Sunday, 24 September 2017

How Not Menu Planning Helps Me

For years and years I created a menu plan every month. It started in 2003 when we started to pay off our debts and had a £90 grocery and household budget each month. At this time we'd also taken our car off the road to save more money, and with a steep hill on the way home, we had to be careful. We did try online shopping a couple of times but we had some poor quality vegetables and rubbish substitutions, not to mention no yellow stickers, so it was a no go for us. 

Even when our budget wasn't tight I continued to plan for various reasons, the main one being that I didn't want to get cooking block and find myself standing in the pantry just before teatime with not a clue what to make. The times change though and over the past few months I've moved away from it, and I feel it has been beneficial. Without a plan I prevent cook block by having at least part of a meal ready to go, cook double for the following day, or at the very least I have a couple of ingredients I know I want to use so that's my starting point. When it comes down to it that's all I need to get going.

We've never been huge food wasters as planning means buying only what is needed anyway but not planning hasn't increased waste at all, in fact I tend to under buy these days as I'm conscious of waste. In fact I tend to only really think about evening meals for five days of the week as there will always be leftovers from at least one dish, and there's always enough for a pantry meal or twelve so I don't need to cram the fridge full of fresh food. It adds more creativity to cooking too as I can just have a quick look on my phone for a couple of ideas after looking at the ingredients I have. 

This doesn't mean there will never be another plan, I know there will be one around Winter Festival as we're out and about so much that I'll need to keep control of the budget and the fridge so no money or effort is wasted, but for a normal week, I'm happy to relax a little bit, not that I have become a fan of cooking you understand! 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Just Food

Here are a few things we ate this week, it's been a week of repeats, eating most things twice.

Obligatory stirfry, this was veg (carrot, red pepper, mushrooms, peas and broccoli) in teriyaki sauce with brown rice and topped with a Fry's schnitzel. I didn't know what to expect from the schnitzel as I'd only had it made with celeriac before, but I enjoyed it. We had a full one each but I think next time I'd do one between us, when we have processed food I like it to stretch as far as possible. We had the veg and rice again, but just topped it with cashews.

All week I've been eating a simple lentil soup for lunch. I tend to like really thick soup, this was not, so after blending I added some quinoa to soak up a bit more liquid. This was just made with a red onion, a couple of carrots, red lentils, stock, quinoa, sage and chilli flakes.

On Wednesday we had this rather harshly lit roast with a pile of mash and an Artisan Grains nut roast. Same again on Thursday only with a small amount of bubble and squeak made from some left over mash. Fret not, there was gravy, but you'd see nothing else if I showed an after shot. 

Dan hasn't made bread recently so it seems that our lives have been all about going to buy bread, I ended up at the corner shop after I'd had my hair cut, but couldn't find anything for my breakfast (I have smoothie bowls or oats as second breakfast when I can face it) so I decided to just buy some sugar and make scones. When I got home I realised there were no sultanas left, we did, however have some plums in the fridge so I made a scone round using this recipe. I was a bit skeptical as I didn't have all the ingredients so I added extra plums, this is how it turned out

Not a thing of great beauty. The flavour is very nice, although stodgy, probably because I didn't follow the recipe properly, and it was a bit on the thick side when I put it in the oven. I think it's clear why Dan makes the bread. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

In The Window

At the shop I've got into the routine of doing one window each week, only in my mind, I haven't mentioned it to anyone! When I arrived on Tuesday the manager pointed out that the window was a bit bare as he'd sold some items. I told hi, it was my plan to redo it and he was heartily relieved - I literally got a pat on the back!

This window certainly hit the right notes with the people of the town, by the time I took the photographs I'd already sold a few things and by the end of my shift on Wednesday I'd sold even more. 

Without further ado

As you can see, it's quite a narrow space, I always think I'm going to knock out a pane of glass!

You may have noticed to the left of one of the pictures we now have a donation bin, I can confirm that people are not paying any attention to the "no rubbish" request printed on the side. Apparently it's going to be opened next week, I think the manager might be on his own going through that, I hope he has some very heavy duty gloves. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Bump & Grind

When I got up this morning I felt disgusting, as though I had climbed out of the belly of some recently killed beast and was having to find my way to the kettle. 
Then Dan squinted at my face and said "have you got some kind of spot?". I never get spots, so something was clearly amiss (no, I wasn't hungover) and I had to take action. 

I love the Lush Ocean Salt body scrub but I haven't had any for a while as it's a little bit expensive, although I love it so much I do believe it to be value for money. So I made my own scrub in an attempt to remove some of the bumps and other unpleasant things that coated my skin. I used some salt, lime zest and a small amount of almond oil I found in the bathroom cabinet. 

Professional skin care producers need not worry about me taking over their empire just yet. Still, it smelled amazing and was suitably scrubby on my arms and legs. I even found some body lotion to slap on afterwards so if very much felt like I was as pampered as I can cope with, in fact I'm a bit shiny. 

I don't know if there's a coconut, apple, mint and lime based mocktail out there, but if there is, I smell like it.

Then I faced my wardrobe, which is always a bit of a mess, despite there not being all that much in there. The main problem are things like the bag I use twice a year when I have to go somewhere nice, belts, scarves, gloves and all that stuff. Then it dawned on me that two drawers of my chest of drawers were empty - and here I am drowning in mess like a fool. 

I swear, I am this close to being a genius.  

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Throwing Good Money After Bad

The problem with abandoning Em's quilt is that we then had to find a suitable gift to send. Not easy with a budget of around about zero pounds. So I decided to just finish the quilt, despite that one piece of fabric - right next to the binding that insisted on fraying. I took Catriona's excellent advice and tied the layers together and called it a job not-all-that-well-done-but-done-nonetheless. 

Flowers and other pretty things on the front 

Cats on the back. 

Out in the soggy garden

And that's me and quilting over and done with for a good long while. It's for the best anyway, we each have a sofa quilt and there are coverings for both of the spare beds. I don't want the house to look I've quilted everything in sight so a change of hobby will do me, and my surroundings, the world of good!

Friday, 15 September 2017

I Am Done

Em's quilt will not be finished, nor will any of the other quilts I have on the go. 

I don't enjoy making quilts. 

I love the patchwork side of it, cutting and piecing the fabrics, but the actual construction of the quilt I do not enjoy at all. My reason for making the first one was just that I'm not a finisher, I have loads of ideas, enjoy the prospect of so many things but I never see them through to the end. So I thought a quilt would be a great project. And it was, that first quilt, which is still my favourite was great, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning how to do everything, choosing fabrics and taking time over putting everything together. 

As time has gone on I haven't taken as much care, I've just wanted to make the blocks, then finish, the attention to detail has gone, so there's no point. When I found myself this morning, sitting on the dining room floor close to tears making the gift for Em I just said enough is enough. I was even slightly cross with Dan for suggesting we send it as a birthday gift and even more cross with myself for agreeing. 

I haven't decided what to do with all the fabric and equipment, but I don't need to act just yet.  I think I need to deal with how I feel about the wasted time, effort, money and emotion I've put into these projects I'll never finish, but at least I'm not going to waste any more just for the sake of finishing.

No Freebies No Bargains

I wish I could say it's because we spent no money, but we spent lots, mainly on gifts. One of the bathroom quotes came through, it was about what we expected, no nasty surprises. 

I took in a parcel for my neighbour (the newish one), it was one of those recipe boxes. We had a chat when she came to pick it up, it was her first trial, £15 for two weeks, which is six meals apparently. Turns out they're a vegetarian household so she said she'd let me know how it goes. It would be interesting as a one off so maybe we'll give it a try too. 

But until then here's a few things I made this week. 

We had a fry up brunch on Saturday 

We used up some more of the curry paste I wasn't fond of and made a double portion of chickpea curry, also using the rest of the squash I bought from the market. With some extra spices the paste is fine. We had the rest on Thursday with some left over roast potatoes cooked in some spices.  

Two sausages, leftover from the fry up, turned into a very tasty sausage casserole. 

It should be a simple weekend this time round, nothing planned other than returning some books to the library, I need to start a spring clean as we're having guests at the end of the month (I hate working up to a deadine), I want to get those cubes painted and hopefully there will be a bit of time in the garden and finish this peasky quilt. Oh, and maybe fit in a bar of chocolate. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017


I am never busy. I just don't really have that much that I need to do on a certain day or to a deadline. Turns out that's exactly what I have this week. 

We went to see the comedian Stewart Lee last night and something he said forced Dan to have a realisation. Our friend Em (she of the record player and huge amounts of chocolate) is nearly 40, and by nearly I mean in 8 days. I'd been making a quilt for her but Dan suggested it might be nice to send it as a special birthday gift along with some other things. That doesn't sound too bad, but she lives in Germany, so less time for sewing. So this morning I have had the sewing machine out. It didn't start off well.

First block I started, sewn back to front. I also forgot how to refill the bobbin - mind totally blank, YouTube to the rescue! But I made progress in the end.

This is not the first time this has happened with this particular friend, there was the mammoth sewing session just before the winter festival last year too. I think I might have to take over birthday remembering duties! 

Du to a couple of other things the house has been very neglected this week and it is a total tip. Not just a couple of things out of place, a total disgrace - laundry spilling out of the basket, dishes not put away, fabric everywhere, hay strewn about the place. And I remembered to bring the display cubes home from the shop, so they're in the way too. Not one of my better ideas for this week. 

We also want to have a quiet weekend so I'm dashing round town this afternoon to pick up the other bits of Em's gift, plus a gift for my niece and something else that I can't remember at the moment. I know I could do it online, but we have so many independent shops in the town these days that it seems rude to not use them. Plus it will get me away from the sewing machine for a while. 

I also bought Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (£1.99 on Kindle), judging by how thrown out I am this week it's in good time, my habits certainly need a makeover.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Through Another Window

No window posts for ages then two come along at once. 

I got round to doing something with the much neglected side window yesterday. It's a very tight space and the rest of the shop isn't visible from there so it's hard to get the time to make it look nice as I tend to work on my own. 

I like it to look a little different to the main window, but not too different that they clash, so I added a couple of splashes of red. 

I used a scarf as a belt for one of the dresses.

A couple of bits of bric a brac, the red pigs didn't stay there for long!

We have two sets of these display cubes, as long as it's not too wet or windy I'll be bringing one set home today as they weren't painted particularly well and they're already looking shabby so they'll be getting a layer of Dutch White paint to smarten them up a bit. 

Monday, 11 September 2017


When the fridge freezer started smoking we had a bit of decision to make in terms of a replacement. 

We have always disliked the fact that it had to live in the dining area, rather than the kitchen proper, so when we had the push to replace it what would we do? There was still no space in the kitchen for a fridge freezer and we were reluctant to buy another and have to put it in the same place. So we made the decision to just buy a fridge with a small ice box and do without the freezer. 

I did use the freezer a lot, but when we emptied it ready to be taken away I had to face up to the fact it was a little bit of a dumping area. If we hadn't eaten something I'd shove it in the freezer, a recipe that didn't quite work, stick it in the freezer, buy in bulk, stick it in the freezer. Which is fine, it meant there was always something to eat, but most of the time it wasn't something we really wanted. If we wanted it it wouldn't have ended up there.

Although a few things went into the bin, I did rescue some dough and turned them into something, usually Dan's job, but I don't think I did too badly. 

Half a dozen pitta

and two smoked garlic bread. 

The new fridge has plenty of room for our needs, along with the roasted squash on the bottom shelf are two tubs of soup and tucked behind is a tub of lentil bol. Above there's half a tin of tomatoes and some other essentials which leaves the salad drawer for all our other veg. The ice box is just visible, we have plenty of space left even with some ice packs, ice cubes, peas and a packet of sausages already inside. You can see the space where the new fridge lives here.

The dining area seemed a little empty afterwards so we borrowed the shelving unit from the living area and popped it in that space instead. 

As the old song goes - such a little thing makes such a big difference. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

All food this week, my parents came to visit on Sunday and brought us some plums from one of their trees - absolutely delicious, they didn't last long. Sadly it rained all day but we went out to the kite festival anyway, it was good fun. Such a difference to Saturday when it was so amazingly busy, hardly a parking space to be had. We only drove by as we'd been food shopping in Lancaster but I'd never seen it so busy. 

We had a bit of a spendy shop at Single Step as we wanted to stock up with tahini, yeast extract and a few other things, but we picked up some good stuff from the market. The broccoli, onions, carrots, baby potatoes, and  a bag of three orange peppers were 50p each. The baking potatoes were £1 as was the massive box of flat mushrooms, a couple were a bit beyond but the rest went down well. 

My parents also brought over some peppers and tomatoes from their greenhouse so I roasted them with some of the onions and mushrooms on Sunday for tea, we had them with an Indian spiced patty my mum donated to our BBQ which became a "grill-a-que" and some salads we picked up on the way home from the kite festival. 

Here's a few things we ate this week 

On Monday we had some leftover tomato flavoured lentils, roast veg and orzo salad stuffed into the bargain peppers with some pitta on the side. 

Tuesday and Wednesday we had mushroom and lentil stew with the baby potatoes and broccoli. 

On Thursday I made a messy bowl of noodles with veg cooked in the cheap korma paste I bought last week for 20p. Neither of us liked the korma at all it just tasted like ginger with not much else. I don't think it helped that I accidentally bought reduced fat coconut milk so there was no body to the sauce at all. I'll use the rest of the paste as a base for the soup we take to the football and add some extra spices as I go along. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

In The Window

I haven't shared a charity shop window display for a little bit, so here's the one for this week. As ever, there's plenty of glare but you get the idea.

I did an extra shift yesterday as the back room was in such a state I said I'd help give it a tidy up. I focused on the shelves where all the window props live and found some very exciting things I'd never seen before that I can use for the winter festival window. Plenty of things went into the bin - we sell and recycle what we can but some things just have to go! I can imagine it'll be just as bad again when I start my shift next week, but for one afternoon it looked better. 

I was the best shift I'd done in the shop, when I started all I wanted to do was to work in the back, processing stock but was told I couldn't do that, so I ended up stuck behind the till. I very much dislike working in the shop but there you go. I've told both managers how I feel about the matter but there's no-one to replace me in the front so I think my fun shifts will be few and far between.

Never to worry. Here's the window. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Year Of Expense Tracking - Part Five

Fifth and final, all about gorgeousness

I flip flop with cosmetics, most of the time I don't wear any, but every so often I feel like a change and buy a few bits, then remember why I don't bother. So, for the most part, money spent on make up is money wasted. 

Since September 2016 I have bought - 

1 lipstick
1 lip liner
1 eye liner
1 mascara
3 lipbalms (two of which are virtually full)
and a bottle of nail polish 

at a total cost of £41.21, £17.80 of which was lipbalm (I like the Lush tins, what can I say?). I also love the nail polish, although I only wear it on my toes. The rest of it was pretty much a waste of money as I've only used it a couple of times. Never mind. 

Our general body cleaning routine is pretty simple I think, we don't use many products, this is the one area we bought less than I might have thought, partly because someone sent us a couple of tubes of shower gel and shampoo which are lasting a good long while. 

Over the course of the year we bought

22 tubes of toothpaste (75ml) we use the basics brand, it's just gone up in price from 35p to a massive 50p a time!
9 bottles (is that the word) of deodorant
41 toilet rolls
3 bottles of shower gel
8 bars of soap, of which 2 remain unused
2 tubs of hair gel (Dan)
3 bottles of shampoo, one of which I've only just started using
and 3 face moisturisers

There were a few other bits and bobs like mouthwash, but that's about it, no razors, sponges, face cloths, body lotion, cleanser or anything like that. 

We also spent £220 on haircuts for the two of us. For years we cut our own hair, something neither of us enjoyed doing so it's nice to have someone else do it now. I don't colour my hair at the moment or use any products on it, I just have it cut every 8 weeks. Dan goes whenever the fancy takes him or when he has time. 

The most gorgeous things in our house are the rabbits. Obviously small beasts can cost a fair amount and this year we have spent 

£280.41 on food (not including fresh veg), toys, hay, housing things, rugs, litter and assorted other bits and bobs.
£229.95 on vet bills quite a chunk of that was on vaccinations for Myxi/VHD and VHD2. Then there was that time the white one ate a needle and it lodged between her back teeth.

I think that's about it, as I said at the beginning, this has raised a few issues about waste and consumption, but it has also made us think about our wants and needs. Tracking did absolutely nothing to reduce our spending, but it did make me think twice about certain purchases and this year has been a really good exercise and has helped me think about next year - which starts now!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A Year Of Expense Tracking - Part Four

The bin bag consumption section. This is the area that I found most interesting, probably because it touches on so many different issues. I know clothing and household stuff does too, but I haven't really thought too much about that yet, even though I've read a lot about clothing production and waste elsewhere. We do buy a lot of second hand clothing and household things though so it's not as in my face to think about the issues, something to work on.

Household and cleaning things are a different matter though, noting everything down makes me think about lots of issues around consumption, and striking that balance between living life and being thoughtful. I can tie myself up in knots trying to buy and use the right thing, so occasionally something has to give. There's still a lot I can do, and that's the key, it's about what I can do not just what I can buy. After all that - 

Bin Bags

Over the course of a year I bought 5 rolls of bin bags with 18 bags per roll (shrinkflation, there used to be 20), which means I bought 90 bags in one year. Wow, that's a lot of plastic. As we speak there are 14 left in the cupboard under the sink. That means we use just under 1.5 bags per week, give or take. Much of this is pet related and tells me that I need to compost more of their old hay, litter tray contents and shredded cardboard as well as look at our general waste and investigate less environmentally depressing options.


Laundry Liquid

For much of the year I was using soapnuts, which I could never make up my mind about, so bought a small bottle of regular detergent for use over the winter when we were drying more inside. Eventually I gave the soapnuts away and bought another bottle of detergent, which is very fragrant, even when only using half the dose or less. This has been in use or a couple of months and I'm about a third of the way through the bottle. So two bottles bought in a year.


Washing Up Liquid

Fascinatingly, washing up liquid was the very first thing I bought when we started tracking, we don't have a dishwasher so there aren't too many expenses in this area. In August this year we bought the fourth bottle of the year. I was disloyal to my normal brand (Ecoleaf) on one occasion and my hands have only just forgiven me. 


I also bought 12 washing up sponges 60p, 8 cellulose cloths £1.50, a washing machine £50 (I had totally forgotten about that), a bottle of bleach 50p, a bottle of cream cleaner 50p, 7 kitchen rolls £4, and a fridge for £174. Lots of cleaning, wiping up, litter tray duty and other tasks around the house were completed using newspaper. I always pick up a freebie where I can, generally the free property pages, Waitrose Weekend or very occasionally a copy of The Guardian if we are at Booths on a Saturday (free paper with the loyalty card with a £10 spend at weekends, and a free coffee if we want one, which I never do).

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Mini Doodle

Back in March (here) I mentioned I had been doodling. I've been playing with it on and off since then and it's starting to come together quite nicely. It's based on my favourite part of our coastline to visit, Granny's Bay.

It's a very simple bit of stitching really and I just go where I fancy with it, but I would like to add a little extra colour, so this weekend I decided to try it out on a smaller piece. 

The background is just watercolour pencil on wet fabric, I dried it out on the pebbles in the garden, it gave me a good idea of the coastal feel I'm after. 

A little hint of something there. 

When it was dry I added a little more dry pencil.

Just a couple of highlights 

Now it's time to stitch over it as usual. If the rain ever stops I plan to take this out and about with me so I can cram in a little more stitching time. 

When I'm happy I'll try it out on the large piece when the time comes, and if I don't like it, the whole thing can be dunked in some water until the colour fades!

Monday, 4 September 2017

A Year of Tracking - Part Three


£350 on gigs and concerts. We went to see a local band and Eagulls in Preston, Jesus and Mary Chain, Pet Shop Boys, the ill-fated trip to Lytham Festival, Super Furry Animals, a circus at the Southbank Centre, Stewart Lee (upcoming but paid for last month). I think there must be something we've not written down here as it feels as though we've been to more than the list here. Dan did, of course win tickets to see St Etienne so maybe I'm thinking of that.  

£92.40 on books and magazines. These were mainly cookbooks and cooking magazines. Some of the cost was covered by gift cards I received for my birthday. Dan also bought a book by John Grindrod and there was my lovely Festival of Britain guide from the charity shop in Kendal. We reserved quite a few library books too, they're 60p a time. 

£356.66 on art galleries and exhibitions. £175 of this was Life Membership to a local gallery for both us (paid for with inheritance money), £97 for the Art Pass, the rest covers donations or entry to exhibitions, with the Art Pass entry to some exhibitions are reduced cost rather than free (still amazing value if you like to visit galleries a lot).

The National Art Pass is one of the best buys for us, £97 for a joint membership but we get a lot from it. In the past year we've taken advantage of half price exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, Tate Modern and V&A, paying £35 less than standard. We've also visited - Bowes Museum twice, standard entry £11 each
Abbot Hall twice, standard entry £6 each, and York Art Gallery twice, standard entry £7.50 each. Not to mention various galleries and properties we would never have thought of visiting did we not have our handy book to keep in the car. 

Finally, there is the small matter of what we do at the weekend between August and May.

£1080 on sporting events. Our season tickets cost £449 each for 19 games.We also bought tickets for a couple of FA Cup games, two away games, and a rugby league international. In addition to the basic cost we spent £63.50 on assorted football costs - programmes, a programme and flag for someone else, collections and other bits and bobs. Bargain, it's not just 22 men kicking a pig bladder around, sometimes they head it too!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

Some foodie freebies this week, the obligatory courgettes from my parents, and a delicious carrot and walnut cake plus two handmade chocolates (not made by her) from my SIL. 

A few bargains this week, not all edible

Curry paste, 20p each dated October 2018. We don't generally eat korma, but it will be great for soup and the occasionally creamy curry. 

Two rolls of wallpaper £1.99 from the charity shop. We don't have wallpaper in the living or dining areas due to the buns, but I do like it. I picked this up as I think I might use it in the pantry when I have it redone. It would also look good in the toilet cubicle when we have the done too, or even the porch. Somewhere anyway!

Also from the charity shop and also £1.99

Ocean Rain by Echo & The Bunnymen, it just had to happen, one of my all-time favourites. 

A good end to the month. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Year Of Tracking Part Two

Can you believe it, last night Dan went to the fridge and noticed smoke coming from the inside light. So we end the tracking year with a £173.97 spend on a new fridge! Typical. 

Anyway, I'm starting my mini review with some of the bigger spends, both in terms of expensive one off items like furniture, and the smaller spends that add up over the course of a year. 

Furniture Those of a delicate nature when it comes to buying light shades may wish to look away and rejoin me in the bin bag consumption section.

2 mirrors £185
1 chair £60 (bought with gift money)
3 lightshades £175 
3 lamps £135
shelving unit £240

total £795

Craft I spent quite a bit on craft stuff, certainly more than I would have guessed. I have three quilts on the go (and am out of the swing of it), made a fair bit of festive stuff for the charity shop and others, a new cutting mat and assorted other things. I bought lots of this with gift money. My budget for craft next year is £20 as I know I'll need some wadding. 

total £148.79

Garden We did quite a lot of work in the garden this year, it was the end of the heavy work and the start of making things look nicer. 

bird food £14.08
indoor plants and pots £34
fence £35
gloves £7.98
compost and bark chippings £19.95
plants £98.15 (£30 of this was gift money)
pots £19.98 (used gift money)

total £229.14


Dan £359.44 including £63.99 on work clothes, £118.98 on shoes and accessories, £70 on a winter coat. At least £10 of this was bought using Nectar points, I know this as there was a trip for emergency socks and underwear when they were left behind one morning (Dan cycles to work).

Me £368.04 including £53 on underwear, £79.39 on a bag and jewellery (mainly paid for using gift money) and £64.99 on shoes.

All of the things we bought in these categories have added a lot to our lives, I'm happy with all the spending we got a lot for our money. The thing we bought for the garden were great value for money as it actually looks quite nice out there now!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Tracking Groceries

We tracked spending on food for nine months, the funny thing being that the months after I stopped I spent far less on food. I'd love to say I'd saved the money but we have had to use the cash I'd saved on other things, but it's better than over spending! 

With the amount we spend on food I should be the size of a house! Over the period of tracking we spent on average £163.35 a month on food. That was a lot more than I thought, I think I thought we spent around £130. I think I thought we spent more on non-food items that we really do. I know just from the cash left in the grocery account each month we've been just over £100 for the past few months. We've been eating from the freezer lots, but the pantry is still nicely stocked. 

Which leads to eating out. We don't go to restaurants all that much but we do enjoy a coffee or two at the weekend, and I can generally be tempted to a cinnamon roll and something from the food stall on Lancaster market. I'm not a huge fan of food, but brunch is a meal I genuinely look forward to, it's a break from cooking for me, and still less money than going on holiday, something we don't do. I don't think we'll have even one night away this year. Dan's office occasionally all treat themselves to lunch, or he attends celebration meals and things like that, it all adds up.

I've spoken before about my dislike of picnics and how I don't really believe they save money (for two of us at least), we actually had to take a picnic with us on Sunday as we went to a family thing. WOW they are hard work, we seemed to spend a full day making things, and when we got there all we had was a sandwich, soup, a big salad, a couple of pasties and a huge pile of washing up! Worth it for some people, not worth it to me, I'd rather just grab some nuts and a cup of water, just enough to keep hunger at bay than deal with all that faff.  

So we averaged £91.36 a month on eating out, coffee, snacks and other things eaten outside the house. Again, it's been far less recently. It is more than worth it for the days there is no washing up!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A Year Of Expense Tracking - Part One

In September 2016 I decided to start tracking our spending, I can't remember why, probably for no reason other than I read about it elsewhere or we'd had a discussion about out spending in general. From that day I wrote down all of our spending, other than petrol, Dan did that. 

By the end of June I was just sick of it, and really we had a good idea of our spending in most areas. Our patterns were clear and the project had done nothing to reduce our spending at all, so I stopped tracking grocery, eating out, and alcohol spending (the latter two being lower amounts than I would have guessed). I learned a lot from the exercise and the one thing I'm really glad about is keeping a notes and comments section at the back of my notebook. I wrote less as the year went on, but it's a good reminder of the things we said no to, little make do things and of course the time Dan didn't buy a saw (it was very important that I wrote that down). 

It turns out we bought quite a bit over the year, and that is the huge benefit of tracking. It makes it so easy to look back and remember when we bought things, which answers the question where did all the money go, and helps if a receipt is needed or something odd looking comes up on a bank statement. 

Had I thought about it before starting my categories might have been slightly different, but I broke things down this way - 

Eating/drinking out
Alcohol/other drinks (not tea and coffee)
Cleaning/Household basics (inc. pet stuff)
Toiletries/ Cosmetics
Books etc
Clothes Me/ Him
Car (not petrol)
Misc (including parking)
Household other (kitchen stuff, ornaments and other ephemera) 

So I'm going to share some of our expenditure over the next couple of posts, some of the things I tracked for the full year. Starting with the categories with the most wiggle room, the very non essential items. 

Friday, 25 August 2017


I got on with painting the porch yesterday afternoon, I've not painted the doors yet, but the worst of it is done. As I said it's pretty dark in there so white was replaced with white. Foolishly I forgot to take a before picture. 

The darkest area housed the flying ducks

Pretty uninspiring and not a particularly good colour for such a gloomy area. So I used the old embroidery hoop trick to brighten the place up as I had three left.

The shelf is the top of the outside bin shed, so it's really deep and can become a potential clutter spot. In fact, the things on top of it now are things that should have gone into the garage at the end of winter, instead they got as far as the porch then hid behind my big old sewing machine. The machine has moved into the spare room with the rest of my craft stuff, and the other things are now a fixture in the porch.

Better at reflecting what little light there is, and add a bit more texture at the same time. My mum gave me the green vase, and I wasn't sure about it but it's so bright I like it here. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

d + h = p

Dingy house plus holiday weekend equals painting.

The house doesn't look just tired, it looks exhausted, I'm starting with the entrance porch, the only window is in the door, which is north facing and is beneath the overhang of the garage. It is dark, dingy and appears to be home to at least 13% of the spider population of England. 

Time to crank up the music!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

An Unpopular Viewpoint

At this time of the year I feel more like an odd one out than usual (other than that winter festival that people pretend to enjoy so much). I don't grow any of our food. 

There are quite a few reasons for this, the main one being that I just don't enjoy doing it, it's a lot of effort for not that much of a payoff. As we'd be growing such a small amount of stuff it would, in my view, been too resource intensive - it takes a lot of water to really clean something like a homegrown lettuce, not to mention the time, the forward planning and the fending off wildlife. I love the idea of it, but the reality is just not fun for me. 

One of the other reasons is the excess and potential for waste, if things don't work out I've wasted time, effort, money and space for nothing, and if they do work out there's an over abundance of food. That would be great if we ate plenty of jams, chutney, cakes, crumbles and pickles, or drank lots of flavoured vodka but it's not something that we would make use of here, or if we would it would all be in addition to our usual way of eating and so in my view is wasteful. And giving gifts like that would not be well received in my circles, it's the reason I don't generally give away anything I've sewn either.

I know what all the growers are thinking - it's the flavour. This is one of those subjects where neither side will every change their view, a frozen pea or a fresh pea makes no difference at all to me having eaten plenty of both, but I know it's a minority view. The main difference seems to be the language people use to describe the process of popping an oh-so deliciously sweet pea straight from the sun kissed pod into my mouth and feeling the fresh flavour burst all over my tastebuds, that kind of thing. 

Oh well, each to their own - another phrase that makes me want to throw my laptop through the window while I'm on a roll. Clearly I'm an intolerant person.

I surely can't be the only one who just doesn't feel the joy of growing your own.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Is It About The Bunny?

Maybe not for Hawk, but for me the house is all about the bunny. I had a look around and did manage to find one or two rabbits hanging about the place. I admit I do make a bit of an effort to not look like a mad bunny woman though.

This poor guy was the victim of an unprovoked attack at the teeth of another rabbit

There are buns in the dining area

A group are relaxing halfway up the stairs, with a hedgehog and some seahorses

 some have taken themselves to bed

And of course there's this pair, not as cute as some, but we love them