Five frugal things I did this week (16 February)

Picture of a lemon growing in the Orange at Ickworth, a National Trust property

Lemon tree in the Orangery at Ickworth


Oh the joys of half term, trying to balance work with free range children!

Here’s my round up of our five frugal things this week:


Picture of my two children in a den they built from branches and ferns at Ickworth House

Den building at Ickworth

Survived half term without breaking the bank

After a busy start to term, early morning routines went out of the window. The kids relished the chance to hang out around the house in pyjamas. Pancake making provided a particular high spot.

We did also get out and about! This halfterm included away days with the grandparents, swimming at the local leisure centre, a sneaky cinema trip, haring around the parks nearby, a day in Whitstable and walks with weekend visitors. Our National Trust membership* came in handy just before half term, when we went snowdrop spotting and den building over at Ickworth*. The photo at the top of this post was taken when we took refuge from the cold in the Orangery. We don’t always go to tea shops, but their amazing hot chocolate helped the children defrost!


PIcture of sour dough loaf with avocado from our breadmaker

Dreaming of home-made bread

Resisted the temptation of an expensive breadmaker…

I’ve never had a breadmaker before, due to fears that either I would eat way too much bread or it would end up as an expensive dust trap.

However, I thought a breadmaker would help with the dough for Friday night pizzas. Lo and behold, the issue of Which? that arrived during a £1 trial subscription included a review of best buy breadmakers. I got all overexcited about the stunning reviews for an all-singing, all-dancing Panasonic SD-ZB2502B*. Rather than paying £140 plus (!) for a new one, I figured a breadmaker was just the kind of thing people would use a few times and then sell second hand.

However, ads on Gumtree and local Facebook selling pages were still pretty pricey. I found the same model up for auction on eBay with bids under £20. Many cheers! The buyer only offered collection, rather than postage, so I hoped the price would stay low. I even set an alarm on my phone, so I could bid in the final seconds of the auction – but then watched aghast as the bidding spiralled past £70. Luckily I managed to avoid getting caught up in a bidding frenzy. That’s an awful lot for something to speed up pizza dough!


Picture of a little sour dough loaf in our bargain breadmaker

Little loaf in our bargain breadmaker

 …then snapped up a bargain breadmaker from the charity shop

Instead, the next day I marched down to our charity shops, and picked up an elderly Breville breadmaker in the EACH shop.

(Hadleigh has several fine charity shops, as described here)

For the princely sum of £10, I figured it would be perfect to try. If we use it loads, we can always invest in a fancier version in future.

So far, we’ve made:

  • a white loaf. Tasted good but a bit like cake, maybe it was all the milk in the recipe?
  • a little sour dough loaf, using the last of some yellow-sticker bread mix I bought aeons ago. I even managed to use the delay function, so we woke up to the smell of newly-baked bread!
  • pizza dough, polished off by a horde of children

I particularly like the fact I can load up the ingredients, and then wander off and forget about it, while the machine takes care of all the kneading, proving and baking.

Right now I’m glad I didn’t get carried away, and we’re only a tenner down!

Posted off a cheque to my pension

Over the long term, I reckon investing helps make the most of my money, compared to leaving cash sitting in a savings account.

I perked up when I saw headlines about stock market prices falling in the UK and US, with the first big dip for ages. Seemed like a perfect time to top up my pension, while I could buy investments for less. The other bonus with a pension is that for every £1 you put in, the taxman adds an extra 25p, and the money then grows tax-free.

(More on pensions here)

My contribution hit my pension on 12 February, so will let you know how it goes. Who knows whether the markets will pick up or continue to slide, but historically stock markets do head upwards over the long term.

(More on investing for beginners here and here)

If I was really sensible, I’d set up a monthly direct debit. However, as I’m self-employed, my income varies, so I don’t always know how much spare money I’ll have each month. In practice, I tend to review my finances every January when I file my tax return, and bung some cash into my pension afterwards.

Maybe this will be the year I get round to checking whether my Legal & General pension offers a good balance of charges, choice and customer service, and move the money elsewhere if it doesn’t! At least it’s a stakeholder pension, so they won’t gouge huge fees if I do.


Picture of free cinema tickets to Coco, thanks to Club Lloyds current account vouchers

Flashing freebie tickets to Coco

Headed out for a freebie trip to the cinema

Investing is only good for money you can leave alone for at least five years, and ideally more, so we also keep some emergency savings in cash. One of the accounts I use is the Club Lloyds current account, which pays 2% interest on up to £5,000. Hardly a high rate, but better than zip all.

(More on earning interest from current accounts here)

The Club Lloyds account also hands out a ‘lifestyle benefit’ every year, so we chose vouchers for six Cineworld tickets. During half term, we used some of the vouchers to see Coco, the latest Pixar film. Fabulous colourful film, very thought-provoking about family and death, and a particular hit with the two guitarists in the family.

A family ticket would have cost more than £20, so we were glad to go for free.

Article on ways to save money

I’m also over excited because the article I wrote during my mentoring week thanks to Time Inc and JD Williams has now been published on the Good to Know website.

(More about the mentoring competition)

Good to Know doesn’t run tons of money saving content, but I reckon it would be really helpful to the parents who visit the site. So if you fancy reading about 28 ways to save money without affecting your lifestyle, and care to comment, give it a good rating and share the article, I’d be immensely grateful!


Now – over to you. Any savings to celebrate? Frugal triumphs to report? Do share your top tips in the comments, I’d love to hear. And for any parents about to finish half term, or bracing themselves for the week ahead, good luck!


I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!


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Pinterest size image of the lemon growing in the Orangery at Ickworth

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  1. 18th February 2018 / 7:44 pm

    Excellent post, I chuckled quite a bit at “free range children”! You did so well with holding off and getting your breadmaker for only £10. I’ve been contemplating getting one for a while after reading lots of bloggers’ adventures with their breadmakers… will come back to see how you get on 🙂

    • 20th February 2018 / 6:38 am

      So far, happy with the breadmaker for a tenner. If we can get into the routine of using it on Fridays for pizza dough it will absolutely have been worth it for us. I’m eyeing up the jam function too.

      • Barbara
        23rd February 2018 / 6:27 am

        The jam function is great. It makes 2 1/2 jars which is more than enough for us. I’ve had 2
        Breville bread makers in the last 21 years and certainly have gotten my money’s worth!

  2. diana
    19th February 2018 / 11:44 am

    thank you for the article and keep up the good work

  3. Lesley Duncan
    19th February 2018 / 3:55 pm

    Great article. Keep writing!

  4. Eloise
    19th February 2018 / 8:27 pm

    Love the den!
    I have two of the grandchildren on Friday this week (half term) so am taking them on the train to visit the other grandchildren. I thought they might like this better than going by car (though I can see why people are not keen on public transport), the cost is s three times what fuel for the car would cost. Granddaughter insists that we should take sandwiches for the journey. I tried explaining that it will take not take an hour but I think that, for her, they are an essential part of the fun.

    • 20th February 2018 / 6:41 am

      Good luck with half term. So true that the journey can be a big part of the excitement, and can see why sandwiches would be essential. We picked up a few travel games from charity shops, mini Connect 4, Cluedo that folds into a case and snakes and ladders with magnetic pieces and dice in a bubble. They came in handy on train journeys to London, and a bit more interaction than everyone staring at screens!

  5. 22nd February 2018 / 9:35 am

    We love our breadmaker but I’m the same as you and only bought a cheap one because I wasn’t sure how much we’d use it.

    I use it for pizza dough and that’s about it so I’m glad I only got a cheaper model x x

    Thanks for joining in with the five frugal things linky this week x x

    • 23rd February 2018 / 12:36 pm

      Good to hear the cheaper model worked out for you too!

  6. Hazel
    23rd February 2018 / 7:37 am

    We bought a cheap breadmaker on special offer about 20 years ago and used it so much we did upgrade to the Panasonic when it died. I leave it out as I know I’d never bother if I had to get it out of a cupboard each time.
    Handmade bread is always going to be better but I like the bread machine because anyone in the family can chuck the ingredients in and make it, not just me ;-),
    We have pizza nearly every Friday night so we make the dough in it,
    I don’t have to make enough loaves to justify heating the oven, it just heats the little space around the tin
    It can be set to produce fresh warm fruit bread (value sultanas and some spice, chopped apricots if I feel like a change) for when everyone gets in from school and work. The family feel as though they’re getting cake but it has an awful lot less sugar
    Fresh bread for breakfast!
    Homemade naan bread with curry 🙂
    You can still make rolls and flat breads and bake them in the oven
    The quick setting makes ok bread. Not the best but it stops me (or worse, my husband) from nipping to the shops for a loaf of bread…

    When the children were smaller and the thought of having to start weighing flour before bread was just too much, we made up some pre-weighed bags of flour, yeast, sugar and salt that just had to be tipped into the mixer with the water and some oil. The psychological difference was enough that it meant we were more likely to do it.

    I don’t add milk or milk powder to my bread unless I want a softer cakey-y texture, in which case you can also substitute part of the liquid with and egg (or two) if you have some to use up. The best loaves are made with (unsalted) water from boiling peeled potatoes.

    Wow! I had no idea I was so evangelical about breadmakers! It works for us, and although I’d rather make and bake bread by hand, realistically that’s not going to happen in our house on a regular basis so a breadmaker it is!

    • 23rd February 2018 / 12:37 pm

      Thanks for all the suggestions Hazel! Your fruit loaf and naan bread sound particularly delicious, I must give them a go in the breadmaker.

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