is how much I’ve spent so far this month.

Unfortunately that’s partly because I caught a sickness bug over the weekend, so haven’t eaten much and didn’t feel like going anywhere. I was also saving my money for a trip to London tomorrow, as I have a free ticket to the Grand Designs show which I thought might be interesting, I’d bought my coach tickets last month for a fiver each way plus booking fee, and I was planning on rounding up the day by going to the third anniversary of London Vegan Potluck, however I’m not sure if I’m still contagious or not so can’t risk preparing food for a load of people, and am not sure I’ll feel up to going anyway, as I had to leave work after 50 minutes this morning after trying to eat a ginger biscuit, which was a surprisingly bad idea.

Yesterday I did manage a brief stroll around Aylestone Hall and Gardens in the afternoon, as part of my quest to visit all the free attractions in Leicester. This is a very pleasant garden, with some beautiful flower beds and handsome trees.

It’s not a large park, and the noise from the busy road slightly mars the tranquil vibe but it’s worth a look if you happen to be in the area.

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.


Leicester Vegan Fair (November ninety, day 23)

I got up nice and early to be there for the start of the Leicester Vegan Fair, which was being held today at Friends Meeting House on Queens Road. It was a sunny morning and I appreciated not having to go to work for the first Saturday in what seems like a long time (I’ve just looked, and I’ve worked the past five, even if just for a couple of hours).

My reasons for getting in at the start were all entirely selfish. I wished to avoid the crowds (fairs tend to get really rammed around lunchtime, in my experience), swipe any limited supplies of hard-to-find goodies before they went, and bag myself (pun intended) a Morsbag full of freebies, as promised to the first 80 attendees. Done and done.

Even right at the beginning there were plenty of visitors, but it wasn’t too hard to navigate the main stall area.


And being amongst the first 80 arrivals, got some lovely goodies.


The bag contained a serving of Koko coconut drink (which is my favourite non-dairy milk for drinking!) and 30p voucher off next purchase, sour cherry Goody good stuff jelly sweets (not tried this flavour before), a nakd bar, some yogi tea, a sachet of Green People shampoo, some printed info about various products, and of course the bag itself! I do actually have quite a few reusable shopping bags, so I’ll probably offer it to someone next time I’m at a supermarket. Maybe they’ll get curious and check out Morsbags themselves.

I thought the fair had a good variety of stalls. There was a hall with a mix of local groups, charities and businesses as well as ones from further away. The local veg group were running a tombola with a prize every time. I bought two tickets for a pound each, the first won me a tasty energy drink, and the second won me one of the star prizes! A gift set of fruit cordials.


In another room there were food stalls, a sample table and acoustic music courtesy of local entertainers. I was impressed at the amount of different samples on offer, including chocolatey wafer sticks! I haven’t seen vegan ones before and used to love them! That’ll be something to keep an eye out once this challenge ends.



There were also free yoga sessions and talks, but I didn’t go to those. Overall, I was impressed with the amount of hard work that had obviously been put in by the organisers, and how well it paid off. Not only was it an opportunity to get my greedy mitts on things I wanted, and have a chat with a few people, but it was also nice to see the community spirit in action.

In total, I spent £8 on the tombola tickets, a recipe pamphlet and a couple of things which may or may not become presents. Not too bad, as I had up to £10.57 available without going into arrears today. Think I’ll treat myself to some more fresh veg tomorrow as I finished the last market pepper today.

Bargains at the market! (November ninety, day 15)

Halfway through the month!

Since I was in credit, and I really fancied some tofu and a looksee at the market to try for cheap bananas, I headed across town after the morning at work. I popped into the Chinese grocery next to the market for calcium-set tofu, £1.30 for 600g, then headed across the road towards the market.

One of the stalls regularly sells organic pointy sweet peppers a few for a pound, and today the bowls were extra large. True, some of them were slightly wizened, so I may have to process them fairly quickly and freeze some, but they’ll add interest to lots of meals!

red, yellow and orange peppers in a row

There’s a stall that sells sweets, crisps and snacks at knock-down prices and they had The Dormen mixed nuts (baked almonds, cashews, macadamias and pistachio nuts) in 130g foil bags, three bags for a pound! True, they were past the sell-by, so I bought a three bags and opened one. Seemed absolutely fine, so I bought another three bags, and will stick most of them in the freezer to be on the safe side. When I came home I checked the normal retail price and they seem to go for over two quid a bag, so I’m very pleased.

bowl containing bags of nuts

I also bought a savoy cabbage for 60p, and 20 clementines with leaves (showing freshness) for a pound, so that’s a total of £5.90, bringing the month’s spend to £44.17.

November ninety – day five

I cracked last night! Spend so far now at £4.45, because I was going a bit stir crazy not being able to get out of the house apart from work or other people’s houses.

B and I took a scrabble board to the Swan and Rushes pub, and I bought a bottle of Dunkerton’s Black Fox cider for £3.70 (I also ordered a pint of water alongside to make it last longer) and a grab-bag of Walkers ready-salted crisps at 75p. The latter was because I foolishly decided to go out before eating, and only realised how hungry I was once we were there.

scrabble game on wooden table

It’s a good wheeze to take games to the pub, though. Haven’t done that for ages. While I was winning at Scrabble (right up to the final word, where the tables suddenly turned. Grrr!) a group came along with folky instruments such as a squeezebox and tin whisle and a fiddle and started having a play. After a few instrumentals I asked if they could play something to sing along to. Being good sports, two of them launched into ‘cockles and mussels’, so it was a proper old fashioned pub sing-along for a few minutes.

Today I’ve finally opened up one of the butternut squashes, and made a sort of curry with some of that, some of the cabbage I still had left, in a sauce made from leftovers, the ever-present chickpeas, and a blob of peanut butter, served over some brown rice I’d found lurking in the freezer. Pretty good, as it turns out. I’m missing things like peppers and mushrooms but I’m still eating pretty well in spite of a dearth of the higher-priced veg.

£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. 🙂

£100 challenge – day five

Being a Saturday that I didn’t have to work, it was a temptation to just slouch around the house, however as it’s been intermittently cloudy and sunny it seemed a pity to waste any smidges of sunshine to be had outside, so my boyfriend picked me up in his car and we went on an adventure in glamorous Oadby!

When I say “adventure” what I actually mean is that we looked around a couple of charity shops and supermarkets. He’s on the £100 challenge too, apart from a weekend towards the end of the month that he’d already committed to weeks ago, so I was impressed with his reckless spending of £7.50 for a jacket from the Loros shop. And he bought some beer!

I wasn’t immune to the lure of consumerism either. I got a jar of pimento-stuffed olives from the Co-op. The shelf price was £1, but B has a NUS+ card which apparently gives 10% off purchases so that was 90p instead. I like to add olives to my hummus to make it a bit more interesting, but only a few at a time so they should last a little while.

We went to Asda for the beer (I really loathe the layout and vibe in every Asda I’ve been to, but occasionally pop in to buy their Shades brand recycled bog roll , and marvel at the horridness of the store once again). I was going to see if they had any nice-looking soya sauce (they didn’t) but my eye was first caught by their 60p cauliflowers, which is cheap for a supermarket cauli I think, and then I saw one that looked perfectly fresh reduced to 40p, so I nabbed that.

Total spend for the month now £4.65 on food. I also paid B for a ticket he bought me for a gig we’re going to later this month, which was £12.10 including booking fee, so that brings total spend up to £16.75. Not great, but it could be worse.

When I got home it was gone lunchtime so I made a quick lentil soup with garam-masala croutons from the last of the bread rolls I made on Monday, which had gone pretty stale by this point. See my feeble attempt at food styling? The croutons are supposed to represent a flower, in case it’s not obvious…

bowl of orange-coloured lentil soup, with rough oblongs of pan-fried bread oon the surface of the soup. there is a spoon handle coming out of the soup pointing toward the bottom of the photo, and the croutons and handle together are supposed to look like a flower and its stalk.