So it turns out a scorchingly sunny bank holiday weekend is actually really frugal, because all anyone wants to do is sit around in the garden, chatting or reading, with drinks.
With three families to stay, we did manage to potter along the high street, take the kids to the park and go for a walk through the fields and over the stream near Polstead. An exploration party even made it as far as the Kings Head for the annual beer festival. Otherwise, the garden was where it’s at, with the children bouncing between trampoline and sprinkler.
Here’s my round up of our five frugal things for the whole week:
Fed the five thousand*
I struggle to work out quantities when feeding more than our family of four. Heck, sometimes I don’t even manage for us. So catering for 16 or so is trickier.
For Saturday lunch, with people showing up at different times depending on traffic hold ups, I decided to do food that could be made in advance or, in the case of baked potatoes, wouldn’t spoil if it hung around in the oven for an extra hour.
So I went for a big hunk of ham, with stilton, leek and red onion quiche for veggies, plus coleslaw, salad and the baked potatoes. I use the recipe for marmalade-glazed gammon at the end of this post. We got a 2.3 kg gammon from Morrisons so big I had to cook it in a jam pan. The good news was that it only cost just over £8 and we even had some leftovers for sandwiches too.
*OK so slight exaggeration
Aw @sainsburys how can you possibly sell this tiddler as a baking potato? Which family member should get 'starvation size' for tea? I specially ordered a pack labelled baking potatoes, rather an ordinary bag, to be sure of decent sizes ☹️#potatoshocker #disapppointed pic.twitter.com/27xOPaKTTa
— Faith Archer (@MuchMore_Less) May 4, 2018
Tweeted for a refund
Normally, I buy big bags of potatoes and take pot luck whether any will be big enough for baking. This time, I purposely added 4 packs of baking potatoes to the internet order to be sure of the sizes.
Now, I’ve noticed in the past that sometimes bags of baking potatoes aren’t all they might be cracked up to be, with one distinctly smaller imposter.
But this time one of the potatoes was so small as to be ridiculous. I couldn’t face ringing customer services and hanging around on hold, but I did tweet a photo. Bingo! Few minutes later, I had a rapid response from the Sainsbury’s Twitter team asking for some delivery details, and they credited me with a 70p eVoucher for the cost of the bag. It all adds up!
Won wine at a fete
After our visitors headed home on bank holiday Monday, we nipped across to the Nedging with Naughton May fete. The children had a go on the coconut shy, model cow milking and bean bag throwing, while I bought a couple of retro 1970s Jilly Cooper books on the book stall. They had several classic cars on display alongside some weird and wonderful steam engines, plus a gospel choir and a fairground organ. I was far more excited than the children to see an Austin 7, as featured in Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny the Champion of the World’. Recently, we’ve been listening to the CD version during car trips (10 Roald Dahl books on CD for £18 from the Book People – bargain).
We came away after winning a sparkly pink Stetson on the tomobola and – just before leaving – a rather nice bottle of Pouilly Fume from the ‘water or wine?’ stall. We might even have come out ahead on the tenner we spent on an afternoon’s entertainment, and it was certainly a lovely sunny day for a fete.
Cut the cost of car tax
We had a letter from the DVLA announcing that our car tax was due to run out at the end of May, so I braced myself to pay for the whole year in one go. If it’s possible to raise the cash, paying for longer in advance can mean significant savings. I paid 10% less for a whole year than making two card payments. It was also 5% cheaper than setting up a monthly or six monthly direct debit.
Saved on train travel
Entertainingly, on Tuesday I was asked to talk on BBC Radio Berkshire about split ticketing just as I was booking my own split tickets for a work trip.
Split ticketing is when you buy two or more tickets to cover a single rail journey. Weirdly, it can sometimes work out cheaper than buying one ticket for the whole journey. You don’t even have to change trains, or get off the train, but the train you use does need to stop at the stations mentioned on your tickets and not just speed through. Normally, the longer the journey, the more chance of saving.
Personally, split ticketing works for me because I can then use my Network Railcard on the bit of the journey inside the railcard area. An off peak return ticket from Ipswich to London costs £42.20, because Ipswich is just outside the Network railcard area. However, if I buy £5.60 single tickets between Ipswich to Manningtree, plus a £25.20 off peak return Manningtree to London, it only costs £36.40 in total. I often save another £5.60 on the return leg by getting off at Manningtree rather than Ipswich, and heading home from there.
Now – over to you! What’s your best frugal tip this week? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.