Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Week By Week

In the spirit of not spending much in February I am going to try weekly menu planning rather than planning for the whole month. Breakfasts will be cereal/porridge for Dan and toast for me. Lunch will be houmous and whatever salad pitta for Dan, leftovers or a pitta for me. We have plenty of flour for bread making and any sweet treats we might want.

Evening meals - 

W enchiladas
T lentil bol
F picnic/soup
S the dreaded peri peri fava beans w. rice
S hash
M shepherdess pie
T shepherdess pie

shopping list - 

potatoes
chickpeas
falafel (shop bought have been requested as a birthday treat)
rabbit greens
mylks
dates
cereal
shampoo
bird food

Should be a fairly cheap week.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Seaside Stroll


I needed to get out of the house today so I went for a short, breezy walk on the beach. As an extra added bonus the tide was in! Not the highest tide, but not too bad. 


I was not alone, there were many people walking their beautiful dogs or just enjoying the fresh air. 


By the time I reached the end of the prom, there was no beach left, so I turned around and came home!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

January Round Up

We totally busted the grocery budget for January, we were doing really well until the topic of Dan's birthday came up and lots of small expenses have really added up. I'm not blaming him at all, in fact it's been really good for me to have to cough up for stuff we would usually pay for from the general budget.

I treated Dan to a bag of coffee beans after he tasted some at Atkinsons. It was ten pounds. TEN POUNDS!!! I have rationalised this expense by thinking we'd spend £10 on four cups of coffee without thinking about it too much so if this replaces that then it is great value, and it is a kind of birthday present, I hope my poker face is good because my brain was screaming "HOW MUCH?" as the owner told us about his bean selecting trip to Columbia.

We needed quite a few bits in order to make enough cake to go round the office. That spend plus the coffee has taken us over the £120 budget to £136, £10 of which we paid for using Nectar points, so just £6 in cash. I did have the cash so it's not that I'm using an overdraft just for the purpose of cake, and it was still cheaper than buying ready made treats. Next time I will be better prepared.

I am a bit overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family. This week two belated birthday gifts in the form of Festival of Britain posters turned up in the post, plus another Google Play voucher from Dan's mum and a tenner in cash. So even though I have spent a whopping £84.86 of Christmas and birthday money on clothing and accessories (I treated myself to a couple of Wolf And Moon necklaces as well as the charity shop purchases) I still have a bit of money left to spend on the garden.  

We've spent less in virtually all budget categories this month than the previous three months, so we are moving in the right direction, that should continue throughout the year now, we shouldn't need to spend anything on the car until June and we have a gap between birthdays for a little while. I think that's about it for now. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Little Glowing Friend

Another gloomy morning, so instead of watching President Trump and Mrs May hold hands again, or even watching the skiing I made a friend for the cushion I made the other day.

If you don't like orange, you're not going to like it, it pretty much glows! The fabric is another piece from the scrap pack I bought recently. 


Just another simple envelope.


Here it is next to the other one 


I'm pretty pleased with them.

Next week I'm going to nip into both sewing shops in the town to ask about sewing machine lessons. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Top Charity Shop Items Of The Year

Yesterday the always interesting and fun Kezzie blogged about her top charity shop items of the year. So I'm going to do the same. I don't think I'm going to manage a top ten but I'll do my best. 



A lantern for the garden. We did a fair bit of work on the garden last year, digging the lawn up and replacing it with cobbles. We didn't have much budget for anything else so we used some pallets as edging and as you can see Dan made a little table. I picked the lantern up for 99p, I could be wrong but I think it was brand new, it had certainly not been heavily used if it wasn't new.

Still in the garden another favourite from last year was a repair job I did to some chewed seat pads.



The fishy fabric was only 49p from a shop in Preston, I just used some wundaweb to stick it over the holes.



Moving back inside, my next favourite purchase are some soup bowls, I have always wanted some like this so when these were reduced I snapped them up, I can't remember how much they were, a few quid I think.



They're quite small, so ideal for a lunchtime portion, or for soup and a sandwich.

I am also fond of my tea for one set, I think I paid £2.49 for this, but as it was new, and at that time still selling for around £12 I was more than happy. I use it as part of my menu planning ceremony.



Only two more to go! We remain in the kitchen for one of the most useful things I bought last year, a lovely divided pyrex dish to hold salad. 



I think I was under the influence of our trip to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland when I bought this!

Finally, and is probably my favourite charity shop purchase of all time is something I have spoken about before, we bought it from the RSPCA shop in Kendal for £10, my official guide to The Festival Of Britain. Again I say thank you to my niece.












So that's a top six, not a top ten, but they're the things I like and use the most. 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

February Forecast

I removed Tuesday's post about the charity shop as there may be some legal proceedings, probably over cautious on my part but I thought it was for the best.

January isn't that much of a saving month for us as we do lots of celebrating and things like that, more than in December, so February is the first month of the year we have a financial push. The grocery budget will be lowered to £100, I would have it slightly lower but I need to buy both rabbit food and litter. February is a great month for savings here, short month, no Council Tax, no expected one off expenses (car etc), not much happening but we always seem to be really productive.



This week I've been creating extra meals by pinching a bit of everything from other meals - kind of like leftovers in reverse, I snaffle away a slice of this and a chunk of that before cooking until I have a bowlful of ingredients. Tonight we're having curry made with a few florets of cauli we were having with stew, about 1/4 tin of chickpeas from making houmous, some tomatoes from the salad bowl, 1/4 squash I'd roasted for soup etc. We didn't miss the extra cauli with the stew, the soup was just as nice with a bit less squash but we have an extra meal. 

We've really made an effort to use things up and the amount of half filled bottles of stuff in the fridge has vastly reduced, we've not had to eat anything too weird yet and I'm still avoiding the peri peri fava beans that are in the freezer.

It's Dan's birthday next week and his office do that thing where the birthday person treats everyone to cakes. I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagination, I have spoken of my cake failures before, so I thought I'd better practice. Isa Chandra Moskowitz saved the day once again. I made Just Chocolate Cake from Isa Does It (recipe in the link). It worked!


It's very soft and light, not oily at all. I'd say nice enough to serve to other people. I didn't make the glaze this time but I will for the proper cake. As there are 20 people in the office I'm going to try a lemon cake too, I have all the ingredients for that so it's not going to break the bank. Additional skills!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Additional Skills


Yesterday went by in a bit of a blur, but the laundry basket is empty and the house is decidedly clean and tidy so I must have done something. 

This morning I got off to a good start and used some of the fabric I bought from Stockport to make a cushion. We currently have the cushions that came with the sofa and I just don't like them.


Just a quick and easy envelope, I would like to be able to use a sewing machine properly, put zips in and all that stuff but it's way down my priority list. 


It needs plumping up properly but it look nice in the room. I have a big problem with favours, I don't believe "mates rates" really exist there's always a price to pay, and yet I have fallen into the trap. 

I needed a repair to a nice Betty Barclay skirt and asked at the charity shop if we had an alterations place in the town.  (Foolishly) I agreed to let a fellow volunteer repair it for me (she's very good), the thing is I said there was no rush, and now several months later i still don't have it back. Winter will be over soon and I have no idea when or if I will see this person again. Still, it's only stuff I suppose, but it does push basic clothing repairs up my to-learn list.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Retail Therapy


It was decided by Dan that I needed a treat last night to help get over the shock of yesterday. I think everyone else was on the same wavelength as I saw on Facebook someone else had treated themselves to a takeaway and others had gone out for a drink. I made some popcorn and we used a bit more of our Google Play voucher to rent the David Brent film, just what was needed on a Friday night. 

Today we took my birthday money out to see if there was anything for me. I have recently had to downgrade my only cardi, favourite dress, and a jumper due to damage and general scruffiness, which only left me with two jumpers and a long sleeved t-shirt, so I wanted some warm clothes and a replacement dress. I have to say I did pretty well!



First purchase was a cardi for £1 from my favourite Animal Care shop, it's just a Primark item but I like it a lot, it's quite thick and just my style. 



Second shop, Salvation Army I bought a black and white dress replacement, it wasn't bargain basement cheap at £7.99 but I like it. 



Third shop, St John's Hospice, a jumper



I get the impression this was an unwanted gift at some point.



I also picked up a plain M&S black jumper £3, a grey jumper dress £3.50 a belt for with the Laura Ashley dress £1.50 and a jumper for Dan to wear for work £4. Loads of basics all in one go! I also took my book voucher but there was nothing I fancied so I'll leave that for another time. 

Back at home and Dan's making bread and I'll be making a cauliflower and squash curry for later. The market stall was selling veg for 50p an item so I thought it would be a treat for tonight and something good for the freezer. eta, I didn't make the curry, I made soup and roast veg pasta instead. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Shocked (but maybe only a bit)

I was shocked to receive a message from my manager to say that after a visit from a surveyor (we have had trouble with the building for over a year) the shop is no longer insured and as of today it has closed, the managers have been made redundant and that's that. I'm not surprised it's come to this but not that it's just such an abrupt end.

It is such a relief to me that the manager had already secured a new job elsewhere as she has a young family and there has been no notice period. 

Bit annoyed I spent two hours yesterday changing the window displays though!

Grocery Shopping

Something we've learned this month, we both like grocery shopping. We did a largish shop at the start of the month, then another largish shop when we went to Unicorn, but that gave me a bit of a jolt. We were shopping because we wanted to go to the shop, not because we couldn't make do with what we had. We're still within budget, but it was an interesting thing to notice how we were grocery shopping for recreation rather than need. 

When we first started cutting back in 2004 we were spending £650 on food every month, not including the assorted coffee and sandwiches we ate at work - I was out of the house for 14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week so nothing was cooked from scratch and to be honest I was a bit of a zombie. Over the course of a year we slashed that monthly total to £90, because I changed job, it made things so much easier. 

In the first ten days of this month we spent £83.11 (!) in the second ten days we have spent £14.35 including £7.50 points used for almond milks Dan returned home with last night. I think we're starting to see where some of our money leaks come from - we need to strike a balance between my small shops for things we need and Dan's need to know we have enough stuff. On my part we need to not stock up at the start of the month.  I don't like thinking we'll run out of nuts or something expensive, so I always buy them first. We've never run out and even if we did I'd buy a small bag to tide us over, even if was slightly more expensive per kilo. February will be structured differently as it's the first of three savings push months, I'm hoping to slash all budgets to the bone for this period to boost the bathroom fund. 



Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Log Jam

Another gloomy morning.

I love the chair in my bedroom but since we bought some new bedroom furniture the chair has been a magnet for mess rather than a nice place to sit. Having said that I don't think I really sit in the chair that much, I just look at it.

The evidence 


See how it attracts floor and horizontal surface based friends too. 


Hardly respecting my possessions or creating a relaxing space. 

So the chair is now in the dining area - I have to bring it down whenever people visit anyway so hopefully it will be less of a clutter magnet that stops me from putting things away more easily (my whole thing is to make things easier to put away than they are to get out) and more of a ... chair.

Lots of people have been talking about bullet journals recently. I have read quite a few articles about it and (without wanting to cause offence to fans of the method) is there more to it than being a series of really fancy lists? I assume I'm missing something but from the way some people speak about it I get the impression it's the crossfit of journaling.

Having said all that it has motivated me to use my diary to write to-do lists. So far it's working quite well as I'm planning tasks that naturally piggy back onto each other so I've been pretty productive so far this week. I just need to get the bags of donations out of the house, unfortunately my shop isn't accepting books at the minute so I'll have to drop them off elsewhere, but we have no shortage of shops in the town so I'm sure someone will take them. 

And we get to go to the tip at the weekend!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

When The Sun Shines

Yesterday was calm and sunny so I ventured out into the garden.

In the autumn we chopped down a couple of trees and the plant tangle at the bottom of the garden (I say that as though the bottom of the garden is more than a few metres from the house!), you can see the before and after here. The pile of debris has been behind the garage ever since, yesterday I started to do something about  despite Dan being King of the Green Bin. I filled the bin then chopped up all the remaining smaller bits and tidied them into the bulk bag the garden cobbles came in. I just left the larger branches stacked up. It didn't take all that long and it looks so much better, and is less of an assault course for the window cleaner. OK, so I haven't actually done anything but I feel like we're a bit closer to a garden I want to look at rather than avoid.

I also spotted the first snowdrop of the year and lots of green shoots, all that bulb planting was worth it.  It's raining today so I feel even better about getting out while the sun was shining. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Focus and Primp

Here's a sentence you don't write everyday - I read something really positive on Facebook yesterday, this article, it asks the question 

"Why can't you accomplish your ten year goal in the next six months?".

I don't have a ten year plan, but we do have some things we want to do, and it got me thinking, why can't we accomplish some of our goals that we think will take another 8 months, or a year, or more. I spoke to Dan about it and with a bit of thrashing about (and in Dan's case getting wrapped up in the detail) we think we're going to move one of our end of the year goals to a spring one. 

We need to have some work done on the bathroom (you can see our temporary leak solution here) and were going to have everything replaced, we then downscaled the job - by deciding to keep the original bath and sink and just have new tiles, shower, toilet, cabinet, light, radiator, flooring, bath panel and bath screen. We've now decided to just replace the tiles, shower, cabinet, light, bath panel and bathscreen. Eventually we're going to need new central heating so we're going to live with the radiator we have until then. I know we should probably have the heating done first but I am sick of showering in a place covered with plastic bags to stop the water leaking into the kitchen and we won't have enough money to do both.

Assuming we can find someone willing to do such a small job we're hoping to have it done around March or April. I'm almost excited!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Eat In, Eat Out

After the trip round Unicorn on Sunday we didn't really go shopping this week, just nipped in for broccoli, mushrooms and bleach. Despite this I still need to recoup some cash as we had to replace our carbon monoxide alarm (£20), we ate out for my birthday and it was our wedding anniversary yesterday. 

We weren't planning to do anything for our anniversary, we make more of a thing of the day that we met, but due to some bad planning we didn't have anything to take with us to the football for lunch. As luck would have it on Friday night Dan was pointed in the direction of a newish cafe with some vegan options, right in the centre of Burnley - Little Barista. 



 I have to say I was impressed. A good choice of teas and coffee, almond, coconut and soya milk are all available, although at extra cost. There was not one, but five sweet treats - apricot croissant, carrot cake, a fruit crumble bar, chocolate and walnut brownie, and a coffee and orange cake. There was even a sandwich! We shared the sandwich, which they called a taco, it was a soft flatbread with roast vegetables, served toasted, it was really very nice. On this occasion neither of the soups were suitable for vegans but they do have sfv soups regularly.  


We went halves on the cakes (coffee orange on the left, chocolate walnut on the right, the chcocolate one was served warm). They weren't cheap but they were amazing! Also on sale were 10 Acre crisps - yes including When The Cheese Met The Onion, Karma Cola and Whole Earth soft drinks. Oh, and the staff are some of the most pleasant you will come across and were more than happy to help.

As a result of all this spending the menu plan is being stretched as much as possible. On Thursday I made a big pan of spicy rice with lots of veg and black eyed beans, there was a bit too much for one meal, so before I stirred in the rice I kept some of the veg mix aside to have the same again the next night. I don't always want to eat rice, but when I'm in the mood it's all I want to eat! I added an extra couple of pepper slices from a jar of roast peppers, a few more mushrooms and some pumpkin and sunflower seeds. We also had some cauliflower fritters. 


A small cauliflower, or half a large, some fresh coriander, water and the above spices and gram flour, blitzed up and cooked in the frying pan. The original recipe can be seen here.


We ate some with our spicy rice, but had enough mixture left to have some when we got home from the match (Up The Clarets). Served with a little bit of salad, some houmous, mango chutney and hot sauce. Lovely!


Today Dan is making bread and I will be making a mushroom, chestnut and sage bulghur bowl, another pantry meal, another budget stretcher. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Luck of the Draw


Since Christmas we've had so many donations at the charity shop, a mixture of unwanted gifts, surplus decorations, and people having a general clearout, so we've been running a tombola. 

My Tuesday colleague chucked 50p into the pot and said if he won he'd give me the prize as a birthday present, I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn't be the novelty toilet paper...

He won! So this was my prize/gift


a cute recipe binder. It was really good timing too as I'd dropped the box I keep my recipe cards in and it snapped into several dangerous looking shards, and the cards were being strewn all over.


It has some pockets for bits and bobs as well as pages to write recipes. I'm copying my favourite tried and tested recipes into it then the cards can go away.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Cookbook Declutter


The book cupboard in the kitchen can be a bit of a stash and dash place, so things are put away, but not always neatly. I also rarely go through it, today was that day.


It still needs a bit of primping.

Three notebooks, a folder from the City of Manchester Stadium (I don't know how long it is since it was called that) and assorted books will be leaving this place. These are the books, if anyone wants one of them let me know. 




Other than the Quorn one, which was a freebie from somewhere, they're all used, so not in as new condition. Now time for a brew.

Splashing Out


The charity shop must have influenced me this week as I find myself this morning with empty cupboards and buckets of hot soapy water. 

I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of bleach, but I bought some on the way home last night and today the kitchen is getting a deep clean. It could take a little while, but the weather's not good so I'm not going anywhere!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

When You Wish You'd Never Asked

Yesterday at the charity shop I asked the manager if there was anything specific she wanted me to do today. She thought about it then said she didn't like the look of the front of the shop so if I could put my thinking cap on and rearrange it. By the front of the shop she means all the ladieswear, including shoes and accessories i.e most of our stock. 

"You're creative, use your imagination" she said. Then her brow furrowed and she asked "do you wish you'd not said anything?"

Erm, a little bit! 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Orange Orange

After a weekend of celebrating, and four types of cake I had to attend to the fridge last night. Things were softening in there and they had to be eaten! There were also two small wraps left from having enchiladas on Friday and I'd forgotten to put them in the freezer.


Obviously chilli had to happen, we only eat it about eight times a month after all. It's a bit gloomy in my kitchen as we have no overhead light. 


I cut the wraps up, pushed the bits into a tin and cooked for a couple of minutes, filled them with chilli and enjoyed them very much!


Even though I had promised myself that it would be total focus on my quilt for the next little while, I bought some fabric from Snygg in Stockport on Sunday and some of the scrap pack is just asking to be made into cushions for the armchairs.


I can't have too much orange!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Three Month Round Up

At the end of September we started to note down all our spending, it as been very interesting to say the least. 

Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot spent on gifts and craft materials on the run up to Christmas - for the period we've been tracking we've spent £347.93 on gifts. This covers my mother in law's 60th birthday, my nephew's birthday, Christmas gifts for twelve people, and a gift for a birthday this month. The two most popular gifts were the 60th birthday present, which was a painting and pushes the gift spend up considerably, the other thing was a battery operated disco ball. Dan's Grandmother has dementia and so Dan thought he'd try her with it and she loves it!

In terms of craft materials I've spent £99.77, that is a lot, and is probably the area I would have underestimated the most. I bought stuff to make the advent calendar, two wreaths, Dan's big cushion and Dan's Super Furry Animals quilt, and my new splendid cutting mat. 

When we first started tracking we had a bit of a spending spree on clothes, I spoke of it here. The total for my stuff is £240.21 on 15 items of shoes, clothing, accessories and underwear. 

The lowest spend so far has been on cleaning products, a total of £5.19. I treated Dan to some kitchen roll, and I gave in and bought some laundry liquid. I've been using soapnuts since July, and for the time I could dry everything outside they were amazing, now it's a bit more hit and miss something with a nice smell was more desirable. 

Now we've done this first three months of just looking at our spending we're looking to trim some of the flab. Craft spending should plummet now, as should gifts and clothing, I'm looking at cutting the food budget, the car was serviced yesterday and we know we have to prepare for a big spend on that in June so we'll be saving up for that. Everything else is probably business as usual, other than this week as someone is having their birthday!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

Lots of good things this time round. 

Yesterday Dan cancelled the entertainment package we had for Now TV, we'll get it again when I want Sky Atlantic when Twin Peaks starts. Saving £6.99 a month. 

We decided to rent a film last night, I received an email the other day offering me £3 credit for anything from Google Play, so we used that, the film was £3.49 but along with the credit, I also received 20% off for some reason so we didn't have to pay anything out of pocket.

My shampoo is nearly all gone, this morning I noticed Dan has been washing his body with shampoo for the last little while, so I swapped a bottle of shower gel for the shampoo so I don't need to buy shampoo for a while. 

I was going to nip out for something to hold my hairdryer and assorted stuff, Dan produced a nice mesh basket from the garage, it's the ideal size for my needs so I've saved a bob or two there. 

I've had a new food processor on my wishlist for the past few months, I was on the verge of buying one the other day when I asked myself what I wanted it for. It made me realise that my little processor does the jobs I need it to do so I kept my money in my pocket. 

Who knows how, but we ran out of almond milk on Christmas Day - who runs out of milk? So we went to pick some up on Tuesday and picked up broccoli, carrots and parsnips for 9p a pack. 

My mum passed on two magazines for me to enjoy. 

It was also great to see how many people brought in their flasks of tea, turkey (or in our case, nut roast) butties, chunks of Christmas cake, and chocolates to pass around at the football yesterday and on Boxing day - love your leftovers!