by the end of the year. Keeping a daily spending diary is crucial to staying on track.

Grocery shopping: £85.15 (budget £92 per week/£400 per month for three to four of us which includes food, household items and toiletries). I'm pleased it was under budget but as there's only been three of us to feed it could have been less. However, there's been more batch cooking this week with plenty of portions going into the freezer which should make future weeks cheaper. My total for this month is £359.24 including a bottle of wine bought tonight for a celebratory glass. I'm quite pleased.

Spending diary: There's been one no spend day which is better than last week. The only unexpected cost this week was a new printer ink cartridge (bought at 10pm due to art homework panic, bless him). 

Motivation: Recording every spend is becoming a habit, I think.

Clothes shopping: The wardrobe edit is looming. I don't need or want any new clothes just tidier rails. It won't take me long to get my small wardrobe sorted so what's stopping me?

Treats: Our menu was a treat this week and we enjoyed trying some new recipes. Mum bought me some flowers too.

Temptations: I'm planning to plant some bulbs in layers in a tub I've just emptied so spring flowers are this week's obsession. With such lovely autumn weather I'm looking forward to doing some planting in the sunshine.

Menu: After last week's dreary menu I endeavoured to put some effort in. The sausages with green lentils from Delia's Frugal Food were delicious. I was surprised that you had to put the drained lentil water back into the pan but it tasted good. I picked this cookbook up in Shrewsbury for £1 from a charity shop. I think it's going to be useful during this challenge and might warrant a blog post of its own at some stage.The coconut chicken curry was a paleo recipe found online. It wasn't spicy enough for us but it was still enjoyable. We also tried Jack Monroe's veggie burgers which were very easy to make and tasty. I need more burger recipes as this is a favourite choice on Saturday nights. Tomorrow we're eating a huge pizza I found heavily reduced from £4.99 (lux supermarket) to just over £1. 

I'll leave you with some random week 4 photos. How's your spending been? 



Happy Links

With lustrous autumnal sunshine bookended between chilly mornings and evenings it's time to make the most of these late September days. From warming soup to getting outdoors this week's links are all about making the most of the moment (and indeed our lives). I hope you enjoy them.

  • How to get your kids outside by Cathy Bussey via The Telegraph. Yay! Lucy from Lululastic and the Hippyshake has written a new book, 30 Days of Rewilding. This book has inspiring real life stories and daily suggestions for outdoorsy activities. A good read for anyone wanting to reconnect with nature. 
  • With the 5p charge for single use plastic carrier bags just days away (in larger shops in England) I loved this idea from Margo at Thrift at Home, I Rescue the Bags and Set Them on a New Path. I've been reading that the average UK home has 40 plastic bags yet the number of single use plastic bags has increased for the fifth year to a staggering 8.5bn. Time to swing those reusable shoppers with style.
  • The Six Types of Minimalists by Aly at Minimalism is Simple. I'm an accidental/curious minimalist. How about you?
  • Rachel Khoo' s Harissa Minestrone Soup. Rachel's twist on minestrone. She uses canned cherry tomatoes (pricey) but I'm sure they could be substituted as could the harissa paste if you don't have any. Watching Rachel cook is quite relaxing - she's not too choppy with her knife like most chefs are. I haven't tried this yet but I will as plans of soup making have been swirling around my head this week. One for next week's menu. 
  • How to Live a Life with No Regrets by Hilary Barnett at No Sidebar. You may have heard about The Five Regrets of The Dying by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware. This post reminds us of what might be at the forefront of our minds as we near death and has some great thoughts on how simplifying can clear space for a better quality of life now.
  • Finally, I was delighted to read that Gillian at Tales from a Happy House has made it to the shortlist for Best DIY & Crafts Blog in the Amara Interior Blog Awards. She fully deserves to have been shortlisted and I can't wait to hear about awards night. Fingers crossed Gillian.

Have a great weekend. I'm heading out to tidy our tiny garden and then go out for a lovely autumn walk. Thanks for reading, commenting and following as always xo



Spending Report Week 3

Thank you dear readers for reminding me that books can be borrowed from the local library. My copy of The Leopard is reserved and I'm looking forward to reading it in paper form for free. 

So onto my third week's report of A Year of Less Spending. My week runs Tuesday – Monday as I started this challenge on September 1st which was a Tuesday.

My aims are to be more mindful of our general spending, to spend less on groceries and clothes (my weak areas) and to go back to basics with menu planning, using a spending diary and cooking more from scratch and in bulk. I hope that by the end of the year I'll have wasted less money on stuff and allocated more of our money for experiences and savings for future goals.

Here's a roundup of week 3.

Grocery shopping: £83.38 (budget £92 per week/£400 per month for four of us which includes food, household items and toiletries). This is my lowest spend to date. It includes £10.50 for a chippy tea  as it was a busy weekend and we felt we deserved a break from cooking. I did buy some food for Sam to take back to uni (he went back on Sunday) which I haven't included in this figure. However, I'm very pleased with the total and week 4 should be low as there are now only three of us to feed. My stock take was more careful this week and the only item I bought which I didn't use was cheese.

Spending diary: This week I had zero 'no spend' days which is disappointing. I spent £51.10 on my big shop and tiny amounts on four other days. I need to be more organised. On Monday I had a dental check up but it was only the basic charge as there were no problems. Phew.

Motivation: My motivation remains high. I'm getting used to buying needs not wants. Keeping a spending diary certainly makes you a more mindful consumer.

Clothes shopping: My intention this month is to edit my clothes and not add to them. I promise to show you the results soon!

Treats: As well as chippy tea another treat was to visit Yorkshire Sculpture Park which involved costs of petrol, parking and coffee (we took our own lunch). Mum very kindly paid for most of this. I think the £8 parking fee for a full day at YSP is excellent value (there's no other entrance fee) and I feel sad when I hear people complaining about it. A woman at the ticket machine told me I'd need more than coins as it was so expensive – I kept my opinions to myself.

Temptations: No real temptations this week. 

Menu: The menu this week was put together quickly and was a little dull. A gold star though for batch cooking enough spaghetti bolognese on Thursday for Sunday's evening meal and extra for the freezer. 

As the menu was fairly dull I'll spare you any food photos and leave you with some ceramic poppies instead which we saw at the sculpture park.

Have you had a good spending week?



Happy Links

Happy Sunday. Here are my late Happy Friday Links. I hope they're worth waiting for.

On Friday, when I could have been sat at my screen putting this post together, I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Mum. We went to see the Wave poppies but also walked up to the Longside Gallery to see the Caro exhibition (this photo is of a Caro just outside the gallery). Both were stunning. 

Afterwards at the cafe, sipping coffee in the gentle September warmth and breathing in the vast landscape of calm, I was reminded of my smallness. 

This week's links have a theme of community. We may be small but the difference we can make individually by even the simplest acts can be bigger than we imagine. Not as monumental maybe as the Yorkshire landscape or a Henry Moore sculpture but just as inspiring.

Leo's love for an inspirational friend, the growing number of people trying Project 333, the return of bloggers from a break and the inspiring group of young adults starting out on a monastic inspired year all speak of people reaching out and sharing with others.

Enjoy these reads and have a great week xo



Spending Report Week 2

This week I've kept up with menu planning, recording every spend in my spending diary but have gone over budget with my grocery spending. But only slightly... here's the lowdown.

Grocery shopping: £96.80 (budget £92 per week/£400 per month for four of us which includes food, household items and toiletries). I think I need to be more thorough in my stock taking as I didn't check every item and bought several items I didn't need. However, I'm still happy as it's under £100 and again I've only used cash for groceries.

Spending diary: I had three no spend days this week compared to only one in week 1 which is something to celebrate. I'm enjoying using my spending diary - I've even copied a few quotes to motivate me into the first page.

Clothes shopping: I haven't given in to any temptation yet but I'm very aware of clothing catalogues coming through the door. They go straight in the recycling unopened. I need to get my address off some mailing lists and look up how to stop this unwanted advertising coming into my house.

Treats: We were treated to tea out at my parents-in-law on Friday. Other favourite treats were the beautiful sedum plant I bought Mum this week (it would have been their 53rd wedding anniversary) and the 30p doughnut which I bought my youngest for completing the first week of his paper round. 

Motivation: It's only week 2 so I'm feeling positive and excited about this challenge. Posting weekly updates hopefully will keep me going for the next 50!

Temptations: It was book club on Monday and therefore a new book to read (The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa). Do I buy the cheaper Kindle version, the second hand option or a new copy? Arghh.

Menu: The curry was aubergine daal (from Save With Jamie) and chicken korma. I couldn't find any curry leaves for the temper (flavoured oil) so after research I substituted coriander stalks, chilli and ginger - just as yum. Our roast was slow pork with roasted pears. The tagliatelle (correct spelling here not on chalk board - oops) was broccoli and pesto tagliatelle (from Jamie's Ministry of Food). We'll definitely have this again, the potato shavings made it deliciously creamy. And I do like to feed my family broccoli as you will note from my photos.

So, how's your 'less spending' going? Any no spend days or enjoyable treats?



Happy Friday Links

Happy links time again. If you've a little time to spare this weekend, here are some interesting finds to help you on your simplicity journey. There's so much to learn from other people's knowledge and experience - enjoy!

And finally, I was contacted this week by a casting producer looking for households and flat sharers for a primetime Channel 4 production to take part in a brand new social experiment. The aim is to look at the possessions that households accumulate and the importance (if any) of their belongings. The social experiment will run over a 30 day period and Channel 4 are looking for those with a genuine interest in seeing how well they cope with going back to basics.

It sounds very interesting, I think.

Here's the contact information below if you fancy it.

Is your home packed with things, most of which
you never use? Do you feel you have become too
materialistic and reliant on your stuff?
Have you reached a point in your life where
you’d like to discover what it is you really need
and who you really are?
If this exciting new concept sounds interesting
to you, then please email Claudia for further
details: livingwithout@princesstv.com

Or telephone 0207 985 1925



Spending Report Week 1

It's been a good first week of A Year of Less Spending. Sharing this challenge here was definitely the right thing for me to do and it's been great to read that many of you are also trying to reduce your spending. Starting this challenge in September is the perfect time for me as autumn always feels like a fresh start, as many of you commented.

Over the summer holidays I deliberated over how I could reduce my spending and whether I could manage a year long shopping ban. I've been so inspired by Cait Flanders and her success with her shopping ban. However, I knew a total shopping ban was not for me. 

My aims are to be more mindful of our general spending, to spend less on groceries and clothes (my weak areas) and to go back to basics with menu planning, using a spending diary and cooking more from scratch and in bulk. I hope that at the end of the year I'll have wasted less money on stuff and allocated more of our money for experiences and savings for future goals. 

There's probably not much difference between my challenge and a total shopping ban. It just feels less restrictive and allows for the occasional treat. 

I hope to post an update of this challenge weekly or at least monthly. I'm interested in recording menu plans and seeing how much I spend each week/month on groceries. I love reading menu plans and food budgets online and I feel it's only fair that I share mine after all the inspiration and tips I've learnt from fellow bloggers. Also, being accountable here will hopefully encourage me to stick to a budget. 

So here's a roundup of my first week.

Grocery shopping: £89.97 (budget £92 per week/£400 per month for four of us which includes food, household items and toiletries). I shopped with cash at my favourite budget friendly supermarket. A few items were bought in another supermarket and I also shopped at our local green grocers. This week I only worked two days and I had plenty of time and energy to plan and shop carefully. I'm sure this will be more challenging in the weeks that I have more work. However, I'm very pleased with the total.

Spending diary: It was exciting opening my new notebook (an end of year teacher present) and recording my first few days of spending. It was a spendy week with our car needing a repair, MOT and service but it actually had no problems which was a lovely surprise. I recorded every little spend such as parking when I took my son to the dentists. Keeping a spending diary certainly makes you aware of every little expense. 

Clothes shopping: No browsing online and I kept my blinkers on when in town. I think a good wardrobe tidy will also keep me on the straight and narrow - it's long overdue.

Treats: We were treated to a one year old's birthday party (Tim's great nephew) and our friend hosted a meal for her 50th in a restaurant. We were spoilt with both great company and food (Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake in the afternoon and an Indian meal in the evening). 

Motivation: My motivation is sky high. Every temptation is met by "No, this is The Year of Less Spending". 

Temptations: I was tempted by some perennials for sale on a drive in a local village when I dropped the car off but I realised I still have cuttings to plant and there's not that much space left in our tiny garden. 

Menu: Highlights were Jack Monroe's veggie chilli (I added extra chilli flakes and chilli chocolate) and an apple and blackberry crumble. We had two brilliantly simple Nigel Slater staples, marmalade chicken and chorizo jacket potatoes, both from his excellent Eat book. 

I'll leave you with a few foodie photos to round off week 1. Have you kept within your budget this week and managed less spending? I'd love to hear.

Apple and blackberry crumble with custard as it was the cheapest accompaniment.

Veg chilli with rice as it was easier than potato wedges. The boys had a meat version.

Nigel Slater's marmalade chicken for five as Mum came round. The sauce was delicious.

And potato gratin which is a firm favourite in our house.



Happy Friday Links

As you, perhaps, take stock of your life after the flurry of summer or winter (if you're reading in the Southern Hemisphere) here's some guidance and inspiration to ease that transition. Autumn/spring are great seasons for recalibrating our souls, our homes and our bodies so let's make some time for simplicity, health and happiness. 

I hope you enjoy these reads. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments about A Year of Less Spending. I'm delighted to hear that I'm not alone in wanting to step back from mindless consuming. I'll update you soon xo



A Year of Less Spending

September is here with its shiny new satchel of optimism so what better day to start something new: A Year of Less Spending. From today September 1st 2015 until 31st August 2016, I hope to track all my spending and spend far less money than I have in the last twelve months. It's not a total shopping ban as I don't want us to completely go without nice treats. I don't believe living with less means having to go without your favourite things, it just means having them a little less often. 

Over the last few years we've got much better at managing on a smaller income whilst still enjoying a comfortable but simple life. We've learnt to live with what we've got and make things last (my husband has only ever owned one mobile phone and it's still going strong). We're fortunate to have no debt other than a small mortgage, no credit cards and modest savings/pension provision.

However, despite improvements in my shopping habits such as keeping my grocery shopping more consistent, I still overspend especially when life gets busy and I'm tired. 

Then convenience becomes more attractive than saving money. And despite having minimised my wardrobe to forty pieces last year I've added more pieces to it than I'd planned. Convenience shopping and clothing are still my weaknesses. When I add up my incidental spending over the last twelve months it shocks me how much money I'm still wasting.

Spending less money on my hair over the last year has shown me that I can stick to a challenge. Not dyeing my hair, using less shampoo and cutting my own hair with only occasional salon visits has saved me a fortune (probably more than half of what I previously spent). Now I need to apply this mindset to spending less money in other areas. How many times during the next twelve months will I be tempted to buy wants such as flowers, magazines and charity shop finds? How many times can I resist the lure of my nearby lux eight letter supermarket for the four letter supermarket that requires driving through town but whose receipts ring joy? This is what I'll track and share with you during the next year.

Having less income requires careful management, especially when it fluctuates like my earnings do (I work supply hours as well as my permanent hours). From today I shall be back to keeping a spending diary and trying to spend less. There'll be more time spent planning frugal meals and cooking from scratch. I'll try paying with cash and staying away from shops/advertising/online browsing (where we all know the temptation starts) as much as I can.

My aim is that by keeping a spending diary and by reducing costs we'll be able to save for more fun experiences and some sort of summer holiday next year. I'll be able to make a few considered purchases to update my small wardrobe and start saving for bigger future expenses such as a living room revamp and travel plans for my 50th birthday/our 25th wedding anniversary. 

Above all I hope to reduce my wants, adequately provide for our needs and build savings to help realise our long term dreams. 

One thing we've certainly found is that a higher income doesn't make us happier. As I've written many times we value time together over earning a high salary because of the hidden costs to our health and family life that we experienced when I worked full-time in a management role in teaching. Living with less has made us appreciate all that we have and they're not just material things. 

It also makes me more aware of how easy it is to waste money and how uncomfortable excess consumerism makes me feel.

A Year of Less Spending is a balanced approach to minimalism and materialism. At the end of twelve months I hope to be more accountable for my spending, to have had some great experiences and to have acquired more savings than impulse buys.