Monday, 20 October 2014

Easy bread making

Welcome to new follower Gravyyard (I like your name).

My bread maker broke during the summer, the tiny clip which holds the paddle in had snapped.  We  unsuccessfully tried mend it ourselves,  in the end I contacted Morphy Richards who told me I would have to pay £20 for a whole new bucket and paddle.  I was half hoping that they would sell me a replacement clip - oh well, it was worth asking.  I won't buy a new bucket, at least not yet, as there is nothing wrong with my arms and hands so back to the old fashioned way.  It turns out that this is not only good exercise but rather therapeutic.  I make a cup of tea and put on an audio book and before I know it the dough is done.

We always use wholemeal flour.  It is slightly more expensive but I think it tastes nicer, healthier, and in my experience is easier and less problematic.   This is a simple, fool-proof recipe for anyone who has never tried bread making before.  I also use this recipe for pizza making.   This will do either 2 pizza bases or 1 pizza 1 garlic bread.  Today I'm making 8 bread buns for sandwiches. 

3 cups of wholemeal flour                       38p
1 and 1/4 cups of luke warm water
1/2 sachet of dried yeast *                      3p
1 and 1/2 tsp sugar                                 3p
1 and 1/4 tsp salt                                    1p
2 tblsp oil (any oil that you have)             10p
                                                          =  55p for 8 medium size buns
(There is of course the cost of cooking.  I always bake the bread when the oven is on for other things around dinner time.  I don't tend to put the oven on for just 1 thing.)

* Most recipes suggest a whole sachet of yeast.  This has always caused over rising for me and it has spilt over into the bread machine.  I halved the amount of yeast and this worked perfectly - it is just habit for me now.  Cheaper and more reliable.

Throw it all into a bowl and mix with a spoon.  Form it into a loose dough with your hands.  Turn out onto a board and begin kneading.  This process usually takes about 10 minutes and I do time myself.  The dough should be slightly tacky when kneading and leave a light film on your hands - don't be tempted to add more flour this is normal.  After 10 minutes if the dough looks soft and smooth it's probably done.  It may feel a little sweaty and might squeak when kneading.  This is a good sign.

I then put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cut open, clean plastic bread bag and covered with a tea towel to keep in the warmth.  It needs to rise to double its size.  The time it takes depends on how warm the room is.  If I am in a hurry I speed this process up by putting the dough in a ceramic bowl on top of my mini oven which is put on the lowest temperature.  Or..if you have a double oven the bottom one can go on lowest setting and dough can be placed in the top (always covered).  I started this early so I will just leave it until it has risen.

When it has risen I 'knock it back' kneading for a further 5-10 minutes.  I cut and shape the dough into buns, place on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet.  Cover again and leave to rise to double their size.  These are ready to bake when the oven goes on.  I bake them at 220 degrees/GM 7 in the middle of the oven. For a bit.....

I consider bread making an economy - if you have the time.  But also homemade bread is nicer than shop bought bread, particular when fresh out of the oven. They do freeze well - of course - so they can be done as a batch and used later on.  Fresh dough can be frozen if you need it to be handy at busy times (I do this all the time for pizza dough).  Just remember to put it in a large container or big bag because as it defrosts it will rise and expand.

Have a happy Monday everyone.  For mums, dads, children, teachers - final push until half term! I can't wait.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Week 6 budget update + Shine

Yay! I have a new follower. Welcome to Lisamaywalters.

A bit of an odd day yesterday as I was home alone.  Quite unusual and was left drumming my fingers, I considered loafing but I caught up with some jobs around the house.  I did a cupboard and freezer stock check, added up my receipts and checked the spread sheets (I'm a complete nerd when it comes to finances).  It has been incredibly mild in Yorkshire so no heating needed, windows and doors open and washing on the line.

Over the past few weeks I have taken part in an online focus group for Audible.  As they are paying me handsomely for my time I have thrown myself into it and gave as many well thought opinions as I could.  As a result I had an email from the market research company wanting me to record a video which will be shown at Audible HQ next week.  If they are going to pay me I wanted to do my best and spent an hour (or two) trying to get it just right - deary me - it became quite stressful  - I have a new respect for youtubers.  I still wasn't happy with the final result, too many ums and errs and ahs.  It seems I have the habit of moving around a lot when I speak and using my arms to express what I am trying to say, I hope they don't find it too annoying.

We finished the evening off with a movie and snacks (yes I am still on a diet but let myself off at the weekend).  We watched *Shine* which is on the iplayer (I think today is the last day).  DH and I first saw this when it came out in the 90's and became one of our favourites.  I didn't have children then, but watching now I have two of my own made it even more poignant.  DD cried at the end, she flung her arms around me and told me she had the best parents ever (it's nice to be told that now and again from a primary source ;0) .  I think it's lovely that she has such empathy towards other people and their life struggles and is able to appreciate what she has at such a young age.  I have known some hard hearted negative-vibe merchants in my time and wonder how they get through the day....but I guess they have life struggles of their own.

Anyway on to my budget

Groceries     £78.59/£65
Over budget but I have a full freezer.  We don't need anymore main meals or tins.  I was studying the receipt and it is a Homebargains toiletries shop that has pushed me over my budget.  These things will last at least another month.  I try not to go in very often because it tempts me into buying things I don't need.  Every few weeks I stock up with shampoo, conditioner, deodrant, bleach, loo rolls, toothpaste, floss etc.

Petrol           £15/ £15
Did this easily this week as the weather hasn't been too bad so we have walked and cycled.
Misc            £19.25/£20
This was for our wedding anniversay lunch.  This is money well spent.  It was a lovely day and I think wedding anniversaries are worth celebrating.  

Christmas fund £55 (really need to start working on this - might think of some ways to bring some extra cash in between now and December)

Anyway, hope you are all having a lovely weekend whatever you are doing.  I am going to try and do some recipes next week, need to get organised and have my camera at hand to take pics.  I'm in the mood for bread making.   

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday chuckles

Sorry I haven't blogged for a few days, there just hasn't been enough time.  I was going to do some recipes this week, but my camera hasn't been in the right place at the right time. I'm sure it grows legs...

So I thought I would share a few of my things on my Pinterest which are my go to when I want to have a little chuckle...completely lazy I know but enjoy anyway!

Dump A Day Attack Of The Funny Animals - 24 Pics

Come On! I Can't Even Read!The difference between dogs and cats.Sure, checking. - ImgurWhen stubbornness refused to be told what to do. | 22 Times When Vandalism Won ROTFL! For more funny animals pics with captions visit Kitteh is impatient.
Have a lovely weekend and normal blogging back tommorow.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

19 years and never a cross word....

Cute dogs and the monkeys that love them.Today is our wedding anniversary we have been happily married for 19 years.  I put on my new dress and DH took the afternoon off work so we could have lunch together.  We have a 25% discount with the Gourmet Society card which came free with Family and Friends railcard.  So we drove out to  a country pub, sat by a roaring fire, ate a delicious meal, came home and watched The IT Crowd snuggled up on the settee eating chocolates.  A perfect day.  Tonight we will open a bottle of bubbly and watch a movie together.

I have come to the firm conclusion that the secret to a happy marriage is being able to laugh together..... DH and I laugh a lot. 

 Audrey Hepburn quote//

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue


Good evening everyone.  How was your Monday?  It has been so dark and drizzly today, I had my fairy lights on for the first time this autumn, they really brighten up a room on a day like this. My lovely friend came round for a coffee and chat today, just what I needed after a very hectic weekend. Everyone could do with a friend like Helen, always positive and upbeat about life, she's a good listener and always sees the best in people. 

I also finished a book today so thought I would do a quick review as it gave me plenty to think about.  The Phantom of Fifth Avenue is a biography of Huguette Clark who was the daughter of a very wealthy copper magnate, Charles Clark.  She died in 2011 at the age of 104.  This in itself is an amazing feat, but what really makes Huguette's story remarkable is that she spent much of her life as a recluse, dying in a rather ordinary hospital room which she had lived for 20 years despite being a multi-millionaire and owning several beautiful mansions.  Her properties were kept in order by paid staff even though none of them had ever met their employer. 

I remember reading about Huguette's death when she died and was curious as to why she chose to live in such seclusion and ordinary-ness when she was wealthy beyond most people's wildest dreams, and could have lived a life of luxury and decadence. I am also interested in reclusive people, as I think I have a tendancy towards it and wonder why some people just cannot cope in society.

The first thing that struck me is how unhealthy it is to raise a child whilst being one of the richest families in America.  The family became obsessed with the idea that people will only be interested in their money, that most people are out to cheat them or manipulate them for financial gain (this was drummed into Huguette from a very young age - do not trust anyone!).  It was also difficult for her to have a normal childhood being over protected and neglected at the same time.  Her parents travelled a lot on business and to attend society functions, leaving the children with servants for months at a time.  They also became obsessed with hygiene after her sister died.  Visitors became few because of the fear of infection and the house needed to be constantly cleaned and disinfected (can you imagine keeping those huge mansions sterile?).  Huguette developed a lifelong fear of disease and death, which is why I think she chose to live her last 20 years in a hospital regardless of being relatively healthy.

Along with being unwilling to marry (she did marry but it was short lived) she was  unable to trust friends and family - fearing she would be taken advantage of. In her latter years it is certain she was taken advantage of  as she became more vulnerable and increasingly dependent on just a handful of people to help with her daily needs. How someone can work in the caring profession and take advantage of a vulnerable patient is beyond me.  Who needs money that badly that they would go to the lengths that her nurse did? To accept cheques worth millions of pounds, jewellery, property and cars?  And how much does one person need before they feel they have enough and no longer need to treat someone as a cash point?

This is an historically fascinating book, but also tells us a lot about human nature.  Huguette had a need to be cared for and loved above money and power, to have a healthy trust with the people she shared her life with and be taught a balanced view of risk vs pleasure.  If there is ever a tale that describes how money does not bring us happiness this has to be it.  Yes she lived to nearly 105 but for almost 80 of those years she lived behind closed doors, hyper-vigilant and anxious.  She lived her life through her doll and dolls house collection because the real world was just too scary for her.  It also spoke to me about human greed.  The people that were supposed to care for her were always after more and more...

Huguette was also a talented artist but was never really taken seriously possibly because of the 'rich girl' perception of her.  I wonder if she had been able to make a name for herself in her own right because of her own talent and merit, things would have been different. Her self worth may not have been determined by her net worth.

Painting by Huguette Clark

The book made me feel sad and I wish I had known her, I wish better people were looking out for her.  It also made me realise that I never want to be very rich as much as I never want to be very poor. It reminded me of the things children need most  money cannot buy and that I would rather live a short life to the full than a very long one shut up in a small hospital room.  RIP beautiful Huguette.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Budget Update week 5 (+ slow cooker rice pudding)

Good morning everyone.  Hope you are having a nice weekend.  Weather has been mixed here and definitely getting colder.  It feels more like autumn now.  I've been so busy last few days I didn't have time to post.  DH took the day off on Friday and we did some jobs around the house.  We also went shopping together which is quite a rare event for us as one of us is usually looking after our son.  We had both M&S and Sainsburys vouchers burning a hole in our wallets so we decided to a weeks shopping using these, plus some nectar points, plus a till spit which meant our shopping bill for the week only came to £22. 

We took the kids to York for the day yesterday, DS and DH went to the National Railway Museum (free) whilst DD and myself met up with my sister.  We went to a closing down sale which was selling off designer clothes for next to nothing (literally cheaper than Primark).  The quality was akin to White Stuff or Fat Face so I bought a few bits for me and DD for next spring (2 waistcoats, 2 dresses came to £20). 


Groceries       £22.45/£65
Petrol            £15/£15
Misc              £20/£20

Christmas fund £15
Total Christmas fund £55

Rice Pudding in the slow cooker 

I did this last week as I saw some pudding rice and just wanted to give it a go.  My mum always made her own rice pudding, I never remember her opening a tin - everything was always made from scratch.  It was delicious and knocked spots off anything you could buy in the shops.  Not healthy but definitely comfort food as the weather turns cold. (Apologies for lack of pictures, I did take some but they seem to have disappeared, I wonder if I deleted them by mistake!)

150 g pudding rice  30p
150 g sugar 12p
1 tin of evaporated milk (like carnation) 65p
2 pints of milk    25p
sprinkle of either cinnamon or nutmeg  5p

cooking time 4 hours 10p

Method chuck it all in and leave it for 4 hours on slow. This does the equivalent to 5 tins of rice pudding - I measured it out and works out at 29p at tin. It freezes well. I know you can buy value rice pud for 15p but this recipe is in a league of its own for taste. 

I served with foraged blackberries.

Apologies for pic quality.

Have a lovely Sunday and I hope you are all well.  Welcome to all followers, I will spend some time this morning looking  at your blogs and finding out what you have been up to. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

My Priorities...

I had written this post a few days ago, but noticed that there were a lot of similar post on other people's blogs so I wasn't going to bother.  But actually I think it might be useful for me to think about what our priorities are and how we spend our money.

I love reading other people's blogs.  I particular enjoy reading different perspectives of money, how people spend it, how they save it, what their future plans are. What they can live without, what they can't, what lengths will people go to in order to save a pound or two.  It is interesting because ultimately we are all different, we may all have the want to save money but none of us are the same.

Many people survive amazingly on a very low income, their priorities are staying nourished, keeping a roof over their heads and staying warm.  It is not a choice, it is the way it has to be. Then there are those on two good wages, making sensible, well planned decisions and choices about how to spend their money.  Yes they are well off, but it is equally fascinating and valuable to see how they stretch their income to create their dreams and future goals.

We are somewhere inbetween.  We have 1 very good wage coming in, plus a small wage of my own.  We have more than enough money for the basics, plus a few luxuries (holidays, a car etc) and still have money left over.  I am very grateful for that, I know how good life is.  But that doesn't mean I am going waste what we have.

Here is a list of what we spend our money on.

Mortgage (obviously) gets top priority.  We are overpaying on this to try and save on interest.
Council tax and water rates
Home insurance
Lfe insurance

Holidays -  We try and go away every year, always to the British coast.  We shop around and get the best deal possible, paid in full.  Spending money is saved. We haven't been abroad for 20 years and none of us are that fussed about it.  We like hiking, coastal walks and exploring.  Me and DD go away together for a weekend once a year.  We get cheap train tickets which are issued 12 weeks in advance  and use laterooms to get a basic hotel room.  School trips are always paid for as I think it is important.

Car - We drive one 10 year old small run around.  We paid £5000 for it 6 years ago with cash.  We will keep running it until it needs scrapping.  It has served us well so far and very cheap to run. We are walkers/cyclists so only use it when absolutely necessary so about £60 pm on petrol, £20 PM insurance, £20 PM tax, £30ish PM service MOT plus maintenanc.  We rarely pay for parking as there is nothing wrong with our legs. 

Clothes - Neither me nor DH are bothered about fancy clothes.  We wear practical clothes and have a small selection of posh things for evenings out.  DH wants cheap stuff for work and the odd nice evening shirt.  They don't get replaced until they are shabby.  I am happy to buy clothes from charity shops or have my sister's handmedowns ;0)  I have a pair of boots for winter, walking boots, and a pair of summer shoes - that's all. The boots get re-cobbled until they cannot be repaired. I spend much more on shoes than I would on clothes as I expect them to last for years.  I buy the kids new clothes and shoes as and when they need them, it is a bit of an unknown quantity but they want for nothing.  Neither of them are fashion victims, thank goodness. 

Going out - This used to be a priority for us when the kids were little.  As they grow we don't feel the need for a break as much as we did. We enjoy our movie nights together with the kids.  We do go out every now and then, mainly on special occasions or to the theatre with friends.  It is not high up on our priorities but we enjoy it when it happens.

Gadgets and subscriptions - We all have cheap second hand laptops that my DH pimps to make them useable.  I have a very old phone which I have had for probably 10 years. This costs me £8 a month on contract.  DH's is free from work and DD had one bought for her birthday (grandparents) and credits it with her own spending money.  We don't have SKY packages or anything like that, it would be a complete waste on us.  We have broadband and telephone (£22).  We do have a Netflix account for £5.99 - definitely good value for us and my personal luxury is an Audible subscription of £7.99. This is cheaper than therapy. DH pays badminton subscription of £5 a month (very cheap and is good exercise and socially valuable).

Gas and Electric - £100 PM We try to be careful with this and do our best to use as little as possible, we are definitely an extra jumper family and we are active.  The heating never goes on during the day as we keep busy, but if it is cold enough it will go on for an hour or two in the evening and an hour in the morning.  We do a lot of cooking via the slow cooker plus our mini oven, we all have showers everyday, tumble dryer is for emergency use only.  We always shop round for the cheapest tariff and use cashback sites when we change suppliers.

Hair - None of us go to the hairdresser.  DH gets a buzz cut and I trim the children's (both long).  I trim and dye my own hair. Henna dye works out at £16ish for the year.

Toiletries - All our toiletries are from discount stores, we do like certain brands but always shop for the best price possible and stock up if it is cheap.  I do like expensive make-up but I use it sparingly and is bought with birthday and Christmas money. 

Food - Last year after keeping every receipt and a running total over 12 months it averaged out at £76 PW.  This includes toiletries and anything to clean the house.  I know this isn't particularly frugal, but I don't think it is bad either.  I cook everything from scratch, we eat vegetarian several times a week, we don't eat a lot of rubbish in between meals, we eat a lot of fruit, veg and pulses, we don't waste anything, I plan carefully and shop around (we are lucky enough to have access to most of the supermarkets), I cost everything out as I am preparing it. I also do surveys which pay me in Sainsbury's vouchers as well as M&S vouchers we get from our credit card (paid of in full every month).

House maintenance - We have a nice house, we keep it clean and tidy, but we don't keep changing furniture or buying new stuff.  Most of the furniture we have has been given to us over the years or bought cheaply and refurbished.  Our bed is new (we bought a very expensive bed as we expect it to last a lifetime) and our sofas were new (again we didn't skimp because we expect them to last for 20+ years, they are 8 years old and still look like new). Good quality paint is a must as it looks better for longer (cheap paint is a false economy).

We have a some savings for an emergency fund but have never needed it yet.

I think that is it?  There are many areas we could cut back, but at the moment I don't think we need to.  I think we have a good balance on being careful, making the most of what we have and enjoying life. I know we are lucky to have these choices. 

(P.S. SAM - I am going to do a rice pudding recipe tomorrow.  I have already done the pics but have lost my camera)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mortgage Overpayment ~ 1

 Wizard of Oz. The part where Miss Gulch turns into the witch was so frightening!

The weather has been unbelievably miserable today, raining sideways, blowing a gale and freeeeezing cold.  I have been layered up and slippers were on, I decided I was going to have a hibernation day and caught up with my OU and drank hot chocolate.  I did put the heating on this evening for the first time this season. There's defintely no place like home.

The good news is we have made our first overpayment on our mortgage today.  Very exciting and very much addictive.  It was going to be the year of the mortgage this year, but because of one thing and another it didn't really happen.  We have done some work on the house and had 2 holidays - so I am not complaining.

Anyway I will hopefully be making a overpayment every month so I will blog and you can watch it slowly decrease (if you are interested).  My date for total repayment is September 2018 which I think is just do-able.  This is when my fixed rate ends - so that is my goal.

Mortgage total                  £99000
overpayment                          800

Total                                £98200

This is obviously a bit of a guess, it will be less because of the interest we are saving.  But this figure will have to do until we get an updated statement. 

 MSE mortgage overpayment calculator 

We used this mortgage overpayment calculator to play with, it estimates that we have saved £363 over the term of the mortage.  How exciting!

Have a lovely evening everyone!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Budget update week 4

Ok I am on week 4 of my 12 week challenge.  I have just added my receipts up, I knew I was over budget from my mental calculations, but hadn't realised how much I had gone over.  I am not despondent because I have enough main meals to last the month and my freezer is fairly full.  I have quite a lot of tinned goods and pasta and rice.

Groceries        £72.69/£65

An overspend.  I took my eye off the ball this week, I have scoured the receipts and there have been a few unnecessary purchases, but also some things that will keep for the following weeks. 

Petrol              £5/£15

Thanks to the good weather DH has been cycling to work and I have been walking so well under budget.  I took my parents for a hospital appointment this week which is about 10 miles away.  They gave me £10 for petrol - I hate taking money from them but they were insistent and say it's cheaper than a taxi. So I deducted this from my petrol expenses for simplicity. 

Misc                £0/£10

This is good, haven't bought a single thing other than groceries and petrol which will certainly help towards grocery overspend.  Note my misc budget was £20.  As part of my October challenge I have reduced this to £10 as I thought £20 was a bit on the high side. 

Christmas fund £0/£15 

Won't put anything away this week because of grocery overspend.  

Total Christmas fund £40


Saturday, 4 October 2014

University thoughts

 Top Educational Quote Posters for your Classroom ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
We haven't really got any plans for this weekend, which is quite unusual for us.  My 15 year old daughter said she just wanted to revise today.  She has some assessments next week and her mocks are approaching.  Apparently her mocks are quite important as it will reflect on her college application.  She wants to go to a college which is over subscribed and are quite picky about a students credentials.

It got me thinking about kids today.  Sometimes I look at my daughter and wish I had been a bit more like her; driven and focused on the bigger prize.  I was rather lazy and preferred the winging it at the last minute approach.  But sometimes I feel that her work load is too much.  Is there something valuable in having a 'good enough' approach to life?  Or is it just me?

I don't know.  I know she doesn't get too stressed about it all, I know she gets a huge boost when the good results come back her way to reward her, and I know that she has ambition.  As a parent it is a bit of a tricky one isn't it?  We have to balance taking an interest in their education with showing them there is more to life than study - grades - future.  It is OK to live in the present and just see what will happen. I hope I get the balance right.

'Education' to my parents was not important.  Leaving school at the earliest opportunity to get a job and learn a trade was their ambition for us.  Both me and my brother did that.  My sister was an anomaly, she was naturally academic and thrived on it.  She got herself through college and university on her own back, she did the work, she filled in the forms, she visited the Uni's on her own, she made her own course choices.  I remember the day she went to Uni, she bought herself a huge rucksack and her train tickets, a quick 'seeya later' and was off.  No tearful goodbyes, no helicopter parents 'settling' her for the weekend.   My parents were happy for her, but were very much bewildered by it all.  So sometimes I think maybe my daughter is more like my sister than like me, I should stop worrying about her constant swotting and let her get on with it. And see what happens.

And then there is the expense of it all.  This seems to be what all parents of teenage children are talking about.  The cost of university.  Who will pay? Is it worth it? I don't really want her to be burdened with £50k of debt at the start of her adult life and at the same time I don't want to hand it to her on a plate because I don't think it will teach her financial responsibilities.  It's a dilemma, and as usual something in the middle is probably the way forward. My plan, which will inevitably change, is to pay off the mortgage so I can at least pay her living expenses whilst she is there.  She may need to borrow money for her fees which she will pay back later.

Anyone else in the same situation?

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Grandfather's Ghost

 Braveheart - love this quote!

I had 3 grandads, I wasn't being greedy.  Two I never met, one lived most of his life in Australia, another died when he was 32, my mum was only 5.  He worked as an auctioneer, he went out to work one day as usual, then never came home - he died suddenly of an asthma attack.  Their whole world was shattered.

My grandma married again to the man I knew as grandad.  He was a lovely man, much older than my grandma and took on three young, children.  He worked hard his whole life running a fish and chip shop.  He was also a soldier. He fought in the Somme during the first world war and was very proud of a bullet hole in his shoulder, his daily reminder of his brush with death and his own mortality.  He was lucky, he survived the Somme, many didn't, he went on to live life to the full.  He died aged 85, the evening before he died he went out dancing, came home and died the next day.  It was a shock to those left behind but what a good way to die..we should all aim to leave this world dancing (preferably to our own tune).

This song was written about my grandad, even though there was never a biological connection - he was without doubt the only grandad we knew, I think we hit the jackpot by having this man in our lives.  The song is not just about him as a person, but a reminder of how we should LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL EVERYDAY because we have no idea of what is around the corner - none of us have a crystal ball.

Hope you enjoy it.  You may need a Kleenex if you have a father or grandfather who has worked hard all his life or fought for his country.  (By the way, it isn't me singing, the lady on the right is my lovely sister and on the left is the gorgeous Helen.)

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  If you get the chance, go out and do something different, smile a lot, share a joke, appreciate the kind people in our lives and make a decision not to worry about a thing.  Because life's too short.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

October here I come..

 Don't Be Needy Be Succeedy:The A to Zee of Motivitality© by L V Spencer. $9.58. Publisher: Profile Business (May 26, 2011). 224 pages

I am someone who really likes lists, plans, goals and challenges, I find they do motivate me into keeping focused.  But I do think that they should be

a) realistic - no point in setting myself up for defeat
b) flexible - knowing when it is not working and not being too stubborn to move the goal posts a little

Mini short-term challenges are best for me.  Even breaking them down into weekly or daily missions is better than doing nothing at all.  It's a great feeling going to bed at night and ticking off those do-to's, or doing the accounting at the end of the week knowing I kept in budget.  Monthly challenges should be a little more slow paced and yearly ones should be barely noticable because by May it has just become a habit.

Here's my October list, I will revisit it in November and hopefully cross a few things off.

1) Stick to £65 PW grocery budget
2) Stick to £15 petrol PW budget
3) Reduce my misc budget to £15 PW
4) Reduce Christmas fund to £10 PW
5) Aim for £20 survey money
6) Cost out each meal every day and blog
7) Do 2 hours OU a day
8) Make a mortgage over-payment
9) lose 4lb which will get me down to my goal weight
10) Make 1 thing every week either for myself or for someone else??

10 things seems like a good number.

Does anyone remember Tanita Tikaram? This is a good upbeat song for a Thursday when everyone is starting feel tired and weary.  (Sorry for short ad at the begining.)

Have a lovely day folks, hope the sun is still shining where you are. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September review and busy day

I can't believe it is October 1st already!  September hasn't been perfect but it has come pretty close.  Spending-wise things have been very good, I have managed to keep under budget most weeks, only went over once on the groceries but I think it will have evened itself out.  The weather has been cracking so we have hardly used the car, very little unexpected expenses and we even got a refund from my son's school because we had paid too much for snack money.  The washing has been out every day, the heating has yet to come on and my freezer is pretty full. 

We also came into a little bit of unexpected money so we will be making a mortgage over payment either tomorrow or Friday if the cheque has cleared.  I have made £35.68 on surveys, I also got a free Audible credit for doing a survey for them. 

My OU came early and have enjoyed getting stuck into that.  I was a bit nervous about doing a level 3 but so far so good.

Very busy day today, DH has been interviewing all day so came back quite late.  Dinner was a bit of a quick dash, I decided on an oven Omelet.  Very quick and easy and tasted yummy.  We do try and eat vegetarian once or twice a week.

Eggs x 5                83
Cheese                   50
Potatoes                16
peppers                  33
Tomato                  12
basil                        5
onion                     20
butter                     10
Dash of milk           10
Beans                     33

Salt and black pepper 2
= £2.74 (ish)

I diced and cooked the potatoes in the microwave for 5 minutes, whisked up the eggs then literally chucked everything in.  Grated cheese on top with sliced tomato, put it in mini oven for 30 minutes and a few minutes under the grill to brown.  I served with lashings of baked beans.

Empty plates all round.

I was going to do some mini October challenges but will leave it until tomorrow as I'm dog tired.

We are going to see the talented John Shuttleworth in November - I can't wait!  This song brings a tear to my eye...for everyone who hates food waste....enjoy!

Have a lovely evening everyone.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Homemade Take-away plus Aldi news

We don't get takeaways very often, if we do it is because we have Tesco vouchers which are converted and even then it is reserved for birthdays and celebrations.  But when we do I am always thinking I could have made it myself much cheaper.  Unless you have it delivered I don't think it saves much time either, by the time you've gone to pick it up and queued and waited - I could have rustled something up at home.

Anyway tonight I thought I would do my own takeaway - not that healthy but I did use wholemeal flour and serve with a salad.  I did both a pizza and garlic bread.  It is so easy and tastes much better than anything you buy in the shops.  It is also something you can prepare in advance, cling and put in the fridge until later.  Dough freezes very well so this can be done whenever I have time, then taken out the night before. The whole thing including salad came to £3.30ish which will feel 4 of us.  Not too bad.  I used a tin of tuna which claims to be dolphin friendly and is caught by pole not net.

Strong Wholemeal Flour       25p
oil                                       5p
salt                                      1p
sugar                                   5p
yeast                                    5p
Tuna                                    1.00
Passata                                 10p
Basil                                     10p
Sweet corn                           20p
Peppers                                16p
Cheese                                 50p

butter                                  20p
Garlic                                  15p

Tomatoes                             23p
Spring onions                       25p
 Lettuce                               10p
Cucumber                            12p = £3.30 (ish)

I cooked the whole lot in my mini oven for about half an hour.  I have no idea how much this costs me - I really should - but a shop bought Pizza would still need cooking. 

Just a couple of heads up - from October 13th  guardian article Aldi will be taking credit cards.  This is great news for those of us who use cashback credit cards for groceries (always paid off in full).  Also any Amex CC customers there is £15 off £40 spend at Morrisons (online delivery only), go to your account and look under offers. 

Weather is still fab up north.  I was too warm last night and it was apparently 19 degrees today, with glorious sunshine and just enough breeze to dry the washing.  Its looking good for the rest of the week - can't believe it is first day of October tomorrow.  Have a great evening folks.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Beef Pie, Fruit Cake and Old Maps

We don't eat a lot of beef, but if I find it on a yellow sticker I will buy it.  So we had slow cooker beef brisket for Sunday Dinner and today I made a beef and potato pie from the left overs.  The beef joint cost me £5, I can't remember how much it weighed but there was enough for a big Sunday dinner, a pie and a bit for the freezer (not sure what I will do with that yet).  So I think it was fairly good value for money.

As well as the potatoes I added half an onion and a blob of mustard to the gravy mix.

I always blind bake the pastry first because my cooking skills are not good enough to guarantee a non soggy bottom. 
Served with peas, sweetcorn and carrots.  There was a lot of nom-nom-noms whilst everyone was eating.

I also made a fruit cake.  This was done using Frugal Queen's boiled fruit cake recipe, which I think is originally from Mary Berry.  I have to admit in my 41 years I have never made a fruit cake.  I always thought it looked a bit faffy and time consuming.  But I really enjoyed making this and Dh's face lit up when he saw it.

I cut 14 good size pieces from the cake, they will be put into the freezer to go into lunch boxes throughout the week. I always do this with cake because if it is frozen it stops me from eating it when I get the 3pm munchies.

The rest of my day was taken up with OU.  It arrived last week and though I have had a flick through it, with a horrible cold I lost all enthusiasm for anything.  So today, feeling much better I got cracking.  I was a little put off by the first part which was studying 16th Century maps :o[...but as I started to read it actually became quite interesting.  Apparently historians can tell a lot from an old map.  The first explorers did not only set out to establish territory and trade routes but map making in itself was highly prized and valued.  We feel we know everything now, but can you imagine what it must have been like sailing into the unknown and discovering new, strange places.  It must have been exciting and terrifying at the same time.  

Anyway, have a lovely evening whatever you are doing.  I will be having an early night with Simon Schama.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday budget update week 3

 I know its probably not that interesting for people reading, but I'm finding it very helpful to do a week by week budget. Normally I work in months, but weekly accounting is definitely the way forward for me.  This current budget is only until 1st December as I save for Christmas. 

Not too bad this week but it has been a bit tight - I'm starting to wonder whether my budget is unrealistic.  But will keep going....

Week 3

Groceries            £64.65/£65
Under budget.  But only just.  Have struggled a bit, I think its the little top up shops that have really added up quickly.  I'm wondering whether this budget needs to be a little higher.

Petrol                  £15/£15
In budget just.  Red light has come on so I will need to put more petrol in today.  

Misc stuff            £19/ £20
Birthday presents for my brother + socks for both children

Christmas   £15
Total Christmas fund  £40

Plan of action for next week:
1) Do more baking.  Cakes/bread
2) Use up some of the meals in the freezer
3) Try to limit the amount of extra shops by getting most of what I need in one go
4) Do one walk to Aldi (leave car at home)
5) 3 no spending days.  
6) Buy nothing but groceries and petrol

Had a bit of an unexpected windfall yesterday thanks to a very generous relative - once the cheque has cleared I will transfer it over to the mortgage account.  Whilst my siblings were planning holidays and new stuff, I was calculating how much interest it will save me if I overpay on my mortgage (it's quite an eye opener) MSE mortgage calculator.  It's not that I am right and they are wrong, we all have our choices and different priorities.  My priority at the moment is paying my mortgage off early so I can help my daughter with her education, and hopefully DH can retire early.  I had a very interesting conversation last night which made me realise how late some people leave it to plan for their future.  I am always thinking ahead and couldn't sleep at night not having some idea of how we will support ourselves in old age.  Our plan may not be perfect and it may change with our circumstances, but at least it's a plan of some sort.  

..anyway, have a lovely Sunday whatever you are doing. 


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Old Codger's Survival Kit

It's my big brother's birthday today and he's 50! My lovely sister in law has organised a surprise party for him tonight, I can't wait, we do have a laugh when we all get together.  My big bro does like a party.

We don't normally buy each other gifts because quite frankly I wouldn't have a clue what to buy him and I am sure he he's glad he doesn't have to bother with me...but I thought I would make an exception this year as half a century is worth celebrating. Bearing in mind he has a very good sense of humour I thought I would make him a 'Old Codger's Survival kit'.  I decorated a shoe box with paper I already had, photocopied some childhood pictures and pasted them on.

Pipe £1 £shop
Slippers £3 Primark
Worthers Originals 89p Homebargains
Medication organiser 79 Homebargains
Extra thick bifocals £2 Joke shop in the market
Magnifying Glass £1.19 Homebargains

I haven't spent a fortune and it will give him a giggle (hopefully). 

Have a lovely evening whatever you guys are doing.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A bit of 70's kitsch

Has anyone noticed how trendy 70's decor is at the moment?  My kitchen is very plain black and white.  We deliberately fitted a plain kitchen so we can change the decor with accessories as and when our tastes change.  I have been looking for 70's kitsch to jazz up the plainness for some time.  Over the summer I have kept my eyes peeled at car boot sales and charity shops, waiting for just the thing that is shouting out for a new home.

Here's what I bought last weekend

These were £4 from PDSA.  I wish there were 4 in the set but unfortunately just 3, I couldn't leave without them because they reminded me of the wallpaper in our kitchen when we were growing up in the 70's - it was a nostalgia purchase.  I loved the yellow colour, it really stands out against the black tiles and black shelf they go on.  Underneath it says 'Tams Pottery', will keep my eyes peeled for more to match (or perhaps clash).

I also bought this.  I have seen these many times before in antique/vintage shops but couldn't afford the price tag.  Saw this in Sue Rider (£5) and snapped it up.  It is Hornsea Pottery and again reminds me of my childhood, I am sure my Grandma had one.  If only we had kept some of her things!  Who knew it would all come back into fashion?

I'm going to look out for more of these at the right price, I'd like a full set! It adds chatacter to  my modern, souless kitchen.

Have a great Saturday and don't forget to tell me about your charity shop bargains.

12 Weeks Until Advent!

Normally this time of year I am starting to slowly plan for Christmas.  I make lists start buying a few bits and bobs as and when I see something cheap. I start saving points and vouchers, a cupboard in the kitchen is cleared to start gathering bargains.  This year I am going to try a different tac.

I am not going to buy a single thing (other than food and petrol) for 12 weeks.  I won't even think about Christmas until the 1st of December.  In the meantime I am going to put away £15 a week (£180 Christmas fund).  This will buy all presents and extra food and drinks.

The reason I am doing this is to reduce the amount of stuff I actually buy for the Christmas festivities.  Buying little and often can sometimes mean I collect far too much stuff.  By having a single pot of money - when it's gone it's gone - I think will help reign in over consumerism.

So here's my budge for the next 12 weeks

Food and groceries £65 (PW) £280 (PM)
Petrol £15 (PW) £65 (PM)
Any other unforseen essentials (ie prescriptions, school trips) £20

= £365 (PM)

The kids have been fully kitted out and shouldn't need anything for awhile.  The only thing that will throw a spanner in the works is if the car lets us down or we need urgent house repairs.  I will post my expenses update every Monday to keep a track and to keep myself focused.

Anyone else thinking about Christmas? How do you budget for it?

Creepy potatoes and the easiest soup ever

You may remember that I bought a huge bag of spuds (16p a kilo) and was determined to get through them one way or another.  Well my freezer is full of mashed potato, and now the last few spuds are looking a bit...well...ropey.  They are still firm but looking a bit alien-esque.

Am I the only one who thinks there is something really creepy about sprouting potatoes? It's like they are growing legs...shudder

So I thought I would finally get them used up by making a big vat of Leek and Potato soup.  When I am home alone during the week I tend to use up left overs or make soup out of whatever I have in the fridge.  I also like to have some individual portions in the freezer which I can just grab and microwave when I am lazy busy.

4 generous servings

1.5 lb of potatoes                                                                                     11p
2 Leeks                                                                                                  50p
1 pt chicken stock                                                                                   free
2 teaspoons of Thyme (actually I didn't have thyme but would normally)       10p (guess)
A bit of salt                                                                                             1p (guess)
A bit of black pepper                                                                                1p (guess)
1 400 ml tin of evaperated milk                                                                  65p
                                                                                                         = £1.38

Chuck everything in the slow cooker (apart from milk) until potatoes are tender.  I put the potatoes in first and leeks on top.

I then blitz with a blender stick ( I roughly blend to leave it chunky).  Added evaporated milk, continued to heat for a few minutes on high.  Tasted and added extra salt and pepper. You can't see on the pic but it is still very thick and chunky.

I then freeze into portions.

This makes 4 generous servings of soup which at approximately 18p a portion, plus a slice of bread. It took about 4 hours in the slow cooker which is roughly 10p.  So that makes 21p per serving.

Anyway - phew that's the last of the spuds.  Hooray!

Thanks for the comments yesterday, I love reading them.  I did chuckle about the slugs.