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Showing posts from January, 2014

Playing House. More Trolley Talk

After much chin scratching and wondering I found a home for the tea trolley. We have a weird little alcove in the dining area, it's where the phone socket is so the phone and router have to live there. The space has always been filled and shelf provided by an Ikea "Hol" storage box. It was one of the first things Dan and I bought for our room when we moved in together in 2002, It's great, solid wood, strong enough to stand on - as I did twice a day every day for just over 8 years in order to close the curtains in our old house. It also holds plenty, Dan's Lego lives inside. 

The alcove thing is also the ideal size for a tea trolley. So I moved all the stuff, moved the fridge freezer to unplug the router and slid the trolley into the gap. I mentioned the other day that I didn't really like storing my cook books in the pantry so I've selected a few and put them on the bottom shelf, the rest are in the cupboard above the oven.I just need to sort out the wires…

Totting Up January

January is a fairly indulgent month for us, it's my birthday, our wedding anniversary and Dan's birthday is the 1st February so there are lots of cakes, cards, gifts and days out. I know we don't have to but we choose to, when we were paying our debts off it didn't really happen so now we have wiggle room we choose to make days like this a priority. 

We still got off to a good start by saving the target savings amount, shoving a few quid into the Q pot and having a small amount still in each of the current accounts. Even after rabbit gifts, Dan gifts, birthday cards and veg racks bought from the excess grocery budget I still have £8 to move into savings. We spent more than the target grocery budget, I'm fine with that, it's been a great exercise for the past two months to get the spend down and it's worked, having a number in mind makes it easier to make decisions when menu planning, shopping and cooking. 

We've decided to be a bit more flexible about foo…

Charity Shop Treasure #2

I've been after a metal veg rack trolley thing for the pantry for ages, we looked at one in a nice cook stuff shop in Carlisle a little while ago but it was pretty expensive, even though it looked fantastic quality. So I waited and looked and nearly got one for Christmas but I waited. There you go just like a bus, two come along. 

These are the items I spotted as soon as I walked into the shop yesterday. £1.99 each. Whaaaaat? Crazy price, so I knew I wanted them. The nice and narrow, just what I need because the pantry is not very wide, these should fit just under the shelf. They're also the ideal colour, the pantry is painted a yellowy green (Dulux Forest Lake 4), this is only a shade different to the original wall colour for the dining area, we had already bought the paint when we discovered this, spooky!

The final item was another thing on our wants list. At the minute our "in use" magazines and books are in a metal magazine file, like I'd have were I important …

Charity Shop Treasure #1

There are plenty of bargains left at the shop, so if you're in SAS, don't be afraid to visit Age UK, all books are 49p, dvds and cds buy one get one free. Roll up, roll up. 

I try to not buy things from any charity shop I volunteer at. for the simple reason there's always something, and if there's always something then there will always be something next time. I also dislike the "oh you get the pick of the stuff" thing, we don't. 

Having said all that, yesterday was too good to resist. As soon as I arrived for my shift I saw the first two items and had them set aside, knowing I had just enough cash to buy them. Then as I was tidying up I noticed the shoe rack and was mulling it over. Then the manager commented "if you like all that retro stuff have you seen the table in the window?" I had not. I battled with myself all afternoon - Should I? Shouldn't I? But three of the four items were on my house list and the fourth was just great.

Here is the…

Toiletries Spend

Inspired by Ann's £100 toiletries challenge I'm going to keep an eye on how much we spend this year on toiletries and beauty stuff. It also motivated me to sort through all the stuff we already have and use it up. I didn't think we had all that much but it turns out we do. I think I thought there wasn't much because I'd decided that we'd never get round to using it.  

We received quite a lot of stuff at Christmas - three handmade soaps and a vanilla giftset. I usually wouldn't use vanilla scented stuff, I prefer something zingy like lime, but it's there so there we go. In the set there is a body scrub, body butter, bath salts and body wash.  

I will be starting the body wash in February as I'm right at the bottom of my favourite Faith in Nature one. We're currently working our way through gift sets from last year too. I thought we were nearly at the end but I found a full bottle of shower gel that I'd set aside to use as bathroom cleaner.  Dan…

The Final Sunday of an Expensive Month

where am I ? living room
what am I wearing? blue spotted pyjamas
what's the sky like? grey and slightly yellow
what's motivating me? a day of work, quiet, relaxing, quilting, crazy rabbits, tea, books, skiing
where am I? in the kitchen eating a roast cooked by someone else 
what am I wearing? green jumper, blue skinny trousers, slippers
what's the sky like? very grey
what's motivating me? change of plans, slightly grumpy unable to work man, a long afternoon, temptation to break the January alcohol ban, lack of available funds (planned, but now annoying), shopping lists, lists of things, February budget, laundry
where am I? at the corner shop
what am I wearing? green jumper, blue trousers, grey cardi, walking shoes, wishing I was also wearing my coat
what's the sky like? still grey!
what's motivating me? wildie rabbits, windswept dogs (including an Airedale Terrier *yay*), accessing a pound, medicinal Jaffa Cakes, getting home without getting wet, reading, happy …

Menu Swaps and Subs

Confession - I am a bit of a lazy cook. Probably because I'm not a massive fan of the process, but it's part of my job so it's good to be not too bad at it. In the spirit of spending and wasting less I've had a proper look in the pantry - something I have got out of the habit of doing before writing a menu plan. I got into the very bad habit of assuming I knew ever single thing in there, but of course I don't. The menu plan has been jiggled ever so slightly in order to use thing we already have in rather than continue to push them to the back to make room for new things. Not that I keep a ton of stuff in, probably enough to keep us alive for a few weeks if all else failed but certainly not the jars, boxes and shelves of stuff some folk manage to store at any one time. 

I love having a proper pantry, in fact is was one of the many things that attracted me to this place when we were looking around. It has to work quite hard, ideally I wouldn't keep any bunny stuff…

January Shopping Week 4

I'm doing the round up today as we're not going shopping until Saturday so it's all done and dusted for this week. There were two small trips this week, the cost should have been minimal as Dan has had lunch provided at work four times. However, I was trusted to nip to M&S for something and I got overexcited and spent an extra £4. 
£ 4.59 f&v salad reduced to 34p, cauli, leek, mushrooms, broccoli £ 3.26 dairy and non-dairy £ 9.95 pantry soup, cereal, chocolate bar, stuffing, sauces
£ 1.39 bread £  .20 non-food newspaper - the loyalty card discounts all but 20p of the cost
Total £19.39

Total £97.35 

To see us to the end of the month I only need to buy ingredients for 3/4 meals. There are a couple of things in the freezer, I have enough in already for tonight, tomorrow and Saturday and FIL has invited us over for pre-birthday tea next Friday. 

The Costanza Method

I have been struggling with change recently, knowing I have to change and feeling like I want to but without any real direction. Trying the things I think I should change without really looking at how. 

Well, it all came to a head on Saturday night, a sad, happy explosion of emotions and now I feel a lot better. When we were paying off our debts dealing with the day to day budgeting was a big part of the day. I was also learning to cook, getting rid of my tons of junk and generally getting used to being an adult in the world. I now realise that that's not how life is any more. Yes, I'm in charge of day to day budgeting, yes I am still learning to cook but it's not as time consuming as before and so there's a lot of time and a bit of a hole in my days. 

I've known something was up for a while as I'd started to consume more and look to having things and shopping as an outlet and a leisure activity rather than a functional thing. So I thought I'd do what George …

February Menu Plan

Clearly we're not willing/able to stick to £90 a month for groceries. Well, I think we could but I don't think it's going to happen unless and until it becomes a necessity. It looks like £110 is a very comfortable amount, maybe with a £10 stashed away for stocking up if needed. Even if we spend the £110 plus bonus £10 that's still £70 a month less than before. Not too shabby. 

Rather than just going into the general savings pot, the grocery savings are going towards stag do and wedding costs, which are going to be considerable. One of the many good things is that with only a major detour we'll be nipping to Bristol to see the Jeremy Deller "English Magic" exhibition. Very exciting and a massive stroke of luck. 

Anyway. I think this menu makes it pretty clear how I get everything used up and get rid of leftovers. I've started plan leftovers for Tuesday night so I can just grab and go when I get home from the shop. 

1. out

2. triple decker burger w. salad (…

Quilt Progress #2

This is a very new and unplanned thing brought about by the stack of stuff I bought from Empress Mills last week. I'm doing a Mixtape design and it's just for me. The other two quilts were for Dan so it's weird and fun to make one for myself. It's also very easy to do so I've made quite a good start on the blocks. 
There's not a huge amount to see in terms of the  blocks as they're just straightish strips, some are arranged vertically, some horizontally. I like the simple yet fun nature of it. I chose this partly because Dan's quilt and the patchwork wall panel are both wonky log cabin. Originally I thought I was going to go for log cabin again for this but decided on this as it's different but not dissimilar. Hopefully it'll compliment and contrast in a good way. 

As you can see they're not pressed or trimmed yet, there is still a long way to go with this. I haven't decided on a colour for sashing either. It's going to mainly be used …

Quilt Progress #1

It's like the night here, so everything looks a bit shadowy.

For my first, and only, two quilts I've bought virtually all the fabric in one go. This quilt has bits and bobs from all over and bought throughout the year. It's the first time I've made a large quilt and this is going to be a kingsize for the spare bedroom, it's kind of seaside inspired and is a wonky 9 patch square. As with the other two, I'm learning a lot and I really think it would be easier to make this one with a sewing machine as hardly any of my seams match up, but it's great fun and I love the fabrics, even a couple of pretty ugly fabrics I ended up with somewhere along the line. 

The back is, hopefully, going to be made from some old fabric I bought last summer from a craft/vintage fair at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. I say "hopefully" as it still smells vintagey. I love it though so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. 

The grey chevron and squiggly one that looks like a 198…

January Shopping Week Three

This is for the week 11 - 16 January, a short week because I'm still sorting out shopping days. We're going shopping tonight for the next week then it should be plain sailing. I think I know what I mean.

I've just had a look at my online receipts and there is now a price match at my supermarket so I "saved" 31p this week. The loyalty card scheme only started part way through last year so I'm still getting used to it. As far as I can see when there's a price match discount it's added to "my rewards" when this gets to a fiver I'll receive a voucher through the post. I can get extra rewards if I buy certain items and certain items have an extra 10% off (like Waitrose). Without knowing all that it turns out my rewards balance is £4.85, so I'm not too far away from getting a voucher. I'm not quite sure how that's added up to so much but I'm not complaining. Anyway, spending this week - 

£ 8.97 f&v
£ 7.65 pantry
£ 2.26 dairy an…

No Spend Days

I could engineer NSD but it feels a bit fraudulent, I know that sometimes it's all about playing games with yourself but this just doesn't work for me. 
In my mind there's a difference between combining errands and putting something off/buying something in advance just so another day can be a NSD. I think that's why we don't have many. So I'm going to let it go, we have a budget so as long as we stick to that the rest doesn't really matter. 
When the payslip arrives we have our budget meeting, lots of our costs are fixed so we don't need to look at them often, we account for any variable costs like birthdays or what have you then that's that. The money is given a name and that's all there is to it. Very occasionally there might be an emergency budget meeting part way through the month if belt tightening is required but in the main we write the budget then it tells us what to do. 
If something is on special offer when we do spend we do one of two th…


We were so close to having a NSD yesterday, I resisted buying the "Postcards from Puffin" book covers box thing from the charity shop even though it was "only" £5. I didn't take any money out with me at all and refused kind offers for the item to be held for me until today. I reasoned it's not all that rare, it's not original, it doesn't have special significance to me and it was just a nice thing. There are millions of nice things in the world, I don't have to try to own them all. Dan spent £1, a meeting location had been changed so he had to put £1 in the coffee box so all the attendees of the meeting could have a coffee. Better than it could have been.

It was our wedding anniversary recently. We went from thinking we were going to have a lovely evening meal together, to having to make it a reasonably nice lunch to making do with a slightly-less-rushed-than-usual breakfast. We were going to nip out for something nice but instead had a rummage i…

Life Audit Update

It's been a few months since I first started thinking about the life audit, I wanted to change a few things as I was in a funk but I didn't really know what because the things I knew I had to change involved me doing things I didn't want to do!

So I have started volunteering at the charity shop one afternoon a week. I can't say it's going well or it's going badly, it's just there. I neither enjoy myself nor dislike being there. The afternoon doesn't half drag on though. So whether that's a positive change or not it's hard to say, I've only been going since about November so it's early days I suppose. 

I haven't done much fitness wise, probably because it's the biggest issue and I can't really be bothered. Food has been more or less back to normal for a week or so, I have done a bit of exercise and we made the decision to not drink any alcohol for a month, I thought I might register the change of routine of nipping for a drink a…

Proper Tightwaddery

I did one of those proper tightwad things yesterday. Dan had scuffed his shoes and there's no way we're buying more yet so I coloured them in with a black Sharpie, polished them and they look fine.

Today should have been another NSD like yesterday but I have ordered a birthday present for Dan. We don't usually exchange Christmas gifts but we generally get each other something when birthday time rolls around. I think it's probably because both of our birthdays are at the start of the year so we have gift cash sloshing around so there's a bit of wiggle room. 

I'm going to do some batch cooking today so we can have a cheap week at the end of the month. If I can stash 7 or 8 evening meals then the final shopping trip should be super cheap. 

It's all very small and domesticated this week I think.



where am I? in the car

what am I wearing? grey converse, black and white chevron dress

what's the sky like? pink, blue, grey, misty

what's motivating me?  finally dragging ourselves to Manchester to see Grayson Perry "The Vanity of Small Differences" and The Jeremy Deller curated "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air". Excitement.


where am I?Fred Aldous

what am I wearing? as 9am but with a blue and green coat

what's the sky like? not visible, I'm underground

what's motivating me? everything! pinnies, amazing art, colouring books, baby gifts, printing ink, the smell of pencils, Moomins, falafel. The first thing we saw when we got into the centre, was near the Cathedral a sparrowhawk eating a pigeon - slightly grim but also amazing


where am I? in the car, homeward

what am I wearing? as 9am

what's the sky like? pink, grey, blue, yellow

what's motivating me? potatoes, anniversaries, rabbits, football, quilting, community

January Shopping Week Two

It's not a proper week, it's a shopping week, in this case 10 days, just to get into the routine of Thursday to Thursday. Although we didn't go shopping last night but don't let the facts get in the way of what I'm thinking. 

We went to Aldi for a poke about this week. It opened in the town in November but I hadn't been in until Saturday. Other than the two teenage girls having a tiff it was pretty calm and not too busy which was great. We used to go to the various discount supermarkets quite a lot but I hadn't visited for a long time as it involved going to the next town along. I was really surprised at the amount of brand name stuff there, it was a bit like an oddly lit M&S. 

£ 7.31 f&v
£10.58 dairy/non-dairy
£ 3.78 lentils and things
£ 7.94 pantry
£ 4.79 drinks
£ 4.59 bread
£14.40 non-food

£53.39 Week One (1 - 10 January) total

Week one contained three no spend days, which is better than a kick in the face. It also contained a work leaving lunch, a birthda…

Stop Being Grumpy

I'm a bit of a grump and a total flibbertyjibbert at the minute, so that needs to end. It's all because I'm very spoilt. 

My parents treated us to tea last night - it made me crave homecooked food, my jeans only just fit - the legacy of our very fun year last year, can't decide what to do for my birthday - spoilt for choice, sore bum - have been lifting weights. Everything I am complaining about comes from, or is going towards, something good. That's a good thing. 

Still can't decide where (if anywhere) to go out tomorrow though, pesky weather.



where am I? in the dining space

what am I wearing? blue spotty pyjamas

what's the sky like? blue and grey

what's motivating me? furrowed brow due to small measures from the fabric shop


where am I? in the bedroom

what am I wearing? as 9 am

what's the sky like? grey and blue

what's motivating me? annoying socks, weird green soap, charity


where am I? in the dining space

what am I wearing? as 9am!

what's the sky like? darker blue and yellow with fast moving clouds

what's motivating me? the remaining socks, bubblewrap, naughty bunnies


We've decided our savings aim for this year is £5000. We've also decided we're not going to use the wedding as an excuse/reason to have a couple of nights away during the summer, we're just going to have one night instead. I've also decided to have a side mission to try to save £50 a month from my budget - made up of haircut, grocery, pension and pet food envelopes. 
We shall see!

Amazing Folk

I've noticed over the past few posts how frequently I seem to mention, or at least think about, the amount of stuff people give to us - fruit and veg, calendars, freebies, handmade stuff. People are great aren't they?

January Groceries, Week One

While still not leaping out of bed and doing ten star jumps first thing in the morning, I am being quietly productive. We went to Abakhan and I spent £12.85 on enough fabric to finish the big quilt, thought it would cost more but there was an extra £15% off, very than happy with that. Kindle reading is going well and eating is on course. There's no way I'm going out today so a batch cook is in order, haven't done one for a while, so I'll just be making chilli, curry, something with butterbeans and maybe a pie. 
We've decided Thursday is going to be the day we go shopping, for no other reason than it seemed to make sense. We stuck to the list and as luck would have it, much of the stuff on we wanted was cheaper than usual. Some of it was unavailable, but when it does appear, it will be a bit cheaper! Hooray for resolutions to be healthy as the cereal Dan eats and almond milk were cheaper than usual, so we stocked up. I love January! We spent £37.69.

£ 5.74 Fruit &…

At Home

In March we'll have lived here for four years and yet I still refer to this place as "our new house". I love the house, I like the area and yet I haven't settled in. A lot of it is just life happening that meant for the first two years of being here we didn't have time to get used to it. In fact being here made us a little resentful as it's out on a limb a little bit and it seems a faff to get away (which was one of the things that attracted us to it in the first place). 

That's why lots of my hopes fell by the wayside. There was time, here and there, but there was no optimistic new start, it was all backs to the wall and even though that's now over it's been hard to not look outside, far beyond the town to find things to make us happy. It's a weird kind of constraint, like I've been trapped in a lovely, well equipped prison, a place where I have all the time I need but none of the motivation I desire. 

I need to dream small. On the plus sid…

Out and In

The wait is over and now here we are. Some things will carry on, some will start, some will stop. 

out - the perennial fund. We've had this for years and it's been good, but for this year at least we're going without it. It's the fund for insurance, car tax, glasses, vet, tyres and all that stuff. We're not saving a set amount for it, there is money going into various accounts but we're going to cash flow this type of stuff wherever possible. If it's not possible, then there's always the emergency fund.

in - the change jar. We didn't have one this year, every time we started one it was raided for car parking, bits and bobs or chocolate emergencies. We now have the sealed Q box. We shall see. 

out - grocery shopping. We've found ourselves at the shops far too frequently of late, so now we're shopping one day and if we need bunny veg I can pick it up on my charity shop day.

in - measuring. I've been letting our portion sizes creep up "as …