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.