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.

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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.

Urban foraging

“Bye for now,” said a housemate recently. “See you soon.” No one knew how soon that would be, but the next thing he said was music to my ears.

“Help yourself to any thing I’ve left.”

His generosity, and that of other housemates who are indifferent to meal planning, resulted in my practically free lunch yesterday. Potatoes, a sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms were combined with my items from my own stores (leftover broccoli, a small piece of onion, gravy powder and a little cooking fat) to make a hearty bowl of goodness. This meal can’t have cost me more than 50p.

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I can’t abide waste, and the vegetables would have been left to go mouldy if I hadn’t used them accordingly. Waste averted and a lovely meal enjoyed.

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Pay day graciously arrives tomorrow and I am completely looking forward to it. I spent my last few pennies on a reduced loaf of bread this morning, but there is still pleasure to be found without costing a coin. I went for a wander this morning to pick up a stack of books from the library, including more WW2 material. I got stuck into these accompanied by a free Waitrose coffee, courtesy of my loyalty card.

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Simple pleasures don’t cost the earth, but I will feel more at ease when my bank balance looks healthier. Roll on Thursday!

Fuel for the day

Monday is shopping day. It’s the day I trawl around several different shops in order to get the best prices for my weekly rations. I love it. Shopping is a wonderful hobby, it never feels like a chore to me. From my unscientific research, it seems to be that males do not like taking them time perusing a shop and its wares. It’s more of an in-out-get-out-as-fast-as-you-can sort of job. But me and a girlfriend spent an hour this morning hopping from one store to the next and it was glorious.

But as today was shopping day, I woke up this morning with a dilemma. No apples for muesli, no bananas for porridge, I can’t make toast in this kitchen and I certainly wasn’t going to use an egg for just one meal. I had been browsing Carolyn’s famous blog and decided to try out her recipe for Eggless Pancakes. They were divine.

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As mine were made with g-f flour, they were not light and fluffy, but I do think the addition of a little bicarbonate of soda did help. They were quick to make, cheap, using few ingredients and tasted delicious drizzled with honey and served alongside a strong cup of tea.

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It can be hard making supplies last the week, but when you get to the end of the week and there’s still goodies for breakfast, you know you’re doing ok.

Doing it right

Today I went shopping and it was glorious. The purse strings were able to be loosened a little this morning and I had wonderful time meandering around the local charity shops. I also popped into a couple of other high street shops in search of presents in lieu of an ample amount of birthdays in the pipeline. I can’t show pictures, just in case a birthday girl catches a glimpse, but let’s just say I’m very pleased with my purchases. I did pick up one item for myself.

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There is a talk of visiting this fine country in the future and what better way to begin my research than with a book about its famous food. I’m hoping it will tell me more about the varying regions and some origins of the classics.

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I was also lucky enough to find reduced bread in Waitrose. I’m only buying my bread reduced now, I can’t honestly afford it full price and as long as you’re patient, you’ll normally come up with the goods. I’ve visited Waitrose three times this week in search of reduced bread, and today was my lucky day. A loaf of seeded bread and four seeded rolls for the same price as one branded loaf. That’s shopping done right.

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I had a pleasant time this afternoon playing on my 3DS and baking flapjack. I tried a new recipe, using honey instead of golden syrup. It made a large dent in my rations, my jar of honey and box of oats still has to last me the month. But it did yield a good amount of golden bars. The sweet ration is running low, as you can imagine, so I need to bake to make sure I don’t polish off the eclairs!

I’m learning lessons whilst on this ration plan, and I’m going to make adaptations next month. I do think I’m going to stick with it though – my grocery bill is low, I feel healthier and I waste nothing. Not that I wasted much before, but I was guilty of having crisps for dinner or sweets for lunch on more than one occasion. My eating habits are better and I feel better because of it. Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.

Ingenuity

It’s one of those strange days that feels like a day off. I get to wake up slowly, peruse the blog world and wear my most comfiest black leggings. But alas, this afternoon I will be changing into my uniform and heading out to work. Sometimes it’s a burden, waiting around all day and being unable to settle because you’re constantly clock-watching. But today, I’m enjoying the relaxed pace of the morning.

The chap brought me back a darling souvenir from his travels. He collects tankards and fancy beer glasses, which I’ve always been envious of. But now I have my very own, all the way from Heidelberg, Germany.

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Being gluten-intolerant, I don’t in fact drink beer. I had been using my new tankard for water, which I guzzle all day. But this morning, I truly fancied a huge vat of tea. That’s one way of making my tea ration stretch, using one bag to create a half litre of tea 🙂 And saving electric, as you only have to boil the kettle once. It was a wonderful accompaniment to my muesli. (Sue – I’m yet to be organised enough to try your tip for muesli, but I will do soon!)

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I probably won’t do this regularly, as I fear staining my precious tankard, but I did enjoy reading my book this morning, large mug in hand. It’s the simple things that I find most relaxing of all.

I ♥ The Greengrocers

I made sure to get home, changed and out again, hessian bag in hand, to make it to the greengrocers before closing time. This working malarkey is really cutting into my shopping time! I’m so glad I made the effort, I came out with a bag of goodies for £2.58. My best buy of the trip was definitely these beauties . . .

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As I’m sure you’ve seen, big supermarkets retail fancy tomatoes on the vine like this at silly prices. And they never taste as good as they look. But this length of bright red fruit cost me the grand total of 36p! And they taste wonderful. They made a wonderful addition to tonight’s evening meal.

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A huge plate of salad with two baked potatoes with cheese. A very satisfying, seasonal and frugal meal, sorted.