November ninety – day one

New month, new challenge.

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See my fantastic photo editing skills there? I didn’t manage to get to a bank before the new challenge, but you’d never know if I hadn’t confessed, right?

November should hopefully be an interesting month where I make a start on creating some gifts for the coming holiday season and as thank-yous to people who have been helping me out so far, pay for my dental check-up and the occasional treat, buy fresh produce as needed, but otherwise continue to live off the contents of my cupboards. I’ve got about two kilos of split peas to get through that I’ve been putting off making a start on as I’m not a massive fan and am not quite sure why I bought that many! Maybe they were on sale? There’s also a modest variety of the cheaper types of nuts, a few chickpeas, a few odd cans of stuff, plenty of dried herbs and spices, and I still have quite a few onions (10 kilos is a lot of onions for one person to get through, even if some are given away), plus the massive pumpkin I was given last month.

Since November has thirty days, I’m making it easier to keep track of how much my daily spend should be by knocking the total down to £90. Today I could have spent £3, but am still at zero so far! There may be birthday drinks for a friend tomorrow though, and I’m probably going to chip in for a present too, unless I can think of a good gift I could make for him (unlikely, as I’ll be at work some of the day tomorrow). I don’t think the friend reads this blog, but situations like this are a bit awkward, I’ve always been taught that you don’t discuss the cost of gifts. Maybe I’ll not mention how much I spend on any presents, but at the end of the month will deduct “miscellaneous spending”. Yeah, that’ll do the job.

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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!
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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!


£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).
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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?…


£100 challenge – day twenty-two

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

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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!

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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!


Spicy squash stew (£100 challenge, day twenty)

Finally got up the courage to hack open the pumpkin my mum gave me last weekend. Anything that big is daunting, not only because I worry about being able to use or process it before it goes bad, but things with thick skin requiring removal always seem to lead to minor injury for me. This time was no exception; I thought I was being careful and still managed to peel my thumb a bit along with the pumpkin! Oh well, it doesn’t hurt at the moment so is nothing serious.

With the last of the lentils, around 1/6 of the pumpkin and one of the remaining courgettes (so this has both summer and winter squashes in it), along with another of the red chillies given to me, I made a super warming autumnal stew.

white bowl half full of mostly orange-tone stew, garnished with fresh green coriander, on a blue tablecloth

I’m not sure the recipe is going to be much use to people who like measurements, but here goes anyway!

Spicy squash stew

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 tin tomatoes

1 red chilli

1 big clove of garlic

dried red lentils – maybe 2/3 cup?

a medium-large courgette

about 1/6 of a medium pumpkin

Seasoning to taste – I used a couple of spoonfuls of Marigold bouillon powder

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

Method:

Heat oil in medium-large saucepan, fry cumin seeds for a minute, add onion and lower heat, sweat them until softened. While that’s happening put tomatoes, chilli and garlic in blender and whizz until smooth. Add to saucepan. Fill tomato can with water then pour that into blender so as not to waste any of the spicy tomato goodness. Briefly turn blender on, then pour liquid into saucepan. Add lentils, turn up heat until bubbling then down to simmer. Start chopping up the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces after taking the skin off (hopefully of the pumpkin, not yourself!). Add them and whatever seasonings such as salt and pepper, stock cube, etc. you are using. Chop the courgette into bite sized pieces and add that too. Simmer until everything is cooked (probably about 12-15 more minutes) and serve garnished with fresh coriander.

I enjoyed this very much, it’s light yet filling. I had planned to have a sandwich on the side but didn’t need one in the end. There are probably about 3-4 servings left in the saucepan as well.

Now I just need to think of what to do with the remaining pumpkin. If anyone has any suggestions or recipes please let me know!

pumpkin cut open to show seeds


£100 challenge – day nineteen

For free entertainment in a city I’d always look to museums first. In touristy places most of the museums seem to charge, but Leicester is pretty good for a wide variety of free-entry museums to go when you’re short on your dough (is that a misquote from somewhere? EDIT: hehe, it was Y.M.C.A., of course!). Today I was at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery; where they’ve just launched two new exhibitions.

The Leicester Society of Artists are holding their Annual Exhibition which had some really lovely stuff in it. There were some very pretty landscapes, some great surreal stuff, some well executed snow-theme pictures, and an amazing canvas of a couple of guys leaning against a wall. I don’t know how the artist had put so much life into them, it was almost uncanny!

Off the side of the Picasso ceramics gallery they’ve also just opened what I think is going to be a permanent exhibition dedicated to Ernest Gimson and the Arts and Crafts movement. I didn’t get to have a close look because there were quite a few people in there, but I saw some drawers which people were pulling out that appeared to have interesting bits and bobs inside, and they had some screens showing furniture making processes.

Then I came home and failed to make myself a nutritious lunch. Instead I ate Mornflake chocolatey squares (which I’d bought about 3 boxes of when they were on special offer for 99p), however I’m now  over at my boyfriend’s writing this on his laptop (the relief of being actually able to type, rather than having to peck it out on a temperamental touch screen is immense) while he is preparing brussels sprouts and “I’m not going to tell you” surprise for our tea. Luxury! Mystery! Suspense! It’s a good weekend so far. 🙂