The cupboard of dreams

Since moving into my own home and having increased access to more storage space, I have come to highly appreciate the usefulness of a well-equipped store cupboard. Very little actual money has been spent this week. Any new products I have acquired have been from various points and vouchers. The majority of my meals are being concocted from what I’ve already got.

For example, breakfasts have consisted of reduced GF bagels lurking in the freezer, or berry porridge made with milk bought on points.

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Lunches have been made up of the range of loaves and rolls I’ve frozen earlier in the month. Add a bit of cheese and salad, a piece of fruit and a lunchbox has been made. For my sister’s visit, I only had to purchase an aubergine and a courgette to make this delicious ratatouille dish for us to share. The addition of the GF cous cous was perfection.

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When the days before payday are creeping by, I’ve learnt it’s important to focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have. I have no more peppers in stock, or tins of kidney beans. But I’ve still managed to make a hearty chilli, using bargain mince from a recent shopping trip, no peppers but a fat onion and no kidney beans, but a couple of tablespoons of red lentils. Thanks to the slow cooker, this humble meal should taste exceptional by this evening.

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Necessity is the mother of invention. When my purse is fuller once more, I shall have to replenish my beloved store cupboard, so that next month, I’ll still be eating well right up to the end of the month.

Points and patchwork

Thank you all so much for your kind comments I received on my last post. They truly warmed my heart and feel proud of my achievements. I hope you don’t think of me as bold for saying so, but I am quite pleased with myself.

I have been employing my full arsenal of thrifty tactics this past week. Due to once-in-a-lifetime celebrations occurring this week, more money has been spent on extravagances than everyday items. I have no regrets. Sometime you must simply seize the moment and enjoy it for all its worth.

Nevertheless, I have been saving and making shortcuts where I can in order to save pennies. The main areas ripe for cutting back were (as always) my energy usage and my food bill. Luckily, I’ve not had to use much energy for cooking this week, as I was enjoying the leftovers from our Graduation banquet. I’ve made the most of every scrap of food, and had some truly delicious meals.

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I have also received post from Mr Sainsbury’s this week, gifting me with bonus points vouchers. I know Sue from Our New Life in the Country was recently discussing the highs and lows of using supermarket vouchers. For me, I was yet to do my weekly shop and as the vouchers were for store cupboard staples (i.e. not junk), I deemed them acceptable to use. Plus, I only collect points from Sainsbury’s, not a variety of stores. By collecting as many points as I can during the good times, I have a safety net for when actual money is sparse.

In other Nectar points news, my incentive from Expedia came through a couple of days ago. I entered my Nectar card number at the checkout when we booked our holiday for Lisbon, and I’ve received 2000 points, the equivalent of £10. This, combined with the points earned from vouchers, means I have £12.50 on my card. This will make a notable difference to my food shopping as I count down the days until pay day.

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I’ve been putting my make-do-and-mend spirit into action too this week, using some of my holiday time productively. I’ve made up three cosy cushions to brighten up my neglected sofa. The wicker creation came with the flat, but is dreadfully hard to sit on. The improvements I’ve made are certainly more to my taste. I had to pay £9.10 for the large cushions inserts, but the rest all came from my stash. My next project is to refurbish an old coffee table – for pennies of course. Good luck with all of your thrifty ventures this week.

Graduaines

The day is done and what a day it was. After three years of study and a summer of uncertainty, I finally graduated yesterday.

The chap and I arrived at the Guildhall in Winchester in good time to collect my rental gown. My parents arrived just before, having driven all the way from Glastonbury for the occasion. A flurry of forms and photographs ensued so that I could have the immortal picture of me and the scroll.

We swept along in procession to the Cathedral, a magnificent venue. As my friend sidestepped puddles and slippery paving stones, I secretly felt relieved at my choice of flat shows. Less glamour, more security, especially when I knew there would be steps to climb later. We took our seats; my parents and the chap had a splendid view of the proceedings, thanks to the chap venturing into a different seating area. They could have been stuck at the back, and as you can imagine in a cathedral, that would have been a very different experience.

The excitement and anticipation bubbled through me as my row of seats awaited our turn. It was nothing more than a couple of handshakes and a posh certificate. But no, it wasn’t just that really. It was the hours of effort poured into a single dream. It was a culmination of hard work during my school years that led me to attending University in the first place. It was recognition of every story I struggled over, every word I wrote. I took a deep breath before stepping on to the stage. As I left, I let out a sigh of satisfaction and pride.

We left via the main doors of the cathedral, a true honour. More photographs – every parent in the land was trying to capture the essence of the day. Soon it was time to hang up the infamous hat and return home. We dined on a feast of smoked salmon, carvery ham, steamed potatoes, salad, crudités, dips, hummus, savoury rice, coleslaw, crackers, cheese and Prosecco. The celebratory meal was paid for by my parents, who also gifted me with a delightful bunch of roses. It was my supper of choice, much more personal than a hurried meal in an overcrowded restaurant.

The day ran so smoothly, I couldn’t have wished for it to be any better. I’m pleased to close the chapter on full-time education now. Who knows if I will return to University in the future, but for now, I’m a graduate with big dreams and big ideas. Thank you Winchester, for lighting the fire.

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All the leaves are brown

All of a sudden, it seems to be, it has gone dark and cold and wet. I’ve braved the elements too many times this week that I dare not count. I don’t think I’ve been properly dry since last Monday. But the one good things that raises out of the foul weather is the accompanying food.

Salads and strawberries are all very well when the sun is shining. But there is something intrinsically more enjoyable about the warming dishes that come along with the cooler months. Take soup for example. So simple, so cheap, so delicious.

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The vegetables were chopped and boiled with the homemade stock I was saving. Then I added a little spice and seasoning, although, in honesty, it could have done with a bit more. Practice makes perfect and I will know for next time. The whole dish was blitzed and a silky, thick soup was created. It was filling and nutritious, what more could one ask for when the rain is pouring.

I have my eye on making a hearty beef stew next. But first, graduation.

Flat Number Five

Friends, I have made it to the other side. After a lengthy day of exertion, three of us managed to move my worldly possessions into a studio flat in Southampton. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this outcome.

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Choosing to live on your own immediately after graduating is not a simple path. But it was always destined to be the right one for me. After other options were discussed, this was the direction that I was drawn to the most. I wanted to live by myself due to many contributing factors, but this choice is not without its sacrifices.

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Luckily, water and gas central heating are included in the monthly rent, but I still have a hefty council tax bill to deal with every month. There is no roommate in which to fall back on – it’s up to me. I have to pay a round pound coin to the little box under my kitchen counter in order to continue using the electricity. I cannot afford to own a television and personal broadband is a luxury beyond my means. So I will go without.

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But this is no true hardship. In a sense, it very much appeals to my thrifty nature. I’ve always enjoyed budgeting and such, it’s just now the stakes are higher. I like to see how much electricity I can use before adding another coin. I’m writing to you from the local library, who offers free use of their internet for up to two hours five days a week. I’m reading more and dancing to the radio every chance I get. Just because I don’t have a Sky box leaking money in the corner doesn’t mean I am in any way deprived.

The cooking is yet to begin in earnest, but I have batch cooked a Bolognese for hot meals this week. I’ve also saved some vegetable water with the intention of making soup on my next day off. I can see much of my free time being spent in the kitchen, it’s my favourite place to be. And besides, I have a freezer to fill!

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I’m off to battle the rain and continue with my chores. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the week.

22

I have been able to reconnect with my blog since returning from my vacation. Put simply, it all got a bit much. Posts were unachievable because I didn’t have an ounce of interesting material. For me, it was about getting through each day. A fair amount happened in my absence.

My 22nd birthday came and went in a flurry of good food, plenty of wine and a ridiculous amount of shopping.

I continued working at ALDI and enjoying my work there.

But most importantly of all, I found my dream flat. It’s heaven and I can’t wait to share pictures with you all. It’s exactly what I wanted; a humble studio flat in the heart of town. It’s not perfect, but it’s all mine and I am responsible for it. It’s daunting and thrilling in equal measure.

As such, I hope to return to the sanctuary of the blogging world with more frequent posts. The budget is not as tight as I once thought it would be, but I plan on living economically and sharing my journey in my very first home.

The tastiest, most incredible part of moving into my own place, even a studio flat, is the sheer joy of owning my own kitchen. It’s not a place ruled by my mother, who upheld her own order with an iron fist. It’s not a place scavenged by students, leaving only dirty plates behind. It’s not a place that has it’s own time frame and schedule for when one can cook dinner. It’s mine. I can cook and bake and spend as long as I want in it. I can leave things to marinate, to cool, to rest without fear of damage or theft. I can arrange the cupboards in a way of my choice. I will have more than one cupboard and a whole fridge and an entire oven just for my own personal use. My heart is singing.

I will be able to share many more recipes and meals once I’m in and settled. I collect the keys tomorrow morning. The adventure begins.

Over and out

After a bout of ill health that has struck me this week, I could not be more relieved to be disappearing on a jet plane later on this afternoon. The chap and I are off on our hols, and about time to if you don’t mind me saying so. This summer has been a struggle, a truly turbulent time when I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going from one week to the next. I plan on spending this next week abroad doing all of my favourite things, including eating, practising yoga, exploring historical sights, drinking cocktails and reading. Then, on my return, I can at last get down to the serious business of finding a permanent base and setting down my roots. I’ve been longing to feel settled and content for awhile now, but I know that sensation is right around the corner. 

But for now, I’m going to indulge in some R&R and ready myself for the challenge ahead. We’ve been saving for our holiday for awhile, so there is no harm in a few treats. But the lunch boxes are packed and magazines have been borrowed instead of bought; it makes no sense to completely forgo frugality for the sake of it. 

Wishing you all a lovely week and I shall return soon.