A vegetable-based pondering

We know the deal with meat. Local is good, local and free-range is better, then local, free-range and organic is best. But what are the rules with vegetables?

Both of my local supermarkets supply an array of organic produce. The prices are higher than standard, naturally, but at least there is a choice of products. But what if these organic carrots have been flown in from thousands of miles away? Surely it is more environmentally sound to buy the carrots grown conventionally down the road?

And why should I give my money to the corporate supermarkets? My local greengrocers stocks both home grown and imported produce, none of which is organic. They are very reasonably priced and a family-run business, a rare sight on the modern high street. I have a sneaking suspicion that my greengrocer sells things that do not pass the supermarket standard test. The stickers on the grapefruit look strikingly similar to the ones in Sainsbury’s. If it’s true, I think it’s a marvellous idea, ensuring nothing is wasted.

It’s a minefield, the vegetable aisle. Either you purchase chemical-riddled veg, bred to perfection and cheap to buy. Or you get squeaky clean, odd-shaped veg, all the way from goodness knows where. Of course, the best solution is to grow your own, thus ensuring the best quality with no chemicals or air miles. Sadly, this is not a possible choice when you live in a third floor flat like I do. I know the next step would be an organic vegetable box delivery, but then Dan and the guys at Long’s would lose a customer. For now, I’m going to continue to support my local shop, getting the best value vegetables I can, alongside quality meat. Maybe I’ll give Abel and Cole a call in the future.

Forging a new path

It’s Day One of my latest spending challenge and already, the goal posts have been moved. The Friday night takeaway is no longer applicable and I added the remaining change from my purse to the pot. So I set off to go shopping yesterday afternoon with £17.37 for the week.

I have become increasingly aware of the damaging nature of the meat industry and fear for the ecological future. I have decided to live as sustainably as I can, within my means. A book has triggered my new mindset, more about which in a future post. Even though my budget is minimal, I will be buying local, free-range, sustainable, organic produce where I can. Also, I’m avoiding waste like the plague. I’m making the most of every scrap, so I can make the most of higher quality products.

In Sainsbury’s on Sunday, I bought:

  • SO caramelised onion chutney
  • Tin foil
  • Reduced Black Farmer’s Daughter chipolata sausages
  • SO bananas (6)
  • Reduced Free From Gingerbread man (a snack for me and the chap whilst shopping)
  • Toothbrushes

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The reduced sausages were a great buy. The label reads “British Outdoor Bred Freedom Food Pork.” What more could one ask for? I bought foil, which is not environmentally friendly, but I’m not perfect, goodness no, I’m just trying to do my bit to help the planet. And yes, organic Fairtrade bananas are more expensive than regular Fairtrade, but not by much, and the whole idea is less food of a higher quality.

I then visited Waitrose to get my free coffee (Fairtrade!) and pick up supremely delicious milk. Less than 20p extra compared to Essentials, but I think the flavour is noticeable. Plus, it’s a donation to charity as Duchy is affiliated with the Prince’s Trust.

You might think I’m mad (the chap does!) spending more on food when I could get similar items cheaper. But it’s not just about the money. Personally, I would rather cut out television and instant internet access than nourishing food. It’s starting to feel illogical to live any other way.

I spent a total of £10.77 on my Sunday afternoon trip, as I also purchased a Basic chopping board with the intention of using it solely for meat. I have £6.60 in my purse to last until next Sunday.

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PS This is why eating up the stores is so much fun – my Sunday lunch; GF ciabatta from the freezer, drizzled with garlic oil, topped with the last of the Cornish cheddar, accompanied by carrot batons with the last of my previous jar of chutney and cucumber. Pudding was the last of the packs of finger cakes from last week’s afternoon tea. All raided from the stores but felt very decadent!

PPS: Today, Monday, I have spent £4.40 in the greengrocers and local co-operative. I have £2.20 left.

Red Alert

Warning! Warning! I’ve discovered a delicious new shop and oh me oh my, how my bank balance is going to suffer! I stepped into White Stuff for the first time last week, whilst on a shopping expedition with my sister. I was thoroughly enchanted by its clothing and decor, but most of all, by its homeware collection. I have a deep fondness and affection for owls, and they were numerous in White Stuff. I knew one of them would be coming home with me and it was agonising to choose just one – my Christmas wish list was extended by several feet, of course.

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It’s perfectly fitting after my last post about afternoon tea that I bought the one thing my tea tray was missing. A tea cosy!

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Isn’t it charming? I can’t wait to showcase it at my next tea party. Priced at £11.95, it was an affordable treat.

My other recent purchase was a treat as well. I went out with the intention of finding a pair of black, leather Chelsea boots. It was in the second shop I ventured into that I found them, last pair on the shelf, my size, it was destined to be. And being offered student discount was the cherry on the cake. These practical boots are much warmer than my trainers and more chic that wellingtons. They fit perfectly into my wardrobe.

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Both of these items have a place in my home and warm my heart considerably. Strictly speaking, neither was vastly necessary – I could’ve survived without them. But the joy they bring cannot be measured in cost, although the money to pay for such luxuries does have to come from somewhere.

I save where I can so I can reap rewards in the form of new shoes and owl-themed goodies. However, I need to sow before I can reap again. I do believe it’s high time for another challenge. Next week’s budget is £15 – that’s £1 a day for food, £2 for anything else and £6 for a takeaway pizza on Friday night with the chap. Again, not necessary, but heart-warming. I hope to manage daily posts, so I can write about any purchases and how I’m making the most of my store cupboard, which is currently stuffed with supplies. Wish me luck, and do let me know if you’re tightening your belt too this week. The C word is hovering on the tip of my tongue . . .

My oh my

The chap visited this past weekend and it reminded me of the visiting GIs from the war era. He wooed me with chocolate, wine and cans of soup from the black market. Yes, I strayed from my own rationing guidelines this weekend. But when we sat down together to watch a film with our coffee and small chocolate bars, I didn’t feel any guilt. In fact, I appreciated the treat a lot more than if I wasn’t sticking to rationing 90% of the time.

My purse wouldn’t approve of this weekend though. Money does disappear very quickly if you are constantly popping in and out of shops for “a few bits”. Luckily, my purse was unaffected, as the chap’s wallet came to the rescue. But it doesn’t make financially sense to continually spend in the way we did this past weekend.

After seeing the link on Sue’s blog, Frugal in Suffolk, I listened to the episode of The Food Programme and then discovered Claire’s blog, Eat for Victory, and read her blog. I found I had a lot in common with her morals and virtues concerning food and rationing. She actually allows herself £5 a week to spend on “Black Market” products and I thought about adopting this approach myself. I don’t really have £5 to spare each week, so I think a glass of wine and a bit of choccie every now and then won’t hurt. As long as I stick to my principles of little waste, making food stretch and efficient shopping, I think I’ll be just fine.

As for today, I’ve spent the majority of this week’s budget this morning. I sent parcels and cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations, as well as collecting my rations for the week. There is some major cooking going on today, in preparation for a busy week ahead. I shall be sharing my culinary adventures and experiments over the next few days. No more contraband products for me!

 

A balancing act

My sincere thanks go to Declutterbug for nominating my humble blog for an award. I’ve been so erratic with posts lately, I’m sure I don’t deserve such praise, but thank you so much for the nomination.

I’ve been living in Southampton for a month and I thought things would get easier after payday. But I have been scuppered with unforeseen expense that have forced me to constantly adjust my budget.

I now have a spread sheet detailing my food shopping lists for the next four weeks. They are all based on the system of rationing that I am so enchanted with. This scheme was organised by the best nutritional scientists of the age and their recommendations still correlate with healthy eating advice today. I bought my first allocation of weekly rations on Monday, but I’m already running into difficulties.

The main reason I return to wartime rationing is that it helps me to eat health food on a budget. I went to the beach yesterday and had a glorious time. Ice cream wasn’t rationed during the war, but was rarely available. Not healthy, not cost-efficient, but I still ate it.

Dried fruit and nuts was rationed as part of the points system, but how do you calculate the points value of a 30g snack pack?

My housemate bought 9 eggs as they were the cheapest to buy, but says she won’t use all of them within the “use by” date. They have become “house eggs” and I’m free to use however many I want. Surely no member of 1940s society would have turned down free eggs?

I am facing certain challenges whilst trying to stick with my rationing guidelines, but I think if I ensure I don’t eat more sweets than my ration, and stay within my money budget, I think this scheme will be beneficial overall.

Pros and cons

The best thing about living near the high street is the vast array of shops and not having to rely on one supermarket. The worst thing about living near the high street is the vast array of shops and not being able to rely on one supermarket.

            In my past life in Winchester, I would make a weekly pilgrimage to the giant Sainsbury’s nearby. I also knew what to expect, I could plan accordingly and I had to take or leave what was there. Occasionally, I would purchase items from stores in town or the farmer’s market, but most weeks, a single trip to Sainsbury’s was all I needed.

            Imagine my delight when I ventured into my new playground. That’s the best thing about living in a multicultural area, you get to purchase great food! There is also a charity shop every few paces and fantastic independent retailers selling everything under the sun. Stock changes on a daily basis and you’ll never know what’s going to be on offer at the greengrocer’s next. All of this is just a mere stone’s throw away, but that is where the conundrum lies. It’s far too tempting to pop into the shops when essentially, I don’t really need to. Products may be cheaper here, but I still have a budget.

            The first strategy I have employed is to stop carrying money. I had a snack, a water bottle and a fully charged mobile phone in my bag for work – there was no need for cash. This will stop me darting into shops at that perilous time of the day when I’ve just finished a shift and my tummy is rumbling.

            The next technique I plan to try is getting my cash out for the week and when it’s gone, it’s gone! I know several thrifty people who use this idea, and I’m going to try it out myself. That way, I can still enjoy touring the high street a couple of times a week, without overspending.

            It’s the balance of want and need and spend and save that I need to get accustomed to in this new environment. Got any tips? I would love to hear them.

Frugal Fridays #19

Moving to Southampton has been a costly affair. What with paying for the rental of the van, contributing to bills within the house and purchasing the necessary garments for my new job, my allowance for July has gone down shockingly during these past four days. But I have a wealth of frugal knowledge to call on, most of it gathered from a glorious selection of blogs. I know how to make the most of what I’ve got. So I was feeling confident as I stepped out to do my shopping with only £7.29 in my purse.

(I would like to throw in a disclaimer here to say I do have extra funds available if I ever did seriously run out of food. But this is a good chance to challenge myself.)

My first stop was the greengrocers, a new discovery of mine. The high street has an excellent greengrocers, stocked with all of the fruit and veg you could ask for. I made my selections carefully, making the most of the reduced section and came out with this haul all for £2.04! I handed over the exact change gleefully. I know I will become a regular customer at this shop.

My next destination was the huge Sainsbury’s at the end of the high street. Although it poses a menacing figure over the local shops and establishments, the area is still thriving. There is only one boarded up place along the entire road. So I didn’t feel too guilty about popping in to pick up some essentials.

I stocked up my cupboard with lots of Basics products. The rice packets are destined for lunch boxes, along with the tuna and sweetcorn. I know I can make good use out of everything I bought.

And one more trip on my thrifty shopping outing – to the library! I registered with the local library the day after I moved in and I’m so pleased I did. There wasn’t enough space to bring large supplies of books with me, so I’ll still be able to get my reading fix, for free!

In total, I spent £5.99. I came back with enough food to last me the week and two books to boot. A very successful outing, if I do say so myself.

New season, new shoes

I was out and about in town this afternoon, running errands (read: printing out lots of newly-revamped CVs). I granted myself a fifth of my recent earnings to purchase suitable summer clothing. The recent bout of warm weather has highlighted how inadequate my wardrobe is. My budget wasn’t large, so I concluded that the charity shops would be the best place to visit.

How wrong I was. The first two I ventured in displayed nothing I was interested in. The third had a ghastly smell throughout the whole store. In the fourth, I dared to try on a Monsoon kaftan dress, blue and silk and beautiful. This was more like it, I thought, as I turned the price label. It was nice sure, but £8.50 for a second-hand garment is too much in my book. The charity shops could not offer what I needed, so I headed to the place where the fashion is fast, the items won’t last a year and they charge the best prices. Got it in one, I went to Primark.

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Two pairs of summery sandals for £6. The black ones are perfect for peeking out beneath maxi dresses and skirts. The flip flops are for round the house and in the garden when we’re picnicking. They are exactly what I was looking for.

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I then scoured the New Look sales rails and found a white shirt, an item I’ve had on my wishlist for an age. My size and oh my, that price. I paid three pound coins and left the shop pleased as punch.

I know the ethics surrounding such fashion choices is shady. But when you’re saving up for a deposit on a new home, can you really afford to be picky? Or should morals stay intact whatever the cost? I’d love to hear about your clothing choices.

Chicken alla Frugal

When I think of stew, I think of beef stew, enriched with red wine and lots of parsnips. Casserole however, conjures up a different dinner, something lighter with more greenery. Am I wrong? Quite possibly, but I had a lone chicken thigh left in the freezer so casserole it was to be.

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Into my lovely crockpot went a chopped onion, a parsnip, four carrots and the ends of the asparagus that I bought last week. It’s absolutely delicious steamed, but the bottom part is a bit woody. So I tailed the stalks and threw the ends into the casserole. I ate steamed asparagus yesterday with sausages, and I saved the water leftover. This was the basis of my stock.

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The chicken thigh was nestled in the middle and the pot went into the oven at 150 degrees for an hour and a half. Then it was whisked out, the chicken was pulled away from the bones, the flour paste was stirred through and I added some kale to boot.

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After a final half an hour in the oven, my casserole was ready. It was truly delicious. Such a simple supper, it made three lunchtime-sized portions. Yes, there is very little meat, but when the vegetables are so fresh and tasty, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me. I’m looking forward to my lunch tomorrow already.

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PS The British strawberries I bought in Sainsbury’s this week are perfect. Ripe and sweet and delicious in porridge. Just thought I’d pass on the seasonal food love 🙂

Adaptation

Whenever the inevitable time comes that you have to leave a job, house, or anything that you’ve spent a long time with, you have to commemorate the occasion with some form of party. The thing with leaving University is that one celebration is not enough.

I’ve been invited out to so many events over the next fortnight, it’s almost like a Fresher’s week. Bar visits and coffee catch ups and parties and get-togethers; all in the next two weeks. The thing is, I don’t want to miss a second of it. I’ve made such strong friendships over the past three years at University that I want to take every opportunity for the last laughs and posing for photos. But, as previously mentioned, I have money earmarked for the next stage in my life.

This is where I think being frugal meets its dividing force. There are some who reject social occasions in order to save money. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I think it shows amazing dedication. But on a personal level, seeing people and doing things are what I cut down in other areas for. I would rather eat lentils for a month than miss out on the end of term party.

However, there are things I can do to still save money, even when I’m socialising. First thing, drinks. Alcohol costs money, one of the sad facts of life. But I genuinely can take it or leave it. And I have discovered lime and soda! Especially at this time of year, a cool glass of lime and soda is a real treat on a hot day. I delightfully discovered this week that they only charge 10p a glass at my SU! I couldn’t believe it! Secondly, food. Most students are in the same boat in that they can’t afford to eat out in proper establishments. So taking your own lunch or snacks isn’t out of the ordinary in this group. Thirdly, entry fees. Well, there might be a few ticket prices I have to shell out for, but I will be attending several free events being held at the Uni, including several plays. I’ll get a night out with my friends for free – no travel costs (walking), no refreshment costs (take my own) and no charge for entry (as part of their exam, the drama group offers a free performance).

Cutting back doesn’t mean cutting out important aspects of your life. Balance and priorities, those are the biggest lessons I’ve learnt during my University life.