Monday, 29 February 2016

Day 60 - The Whole30

I like those days when I can get ahead of myself and usually it's what I try to do on a Monday morning.  I find if the week starts well hopefully it will continue in the same manner.  

And it's this week I am starting The Whole30.  

A month long elimination diet designed to reset your body.  Eating just non-processed foods, completely avoiding dairy, grains and sugar (all things I know I should be avoiding but somehow just recently they have been slipping more and more back into my diet), it is supposed to reduce inflammation in your system, clear up any skin problems and revitalise your energy stores. So I am going to give it my best shot, after all it's just 30 days out of the rest of my life.

So first thing this morning I am already getting ahead of the game, while my breakfast eggs were boiling I already had my lunchtime soup on the go.  A quick whizz with the stick blender after it's had an hour in the oven, and I will have a big pan full of soup to last me for this weeks lunches.  I have decided that by menu planning a few days ahead I will be more likely to be able to stick with this.

There is nothing worse than feeling peckish and standing with your head in the fridge looking for inspiration.  It's half the battle won if there is suitable food prepared and ready to grab just when you need it.

So soup, veggie casseroles, curries and a box full of choppy salad are going to be my mainstays with a portion of salmon, tuna or white fish everyday to add to my salads.

Today is a No Spend Day

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Day 59 - Books

I'm pretty pleased with myself and the lack of any urge to buy books.  I don't know how much I have already saved in these first two months of the year because of my book buying ban, but it must be at least the price of two or three books.

I gaze into Waterstones window every time I pass by and I've even been in to test my mettle, and I'm pleased to say that each time I have come back out totally empty-handed and feeling even stronger in my resolve that I will not buy any books for the duration of the Challenge.

Today is a No Spend Day .... on food and books.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Day 58 - Loitering in the Fridge

It's only when you start to keep a daily food blog like this one, that's keeping records of what you buy and when you buy it that you realise just how some things are left loitering instead of being eaten when you've bought them.  

I've added very little to the kitchen cupboards since this Challenge began, just 2 jars of coffee, a jar of ground ginger and one of peanut butter, so with the exception of the fish-fingers that lived briefly in the freezer before being eaten last weekend everything else has gone straight into the fridge and then used up.  But these clementines were bought on 6th of this month and almost half of them are still there.

Now I don't eat much fruit and I have to make a real effort to make myself.   I'm much more of a veggie type of girl and I would rather get a stick of celery out of the fridge, slice myself a quarter of a cucumber or pull myself a carrot from the polytunnel to snack on if I'm feeling peckish, than pick up a clementine or an apple from the fridge ..... and speaking of apples ... there have been some in the fridge since before this Challenge began!!

Today is a No Spend Day.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Day 57 - Choppy Salad

Before I went shopping yesterday I turned most of the salady things left in the drawer of the fridge into a choppy salad.  Lots of you know that I do this as I've posted about it before on my other blog, but for anyone that doesn't it's simply a mix of pre-chopped salad vegetables ready to be used as a base for all sorts of meals.

We use it as it is with some lettuce for a basic salad to serve with meat, fish portions, pies or a slice of homemade quiche, I add it to cooked brown rice with a dollop of mayo for a rice salad, or the same with some cooked pasta for a pasta salad.  I also take out a few tablespoonfuls and chop it a bit finer, add in some grated cheese and turn it into a really tasty sandwich filler.

It's a really good way to get more salad into yourself, all the prep is done in one fell swoop and it sits in the fridge quite happily for up to a week.  If the salad is a bit wet I put a folded piece of kitchen roll on top of the veggies, put the lid back on and then sit the tub upside down in the fridge, the paper absorbs the excess moisture and helps keep the salad fresher for longer.

Today is a No Spend Day

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Day 56 - Minimal Shopping

Money Spent Today - £3.91  Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent - £0
Money Spent in Total - £47.97
Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent in Total - £54.50
Money left in Housekeeping Fund - £280.74

The best thing about minimal shopping is that when you get home with your one bag and unpack it, there is the space to put everything away in the gaps left by their predecessors.  There's no rejigging of cupboards or struggling to put new stocks behind old ones so that things get used in order.  I think it's this that I find the most satisfying.

Hopefully in a few months I won't be buying cucumbers, lettuces or tomatoes, but we'll be back to eating our own again.  The sun shining outside the window as I sit typing this makes me feel it's not too far away.  I do have a few various leaves in the polytunnel but when I saw the display of lovely crunchy Iceberg lettuces at just 49p each I was just totally tempted.

No vouchers spent this time.   I thought I had a £3 voucher, but when I looked in my purse the lowest denomination was £4.50, so as you can't get any change from vouchers I had to pay with just cash ... ooops!!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Day 55 - Focaccia Bread

I found a focaccia bread mix in the back of the baking cupboard the other day and decided to use it up to have with homemade soup for lunch, then later in the day we finished it off with a light tea of salmon and rice.

Not wanting to leave it just as it was I went out and snipped a branch off the Rosemary bush by the front door.  Both my Rosemarys in the pots on either side of the door have over-wintered very well and are huge so they are my current 'go to' plants for fresh Rosemary.  The herbs in the tin bath are looking much more sorry for themselves and will need digging up, pruning right back and re-planting to re-invigorate them for this year. 

After an hour or so sat by the side of the Age the dough had risen to impressive proportions and with a drizzle of olive oil it was popped into the oven for about 15 minutes.  Of course during this Challenge I doubt I'll be buying any more 'bread mixes' it makes much better sense to simply use a half mix of my usual bread recipe, making a small ordinary loaf with the other half.  To make it taste slightly more focaccia like I would simply incorporate a few chopped or dried herbs and be very liberal with the olive oil ..... and of course go out and snip off some more of my Rosemary.

I snipped off slightly too much as usual, so the excess has been popped into a cup of water to get some roots and turn into yet another free Rosemary plant for my collection.

Today is another No Spend Day

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Day 54 - Fishcakes

You can't beat homemade fishcakes, they really must be one of the easiest things to make, and the beauty of homemade is that they are not potato cakes flavoured with just a little bit of fish like so many bought ones can be!!

I make other kinds of 'cakes' too, sometimes they are just a mix of chopped vegetables stirred with a dollop of mayo, a tablespoon or two of yoghurt or a beaten egg to bind them together if they are too dry and crumbly.  I then dip them into flour, then egg and then finally some breadcrumbs, either fresh or straight from the freezer.

I always think the most important step is then to put them on a plate and leave them in the fridge to chill and firm up before cooking them.  Half an hour or even overnight this is what stops them from falling apart while they are cooking, and of course you can  pop them in the freezer at this stage too and have some ready for any night when cooking from scratch just seems too much like hard work.

Another bonus is they contain everything you need for a pretty well balanced meal, fish, potatoes, vegetables a little bit of fat and lots of protein, so you can choose to serve them with either a handful of chips, some fresh bread and butter or like I have here a little bit of chopped salad with a sprinkling of salted peanuts.

The only sort of 'cake' I actually like :-)

Today is a No Spend Day

Monday, 22 February 2016

Day 53 - Homegrown Pickings

Sometimes when I bring the pickings in from the polytunnel and give them their second wash in the sink, I have to stand back and admire the colours.  On this occasion I grabbed the camera and took a photo.

All this was chopped up, added to a couple of potatoes from the cupboard and a bag of veg hash from the freezer and turned into a very tasty pan of soup.  Just having access to this lovely fresh, homegrown food is why the food cupboards and the contents of the freezers are going down so slowly .

Today is another No Spend Day

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Day 52 - Make Two, Save One

Not the most photogenic meal I've had, but very, very tasty.

When I'm home alone I'm usually in the habit of still cooking two portions of things and then re-inventing the other un-eaten half for the next day.  It saves me time, washing up and the head scratching problem of what to cook for one.

This particular concoction was brown rice, quinoa, smoked salmon cooked with chopped red onion and a handful of garden peas.

The second portion was popped in a dish until it was cold, covered and then kept in the fridge.  

The next night I flaked the salmon, stirred it all together, added some chilli flakes and a squirt of garlic paste and used it as a filling for a couple of lovely pasties.  Wrapped in pastry and seasoned up it tasted absolutely nothing like the previous nights meal and went down a treat.  One pasty for my tea with a quick salad made from polytunnel pickings and one for lunch the next day, eaten cold with just a big dollop of mayonnaise.

Today is a No Spend Day

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Day 51 - Inventory

These may be a little bit hard to read, if you click on the pictures they will open in a different window and should be slightly easier to read.  Last time I made out an inventory it was a handwritten one, this time I have copied it onto the computer for safe-keeping  ;-)

As you can see, there is much more meat in the chest freezer than I thought, twenty nine different kinds of meat and lots more if you count all the individual chicken breast fillets, drumsticks etc.  There should be no danger of my carnivore of a husband going hungry until he can dip into the real world of self sufficiency and re-stock the freezer by his own hand .... and gun.

What I will do is count the individual items in the boxes and list them on the inventory as and when I dip into them to remove something.  I didn't want to keep things out of the freezer, or the lid up for any longer than I had to.

If there doesn't  seem to be many 'vegetarian' items this is because I have a drawer of the upright freezer with a selection of things in.  I will make a separate inventory for this freezer sometime during the coming week to get everything finally listed.  

Now this is done I can menu plan from the inventory instead of standing at the freezer scratching my head AND my freezer is lovely and tidy .... and I can actually see where things are.  Putting things back in their categories means that I can now find what I need and hopefully keep it this tidy as we eat our way to the bottom.

Today is a No Spend Day

Friday, 19 February 2016

Day 50 - Shopping

Money Spent Today - £1.60  Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent - £11.50
Money Spent in Total - £44.06
Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent in Total - £54.50
Money left in Housekeeping Fund - £284.65

I'm really pleased as this is the first time I have been shopping for eleven days ...  I'm really happy with that because no shopping means no temptation, no temptation means more money stays in my purse and my vouchers and coupons remain untouched.

The special request from our weekend guests was for fishfinger buns for lunch on Friday ... and who am I to argue, so as we had no fishfingers a pack of 20 was duly purchased.  Oh, if only all guests were that easily pleased  ;-)

The Aubergine has been added to last week's peppers and a large chunk of my 'last Courgette' and a host of other ingredients to make a big pan of Ratatouille which will be lovely to share with our guests alongside some basmati rice, as well as some Garlic 'Tear and Share' bread which I discovered in the very depths of the freezer while I was doing the freezer inventory yesterday ... yes I finally got stuck in and did it.  Why are jobs always much worse in your head than they actually are when you get stuck in ....  I quite enjoyed doing it.

Spent Today  £1.60 Cash and £11.50 in Tesco vouchers.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Day 49 - Marking the Books

I've just finished reading my way through this book (for the second time), and looking at all the little post-its marking the pages that have the recipes I want to try I would say it's a definite keeper.  I have recipe books everywhere in the house, including on my bedside table and read them as I would a 'non-cook' book.

This one has been a good read, now it's time to choose my next one to delve into for inspiration and to keep me focused on my books and not wanting to buy any more during this Year of Without.

I've just tucked into a very filling breakfast, I'm off shopping soon as we have guests for the weekend and I need a few supplies ... they have put in a very special request for lunch on Friday :-)

It's a very good tip to make sure you have a full tummy before hitting the shops, you'll find you're nowhere near as tempted to fill your shopping trolley with all those tasty treats your eyes seem to land on as your tummy rumbles in the background.

Today is a No Spend Day .... up to now, tomorrow won't be ;-)

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Day 48 - Buttery Breadcrumbs

There was a solitary crust of bread leftover in the bread bin after the weekend, now I used to loved this thick end slice from the loaf smothered in butter for a tasty treat but times and tastes have changed.  Usually I would have crumbled it into the chicken scraps bowl and given it to them with their morning ration of corn ... but not this time, and indeed not for the last few times.

I crumbled it all up finely with my fingers, no need for a food processor for a single slice of bread, and usually here I would just tip it into a tub and put it straight into the freezer, but for a change I decided to melt a knob of butter smoosh the crumbs around in it and put it in the bottom oven of the Aga for 30 minutes.  Giving the breadcrumbs a shake every 10 minutes to make sure they were drying out evenly and not sticking.

So they turned from this pale insipid soft pile into the lovely buttery crumbs you see in the jar at the top of the post.  Now they are tucked at the back of the fridge waiting to be put to good use with some more leftovers.

Today is a No Spend Day

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Day 47 - The Last Courgette

This week's pan of 'fridge soup' has all sorts of bits and pieces in it.  

I raided the veg drawer of the fridge for any sad looking specimens, and I picked and plucked as I watered the polytunnel, currently a once a week job thank goodness, as all the rain that has fallen on our hillside has trickled down and is keeping the soil just beneath the surface nice and moist.

I also put a quarter of this, the last Courgette sliced and diced into the pot.  It's lasted really well.   Inside the now slightly tougher skin is a lovely moist, tasty and very edible courgette.  I know it is of Marrow size but it is most definitely a Courgette, they all grew so fast last year that even with giving the chickens at least one huge one a day I couldn't keep up with them  ;-)

It added a tasty bulk to the pan of soup that was split into a weekend lunch and a lunch or two for Lovely Hubby at work and  a pan full sat in the fridge for my lunches all week.  So that's the last Courgette started off and there are three Pumpkins still glowing orange at me from the conservatory windowsill.

Today is a No Spend Day

Monday, 15 February 2016

Day 46 - Time to Really Dig In

It really is time to dig into the freezer and see if we can slowly, sensibly but surely work our way down to the bottom.  With this in mind the other day rather than eating some shop bought ready made pies that were in there, I instead grabbed a tub of homemade meaty pie filling  and a pack of frozen ready rolled pastry.

I also got out a pack of frozen grated cheese and tipped it into a tub in the fridge ready for use throughout this week, and so that I could make some cheese and onion pasties for myself.

I made four rather large pasties and, unfortunately forgot to photograph them, we ate the lot in one meal with a handful of mixed veg.  The hardships you have to put yourself through to make space in the freezer  ;-)

And this week I actually am going to finally set to and make a list of what we have in there, I would hate to get close to the bottom and find we are living off last years homegrown cabbage and carrots and not a lot else!!

Today is yet another No Spend Day

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Day 45 - Veggie - Non Veggie

I've been asked a lot how easy is it to feed the two of us when I eat mostly vegetarian meals and Lovely Hubby is an out and out carnivore, well to be honest I find it really simple.  True my man has cut back greatly on the meat he consumes, which will aid this years Challenge greatly, but when making meaty meals I have always started out with a base that is vegetarian.

For instance the curry above was made from scratch as a vegetable curry, with mixed vegetables, lentils, vegetable stock and spices and then I browned off a large chopped chicken breast and split the base curry into two pans.

They were then both cooked for 30 minutes and left to go cold ready for later in the day.  Reheated curry or stews always develop a lovely depth of flavour if you do this.

It's the same when we have a simple snack for lunch.  A mixed chopped salad base with grated cheese, mayo and lettuce, with a slice or two of ham added to Lovely Hubby's bun.  It keeps things simple and keeps us both happy.

Today is a No Spend Day.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Day 44 - Old Bananas

I bought these bananas way back here .... a shameful twenty one days ago and then abandoned them on the worktop, and I'll be honest the only reason I finally got round to doing something with them was because the whole kitchen smelt like a giant banana and it was driving me mad!!

I looked up this recipe in A Girl Called Jack, by Jack Monroe and just got stuck in without thinking about it.  As it was before breakfast time and I was starving I decided that as well as making a Banana Bread I would make two small muffins to have with my coffee ... I knew I wouldn't be able to wait long enough for the loaf to cook.

They were yummy .....

... and half an hour later I may just have accidentally eaten two slices of this  ;-)

Today is No Spend Day

Friday, 12 February 2016

Day 43 - Butter Tubs

I only posted about the full to the brim chest freezer the other day, and then yesterday I found myself with more food to be frozen.  Luckily these two tubs fitted neatly into the upright freezer that is in the kitchen and part of the large fridge we have.

The only drawback is that at first glance it appears to have rather a lot of tubs of Lurpak butter, in fact most of them have alternative contents.  A quick glance showed that I have Pesto cubes, Red Wine cubes, Basil, Mixed Herbs, soup and even very unexpectedly lots of tubs that actually DO contain butter.

It's a good job the labels haven't fallen off  ;-)

Today is another No Spend Day.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Day 42 - Saving Money

We buy our washing up liquid through our company, as home is our business address and company premises it can be tax deductable.  But even though because of this, it is not coming under the remit of the Challenge, ie not being bought with the other shopping but purchased instead from the farm supply shop, I still do not waste a drop.

I refill the smaller bottles from the large one ....

... and when the large one is finally empty (each one lasts us about a year) I put a small amount of water in it and swish it all around.  This 'swish' liquid gave me enough pot washing power for an entire weekend.

And when the small bottles are completely empty I fill them with water and give it a shake, I get one wash from the water and then I drop the red top into my next bowl of water for washing pots and let all the washing up liquid 'gunk' soak out giving me another bowl of sudsy washing pots water and a nice clean bottle and top ready for refilling.   I waste nothing.  

Oh and forgot to mention of course the washing up liquid itself is diluted!!   I fill the small bottle up to about two thirds and then top up with tap water.  When we lived in southern England I could get away with one third washing up liquid and two thirds water but here with different water the quantities have reversed.

Today is another No Spend Day.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Day 41 - More Coupons

Just a week after the M&S coupons landed on the doormat these Tesco coupons have arrived.  Another £19.50 to help us along with the Challenge.

The thing is I know this is probably the last delivery of coupons with a large face value that we will get, as we are spending less the points will add up much slower and any future coupons will be for much smaller amounts.

I now have four cash off coupons to use at Tesco ....

... and these 'Extra points' coupons, should I choose to use them.  

I have put them in my purse. but unless we need something I won't dash out and use them just for the sake of it.  I am using the supermarkets on MY terms this year, and this means that just because the special offers are there or they send me enticements, if I don't need them or they are not the offer they are purporting to be I just will not be buying them.

Today is a No Spend Day

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Day 40 - The Freezer

The chest freezer is full.  The meat we bought yesterday took us almost to the top ... the thing is we really need to get to the bottom.  I don't even know what is lurking down there.

I have told myself a few times that I must, really must, set to and make an inventory of exactly what is in there so that I don't go out and buy anything we already have, and so that what we do have will be made best use of.  But when it's this full the thought of emptying it and writing it all down seems just too big of a job ... and a cold one at that!!

Why is it so full, well mostly because we waste nothing!!  Any meal that leaves leftovers means something else to go in the freezer either as they are or in the form of another meal.  

For example I had a salmon bun one day last week, just the one ... so there was half a tin of salmon leftover.  I could have just put it in a dish in the fridge and had the same again for lunch the next day,  but I quickly made up a bit of mash, chopped a spring onion or two from the polytunnel, added some seasoning, a pinch of chilli flakes and turned the half tin of salmon into four chunky fish cakes ... and put them in the freezer. 

 Brilliant use of what I had but this sort of thing obviously fills the freezer quicker than I am emptying the cupboards.  Also because Lovely Hubby is the only one that eats meat in this house and now usually he only does this two or three times a week,  what we have bought now that it's portioned into single meal packs will or should last us for a quite a long time.

All this makes me realise even more that it's time I did an inventory, if nothing else it will let us see how many meals we actually have in there.  I bet there is a lot more than I think!!

Today is a No Spend Day

Monday, 8 February 2016

Day 39 - Don't Take Your Husband Shopping

Money Spent Today - £25.75  Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent - £5.00
Money Spent in Total - £42.46
Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent in Total - £43
Money left in Housekeeping Fund - £286.25

Remember last month when our local farm shop, Bodnant Welsh Food had the £10 voucher off a £20 shop and I did just that ... spent £20 and saved £10.  This months offer was a £5 voucher off a £10 shop .... if I'd gone shopping on my own I would have bought just ten pounds worth of meat and saved myself £5,  but nooooo I went with Lovely Hubby and we ended up buying £27.75 worth of meat AND a packet of cakes!!

As soon as we got home I portioned up the meat into usable sized portions.  Bacon into four slices per pack and the pork chops all individually wrapped and then bagged.  All but one pack of bacon went straight into the freezer (more about that tomorrow).

We decided that we would split the benefit of the voucher and call it £1 off the cakes ... making them 50p each ... not a bad price for a treat.  And then £2 each off the bacon and the pork chops, making them £1.60 for each  pack of bacon and £1.78 for each pork chop.

The first of the bacon was eaten this morning and although it was expensive compared to supermarket packs of bacon, it was just like the bacon we used to produce ourselves.  It didn't shrink at all in the pan, there was no white gunk coming out of it as it cooked (this happens because cheap bacon is pumped full of water), and, according to Lovely Hubby it tasted absolutely delicious.

Spent Today  £25.75 Cash and £5 Bodnant voucher.

And the moral of this story is ..... when your husband issues you with a strict housekeeping Challenge DO NOT LET HIM GO SHOPPING WITH YOU!!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Day 38 - A Year Without ... The Lottery

As well as a year without clothes, books and housekeeping money, there are also lots of other little things that we decided to live without this year, with a view to seeing what permanent reductions we could manage for our future.  One of these was to have a year without the National Lottery.  Lots of folk have already dropped by the wayside with this country's national lottery since the numbers of balls were increased by ten giving us all an even slimmer chance of winning.

I used to always buy our tickets in advance and handing over a large sum of money every eight weeks really brought it home how ridiculous this gamble was.  So our final ticket was bought eight weeks ago and ran out last weekend.  As is my usual way once it had ran out I took it into the supermarket and had it checked by the Lotto machine there.

And lo and behold it was a double winner.  We won £25 cash and two lucky dip lines for tonights draw.

The cash has gone straight into the holiday fund, as we have a Spring weekend break in a National Trust cottage booked and paid for last year.  We don't want it to be an expensive time so we are adding to the holiday fund in dribs and drabs and popping any money we get in the Sealed Pot.

Of course our lottery chances are not now over as we also now have another two chances of winning the lottery this Saturday .... I promise you'll be the first to know if we are millionaires by Sunday  ;-)

Sue xx

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Day 37 - The 9p Shop

Money Spent Today - 9p  Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent - £8.00
Money Spent in Total - £16.71
Vouchers/Coupons/Points Spent in Total - £38
Money left in Housekeeping Fund - £312.00

Well this week I went berserk ... and spent more than twice the cash I spent last week.  Last weeks shop was 4p and this weeks is a dramatic rise to 9p  ;-)

I decided to buy some potatoes as we are down to the last two of the homegrown spuds, of course there is a bagful of potatoes in the cupboard under the stairs but they are merrily chitting away and will hopefully end up being a big crop of potatoes for later this year once they are planted out in the Veggie Patch so I am not touching them.

The bread rolls are different from the ones I usually buy and are Tesco's own, baked in store variety.  Although they are bigger they were half the price of my usual purchase at 2 packs for just £1.  Not a bad price for eight good sized buns.  The other ones apart from being twice the price were an awkward size, one was never quite enough but two were just a bit too much and solving the problem by having one and half each meant there was always one left over!!  So hopefully as well as saving some money I have solved this problem.

Spent Today  9p Cash and £8 in Tesco Coupons