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!


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.

The last day! November ninety – day thirty

I’m celebrating the last day of my spending challenge with split-pea soup and a spend of zero so far today. I’ll be going out later, but only to someone’s house.

I hadn’t cooked any split peas recently as it took rather a long time to get through the previous batch. What I really fancied was lentil soup, but have no lentils, so split-pea was the next best thing. I hadn’t soaked any, but I thought of a way around this – I’ve seen a few recipes for quick soups using bean flour. While I do have a dry container for the Vitamix it seemed a bit of a faff to get that dirty to make some flour, and I’d probably have to make more flour than I could use in one go in order to get it to blend properly, so instead I put about half a cup of dried peas into the normal blender  container with two or so cups of water and whizzed them up with a chilli pepper, garlic and some spices.

You may recall that back in September I bought ten kilos of onions? Well, they’re finally at an end! The last one got fried up in a tiny bit of oil, then I added the blended pea mix and some bouillon powder. Once the soup heated up it got incrediby thick! I ended up adding more water. I also added some potato and rainbow chard mix found in back of the freezer leftover from the summer when I was getting a veg box delivery. The potatoes didn’t like being frozen much, they went a bit lumpy, but overall the mix added a bit more interest to the soup.

To serve, I topped it with some pickled summer squash and onions my mum made in 2011. She found them at the back of her cupboards earlier this year and was a bit dubious about them but they’re in a good strong vinegar solution and still perfect for livening up meals! I also made a very simple flatbread with self-raising flour, water and bouillon powder cooked in a pan greased with just a trace of olive oil.


To wash it down I had a smoothie made from dried apricots, frozen redcurrants, apples and gooseberries and a tablespoon of flaxseeds, diluted with water.

I’m fairly pleased with that meal. It covers most of my nutritional needs and it tasted pretty good and left me feeling full but not like I’d ruined the diet. I’m still looking forward to something deep fried tomorrow though!


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?


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-six

Tired today. My neighbours have a malfunctioning burglar alarm that has been erupting into unpredictable whoop-whoops for the past few days (and nights), sometimes every half hour or so. I do have earplugs, but they don’t completely cut the sound out, and the noise makes me jump sometimes because it’s so random.

As well as being near the end of the November ninety challenge, I’m also on the final stretch of the 20lb weight loss challenge I started with B back in June. I was at the goal weight and then suddenly put on 3lb for no apparent reason, so I went out and bought Ryvitas and fruit for brunch today to help with the final kick. £2.52 spent on those to bring the month’s spend to £72.50 (target for day 26 is up to £78). Four more days! I am going to celebrate December 1st with fried potatoes!

Dinner tonight was pea soup. The value frozen peas I bought a while back have lasted well, mainly because they’re not as nice as the regular peas I usually get. Another lesson learned. It’s not a very good saving if you’re reluctant to eat the product instead of deriving pleasure from eating it!

November ninety, day 25

Unexpectedly got offered afternoon work this morning, so spent £3.55 on lunch in town. Total spend so far this month is £69.98 (target for day 25 is up to £75), although I did have some spring rolls and a drink bought for me on Sunday and was too weak (read hungover) to insist on paying for them after attending a rather fun but late-running Doctor Who themed party on Saturday night.

I have to say this month has been a bit of a slog, I’m really looking forward to Sunday.

I have two mobile phones, one of which I keep as a backup and go months at a time without topping up, the main one has internet access and I usually top that up by £10 every 8 weeks or so, but I’m totally out of credit on that one now and really low on the other one, and it’s very awkward! I’ve been dithering about whether to hang on until the end of the challenge, or just top up tomorrow. It’s slightly embarrassing to have to tell people you’re out of credit. Maybe I’m just imagining there’s an awkward pause every time I explain why I can’t call someone, but I feel like they feel like I’m inconveniencing them. And I kind of resent the social expectations that need a certain amount of money to be facilitated. I think people who don’t have to worry about money at this level forget how many thngs rely on having a certain amount of extra cash to be maintained. Yes, this challenge is self-imposed to a degree, but if I fall ill for a couple of weeks and can’t pick up extra work then it stops being a challenge and becomes the actual state of my finances.

Because I do have to continue to be careful, I’ll be continuing to set a budget in December, just not quite such a strict one. If I aim for a fiver a day, and then back down to a lower amount in January I am thinking I might find a laptop I’ll be able to afford in the January sales. That’s if I continue to be offered extra hours and don’t get a lurgy in the meantime!

Free wine? probably not… (November ninety day 22)

Didn’t spend any money, made a completely unphotogenic lunch, and forgot to take any photos of last night’s meal either (which was very nice!). I did get to be mystified for most of the day though, and it’s still not quite been resolved.

Shortly after arriving at work there was a call to my mobile phone. I thought it might be someone offering extra work but it turned out to be my mum asking me if I’d ordered any wine, as she’d just signed for two cases which had arrived at their house addressed to me! Anyone who has been following this blog will know how unlikely it is that I would be ordering wine at the moment, but I thought perhaps I might have entered a competition and then forgotten about it. This looked more unlikely when we realised there were three extra bottles in one of the cases, so 27 bottles in all, and no searches for the wine company name brought up details of a prize that generous.

I asked mum to phone the company, and they told her the wine had definitely been paid for already. Maybe it was a gift? However, when she managed to get the name of the buyer out of them it wasn’t one she recognised, and when she told me the name I didn’t recognise it either. Why was a complete stranger sending wine addressed to me at my parents’ house?? So, I started getting worried! What if someone had ripped off someone else’s credit card and started sending stuff to random addresses to mask their tracks, that kind of thing? Where did they get my old address from?

I decided I had to phone the company myself. Not pleased, as it’s an 0845 number and I was on hold for a couple of minutes. When I got through I explained what had happened and the man I spoke to told me they’d been having database errors, it sounded like a mistake, he would contact the purchaser and if it does turn out to be a mistake he will arrange to have the wine taken away. So, unless it turns out we did win a competition it seems I probably don’t have a wine-lavishing secret admirer. Bit of intrigue for a Friday though.

November ninety – day twenty-one

I spent nothing today. That’s just as well, as it’s the Leicester Vegan Fair this Saturday, and it’d be nice to be able to buy a few things without going into arrears too much.

For anyone interested in coming to the fair, it’s being held at Friends Meeting House  on Queens Road from 10.30 – 3.30 on Saturday 23 November. There will be music from local musicians and a lot of cake and other choice edibles by the sound of it. I think there may be free goodie bags for early attendees too, though don’t quote me on that.

November ninety – twenty days down, ten to go!

I’ve done enough extra work for the month to stop January looking too bad now. This afternoon I did five extra hours in a lovely warm building, but it was over 2 1/2 miles from the morning job, uphill, so I got a bus there (and a lift back). The £1.50 spent on the fare was all I spent today, so I carry £1.57 over to tomorrow. 

I took potato salad to work, along with nuts, bananas and clementines. I was really wanting chocolate today but that will have to wait until tomorrow when I will be turning another of the lurking Christmas puddings into chocolate-nut-fruit slab pudding (catchy recipe title, eh?) to take to the dinner I’m invited to. I’m looking forward to dinner out, as the best thing I can say about what I ate this evening is that it wasn’t terrible considering it was mostly leftovers and contained a large proportion of cabbage and split peas.


November ninety – day nineteen

Another day at two different workplaces and I ran out of inspiration and enthusiasm when trying to come up with a packed lunch from the contents of the cupboards, fridge or freezer, so I turned from the frugal path and bought my lunch in town. The shame!


How could I pass up the opportunity for getting a mushroom and tofu pasty though, if it’s today only?! (although I am slightly suspicious about why they would only have them on one day and NEVER AGAIN, so I suspect they may be back in the future. If not, I’ve been part of an exclusive group of pasty-munchers).

There were other products also new to Currant Affairs:


vegan brownies and cupcakes. I’d been lucky enough to sample the brownies when Karyn was expanding the vegan range for her Chocoholic business, so I went for the cupcake, which was a proper old-school cocoa-rich cake, small but powerful.

I also spent £3.50 at the market on bananas, more clementines and more nuts (too good a bargain to leave at the previous 6 bags), bringing the total day’s spend to £6.50, and the total for the month so far to £56.93, 7p shy of today’s maximum target of £57.