Sunday, 1 March 2009

Money March / Frugal February

How did your "Frugal February" go? I thought about doing a series of posts to mark Frugal February, but the month was half over before I got the chance. Instead, I'm going to devote the month of March to talking about money and saving it. Welcome to Money March.

Why do I call February, "Frugal February"? If you read my post about cheap food, you'll have noticed me mention a very tight February when I fed two adults on the contents of the freezer, the contents of the pantry and £25. That was back in 1991 and was probably the first time, I suffered the after effects of running out of money in January after being paid my December salary before Christmas (No Pay Day bit me rather badly). The month is etched into my brain. I had enough money for my monthly train ticket into London but not much else. I was overdrawn, my credit card was about to explode, and I was living with a leach (aka "Dumbo") who contributed virtually nothing to our living costs (he owned the flat we lived in outright, but I paid all the costs).

The pantry contained spices, flour and the odd tin of stuff. I remember going around the supermarket, calculator in hand, trying to buy enough food for the month on £20. I don't remember the whole shopping list, but I remember purchasing the following:

- 3lb frozen minced beef
- 1lb cheddar cheese
- 2lb rice
- frozen mushrooms
- probably some tins of tomatoes
- all-bran type breakfast cereal
- washing powder
- toilet paper
- bread
- eggs
- garlic
- squash / cordial to drink

When I reached £20, I stopped. I didn't have much choice. Later in the month, I stopped at the green grocer's near the station and purchased 5lb of potatoes and 10lb of onions and lugged them the mile home. We'd also run out of instant coffee, so I picked up a jar of disgusting own-brand pot scrapings for pennies from the nearby mini-mart. When I found out their tins of tomatoes were cheaper than Tesco's, I purchased 5 for £1. By then, I'd spent all of my £25 budget.

Fortunately, I got lunch for free each day at work, along with copious amounts of freshly ground coffee. I don't know what Dumbo did for lunch (and apart from the curiousity value, I really don't care). For breakfast, I ate the cereal. For dinner, I cooked quiches, curries, pasta, even a souffle. I got through that month without starving and, at the time, that was all that mattered. Later, it inspired me to investigate ways to stretch my food budget and to make all my money go further. And eventually it brought me to this: writing up my Money March....

- Pam

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