A very belated welcome to the 2015 Frugal Living Challenge - along with my sincerest apologies for not having taken the time to blog for the past few weeks. what with floods, gale force winds and other circumstances beyond my control, I have fallen behind. It's been a time of battened hatches and mugs of hot chocolate.

Flooding

Over the past month, life in Frugaldom has been a little chaotic, to say the least. As you can see, the wet weather took its toll on the tin man and the log border of the new path when high tides combined with torrential rain resulted in the burn bursting its banks and flooding the orchard. The water didn't lie long and there was minimal damage, but the weather has done its best to wreak havoc without sending us any snow this winter, so far. The howling gales, however, ripped apart the polytunnel. Onwards and upwards - we've a challenge to meet.

For yet another year I am going to attempt my £4,000 annual budget. I have no mortgage, no car, I house share and we both work from home, meaning minimal work expenses. I have managed to succeed in this challenge since first publishing it in 2007 and it gets easier every year, allowing more and more savings to be invested elsewhere.

For 2015, I am looking at the following budget for the entire household and my personal spending is highlighted, as house-sharing means each is responsible for their own personal items like clothing, travel and savings:

Groceries - £520
Toiletries, cleaning, laundry products - £170
Electricity - £600
Coal - £290
Logs - £160
Contingency fund (mine only) - £279.50
Mobile (mine only) - £10
Telephone & Internet - £400
TV licence - £145.50
Footwear & Clothing (mine only) - £75
Gift-buying (mine only) - £300
Transport Costs (mine only) - £360
Postage & Deliveries - £120
Home Insurance - £150
Household Pets - £100
Life assurance & National Insurance (mine only) - £320

TOTAL £4,000 for the year plus Council Tax of approximately £1,000.

I have just paid the annual BT telephone line rental, as it does give a small saving over the year of almost £34. The price, however, has jumped a ridiculous amount over the past couple of years and is quite shocking when you compare it to the rate of inflation! Rounded to the nearest whole pound, look at the price hikes!

2012 - £120
2013 - £129
2014 - £141
2015 - £170

Combined with the reduction in services within the basic telephone package, this is not good. But then again, we must keep reminding ourselves that home telephones and Internet access are NOT essentials, they are merely wants - we want the luxury of convenience without needing to rely on the nearest telephone box and it's all down to the fact that pretty much everyone is duped into thinking we cannot live without such a luxury. Mobile phones are the exact same.

£1 per person per day for all meals?

Frugal living can be great, but it may be much more difficult for those of us who live in rural areas. Yes, it reduces the opportunity to nip to the shop, pop out to the supermarket, eat out or stop off for a takeaway, because we simply don't have those things close enough to even think about them. Is it still possible to live by the £1 per person per day rule? In a nutshell, YES! We have been doing it for years and the more you learn about food, the less it seems to cost to eat well.

Late last year our part of the country became the subject of a delivery trial by the supermarket giant, Asda. This has opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities for frugalers in this location, as it means food is now cheaper than ever before and the delivery costs are minimal. £1 per delivery is unbelievable, in my book, so it doesn't seem crazy in the least to be making the most of a golden opportunity. That's why I am now able to attempt an even more challenging grocery budget of just...

£5 per person per week for ALL meals!

This is an exercise in extreme grocery budgeting, frugal food shopping and creative cooking, so please feel free to take part at whatever level is best for you. Most of us are well stocked in kitchen basics and cooking essentials, but for newcomers it can be a real challenge building up the reserves.

Frugal eating still means healthy eating, so the recommended 5-a-day fruit, vegetables and pulses need to be incorporated, as does the minimum protein recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet. We do not count calories here.

Over the coming months, I will be charting my own progress with this challenge, sharing my meal plans, hints, tips and recipes. The examples given may not be suitable for vegetarians, vegans or anyone with dietary special needs, as this is an absolute basics only challenge.

Feel free to practise it as a virtual challenge until you feel confident enough to give it a go for real.

Basic Nutritional Needs

For 2 people, we need 70 servings of fruit, vegetables and pulses each week, based on 80g per serving of pulses or vegetables and 30g per serving of dried fruit. I have based prices on whatever is cheapest at the time and broken it down into the following for the first weekly shop o the premise that this would be the only food available:

500g sultanas - 16 portions @ 30g - 84p
3kg mixed veggies - 37 portions - £2.31 (This is the most economical, as carrots etc have to be topped, tailed & scrubbed or peeled)
Large cabbage min 1kg - 12 portions - 58p
500g yellow split peas - 6 portions - 53p
1 carrot + 1 onion - 2 portions - 18p

Total approximately 74 portions once you count in the little bits and pieces leftover the actual weights, so the cost for our 5-a-day = £4.44

This leaves us £5.56 for the 714g protein element, which is based on 46g/day female and 56g/day male.

1kg porridge - 20 portions - 123g protein - 75p
4 pints whole Milk - 77g protein - 89p (Can be diluted when necessary)
Buttery spread margarine - 80p (For cooking, baking and spreading)
From frozen vegetables - 57g protein
From split peas - 43g protein
1kg long grain rice - 26g protein - 40p
2 x 500g spaghetti - 46g protein - 20p
500g cooking bacon - 100g protein - 80p (I have allowed for 15% shrinkage but slow cooked to produce stock for soup and gravy)
1.5kg self-raising flour - 150g protein - 45p (Pancakes, flat breads, biscuits and sauces)
Salt - 29p (Needed for cooking)
4 x Yogurts - 145g protein - 33p
Sugar - 45p

Total 767g protein

Total spend = £10.00

In order to get all of the above nutrients, we need to eat all of the produce except the sugar, salt and margarine. Whatever is left gets carried over for future use, the extra £1.50 or whatever being used to start building up a store cupboard of basic essentials.

I will do a separate post to include recipes and meals made from the above but you can also read more about this challenge in the Frugal Forums, where there is also find a link to our live chat room - this is where we'll be discussing money-saving and other relevant topics on a regular basis throughout 2015.

Once again, apologies for the long delay in blogging and many thanks to those who got in contact to make sure everything was OK. That was greatly appreciated.

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