Frugal Fridays #10

It’s been another week on rations at the home of this Storyteller! And what a lovely week it’s been too, much nicer than the last one. I started off the week, naturally, with grocery shopping.

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Rations/food for the week, bought on Monday

No reduced meat this time around, so I took half of my meat ration in the form of corned beef, which was reduced. Corned beef was included in the wartime ration too. I cut the large slices in half to make them go further and have been enjoying corned beef and spinach sandwiches most days this week.

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A standard lunch for me.

I always bought some reduced greengages. This delightful little fruit brings back memories of scrumping with my grandmother when I was younger. She lives near the New Forest and there are plenty of opportunities to harvest a hedgerow. My greengages were ripe and juicy and just like I remembered.

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A whole heap of Potato Petes!

Thanks to the good deeds of a housemate, she came home with a free bag of spuds! We were all ordered to eat as many potatoes as we liked. It was almost like the Ministry of Food had arrived at my house! I obeyed the challenge of course. I had two dinners of sausages, onion gravy and mash at the start of the week, then a baked potato covered with sausage and lentil casserole. I attempted one of the wartime recipes of potato floddies, but I think I made my batter too runny. It was a novelty having fried potato for breakfast, but not particularly filling. Berry porridge is the breakfast of choice for me.

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A worthy experiment

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Berry porridge, topped with a little honey and seed mix

I shall continue rationing for as long as I believe it to be an aid to me in my quest for frugality. I’m afraid I’m still abysmal at sticking to the sweets ration. With temptation all around, it’s the hardest one to resist. But resist I must if I want to save pennies.

I hope you’ve all got a glorious weekend planned. I’m off to Glastonbury this evening to visit my parents, which I have been looking forward to all month. Hooray for Somerset!

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Age old remedy

Last week was a blur. I spent every day bar one trotting back and forth to work, collecting every extra hour I could. I had visits from the chap and lovely sister. I enjoyed a meal out at Wetherspoons to celebrate a twentieth birthday. I cooked and cleaned. I washed and dressed. I tried to catch up on sleep. But then I realised it’s four weeks until the start of term and there are not enough hours in the day.

When your mind is on fire with duties, deadlines and dates, it’s often the simplest activity that quells it. It was time to be amongst nature. Sunday evening was perfect for a stroll. The rain had passed but a breeze had picked up, a whisper of autumnal weather. With a basket in one hand and a crook in the other, I returned to the laden blackberry bushes.

The slow ritual of seeking plump fruit and gently tumbling them into a basket was very calming. I spent a good hour collecting purple jewels, just as the sun was setting. I didn’t think whilst picking, I cut the engine on my pulsating brain and felt at peace. Performing such a traditional task in sublime conditions was good for me.

I came home with a bumper crop, 650g in all! I’m often so envious of the home grown produce that I see on fellow blogs. It all looks so delicious and healthy. I’m so pleased that I can join in with the fun.

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In tune with my rationing-style of eating (still going strong!), I’m trying to eat seasonably. Using this calendar here, I’m trying to only buy what’s in season each month. To ensure I can have lovely fruit even when the weather turns, I thoroughly washed my berries and bagged them up for the freezer. A fridge freezer was not a well known commodity in the 1940s, but my eating takes inspiration from the era, not a re-enactment. So, my fresh blackberries will be waiting for me in the depths of winter, ready for porridge or crumble. I like being a squirrel.

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PS Don’t add frozen blackberries to a flapjack mix. It tastes delicious, but the darn thing won’t stick at all! Blackberry-flapjack-mush it is – waste not, want not!

Frugal Fridays #9

Inspired by the activity over at Down to Earth, I have been on a decluttering mission of my own. I have trimmed down my books, DVDs and trinkets this past week and have carried/dragged two generous bags of items to my local charity shops. I could have sold it, certainly, but it felt good to donate to a system that I thoroughly believe in. Plus, I did list a few other items on ebay, they can be seen here. I thought I would try and make a few pennies out of things that were starting to gather dust.

And what did I do to reward my decluttering efforts? Why, I bought more items obviously! Well, not loads more, just two books that I couldn’t resist on a jaunt to the Oxfam Book Shop with the chap.

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First up is Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast. I really enjoyed the BBC adaptation of this a few years back, with Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. Slater inspires me more than any other chef, so I’m sure this will be an interesting read.

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I cannot resist a WW2 book when I see them in charity shops, let alone on focusing on the domestic front. Bombers and Mash by Raynes Minns is a wonderful book that I have been devouring ever since I brought it home. It features facts I never knew and several bizarre recipes that I’m summoning courage to try.

So not only have I donated items to charity shops this week, I’ve also managed to donate £5 for these two lovely books. It feels very thrifty to give and take from a glorious system like charity shops. Smiles all round.

British Baker

I have never been one for reality television shows. The bugs in the jungle make me squeamish. Elder brother’s houseguests make me yawn. I don’t have time for the constant stream of sob stories that emerge from microphones once designed for talented singers. But one reality programme hooks me right from the beginning. I become thoroughly involved with the contestants, feeling their highs and lows as the series continues. Surely, I can’t be the only Bake Off addict in blogland?

For those unaware of the Great British Bake Off (to give it it’s full title), 13 contestants fight their way through a series of baking challenges to win the coveted title of Britain’s Best Amateur Baker. It is hosted by the brilliant Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, with legendary Mary Berry and infamous Paul Hollywood as the judges.

Bake Off is an exceptional show because it includes the competitive element and tension falsely created in lesser programmes. But it is all based on talent, not a popularity contest. You can cheer on your favourites without being divisive. I personally think it’s a very inspirational show, proving that baking is for everyone and everyone can learn a thing or two.

Tuesday nights are now known in this household as “Bake Off Night”. For me, I do believe Wednesdays will become “baking day”. Cake is harder for me, being gluten-free, but I still relish being in the kitchen, mixing ingredients calmly and having sweet scents fill the house.

Today, flapjack was made this afternoon, using my allocated rations of course.

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All is well on the rationing front, although a visit from the chap means there is no ham or cheese left – he managed to use a whole week’s ration of cheese in one lunch! I would never begrudge him anything though, and I’ve still got parmesan left over from “pre-rations”. There is still bits and pieces in the freezer too, so I shall not go hungry. Especially with chunks of delicious flapjack in the cake tin. Yum.

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PS I would just like to send out my hearty thanks to all those who left such lovely comments on my last post. Particularly Pam, your comment made my day! Best wishes to all.

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

. . . rework it until you do!

The early 1940’s will forever interest me. Faced with a tight budget, I returned to Marguerite Patten’s books for inspiration. Then a colleague commented that my new work dress was “very forties-esque!” Then I re-read Frugal in Norfolk’s Wartime Diaries. I could resist no longer.

Here are my rationed food items for one week:

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225g sugar (already had)

2 pints semi-skimmed milk (89p)

250g cooking fat/marg/butter (all in one form of Stork – 70p)

450g jam (to last 8 weeks – 90p)

50g cheese (deli – 25p!)

100g ham (deli – £1.09)

50g tea (already had)

80g sweets (80p)

Meat

 

All rations were calculated using the guidelines featured in We’ll Eat Again. For the meat ration, I converted old money to new money, then used an inflation calculator to give me the value of £2.19 to spend on meat each week. This pork crackling joint was yellow-stickered down to £2.25, which I decided was close enough.

There was also a points system, but as it changed frequently due to availability, I have decided (until I gather more knowledge) that I shall buy two store cupboard items each week.

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I chose 4xchopped tomatoes (£2 – offer) and 500g gluten-free pasta (£1.40). Bread was not rationed until after the war, but as gluten-free products are so expensive, I decided I would only buy it if it could be found on offer. I was lucky on this trip to come home with two caramelised onion rolls. They are delicious. I’m sure medicine would have been in short supply during the war, so I shall have to make my pack of ibuprofen last!

And finally, we all know what wasn’t rationed during the period – good old fruit and veg!

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Sweet potatoes (£1.85)

Basics frozen berries (£1.29)

Basics apples (50p)

Red onions (25p)

Carrots (Doctor Carrot! – 32p)

Spinach £1

 

I shall be using up various things I’ve got in my fridge, freezer and cupboard. But once they are gone, they are gone! Unless they can be included in points. In an effort to stop hoarding and using up what I’ve got, I’ve stopped using the top drawer of my filing cabinet as a larder. Now everything belongs in my single cupboard, or on top of it.

I do believe rationing is the best way to stick to a budget (£15 in total in my case) and eat healthily. I have learnt my lessons from my previous attempt and am now buying weekly, then trying to eke things out for the whole month. Rations round two, let’s see if I will succeed.

 

Frugal Fridays #8

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Free food! 

Thanks to the chap, I got a free haul of groceries at the start of the week. I’ve been basing my meals around what I was gifted with and thought I’d share a few of them.

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I splashed out on a 50p bag of tortilla chips for a yummy quick dinner. I would never eat this every night, but as I don’t eat junk food normally, this felt like a real treat. I mashed one of the avocados with a little lime juice and chilli powder to make a faux guacamole. Then I stirred through some mixed herbs into the cream cheese and loosened it with a little cream to make a sumptuous dip. Naughty but nice!

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I toasted one of the slices of bread, topped it with more avocado and then added two scrambled eggs on top. This was delicious. The cream avocado and eggs with the crunchy toast was so good. It’s a dish I would like to have again.

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A rice cake medley. One pickle and carrot, one avocado and black pepper and one tomato and cream cheese. Extra carrot sticks on the side made it the perfect light lunch.

As for some of the other ingredients, the strawberries were sliced up into porridge, delicious with a drizzle of honey. Some of the broccoli was steamed, added to pasta and had cream cheese stirred through with a dash of herb. This was such a simple dinner, but one of the most enjoyable meals this week. I did have one portion of strawberries and cream too, who could resist!

One more point on this Frugal Friday, I managed to secure even more free food! I walk past a blackberry bush every day on my walk to work. The branches were heavy with fruit, but no one seemed to be picking them. Some were even splattered on the ground below. I knocked on the door and asked politely if I may pick a few. The poor man didn’t even know what they were! He told me I could pick as many as I wanted. I was dead chuffed to come home with a whole punnet full.

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Now that the strawberries are all gone, I can see these making their way into my morning porridge bowl. Simple dishes like that really do give me the most pleasure.

 

Fitting in to stand out

I left domesticity behind this morning, with my second batch of laundry purring in the machine and my changed sheets growling in the dryer. I was on the run from the noise of laundry day. I had no need for a coat this morning, but the distinct chill did make my glad for the company of my scarf. I plodded along to my destination slowly, my mind already starting to drift into another realm.

I was lucky enough to commandeer the largest sofa in my local Starbucks, tucked away inside the big Sainsbury’s. My Grande Skinny Hazelnut Latte (capital-letter-worthy) stood handsomely before me, a real day-off treat. My pen was poised as I opened my mind, ready to see what ideas would wander through today.

It sounds awfully pretentious to admit that I like writing in coffee shops, but I do. I enjoy the sense of anonymity in a bustling atmosphere. I get to contemplate each new thought whilst taking a sip of coffee. I am left alone to write and I feel like this is when I write quality stuff. I think part of me likes the intellectual allure of being confident enough to write in public. Or at least seeming to be. For me at least, the lack of confidence in my own work leads me to the coffee shop in the first place.

When I try to write at home, I feel pressure. I flit from room to room, trying to find the perfect position, a faux attempt at a relaxed state. I hate trying to write when I feel like I’m being forced to. When I’m at home, I feel like I have to write x amount, or the day is wasted. The glimpses of my beloved bookshelf don’t help the situation. The wondrous work of others drowns my endeavours to join them. I feel dwarfed, like I will never squeeze into the limited space left. Why bother trying?

The negativity doesn’t follow me to the coffee shop. It’s just me and my story. I am pleasantly distracted by passersby, not deterred by them. It’s easier to day dream in a public place, with no other activities vying for your attention. Just a black biro and a blue notebook. I’m an old fashioned girl so everything is handwritten before the laptop is even considered. My blogs posts get the same treatment. Notebooks allow you to jump across a range of ideas, creating wacky spider diagrams as you go. The ink stains on my fingers feel like proof of my miniscule achievements. I may be sitting in a suburban coffee shop, but my mind is travelling miles.

As for the story, I had another glorious epiphany today, just as my coffee was turning to dregs. I now understand the reason why my villain is just so. His motivations and goals clicked and everything is beginning to shine through the preliminary fog. My character was able to talk to me because my mind was free of domestic clutter that exudes when I try and write at home. I’m comfortable with embracing a cliché if it means creating an original story.