Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Pantry Tour

There are finally some gaps in the pantry! I like to have a well stocked pantry, I think anyone who has been low on food for any period can have similar feelings. 

Closest to the door are the everyday essentials, tea, herbs and spices, breakfast cereal/oats, nuts and seeds. We have a few empty jars here, they're usually all filled with cereal or oats but at the moment one jar of each is enough. We're also using broken mixed nuts, easier to store together. Dried herbs and spices are one thing I've really cut down own, I used to love having a large assortment of different blends and so on, at the moment our meals are quite simple, so a slimmed down spice rack is fine, there's still a wide enough choice for all manner of flavour combinations. 

Above that are the tins, again a small selection at the moment, I do like to have a variety, but not just now, in the jars are red and green lentils. We tried Branston beans for the first time last week, they got the thumbs up from both of us, and as they're cheap so much the better.

Dried things, an empty jar where pasta would be, we don't eat pasta all that often but I love it when we do - I always weigh out my portion otherwise I'd eat half a bag! We're still eating the brown rice I bought months ago for £1 a kilo at Home Bargains - it looks like this is a product they generally stock at this price, so it's worth a look if you have a store nearby. 

Assorted stuff, we don't usually buy Heinz ketchup, but it was the cheapest at the time, we also have a couple of tins of soup for emergencies. The yellow pea flour was a very good purchase, I use it in the same way as gram flour, great for fritters, bhajis, Yorkshire puddings and things like that.  

Dan's bread making stuff, and spare things like oats, teabags and nuts

Assorted stuff, most of this is used frequently, but there are a couple of  things that are slow to disappear, plus waffle making essentials! 

It has been a really worthwhile exercise to get to know what we really do want and need to keep in stock, what we're replacing as soon as it runs out and what gets overlooked even when the pantry is my focus. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Waste Not

The Oxfam shop is one of two charity shops I always visit when we're in Lancaster, I don't always buy something, but when I do it's usually something of great use. The last good purchase from there was a coffee dripper for Dan. 

We don't have a bin in the kitchen, or anywhere in the house other than the bathroom, where we have two - one for rubbish, one for recycling. We have been using a small bucket for quite a while but have had half an eye out for something better, preferably with a lid. We found one on Saturday and both spotted it at the same time.

I think it's supposed to be a compost caddy, but it's our bin, £3.99 and unused by the look of it. The mini dustpan and brush was not part of the deal, that cost an extra £1 and is mainly for sweeping the dining table. I'm a bit too excited about both items. 

We're still working through the contents of the pantry, but I did buy quite a lot of veg this week, I needed an injection of fresh food, we still have about 10 tins of carlin peas, bit we are getting through things as fast as we can, I keep forgetting to take photographs of things, we had pasta with puy lentils so you can probably imagine what that looked like, one day we just had a huge houmous and falafel sandwich, on Saturday we just snacked so nothing to see there either !

We had dhal twice, once with potatoes and cauliflower, pictured here, the other time just with some bread. Yesterday we kept it very simple and just had some beans on toast.

Well off the menu plan, but as there's no food being wasted it doesn't matter at all. Tonight we're having black eyed beans in jerk sauce, we need a bit of heat as we're off to the football - could be chilly!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Seems Like Yesterday

The Rugby League World Cup starts this morning, and it couldn't feel more different than the last time round. This year the tournament is in the southern hemisphere, in 2013 it was in Britain, Ireland and France and it was brilliant! 

Four years ago today we were in Hull to watch Papua New Guinea v France, the first of the games we attended (of which there were many). You can see me above being hugged by Rufus the Robin, Hull KR's mascot. I wore my old university college scarf which is PNG colours and ended up being interviewed by a tv reporter! You can see the original post here.

During this time we visited Hull, Workington, Warrington, Huddersfield, Halifax, Rochdale, Wigan, Leigh, Salford, and Old Trafford, Manchester. We met stars of the game, met some great people, were photographed with a number of fuzzy mascots, were warm, soggy, wet, cold, very cold, and exceptionally cold at times (I'm looking at you Workington). I think I felt every emotion it's possible for a person to feel, and I remember it as one of the best times I've had in my adult life - how often do you get to sing a song with a man who has offered to let you store your half time pie in the hood of his jacket? 

I loved it all, even if I haven't ever quite recovered from the last 21 seconds of the semi-final between England and New Zealand!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

A few things this week, and a few free/ low cost things booked this week to enjoy in the future. Firstly, a £2 voucher arrived from the supermarket after my complaint/ comment. We also have a refund coming from my phone provider as I'd been overcharged for the past two months. 

The latest magazine arrived from 20th Century society, obviously we pay to be members, but the magazines are a great bonus, we both read the whole thing so its very useful, I doubt we'd pay £7 a time if we weren't members. We're booked in to see a talk by the linguist David Crystal in a couple of weeks, we missed him last time so I'm really happy to see him this time.

We're also going up to Lancaster that same week to watch The Death of Stalin, I may have mentioned a while ago that we went to a talk by comedy writer Ian Martin (Veep, The Thick Of It, In The Loop), he's back in Lancaster to hold a Q&A after the showing of the film, which is brilliant. We thought we'd have to go to Manchester to see it, so we're saving money on the screening, the travel and get the talk too. Excited.

I wandered into the workroom at the shop and spotted something in the bin, I asked if I could take it as it was in the bin and was told I could, so I stuck a bit of loose change into the donation box and headed home. Brand new wrapping paper!

I bought a pair of slippers from the supermarket the other night, tried them on when I got home and they were so uncomfortable Dan returned them the following morning for a refund. I am having no luck with slippers and footwear in general so I'm back to my old and very unattractive sandals! We had some supermarket vouchers £2 off £20 and some extra Nectar point vouchers which all helped. We didn't need any fresh food, but we needed pantry items like lentils and oil so the money off was a great help. We ate mainly from the pantry and I think we're finally starting to see a few gaps on the shelves!

Oh, and I really quite like the cheap tea bags I bought when we ran out of leaf tea (Dan's not so keen). I'll use the tea bags during the day so it will make the more expensive tea last longer. 

This weekend we're staying quite close to home, we plan to visit the art gallery in Preston, I think we'll have a coffee while we're there, but as we're "friends" of the gallery we get a discount at the cafe. Oh and we're also booked in for a free talk there in a few weeks, all about Eduardo Paolozzi - one of Dan's favourites! Lots to look forward to.                           

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

I'm Not Complaining Yet

I know I will, but for the time being I am very happy to be making Dan's quilt. 

Last week I got a very emotional message from Em who was delighted with her birthday present, and even though I do say so myself, it looks great in her house. Dan's bed quilt has been in planning since December, but yesterday something poked me to get on with it. I dug out the sewing machine again and actually quite enjoyed spending the day sorting out the top. 

Using the tea towel made it a little bit tricky as the fabric wanders around a lot, but it will be fine, wonky and wonderful. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

When The Meal Plan Works

 A volunteer nipped into the shop on Wednesday and said "I thought you were doing the Hallowe'en window", I replied "I did", she said "what happened to it?". I told her it was subtle, and she shrugged. Probably the reaction I expected. 

spicy rice
On Tuesday morning I forgot I was supposed to be making lentil bol, and instead made the cauliflower bake. I tasted it when it came out of the oven. It was not pleasant, so I added a few bits and bobs and turned out fine, in fact Dan has suggested it's added to the menu plan on a regular basis.

cauliflower bake
It's not a very photogenic meal either! The crust is just a couple of slices of bread, some cooked quinoa and herbs. I know I should think about my photographs before I take them but I'm always too hungry to wait!

On Thursday I got round to preparing the spaghetti squash, using this post to help me. It was really easy to prepare, I was a bit too excited so I cooked the squash in the morning and reheated it later. I had planned to serve it with a lentil bol, but I received an "I want pie" message from Dan and I took the hint, so I made pie*. Of course, i am incapable of cooking enough for just one meal so we had this for two nights. I am never going to complain about eating pastry on consecutive days. 

carlin pea pie, spaghetti squash and veg
We were already off plan, but on Saturday Dan made the food while I finished my cross stitch project, we had roast sweet potato with some quinoa bites and a houmous sandwich, but it turns out I've accidentally deleted the photograph. We rounded off the weekend with a quick chow mein topped with cashews and half a schnitzel each. 

veg noodles
A simple way to end a simple weekend where I didn't leave the house at all. 

*Not strictly pie as it was just pastry shoved on top of pie filling, I realise this is an important distinction for some people. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

In With The Old

I saw a notice from the Town Council the other day informing me about the Victorian weekend that we, like many towns, have just before the festive period. To go along with this there is a window competition, judged by the Mayor. We do usually enter (although I've never had anything to do with it) I don't know if we'll apply this year as the manager doesn't seem amazingly keen on things like this, but I hope we do (even though the fancy fabric shop always wins these things). 

But it got me thinking about what we might do, and in that way the mind wanders, it reminded me of an unfinished cross stitch I had in the fabric bag. It must be at least 12 years since I last did anything with it, and it was finished other than half of the border. So yesterday, as we drank tea and watched Soccer Saturday I decided to get on with it. Of course I didn't have the same shade of green to finish the border, but thanks to the huge amount of embroidery floss Dan brought over from his grandmother's house I found something that was not-too-bad. 

It took a little while, so Dan kindly made our evening meal (delicious), but I finished it, then left it to soak for a few hours as it smelled very musty after having been at the bottom of a bag for years.  

Cross stitch doesn't really fit in with the style of the house, but I thought about some other pictures we have - one of a rabbit, a print of some trees, and a couple of other things, when they're all framed nicely they can hang together in the spare room, I think it will look good. 

In the end, it was a very nice way to get through a wet and windy afternoon, especially as we'd come home with half a box of chocolates when we visited Dan's mum on Friday evening, who could ask for more?

If anyone has any very simple Victorian costume ideas I'd be very grateful to hear them. I'm not a massive fan of the sewing machine but I do have one, and I also have a glue gun, but other than that there will be no budget at all for this potential project!

Friday, 20 October 2017

I'm On The Phone

Kezzie posted about technology the other day and I realised I felt more strongly about it than I thought. the charging hole (?) on my phone became damaged so I upgraded earlier this year, and ended up with a fancier phone and a larger data allowance for not much more money (I still pay less than £20 per month). I know I am behind the times, my own mother laughs at me for not being on whatsapp, snapchat and instagram, my older niece and nephew roll their eyes at me whenever they ask what games I have too. 

So, I decided to use more of the features on my phone and it has been brilliant so far. I love lists (who doesn't?) but I dislike having paper hanging about the place. So Dan suggested I start using Keep, it's AMAZING! I can keep all my notes, recipe ideas, pantry and grocery lists right there, edit them easily and know I'll never forget to to take them with me. Notes that are active are highlighted in different colours, and notes I want to keep but don't need to stand out are just in black and white. So simple, so useful. Speaking of simple, the calculator and timers are in daily use and it means there are two items I don't need to keep just for a single job now.

Castbox is my other most used app, mainly to listen to Gretchen Rubin, but it's good for finding other podcasts too. Chromecast, for tv, rabbit videos, and James Tarkowski interviews. It's YouTube, but on my telly, magical. 

I don't like to have my phone in the bedroom, but I do like to wind down with some relaxing sea sounds - during the summer we just open the window but I love the sound of a pebble beach and we don't have that here. If you ever meet me and want to shut me up then just play some sea sounds and I'll be asleep in about two minutes. 

Then there's the camera, the nice size screen, the phonebook that's easy to edit (not the case with my last phone), the maps that updated quickly enough to let us know we'd be ok to trundle home on the motorway when the clutch went the other week, and of course Toby Ziegler gifs.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Micro Saving

I can't remember where it was but a little while ago I saw a tip/ comment that saving just under £84 a month would be £1000 over the course of a year, so that has become my aim and my secret mission to help with our many and varied large upcoming purchases. 

Dan kind of knows I'm doing this and is slightly amused by my vagueness when he asks about the shopping budget On his part he's resurrected an old bank account - he was very impressed he could remember the login after not using the account for over three years. He is socking away the change jar money - I was in serious trouble when I spent a 5p coin the other day! £10 is going in this lunchtime, he also pays himself £2 every time he cycles to work, that is going into this account too. It's micro saving really but it's mounting up. 

If I buy any yellow stickers, or buy something that's on offer I'm saving the difference. This helps in two ways - the savings themselves and it means I'm only buying things I'd buy anyway and not getting sucked into what the supermarket wants me to buy. 

I received a £2 voucher from the supermarket after my complaint/comment last week. I had to laugh at the envelope though - 

my name
(housenumber) Road

No street name! The street name was written to the side of the envelope, I assume it was added at the sorting office. I don't feel as bad about making a comment about attention to detail now!

The bathroom guy came round on Saturday to talk through my many changes to our plans and to test the bathroom tiles for asbestos. The results were emailed through yesterday - negative! What a relief, safer and a real money saver as I wouldn't have fancied removing them myself so we would have had to pay to have the job done.

I also found 47p at the bottom of my bag! I think I'm focused on micro saving as we are just not doing anything so my world is micro too, I believe one day I will leave this town again! Is anyone else a micro saver?

I've added a microsaving page in the tabs at the top of the page, I'll update as we go.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

In The Window - Hallowe'en

As I've mentioned before, I don't like theme windows, and I really don't like novelty ones, which is what we usually have for occasions such as Hallowe'en (although I haven't been in charge of doing the windows on previous occasions). Thankfully for me, the new manager isn't a fan either so we engineered a sightly more subtle approach. We neither have the stock nor the space to save outfits for the window, everything is put together from what we have in the shop on the day, which makes it more fun, even if we're not as professional as some charity shops you see these days. I'm not sure it's going to be popular with the other manager or volunteers but there you go. If someone wants to redo it then they can feel free!

The window we ended up with is not the one we started with, we had a black net bed canopy surrounding the bric a brac table but it was sold within minutes, even though we put a price on it that we thought no-one would pay, but they did so what do we know? I rescued some old books from the rag bag to add something to the display too. No pictures of the full window on this occasion as the glare from outside was just too much. Here we go - 

I allowed pumpkins and a witches hat!

Some decanters and glittery potions

Terrifying pumpkin activity

Enchanting outfits! I have been reading a book about magicians in the late 1800's, I think it may have influenced me. I imagine this lady to be a poisoner!

We were running low on purple items so I was pleased to find a little Primark 49p purple brooch to accessorise the furry coat! 

I'm quite interested to see if we receive any comments about it. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Menu Planning - I Take It All Back

As I mentioned last month over the summer I haven't been menu planning and it had worked really well. This month, everything has fallen apart and I haven't had a clue where I am. It started when we had guests at the start of the month, but I can't use that as an excuse, as last week we ended up with a fridge full of half eaten things and I had no idea how long some of it had been there. To be honest, I've been neglecting things at home as I've been at the shop quite a lot. Because I'm rushing to get food on the table I keep forgetting to take pictures, or make a note of what we've been eating so I won't be able to look back for inspiration. 

I've done a plan to cover the rest of this month and hopefully I can start next month without a plan, but for now I need to use up some of the masses of food we have in the fridge and pantry. We have been eating well though 

shepherdess pie with a pie of vegetables

spiced vegetable soup and toasties
Here's the plan for the rest of October - 

16. spicy rice
17. lentil bol w. spaghetti squash
18. cauliflower casserole w. quinoa crust
19. curry w. rice
20. chow mein
21. l/o
22. thanksgiving pot pie

23. plaki
24. dhal
25. l/o
26. chilli bean hotpot
27. l/o
28. falafel w. wedges
29. beans on toast

30. puy lentil stuffed mushrooms
31. puy lentil pasta

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday Morning Power Hour

When we got home from the football yesterday, we noticed that our neighbour has removed the damaged fence panel that backs onto our garden. We also noticed that we have a lot of food that needs to be eaten (I am seeing the downside of not menu planning). So we decided to split up and deal with each of these.

Dan went out with the clippers to clear our area of plant jumble to allow the new panel to fit in, and I did a menu plan. Luckily, our neighbour came out to speak to Dan and they had a good chat, all parties were left assured of good garden relations!

I wrote a menu plan, largely pantry based for the rest of the month, and while I was it is sorted out my recipe file, so I now have not bits of paper scattered around and I know where to find my favourite recipes. 

A good way to spend a Sunday morning.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

It's that time again already. 

There hasn't been much to tempt me recently at the charity shop - other than the chocolates my manager bought for me, isn't she lovely. However, as I was carrying a donation through to the workroom I spotted something

a nice Pyrex bowl. Smashed my small mixing bowl a while ago and a replacement has been on my list so this is ideal, what makes it more exciting is that this one was made in the USA rather than all my other dishes which are from J A Joblings in Sunderland. Hooray! At £1.99 it was a nice price too. 

Oh, we got the car back, and the bill was just over £90, far less than we thought, and that was mainly to pay for the tow truck. The mechanic doesn't actually know what caused the problem but we're good for now and we can take it back at any time. 

We also won £25 on the lottery. I know people have strong feelings about the lottery, we have our reasons for paying in to it and that's that. 

That's about it for this week, I'm sure no-one needs to see the full packet of puppy training pads I bought from the charity shop for 49p, not a fun buy but a very useful one. Two extra shifts at the shop for me this week too, not money saving, but it has been fun so far. To avoid the temptations of the cafe or chippery we're taking soup and sandwiches to the football this week and there will be pasta bake for when we get home. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

In The Fridge

A month ago we replaced our fridge freezer with an undercounter fridge so I thought I'd let you know how we're getting on with it. 

We love it!

The main reason is that the fridge is now in the main part of the kitchen, rather than the dining area. This makes getting stuff in and out of the fridge far easier, although I do occasionally still walk to where the fridge freezer used to stand. It also looks better, it's not a lovely integrated device but it makes the dining area (which is not huge) feel more spacious. We put our shelving unit in there and I'm getting used to it, at first I thought it was a bit wood upon wood upon wood in there but it's not too bad now.

We are also really enjoying not having a freezer in general, the fridge has a small icebox, and we had agreed that if the need arose we could buy a small chest freezer for the garage, but it's been fine so far. 

When I emptied the old freezer I noticed there was a lot of stash and dash items in there, meals or ingredients I'd shoved in there because I didn't want to eat them or throw them away, or things we'd bought for the sake of keeping the freezer full in the name of power efficiency. It turns out that for the two of us the ice box is big enough for the kind of things we use all the time. 

The fridge itself is probably a third smaller than our old one, but there's plenty of space for our needs

In the ice box we currently have limes, a batch of pitta, some falafel type things, ice, two ice packs (they are there as a space saver and can be taken out if needed), some frozen veg - including 1/2 a butternut squash, ice cubes, and peas. 

All nicely tucked away.

It wasn't our choice to buy the fridge at this time, but I'm really glad we did, it's moved the house on so much. Which reminds me, the bathroom guy is coming on Saturday, I've decided that I do want to replace the bath with a shower after all so he's coming to help us firm up our ideas. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Do you complain to shops and businesses when the need arises?

Last night we went to the supermarket (turns out I do need to buy food after all) and I bought a squash. The cashier couldn't locate the exact item on the till so asked me how much it was, told her and she typed it in. When I got home I thought Id been overcharged so I weighed the squash and I believe I have been.

I decided to let it go. 

But then I decided not to let it go and, despite all my cringing and discomfort, wrote an email to the store about it. But instead of just saying "I was overcharged" I turned it into an email about hard to find items on the till. Oh my word, I think I was blushing as I typed. The thing is, had I dealt with it in the store I would have had no issue being blunt face-to-face. I think it's because it's such a small thing it seems more petty to deal with it after the fact that right there and then (when for various reasons I didn't pay enough attention). 

To make it clear, I didn't ask for my 50p back, just that it was a customer service issue that they might wish to look at. I think I felt particularly odd about it as after my week off I had totally forgotten how to work in a shop and my standards of customer service were certainly off their game yesterday, so am probably in no position to judge at all!

So, pointing things out, do you do it or let it slide?

Monday, 9 October 2017


I am an overbuyer in the food department. It stems from that summer I had nothing to eat but frozen peas, rice and popcorn. Although I can now happily eat rice again I can't (or probably more likely won't) let my stocks run low. 

In the past when we've had people coming to stay I've been far too prepared. I've tried to have assorted things on hand so if our guests wanted anything to eat or drink we would have something in that ballpark. This time I didn't, we just bought some pastries, a cake, salads, dips and things to dip into the dips, it was still too much. When I thought about it later, I want to be a good host but my guests also want be be good guests, so they stopped somewhere for a snack before they arrived so I didn't have to run round after them, which is what I would have done, having eaten my actual car snacks about 30 minutes into the journey.

Over the course of the weekend we ate the cake, sent the pastries home with our guests so they didn't have to pay service station prices and were left with the dips and things and (of course) the salads. In our defense we did buy things that wouldn't just languish in the pantry for months, it was all stuff we would eat anyway. So for the first part of last week we just ate smorgs until it was gone falafel wraps with salsa, salads, pasta with a very nice fresh pesto, breadsticks and all that kind of thing. 

So I am now trying to underbuy, not having a menu plan helps because I can just sling something together, having enough food in the pantry for about a fortnight helps too, and as it's Autumn, there is always the endlessly stretchable stew. We were out and about for a few days last week, but here are a few things we ate the rest of the time. 

half eaten orzo pasta
hash (we had this twice)
carlin pea stew with veg and yorkshire puddings 
The food budget for this week is £5.50 as that's what's in my purse so I'll see how underbuying works for me. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

I can't pretend that this week was thrifty, we were out and about at the start of the week, and I had a clothes shopping spree - at real shops, not charity shops. The car was taken away on the back of a truck yesterday afternoon so this weekend is one at home. Thankfully we'd started the holiday with the things we wanted to do - visiting Abbot Hall in Kendal for the Painting Pop exhibition, and of course the trip to Hull. So other than the large garage bill we'll be receiving soon it's a good weekend to be at home. 

We still have access to sports channels due to our cut price two month offer thingamy, perfect for the Super League Grand Final this evening. I also had a reminder this morning that I have a voucher or a 99p movie rental via Google Play, as I still have credit left over from a giftcard I received last Christmas I think we'll go for it. We might even watch Blade Runner as it's a hot topic at the moment and we have been toying with the idea of seeing the sequel at the cinema. 

It was a grey, blustery morning but the beach was fairly busy, quite a few kite surfers and a large group enjoying a very energetic game of cricket. We needed a few things so popped to the shops. When we arrived at the bookshop looking for a gift for Dan's Mum we saw the Booky Dip table. All books were £1, with the proceeds to a local charity and it was a fun way to get rid of all the advance copies of books that were no longer needed. We picked three

One is for Dan's Mum, she doesn't read, but we know she'll find the concept amusing (and I'll get to read the book later). But we have a couple to be getting on with. 

Finally we visited Sainsbury's, I was after some tights and had a voucher for 500 points (worth £2.50) when spending £10 on their own brand clothing. I didn't realise that it's the Nectar giveaway weekend (last year we won £25 worth) and a voucher for another 500 points popped out. Not too bad at all.

No real freebies this week, did I mention the free parking when we went to Manchester last week?  I was given a box of chocolates as a hostess gift and there wasn't much grocery shopping due to eating up all the things we bought, but didn't eat last weekend, we shouldn't need to shop until at least Thursday of next week, so hopefully grocery spending will be low this month, makes up for everything else!

Friday, 6 October 2017


We're at home for the rest of the holiday, the car is in need of professional help, on the motorway last night something happened to the clutch which meant the whole way home we couldn't change gear. Thankfully Dan jammed it into 3rd and we trundled home, I would imagine annoying a great many people on the assorted motorways between there and here but what can you do? The only real trouble was arriving back in the town and having to negotiate traffic lights, but we got home eventually and for that I am grateful. 

We went to Hull, primarily to see the Turner Prize exhibition at Ferens Art Gallery, but also to stuff our faces at Blondes in nearby Cottingham and generally have a poke around the Old Town. I've spoken about how much we love Hull before so will just share a couple of pictures of our beautiful day. 

I haven't quite got used to my new phone so my finger appears on many photographs, like in the olden days. 

It's actually quite a good thing that we're at home all day today, I have a pair of Dr Martens to break in!