Our expenses this month, coronavirus and rescuing tadpoles.

Our expenses this month, coronavirus and rescuing tadpoles.

Today I though’t I’d run you through our meagre expenses this month, how we live on very little, the coronavirus situation in Crete and rescuing tadpoles. Let me ask you a question. Amidst this coronavirus chaos, have you been spending more or less than usual? Are you quids in, or dipping into your overdraft? Keep reading to find out how we’re living on even less than normal. If you’re incurious and just want to know about the tadpole rescuing, then scroll to the bottom.

Setting the tadpoles free with a very worried expression…Is he praying?

The coronavirus…

Along with everyone else in the world, the coronavirus has scuppered our plans and disrupted normal life. Greece went into strict lockdown on the 23rd March, and for the last five and a half weeks, we’ve been eating far too much food, waking up late and binge watching tv series. In-between the guilt of watching far too much tv, we’ve relished trips to the supermarket, mostly because we get to see the cute cat who hangs outside the shop, but also because we can buy another bar of chocolate. In response to my slight weight gain, I’ve implemented a chocolate rationing rule. I’ve calculated that there are eight rows in a bar, which means that Mr SN and I can eat one row per day, leaving an emergency row for dire situations.

The tourist season should be well under way by now, but instead, all hotels and restaurants are closed and the beaches are deserted. I was due to begin work on the 1st April, at the same little guesthouse I worked at last summer. That date has come and gone, however there’s talk of the hotels reopening in July. Consequently, I’m not able to earn any money at the moment. We don’t qualify for any government payments, either in the UK or in Greece, so we’re being forced to dip into our savings pot. Mr SN is due to travel back to the UK on the 15th July to work for four weeks, but we’re not sure if he’ll be able to get there, or if there will be any work for him.

Planning for the worst…

All in all, we’ve accepted that we may not earn a penny this year. We always plan for the worst case scenario, so if we manage to earn anything, it’ll be a bonus. It’s at these times that we feel so grateful to have no mortgage, rent, loans or debts. We don’t have to worry about missing repayments or having the banks on our case. Additionally, we can survive on a meagre amount of money. Plus there’s the emergency row of chocolate when we want to feel sorry for ourselves.

What we spent this month: April 2020

What we spent:CostsTotal
Food shopping and pet food€111.42
A rug and car seat covers€20
Plants, compost and a pomegranate tree€24.90
DIY materials€25.28
Living costs:

Phone€29
Electricity (*estimated)€25
Water (*estimated)€5
Property tax€21.10
Running the car€54.90
Running the bike€11.34


€327.94

*We haven’t received any bills lately, so we’re estimating based on previous bills.

I’ve broken the expenses into two sections; ‘what we spent’ is money that actually left our account, whereas the ‘living costs’ have either been paid or will be paid in the near future. For the sake of transparency and being realistic, I thought I’d log the living costs too. So, as you can see, we only needed €327.94 to live this month. Although it’s very little, it’s being funded from our rainy day fund, which we always keep for just this reason.

Let me outline what we did this month to spend so little:

Free bamboo canes:

We were on the look out for bamboo canes for growing climbing beans. Fortuitously, on the way to the shops, we came across some growing by the river. We pulled over and stashed a few in the car. We love anything natural and free. Did we have a gladiator-style bamboo battle at the side of the road? You bet.

Free oranges:

We’re lucky to have access to a friends piece of land. She no longer uses it anymore, and so we’re allowed to pick the fruit. We don’t buy oranges, as the trees on her land are dripping with fruit. Moreover, they taste divine.

Free vegetables:

We haven’t bought vegetables since the lockdown started. Instead, we’re living off of wild greens, salad in the garden, and gifted homegrown vegetables. It won’t be long until our garden is producing lots of vegetables, so I’m hoping we can avoid buying any vegetables for quite a while.

Wild greens…

Lending and sharing with friends and neighbours:

The positive outcome from the coronavirus has been the opportunity to get to know our neighbours better. Everyone is around, rather than being at work and school. This month we’ve lent out our cement mixer in return for hair clippers, and swapped homegrown food with our neighbours. We’ve given away walnuts, salted lemons, and marmalade in return for broad beans, eggs, dinner etc.

Looking neat again…

Solar:

You may have already read my post on solar cooking, in a nut shell, we rarely use the electric cooker or kettle. This keeps our electricity bill very low. Additionally, we charge our phone every day with a solar panel, and our hot water is heated by the sun too.

Repurposing and reusing:

Mr SN has been using his extra time to focus on making villa Theodora the home we always dreamed of. Over the last few weeks he’s been converting half of our wood store into a utility room. Almost everything was left over from our villa renovations, plus a few up-cycled items. It’s given us the perfect place to store our shoes, coats, olive oil, jams and chutneys, chicken feed etc.

Free activities:

We rarely spend money on activities, instead we go for walks, cycle rides, swims etc. This month we went for a very interesting walk with a couple of new friends from the village. They took us to the church of Paraskevi, where we then followed the river. We admired old abandoned house and saw hollows in the stone, where the women used to wash clothes in the river.

Was he taking a picture of me or the bike…I know the answer…

Home cooked meals:

We rarely buy junk food, fast food or fizzy drinks. Meals are cooked from scratch and are healthy and wholesome. We treat ourselves to a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate from time to time, but on the whole, ingredients are purchased in their raw form, and cooked. This saves a lot of money, and food tastes far better. If we want a lemon drink, we pick a lemon, if we want orange juice, we pick oranges.

Pizza night…with homemade apple crumble….

We feed chickens on scraps from the kitchen:

All of our compostable scraps are saved in a bowl and given to the chickens. Anything they don’t want is then put on the compost heap. They really look forward to scratching through the scraps looking for tit bits they want. 

Drying herbs from the garden:

We grow herbs in the garden, and have begun to dry them for storage. So far we have mint, oregano and wild chamomile stored in glass jars. We use them for tea and in cooking. My new favourite thing is oregano tea – I know, it sounds strange, but I love the taste.

We don’t buy cleaning products:

I make our cleaning products for the house. I don’t want to spray toxic chemicals all over my home and would rather go for a natural approach. This also saves us a lot of money as the ingredients are really cheap and last for ages. Our home is sparkling clean, even if I do say so myself! I want to share our cheap eco cleaning recipes and methods with you in detail, so stay tuned for a dedicated post. 

I sew up Dora-dog’s toys:

Dora-dog LOVES destroying her toys. She particularly enjoys removing the stuffing from the middle and leaving the remnants strewn all over the floor. Instead of throwing them away every time, I wash them and sew them back up. This means that the same toys have lasted years.

Toy hospital…

What we didn’t do this month:

We didn’t put any money on our Greek phone. The Greek phone companies take a high percentage of your credit in tax, and any unused credit is also taken. Seeing as very few people ring or message us on our Greek phone, instead, we use the internet on our English phone to use whatsap or messenger. 

We avoided buying any fuel this month, as we weren’t really allowed to go anywhere. The fuel we purchased, rolled over from last month, and we still have plenty to keep us going.

Rescuing tadpoles…

Enough about money and the coronavirus, what about those tadpoles. One afternoon, a friend invited us for a cuppa. The April sun was hot but very welcome. As we sat sipping on tea, we admired views over neat olive groves, sprawling villages and the sea in the distance. In the next garden an apple tree was smothered in pale pink blossom and the geraniums were a brilliant pink. Two orange trees stood side by side, one surrounded by falling rotting fruit, the other bare of orange baubles. The swimming pool, devoid of sparkling water, had a few feet of murky green sludge and an impressive amount of mosquito larvae. On closer inspection, we discovered that there were also tadpoles and a frog. Our knowledge on amphibians are lacking, so it may well have been a toad.

Depending on your preferences, there’s nothing more exciting than watching tadpoles turn into frogs, and we have a pond in desperate need of wildlife. As the sun glared down, we wrestled with a net on a long pole, and re-homed the little wiggling creatures (along with a few bits of floating polystyrene) into empty pickled beetroot jars.

The journey back to villa Theodora involved a slow tentative drive with me on the back holding two glass jars full of wriggling pond life. I think the frog/toad in particular liked the village tour, but it was hard to gauge the reaction of the tadpoles. We passed the little church, a flock of sheep, a vineyard and ferocious sounding guard dogs with wagging tails. It was a short but concise drive, interspersed with me reprimanding Mr SN for driving over a bump too fast.

We made it home without any broken glass and in the late afternoon sun, we set our little amphibians free. They swam with renewed freedom, into the depths and out of sight, to the soundtrack of born free.

Summary…

So there you have it. This month has been frugal, yet full of home improvements and the larval stages of an amphibian. Do you have any money saving tips? Has the coronavirus made you think of your expenses too? Have you eaten too much chocolate as well? Oh, and lastly, please can you help us to identify whether this is a frog or a toad😀

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29 thoughts on “Our expenses this month, coronavirus and rescuing tadpoles.

  1. Hi Steph. We really enjoy reading about your life in Crete, sounds really exciting and a lovely way of life. Hope things get better for us all soon.

    1. Hi Marion and Ian! It was so lovely to log on and find a message from you😃 I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, I hope one day you can come over and see it all for yourselves – I know you love the Greek islands as much as us.

      Yes, fingers crossed life will start to get back on track soon. On Monday the restrictions are lifting here, and we will be allowed to freely leave the house whenever we want. That means that we can go to the beach for a swim – hooray!

      I hope you are both ok, when we’re next in the UK we’ll have to arrange a catch up and a cuppa – I really want to see Laura and Owen too😀

      All the best to you all. xxx

  2. I am not at all sure what it is but having had a frog in our garden here in the UK I’d say maybe a toad but either way it sure is a handsome one, whatever it is!

    We are definitely saving money in the lockdown, but I know when it is eventually safe enough that we will be able to return to Crete, we will spend all we have saved on the beautiful island.

    We haven’t eaten too much, but the way we shop has changed in that we only do one shop a week making it important to eat the fresh food first, we don’t have a freezer, it certainly has given us more ideas for meals when you have to eat things in ‘order’. Tonight we are having the English version of spinach pies, with lots of fresh veg roasted with Greek olive oil in the oven

    Thank you for being so entertaining!

    1. I think he/she is very handsome too😃 I think we may be inundated with little ones once the toad-poles have grown legs!

      I bet you’re really looking to coming back out here and enjoying yourselves, it’s something to keep you going and look forward to.

      I think the virus is having an affect on so many parts of peoples lives, from serious contemplations, to little details. I hope some positive things will come from all of this.

      All the best😊

  3. Your blog is what is keeping me going as crave your lifestyle.
    Your optimistic outlook is awesome and I wish you both well.
    Did you buy a home and a place to do up?
    How is the Walnut cottage going?
    Is your home far from it or in same plot?

    1. Thank you😊 It really means a lot to hear that.
      We bought Walnut cottage first, as a renovation project. Then by chance, we heard of a property for sale five minutes walk down the lane. At the time we weren’t even considering a second purchase, but after thinking it through, it made a lot of sense to have a rental property to make an income and a house for us to live in.

      Walnut cottage is still more or less the same, we were just about to get the electricity connected (we were borrowing a neighbours before) and then the virus hit, and everything has been put on hold. We’re hoping that when things do go back to normal, it will progress quickly.

  4. Hello again from lockdown in the UK
    This is a Cretan green toad. A bit of a misnomer, as they are variably marked in green, brown and cream. They are really lovely and we have found three or four at a time in cavities under stones in our garden in Plevriana. They seem to tolerate the hot and dry conditions a lot better than frogs.

    1. Hiya, thank you so much. We’re hoping that he/she will help get on top on the mosquito situation too. It’s lovely to see the wildlife that the pond is attracting. I hope you are both well.

    1. Thank you so much, it’s great to know what it it. I think our little tadpoles are in fact toad-poles, so we’ll probably have lots of them very soon!😄

  5. Coming into week seven of lock down with no end in sight it is such a pleasure to read your blog and catch up with your adventures, all the best to you both. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. The thought that I’m spreading a little ray of Greek sunshine into peoples lives really makes me happy😊

  6. Hello from sunny Hornchurch. Love your blog on your unfolding lives in Crete. What a lifestyle and adventure you guys are on. Well done. Myself (Phil) and my partner (Melanie) are Hellenics by spirit. We have travelled to many different Greek Islands, and the mainland as often as possible. We have done some exotic travels in our time, to remote parts of the world, but our hearts are always set on Greece. The smells, the shades of blues, the attitudes…everything is just us, including the noise, chaos and confusion!! Please take care during these trying times and stay safe.
    Regards, Phil.

    1. Hello! Yes, we know exactly how you feel, Greece has the same hold over us too. There are so many islands to discover, we can’t wait to see more of them. Lockdown is beginning to lift here, so we’re hoping to see more of the island whilst we don’t have any work commitments😃

  7. Hi Guys, I love reading your blogs and have followed you since the TV series. You write beautifully and with such an innocent manner it’s like a breath of fresh air – so, so different from the Instagram stars of today who like to create a fake reality. Your life is real and appealing. Self-sufficient and healthy. I admire your spirit, tenacity and bravery. We live in North Wales on a small holding and like to grow our own veg, the other half has been busy drying nettles to make nettle tea and we occasionally make nettle soup too. Stay safe and I hope the tadpoles thrive.

    1. Hello, thank you so much. I think the innocent writing comes from a childhood raised on Little house on the prairie, The Waltons, The famous five, James Herriot and Laurie Lee😃

      We’ve recently made nettle soup too. We’re busy feeding the tomato plants with it. Years ago when we lived in the UK we used to drive into the countryside and pick nettles (with our motorbike gloves on to avoid getting stung) and then we made pesto with them.
      We were a bit late noticing the nettles growing here this year, but next year I want to pick the fresh tips and have them the Greek way with lots of olive oil, lemon and salt.

      Keep in touch from time to time, I love to know about other people’s small holdings. We have so much to learn from people that have been doing it for years😀

    1. Hiya 😀 We spent five years saving every penny to pay for our properties out-right. If you search back to somewhere near the beginning, I wrote a few blog posts on how we lived in a caravan without electricity or running water so that we could save our money…it’s funny looking back on it all now, but didn’t always seem funny at the time!

  8. Hi, I stumbled across your blog and have now subscribed. Looking forward to receiving all your news.
    Like yourselves we love Greece and visit every year. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we shall be able to this year. We booked our flights last September to fly out on 8th July 2020. So any contact and info on Greece will keep us going.
    My love for Greece began in the 80’s when I visited Crete for a summer holiday with my friend. I was hooked and returned twice that year and again the following year. I then decided to leave my job and go island hopping.for 6 months and had the time of my life. I visited the Cydades islands and ended up working in Zorbas bar on the island of Tinos.
    I married in 1989 and finally returned to Tinos in the late 90’s with my husband and our daughter and her friend. Since then we have returned to Greece many times. We did try to move there a couple of years ago but our plans fell through. It is still my dream to live on either Crete or Corfu and one day it will happen.
    Thank you for sharing your life in Crete and I look forward to reading all about it.
    With love
    Josephine

    1. Hi Josephine,

      Thanks for subscribing, I hope I can give you a Greek fix, especially as you may not be able to get out here at the moment. It’s looking promising for the hotels to open on the 1st July, and flights are resuming soon. You never know, maybe things will seem safe enough to come out after all.

      All the best.

  9. I stumbled upon our blog the other day. What a wonderful adventure you two are having! My parents were from Sirily and Xania on Crete. I have never been to Greece but hope that someday soon we will visit. Someone mentioned a TV show, is that about your journey and is it available?
    Kind Regards
    Nick Mavrogenes

    1. Hello!

      The TV show was aired on an British channel called channel 5. It’s available on catchup if you are based in the UK, but otherwise, unfortunately there isn’t another way to view it.

  10. Hi, I am really enjoying your blog – found you recently. We are staying in Crete in October – would love to email you some questions if possible?

    1. Hiya 😃 I saw your email, sorry for not replying yet, we’ve had quite a busy weekend. I’ll get back to you over the next few days.

      Speak soon.

  11. Hi!

    Just stumbled on your blog as the wife (Nataska) and I are 2 eps into the series and I was trying to discover why there’s only 4 eps (boo), I’m guessing maybe it’s due to the lockdown or was there only ever 4 planned?

    Anyways you two are our favourite couple, we love your sweet enthusiasm for all the projects you jump into, best of all the way you love and support each other (eg the way you were so proud hubby climbed up the ladder and chopped the tree down!), it’s refreshing that really nice, sweet, genuine people are picked for this show and not obnoxious in your face “I wanna be a TV star” types, or worst of all couples who bicker or say really nasty things to each other (why are they even together???), thinking here of a certain other couple on the show but I won’t be negative by dwelling on them!

    Anyway wishing you all the best for the future from windy Sweden! Avoiding the rest of the site as I don’t want to spoil the whole “did they finish the cottage in time” mystery but I’ll be back to read the rest soon 😉

    1. Hello!

      It’s great to hear from you. I’m glad you are enjoying the show. There were only ever four episodes, however at one point, there was a murmur of season two. We’re happy either way, it was so much fun to film and see the process of creating a show.

      Thanks for your kind words, our friends and family say that the programme portrayed our characters and marriage perfectly! That is genuinely what we’re like!

      I won’t spoil the ending…enjoy the next two episodes. We’re not in episode four, but feature lots in episode three.

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