Thursday, 28 October 2010

When the kids become the parents

Fahed is away in Cyprus this week attempting persuade his sister to move closer to other family members, or at least to the same country as some of them.

One of my sons is away at the moment helping his girlfriends dad with some health problems. The other son planned a few nights away as it is half term. In theory I should have been home alone for most of the week. I didn't say so but I wasn't really looking forward to that.

Somehow miraculously I don't seem to be having a single home alone night. Last night my eldest phoned to say he would be around in the evening to sleep over and could he have a lift back to the old fellas flat in the morning.

I have asked both of them if this is planned between them but they deny it. My youngest says 'no, of course not, the eldest is just a loving son'. Its all very suspicious.

I am very happy with them for being so thoughtful but I think it is super adorable to them do it all sneakily so I don't feel guilty about them missing out on something. I am blessed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Its working

Monday and Tuesday I have stuck with grapefruit chunks for breakfast at work, I love grapefruit, cant think why I ever stopped. I have stuck with homemade veg soup too. I have enough to last me until Friday and it is delicious. I have hidden it in the second fridge to stop everyone nicking it.

Dinner on Monday night was scraps and leftovers. Dinner tonight was BOGOF burgers in buns, in the BK style as per my book. Very popular but we have to make sure we don't eat like this too often. Pretty sure I made my 5 a day because of my breakfast and lunch but dont think the others were as good as me.

Tomorrow I am home alone so very cheap and easy to feed.

Also some good news. Eldest son left his work a few weeks back as they didn't have a boat to build. He decided to dust off his brain and go to uni but in the mean time just take any job to make ends meet. Today the called round and asked him to come back to help with the 16m boat, as they can't do it without him. Flattery will get you everywhere and he agreed but he also agreed with me that he will still sort out his college, uni etc. and plan for a better career, this is just to help them out for this special boat not forever. Best of all worlds for him I think.

He is also still looking after his girlfriends dad and sleeping there most nights so I don't think it is unreasonable that he claims some allowance for that. For two weeks it is a favour but when it goes into months then it is more. On top of that he has been asked to join his favourite local band as second guitarist. He is so excited he was bouncing around like Tigger. Bless. So good for his mental health to be working, no jokes. He is like his dad and without work, purpose, goes into a steep decline.

Second day back at work today and it was fun. I need to get back in the habit of enjoying it when you bear in mind I have another 20 years to go.I firmly beleive that it is just state of mine that is the problem when I want to run off to the sun, so I can make it better, its all in my hands.

For the rest, Jamal is taking after his (skinflint) mother and building a new bike from parts of his old bike and a rubbish bike with some good parts which he got from Freecycle.

Fahed is off to see his sister tomorrow to sort her out. It was bad enough she had an enlarged liver, heart problem, not forgetting the nervous breakdown and internal bleeding, today she got hit by a car! Fortunately not at speed but surely she is due some good luck. Thinking about the poor old dear does make me moan less, honest.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Takeaway Secret

I have been reading about this book on the MSE forums. It is very sensibly priced and according the forum the results are amazing. We don't very often have takeaway but sometimes one of the old familiar tastes would be good.

Today I made BK style burgers for Fahed for a lunch. I used the book guidance, which I think is for McDs,and adapted it slightly with mayo and onion rings, BK stylee. He said they were lovely.

I used up some stray chicken breast making Sweet and Sour chicken balls. The sauce wasn't twangy enough, but my son says extra sugar and vinegar would sort that,and the batter for the balls was too thin. This was my fault as my new glasses just don't seem to be strong enough actually read with so I am not at all sure I had the right quantities for the ingredients.

Youngest son had friends around to stay so I experimented with a Sausage McMuffin. We didn't do the egg as no-one likes them anyway but the actually sausage patty was excellent.

It is quite fun to try to replicate familiar takeaway dishes but the best part is that it was all pretty quick to cook. Just right for evenings when I am late home from work.

A friend send me this biscuit recipe. I don't have any cornflakes here now but will be trying this one this week.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups cornflakes
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup raisins (optional)
Cream together sugar and butter, add the eggs, baking soda and milk. Stir in the cornflakes. Whisk together the dry ingredients and add.
Beat well and drop from by rounded tablespoons onto a well greased cookie sheet, leaving 1 inch space between cookies.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 8-10 minutes or until done.

Yum, cornflakes are going on next weeks shopping list.

Plans for the week

Feeling better today and looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow. I was at home all week and that is the longest I can ever remember being off work without being in hospital.

I have been talking to Fahed about money again today. We are discussing Christmas and Birthdays & he is being very sensible. We are meal planning. Yes, I, who never plans any further into the future than an hour am actually meal planning! I have made vast vat of vegetable soup which I will take for lunches every day. I always did this before and had forgotten. I have a huge tin of grapefruit which is being divided up into containers for a week of breakfasts. To prove to myself that I am serious about not wasting money I am intending to have 5 no spend days this week except for a tank of petrol.

Lastly we talked about one of our major expenses. As we have a large extended family overseas who think we are rich beyond their dreams we are always bailing someone out for something, an operation, new business start up, funeral expenses, rent, school uniforms (when my kids had to have second hand - don't get me started!), house payments, more operations, the list goes on and on, and on. My phone bill is astronomical as every one rings up and wants us to ring back. Next week Fahed has to fly to Cyprus because his sister is ill. He claims this is the last time. We no longer have to bail out anyone or pay everyone's phone bill. If it is true it will be amazing. I can actually save. I can actually dream. Wonder if its true.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Some good from my silliness

I am not very well this week and haven't been to work today. That leaves me spending more time than usual with Fahed. We have been talking! As soon as I analysed the bank statement for the month and saw how much we had frittered away on nothing I told him about it. We took the chance today to talk about some better way of managing our finances. I currently work full time and have the best paid job. My money pays for the mortgage, bills and ordinary expenses. Fahed has two jobs. Currently all of the money comes to me for management and I squirrel some away as savings I Know I lost the plot in September but usually I am seriously careful with the money and this year we had plenty of cash on our trip to Crete to progress the house building).He spends money from the joint account as required. We are going to changed this so that he gets the money from his less well paid job and this is his to spend. I will only expect him to use the joint account for fuel and building materials. The money from his best paid job will go straight to savings. Normally I get a contribution to housekeeping from eldest son but he is self employed and not working at present and I am missing that contribution but not enough to damage our plans.

To minimise shopping waste we spent a few days working out a list of about 30 main meals which we all enjoy, and from there I worked up a new style shopping list. I am part way through pricing up the best place to buy each of the items we regularly use. I know this sounds a bit over the top and controlling but the idea is that special offers can be included as available and we build up a store of what we need when it is at its best price rather than just buy the same thing every week. Fahed is even building me a larder to store all my lovely treasure. He hopes to have it finished before he goes off to visit his sister next week.

Aside from feeling ill I have enjoyed have time at home to talk to him. Turns out we have a bit in common!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Back on track

The categories if spending which are causing me problems are groceries, indulgences and fuel. I am never very clever with arranging my car journeys if I am completely honest so this must be an area of potential saving.

With this in mine, yesterday I had planned to drive 6 miles into the city to visit the Asian supermarket. I needed (wanted??) green chillies, burghal (bulgar wheat), curry paste and olives. I know olives and green chillies don't sound like necessary purchases but my husband will happily eat flat bread with chillies, olives and home made dip for his main meal so it is not as daft as it sound. I was quite shocked how the prices had increased since my last proper visit, looked like 20% to 30%.

Whilst I was already in the city I decided to visit Ikea. I would normally have come another time so its possible I may actually have save some fuel usage then. Last year they were selling large fleece blankets for £2. I thought that with some cunning stitching these would be good to line the conservatory curtains to keep some warmth in the house. During the course of the year they had reduced the price to £1.69 and by yesterday they were further reduced to 99p. Well done Ikea. For just less than £8 I have enough polar fleece to line pretty much every curtain in the house. Now I just need to get the sewing machine working again....

I also bought 6 mugs at 59p each. For Christmas I am making a breakfast basket for each of the couples in the family. I have some specials teas & jams, egg cups and now mugs. Just need a few more items. We have a £10 per person limit so it is quite a fun challenge but it doesn't break the bank. Mugs and fleeces come out of the indulgences budget.

My other challenging area is food expenditure. Yesterday I bought two packets of chicken thighs from the local Co-op for £4. I boned them and made a vat of curry using a table spoon of my new curry paste (20p), leftover mushrooms from a bargain scoop at the market (25p),half a head of celery (64p), an onion (5p). Also a carton of single cream which my son bought to make a cake but which is now hovering on the edge of extinction. So total cost £6.14 and there is enough to feed us all for the whole weekend. Served with, French bread (reduced to 15p), home made focaccia (cost about 20p as I used the discounted bread-making kits from my cheap online shopping), left over rice from Thursday/Friday. I normally make an old fashioned pudding on a Sunday evening through the cold weather so overnight we will be having plum crumble made with some of the plums which my mum filled my freezer with whilst we were on holiday. Good old mum. Also lovely mum is checking the hedge row by her house for more sloes today for my sloe gin. She was doing that last Sunday but forgot me!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Saturday List

Friday night and I am starting my list for tomorrow.

Laundry but less than usual as I will only wash a load when the previous load has dried on the rack.

Cleaning - just a quick sweep and flick around as the place looks a lot tidier as I am managing to get rid of things.

Which leaves time for;

Continued removal of surplus things from house to shed. As you are slowly re-fitting the kitchen I have freezers and fridges everywhere (well not quite but it seems like it)so I cant stand having all the other clutter in here as well. So the charity shops can benefit from my desire to see a clear space somewhere.

Need to plan the layout and shelves for my new larder.

Collection of sloes for slow gin.

Trip to Asian supermarket to buy chillies - £3 for a huge bag compared with .65p for three form the local supermarkets.

More menu planning, recipe collection etc

Start sorting out more items for ebay.

Bring it on.

Shock, horror

I have been doing the whole frugal living thing long enough now to be able to stick to budgets without monitoring properly, not.

I have just downloaded my bank statement for the last month. Bills for utilities etc were pretty much as expected except energy and phone/tv/broadband. Energy was about £120. phone/tv/broadband combo came in at £136. Shopping was £780 ( I know, I am wallowing in shame), indulgences were around £500 and petrol etc £389. Indulgences should be a lot as I did spend, spend, spend but the others were scary.

When I have been not blogging this week I have been working on my escape plan.

Energy - I have changed supplier but more importantly I have acknowledged that my tumble dryer habit is financially crippling. I have dug out an old dryer rack and am drying clothes in the conservatory. I have bid on e bay for a 'power down' which will switch off DVD, satellite receiver etc. when the TV goes off. Also an ecobutton for the only desktop computer that we have. It plugs into the usb port and you press it when leaving your machine. It then goes into super sleep mode until you use it again.

Phone/tv/broadband combo. Broadband portion is £10. Tv bit is £50. I am calling to cancel HD & films. The rest os phone and this is mainly long distance as my sister in law is ill. This should improve soon.

Shopping - I have started popping into the local Waitrose to pick up a container of houmous for my husband and coming out £40 lighter. This is stopping dead right now. I have a list of meals and am making weekly meal plans. Fahed has agreed that we don't actually need meat every day and that as well as cooking a couple of times each week he will also make houmous (a household staple)so that I stay out of Waitrose, as well as other Syria dips like muhammarah.I have also been buying some deals online. A box of boxes of pizza dough mix for 99p. Two packets of this made up and sprinkled with rosemary makes a super focaccia. I must learn to be creative again.

Indulgences - I knew I was spending too much. I will now stop. IN my defence we did have a couple of expensive takeaways but the rest was things we sort of almost needed, and some new DVDs (which will be watched many, many time).

Fuel- This is blatantly not our fuel spend so it must be that my husband is spending money at the garage, which has shop attached. He thinks he should have whatever he wants but is slowly learning that he cant ( I am thinking unlimited tins of cola etc). From this month he gets pocket money and if he buys stuff otherwise on his card then he can have smacks instead.

Now I am going to spend my Friday night reading everyone's inspirational blogs and get myself back on track.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Self sufficiency

Really enjoyed to see Daizys interview today on Lets be self sufficient. Excellent read and its nice to hear the whole story, Daizy can be very proud of progress so far.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Smartening up

Inspired by Frugal Queen I almost went serious clothes shopping. But (unlike Frugal Queen, who seems eminently sensible and organised) I realised I didn't actually have to shop or at least I didn't know if I needed to or not as I don't actually know what is in my wardrobe.

Its not that my wardrobe is untidy, posh dresses on the left, then jackets, then tops, then skirts, then trousers on the far right. I always hang things in the right place but I also always pick out the same few items. I think an hour of re-acquainting myself with the some of my own possession could save me some pounds here and might also stop me going to work looking like I got dressed in the dark (which I may have done but who needs to know that).

I also have a chest of drawers which has a knicker drawer, a bra drawer, a sock drawer and a misc drawer (tights etc.)but under those are four large drawers which used to be casual weekend type clothes, work t-shirts, rough clothes for gardening and decorating, but have somehow got all muddled up. This is partly because I have more clothes than my chest of drawers thinks is good for me but also because our work dress code was recently relaxed and now you can wear 'normal' clothes to work.

So tomorrow I am going for my most frugal clothes shopping session yet, cheaper than Matalan, cheaper than car boot sale, cheaper than charity shop, I am shopping in my bedroom tomorrow at 9am. Wish me luck.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Still living the simple life

A post from two years ago - with updates and comments

We live a simple life within the confines of still needing to earn enough to pay off the mortgage. We live in a small house, 100 years old, in a village near Winchester in England. We grow some fruit and vegetables in the garden. In previous years we have also kept an allotment. We also swap a lot of fruit vegetables around within the family & friends. My mum’s next door neighbour gives us cooking apples and tomatoes seedlings but will rarely take anything. Another friend lets me pick the grapes from their vines ( I used it a bit too well a couple of years back so they realised what they were missing, so I didn’t actually get so much fruit last harvest.this year I got three carrier bags full) From the parents there will be runner beans, plums and blackberries this year so many plums that the freezer is crammed. I will produce enough garlic and red onions to share Oops,not this year but i did better with tomatoes and chillies. Usually a good crop of cucumber too. From the wild will come sloes, more blackberries, chestnuts and sometimes fish! I aspire to chickens on my little patch too Still dont have them.

My idea of shopping simply means that I buy only foods; meat, vegetables, flour, sugar, not ready made meals All still true. I keep a good store of food and if we were snowed then we would still be fine for some weeks as long as we had water. We recently started making our own sausages. We don’t have our own livestock of course (garden is way too small) but we found the sausages, even using supermarket meat, were excellent. My husband is currently working on plans for a smoker so that we can try our bacon & maybe even smoked salmon We still haven't built the smoker but we were thinking about it only last week, not realising we had ever thought about it until now. I also make jams and marmalades, wines and fruit liqueurs Grape jelly just last weekend. I also like to preserve fruit and so far everything has been very popular with the family. I can’t claim to make my own olive oil (UK isn’t quite that warm yet) but it does come from the farm of a close friend. Sue ensures that I never have to buy good olive oil 5 litres this year, bless her cotton socks. I am planning to make some olive oil soap when my current supply (from my sister in law) runs out. Sues oil is much too good for this so I will be buying a cheaper product in. As a result of this my food bill comes in at around a third of that of some of my friends, despite the fact that I very often seem to have a house full of hungry teenagers. I hate waste (this is not often a problems when you have two teenaged boys oddly Still not a problem though one is now 20) and so we go through phases of having so many meal of leftovers that it seems to be more than we have actual meals. I have just started meal planning using a diary system so I am hoping for fewer ‘what shall we have tonight’ evenings Oops, no change. I am also part way through a price book & have been for about a half year. I think it might be time to finish it or abandon it! Not sure which i did but i dont have it now.

I work in social housing & my husband is a swimming teacher who also does some voluntary work. I have worked since my boys were quite small because my husband was ill for several years. My husband and boys were a good team at home together and are still very close because of this. I didn’t get as much to be with them as I should have but we are still very close and they amuse and amaze meal each day still. I continue to work even though my husband is now fit and well because I feel I do an important job. I can sleep at night knowing that I have done something useful. I also continue to work because we want to pay off the mortgage early and retire to enjoy a good long time together. Yep, all still true.

We do have a television but we don’t watch it unless someone finds something good is to be screened and it’s certainly not a big part of our life. We now watch QI, 2 1/2men & Bones, still not big TV folk. The only problem this brings is that we never know the answer to ‘soap opera’ questions if we take part in a quiz night. We discovered some years ago that if you ditch TV and shopping as a sport’ from your life then you have plenty of time for pretty much everything else that you want to do Not so true, I would also need to ditch work for this to be true!!. Our eldest soon loves (is obsessed with) music and the house is filled with guitar music seemingly every hour of the day. You can’t have a moment without being serenaded, as he wants an opinion on the latest song he has written. The youngest son isn’t musical at all (but fortunately doesn’t think it is odd to have so much music in your life) but prefers sport and talking! Talking is his specialist subject He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up but I think he should be a TV presenter. I like to take a short course at the local evening school sometime to learn something new. I don’t have the patience for a long course but something which lasts just a few weeks is fine. This year was Thai Cookery, next time I am hoping to learn to decorate cakes, unless I think of anything I like better in between times. Who has time for TV when there are so many far more enjoyable things to be getting on with?

As I mentioned we don’t shop as a social activity. If we go to the shop (which is rare) it is because we need to get something. We very often buy from the internet because I don’t like to pay too much for things. We like to rummage through car boot sales and charity shops from time to time. Not so much time for this at the moment, Last Christmas we introduced a rule for Christmas presents. Made or created for less than £10 per person. We had great fun sticking within the budget and still getting something that each person would really enjoy. I suspect my mum may have cheated a little on my children. We are wondering if we can reduce the limit any further this year and still come up with good ideas.We stuck with £10, works for us.

I cant decide if I am pleased or disappointed by how little I have changed.

My life

My wonderful husband has died. He was in hospital for some weeks but this was very unexpected. I won’t be reading or writing for the foresee...