Monday, 27 January 2014

Big decluttering

A couple of years back I joined in with someone's idea to de-clutter three items a day for a year. To start with i kept a spreadsheet but eventually just counted. By half year it was so ingrained in me that I didnt even need to count, I just went on 'auto-dispose'.

Now I am thinking maybe it is too late to do it again. I have sold a few things on ebay and I have a box of 'stuff' and two bags of clothes to go to the charity shops. I might just count those items and see where it gets me.

Anyone else doing a bit of  the '2014 de-clutter boogie' ?

Some times I can be so silly

So January, the financially tightest month of the year for a good % of society. I obviously decided it wasn't quite tight enough so I failed to submit Fahed's time sheets to work in time. He will get his holiday pay for the weeks of holiday he took over Christmas but not for the 10 days after Christmas. We will get about half of what I would normally have expected.

At times like this I really like that we have a fully documented, line by line, budget. I could look at where we can save or cut back, what has to be paid and any other issues.

And so we balance again. And in February, we received a fair bit of extra cash, then I can plug it right into the savings pile.  Once upon a time I would just have had no idea about what we pay out each month and had a massive panic at this point.

I can be silly (forgetting timesheet) but not too silly (making budget).

Sunday, 26 January 2014

'Last of the veg box' soup

I have two veggie boxes every two weeks. One 'real' one and one which is a soup box and the veggies are in theory a bit tired. In truth the tired veg look just fine but maybe have one or two dodgy things. The rest is perfect. This week we had a little loaf of bread on top. Thank you 5-a-day-box-folk

Anyways new box arrived and i still had a swede left from last time. I peeled, boiled and mashed it with some butter and black pepper. I would have roasted it if I had read up on swede soup first.

So a little olive oil, half a red pepper from the dodgy veg box, a whole yellow pepper, a tired looking leek, two cloves of garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes with a little salt to draw out the water. Add a dish of butter beans that didn't get eaten up earlier in the week.  Add a kettle of boiling water and 2 chicken stock cubes. Re examine veggies and decide of the heads of broccoli is not long for the world. Peel and chop. Oh and add the swede.

Cook for another 1/2 hour ish and then blitz with hand blender. As it cools stir in a small carton of cream (frozen since it didn't get eaten at Christmas)

Eat warmed in bowl with a couple of slices of the free loaf.. Only snag is we seem to have had the first bowl for brunch. Ah, whoops!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Special Day

Twenty five years ago today. A Friday afternoon. Afterwards we had dinner at a local restaurant. A lovely understated wedding.  I did enjoy it! And the next 25 years haven;t been too bad either.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Back to normal

The fridge was awash with veggies, and other bits, just waiting to jump into the bin but I stood in their way.

I have cooked and mashed two swedes. Any left after today will be frozen ready for next time we have an appropriate meal. I think swede freezes well.

There was cauliflower left and some Christmas cheese so that chose itself to be cauliflower cheese. I added some bacon scraps and chopped onion and the cheese has bits of apricot in it so maybe Cauliflower surprise is more accurate.

The sprouts have been peeled and prepared but they don't enjoy advance cooking so I will wait until tomorrow.

Five or six sweet peppers are moments away from the knife. Chopping and freezing them will make them suitable for a quite evening stir fry. They wont be as good but they will be acceptable. Also I tend to think the colour they add is more important that the taste.

Oh and in a moment of domesticity i have also been quietly simmering chicken bones all afternoon to freeze as stock. I feel very virtuous!

Add to that giving my son leftover homemade burgers for his lunch then I feel i am back on to the road to redemption. The spendfest is behind me.

No Send/Low Spend January

Oh dear, oh dear, I have wandered from the path.

Food shopping stayed quite low, in fact under budget, as we had so much leftover from Christmas that freezer is still almost full. And fuel was pretty good, under budget as we didnt really leave the house much and anyway a small dinghy and paddles would be more useful if we did.

And in my defence I didn;t use credit or money earmarked for anything else and I didnt dip into savings. Does this osund like a big pile of excuses? Yep, it does to me aswell..

So first htere was the TV and surround sound which is really for Fahed's 50th birthday. He wanted to hang on for the January sales and he did make a good saving, £300 on the TV itself, plus I sold the old TV on ebay for £200. So I am just going to focus on the £500 saved not how much was spent!

Then I bought student son a laptop as they are supposed to have one before the sea phase of their training. Again we waited until the sales and saved about £60.

I paid car repairs. Sadly our lovely mechanic doesn't go in for January sales but he is already half the price of the main dealers so its all good really.

Then Fahed decides that we should buy the other son a laptop too His is 7 years old and cant handle very much at all.. I suggested that maybe this is a step too far but as Fahed says, if not for the boys then who is it all for? I have to agree. We are not hard up, just in the habit of spending every penny on renovations or mortgage or you could say, securing the future..

So after all that when I saw this wide mouthed pouch made by Carla (the raccoon one! At least I think it is raccoon, we dont have them here) I just caved straight away.  Lovely Carla is going to make me one,, plus a camera case. Very exciting and I promise not to spend money ever, ever, again.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


Again.................already. Gosh!

Last week I made an appointment to see someone about losing weight, getting fit etc. I do know this would be cheaper to do myself but we are where we are, 51 and overweight enough that I feel it might bother me as I get older. So I am thinking about it all week, set off at 8am so that I find it in plenty time. 8.45 the place is all locked up and no-one home. At 9.15 I leave. I cant call, text or email as there is no signal. By 10am I am home and ratty!  I email, nothing, Then I text. Eventually a reply to say 'we are on the second floor' Seriously? Why not mention that in the booking email or put up signs? or actually dont put up sign saying you are specifically on the 1st floor. Seriously.

Anyway i am still huff puffing! So I booked in for next Saturday at a different branch. Its free so i persevere a little more although my natural inclination is to say 'ha, see, i am supposed to be fat'. We are starting a fitness class at work this week based on this (hopefully) amazing DVD . Cant wait!

In other news Fahed & I have been married for 25 years on Monday. I am expecting someone to spring out of a wardrobe and pin a medal on me :). Eldest son turns 24, Youngest son is home from University (again) ahead of the 1st sea phase of his training Its all go, go, go. Oh yes, and Fahed has colorectal day surgery on Tuesday. I haven't asked the details (oddly, neither has he) but it sounds uncomfortable rather than overly serious. Oh and for anniversaries in our family we normally take the whole crew out to eat. For us this is a lot happening in a week!

I'll see if I can muster the enthusiasm for a bit of cleaning ahead of all the excitement.

Also rounding up all the veg from the fridge and either cooking it or chopping and freezing it. Not exciting? Sure it is. My son didnt look a little perplexed when I offered him mashed swede for brunch though

Anyone have anything exciting planned?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Spending to save

Yes, even to me it sounds like an excuse.

 We bought a new TV. It is LED so hopefully cheaper to run than the old plasma. We paid for the plasma to be repaired about 8 months ago and it is making the same sort of sounds so i think it was time. We could have been more economical but we used our own cash, no credit and we got a good deal. And it certainly made Fahed and Ahdel all smiley! That is not what I am claiming as my money saving though!

 Today they had this brilliant idea to fit doors in the massive space which links conservatory and kitchen. They shopped at B&Q, our local DIY, and In-Excess, a discount end of line store. The got about £60 in discount so I am fairly happy. Now, or at least when the get around to fixing it all, we can close off the two rooms. Should make things a lot warmer in winter and will stop the noise from the rain on the conservatory roof for the rest of the time.

 We need one door to the bottom of the stairs, to keep the heat in the sitting room.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Shed.............really not my area

We are a fairly traditional team in our roles at home. I like to cook, I quite like to do laundry (the satisfaction of having it done, I don't take it down to the river and beat it on the rocks)and I like the satisfaction of housework. I don't like ironing so I don't do it. I aim to buy stuff that doesn't need ironing. I will do it for weddings or job interviews, or whilst sewing. I also do admin and anything of an accounting nature. My lovely other half (and the sprogs) do maintenance, car and home, landscaping and grass cutting, bins, building work here and in Crete. Oh and special occasion cooking by which I mean indulgent rather than healthy, so we have it for treats. This works fine for us. Ahdel had a girlfriend who thought it was wrong that I did his tax return. Very weird. Accountant in the family! I might well be peeved if I didn't get asked to do it. The main thing is team work. All of the weekend they were doing stuff with the electrics. My only job was to occasionally pass a cable clip up to them. So that means I don't visit the shed very much. Once or twice I have helped out with stuff out there but its really not my area. Which, I assume, is how it got to be such a complete and total 'state'. So tonight I discussed it with Lovely Other Half. Well obviously his Aspbergers personality doesn't want to change anything but also it is overcrowded and he hates it as it is. So i told him about the year when I got rid of over a thousand items and have missed not one of them. He really hadn't noticed. So now I have got him thinking. I have the beginnings of a plan. The junk can go, the saleable must be sold, the tools need to be pruned. The de-cluttering machine reaches the shed. It can be done!!!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

And breath............

First week back after Christmas break always seems to be about ten days long but I made it (of course) to the weekend. I did a tiny bit of grocery shopping yesterday. Came to £60 but that included £29 on a kettle for my parents so I feel as though I kept it all fairly lean and mean. My weekend is going to be all about pottering. Starting off with some vacuuming now but I thought I would write this first as I am sure it is too early in the day to make so much noise. One of my tasks was to get outlook working again on my desktop. I use it and live by it at work but at home I am less organised but as I have it then it seems mad not to use it. Oh, so maybe its time to do a task list. Vacuum clean upstairs Pack up xbox for sending to repairer Look at flights to Crete and sort out holiday dates. Get all laundry washed and dried. Sort out clothing and move the less loved into under bed storage. That's enough isn't it? Then I can just snooze

Sunday, 5 January 2014

No Spend Low Spend

January no spend/low spend challenge with Carla is now up and running. I am a willing participant but, well I will pretty much have to no spend, except for fuel, to catch up on my 'naughtiness' of the last few days. We went to the shops to get nice meat for Fahed's birthday meal. His 50th birthday was back in early December but we didn't celebrate as he was ill and also we were not all together. So now he is slightly less ill and we are all home we let him cook for us. We are so kind! He cooks for everyone's birthday so for his own half century was going to be the same. That expenditure was all planned and in the budget The other bit was less planned. In fact very not planned. I got rid of my tumble dryer back in autumn when it broke down. I didn't need one, could line dry everything etc. Line dry in England in winter, what was i thinking. The conservatory is full of racks and hangers, the place looks like the kind of Chinese laundries you see in old movies, pretty sure it is damp and might even be adding to chest infections. So I did it. Looked on ebay, a lovely condensing tumble dryer finishing in six minutes, refurbished by seller and with a guarantee. And the guy delivered it within about 90 minutes! Ah, bliss practical if not financial) Goals for the rest of the month. I have £400 left for all expenses, fuel and food. If I stick within this it means I have managed Christmas, tumble dryer, all household expenses out of my normal budget with no recourse to savings or credit.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Back to normal

The house is full. The kitchen is really earning its place. The sitting room is like a noisy and enjoyable cafe. My fridge is rammed with food still but mostly veggies so we are set for the next ten days. Its only for another day. Tomorrow Jamal hits the road back 'oop North' for uni. The rest of us are back to work. Ahdel i think is back to two jobs plus the band, so busy busy busy. I have just read the headline 'Families will have to wait until summer to clear Christmas Debts' Oh no, not around here. I bought slightly more food than normal but we had virtually no waste and fridge, freezer and larder are full. I buy some smallish presents for the kids and for everyone else we have ten pound limit. So anyway I am tidying and organising and doing all of those things which one does at New Year (or I do, anyway). I would like it to last another week but never mind. Most enjoyable

Friday, 3 January 2014

No waste tastes great ( but this week a couple of items did slip through)


I am definitely not as organised as some of the 'Food Waste Friday' crew. Don't let that put anyone off waste avoiding though, as we do pretty well.

I have a few secret weapons in my arsenal though. Where Fahed comes from it is quite normal to eat the same food for two days running. So for example if I make stew and appetites are smaller than expected then the next evening we get it again but maybe with different veggies on the side. My planned dish for the second night just gets pushed forward.

My waste plan relies on recycling!

This week we had roast lamb with vegetables. At the end there was a lamb bone left, some roasted veggies and some boiled sprout,, cabbage and green beans. My plan was to boil up the bone for stock then add veggies plus some spices etc, blitzs it and serve with a dollop of sour cream. However I left the veg in a bowl on the kitchen worktop whilst I was cooking something else and before I know it everything has gone except the lamb bone. I guess if you don't want waste then it pays to have kids who like veg.

My other near miss was a half bottle of cider (small). I thought I liked it, Christmas treat, but apparently not so much. However I am freezing it to cook with pork and maybe creme fraiche. I really enjoy food waste Fridays. Make me never take my eye from the ball.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Finance 2014

I am not going to faff about with net worth etc. Since we know that, as in 2008/9, net worth can halve over night then it isn't really an indicator of anything.

During 2013 we proved that we can send £500 (sometimes more) each month to needy relatives. This year we are keeping up with all the tricks we taught ourselves

  • my cooking is always, but always, better than takeaway or eating out, its is usually also quicker and it is definitely cheaper
  • lunch should be taken to work every day, no excuses
  • you can enjoy yourself if you budget for expense but also there is plenty of very economical fun about
  • proper food is cheaper than crappy food
  • the diesel car is so much cheaper to run that the petrol that the petrol is going to have to go
  • when kids earn there own money/go to university it is like getting a second job 

So the actual targets are: minimum £500 required by September to start rebuilding the old house in Crete
Pay at least £15k off the mortgage (in my dreams I think we can do more, especially when my son can afford to deal with his own expenses but I don't put it in the plan just yet)

Lifestyle 2014

I am slicing and dicing my 2014 plans and talking about a different one each day. Tomorrow finance. I feel I have to psyche myself up for it :)

Lifestyle is a nice big one to consider for day one:

I am aiming for a relaxed and welcoming home:
Relaxed as it is organised but not obsessively so.
De-cluttered but not to the point of obsessiveness
The Allbrook House (ie where we live) all major repair and updating projects finished
Healthy eating - Fahed has actually lost 13kg with my tweaks to meals. Leading me to think that my work lunches might be my problem area.
More activity - Dont be such a couch potato, move around and enjoy myself more.

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...