Time to get back on the horse…

It’s been quiet here  on the blogging because there was nothing much to write about. Slacked off, didn’t keep to a budget, now I’m looking at going on holiday later in the year and realising there’s no way I’ll afford it unless the belt goes in a few notches, so I’m aiming for another £3 a day month for May. I’ve kept to my resolution of no alcohol for the year, so that’ll help a bit, even if the price of soft drinks in pubs is a shocking rip off. It’s not tempting to drink to more than a pint of j2o, especially since it now tastes of artificial sweeteners.

I’ve been enjoying some of the fruits of spring this month, with my first taste of unprocessed goosegrass/cleavers/many more country soubriquets, also known as galium aparine if you want the fancy latin name. This is a bit unpleasant texture-wise to eat raw, but the taste is mild, reminding me somewhat of lettuce. It has a long history of use as a spring tonic, and it grows abundantly on wasteland, in parks, friends’ gardens (not by their wishes!). I only have a couple of sprigs in my own garden but they disappeared into a smoothie today and I’ll pop over to the local park tomorrow and see if there are some in a not-too-dog-accessible spot!

Also on the menu for the first time – allium triquetrum, or three-cornered leek/wild garlic (although many other things are also known as wild garlic).

I look forward to getting down to some serious foraging and developing a few recipes with the results.

 

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£59.73

…is the total I spent this month. Big spends were my £5 haircut, a screwdriver and the top up money on a meal out at Pizza Express where most of the bill was covered by Tesco clubcard vouchers. Most of the rest of my money went on food, despite my resolve to finish off the cupboards.

Bulk purchases of onions, chickpeas and lentils made in December have come good this month and been switched-up with five-spice, curry powder and different cooking techniques. I have been missing ingredients that would usually be in my cupboards though, and have had a running wish list, which goes something like this:

  • Lemons
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • Cumin seeds
  • Bouillon powder (probably rely on this too much but it’s so handy!)
  • Frozen peas
  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds
  • Hot sauce (although one of my intended projects was a diy one – anyone got a good recipe?)
  • Rice noodles
  • Cooking oil (ran out halfway through the month, and am down to last dribble of olive)
  • Wholemeal bread flour
  • Sugar
  • Leafy greens

So that’s my shopping list for tomorrow, plus laundry stuff.

January was successfully kept dry, though I did put a slug of vanilla essence into something early on without thinking about the spirit base. It’s really not been too bad a month, but a bit boring! Thinking about ways to make future ones better, I might try a mandatory activities budget combined with a no food except fruit and veg rule, because I’ve still got oodles of chickpeas, lentils, tinned chestnut purée and other bits and bobs, and the frozen fruit is holding strong. The apples have been wonderful in smoothies!

I was planning on finishing the month with a trip to the new Healthy Planet free bookshop recently arrived on Leicester High Street opposite the lower entrance to the Highcross Centre. It’s a lovely idea for saving books from landfill. Unfortunately they were closed when I got there this afternoon, so it’ll have to be a post for another day.


Jan62 day 26 – five days and less than a fiver left

A friend was shooting a video for one of her songs yesterday and asked for volunteer “crowd” so B and I drove to the shoot (mildly exciting!). On the way back we were passing Aldi and dropped in to see if they had any flaked almonds. Unfortunately, they seemed to be out of almonds completely, flaked or otherwise, as they were last time I visited in December, but I did manage to pick up a kilo bag of oats for 75p.

bag of porridge oats

I wanted to see if my oat and coconut flour pastry would work in savoury format but had been low on oats, so it was good to get more to play with. I tried the pastry with a ratio of 2:1 oats and coconut, plus a splash of olive oil, pinch of salt and water to bind. I made a simple red onion and chickpea flour quiche-type filling. Seemed to work okay, though the coconut flavour is a little unexpected in a spiceless savoury dish.

You may be wondering what I’ve used to fasten up the bag of oats, although those of an urban-foraging disposition may already know. It’s a strip of bicycle tyre inner tube, tied to make a sturdy rubber band. I cadged loads of inner tubes from a local bike repair shop, and they were happy for me to take them as they were much punctured and repaired and would otherwise have been thrown away. Once I’d brought these home I cut them across once to make a tube, then slit the tubes end-to-end. I popped the tubes into the washing machine on wool cycle and they came out nice and clean, ready to be used for craft and DIY projects! They’re a perfect free sub for rubber bands as you can make them almost any length and they’re much less likely to perish.


Jan62 – day thirteen

Remember I got given a monster pumpkin way back in October (as well as a very large one)? Well, I finally hacked it open over the weekend. I got three 600ml boxes of chunks into the freezer for soups or smoothies, made two different large quantities of curry (coconutty and tomato-y), and roasted two panfuls of chunks to make pumpkin puree, some of which I then used to make pumpkin pie.
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EDIT: it’s a few hours later and I just used the last big slice of pumpkin in place of carrots to make a huge tub of coleslaw. Works really well! And then I ate a bowlful of coleslaw, at 11.40pm, because I am wild and fearless. Oh yes.

Haha, I bet you thought all the bloggers had stopped posting pumpkin-related stuff! What can I tell you? I’m either behnd the times or exceptionally forward-thinking!

For the pie, I used my favourite press-in almond pie crust from the Post-Punk Kitchen website, with oat flour (which I had to up to a cup and a half even without adding milk – think I maybe mismeasured the oil! Still worked though) as I’m totally out of plain wheat flour now. For the filling, I went with Dreena Burton’s soy free, vegan pie because I had nearly all the ingredients and because most of the comments are so positive. And deservedly so! I had to make one or two tweaks, but I’m very pleased with the ease and taste of this pie. I wasn’t sure if my pumpkin would be wetter than commercial stuff, so I used 2 cups (a 15oz can apparently is 1 3/4 cups) and didn’t bother to add the milk. I used sugar instead of maple syrup and instead of arrowroot and vanilla I used 3 tablespoons of custard powder (I like my custard-pies on the rubbery side, as opposed to sloppy. I think 1-2 tablespoons would probably have been adequate). I also added some zest from the lemon – since I paid more for unwaxed it seemed a shame to waste it. This recipe made 2 small pies and 8 bite-sized ones, so should provide teatime treats for several days!

On the money front, I’m not doing so well. I haven’t broken the budget but I’ve got a lean week ahead. I had to buy some DIY tools unexpectedly, and I finally got so fed up with my hair that I took a step I’ve been meaning to for ages and had it drastically shortened by a barber.

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This is obviously not how I wore it to work today! I did have a lot of fun playing with borrowed styling products over the weekend though! The cut only cost £5 (plus tip), at the cheapest place I’ve seen in Leicester, at the top of Welford Road. The guy obviously doesn’t get many, if any, women in there, and seemed a bit nervous about cutting my hair but was fine after I assured him I wanted it short and showed him pictures of men whose hair I thought was the right length.

Also, I went out for pizza. Even though I had vouchers, we ordered over the value of those.

So, although I should only be up to a maximum of £26 out of the total £62 by day 13, I only have £20.32 to last me for the rest of the month. What the heck, I don’t care! It makes the rest of the month even more of a fun challenge, right?


Jan62 – day six

Ate my packed lunch by 11am (to be fair it was only a smallish bread roll with peanut butter because I was short on time and inspiration this morning), so I bought some blueberry soya yoghurt from Green and Pleasant on Queens Road before I went to my afternoon job. £1.90 for 400g which I felt was rather steep, but it did taste good and wasn’t a bag of chips, which is what I was tempted to get.

I also bought a Big Issue from my usual vendor, who I was surprised to see there as it’s not her usual pitch, but she said this one is better so I was pleased for her, and for me that the cover price has gone back to £2.50 after the hike to £3 over the holiday period.

£4.40 spend today, added to £3.51 comes to £7.91 (goal for day six is a max of £12), so I feel like I’m doing okay so far.


January 62 (someone help me come up with a better title!)

Totay I spent money for the first time this year.

A downside to these spending challenges has been a temptation to loll around the house as I don’t like going for a walk for the sake of it. If I’m not going to work, visiting friends, visiting a gallery, cinema, pub, etc. or going shopping I’m not motivated to just go for a stroll. Thus I justified a trip into town to spend money on food when it wasn’t strictly necessary for meals, on the grounds that it was necessary for exercise and for seeing another living soul.

Had a lovely chat with people in Currant Affairs and bought a tin of tomatoes (76p) and a packet of sesame seeds (£1.75). Then I went to the market and got five pointy peppers for £1. Total spend for the month now £3.51 out of a maximum target of £8 for day 4 of this month’s challenge.

I’m already planning to go back up to £100 for February as it’s the comedy festival here in Leicester and I’d like to see a few shows. I’m also going to take forward anything I don’t spend this month, plus the leftover money from the last two challenges.


it’s all over! (for now, anyway…)

So, how did I enjoy my first day of unfettered spending in two months, I hear you ask? Well, I liked it very much!

The day began with a final weigh-in for the 20lb challenge I’ve been taking part in, and I was relieved to see I was still okay, and will not have to pay £100 forfeit.

I also received a lovely surprise Advent House from B yesterday, and he brought it over this morning. Apologies for the terrible picture quality, but hopefully you can still make out how cute this is!

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Perhaps you can see a hint of gold on the left? It’s a chocolate egg filled with fondant that wouldn’t fit in the day 1 cubbyhole!

Then we headed off to Oadby for some grocery shopping. I had earmarked some chocolate-hazelnut spread in Asda as a potential post-challenge treat on my previous visit, so we headed there first. I picked up some mushrooms and peppers (more expensive veg by weight so I haven’t bought in a while, apart from the bargain bowl of peppers from the market) and then made a beeline for the allergy section and popped a jar of spread in my basket. Then I put it back on the shelf. I do still have chocolate-christmas-pudding-with-nuts to eat and actually the thought of eating that spread just didn’t appeal for some reason after all.

After Asda we went to Waitrose, where as luck would have it they were reducing the price on loads of lovely veg! I got organic potatoes, carrots, a big coriander plant, broccoli and ginger, as well as some baked beans and a loaf of bread, spending just over ten pounds in total. I also picked up a membership card and got given a free newspaper as I’d spent over five pounds. The membership cards will also get you free coffee in their coffee shops, so it’s worth getting one if you have a store nearby.

Then we went to Shivalli (South Indian vegetarian restaurant) for the Sunday buffet and I got my deep fried food! I was hoping they would have the spicy gram-flour coated chips they sometimes make, but it was not to be, however the lentil doughnuts, battered aubergines, dosas and puris, with chickpea, potato and spinach curries were all excellent, though we found we couldn’t cram as much in as we used to be able to pre-diet.

We went back to B’s to decorate his Christmas tree, then had a quick look round the Queens Road Christmas Fair, which seemed to be buzzing. I came home and made vegetables in a nutty, garlicky sauce and mustard mashed potatoes for dinner, and am now comfortably full.

People commented yesterday that they’d be interested in a round-up from my challenges, and any tips. I’m not sure I have anything really to add to what I’ve mentioned going along, though. Although it’s not always been enjoyable it’s been useful to limit my spending like this to force me to use up my cupboards, limit food waste and make me appreciate and get creative with what I have. This isn’t the first spending challenge I’ve undertaken (I went over the limit with the first one as the timing was terrible! It was during a month I was at the Edinburgh Festival), but it’s been the most necessary one in terms of my finances, and I think that gave me extra motivation, and committing myself to blogging regularly helped too, because if there was something a bit extravagant in the shops the thought of having to justify the purchase in writing was an excellent check!

Edited to add: one thing I didn’t mention explicitly before, although it’s probably obvious from the first picture for each month, is that I withdrew all the money for the month at the beginning. I put most of it in a wallet which I wrote the name of the challenge on, and tried to keep fairly close to the daily maximum spend in my everyday wallet. I found this helpful as I didn’t have to keep going to the bank or using my debit card, both of which might have tempted me to get out and spend more money.


November ninety – day twenty-nine

Had quite a nice morning at work, particularly as I’d said I would help someone with some poster art and they seemed very pleased with what I produced. There’s always a bit more of a relaxed feel to Fridays as well.

I was worried it would chuck down with rain just after leaving work, but apart from a few spots of rain the sky just decided to brood.

I had finished the whole pack of crispbreads I bought yesterday by the middle of this morning, so popped over to Currant Affairs to get another. Hopefully this one will see me through until Sunday. After leaving the shop I cut through to St Martin’s Square, passing some unusual foliage in planters by the outside seating area of Mrs Bridges Tearooms. My phone-cam doesn’t really do them justice but they were such a bright lilac I wondered if they’d been sprayed! Closer inspection seemed to prove the colour natural though, and it wasn’t from flowers, it’s the colour of the leaves themselves. Anyone know what they are?
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That’s £1.20 spent today, and I’m probably going to leave it at that, it’s too cold and windy to walk anywhere this afternoon. Instead I’m huddled up reading free e-books from Project Gutenberg. The Leicester libraries service recently launched free e-magazines and I haven’t really checked them out properly yet, so I might take a gander at those later.

Total spend for the month is now £82.72.


November ninety – day twenty-eight

I get paid once a month, and today is payday. Usually I buy myself something small as a payday treat. Maybe have lunch out, or buy something small but not entirely necessary. But not today. It’s very unusual to look at the calendar and realise it’s payday and have that make no particular difference to the day (though actually I did then go and check it’d gone in at the bank, so I suppose it did affect my day a bit after all!).

I’m in the UK, so obviously I’m not celebrating Thanksgiving, but since so many people I intereact with online are in the USA or Canada (who I believe had their Thanksgiving about five weeks ago?) I’ve been thinking about the things I have to be thankful for. These challenges have been super helpful for making me appreciate having enough. I may not be rich, but I still have the opportunity and ability to work for pay, I have friends and parents who would help me out if I were really in need, I live in a city where there’s quite a lot of stuff going on that it’s possible to participate in even on a slim-to-none budget. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to eat a relatively healthy diet even on a budget, in great part because of other people’s generosity with their autumn harvests, as well as the good amount of choice available at the market, local supermarkets and greengrocers all within walking distance.

I’m also very relieved that my scales have swung the other way this morning. If I don’t weigh in at 20lb lighter on Sunday than I was on 9th June, I have to pay £100 forfeit as part of a weight-loss challenge. I was bang on target until a few days ago, then suddenly put on 3 lb with less than a week to go. Thankfully it was just a temporary blip and I was back on target this morning, but I’m not taking any chances, it’s all tofu, rye crispbreads and tinned tomatoes (livened up with dried herbs and other low-fat condiments) until Sunday. Okay, well I did have a tiny morsel of Christmas pudding in some porridge this morning, but just a mere hint to give it some interest!

Tofu £1.30, Finn Crisp £1.20 and two tins of Suma tomatoes at 76p each means I spent £4.02 today. I’ve had 2/3 of the tofu and crispbreads but only half a tin of tomatoes so far. £81.52 total spend for the month up to now, target max for day 28 is £84. Unless something unexpected happens in the next two days it looks like I’m going to make it! 🙂


November ninety – day twenty-seven

Leicester Adult Education College was having one of their regular craft sales today (they seem to hold them once or twice a year), where they sell items which students have created during classes but not wanted to take away themselves for whatever reason. As you can imagine, the quality varies widely but it’s worth having a look, especially if you only work five minutes away!

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At the last sale I was very taken with the work of one particular student as it had a lot of quirky charm, but unfortunately I hadn’t taken much cash with me. I still managed to procure a woodland themed planter, i.e. a plant-pot-holder in the shape of a tree trunk with various creatures (one of them apparently a very large squirrel) disporting themselves upon or nearby said trunk.

This time there wasn’t anything quite as eccentric, which is probably just as well for my budget, and I just spent a fiver on some festive decorations, not pictured in case I decide to give them to someone who also happens to read this blog! (I have asked most people for a present truce, but I’m not sure everyone will comply).

So, spend today £5, taking month’s spend to £77.50 out of a target of up to £81 for day 27.