the end of another day…

What a lovely day today after all the rain we have had recently.  My peonies are blooming at last and the garden is looking more colourful again now with the summer flowers appearing – there has been a bit of a gap lately between the spring flowers fading and the summer ones coming out.

I decided not to work tomorrow – Thursday is a bit of a flexi day at the moment until I can cut it out all together and leave my new team to get on with it by themselves, but presently they still need my input to keep on top of the workload with year-end now only 2 weeks away and the promise of reaching a higher target than last year and therefore a higher bonus is well in reach.

So I have opted to go in on Saturday instead – mainly because I want to make the best of the good weather and perhaps have a couple of hours in the garden tomorrow and to be honest I feel like I have exhausted myself this week and that I would be dragging myself in to work if I went in.  I will get twice as much work done with no one about on Saturday – there will be no interruptions and my brain will concentrate more in the quiet.

On the home front what can I say but the new fascia boards and soffits look very new  – but also quite streamlined – we have a fairly modern house only 30 years old – so it has improved the appearance to get rid of the rotting wooden barge boards.  We have had the ridge tiles re-pointed and an outlet put in the roof for the fan that removes the steam from the newly refurbished bathroom so now I can have a bath at long last – I am looking forward to that.

Next week it is the turn of the window people who will come and renew the double glazing units in the older of the windows we have – then the builder will return to do the re-pointing.  Meanwhile the indoor decorating continues alongside with hubby putting primer on the staircase in the bedroom – no going back now!

After work I did the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s.  Even I was shocked at the amount at the checkout – prices are certainly rising and unfortunately I have been so short of time to sit and write menus or look for bargains.

I bought a can of Brasso to clean up some copper rings I found in the shed and the little brass mister spray.  I should have known better and perhaps have waited to look in Wilkos or even a pound shop for a cheaper can but I have not really had a lunch hour this week to pop to the shops and I didn’t want an extra trip into town on my days off or to pay for parking –  that would defeat the object of getting a bargain!

When I finally got home and was fed and watered I rang my mum who lives up in North Yorkshire.  Unusually she was not in and I could not think where she might be – so how handy is Facebook – I put out a message ‘Has anyone seen Grandma?’ and within minutes I had a message back from my niece to say she was out shopping with them!

Tonight I have had a little catch up in blogland, relaxing with my cup of cocoa and pondering on the world.  Waking up today to the news of the latest tragedy of the London fire was shocking and has been uppermost in most people’s thoughts and conversations, another sad loss of life but even more stories emerging of people of all race, colour and creed pulling together and helping one another with offers of accomodation and donations of food, clothes and money  – such a staggering amount collected in such a short time.

Well enough of my witterings…bedtime beckons.

a relatively good start…

With menu in hand I completed my Sainsbury’s shop last night after work and felt quite pleased with myself, especially as I limited myself to a hot chocolate without a little snack (I would usually have a scone to keep me going).  Even though I was aiming to buy seasonal British grown produce I noticed the  cabbage was actually grown in Spain!  My trolley was mainly vegetables with a couple of loaves of bread and a few groceries – the ones we were running out of and one or two on offer.  My total bill came to £32.21 for the week – so I am quite pleased with that especially as we are eating better than when I spend a lot more!

shopping

This was all the fresh veg that I needed to add to the bits and pieces in the fridge to make my selected weeks menus.  The cheapest item was the Kiwi fruit at 30p and the dearest the dozen mixed sizes free range organic eggs at £3.70.  I need five for the Spiced Chickpea bakes and the remainder will carry over for next week.  The herbs were on offer and I will be able to freeze what I don’t use.  In the end I decided to buy a ready pack of Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato for £1.

Fresh Veg

Last night we had the Mushroom Stroganoff unfortunately when hubby made it he forgot he was making Stroganoff not risotto and mixed the rice into the mushroom mixture – but in the end it tasted the same!  Tonight we had the veggie stew with roasted chickpeas and butter beans a good warming winter dish – we both enjoyed the new recipe but perhaps the sweet potato and butternut squash made it a little too sweet for me so I would need to make slight adjustments next time.  The other draw back is it does not make enough for 2 meals – the leftover portion will however do for my lunch.  I will have to think of something to fill the empty slot for our tea tomorrow or move everything forward a meal.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s last night I had some returns – I had bought a snuggly throw for the bed at the caravan to keep us warm overnight.  It was a knitted cream blanket with an acrylic sheepskin style underside.  I never thought to check the washing instructions when I purchased it and was rather shocked to find it was not washable.  When I found the receipt to take it back I noticed I had been charged twice for this item.   As it was part of my weekly shop at the time I had not thought too much about my bill seeming a bit dearer than normal and had not checked the receipt afterwards.

So when I asked for a refund of the throw I had bought  I mentioned to the lady at Customer Services about being charged twice and confirmed that I had only bought one – after a bit of a quiet moment and a few umm’s and argh’s she agreed to refund me the money for both.  I thought this was very good of them as I had no way to prove I had not bought two at the time.  So well done Sainsburys for the goodwill gesture – but I will be checking my receipts more throughly in future.

We are certainly getting back into a routine again, all though we are well into January now, and a few of those stubborn little tasks are being crossed off the list.  I booked the car in for the MOT and service on Friday  and made a dentist appointment for the same morning. 

 I am not sure if the car or my teeth will require any major repairs – I hope not as I need to make economies in all areas of my spending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a new word for a new year…

My Focus Word for 2017

After much thought and deliberation I have decided on my focus word for the year and it is

economise

Taken from the Greek oikos meaning house and nemein meaning manage –  economise is the careful management of resources, careful use of something

I like the sound of carefully managing resources as I feel our throw away society is something I prefer not to be part of and I want to see just how resourceful I can be this year.

As well, due to impending changes in our household income  I need to cut down on unnecessary spending.  Becoming resourceful with our resources in order to ‘minimalise’ our purchases will also feed my desire to simplify and ‘minimalise’ our possessions.  Now we have the caravan whilst waiting for the cottage to be sorted we only have room for what is absolutely necessary and I love living with such a drastic reduction of ‘things’.  At the moment we only have 2 cups – so we have to keep on washing them up to reuse – it is quite challenging to see what we can get by with but also quite liberating.

The plan

Already this year I have been writing a Menu plan for the week – this seems to be the most effective way to save money,  reduce food waste and eat healthily.

At present I am shopping in my cupboards and only buying fresh vegetables and other necessities to add to what I already have to be able to make 7 healthier home-made meals each week.

I find it hard to admit that I am not sure what my food bill was each week over the last year – it was so manic that just getting through the week was a challenge on its own.  I ended up in Sainsbury’s with no plan and often duplicating items I already had in my cupboards.  We have probably eaten far more ready-made meals than ever before – pizza, vegetable samosas and quiche are the pre-prepared foods we normally fall back on together with those pots of chilled sauces for pasta.

I believe almost all of my lunches at work last year will have been bought and I dread to think the number of baked potatoes with cheese and coleslaw I got through but it will be quite a few – luckily it is my favourite lunchtime meal.

When I run my end of year spending report on my computer program all will be revealed and I don’t think it will be a pretty sight.  I know I will be upset at the amount of money I will have spent and wasted.

I find that at this time of year it is so easy to start off on the right foot but then as life takes over our good intentions fall away.  I have yet to resolve this recurring situation and I am thinking hard of a way to keep on track even through busy periods.

Below are some of my ideas to get me into Economy mode and at the same time increasing the number of nutritional  meals we have to improve our health.  I buy as much organic produce as possible – I like to think my food is free from any contaminants or artificial flavourings etc. –  this already makes my shopping dearer than the average, however, on the plus side we are both vegetarian so no expensive fish or meat in my trolley.  Having said that some vegetables can be quite expensive bought at the wrong time.

  • Having a menu plan is the number one priority – it only takes 20 minutes to write a simple plan for the week.  For me it is best done on a Sunday so that my new plan begins on a Monday – on a busy week even this amount of time can be difficult to find so my plan is to have some pre-written menus for these weeks to tide me over.
  • Keeping up with what is in the store cupboards, fridge and freezer is the second priority and including these foods in the menu plan helps to keep everything rotating and avoid food going past it’s sell by date.
  • Only buying store cupboard items with long dates on them when they are on offer such as cereal, packets of Passata, tea bags rice etc.  Some foods that I buy are rarely on offer but others come round fairly frequently.  Having a quick look as I go along the aisles to check the offers is worthwhile and saves money on those staple items.
  • Trying out new recipes to add variety to the weekly meal plan.  Test these on a weekend and time how long they take.  Having lots of very quick meals can become quite boring to the point where we often go off a certain meal.
  • Planning the menus around seasonal produce – this saves money as fruit and veg in season is usually cheaper.
  • Look out for coupons and vouchers.  As I shop at Sainsbury’s I automatically get Nectar points but I also get coupons at the till with either money off or additional Nectar points.  Make a point of buying the item on the coupon if it is something I would use or normally buy.
  • Remember to freeze left over bits of foods that have been opened but only a small amount used – such as tomato paste, coconut milk etc.  Also grate and freeze cheese and breadcrumbs and mix up and freeze crumble topping.

 

In addition to the planned meals I have a one or two quick standby meals in the freezer just in case.  Last week it was a ready-made pasta sauce to add to whole wheat pasta and this week a pizza. If I don’t need to use them then I will save money by not having to replace them.

My lunch at work is the area I need to get to grips with – I am more likely to eat a sandwich at home and prefer baked potatoes at work rather than too much bread. My current idea is to buy a ready done baked potato but take my own fillings and salad. This should cut the cost down and I can also organise myself to make soup for the week and freeze in smaller portions.

 

So far this year we have really enjoyed getting back to proper home cooked meals and saved money at the same time.  I actually prefer the winter salads I make of shredded cabbage, carrot and beetroot and raw cauliflower florets – I like the crunchy texture.  I find the bagged lettuce quite limp and wasteful.  Any remaining salad items have made delicious sandwiches served with home-made soup for lunch at the weekend. The meal plan for this week was a little different as we were on holiday from work and stayed at the caravan for 4 days and had to rely more on easy to make meals.  On Saturday night we are hosting a Burns Night Supper with some friends – we brought the haggis back from Scotland (vegetarian for us) together with some mini steak pies and macaroni pies, not sure of the nutritional quality of these!

 

I will put the menus in the tabs above – here is the quick link

Weekly Menu Plan January 2017

 

Just to update on the caravan we now have running water and central heating and a fully operational shower.  The Swift engineer who was coming to replace the fridge socket however did not arrive – or rather he did come but thought we were on the caravan site next door – as this is all closed up for the winter he went away again.  So fridge socket still not sorted…watch this space!

Reducing the spending is back…

For anyone that is interested I am restarting my Reducing the spending posts over on my sister blog Re-routed.
This is where I will be taking stock of my grocery budget and meal planning.  I will also be moving the posts on ‘What I have bought this week’ over there just to keep these challenges separate from this blog.
Very soon I will be updating you on this months focus which is to Simplify my Space.
Have a good day tomorrow lets hope the weather is calmer.

When is a bargain not a bargain?

This week I have been most careful with the cash and shopping.  I had to buy a few extra groceries to get us through the week which cost me £17.76 – this was extra cheese and milk and a few veg.  Feeding four adults is quite costly and I did not have the time to make Nutloaf so instead we had –

  • Chickpea curry and brown rice
  • Mushroom and spinach omelette and salad
  • A pasta meal
  • A homemade pizza
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli bake.

I also made a different version of the Apple and Sultana Cupcakes that I made a while back but this time I adapted the recipe to make Chocolate and Pear which we had as a pudding with Creme Fraiche – yummy – but needed a bit more pear.

Tonight I will be doing some kind of bean stew or casserole to use up any left over vegetables and at the weekend I will definitely make a Nutloaf and use up the nuts in the cupboard.

During the week I had to buy two birthday cards for friends at work and being in my ‘money saving mode’ I went into The Works where they have a selection of cards 2 for a pound, which I thought was a good saver, however, I got sidetracked and ended up with one or two must haves – but in my defence they were very cheap (I know cheap is still spending money!).

The first item a book on Baking that is presented step by step in photo pictures.  I like this because I can see what the mixture is supposed to look like at the different stages then I am able to figure out where I might be going wrong if a recipe doesn’t work out!  Of course there are some nice recipes too and I can’t wait to try some out – Cost £3.99

The second items are a matching metal Seed Tin and Garden Twine Dispenser – Cost £1.99 each (but they are so cute and I just couldn’t resist).  Much better than the old plastic ice-cream tub that I had at the cottage.

So if you have done the math you will have worked out that the two bargain birthday cards of only 50p each actually cost me £4.48 each!!  I could have bought one of the dearest in Clinton’s cards for that – but not as much fun.

I promise myself to do better next week and may even leave my debit card at home and only take a little cash with me to cover any unforeseen expenses such as extra food shopping or even worse those dreaded brown envelopes that are passed around at work – you know the ones I mean – they come round asking for a £1 for the Birthday Club or Bonus Ball, then another for a leaving present and yet another for a donation to someones preschooler who has done a hop, skip and jump to raise funds for their playgroup!!  Like magic they always appear just after a  visit to the card cash machine and before you know it you find yourself back at the dispenser again!

Now my bank balances are all up to date I am beginning to make a note of my daily spending again.  I usually withdraw £20 a week to cover any day to day expenses but have no idea if this is considered normal or over the top.  If anyone out there has any suggestions they are always welcome.

Never spend your money before you have it…

and when you do have it hold on to it and don’t waste it on lots of things you don’t really need…I really should listen to my own advice!

I have spent all day today entering a stack of receipts into my money program on the computer and balancing bank statements from as far back as March.  That must be when my life notched up a gear and everything went a bit crazy for a while.  As I remember we had my sister’s wedding, then a two-week holiday at Easter, followed by my return to working a lot of overtime well into the evening, followed by a visit from my mum, followed by another holiday and so on and so on…

Anyway I am now balanced again and it has been no surprise to find that I have well and truly overspent on food, clothes, general day-to-day spending and dare I say it…I will whisper it (magazines).  So much for my budget and good intentions – so much for those good ideas I had to shop at home – so much for my pledge to myself to avoid the magazine aisle – I certainly need to take myself in hand again as I have 10 more days to pay-day and I refuse to dip into savings to bail myself out.

Tonight I have been down to my local Sainsbury’s to do the weekly shop (yes I know how sad I am to be shopping in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday night) and I managed to claim back £65 before I began by returning some clothes that didn’t really work for me and some door hooks we decided didn’t look right where we were going to put them.  My total shop was £74.79 and with items already in my store cupboard and freezer I should be able to make a decent meal every night and packed lunches for me and my daughter to take to work each day.

As it happens many of the items I bought tonight were on offer so certain items will cover next week too.  I actually saved £3.34 according to the slip of paper I was given at the till called a Brand Match. I don’t usually buy many Brand items as I tend to go for the Sainsbury’s own ranges but I do like the Alpro Organic Soya milk mainly because Sainsbury’s don’t do an organic one.  My most expensive item was a block of Organic Parmesan cheese at £4.50 but I intend to grate it all and freeze it and that way it is much cheaper than buying those little ready grated packets.  I find that it adds flavour to many dishes when sprinkled on the top and as you need less it is better for you than other full fat cheeses and apparently easier to digest.

Deutsch: Parmigiano Reggiano in der Markthalle...

My cheapest item was a tiny tin of Tomato Puree for 25p followed closely by 4 Bananas for 40p.  It is unusual to see anything on a receipt for under a pound now – I expect if I bought the Basics range there might be more but I do tend to go for the Organic range and foods with no additives and as close to nature as possible especially with dairy foods, eggs, breads and vegetables.

This week I intend to make a Nutloaf to use up some of my left over nuts and we can have it hot one night and then cold with salad the next.  I also like to sprinkle Almonds on my Cauliflower and Broccoli bake as they are an excellent source of protein.

My budget isn’t the only thing I have been busy on today – I have been developing a new system for my clippings as I seem to have quite a collection.  I see all kinds of bits and pieces when I am flicking through my magazines, sometimes it is a new beauty product or supplement that I might like to try, sometimes I want to keep an article about a place or art exhibition I want to go to or a play I might be interested to watch at the local theatre – so tomorrow I will introduce you to SPIF my Systemized Product and Information Folder.  Until then I am going to bed with a mug of cocoa and a couple of magazines ( that I bought last week and not tonight – just in case you were about to ask!)