Thursday, 29 March 2012

Calm down dear.......

Why has the country gone mad and started panic buying fuel? All around me the petrol stations are either running temporarily dry, or queues stretching right round the block, it's utter madness. I think people have in their memory the crisis 10 years ago when hauliers blocked the ability for tankers to deliver fuel and the country nearly ground to a halt. For any strike to be legal this union backed negotiations which may or may not result in strike are required to give 7 days notice. So peeps stop panicking, we will be given plenty of notice if there is a strike and plenty of time to act. Stop listening to the scare mongering of this Tory government, I'm convinced I heard the corks popping out of the champagne bottles at number 10 as they count all the extra revenue their actions have caused.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Marvellous Monday

Oh what a day, with the glorious sunshine and the clocks going forward (for some reason I always really struggle when the clocks go back, like I have a form of jet lag – bizarre) I am re-energised.  Early start on the commute to work got me in the office for 8.30am. I was so busy I didn’t stop for a break or lunch, I managed one cup of tea and one glass of water all day and waited until I was leaving before going to the loo (it was one of those days) however I managed to sneak away and get home for 5.40pm which is practically half a day for meJ.  A whole evening to myself, as hubby will be late due to a school mass so won’t be home until after 9pm. 
As soon as I got home I stripped the bed and put a load of washing on (planning to peg it on the line in the promised glorious sunshine tomorrow), made pasta sauce from scratch (onion, herbs, chili, chopped tomatoes, and some torn wafer thin ham finished with crème fraiche).  I had a portion for my tea and I’ve plated up a portion for myself for tomorrow night’s tea and I put hubbys in Tupperware for his tea  tomorrow night (governors meetings straight after school so again won’t be home until after 9pm) to ping in the microwave at work.

I also made a loaf of cheese, chive and ham bread, soo yummy.  It’s such an easy loaf to make and was inspired by my chives which have suddenly exploded in my herb bed in this good weather, a fab and very delicious way to use them. 

I then cleaned the kitchen, put another load of washing on, re-made our bed and did some “work” e-mails.  It’s now 8.30pm and time for me, a brew and a catch up in blog land before settling in bed with a good book.  A very productive and satisfying day. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Make hay while the sun shines

Well it’s a bit early in the year for hay making but took advantage of the sunshine none the less J  Now I am just at the beginning of this frugal journey, I have a lot to learn and I have a lot to change.  Today was a day of change.  I have always (religiously) used a tumble dryer and I use it every day.  I do a minimum of 7 loads of washing a week and usually about 10 loads, I know this is mad as it’s just me, hubby and a little dog, but when it comes to cleaning I am a bit mad. 
The average cost of each load of drying is about 60p in electricity (according to the t’internet), based upon my conservative 7 loads a week this comes in at a staggering £218.40 per year.  So today I made the first step in changing this and I bought a retractable washing line (this was only £2.99 at B&M bargains), hubby doubts it will last long as it is quite flimsy and he’s already had to change the mount and screws to give it additional strength, but I have faith.  He has also made me a clothes pole for free.  When we moved into this house, there were odd lengths of 2x4 wood in the garage and hubby has taken one and cut a v in it and its doing a grand job holding the heavy line up. 

The British weather will dictate how often it will be used but providing I use it 5 times it has paid for itself.  I will use it every fine day we have and will keep a record of how often I do use to see how much I will be saving.
It’s one small step, but they all count J

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Days Like These

Well the weatherman didn’t disappoint and today has been a cloud free, blue sky, glorious 20 degrees sunny day.  Myself and hubby have often talked of moving house to be closer to my work to reduce my commuting time and provide a greater work/ life balance in favour of life, but on days like these I realise more than ever exactly why we always dismiss it.
We are so lucky to live beside the seaside, a beautiful and usually sleepy seaside town, the clear skies, the smell of the sea, the lovely walks on the beach -  my commute seems a small price to pay ...... on days like these J  

Friday, 23 March 2012

Lazy (ish) Days

I can get used to this being off on Friday’s – it’s a perfect way to start the weekend J  I had planned to blitz the house to free up the weekend.  I usually spend all day Saturdays deep cleaning the house from top to bottom (obviously in case the Queen pops in for a brew), friends, family and hubby all think I’m mad, as its just the two of us with a non shedding dog and they always protest it really can’t need it every week!  As the Queen hasn’t RSVP’d this weekend I decided to give it a miss (I cleaned the bathroom and kitchen and did a quick whip round with the hoover but that’s been it).  I instead ventured out to Tesco’s mainly because I had a £6 voucher which needed spending and I decided to stock up with a big shop to see us through April (with the exception of fresh fruit, veg, milk and bread I am done J) at a cost of £57 – not bad.   I say that now probably with mis-placed confidence, but I will do my best not to stray.
I spent the afternoon baking, I’ve made a lemon cake and a tray of flapjacks.  Tonights tea is veggie curry (batch cooking from the freezer) with naan bread and as it is Friday night I decided to make some homemade onion bharjis (for the first time may I add).  I used a Nigel Slater recipe which can be found here.  I’ll let hubby be the judge if they are any good.
As its such a fabulous afternoon/evening hubby has texted me and persuaded me to go for a walk (to the pub and back ;), with the exception of my birthday lunch its been 2 months since we went to the pub for a pint, so whilst unplanned and not very frugal I'm really looking forward to it - a couple of pints and then a saunter back home in the sunshine for tea. 
We are promised a scorching weekend – enjoy J

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Let the train take the strain … for free!

Now I have probably bored you senseless with the chronicles of my much lamented commute, but because I have no choice in that I try as much as possible in “my” time not to drive. 
I have a couple of extra days leave over the Easter period and am planning a trip further up North and across country to Durham for two nights.  This is a 350 mile round trip and approximately £60 in fuel.   So armed with that information thought I would see how much it would be to take the train, regrettably the cheapest price (after searching all the discount sites and checking prices on a variety of combinations of return tickets, two single tickets, going a different route etc) was £79.90 and an extra hour and a half on my journey time (due to having to change trains twice), so I was in a quandary as to whether I would spend the extra 20 quid?  Thankfully this decision was made incredibly easy courtesy of Tesco.
I was idly making my shopping list and checking prices when I thought I would check my clubcard account and found to my glee that I could use reward vouchers if I purchased train tickets from red spotted  For every £10 worth of rewards I could claim a £20 voucher against train fares.  So for £40 worth of reward vouchers (half price) I have paid for my train fares for my little jaunt.  As these reward vouchers were sat there doing nothing but gathering dust, my journey cost is effectively free – Happy Days J.  

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Curing a cold ..... Nature’s Way

Half of my team at work are down with some dreaded lurgy and I myself today have battled on despite feeling a tad rough.  I decided to delve into the freezer this morning in preparation of tonight’s tea and unearthed some homemade chicken soup. 
I am a firm believer in the powers of what is fondly referred to as Jewish penicillin.  A huge bowlful of this sooo tasty broth really has made me feel so much better.  It maybe all psychosomatic but I don’t care – it works for me J 

I always make chicken soup after we have had a roast dinner, left over meat I often make a pie and then the carcass is put in a big stock pot with an onion chopped in half, bay leaf, pepper corns and a chicken stock cube, filled with cold water until it just covers the chicken.
I then boil for about an hour. 
Once boiled and cooled a little, I take the chicken out and strip the carcass of every last bit of chicken, putting the chicken back in the  stock pot (I remove the bay leaf) and the rest in the bin.
I then add whatever veg I have, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and peas tend to be the norm.  I then cook for about 20 minutes, blend, season and e voila yummy, heart warming, food that feeds the body and soul. 

Now where did I leave that Left Arm??

Talk Talk had a melt down yesterday and as such our land line and internet connection was down all evening.  I literally felt as though I had lost my left arm, which was a tad worrying…. Surely I am not that addicted to technology??  Having the time to think (always a dangerous activity in my case ;), I have concluded that perhaps I am.  After a long day at work,(where I spend pretty much all day on a computer) including my 3 (bet you’re envious J) hours commute , by the time I’ve got home, made tea, cleaned the kitchen, I am fit for nothing.  I find very little on telly that is of interest and as such spend what little is left of my evenings, blogging, reading other blogs, generally surfing the old net – does that make me sad? 
When I am working I struggle to switch off, so whilst I love nothing better than spending a day reading a book when I’m on hols, during normal life I do struggle to turn the old grey matter off and just indulge in such a simple pleasure.    One day perhaps I will be able to re-address the balance J

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mother's Day on a Budget

To those of you that are Mums, Happy Mother’s Day J
Like most children I adore my mum and just because I am on this frugal journey doesn’t mean I value her any less; I still want to spoil her, particularly on a special day.
I am one of 5 children (the youngest) and her only child who regrettably hasn’t been able to provide her with grandchildren.  So as my sisters are mums themselves they spend the day being spoiled by their children and as such I always get the joy of spending the day with mummy bear J
So I did what I always do and asked her what she would like for lunch, I love cooking and am grateful my friends and family love my cooking (or are kind enough to say they do).  So on today’s menu is: Cottage Pie (as she said she enjoyed it so much at my birthday soiree) and she has asked for my infamous afternoon tea scones as pudding (homemade scones brimming with strawberry jam, freshly whipped double cream and fresh strawberries).  I am also going to make a batch of my homemade sausage rolls as nibbles prior to the main. 
I went to Tesco’s on Friday and bought all the ingredients I needed to put on this spread (see below) and the total cost came to £13.37
Mince Beef (on special 2 packs for) £6
Desiree Potatoes                               £1.95 (now I’m a bit of a potato facist, I prefer homegrown but I don’t have any, however to make the perfect mash it has to be desiree potatoes )
Carrots                                               £0.33 (I had carrots in the fridge this was just the extra I needed)
Butter                                                 £1.19 (value range)
Strawberries                                       £1.00 (punnet on special offer)
600ml Double Cream                         £1.90
Sausage Meat                                    £1.00

The additional ingredients I already had in stock, onions, herbs (fresh from the garden), seasoning, stock cubes, flour, milk, caster sugar. I still have lots of bottles of wine (mainly gifts) from my birthday so she will be in fine spirits J

Now the above has made two big cottage pies, one for the four of us today (me, hubby, mummy and daddy bear) and another which will provide 2 meals for me and hubby.  Again there will be enough scones left to see us through the next couple of days.

So for one special meal and two additional teas £13.37 aint too bad, particularly as I spotted the meal deal in Tescos for £10, which whilst you think is good value, really wasn’t enough food to provide one decent meal just for 2 people and dare I say it doesn’t compete with the hearty meal for effectively 8 people that I will be creating.  J  Off to make my flaky pastry for the sausage rolls – Have a lovely day !!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Its a Good Life

Despite the rain we did manage to get out in the garden this morning to remove the covers from the veg beds, dig over the soil and generally tidy up in preparation for the year ahead.  Over the next two weeks the soil will get some needed air and sun on it and by the end of this month will be perfect for sowing. 
Beds just built by hubby 3 years ago - photo taken just before the top soil went in

Our first year as novice farmers J we just threw a load of seeds at the soil and waited to see what would grow.  We found very quickly that root vegetables did fabulously well  – the plumpness and taste is just out of this world – tastes like real food. Some veggies don’t do too well in our soil, courgettes, peppers, chilli’s, corn to name but a few.  So over the last few years we have hopefully honed the perfect crop, both in what grows well and what we like to eat. 
We also stagger the sowing – it makes sense really, but our first year just throwing seeds at the soil meant our crop harvested all at once and whilst we ate and froze and gave away as much as possible, a lot did have to be added to the compost bin (particularly salad) and as such we are now much more organized, staggering the sowing and as such get a staggered harvest, resulting in having fresh veg straight from the garden to the kitchen throughout Summer and Autumn J
Veg Plan
We have 4 Beds and we plan to grow this year
Bed 1     Potatoes
Bed 2     This bed has a small area sectioned off with Strawberries and Rhubarb (which is currently growing) – rest of the bed will have carrots, parsnips and leeks
Bed 3     White Onions; Red Onions; Cabbage; Brussel Sprouts
Bed 4     This bed is narrower than the rest and Rocket, variety of other salad leaves and spring onions will be grown
We also have a Damson tree and apple tree and a raspberry shrub planted in amongst the flower beds around the garden.  Don't you just love Spring - Happy Days J 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Sparkly & Satisfied

Well today kicked off at 8am as I trudged around Tesco’s, I don’t normally (opting for on-line shopping where Tesco's is concerned) but as I was off work I thought I would travel the few miles more to the huge store and shop for the weekend.  I try to avoid it as it is always a test of my frugal resolve, however I didn’t fair too badly and apart from one item stuck rigedley to my list J
Then back home and I scrubbed the house from top to bottom.  I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning (despite what a lot of my nearest and dearest believe) but I do enjoy a clean house and as I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I will never win the lottery (as I don’t do it) then there is only one way to achieve the satisfaction of a lovely clean, sparkly house – do it myself.  I then did all the ironing.  So my weekend so far is on plan.
On tonights menu is one of hubbys favourites and a request this morning – a Friday night treat.  Nachos – Tescos had the large bags of chilli flavoured Doritos on buy one get one free, I have loads of cheese in the fridge and decided to make my own salsa for a third of the price – this will be washed down by beer (hubby) I’m still abstaining
So (for one portion) throw half a bag of chilli doritos in a dish (I use our pasta dishes) sprinkle with grated cheese and melt under the grill

Top with homemade salsa, absolutely delish

Homemade salsa
In Tesco's a small tub of salsa costs £1.00 (Sainsburys £1.09), decided to make my own and spent 99p  however I made 3 times the amount as the shop bought (so a saving of £2.01) and the taste is just non comparable - recipe below
4 large value tomatoes on the vine 99p chopped
1 red onion (from fridge) finely chopped
Handful of fresh parsley (from the garden) chopped
Salt and black pepper

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Weekend Starts Here !!!!!

I have three days holiday to take before year end so have elected to have the next 3 consecutive Fridays off, a 4 day week bliss – Not to do the grueling commute tomorrow fills my heart it really does J
Tomorrow I am going to blitz the house, clean like a demon, laundry and ironing and do some shopping (for the weekend and Mother’s Day, mummy bear is coming for lunch J).  This then frees up my real weekend for me J
Saturday I plan to be out in the garden and prepare the veggie beds.  As you know I am an advocate for frozen veg as I do believe apart from the veg you grow yourself it is (dependent upon the veg) the best.  But there is nothing like growing your own, harvesting just when you need it, the taste is amazing :) - Below is a photo from my archives, hubby built the beds and this was last years early growing 
We've bought the seed potatoes a couple of weeks ago which are currently chitting in the garage and we will start sowing out the root veggies, lots of seeds left from last year.  The great thing with living near the sea is your soil is very sandy and is great for root veg (and also strawberries).  Just drilling seeds into the soil provides a fabulous crop of carrots and parsnips.  However there is still a distinct chill in the air so I’m going to just prepare the beds this weekend and draw up my planting plan (I'll share that on Saturday) perhaps leave it until next weekend to do the sowing, we’ll see how I or should I say the weather feels on Saturday J 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Give with one hand .... take with the other

Money: There's nothing in the world so demoralising as money – Sophocles
Well that will teach me for being so buoyant on Sunday realising my gas/elec bill would be reduced due to my frugal ways.  Today I received the reminder for my car tax, now this little swift move I shall regale by our beloved government passed me by.  Last year my annual road tax for a 2003 1.6 Peugeot 307 was £165, this year it is £190.  On investigating this huge rise, the car tax rates themselves have not increased but the formula to determine your road tax banding has.  No longer are you judged on your cars capacity but it is now CO2 emissions, so your car is banded on what they believe are the emissions for a car of your age (despite the fact that some people look after their cars, service etc and their emissions maybe lower or higher) grrr.  This change passed me and my nearest and dearest by completely, so I am faced with a 15% increase in my road tax despite the fact that my car has not changed.    Once I've calmed down I will dig out the paperwork from my latest MOT where the actual emissions are measured and see if I stand a chance of appealing, but I will leave that until tomorrow evening as its been such a long day and bed beckons.  If the governments motive was environmentally driven then it wouldnt hurt as much, but the cynical me cannot help but believe they have just found a way in which to make more money.
But honestly do the government not actually realise the economic mess we are in?  Or is it a case they just dont care? The fact that the average household faced with job losses, pay cuts and pay freezes coupled with rising costs in just about everything you have to use to live are teetering on the edge of solvency.  I suppose if you are Eton educated millionaires then no I suppose you don't have the foggiest clue.  So thank you oh government of ours by adding yet more financial burden on our shoulders, by finding an ingenious way of taxing us more in such a cunning and stealth manner, by not actually increasing any rates but by moving the goal posts so anyone who can't afford a brand spanking new car because they are  poor are now finacially penalised for being poor - tax the poor for being poor ....ingenious– very unhappy today, I will try and sleep off the grumpy me and normal half glass full me will return tomorrow Cxx L

Monday, 12 March 2012

Top Up Shopping

Now my focus this month is to curb my top up shopping, the old popping to the shop for a loaf of bread and coming out £14 later……  I am determined not to be seduced by goods I had no intention of buying or to pay over the top prices.  Today I was tested and I am proud that my conscious self rose to the challenge J. 
I needed some margarine and bin bags, so I stopped at the local Tesco Express on my way home from work.  In a lot of ways these convenience stores have taken the place of a Spar shop; however they are canny shops as although they have the Tesco name, to the uninitiated you believe you are going to get the Tesco value for money.  This my dear friends is a cunning folly, whilst there is the odd deal you won’t find any of the value range in a Tesco Express, in fact they seem to mainly stock items which have the highest profit margin and are at the more expensive end of the range; presumably the psychology of this is they rely upon people using them who have run out of something and therefore by limiting your choice to the more expensive variety, they are forcing you to spend more than perhaps you would if you had had the choice available in the larger store.  Don’t get me wrong I like Tesco’s (as much as you can like a supermarket) particularly their value range and their reward points J
So I managed to get some Bertolli spread for £1.15 it was the cheapest brand they had and as I no longer have any brand loyalty and instead opt for the cheapest available, that was fine J  So onto bin bags the cheapest they had was a pack of 20 bin bags for a whopping £2.49, wow practically wrapping my rubbish in gold.  I passed on this and left just spending £1.15, thankfully the local B&M bargains a few doors down was open for just 5 minutes more and I ran in and out and picked up a roll of 40 bin bags for 99p, twice the amount of bin bags for £1.50 less.  I am sure they are not as thick and luxurious as the ones on offer at Tesco’s but they do the job that a bin bag needs to do very well.
Looking back at my old self I would have just picked up the Tesco bin bags as I needed them and would have done it without even realizing I was paying an exorbitant price, I was one of the many unconscious shoppers out there.    I am sure supermarkets huge profits are reliant upon the majority paying more, as they either shop unconsciously or feel they don’t have a choice, as they have run out of something and it’s the only variety on offer.  I just hope those days are now long behind me J

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Reward of Conserving Energy

I don’t watch too closely how much energy we use in our home, like many areas of my life huge improvements could be made, however I have tried consciously to use less.  It has also helped that we have had a relatively mild winter in comparison to the Siberian winters we have seen over the past few years.
I used to however keep the heating on during winter pretty much constantly, now I put on a jumper or jump into bed early with a book to prevent keeping the heating on.   This winter I just put the heating on to take the chill off the house and then switched it off early as I did jobs around the house to keep myself busy and relatively warm, all ploys to try and use less.
I pay my electricity and gas bills by monthly direct debit, there is always a risk with this in that you may be under or over paying, but I need to know and budget for a fixed amount whilst I financially manage myself out of debt.
My joint fuel bill (gas and elec) for the past 12 months has been £119 per month and with the ever increasing fuel prices I was expecting this to increase.  I religiously input my meter readings each month via my on-line account with Scottish Power and doing so tonight the marvelous computer has now reduced my monthly direct debit to £79 per month to prevent accumulating credit.  The extra £40 per month will help ease the ever increasing petrol prices, when I bought my car 5 years ago the cost to fill the tank was £35 it is now £60, during that 5 year period I have had a pay freeze, so in real terms a pay cut year on year, this extra £40 will certainly help ease the increase in the cost of the daily commute. 

Where did the weekend go?

Perhaps I was spoiled last week enjoying a long weekend, but this one has literally flown by in a whirl of shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, entertaining, cleaning, washing ….. and as its fast approaching Sunday evening, I feel more exhausted now than I did Friday, oh how to muster the energy for a long week ahead ??
Thankfully between leftovers and my stockpile of batch cooking favourites filling the freezer, I don’t need (at least) to do too much work with this week’s meals – So, on the menu this week …….
Monday               Left over Boeuf Bourguignon, new potatoes, cabbage and leeks
Tuesday               Bubble & Squeak (using up more leftover new potatoes and cabbage and leak)topped with poached eggs
Wednesday       Spag Bol (one of my batch cooking staples, just need to defrost portions of the sauce from the freezer)
Thursday             Another venture into the freezer and defrost portions of homemade chicken and veg soup with crusty bread
Friday                   Veggie Curry (again from the freezer) and Rice
Saturday              Pasta Amatriciana (again amatriciana a batch cooking favourite and once again delving into the freezer)
Sunday                 Mothers Day - I will be shopping for this meal as I tend to make my mum whatever her heart desires – I will ring her Tuesday and find out what she fancies J

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Saturday Savings

I’ve managed to cut my food shopping down to one big shop per month which is then topped up with small essential shopping during the month.  Today was big shop day and I spent a total of £97.94, on analyzing the receipts I still have improvement to make and I will aim to spend no more than £100 for the rest of the month.  Again still improvement to make but considering only just a few months ago my monthly food/drink bill was in excess of £600 per month I’m not faring too badly 
My strategy today was a visit to Home Bargains first to see what I could get at a discounted price before going off to Sainsburys. 
My Home Bargain Savings were:
Sharwoods Mango Chutney at Home Bargains 99p at Sainsburys £1.99, I bought 3 jars (I don’t eat it but its hubbys fave and is a key ingredient in his weekly couscous lunches), so a saving of £3
Princes Tuna, I bought 4 cans of tuna at £2.99 versus £4.00 at Sainsburys (which was on special offer from its normal £6.99 price) still a saving on their savings of £1.01. 
12 luxury toilet rolls £2.79; 12 Sainsburys own brand toilet roll £5.78, saving of £2.99. 
Now with any shopping you have to be careful, I now have a really good feel of prices as I am constantly comparing on-line but you can end up paying more in discount stores such as Home Bargains than the supermarkets own offers, for example Home Bargains mints (again hubby needs packets of mints for work) 65p for two packets – Sainsburys £1 for 4 packets – I didn’t buy the Home Bargains ones but the Sainsburys so again a saving of (as I bought 12 packets) 90p so if you pick and choose you can end up getting the best from both and  saving considerably on your shopping bill.  My savings today picking and choosing between the two stores came to £12.67 – not bad J

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Cheap Chic

I have wanted a dressing table for quite some time.  I am not normally a materialistic person who wants things, I say this with hand on heart, my debt was not accumulated through shopping for new clothes, shoes etc as I have always hated shopping.  It has been accumulated through laziness and waste mainly, all those ready meals from M&S, lavish dinner parties with friends, never being able to say no to an invitation and being too generous with gifts and not forgetting the dreaded student loan - as my mother would say Champagne taste but Beer money lol.  But I have wanted a dressing table J

Now the only space it could go in was not conventional and I am also quite fussy, so we have searched and searched, found ones on-line for £300 or more and looked in second hand shops but nothing suited. 

On my birthday my darling hubby made me my very own bespoke and dare I say chic dressing table which is just pure perfection. 

It cost less than £10 to make for the wood and paint and a further £7 for the mirror (second hand that he painted the wood to match the table) so for a total of £17 I have finally got what I have craved – the hours he spent in sourcing, measuring, making it (as the advert says) is priceless – mwah xxx

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Curse of the Commuter

So back to work today with a bang, it was like I was never away, but only worse.  I have a job where the work just piles up irrespective if I am there or not, so I came back after my 4 day break to 321 new e-mails and an in-tray resembling the leaning tower of Pisa, coupled with my phone not stopping all day as the news soon spread I was back, anyone would have thought I was indispensable ;) – I know I’m not I just wish some others would realise J  So my day instead of being 12 hours long (including commute) was today 14 hours long and will probably be the same for the rest of this and next week whilst I catch up.  I always seem to pay the price for any leave that I take that I sometimes think is it worth taking it? 
Apologies for my grumbling it’s been one of those days – so back to the commute.  We are a household of 2 with 2 cars and I hate this fact, not only is it financially expensive but environmentally unsound as well.  We have one car loan, the other car is paid for (but was bought via a loan as well) and our joint annual car costs come to a staggering £9750 per annum.  So let’s embark upon the old car versus public transport dilemma.  We have to have 2 cars there is no getting around it unfortunately, hubby works unsociable hours when public transport is often not running a service, so he needs a car.  I also need a car (which I use purely for commuting to work and back, we always use hubbys car at weekends / holidays etc), I really wish I didn’t, I wish I could instead use public transport, (let the train take the strain as the old adverts used to say) mainly because my current commute is 3 hours per day which is incrediably tiring and the thought of sitting comfortably, reading a book whilst travelling to work really appeals. 
However my decision to drive is completely financially driven.  Whilst my car costs are high, public transport costs beat them hands down and if I was to get rid of my car and take public transport our annual transport costs would rise from £9750 to £13470.05 (yikes). 
Based upon a 5 work day week and working 47 weeks per year, the daily cost (petrol, tax, insurance, annual service/MOT) currently comes to £20.97 (so the first 2.5 hours (net) in any one day I work pays for my travelling costs (sigh).   However the bus and train fares (one bus and two trains to get to work) come to a return cost of £36.80 per day and would equate to the first 4 hours (net) that I work in any one day paying for travelling, as I am only officially paid to work 7 hours 24 mins (I always work more unpaid), it would be more financially sound to just pack in work and go on benefits. 
So whilst I would love get rid of my car, it is financially unviable and that is such a shame.  In a bid to be a bit more environmentally and financially sound, I have registered on car sharing websites but no-one would be foolish enough to live where I live and work where I work so no luck on that front thus far.  My friend who lives in Italy travels by train each day a similar length of journey that I would have to take for just 2 per day return.  Whilst public transport fares are so high in this country we will never use it in the same way our cousins on the Continent do and regrettably the car will remain king unless you happen to live in a major metropolis such as London.    

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Loving Leftovers

I used to throw everything away; it wasn’t that I lacked imagination nor culinary skills to transform leftovers into another meal – I was just lazy; I used to say I didn’t have the time but my new frugal (ish) ways now demonstrate where there is a will there is always the time.
I had leftover single cream from the weekend and it was this that initiated todays cook fest J.
Currently bubbling on the stove is a huge batch of vegetable curry; its my own recipe and I am sure it wouldn’t past the muster in any Indian household, but its really tasty , has just the right amount of heat and it’s a good way to have a meat free dinner:
Veggie Curry. 
2 onions cut into chunks, quite rustic
Half a jar of Madras Paste (make sure its paste not sauce)
4 cans of chopped tomatoes
Bag of baby potatoes (you can use any potato cut into chunks – I’ve used baby, as a bag was discounted to £1
Cauliflower Florets
Green Beans
Tub of half fat crème fraiche (usually) but today 300ml single cream

Now I have to say that my cauli and green beans are frozen, purists would never dream of stocking their freezer with frozen veg, insisting on fresh, preferably organic etc, however I am a fan of (some) frozen veg, not only are they fresh (being frozen within a couple of hours of being picked, you really cant get better unless you grow your own), but it means I always have veg despite the fact that I work 12 hour days and shopping more than once a week is just not on the cards. 

So I drizzle some garlic infused olive oil in a big stock pot, throw in the onion and cook for a minute or two – put in the half jar of paste and heat through to release the spices then I put in the chopped tomatoes; then the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, I then add the cauli and simmer for a couple of minutes before lastly adding the green beans and simmering for another 5 minutes – I then pour in the cream and cook through, add some salt and e voila huge batch of veggie curry – this size pan produces 8 portions, 4 very hearty meals for me and hubby, which I serve with rice or homemade flat breads – the total cost of the curry is £4.23, so per portion 52p, not bad

Cheese and Onion Quiche

I can’t claim this recipe it is a James Martin one which I have adapted (I make more pastry so I can make a couple of cheese and onion pasties as well)

Shortcrust pastry – I make mine by 250g plain flour; 150g fat (I use half lard, half butter), pinch of salt and enough cold water to bind.
350g cheese – any cheese preferably mature so you can taste but is a really good way to use up the remnants of a cheese board – mine today is just plain old mature cheddar cheese J
5 eggs
300ml milk – I am using cream so a very rich quiche today
Salt, Pepper and tyme – freshly picked from my herb bed

After you have blind baked the pastry – put in a layer of onion

Then add your cheese

Carefully and slowly poor in your eggy mixture and top with tyme

Bake in the oven for about 25 mins, but until golden brown on top

I used a small plate to cut two rounds (ish) and put in cheese and onion

Fold pastry and crimp

Cook in the oven – I sprinkled over some left over cheese from the quiche, save wasting it and it makes the pasty extra cheesy

So back to reality tomorrow as I’m back to work (big sigh) but at least tomorrow night’s tea (quiche) is made so we have soomething very yummy when I get home at 7pm J

Monday, 5 March 2012

I Don't Like Mondays !!!

Usually that is my mantra, I really don’t like Mondays; the weekend always go’s far too quickly and the thought of the long week ahead at work makes getting out of bed on a Monday morning an arduous task.  I normally spend at least 10 minutes each Monday morning thinking up of any reason not to go, can I pull a sicky? Have I any leave left and make up an emergency? Fake car breakdown? Lol  – I never do any of these and always go to work, but I always go through the same Monday morning ritual. 
Now it’s not that I hate my job, I mean it doesn’t light up my world, but the job is ok, I’m good at it and have really good colleagues.  It’s the commute which is a killer, 3 hours round trip.  My commute is neither frugal nor environmentally sound, however following a restructure at work I was moved to another city (I was grateful I still had a job, many didn’t), I constantly look for work nearer home, however in this economic climate there really isn’t much out there, beggars can’t be choosers – the commute is a bitch but at least I have a job J.
However today was an exception as I still have two days leave (back to work Wednesday) so this morning I was looking forward to a lie in – this unfortunately didn’t really happen as hubby's boss rang at 7.10am (hubby had already left for work) and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  Ah well lie in tomorrow.
Today was a good and productive day – I spent the morning, stripping the bed, laundry, tidying up, making 6 thank you cards which took me to lunch time – I then popped to Sainsburys to pick up essential supplies and stamps; returned home, walked the dog and posted the cards and came back and hovered and mopped the floors (I live such a rock and roll lifestyle) I then tackled all the dreaded ironing.
I then heated up the sausage and cannelloni bean hot pot – recipe below,(the recipe is based on 6 portions, I always try and make extra so we can have a meal and then I can freeze, in this case 2 more meals for me and hubby), with the commute that I have, its always a must to have homemade ready meal that just needs warming through when I get home usually around 7pm each evening.
Cost for recipe £3.86 (this doesn’t include stock cube, herbs and chilli which are all store cupboard ingredients) – 64p per portion
15 sausages (hubby's portion has 3 sausages, mine 2)
2 onions
2 cans of cannelloni beans
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
400ml chicken stock (from a cube)

Slice your onions and sautee in some olive oil, add sausages and colour; add the chopped tomatoes, stock and the cannelloni beans (rinse the beans before you add), add the herbs and chilli and season to taste, simmer for 20 mins – It is really hearty and delicious – we had this tonight with some left over crusty bread and it was yumm

Sunday, 4 March 2012

No Spend Sunday

Ah I love days like today, I woke up fresh as a daisy despite my 2 days of gluttony and spent a very lazy morning pottering around the house and playing with the dog J.  Lunch consisted of leftovers (cottage pie and crusty bread) followed by a very bracing walk along the sea front.  We are incredibly lucky and live quite literally a hop, skip and a jump near one of the finest coastlines Britain has to offer; however today, whilst the sky was blue and the sun shone, the wind quite literally was blustering and an icy wind at that.  I like to think I am quite hardy but after 20 minutes we had to admit defeat and return home; however the cobwebs have been well and truly blown away.
This afternoon I have made some vanilla and choc chip cookies and currently making darling hubby’s weekly lunches of couscous salad.  I have also taken stock of my cupboards and freezer and from what I already have I am hoping to spend very little this week in supplies, I certainly think (minus a few basics of eggs, bread and milk) feed us both this week without having to do another shop, happy days J
Tonight’s tea is an experiment, I have some left over pastry from making yesterday’s sausage rolls and with that, some cream cheese, herbs, ham and perhaps some onion I am going to knock up some little savoury tartlets – that with left over cake is a fine Sunday tea. 
So what’s on the Menu this week?
Hubbys lunches will be couscous salad and mine will be soup
Evening Meals
Monday – Sausage and cannellini bean hot pot (homemade batch cooking from the freezer) left over crusty bread
Tuesday – Hubby is going to football, so will pick up a bag of chips – I’ll have beans on toast
Wednesday – Homemade cheese and onion quiche (I have 400ml of single cream which needs using up, lots of mature cheddar which was on special offer, I always have onions, eggs and fresh herbs from the garden and I will make my shortcut pastry) hubby will have a few oven chips with it
Thursday – Pasta Amatricana – Again batch cooking pasta sauce from the freezer
Friday – Vegetable curry (again batch cooking freezer staple), rice and I’ll make some flat breads
Saturday - – I have one chicken breast, 2 sausages, blackpudding and one pork chop in the freezer, so I am going to make a mix grill for us both with a poached egg and hubby can have a few over chips as well
Sunday – I will have to buy in some food, we have hubbys sister and his great aunt and uncle coming for lunch, beef bourgignon, new potatoes, spring greens, finished by apple crumble and custard is on the menu