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

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hero Products - Pantry Favourites

I bang on about my pantry all the time, but then show lots of pictures of things packed with vegetables, so I thought I'd share a few of my pantry-based favourites*.  Obviously having some fresh onions or other fruit and veg for some of the recipes would be delightful, but it is possible to make use of items from the pantry alone to make something tasty should the need arise. 

Bread Obviously, need I say more? In my world there's really no time that bread isn't a good choice. Sweet, savoury, morning, evening, as a snack or as part of a main meal, bread is brilliant. And all that's to make bread is flour, yeast, salt and water** (and oil? I don't know, it's Dan's department). Magic. 

Houmous It may be unadventurous but it's a staple in our house, easy to tweak the basic recipe with whatever flavours we fancy. All we need is tahini, chickpeas, oil (I use hemp), water, lemon juice, garlic plus any extras - cumin, paprika, sundried tomatoes, grilled peppers etc. 

Chana Masala This is one of the many great recipes from Aine Carlin, this dish is from Keep It Vegan, I've mentioned it before (the book is usually available at The Works for a fiver, well worth it). From the pantry we need chickpeas, coconut milk***, tinned tomatoes, sugar, garlic, ginger and some spices. It freezes well and is just delicious. Great served with rice, or another good thing from the pantry socca - equal parts chickpea flour and water, a glug of oil and some salt, cooked in a frying pan like a pancake. Or even sweetcorn fritters - tinned sweetcorn, a splash of water, some flour, baking powder and salt.

Dhal Sticking with a curry theme, dhal is the easiest, cheapest thing to make, better with a few onions in the mix but fine without too - red lentils, water, some herbs and spices and a squirt of tomato puree. Great as a thick soup, or with flatbread, some spicy chutney, topped with toasted seeds or flavoured roast chickpeas, or even made into a pasty with some pastry made with oil.

Pasta Sauce I love to make this with onions, carrots and evil celery but have made it many times with no fresh veg at all and it's still fine, especially if made the day before and left in the fridge overnight. I use a mixture of red and green lentils (more green than red), puy are great too, tinned tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato puree, stock, some mixed herbs, paprika, dried mushrooms, grilled peppers from a jar if I have any, Dan tops his with some olives. Great served with pasta or garlic bread - bread brushed with oil and sprinked with garlic of whatever kind is available, I like this.

They're the first things that spring to mind, but I know there are more, including plenty of snacks. What are your storecupboard favourites?

*and water, but no-one is going to tell me off for including water are they?
** I know gluten free bread needs extra ingredients but we have never made that.
*** I tend to buy the coconut block, it costs about 80p and I get three lots from that.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

No freebies this week, although we are really enjoying our library books, and I finally got round to reading my bargain book from a week or two ago - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I read it in two sittings as I was completely hooked. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?

We did snap up a couple of useful items this week.  

We have been on the lookout for a couple of bags to store or freeze bread as we don't want to use plastic bags. When he makes dough Dan usually makes at least two batches, if not three (we only have three big bowls so that's the limit in one go). I bought these bags from my shop for £1.49

They're the ideal size for storing pitta.

We went to Lancaster at the weekend as we needed some tea, which reminds me we've been keeping a note of how many cups we get for the money. A bag is £5 and we made 97 mugs. I think we could get to 100 without too much bother. So it's still dearer than it could be, but not too bad and we enjoy it so much. 

Anyway, back to coffee

I spotted this coffee filter, brand new, still in all the original packaging, for £1.99. Ideal for taking to work, making a single cup at home, or for making coldbrew. I was really impressed when we got it home as both the filter and spoon are metal, I thought they'd be plastic. So really pleased with that. When we got home I had a peep to see if there were still for sale, they are and retail at £12.99!

The absolute best thing to have happened this week is that we have a new manager at the charity shop. After what seems like years but is in fact only four long months someone is in place and hopefully we can move forward. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Animal House

A while ago I spoke about all the animals that made their way to my picnic blanket. Today I noticed that there are quite a few more animals around the house too. 

There are birds

Ducks, owls, and some Moomins


A cow, frog, pig, dog, and a bear

A hiding manatee and some hares

Some cats in Dan's dressing room

Idefix the dog

 A lion, a bear and a dinosaur walked into a jar

Lions everywhere!

I wonder if I look hard enough I might find a rabbit or two?

Monday, 14 August 2017

Buying And Eating - August Week Two

I forgot to take pictures of what I bought this week, but it was the usual vegetables and that kind of thing, oh and lots of crisps. 

Working through the fridge and pantry continues, this week I opened the bag of quinoa from the big Hodmedod order we did a while ago, and I am pleased to announced it was a win! I have not been in love with many of the products we bought but the quinoa was very nice indeed. So here are a few things we ate this week, in no particular order.

Red Thai curry with brown rice

nut roast and plenty of potatoes

the last of the butterbean and lentil stew from last week with roasted peppers and lemony quinoa

bananas and custard (on an exceptionally grey day)

 we had a blob of this with our bananas, it's a gorgeous caramel marshmallowy gloopy type thing, very sweet, very delicious

Dan's delicious foldovers with houmous, falafel and grated carrot

For three nights we had a really delicious chilli, but apparently I forgot to take pictures on any of the three nights, silly me. Anyway we had it with potato wedges followed by quinoa, and finally flatbread. As I've said before, this is not a low carb household.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

I'm not going to lie, the past couple of weeks have not been light on the bank account. 

We have replaced most of the lighting in the house and bought a full length mirror for the main bedroom. I had been peering into the window of The Attik at this mirror for a long time, it was just kind of propped up to one side, not really displayed to any great degree. Finally, after the whole thing with the bathroom we decided to nip in and just ask how much it was. Of course, we both knew that as soon as we set foot through the door we would leave with a mirror, that's the main reason I only peer through the window as I pass by on my way to the charity shop. In fact I frequently take alternative routes to the shop in order to avoid this place altogether, so many beautiful things!

Turns out it's just right for above my little side cabinet/ dressing table thingamy that came with the chest of drawers we bought last year. 

That's really just to put my mini bargains into some kind of context. This week my bargains are all clothes. Someone gave me a top, and I bought two others, so three tops for the sum of £4.50, not too bad. I'm going out with some people from the shop tonight so I'll be giving one of the tops a whirl, the other two are just everyday affairs. I tend to keep my clothing pretty simple, but I am very pleased the the orange and black top, I used to have a top in the same colours but it ripped, so I've been keeping an eye out for a replacement to go with my black white and orange skirt.

First, the freebie, this will be a good one for at the shop.

The other two tops are from next, they look huge but the orange top is an 8 and the other a 6, they're pretty flappy though even so. 

Can't go wrong with some sequins from time to time!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Buying And Eating - August

We're working our way through the freezer at the moment which is great and there is now some space in there, I've also been cooking up all the bits and bobs that have been in the pantry for a while. But not the giant cous cous, that I just can't face, Dan doesn't mind it though so I think I'll make a roast veg salad with it for him to take to work next week.  

The weather has also been all over the place, as I'm sure it has been for a lot of people, so I've been making a few more autumnal meals. Last week I made myself some soup with green lentils, spinach, dried mushrooms, and a single portion of pasta that was hanging around. It was actually delicious and served me for a few lunchtimes. 

As I've been using things up we've been eating a lot of leftovers, so there's not that much to see this week. I also made a batch of curried roast veg and lentil soup, which always goes down well. I have been shopping a little bit too, although I really am trying to cut down, it's a bit of an addiction.

We've been to Waitrose a couple of times over the past few weeks as we've used the John Lewis click and collect service for a few things for the house. There are some good yellow stickers to be had. We picked up some reduced pak choi (the white bunny's favourite), courgettes,and bread (not pictured). I went a little grapefruit crazy. 

The guacamole from M&S was not a bargain but I really like it every now and then. 

More reduced bread, reasonably priced vegetables and a couple of other bits and bobs (also potatoes, unpictured). I have cut down my Home Bargains habit over the past few weeks, that's a bonus. 

The other day, before going shopping, it turned out I only had one potato left, so I sliced it up, coated it in paprika and stuck it in the oven then served it with some sweet mini peppers (from Aldi) stuffed with tomatoey lentils, and some roast veg. There's some v-pud hidden under the peppers too. 

It was cool and wet again on Sunday, so I made a stew with lentils, butterbeans and some sweet potato and butternut squash from the freezer, topped with the rest of the v-pud and served with some mash. I made lots of this, so we'll be eating it today and probably tomorrow too. It's hearty but still light enough for summer. We don't have mash all that often so I very much enjoyed it.

I think we're going to be staying in this weekend so hopefully Dan will get back to breadmaking, he's certainly making noises about it It would refill the freezer but not in a way that means things would loiter around for months on end. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Black And Blue

It was a little bit of an odd weekend, we had plans to attend two events and we didn't see either of them through to the end. We left Lytham Festival after only a couple of hours because we found it a bit boring. Then on Saturday we went to watch a football match, the match was abandoned due to crowd trouble - a section of the away fans ran at home fans in the same stand then started throwing seats. In that particular stand the seats are made of wood, so it's no joke. I've never seen anything like it, and I have been to lots of sporting events. 

So we thought it would be safest to stay at home on Sunday and start to tackle the front bedroom! I love the front bedroom, it's so cosy but we wanted to up the cosy levels. This room has probably had the least amount of new stuff of anywhere in the house. Other than a few cushions, a mattress and a blanket everything in the room came with us from the old house or has just been taken from other rooms here, not that it's a bad thing, we just wanted to pull things together a bit more. 


We bought a new mirror for the main bedroom, so I propped this charity shop mirror (£2.99) up near the bottle garden and put the spare blankets into a box we had in the garage, the brown blanket was a gift from my parents when they went to Mexico many years ago. 

The sideboard came from my parents house, you know how you pick up these things when you move into your first house, it was dark wood, I painted it blue. I just need a frame for the print then it can go up on the wall. 

The wooden church was made for me and was sent by a friend I met online a long time ago, it came all the way from Canada. The little pots were a couple of quid from the charity shop and hold my quilting pins and other sewing notions.

We bought this print from the same place we bought the new mirror, Dan wasn't convinced at first but now it's up he loves it! On the opposite wall we used a few bits of my embroidery, just tucked into a corner.

And I can't believe it's a year since I finished the big bedspread! 

The carpet is a bit very stinky in places so that will be leaving the building soon and we're hoping to get a get a new bed, the one we have is not in great condition and is a little bit big for the room, we'll see about that though.