being thrifty, sEAsons, trEAsury

sEAsons…oh the weather outside is frightful

Here we are the 3rd December it’s bitterly cold outside and snow keeps threatening and the countdown to Christmas has really begun.

Little L has sent her letter to Santa and we have all completed our family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and passed them on to the relevant person.

This year I am buying a gift for my son in law and my OH is buying for my sister – she has a wish list as long as your arm but that makes it easier to pick a few things to the value of £50.  The big present swap and family party will be in two weeks time and I am generally in charge of crackers, games, silly hats and the music.

But first things first – I have mum’s photo book to finish and the computer is playing up – soon it will be me with frustration.

I have my fruit soaking ready to make my cake today and we bought a Christmas tree from Waitrose last night, a nice bushy 4 or 5 foot rooted one and it comes with a large red pot for £35 and all we have to do is bring it into the living room and decorate.  We used my £18 off a £90 shop voucher and also got a bargain on 3 gifts at £10 which were 3 for 2 (which conveniently brought the gifts into my £7 limit)  and also managed to find one of my sisters gifts – a stick blender.

To make up the £90 I also stocked up on a few items I can only buy from Waitrose and a few that we normally buy in Sainsbury’s that were on offer here.  So I was quite pleased with my purchases and the savings I made – the total came to more than £90 but with the coupon and £10 saving on the gifts I think I got quite a lot for the money.

Next Thursday mum arrives to stay and try out the brand new guest room – I need a heated underblanket for mum to replace the two hot water bottles she used to have.  This item is proving difficult to purchase as stock in the shops is low – everyone must be having one for Christmas, but I did manage to buy my plain white duvet cover for the new bed and a new plain white sheet for our bedroom as one of the two sheets had ripped right through in the last wash because it had worn so thin.

To finish the room we need to put up a picture or two and find a bedside table, but apart from that it is ready to go.

If I get time at the end of the day I will compose my Christmas letter that I usually send out to update relatives and friends and perhaps write a card or two.

Back soon x

Advertisements
budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…October spending

October has not turned out to be a good reflection of our usual housekeeping budget where the food shopping is concerned.  I can’t report any real thriftiness on my part but we continue to eat well and plan what we eat which is one of the best ways to save money.

As always you have to factor in the out of the ordinary expenditure and from my records the average weekly spend has increased over this month due to a number of reasons:-

  • Brexit is certainly having an effect on the prices now and inflation is beginning to bite hard.  Many items are going up by 50p a time or shrinking in size to compensate.
  • This month in particular I have increased the amount of fruit I am eating – OH has been preparing some wonderful mixed fruit salads to go with my plain no fat yoghurt at breakfast.  As we all know fruit, especially the soft fruits like blueberries and raspberries, are expensive but so good health-wise. I always eat an apple a day for my morning break at work as well so I think my vitamin C quota is well covered each day and I shouldn’t need to take any supplements.
  • When we went to help my daughter move she had no means of cooking or chilling food so was managing buying one meal at a time for a few days.  We had just returned from holiday and had no food in our house either so I grabbed a basketful of ready-made lunch items on the way at Marks and Spencers at the Wetherby services – their selection of sandwiches being better than the local Co-op.  This cost me over £16 for the four of us with a chocolate eclair each and a bag of crisps.
  • I have been using this month to stock up on basic items like toilet rolls ready for Christmas.  I always plan ahead to get these now as I don’t want to be thinking about the basic necessities close to Christmas when I need to be thinking more about shopping for meals and entertaining.
  • I have been buying the ingredients for the cake, nut roast and food gifts – they are generally found in the baking goods aisle which is always a costly place to be.
  • My lunches which I used to buy at the local Bakehouse are now all made at home so I have to factor in the extra cost of this into the weekly shop but this is balanced by the saving to my weekly personal miscellaneous spending which is virtually at zero now.
  • Due to time constraints with our decorating program my weekly visits to the supermarket have not been on the same day and I noticed that sometimes my weekly shop has been done less than a week after the previous one.

I read online that for Yorkshire and Humberside a weekly shop is on average £47.30 for a family – we eat organic foods mostly so you can add a further 10% to that figure, however I do buy mostly Sainsbury’s own cheaper brands rather than other well-known ones.  although there are only two of us sometimes a weekly shop costs as much as buying for a family of four because you cannot buy smaller sizes or the smaller sizes are more expensive to buy.

I admit we have a few expensive items such as  unfiltered organic virgin olive oil and organic free range eggs, but we do not eat meat or fish so these are a good source of the Omega 3.  A packet of lentils or chick peas is quite low-cost at only 60p and a staple diet for us together with brown rice we then buy a heap of veg to go with these and usually meet the required 5 a day at any one meal.

I like to buy good quality unprocessed whole-foods in an attempt to keep us as healthy as possible and I think I do get value for the money I spend although I would like it to be more around £50 a week mark rather than the £70 average it has crept up to because of the reasons I explained above – so plenty of work still to be done in the coming months to bring this back down.

On the positive side – I spend very little on my mobile phone a £10 recent top-up making that £10 for the year to date as I had a free £10 when I switched to Vodaphone pay as you go.

I don’t pay for all day parking on a Thursday now as I am only working Monday to Wednesday –  a saving of £16 to £20 a month – and I don’t have the petrol cost on top either – however, I have lost a whole day’s pay which more than covered these but I will be using the extra time I have gained wisely to save money in other areas too.

October achievements

  • I have bought as many items as I can when on offer, reduced or I have a coupon.
  • I continue to plan out a menu to avoid food waste – we have very little food waste now – I stopped buying those cartons of chilled coleslaw and salad stuff as once opened they only last a couple of days and I found the last little bit never got used.
  • I have about £106 in Sainsbury’s reward points to spend at Christmas.
  • I tried some new recipes – one or two will make it into my tried and tested section of my binder
  • I managed to skip the magazines most weeks buying none in August and September and only two health and food related ones in October

November budgeting

  • Making my own Christmas cake and Nut roast
  • Adding basic items to my weekly shop to stock up for Christmas
  • Making a Christmas menu plan so I don’t over buy or over spend on food that will not be eaten
  • Using the Waitrose £12 off a £60 spend
  • Clean out the freezer – use this month to plan weekly menus to use up food in there.
  • Use the £106 reward points on the double up event for drink and Christmas requirements
  • Use remainder against food bill
  • Fill car up with petrol using 9p off litre voucher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cleaning, decluttering, decorating, drEAming, general chit chat, homestEAding, nEAtening, rEArranging, simplifying

weekly review – more cleaning and clearing

A normal week this week so I finished work on Wednesday night and then did a bit of a shop in Sainsbury’s taking advantage of any items on offer – so now one of those huge 1kg tubs of Lurpack butter sits in my fridge as it was the only one available on offer and I never buy butter at full price.

Last time this happened we got the butter dish out of the cupboard and kept decanting slabs of butter into it.  It is actually quite nice to have a proper butter dish on the table and the saving on buying the very large size is really good at 60p for 100 grams against 75p per 100 grams for the smaller size – I might buy this size again even though it almost fills a shelf by itself!

When I came to put the food away I was too tired to do any more than just pushing it in where it would fit with the intention of sorting it out later so my first job on Thursday morning was cleaning and sorting the two fridges.

We have a small under the counter one in the kitchen now 30 years old and showing its age but still going strong and a larger one in the laundry room where we keep our vegetables, salad and fruit.  We invested in this a few years ago because our veg goes off quickly in either the kitchen or the garage.  I still store potatoes and onions in the garage though.

Whilst sorting and cleaning I decided to wash and chop some of the veg and put it into bags so that it will be ready when we want to make a meal.

I don’t usually do this but the idea came to me because we already pre-prepare a large bowl of mixed fresh fruit for our breakfast and salad for our lunch or my packed lunches.

 

So I prepared Leeks, Celery and Spring onions as I find these most time-consuming.

I keep the prepared salad in these ‘handy’ containers  – I nickname it our ‘Salad Bar’  – the deep one with 3 sections is great to take any combination of radish, cucumber, tomatoes, grated carrot, peppers etc but I would never put the chopped spring onions or beetroot in here as they would end up making the container smell or stain.  The larger square container has a plastic rack that sits on the bottom to keep the lettuce crisp and fresh and it does seem to work.

…and voila all sorted!  If this works I might try to pre prepare a lot more of our veg now I have a bit more time at home.

 

Whilst in the kitchen I moved on to cleaning the herb and spice rack.  My collection of four little chickens had become a trifle dusty and some of the herbs past their best by a few years.  I tend to use fresh herbs that have been frozen more than the dried ones so they end up well out of date before I get to the end and eventually smell and taste of very little.

 

I will need to replenish some of them and also buy some of the spices I will need for bonfire night and Christmas (I did whisper that word!).

There is something special about the taste and smell of the spices that mark this season – warming ginger for the Parkin and Ginger cake, mixed spice and cinnamon for the Christmas cake and cloves that will be used for my pomanders.

I always buy organic when I can but find that the Whole food shops sell it in bags that are far too big a quantity for us so I get the smaller packets from Waitrose.  As luck would have it a coupon has just dropped through my door for £10 off a £50 spend!  I shall make a list and maybe go on Saturday when we are out and about.

 

In between all this cleaning and clearing I managed to get our double mattress protector washed and hung on the line for a good blow before the next rain shower.

Whilst I was out in the garden I realised how much is still in flower even though summer is well and truly over.  I took a couple of pictures to capture the last of the colour – the vibrant red of the Kaffir lilies against the deep blue of the geraniums…

 

…and I just love the mustard yellow seed heads bobbing around with the finely cut Monbretia petals which are a softer orange than most and contrast well against the mauve of the hydrangea.

For anyone reading my last post about clippings these are my binders full of ideas – I even have one called Clippings – this is just a place to put any interesting newspaper and magazine articles about the area our cottage is in.  When we had the flood we hit the local newspapers!  One day soon I will go through them and try to reduce the amount.

 

 

If you have been following my recent decorating posts you will know we have just finished one bedroom and are about to start on the middle bedroom which belonged to my elder daughter and now used by my mum when she comes to stay.  So I thought I would show you the before pictures.  As you will see it is well overdue a complete overhaul.

The pictures are cheap ones bought when we ‘styled’ my mum in laws house to sell.  Rather than just take them straight to charity I put them up in here but they won’t be going back as they are not really my taste.  I might keep the silver frames and put new pictures in.

 

I am clearing the room bit by bit as the wardrobes are being dismantled to make way for new ones that will hopefully  be more space effective and only have two doors rather than three as at the moment there is always a bit you cannot get to easily creating pockets of wasted space.  Eventually this wardrobe will give mum some hanging space when she visits and hold our out of season clothes as we will be losing six drawers.

The two sets of Ikea drawers will be going up to my daughters new house with the single bed and mum will be getting a bigger double bed and this can then be used when either daughter and partners stay over too.

The retro nursing chair was my mum-in-laws – it was meant for the cottage so I am having to store it here now until the cottage is ready.  I am still undecided about keeping it, it needs recovering and estimates have been about £200.  Once we have the new bed the chair will not fit back in here so I need to make a decision soon.

Tomorrow we will be resuming our hunt for reasonably priced sliding doors – I am really out of touch with prices for furniture but the estimates we have been given seem far too high for a spare bedroom.  The ones we are removing were less than £90 from MFI in early nineties!  They have to be sliding doors as there isn’t enough room for opening doors in this room.

Well that is my update hope your weekend goes well.

fEAsting, meal planning, organising, rEArranging, trEAsure

Easy steps to organised cooking…

Believe it or not there is a term that incorporates organising with cooking.  If you saw the state of my kitchen at times after a baking session you would not think this possible.  The term I refer to is ‘Mise en place’ – quite simply it is French for ‘put in place’ a trained chef would refer to it as prepping.  

I like to call it Blue Peter cooking if you can remember that far back (and no you do not need any empty Fairy liquid bottles).  Every ingredient is pre weighed or prepared and then placed into something like a glass Pyrex bowl.  If you want to refresh your memory just take a look at this brilliant clip (wait for the trailer to finish) and note the bowls of ingredients all ready to go.  I think I might even make those cute mini Dalek cakes!

Having quite a tiny kitchen I adopted this method a while ago and it has much improved the way I keep myself and the kitchen organised whilst cooking and baking. 

Firstly I read through the recipe and collect all the ingredients together. 

mise en place 4

Then I weigh and pre-prepare everything and place into little bowls such as these cuties I found recently in Waitrose…

Pyrex Bowls

Now you might think that this method increases the washing up load with all those little bowls (and you would be right to some extent) however, I find that having one ingredient per bowl isn’t necessary as you can generally combine many of the ingredients. 

For instance when making a cake all the dry ingredients can be put together,

Mise en place 5

or with something like Nutloaf I combine the nuts and breadcrumbs and similarly with veg soup I would combine any veg added at the same stage of cooking.

mise en place 3

 

…then have a good clean up before launching into the mixing and cooking.

 

I don’t weigh out the olive oil for cooking but I do get the bottle out of the cupboard and have it ready together with all the utensils I am going to need.  Before I begin I would also check I have the right baking dish and prepare that too.

The bonus of this method is you don’t come across those little surprises halfway through a recipe when you discover that the only egg you thought you had has been eaten for breakfast that morning and too late to abandon the recipe you end up dashing to the local shop or next door.

The tendency is always to rush into the mixing and cooking but I find organising myself this way I avoid burning one thing in the pan whilst I am hurriedly preparing something else or forgetting an ingredient altogether.  I can remember many times trying to add that pinch of salt or herbs to a rolled up ball of pastry having forgotten to include it when it was just at the crumb stage!  

I noticed that the ‘forgotten’ ingredient happened quite regularly on the Bake Off – and who, I would like to know, does all their clearing up?