The One Where Sophie Is Fine

OK so I didn’t think leaving the security of a job after working full time for the best part of thirty years was going to be such a Big Deal.

I was like this when I jumped out of a plane. As we climbed to 10,000 feet with the wisecracking crew trying to wind us up, I didn’t feel frightened at all; I just couldn’t think straight. I hoped I was taking in all these vitally important safety instructions. But maybe I wasn’t..?

skydive 003
Ready for my tandem sky dive and feeling no fear…

Tipping out of the door and freefalling were a thrilling blur of movement, then the chute opened and my tandem partner did a couple of stomach-turning loops, superfluously trying to add to the excitement. That’s when travel sickness set in.

Sophie flies

The landing was fine – clearly I had taken something in, as I didn’t break any limbs or die. But I felt sick for a couple of days afterwards.

Fast-forward to going freelance. I airily assured everyone that I was fine! Friends fans will recognise the episode when Ross makes a desperate show of not minding Rachel going out with Joey. But I was fine, I wasn’t nervous at all – I just couldn’t think straight.

Courtesy of

Resigning, telling everyone and having leaving parties were all part of the freefalling fun. But actually working at home for the first couple of weeks, cut adrift from every familiar support system, turned out to be a roller-coaster ride of panic.

At the end of week two, the sickness has subsided. I have achieved a lot under my own steam; seen friends and family, walked in the woods in the sunshine, worked and even broken through my writer’s block to write an article and a short story and start on the second novel.

So I’m fine! But I admit it now – it was a big deal.

And if you’re in this for the money-saving tips:

Dirt Cheap But Surprisingly Nice


Asda have had a tough time lately but we have relied heavily on their Smart Price ranges since we had our last big budget cut, and I promise you, we eat REALLY well on very little. Asda are not sponsoring me (why would they? Only 4 of you are reading this!) but that’s where we do our main shop at the moment. I should add that the prices of their cheapest ranges have gone up (some have doubled), so we are keeping an eye on them.  PLEASE DO COMMENT if you have any hot tips from any other saver ranges/discounters.

There are some things I have bought with a heaviness in my frugal little heart, but then discovered they are completely acceptable. One huge surprise was Smart Price teabags. I thought these would be made from the dust the tea pickers swept off the floor – but they are really tasty and only 50p for 80.

As for the baked beans – it is always handy to have a student adviser, as long as they are not the sort who think cooking is pouring the hot water on a pot noodle.  It was our son, Ben, who told us that these are absolutely fine (and only 23p).

Porridge, if you like it, is a nutritious and warming winter breakfast and if you buy the Smart Price porridge oats, super cheap as well at 75p for a kilo bag.

Chopped tomatoes at 31p  –  these are the staple for hundreds of recipes and proper chefs use them, so why wouldn’t you?  Italians use them, for goodness sake! Their tip is half a teaspoon of sugar to take the acidity out of sauces, but don’t tell the Sugar Police.

And finally – the tin of herring fillets is from Lidl. The mustard and dill is our favourite flavour, but these are great too. Lidl annoyingly don’t quote prices online but from memory these are 89p.

I don’t claim to be an expert – I’m just sharing ideas. Please do share yours! What are your staple cheap ingredients? Can you beat any of the prices above? What are your Dirt Cheap But Surprisingly Nice top tips?



3 thoughts on “The One Where Sophie Is Fine

  1. I love porridge! I have it every day with nuts and raisins. Basic ranges are great – especially the less processed stuff! The less they can faff about with it the better – so basic ready meals and fish fingers might not be that great, but basic porridge, veg etc is always worth a go at least, and often just as nice 🙂


  2. Our favourite tea bags are Sainsburys Basics. I think they’re 40p for 20, or 20p for 40…so either half a pence or two pence…either way they are lovely!

    Porridge is absolutely great for breakfast, and a couple of handfuls will bulk out a bolognese without anyone noticing.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I found your blog through Ilona’s and I’m really enjoying reading it. It’s nice not to feel completely crazy to live the way we do (though my colleagues persistently insist we are!)


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