In my last post I wrote about needing to get creative with family finances. We have had our first success in finding out about a local food growing cooperative called Glastonbury Healing Gardens Cooperative. We have already joined and done a few hours work in exchange for some organic vegetables. This is a wonderful way to access organic fruit and vegetables that are locally grown. It provides us with space to plant our own food and it fulfils our wish to do something which is community focused as a family. It is also a lovely outdoor space which our daughter will get to experience. There is a childrens area with beds for them to grow things too and they keep chickens and bees. We have already met some lovely people there and there are regular community events such as shared meals.
taking stock of our freshly picked organic vegetables. from the Healing Gardens
We have decided to apply for an allotment which we plan on using to grow the vegetables we use frequently and which we can store to cover our needs for a number of months. We envisage this including such things as potatoes, leeks and beans. Whereas, at the Healing Gardens where there is an emphasis on sharing resources, we plan on growing things like spinach, garlic and herbs. We are really excited about how this will help meet our food needs. I’ve also decided to up my game when it comes to foraging so I’m awaiting the berry harvest and am looking into foraging courses and plan on preserving food for later use. I’m also researching local pick your own fruit farms to see if this will be a way of cutting costs. We plan on converting our under stairs cupboard into a storage pantry and we will probably need to purchase a deep freezer at some point.
Hopefully these sorts of measures will help cut costs and allow us to eat a good proportion of local and organic food. I plan on budgeting by meal planning so I know what I need to buy but when it comes to this it is important not to be too rigid. Yesterday for example I managed to buy four whole cooked chickens for £1.35. I wouldn’t normally buy these but this was a bargain too good to miss. Since the chickens were cooked already I am somewhat limited in how I can stretch these out. Normally I would freeze portions and stock and these would create numerous meals. However I still managed to use these as the basis for four meals which we will eat over the next few days.
If you are going to eat dairy then this is a key area to switch to organic if you can. I’ve been making organic butter every week for a few months now and it is delicious. We buy milk and cream from local organic farms. I’m thinking of making yoghurt but I’ve yet to convince my partner they this will be worthwhile. I bake bread a few times a week enabling me to feed my family organic bread for no more then the cost of regular supermarket bread. I’m sure there is much more that I can do to stretch our food budget but I think we were at a good starting point.
We have never had a lot of money but my decision to stay at home with our new baby means that we have gone from a two income family to a one income family. Previously my income was the largest so the challenge we face now feels very real. This month sees the last of my Statutory Maternity Pay so now things get tough.
I have begun planning using two online resources I have found after trying out various online services and apps. The first will help me to track our finances over the coming months. BudgetTracker is an online service that allows you to enter income, expenditure, keep track of debts such as credit cards and loans and set goals. The basic service is free although this is quite comprehensive. It does have a limit to the number of entries you can make in each category. Having spent the morning adding our income and some of our outgoings it seems like it will be really useful. The paid service is not at all expensive and I’m thinking of investing in it as I do think this will help me to be really organised about our finances. The summary page for each month is really useful and I really like the forecasting facility which predicts cash flow over a period of time. My aim is to reduce our debt and to manage our budget in a way that means we always have a positive bank balance (even if only by a few pence). Ultimately I would like to incorporate saving for unforeseen spending such as replacing household equipment, saving for Christmas and birthdays and towards an occasional family holiday (an extremely rare occurrence for us). We don’t have any credit cards but we have a personal loan I’d like to get rid of as well as various other things that could do with clearing.
The second service I found is called Out of Milk. It allows you to create shopping lists and share these across platforms, save them, print or export them. This will help me plan out and budget for our fortnightly meal plans. Although I could easily cut our food spending by buying cheap supermarket options it is really important to me that my family eats well. By this I mean that what they eat should be healthy, filling, prepared from fresh ingredients where possible and wherever possible from local and organic ingredients. I am shopping for two adults, a seventeen year old boy who is an elite athlete with specific nutritional aims, a vegetarian sixteen year old and a six month old baby on a very limited budget so this is going to present a challenge requiring some creative thinking on my part.
The next couple of weeks are going to be about examining our finances really closely. Looking at where savings could be made, setting goals and coming up with a realistic budget for the coming months. I will share our journey here on my blog beginning with detailing our meal plans and food budget.
it had been sixteen years since our last child was born so naturally with a new baby on the way we were faced with having to get all the things we needed for life with a new baby. But, just what does a baby need? As a community midwife I’ve seen all sorts of gadgets appear in women’s homes; vibrating, swinging, battery operated, mains powered, singing, music playing, lights-up thingumybobs that are the latest in must-have baby equipment. The consumerism surrounding babies does not fit well with my personal ethical beliefs yet even the more alternative and environmentally conscious books it came across seemed to have a long list of essential items for a new baby. Here then is my own list. These are the items I got in preparation for our daughters arrival.
- Newborn and 0-3 month clothes: these were collected from Freecycle and local Facebook groups which give away free items. Our daughter is now four months old and we have bought one item of clothing, an organic cotton romper suit. Total spent on clothes up to four months old £20.
- Cloth nappies and nappy covers: nappies from Freecycle and donated by a kind friend. Covers mostly from Freecycle. A few wool covers provided by a friend used for her little one and one knitted for us as a gift. Total cost for nappies £0.
- Four in one travel system: from a charity shop. We bought this as we needed the car seat mostly. Our daughter has been in the pram on three occasions in the first two weeks before I felt up to carrying her. It is now in the attic. We Probably should have just bought a car seat instead. Cost £40.
- Moby wrap: we use this daily. It was bought from a secondhand shop. Cost £30.
- Bedding: blanket hand knitted by a friend, blankets from Freecycle, Moses basket sheets bought new. Cost £6.
- Moses basket: used on the first day for about an hour. Not used since. From Freecycle. Cost £0.
- Moses basket mattress bought new. Cost £7.99.
- Sheepskin bought new. We bought this because of studies suggesting that babies who slept on a sheepskin were less likely to develop asthma, see here. In reality she has never slept on it but it has been used plenty for floor time and tummy time. Cost £50.
The total cost of baby items bought for the arrival of our baby was £153.99, far less than the cost of an average pram. More importantly to us, nearly everything is being reused therefore reducing environmental impact.