Happy Halloween, and end of the £100 challenge!

I made it in under £100. Hoorah, and so forth.

Although I bought two bags of Starburst sweets earlier in the month in preparation for Halloween, I do like to give trick or treaters a choice, so just popped to the market earlier today to get some clementines (or possibly they are something else. Small orangey-type things, anyway). The best deal I found was twenty small fruits for a pound, which I got, brought home and put in a nice trashy plastic purple bowl. That brings my final total for the month to £89.02.

I suppose a brief round-up is in order. My cupboards are looking a bit barer than they did at the start of the month, but truthfully it hasn’t been that hard so far. Several people have done much more severe/interesting challenges and written them up, a notable example being Kath Kelly’s How I lived a year on just a pound a day. I’m not ready for a challenge that long and difficult, but I will take on another challenge next month to try to complete the cupboard clear-out that has begun. Call it an Autumn Clean!

Sorry if this has been a bit of a boring read. If I were writing this blog in order to get lots of hits and score a book deal I’d try to have some exciting no-money adventures, maybe crashing some weddings or trying to fare-dodge to interesting places, however the main reason I’ve been keeping track on here is because it keeps me accountable. I’ve found it much easier to resist the temptation of buying things I don’t really need if I know I’d have to write it down for the world to see, so thank you to everyone who has read, liked and commented so far, and I hope you will join me for the November Ninety challenge!

Happy Halloween from me and the small orangey-type things!

Nearly there… £100 challenge – day thirty

At the start of the day I was feeling pretty smug about where my spend for the month was. At £68.79, I had over £30 left. I planned to buy some cabbage and garlic and that would hopefully still leave me with over £30, and when I was on my way to the extra work I was doing this afternoon I found these hearty-looking specimens.

savoy cabbages

They also had tangerines which I really fancied, so I got one of those for 15p, taking total spend up to £69.62. Still fine. Then I passed a second-hand furniture and junk shop.

For ages I’ve been looking out for second-hand bookshelves. At the moment there are books piled up by the stair-rails because there isn’t a proper place to put them, so when I spotted a small set of bookshelves which looked a good fit of course I asked the shop owner how much they were and when he said £8 then of course I had to buy them.

That meant I wasn’t going to be carrying a nice lump sum of thirty pounds over, and since I was luckily getting a lift after work we decided to go shopping and I spent a further £10.40 on various things I was low on, such as loo roll, peanut butter, crispbreads, garlic, and treated myself to some potatoes. It’s definitely potato weather!

So, with only tomorrow left of this month’s challenge, my total is now at £88.02. Don’t think I’ll be getting that toaster oven after all, stove-top cooking will be fine for a while, I’m sure.

£100 challenge – days 28 and 29

Yesterday I finally bought those tissues, so the month’s spend is now at £68.79.

square tissue box with rainbow-striped crocheted cover


It would have been more if I’d seen any greens at rhe right price. I keep looking for cabbage, but nowhere I looked was selling any. Does cabbage go out of season? 

Meals have been very pumpkin/onion/chickpea-centred. Apart from a small amount of pumpkin pie leftover filling, I’m actually finished with that medium pumpkin as of this evening! I must find a costume for the big one and put it in the front window (thinking silver wig, googly eyes…). Dressing up rather than carving is because I want to eat this pumpkin, but not yet! Also, I’ve been offering shares to people, and they probably won’t want a slice of pumpkin with a face cut out of it!

cooking chickpeas cheaply (£100 challenge, day 27)

Wow, it is windy out! I meant to go shopping today for some form of cabbagey thing as I’m total out of green veg,  but I’m really not liking the way the trees are thrashing around!

While I’ve been watching the weather I’ve been cooking up a batch of chickpeas that had been soaking overnight. However, having been recently reminded that it is possible to cook pasta by bringing it to the boil and then turning off the heat and just leaving for about the same cooking time you’d normally give, I wondered if the same thing was possible with chickpeas. So, I brought them to the boil and let them bubble at that temperature for a couple of minutes, then turned off the heat, put the lid on and went to do something else for 40 minutes. The result is firm, but definitely cooked chickpeas. I’ve had undercooked chickpeas before, but these are cooked through, just pleasantly al dente. Result!

(This is a very good batch of chickpeas though. I think results might vary according to how big or old they are. Also, you shouldn’t do this with kidney beans, they need boiling for ten minutes at least for safety.)

I fried up an onion with some cumin seeds, added some of the chickpeas and most of a tin of tomatoes and some bouillon powder. While that was heating through, I blended the last of the roasted medium-sized pumpkin (since I think I did that last Sunday, so it definitely needed using up!) with a red chilli pepper, seeds included, and a bit of water and poured the resultant puree into the pan to make a vibrant orange-coloured sauce. Pretty nice, though a squeeze of lemon might have been a good addition. This was garnished with a few surviving leaves of the reduced-price coriander plants I bought about 9 days ago.


£100 challenge – day twenty-six

Big, exciting news, everyone! Are you ready?….. wait for it….

I finally cracked open one of the four Christmas puddings that have been sitting in my cupboard since January!

And the crowd goes wild! They didn’t expect that!

Yeah, sorry, my life is pretty boring at the moment. Instead of steaming the whole thing for hours when there’s no way I can get through 400+ grams of pudding in one go, and the packaging says not to reheat it, I just cut a couple of slices, lightly oiled my cast iron frying pan and put them on a medium heat for a few minutes each side. Sure, they were a bit chewier than Christmas pudding generally is, but I just drowned them in sauce (which included leftover chestnut and leftover pumpkin pie filling). Yum yum.

No spending again today. I’m still on £67.79 at the moment, but my oven has gone peculiar in the last few days, taking a very long time to come up to anything near baking temperature. I’ve been wanting a toaster/mini oven for years, especially just to heat a beanburger or two – obviously turning on a full size oven to do that is pretty wasteful. Now I’m thinking that if I carry over £30 to next month that can go towards something halfway decent – I’ve seen some “rotisserie” mini ovens around fifty quid, but they also come with shelves, and have a grill/broiler function, which I don’t currently have in my oven even when it’s working properly. It’d be nice to have the ability to brown the tops of things!

So, say I get the mini oven. That’s £20 from next month’s £90 straight away. Another £22ish for the dentist leaves me with £48. I also really want to go to another gig, which is going to be another £12ish. There are also Christmas fairs I’ve said I’m going to. My mother has pointed out to me (and this had genuinely escaped my attention!) that I’ll probably want to buy Christmas presents at these fairs. Even if there’s only a tenner’s worth of stuff from a fair that leaves less than £30 for food, and cupboards are noticeably emptier now, though I do still have a lot of gluten-free flour I bought to experiment with, pumpkin, squash and onions. Plus three and a bit Christmas puddings, of course.

Maybe I just cook everything on the stovetop for a while, eh?

Finally, here’s a leaf I found on my way into town some time back. I didn’t tamper with it, it was this shape when I spotted it. Pretty, huh?

heart shaped leaf

Pie! (£100 challenge – day 25)

The pie was pretty tasty! I used the same almond crust as the cherry-almond pie I made for MoFo, but just used whole almonds – if they’re going to get blended anyway there’s no real advantage to using slivered almonds unless those happen to be cheaper. The filling was also from the Post Punk Kitchen/Vegan Pie in the  Sky book, from the pumpkin cheesecake recipe, only I was out of a few ingredients. I had no bananas so left them out. I used about 1 2/3 cups of roasted pumpkin instead of canned, had no coconut oil so I just left that out and put an extra spoon of cornstarch in. I also had no lemons so I put a quarter teaspoon of citric acid and two tablespoons of water in. Oh, and I didn’t have any pecans, so I just left the nut topping off – the filling seemed pretty sweet already, plus it meant we got to see the marbling a bit better ( night-time photo doesn’t quite pick it up).

There was spare piecrust mix, so I popped that in a small oblong dish and topped it with my chestnut truffle recipe, only of course I used the last of my rum the previous time, but fortunately there was just over a tablespoon of brandy left.

Both desserts were really nice, although they didn’t have the several hours of fridge cooling they deserved, so weren’t as firm as they could have been.

For the main course, Rich made delicious panfuls of food. We had cabbage sabzi (not sure of the spelling!), braised kale and chestnuts, roasted butternut squash with whole roasted cloves of garlic, runner beans in tomato sauce, and onion gravy flavoured with juniper. A great meal with lovely people! 🙂

By today, I could be up to a spend of £80.64, but haven’t had to buy anything since Monday so I’m still on a total month’s spend of £67.79. Dare I go into town to buy tissues? Will I be able to just spend that pound or will I suddenly spot loads of things that seem like too good a bargain to pass up?…

Foraged fuchsia (£100 challenge, day 24)

I first learnt that fuchsias produce edible, and in fact fairly nice-tasting fruit from Alys Fowler’s book The Thrifty Forager, which was given to me as a leaving present in my last job ( the person who chose it remarked that it seemed just my sort of thing). Some plants seem to produce bigger or more obvious fruit than others, and fortunately there’s a good fruiter on my way home from work. Well, good is relative, but I usually manage to find 3-4 fruits every time I pass it around this time of year. Today’s crop was better though!

hand holding berries

Okay, so it’s all of 15 grams, but a nice, freshly-picked, free pre-lunch snack never goes amiss! If you’ve never tried them, I’d say the flavour is a bit similar to a mild-tasting grape, with a similar texture but with a thinner skin and much smaller, peppery-tasting pips. Worth trying, especially as fuchsias are pretty common. I did get permission to pick these ( they’re planted outside a church) from some rather bemused people who obviously had no idea why I’d want to, and it’s obvious not many people forage these, I often see the fruit splattered on the ground under other plants I’ve seen. Seems a waste. Not sure why the birds don’t nab them?

No money spent yet today. Going for dinner at friends’ later, and they’ve asked someone to bring pudding. Not sure if anyone else already replied, but if not I’m thinking of making some kind of pumpkin pie. I’ll take pics if it comes out any good!

£100 challenge – day twenty-three

First, here’s a picture of my empty tissue box, with the jaunty cover crocheted by my friend Cathleen. It was one of my favourite birthday presents back in July, and I took it to work to cheer up my desk space, a job it accomplishes admirably. You can see why I’m eager to restore it to its full tissue-spouting glory!

tissue box with rainbow striped cover

No money spent today so I’m in credit, and could rush out and spend £6.40 with a clear conscience in the next 43 minutes, or £9.63 tomorrow. This is good. I’m well on target, so even £1 for a square box of tissues from Superdrug, though I could get double the tissues for two-thirds the price by choosing a value brand in an oblong box, is a modest extravagance I’m prepared to meet.

Since I’m doing okay this month, but planning on cutting next months budget down, and since I’m making up my own rules, I now have to ask myself what happens if I end up over or under target. Do I start with a clean slate, or should any saving be rewarded by being able to roll over some or all of any underspend?

I do have a dental check-up due early next month, think that will come to £22.50, so it would be helpful to bring some over, but maybe less of a challenge?

£100 challenge – day twenty-two

Went to work, then went to some different work via this place –


New Walk, one of the prettiest places in central Leicester, especially at night. The following is a shot I took last night coming home in the drizzle, but whatever the weather New Walk is always beautiful. Obviously my phone-cam doesn’t remotely do it justice!


I’ve avoided spending any money today, although I’m running low on or completely out of some stuff I’d quite like to have. I ate the last of the rice noodles today with more of the pumpkin stew (with a few additions), I’ve been out of facial tissues for some time and I’m starting to run out of the other kind, too. I could do with some more tights, and I’d really like to get a portable economical heater, but I think that will be completely impossible this month. I’m worried that if I leave it until it gets cold they’ll become more difficult to procure or the price will go up. Probably fretting over nothing though.

It was the final of the Great British Bake Off tonight! I won’t give away who won, because I’ve had a couple of episodes spoilered before I could catch up and it was infuriating! However, I didn’t think it was too bad a result and the winner seemed so happy I was really pleased for her.

As usual, I’d made a little something to scoff while watching. My very basic chocolate cake, doctored up with some orange oil and preserved ginger. Did the job.

£100 challenge – day twenty-one

Yesterday we went to the gig I splashed out on earlier this month. The band was good, but the experience was a little marred by them having a guy tuning up the lead singer’s guitars just to the right of the stage, while the gig was going on. We were sitting quite near him and it was a pretty full house so we couldn’t move, and a lot of the songs were quite quiet.  We could hear his off-key twangs clearly, and it was difficult not to be distracted from the main performance. This doesn’t seem usual to me. Since when have performers not just tuned their instruments (if needed) between songs? Very strange.

Today it is raining and a bit windy. This afternoon I’ll be doing a stint of casual work, I’m using one of their computers to type this before I get started. It’s probably only a couple of miles from my morning job, maybe less, but it’s all slightly uphill and seeing as it was a bit of a horrible day I decided to get the bus. That set me back £2.40 for a single, which will mean about 20 minutes of my work here will pay for having not had to walk for 55 minutes. That seems fair enough to me, but it’s more than 2/3 of my daily allowance. I’m also a bit gutted I only bought a single, as I don’t think returns are much more, and I’ve just learned that I won’t be getting the lift home I was expecting.

I bought a half pint of wheat beer before the gig yesterday for £1.43, and with today’s bus fare that brings the total spend for this month to £67.79. That’s 5p over target, so not too bad!

Lunch was leftover squash stew and apple scones from the freezer, and there’s a scone left for an afternoon snack. It’s a small thing to look forward to, but it’s still a thing!