Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February Round Up

Obviously I blew the £100 grocery budget due to the splurge shop at the start of the month, but I do still have £20 left in my "housekeeping" purse at the end of the month, so I am not going to complain about that. I'll try to reduce spending in March and see how it goes. 

The washing machine died yesterday. When we moved here I made the mistake of buying a really good and not very cheap washing machine. I know a big frugal tip is to buy the best you can afford, this is by and large not something I agree with, but that's another story. A few spending highlights -

Groceries - £144.65

We spent less in every other category this month, other than alcohol, which was almost double the January spend (£9.10 more than January). We spent less on eating out and coffee etc. £73.45, the average for the previous 4 months was £110.77. We spent nothing on health, furniture, gifts, clothes for Dan, the car (other than fuel), or craft (although I did buy a few things with gift money). We spent more than usual on tickets £101, as we gave a donation to the galleries in Nottingham and Derby when we visited and we bought tickets to see Pet Shop Boys later in the year. 

A few things we ate in the final week of the month. 

East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch, you can see a recipe variation here/ baked tortillas filled with beans, topped with pesto, tomato sauce and avocado/ more baked tortillas with squash and mushrooms and a green pepper stuffed with bulgur and quinoa. 

we were very low on food by Friday of last week, so we had chestnut stuffing and mushroom pie, surprisingly nice/ Saturday brunch, grilled tomatoes and mushroom, scrambled tofu, avocado and chia seeds on light rye/ there is a nice yellow curry under the sriracha tofu and noodles.

So it was a bit of a weird one, behind the scenes things were a little crazy and we did spend a lot but as most of it wasn't from the main budget it feels as though I can't draw any conclusions. We did manage to hit our target for the emergency fund savings though which is great.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Search Party

I'm not and never will be a maven or a taste maker or any of those things, the very thought of it is on the one hand hilarious and on the other weird and unsettling. Which brings me (as if I planned it) to talk about something I have only just seen so I assume everyone else in the known universe has already forgotten about. I know not everyone watches television but have any of the tv watchers here seen the show Search Party? I saw an advert for the the other day and it looked interesting, plus Alia Shawkat plays the main character and of course I love Arrested Development.

Anyway, this comedy-thriller (10 x 20 minutes episodes) follows twenty-something Dory and her three similarly annoying, self-obsessed friends as they attempt to discover what happened to a distant former college mate who has disappeared. We found parts of it to be laugh out loud funny as well as being intrigued. Growing up I was a massive fan of Tales of the Unexpected, if you liked that, you'll probably like this updated version too, it's fresh, looks great, and features a house I would very much like to have as a holiday home in the final episode!

The whole series is available on All4. 

Our search for a tea caddy is also over. We've been looking around for one for a while now, yesterday we almost bought one but then I remembered something I bought from the charity shop some time last year. During the summer I used it as a pot for some basil, but it was living under the sink doing nothing. Dan was initially unconvinced (mainly because it was under the sink) but now we have our perfect fit tea caddy!

It was a simple weekend after all. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

No real freebies this week, but all the extra points I've clocked up using the my coupons site from Sainsbury's have been added to my loyalty card and I have £5 to spend at some point. 

I tidied the pantry and found some nutmeg that I knew was there but had been missing, so I crossed that off the shopping list. I darned some socks which is almost like having new socks for free. I think that's it.

Three clothing bargains this week, Dan spotted the skirt when we were in Kendal last week, it will be good for just bodding about (£3). 

The manager of my charity shop spotted this on the rails and said it was a "me" dress, and it is, a nice one for warmer weather (£2).

Finally a new day to day dress. I have worn my black and white dress every week since I bought it about three years ago and it has pulls, the elastic is going slightly and it's generally a bit down in the dumps, although I will keep it for round the house purposes as I love it so much. The replacement is another Yumi one so I was happy to see it hanging there waiting for me (£2).

It's even calm and sunny enough to get everything washed and outside to dry! 

Have a good weekend everyone, hope Storm Doris left you alone, we lost part of the fence, there's a little damage to the flat roof on the porch and the tv aerial is out of action, but it could have been far worse. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Lazy Days

We have no plans for this weekend, which is lucky as we're at the end of the budget, so we're planning to stay this weekend. We often plan to stay in but then we realise we really, really like to go out! 

We went to Keswick last Friday and in a cafe I saw a book I'd not come across before. If there is one thing other than rabbits, being in bed, cephalopods, tea and Twin Peaks that I like it is brunch. Brunch is just the best, you can have what you like and it's not weird! Want a beer? Have one! Can't choose between sweet and savoury? You don't have to! Alone or with a gang of people, doesn't matter! Anything goes at brunch, no-one will judge your choice. One thing I will say is that if somewhere offers an all day breakfast the drink is part of the meal - no paying extra for a cup of tea or coffee (I feel very strongly about that).

I still had a Waterstones voucher from my birthday so I used it to buy this - 

We've decided to make Saturdays at home a bit more special so we look in at our cosy time at home and continuing to love our house more. So it's going to be like the good old days of a newspaper, good food, the radio and lots of lounging. It feels like I haven't slept for weeks so I am more than ready for it. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

February Week Three

The biggest outlay this week was a new phone for Dan, he has been limping on with his old phone for months, he'd had it repaired but it didn't really do the trick and this week texting was erratic and the phone was a bit dodgy - all in all, not a very good piece of equipment for keeping in touch with people! We also used quite a lot of petrol, Dan had to run some errands with his Mum, so it was unavoidable.

We went over the suggested £100 food budget, but that's not much of a surprise and we are still within the actual budget, I'll see how it goes again next month. Here's a selection of things we ate this week, we didn't eat as many different things for one reason and another so not as many photographs. 

sweet potato fries with haggis-stuffed mushroom/ rice pudding and stewed fruit/ cauliflower fritters, miso mushroom, and naan. 

patatas bravas/ black bean bites (they taste nicer than they look).

No plans for the coming week, I think we're just at home, and will hopefully will continue with the house primp. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Jam Buns And Things

The recipe for jam buns comes from this book, I think it was a gift when my parents got married.

Easy peasy!

We were chatting about all the new potential houses (well, there were three, two on the same street) as Dan washed the dishes, I looked up and saw this scene, it was the thing that made me want to embrace this house instead. 

Nothing exciting or even nice to look at, but it just looked cosy, washing up and all! We just dealt with all those little things that have been as they are for so long you just stop seeing them 

The wii fit board is only ever used as an anti-rabbit barrier.

Now it just needs defluffing! The Lego fence is also an anti-rabbit device.

So the list of things yesterday - rehung the fabric panels, remade the spare beds, returned everything to the blue sideboard, refilled the green bin, removed the horrible rug from under the dining table, put the decorative stuff on the window sill, moved the wii fit board, removed the junk from the tea trolley, watered plants, fixed the bathroom plug, cleaned the soap dish and other kitchen things, tidied top shelf of pantry, cleaned cupboard doors in the kitchen, cleaned kitchen tiles, got rid of cobwebs, cleaned bathroom cabinet and mirrors, made jam buns, houmous and pasta salad, cleaned lamp shades, Dan tidied his bedside table, flipped sofa and chair cushions.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

House Hunters

Each time we leave East Lancs it gets harder. We spent yesterday afternoon looking in Estate Agency windows at the houses for sale, then as we drove back we noticed the houses that were for sale in areas we like. Then we got home and looked online at the houses. Then we had a long discussion. 

We decided that we wouldn't ever come here if we didn't live here, but we would always visit the places we like no matter where we live, if that makes sense. So we decided today we would hunt around the house for twenty things we could do to improve the house. Of course one of those things was making some jam buns to go with a nice cup of tea. 

Rehanging the Kaplan panels meant we could put our other pictures back where they live. It also meant the spare bed could go back to being a bed. From this (the sheet had been covering the panels)

To this

Just a normal room! It also meant I could put all my fabric and sewing things back into the sideboard, I hadn't wanted to mess about in that room as I had visions of falling onto the bed and putting my hand through the fabric or snapping the frames!

We also bought a chain for the plug in the bathroom, so we went from this

a blurry thing with no plug, to this

a plug with a chain! It cost £1.90 for the chain and took about 30 seconds to fit, we didn't bother buying a new plug, just reused the one we had, a new thing including the plug would have cost £4.60.

The green bin has been filled up with garden waste, I've cleaned the cupboard doors in the kitchen, put the decorative bits and bobs back on the window sill in the middle of the stairs, dusted and gone round with the cobweb removal stick. We're about half way to twenty tasks to love where we live and it's looking good!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Sew and Sow

We went to Kendal yesterday, and while I knew we wouldn't find anything as exciting as last time we had a mooch around the charity shops anyway and I wasn't disappointed. I used to own some very nice but very slouchy boots and they lead to be getting very holey socks due to my foot sliding about. 

I spent 99p on a device to make repairing them easier. So that's my job for tomorrow, unless it's nice in which case I'll be in the garden hoping that my poking about will make things better (I've been watching Big Dreams Small Spaces), and I assume the usual heated discussion about the future of the rhododendron .

Today, after the football, I need to hunt down a chain for the bathroom sink, we have the bit that fits into the sink, we have a plug, but the two aren't connected at the moment.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

February Week Two

The main expense of the week was £10 each for tickets for the FA Cup game between Burnley and Lincoln which is next weekend.

I spent much of the week doing laundry and other stuff around the house, it has been nice to have so much time at home to just do anything, it's been a really productive time. As such I had decided to just go back to the shop one day a week until the lady I work with on a Wednesday broke her foot and will be off for a while. As I said last week I helped out at the charity shop towards the end of the week, it was all hands on deck to make sure the painting was finished and all the new stock was hung, tagged and steamed ready for the reopening. 

Obviously my super budget menu went out of the window due to the shopping spree - I threw away one meal and a few cubes of frozen spinach - turns out I can't stand the stuff! After feeling inspired to cook lots of different things, that's what the menu became, just lots of little things that we dipped into. I prepared one hot thing per evening, the rest was whatever I'd previously prepared and left in the fridge, here's a selection of what we've been eating - 

bulgur salad with roast veg, spiced carrot falafel/ puy lentil pies/ curried bubble and squeak - bombay potato kind of thing.

peppers stuffed with bulgur, and puy lentils with pesto/ fruit scones/ veg soup

winter veg stirfry/ stewed fruit/ pitta and sun dried tomato houmous 

Not much shopping for us this week obviously, just oil, tahini, some beans, bunny greens and flour (Dan made 30 pitta last night so we need more for a loaf this weekend!). It's been a good week to be at home.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Just Like Christmas

It is a beautiful day to be at the seaside so I went for a little stroll on the beach. I arrived at the pier just before 11am and there was a queue of people waiting to get onto the pier to play on the arcades or enjoy an ice cream (actually, maybe a tea, it's a bit chilly)

The tide was on the way in, but still a fair distance to go!

In the new year volunteers collected Christmas trees from the local area, and over the past couple of weeks they have been put to good use to add stability to the dunes. Marram grass has been planted too over quite an area. 

I wasn't able to help out this year but I hope next year the sessions with fall at a time I can do my bit. 

What a great project. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Cold Hard Work

I spent all day at the charity shop yesterday, it looks like with a big push today and maybe a bit tomorrow everything will be ready to relaunch on Monday. The builders have done an amazing job, the ceiling has been repaired and the damp moldy wall is history, new boarding and plaster and it looks gorgeous, we just need to new changing room to be built today. There was of course no money for decorators so a combination of staff and volunteers (and their families) have pitched in to get things done. I think there were 10 of us yesterday all doing bits and pieces.

We still have no proper heating though so it was soooooo cold! It was lovely though as customers kept nipping in telling us how pleased they were that the shop was openeing again and saying they'd stop by on Monday to see what was new. I don't think everyone will like the new look, the area manager used to work in High Street retail so he likes a really sharp look, personally I love it but I know traditionalists will think we've spent a fortune on the revamp (we haven't, virtually all the paint was left over from various projects) and that it doesn't look enough like a charity shop, but you can't please everyone can you?

I'll try to get a couple of photographs today. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Scotch Egg Moment

Those of a thrifty disposition may wish to look away.

In our house a scotch egg moment is one of those times one of us just has enough, hits the wall, falls off the wagon etc. It originates from many years ago when we were right in the middle of paying off our debts. One day when I was clearing up I found a scotch egg wrapper, and Dan had to confess that the months of no money for anything other than basics had got on top of him and he went out and bought a scotch egg! 

It was a turning point for us, we knew we needed a release valve, so we freed up £10 a month for things like this. I seem to remember our main treat was to share a twix-style biscuit from Lidl, we'd have one finger each. 

Anyway, I had one of those moments yesterday, and I have to confess it means I threw the peri peri fava beans into the bin. I can't remember the last time a meal went into the bin but we have an example now. I just couldn't face it, to be honest I have reached a point where the thought of eating anything sloppy makes me feel a bit ill. So we went shopping. 

We stopped shopping at Booths last year and switched to Sainsbury's to save cash, and we have, but last night I just wanted to chuck things in the trolley and not think about it too much. It turns out that what I really wanted was fresh vegetables! I wasn't expecting it, but it's what my body was after. There weren't many bargains to be had other than the finger rolls 24p, pak choi for the buns was 65p, the chestnut stuffing 35p, and the quinoa bulghur was reduced to clear at 90p. I can't remember the last time I spent nearly £54 on groceries in one go, but then again I can't remember feeling as excited about cooking as I do today. 

I am still optimistic we will lower our grocery spend compared to previous months, even with this blow out, but I will be surprised if it's under £100, but I'm feeling optimistic so you never know. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

February Week One

We got off to a great start, the cakes I made for Dan's birthday went down very well at work, there's one other vegan in the office and she said she couldn't remember having a nicer cake! Other people were also very impressed apparently, so glad it wasn't a waste of time and money!

Dan wanted baked tortillas for his birthday tea, for the filling I used some squash and butterbean pasty filling from the freezer, added some roast veg, tomato puree, extra spices and jalapenos, then topped the tortillas with pesto. They were sooooo nice, better than had I not been making do! Although it meant adding carrots to the shopping list we saved some money by making spiced carrot falafel to form the basis of our picnic for our planned trip to Nottingham which didn't happen until Sunday we had to take the white rabbit to the vet. We had a full loyalty card which knocked £15 off the bill which eased the pain a little. 

I was happy to discover a nearly empty bag of green lentils, they were squashed between the red lentils and pasta (now used) in the pantry so I thought there were only two bags when there were three! Not many, but enough for a few meals, which means I'm knocking them off the master shopping list for the time being. I've also noticed we're hardly eating pasta these days - not money saving, just an observation. Looking in the pantry we still have some spelt pasta and some edamame fettuccine which should keep us going.

Made another cushion from a pillow case in the fabric pile. Made some bunting, I not a fan of bunting but it's for the charity shop reopening *yay*, I used lots of fabrics I didn't have any use for but didn't want to just get rid of, they'd mainly been given to me by other people having a clear out. 

Bought some supermarket shampoo for 75p, rather than my usual brand that costs nearly £5 and Dan's that costs over a tenner. The bottle is half the size but it's still a decent saving, I don't mind it so far and it doesn't seem to irritate Dan's scalp amazingly. 

We did buy a few things, we had celebratory drinks for Dan's birthday. We had the trip to the vet (never cheap). Unexpectedly we had to buy some stamps costing £6.60. I had to pay 8p more for two tin of chickpeas as there were none at Home Bargain so I had to buy them from Aldi, shocking.

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Spirit of Optimism Two

Oh my goodness what a weekend, it started with a very stressful trip to the vet and ended with knowing exactly where we wanted to be. 

Work No. 203 Everything Is Going To Be Alright (1999)
On Saturday we visited Preston to see Artist Rooms - Martin Creed, if you can get to this exhibition please do. It's a joyful thing, from the soothing words high above the street outside the gallery to this short film (I have been singing the song all weekend!)

 We also watched some of the events, such as lion dancing, that were put on to celebrate Chinese New Year, I didn't take part in the chopstick challenge though!

Sunday saw us take the trip to Nottingham Lakeside Arts to see Victor Pasmore - Towards A New Reality. It's a long and not very interesting drive but it was well worth it, the exhibition takes us from his early paintings right through to the Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, we visited it back in 2015, see here. On the way home we did a quick detour to Derby Quad to experience What A Loving And Beautiful World which was a gorgeous space with never a never repeating combination of images that change with touch or shadow, so the more people, the better the show. 

As ever, the best was saved for last, as we arrived home just at the right time

Perfect end to the day. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Sure Do Love Those Carrots

I have to confess I thought it was Friday which has thrown the meals out a little bit. This is my picnic and eat at home prep today, from left to right, falalfel, soup and hash. I made the hash on the wrong day, so the fava beans will stay in the freezer a little bit longer, so sad. 

When I looked in the pantry yesterday I saw we still had a tin of carlin peas, we bought them with no real plan in mind. So I did a little poking about and found a recipe for spiced carrot falafel from Hodmedod, I suggested to Dan I could make these instead of buying some ready made from the shop, being the delight he is he agreed. I had never eaten carlin peas before last year, although parched peas are a thing in these parts apparently.

They're really simple, just shove everything in the food processor then form into patties and fry, couldn't be easier. I didn't have quinoa flakes so I used oats instead. 

They are spicy! I think they'd still be very nice without the chilli flakes to leave them just fragrant rather than hot. We have a couple of wraps from last night's meal plus a red cabbage, beetroot and pesto to go with them, so it should make for a good picnic.

So with these along with carrot and squash soup and carrot filled hash I should be able to see in the dark if nothing else!