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Living Simply (Again) In The Modern Day

We have had a lot of illness in the ‘Thrift’ family over the last few years, which unfortunately (together with my reactive rescue dog) forced me into giving my four allotments up in January 2015.

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In the beginning I almost felt claustrophobic when I was in my house and I just hated being indoors…in fact there were times when I would sit outside in my back garden even though it was icy cold, as I needed to feel the fresh air on my face….being outside made me feel alive and being indoors made me feel trapped.

To make matters worse I also had to force myself to take Judy (our rescue dog) out for a walk each day and I would hate it, as she would react so badly to other dogs and traffic, etc. by barking and lunging….I lost count of the amount of people that shouted at me on the park when their dogs approached Judy, as she went mad at them!

However sixteen months later things are now calming down at home and I am starting to enjoy my new way of life and Judy is nothing like the dog she was, thanks to our trainer…. our walks are even pleasant most of the time now.

March 2016

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So it’s time now to get back to ‘Living Simply In The Modern Day’. So I have spent sometime this week deciding what is working fine and what I need to change.  I have written my thoughts below:

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Meal Planning and Cooking From Scratch – No changes needed:

Meal planning saves time and money as nothing gets wasted and I can cook ahead, by making double portions and freezing them ready for next time.  Shopping is always easier with a list to stick to and I can check out prices on-line before I go.

Cooking from scratch where ever possible provides healthy meals for my family, that reduces preservatives, e-numbers and hidden sugars etc. and I think the meals taste better too.

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Baking and Preserving – A new routine is needed:

Over the last year or so I have noticed that I haven’t been baking as much or making as many jams and pickles that I used to and I have only been doing the bare minimum.  However, as things are calming down now I would like to begin a new routine of bread making and perserving….after all, I used to do this at the same time as running my four allotments in the past…..’Homemade’ tastes so much better than shop brought.

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Cleaning using old fashioned cleaners – No changes are needed:

I love my homemade laundry liquid as coventional powders upset my excema.  I find it doesn’t take long to make and is extremely cheap.  I also love the antibacterial vinegar spray and the polish I make and bi-carb is as good as any shop brought cleaner for my bath and bathroom sink.  So I am happy with my old fashioned cleaners.

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Growing vegetables in my back garden – On-going changes required:

It is early days for my organic kitchen garden and I am making changes as I go along.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and I know it will be a few years until I get the garden as I want it.  The ultimate aim is to make the area as productive as I possibly can, but this will take time as the fruit bushes and trees are still very young.

I have ideas to make the garden better, but time and money hold me back, so for now I will do what I can, when I can and enjoy the produce I harvest.

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Low cost living – On-going monitoring required:

This is something that is on-going.  I no longer crave the material things that others have (this stopped a long time ago) but we do have to watch our money as we still have a large morgage and only one wage coming into the family.  Our shopping bill has also risen since I gave my four allotments up, together with every other bill that increases each year……this really is another reason for us to go back to basics and grow as much as possible and make my bread, jams and pickles etc.

We also have two teenagers who get carried along with their friends and ‘Need’  money for this and that.  A few years ago we started to give them their own allowance each month to buy whatever they want and this still works well, as they have learnt that they need to budget for the month.

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Environmentally friendly living – On-going changes needed:

There are lots of things that we could do better here, below are just a few.

* Keep recycling, but better still don’t buy so many things with packaging that needs recycling in the first place.

* Use the car as little as possible by planning trips out so we can combine journeys to save miles – this will also save us money.

* I could borrow my daughters bike for small journeys….I used to ride a lot a few years ago.

* As I said previously I could make as many things as possible e.g. jams, pickles, bread, wine etc. and grow as much as possible to avoid packaging and avoid the miles that the food travels to the shops.

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Continue to learn new skills and develop old skills- On-going:

I want to continue to learn the piano as I love music, but I would also like to play my violin which is something I don’t do very often these days.

I would like to start to knit again.  This is something I used to do a lot before my daughters were born and somehow forgot about it until I knitted dishclothes a few years ago for my hampers.

I want to make soap – something I have been meaning to do for a long time now and just haven’t got round to it.  Again this will save us money in the long run.

I would love chickens and bees but it isn’t practical in our garden with Judy, our dog….However this doesn’t stop me reading and learning about it, as I never know what will happen in the future?

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Peace And Quiet

One thing I have noticed over the last year, I find that I do now crave peace and quiet….maybe this is me getting older or just a reaction to the rotten few years our family has had…whatever it is, I know that living simply in our home will rectify this.

 But overall things are calming down at home for me and I now enjoy being in the house much more than before.  This will enable me to get back to basics once again and enjoy an even more simpler life than before, with the help of my new, muchcalmer companion – Judy.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week.

XXX

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Birthday Blog & Simple Living

I thought I would write about something different today….what living simply means to me.

'Calendula Alley' at my old allotment plot

‘Calendula Alley’ at my old allotment plot

Three years ago this month I wrote my blog for the first time, spurred on by Radio Leicester’s Tony Wadsworth. At this stage I had been on his radio show a few times talking about my allotment plots, cooking from scratch, old fashioned cleaning, preserving my crops etc. etc.

I was originally invited onto his show after sending a text to Radio Leicester during a talk on ‘moneysaving’ – I felt it may help someone if I explained how we saved money in the ‘Thrift’ household.

So here I am nearly four years later and three years’ worth of blog posts down the line.

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Right from the start I decided to write about the things that I would want to read about, which is why the ‘Thrift’ family came up with the name ‘Notjustgreenfingers’, as it wasn’t just a blog about my allotment plots.

Originally I was only going to write for one year as I felt this would be enough time to cover everything I wanted to write about without repeating myself and for the first year I wrote a blog post nearly every day.

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Lavender Fairy Cakes

Lavender Fairy Cakes

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So here I am four years later and as you well know things unfortunately have had to change recently in the ‘Thrift’ household.

The biggest and hardest change was giving up my four allotments at the beginning of the year and incidentally I thought no one would be interested in reading my blog after this.  However you have proved me wrong and thank you so much for your continued support and to all the lovely people that left comments spurring me on to continue writing after my recent blog ‘wobble’ a couple of months ago.

In fact my viewing figures have continued to rise since giving my allotment plots up and I can only think this is because my blog is now even more relevant to people growing in small back gardens as well as those with allotments.

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My old allotment

Part of my old allotment plots

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At the beginning it was mentioned to me on more than one occasion to make money out of my blog by advertising on it when I had enough people reading it….but I didn’t want to do this. The intention of my blog was purely to show people how we live a simple life by growing fruit and vegetables, cooking from scratch, old fashioned cleaning etc. etc. and I hope you feel I am achieving this as this is so important to me.

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My old garden

My old garden

My new kitchen garden

My new kitchen garden

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So what now?

I will continue to blog as I enjoy it, but I thought now was a good time to check that we are still living a nice simple life, the way we wanted to.

Chocolate courgette cake

Chocolate courgette cake

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So I wrote a list of what ‘simple living’ means to us and this is it:

* Living an unmaterialistic life (not keeping up with the ‘Jones’) and enjoying what we have instead of buying more for the sake of it.

* To reuse and recycle where ever possible.

* To live as frugally as possible and do things for ourselves if we can e.g. the decorating I did this month….in other words ‘living well for less’.

* Grow as much organic fruit and vegetables as possible in a small kitchen garden.

* To use all our garden produce, preserving what doesn’t get eaten straight away.

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* Clean using old fashioned methods i.e. Vinegar, bi-carb and lemon juice.

* Cook from scratch and continue to have meals together at the table each evening.

* Have a homely house that welcomes everyone.

* Spend lots of family time enjoying ‘cheap’ old fashioned entertainment e.g. board games, picnics, get together’s etc. but to also make sure that my daughters don’t miss out on anything that their friends have – (though they have learnt to wait for cheaper prices or have second hand things).

* Holiday cheaply in the UK

* Slowing down and ‘smelling the roses’ (this is the one thing I do struggle the most with, as I am not very good at slowing down as you know…but I keep trying).

I’m sure there must be some things that I haven’t mentioned, but this is the gist of it.

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There are things that I still want to do i.e. soap making, candle making, keeping chickens (though this is impossible with my dog at the moment), but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I have lots of time ahead of me.

Simple living started for us when my children were first born through necessity, but it very soon became a way of life (they are now 15 & 17 years old).

The way we live now may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and it certainly isn’t the ‘norm’ but we like to live this way.  I’m certain there are many people out there that also like to ‘live simply’…..it’s just a shame we are still in the minority at the moment, but I am convinced that sometime in the future this will change, for the environment and for individual wellbeing.

The wildflower patch at my old allotment plot

The wildflower patch at my old allotment plot

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I would love to hear what ‘simple living’ means to you as well….I look forward to your comments.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual. Have a good week!

 

A Blog ‘Wobble’……

This week I have had a little ‘blog wobble’ and I have been wondering if people still enjoy reading my blog now that I don’t have my four allotments.

My allotment

My allotment

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A long time ago when I first wrote my ‘about‘ page I said:

“I learnt my frugal, thrifty ways through necessity and the desire to make sure my family do not feel deprived in anyway”. 

But how did it all begin?…..

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I had a good career, a big house, a nice car, etc……but looking back now I can see that none of this made me happy.

I met ‘Mr Thrift’ and we started a family and I gave up work to look after our children.  Money was so tight and we were always in debt.  We realised that we had to make changes to the way we lived so I could continue to stay at home.

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Our lives graually changed completely and without realising it we began living a much simpler life than we did before.  Previously my friends would call me the ‘packet mix queen’, but gradually I learnt to make meals from scratch and bake cakes, biscuits and even bread…..and amazingly they were actually nicer than shop bought equivalents.

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I began shopping differently too.  Every single item that was put into my shopping trolley was needed for the meals I had planned and absolutely nothing was wasted.  If I did have the odd thing left over that none us wanted to eat, then it was used in a different way e.g. over ripe bananas were used in banana cake.  I even made ‘peanut butter’ biscuits once that were delicious and dissappeared in minutes, but the jar of peanut butter had stood for months in my pantry!

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I then began cleaning using ‘old fashioned’ cleaning methods using bicarb, white vinegar and lemon juice and getting the same results as shop bought alternatives which were so much more expensive and not so good for the environment.  I also began using homemade laundry liquid and I can honestly say that my skin has been better for it (I suffered for years with allergies from detergents).

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And then the biggest change of all came ten years ago when I took on my first allotment and we were amazed by how different the fruit and vegetables tasted compared with the supermarkets.  This led to a total of four allotments which I absolutely loved and by growing our own fruit and vegetables I found we saved so much money.

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What we didn’t realise in the beginning was that by simplifying our life over the years we have changed so much in ourselves….we began to stop wanting ‘material things’ just to keep up the ‘Jones’ and started to enjoy the more simple pleasures of life.

I now feel very priviledged to have lived this way and had the chance to connect with nature and the seasons on my allotment plots.

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So why did I write a blog?

Nearly eighteen years ago when my first daughter was born, everyone that I knew worked. I had no one to show me how to cook, grow vegetables, clean or save money in general and I spent hours and hours learning the hard way…..and this was the main reason I decided to write my blog.  I was hoping that I could convince people that these things are actually easy to do and yet so rewarding, not to mention better for the environment. 

From the beginning I decided I didn’t want to make any profit from advertising on my blog, as this is not the purpose of it and I still feel the same (though I do know that wordpress advertise sometimes, which is out of my control).  My blog is about ‘simple living’ and I hope it reflects this.

I am really hoping that I haven’t lost any readers now I have given up my four allotments and in the future I want to share the benefits of growing vegetables right outside the back door in a smaller space.  I won’t say I don’t miss my allotments, as I do….but circumstances dictated that change was necessary and I have embraced it.

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My garden before:

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My new kitchen garden today:

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“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”

Eckhart Tolle

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I am certainly beginning to see some benefits of my new kitchen garden at home, but I will write about it another time.

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So I really hope you continue to enjoy my blog.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time….have a good weekend!

Can You Live A Simple Life In The City?

My dream house would be a cottage in the country. It would have a door in the middle, with roses trained around it. It would have a large back garden to grow all my vegetables and I would have room for flowers too. It would be so quiet. We would live a very simple life with chickens, pigs and maybe a couple of goats.

In reality we actually live in a town, just over a mile from the city centre. It takes just 30 minutes to walk to the high street.

If I step into my small back garden, I can hear the hum of traffic from the busy A47 at the end of my road….it’s a lot different from the house I dream of, but I know my dream house is just that – a dream, as our whole life is here in the city.

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I like to think we have the best of both worlds. We don’t suffer from savage winters that leave us without electricity for weeks, we have lots of supermarkets and food shops very near to us and we can ‘nip’ to town if we need to and we are not isolated.

I know I can’t have complete peace and quiet in my back garden and it’s certainly not big enough to keep pigs or goats, but I do have a small lawn, I can hang my washing out and I can hear the birds singing.

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What I am trying to say is, it’s not exactly my dream house but we make the best of it. I can’t grow all of my vegetables in my back garden, so I took on my four allotments to grow organic food for my family and they are just fifteen minutes walk away from us ….it’s the best of both worlds.

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I try to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the high street, so I can avoid buying things for the sake of it. I use vinegar, bi-carb and lemon juice to clean our home and wash clothes using my homemade laundry liquid and nearly always hang my washing out to dry.

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I cook from scratch and I make jams, pickles and chutneys etc. using the produce I have grown at my allotment. This all helps to avoid unnecessary chemicals and expense….but it also helps us to live a more simple life.

Sixteen years ago we began to cut household costs dramatically, so I could stay at home to look after my two daughters and this opened up a whole new unexpected life for us, which we now wouldn’t change. No longer do we get caught up with the ‘round-about’ of buying things to make us happy and we don’t keep up with the ‘Jones’ anymore with expensive cars and holidays. In fact we only own what we need to and we have simple, cheap holidays in the UK that we so look forward to.

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I have been asked a few times how our daughters feel when they miss out on the latest ‘this’ or ‘that’…. but they don’t miss out. What they have learnt is they can’t have things straight away and they have to save for things they really want. I think it is a good lesson to take through life, as you really appreciate what you do have. My daughters have turned into lovely, kind and considerate teenagers and I am very proud of them.

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None of the above came easy at the start, but we took one step at a time and here we are sixteen years later living a happy, simple life in the city.

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday.

I hope you have a lovely week.