Saturday, 30 August 2008

And now for the good news!

We have just managed to pay 10% off our mortgage!

This time last year we owed the building society £105,000.00

We then remortgaged in September 2007 for £85,000.00 paying off £20,000.00

This time we scraped together £8,500.00 (the 10% allowed in 1 year) and now we owe £76,500

Slowly but surely it is coming down!! It was very scary using up our savings, there are so many other things that the money could be used for but we decided to follow our goal which is to be financially free by retirement.

Now it is back to building up the savings again! We have to find the next 10% £7,650 by next August. We have learned that every little helps even the 20p saved by not buying that second hand book and getting it from the library instead. What with increasing food and fuel prices and an extra mouth to feed this won't be easy but I'm not giving up now! What we are doing is to put money we would definately have spent before straight into savings so if we would have found the money to eat out before but instead I cook then we take off the cost of the ingredients and save the difference, if we go to the market for the 3 books for £5 offer but then decide to go to the library instead then that is £5 saved. In the last 2 days we have saved £15.20 towards our goal.

Friday, 22 August 2008

We're losing the path!

Everything is growing so well in this part of the garden that we are losing the path! I realise now that we didn't allow enough room and so we have an overcrowding issue! I can't wait until we get the bigger veg patch going next year. We spent £20 on compost at the beginning of the season as this was a new bed and very clay like, but it was worth it. All the plants came free courtesy of our very kind neighbour and also from some packets of seed I had from last year. So for £20 and some back ache we have been getting a good harvest this summer of courgettes, runner beans, tomatoes, spinach and from a compost filled dustbin nearby some new potatoes.

This is todays harvest, may not look like much but is more than enough for the 2 of us and means we have not missed the 2 organic box deliveries we have now cancelled each month. This has saved us £25.70 a month. I am also putting a fair bit into the freezers so we will have a supply into the autumn. We are getting a similar sized harvest every 2-3 days and if we can keep ourselves supplied into October (by using the frozen produce) we will have saved £102.80 less £20 for the compost and £12 for eggs, £20 for fruit - bought at the farm shop instead of from abel and cole - I make that a £50 saving!

It all helps and the pleasure of harvesting your food from the back garden is priceless.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

What a lovely birthday present!

This was what I woke up to as I looked out into the garden on my birthday!

I have always hankered after an old fashioned bird house for the garden, like the ones on my american cross stitch patterns and bless his heart Mr C had taken this on board and gave me this one for my birthday! Now I shall have to tidy up the garden and level the ground under it so it doesn't tilt so much. I have placed it well away from any other nest boxes and more or less where we used to have a silver birch that the birds loved so much.

I am spending the rest of the day being thoroughly spoilt by my friends and family, no dinner to cook tonight! We are off to a local fish restaurant, my favourite Loch Fyne.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Aunty Beryl's Chutney Recipe

After 3 weeks without a delivery I'm pleased with the contents of this weeks organic box delivery, a lovely looking cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, couple of little gem letuces, plums, apples and some delicious clementines. Now to menu plan!

I still have courgettes to use, the one at the back is an example of what happens to a courgette if you don't get to it in time, I have a few more like that one, might be making some of my Auntie Beryl's famous (well famous to our family) chutney! Her recipe is really easy and can be used for most fruit and vegetable gluts:-

Aunty Beryl's Chutney recipe

3lbs apples or any other fruit/vegetables (plums, marrows, tomatoes etc)
3/4 pint vinegar
1/2 lb chopped onions
grated rind of an orange or lemon
1 dessertspoon each of ginger, curry powder and mixed spice

Prepare (peel if necessary and cube) fruit/vegetable and simmer with other ingredients until tender.

Then add 1/4 lb sultanas and 1lb sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick. Pot in the usual way.

This is lovely with cheese and ham.

The organic box delivery with the eggs came to £12.85 so total left in the grocery challenge is £24.15 to last until the end of the month and we have visitors next weekend! yikes! Luckily Mr C is taking us all out for a meal to celebrate my birthday so that is one day taken care of!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Counting my blessings

It's been a quiet week here and I have taken some time out to see how I have been doing.

I can't change my mobile phone contract until october but come october boy will I change things. It is by far too high a bill for something I rarely use so I am hoping to change to pay as you go and keep the phone I have, it is handy for keeping in touch with the kids and for emergencies but really that is all I need. I can't wait til october!

I am well stocked up on the pantry basics and have a freezer full of garden produce and the surplus from the organic box deliveries, so can keep the grocery bill down for a while yet. I have managed to keep to £150 for the month on a regular basis. The organic delivery is now fortnightly instead of weekly.

We have changed our fuel supplier, should be sorted in 4 weeks and we are now on a capped rate for a year.

We have managed to set up a home office costing very little for Mr C with furniture donated and swapped from friends and pennies spent at car boot sales.

I have plenty of craft materials in a now easy to reach place, which should take care of filling the long winter evenings. I also have plenty of books - I found plenty in boxes in our daughters room and in the loft. I have sadly got into Mary Jane Staples Adams family saga, just cannot put them down! Also some old Agatha Christies I have collected.

Slowly but surely the end part of our garden is being cleared and we should have a large vegetable patch in use for next year.

In some peoples eyes we don't have a lot, no new cars, expensive overseas hols, designer clothes and furniture, but we have each other and although not brilliant good health it could be worse!
I am counting my blessings! :)

Spent £20 on groceries at the weekend so total spent is now £113.00 with £37 left.
Just had 2 no spend days in a row - NSD-6/10 + NSD 7/10

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Down by the river

It was a beautiful day for a walk by the river, luckily these little openings didn't tempt the doggy buddies to go for a dip! Penny still needed a bath when we got back though!

Penny was too busy keeping up with Bella her doberman friend, everywhere Bella went Penny followed, a bad case of hero worship!

The moorings were full up and it was busy down there today.

Even boats can have gardens! Very tempted by the boat on sale in the background. Oh if only....

We had a cuppa and some lovely home made lemon cake, so delicious I forgot to take a picture and ate it all up. :) Very tired now and resting up big time.

Today cost me about £4 for the refreshments, my treat as my friend drove us there.
Yesterday was a no spend day - NSD 5/10

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A 20p Melamine tray

Who would have thought it but when wondering what would be one of my favourite non electrical pieces of kitchen equipment this one comes out top for the most used! I bought it at a car boot sale because I love the farmyard animal design but I rarely see that now!

Yesterday I skinned and sliced up tomatoes from the garden and popped them onto the tray

The tray fits perfectly into the ice cube draw in my upright freezer!

Into a ziplock baggie and into the chest freezer ready for when I make a pizza.

Today I am blanching some runner beans from the garden so that 20p melamine tray will be back in use! I have lemons and kiwi to freeze down as well, might explain why I never do get to the bottom of that chest freezer!

Yesterday I decided (at long last) to do something about the spare bedroom and got rid of about 5 bin bags of paper and old clothes to the dump's recycling bins, 1 bag was normal rubbish no plastic recycling here other than for bottles! and several more to a charity shop. More has gone to that storeroom in the sky (loft) and the crafting bits are now in the conservatory. At the end of the day I was exhausted so the risotto was put on hold and we had fish and chips but 1 meal between the two of us followed by more strawberries, I had a large salad for lunch so hopefully enough healthy food for the day. Definately not a no spend day then! :(

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Use it up stir fry

In my money spending days in order to make a stir fry for dinner I would have popped out to the local supermarket to buy a pack of pre shredded stir fry suitable vegetables costing at least £1, a couple of skinless chicken breasts £4, a packet of stir in sauce £1 and some noodles £1 making the meal cost about £7 - £8 shocking but cheaper I guess than a take away or eating out!

Last night (inspired by frugal trenches post here) I decided to have a go using what I already had in:-

from the fridge - left over chicken from the Sunday roast, asparagus, carrots, mushrooms (remains of last weeks shopping) some yoshidas gourmet sauce (1/4 bottle from Costcos left)

from the garden - spinach and courgettes

from vegetable basket - onions, garlic (from neighbours home grown)

from larder - chilli noodles (bought last week while on special offer - have 3 more packets left) and oil

One very filling tasty meal and no extra cost incurred (thank goodness) We had a bowl each of english strawberries for pudding. It is amazing just what can be cobbled together from what you already have! Tonight we have risotto using up some more of the lurking veg (butternut squash, onions, garlic, courgettes), chicken stock made from yesterdays chicken and some left over white wine followed by a fruit salad made from some of the frozen fruit in the freezer.

Grocery challenge spend so far £93 (£57 left for rest of month) yesterday was another no spend day - nsd 4/10

Just noticed from the photo that my cooker needs a clean!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Taking stock!

I have been away from my blog for a few days, exciting things happening for the family- my son had his first book published and it is on the shelves in our local bookstore! One very proud Mum here!
Well back at the homestead and back to reality, I need to do a stocktake. Why is it that I can never get to the bottom of our chest freezer? I do try to use up what is in there but one thing leads to another, I cook a chicken and then make chicken stock, some of which has to be frozen! Leftovers which cannot be used right away get wrapped up and put into the freezer, I automatically make meals for 4 so that I can freeze half for a couple of ready meals for when I have no energy due to booming and busting (cfs term). Add to this the fact that we are awash with courgettes, tomatoes and a few runner beans all needing to be frozen down and I feel I am attempting the impossible! I need to get organised and fast! I truly am doing very little in the way of shopping - £75 the first week, £18 this week and no organic box deliveries so it should start to have an impact on that darned freezer! :)
Mind you I do count myself very blessed that I have more than enough food at the moment rather than not enough. It is my dislike of waste that is causing this problem!
I found a bag full of frozen blackberries from last summer, a large bag of sugar, a bit of work and I should be able to make some blackberry preserve this week. No need to buy any jam then! I shall now avoid buying anything if I have the ingredients to make it at home.
This could apply to other items around the house as well, I would like more cotton hankies - instead of buying them I have a pair of pretty "Elizabeth Emmanual" pyjama trousers (seam ripped) which could be cut up and made into several pretty hankies. Now where is that sewing machine..........
Thursday was another no spend day - nsd 3/10

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Home matters most

Jennifer at Home Matters Most has asked fellow bloggers to write a piece on why home matters most to them, so here goes:-

In 32 years of married life we have lived in 3 different houses, each house a home, each home a safe and precious place. During those early years of newly wedded bliss home was a place where we could shut out the rest of the world for a while while we got used to each others ways and planned our careers and the rest of our lives. Later on home was the place where we brought home each of our 2 newly born babies, home then became a nursery and later a school room where we taught our brood how to walk, talk, sing, play, respect others, laugh, read, cook and all the other important family things.

Several years on and in our third house and home, this time a house with a mortgage and all the struggles that go with that, home was a place to return to from work and school and where we could offload our days with complete confidence, surely the walls didn't really have ears? Home became a DIY experiment, a mini zoo, a playground, a restaurant/cafeteria for our kids and at times their pals, a counselling centre for friends (the favour was returned many a time when I had problems that were to great to handle alone) home became a gathering place at times of sorrow and of joy.

Now in our middle years with the children grown and living their own busy lives, home is a place they can return to when their problems get too big to deal with alone, they can boomerang back whenever they need to or just after the spare room has been turned into my craft room! :) Home is not just a place, it is a combination of family, friends and a safe haven. Home matters most because there really is no place quite like it!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Remoska "Aunt Bessie" style roast spuds

We normally buy our potatoes in 10kg bags and they last for a long time but on checking yesterday I found that the potatoes at the bottom of the bag were way past their best, must be the heat! So I peeled and par boiled them and chucked them into the remoska with some olive oil, sea salt and some rosemary and left them to cook for about 30 minutes. The remoska uses about 20% of the elctricity the oven would and the results so far have been lovely. We had enough for our dinner and the rest were packed into a ziplock and frozen for another day.

Today has been a catch up day, the weather has been lovely and all the washing has dried, is ironed and in the airing cupboard. Tonight we will be using the first of the pasta sauces in a pasta bake with a garden salad so very easy and cheap! Another no spend day so that makes 2/10

Sunday, 3 August 2008

This weeks car boot bounty

We got there late (after midday) and the rain clouds were gathering so a lot of the sellers were packing up and leaving but there were still some diehards selling some bargains! The cd rack for Mr C's office 50p and the lovely lady gave us the 3 cd's for free and 1 is Simply red so I'm happy! The Ikea plant stand for the conservatory 50p, large tupperware container 50p, toys 20p each (1 for the puppy and 1 for the toybox) and the videos were only 10p each! includes Working girl - a favourite of mine, One fine day, The Associate, I Claudius part 1 & 2 and Monty Python vol 10 so more money saved by not going anywhere near blockbusters! It was a bit of a trolley dash which isn't my favoured way of car booting but at least I got my fix! Total spend £2.40 no entrance fee as we arrived so late!

The other photo shows the fruit and veg we bought as it all looked so good. 2lbs cherries, 2lbs strawberries, 2 bunches of asparagus, 1 huge cucumber and 2 melons which smell delicious. This did cost £8 but I am cancelling this weeks box delivery until next week as we have so much coming in from the garden and plenty of free range eggs, so £2.90 saved. Some of the cucumber will be used with the rest of the home made yogurt, some garlic and some mint sauce to make tzatziki . We will have some of the asparagus with tonight's Remoska roast chicken dinner and put the rest into the freezer. Some of the fruit is destined for the freezer to make the most of the treat and some will become a big fruit platter to munch on now!

Shopping lists, menu planning and bulk cooking

Making a note of what you already have in and making a list is best done before you head off to the shops, :)

Sounds obvious really doesn't it? but I still make the mistake of just getting the shopping done without checking the stores and then wonder what I am going to do with all those tins of tomatoes that keep falling off the shelf! Anyway my favourite sort of recipe is to bulk cook in the slow cooker pasta/pizza sauce. It varies according to what veg I add but we all like it and it is freezable and very versatile and will be used in pasta bakes, bolognaise, on home made pizzas and poured over chicken.

Tomato pizza sauce
1 very large tin or 5 normal sized tins of tomatoes are needed for this.
First in a large pan, saute about 4 large or 8 smaller chopped onions in some olive oil, add some crushed garlic and then pour in the tinned tomatoes. Add some dried Italian herbs and some fresh basil if you have it. Simmer for a while, adding a tiny (1/2 tsp) sugar or a slug of tomato ketchup, I also add in any left over red wine (which I save in a little bottle just for cooking) Then add any veg you want to use up. This time I added sliced courgettes (from the garden glut), runner beans (from the freezer) and mixed peppers (also from freezer). Transfer to the slow cooker and let it cook slowly until the veg is soft. Turn off the heat and when cool enough, spoon into a large jug (mine made 4 large jugs)and blend in the processor until smooth, remembering to change out of that lovely new cream top you have just bought or at least to put an apron on (boy does tomato go a long way when it splatters out of a jug :) top is now in soak!) This made 5 takeaway boxes of sauce which for us will make 5 main meals for the 2 of us and also provide enough for the bases of 5 home made pizzas. Cost to make about £2 - cost to buy (based on the pots on sale in Sainsbury's) £7 so a saving of around £5 I could buy the really cheap jars of sauces available but I would rather know what is in the sauce!
My Mum used to make up her own pastry mix in bulk and keep it in the fridge until she needed it, we love pies so with this in mind I bought up more flour than usual and so that I can make a pie or two and some quiche will be making up this mix:

Pastry Mix
3lb plain flour
3 level tsp salt (I might try to cut this down a tad)
12 - 15 oz fat

Sift the dry ingredients, rub in the fat and store in poly bags, Tupperware or screw top jars. this will keep in the fridge for about 3 months or in a cool dark place for about 2-3 weeks.

To make shortcrust pastry - to 12oz mix add 2-3 tablespoons of cold water

For a rich shortcrust - to 12oz mix add 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon cold water

For a cheese pastry - to 12oz mix add 4oz grated cheese, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon cold water, 1/2 tsp dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Other meals I will be making this month are Nasi Goreng - an Indonesian fried rice with fish, ham or pork, spring onions, peas, garlic, spices, and an egg-strips of omelet across the top, which uses up all the bits and pieces hanging out in the fridge. This will do for 2 days.

Kedgeree with smoked fish, egg, rice and peas - we use the cheaper smoked pollack now.

Fish pie - using again the cheaper pollack and a handful of frozen prawns in a home made white sauce, layer of frozen peas and mash on top, grated cheese on top of that.

Salads - love them at this time of year, egg, ham, salmon or tuna with olives and hard boiled eggs.

Risotto - my all time favourite and can be made with almost anything, but our favourite is butternut squash now £1 at Sainsbury's.

Curry - either vegetable (potato and pea is good), soya mince (we buy that by mail order in bulk now from Goodness Direct as it worked out at half the cost of the supermarket) or my Mums favourite hard boiled eggs (if you can afford them that is - i have to think twice about it as we only get free range and prefer organic so expensive)

Chilli con carne (or not if you use the cheaper soya mince like we do)

Our menu changes in the winter with the addition of stews (normally chicken with vege dumplings) hm soups with chunks of hm bread, casseroles and if we can afford it the odd roast dinner.

Puddings (when we have them) are normally fruit based (home made fruit salad using up the frozen fruit from the organic box), trifle, Eton mess (homemade yogurt, fruit and hm meringue) crumbles, pies or for a rare treat cheese and crackers.

Breakfasts vary but can be porridge in the colder weather, home made muesli, corn or bran flakes with fresh fruit, toast and marmalade or honey using up the home made (in breadmaker) whole meal or granary loaf. For a very, very rare treat we have a cooked breakfast.

Elevenses and supper - a piece of home made cake or a homemade cookie and drink.
Lunches - I make up a packed lunch when required for Mr C and try to do the same for myself even if I am at home as it makes sure I eat something. For this I use either home made bread or some of my squirreled away yellow stickered bargains with fillings of ham and mustard, cheese and tomato, tuna and mayo with salad or homemade pate and salad, a piece of fruit and some home made cake and it's done. Some times we have leftovers carefully re-heated or home made soup and bread or jacket potato with baked beans.

I can never do a rigid meal plan as I don't always have the energy to feel up to cooking (trying to put some home made ready meals into the freezer) but I normally have the ingredients in to make the above.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

A monthly shop

I have decided to avoid temptation and will try to stay out of the supermarket as much as possible, I have done a monthly shop costing £75. Because of the higher prices I have had to drop from organic in a lot of cases but will still be getting our organic box deliveries. The bread (23 rolls, 1 loaf ) was all yellow stickered and cost 50p instead of £3.35 - all frozen away individually for Mr C's packed lunches. there are 5 bags of flour 2 self raising and 3 plain - white instead of wholemeal which I normally buy but these are for making up baking and pastry mixes and will keep longer - also I read somewhere that it is only worth buying wholemeal flour as organic as it is the husks etc that would have been treated by pesticides. I have plenty of organic bread flour in stock anyway.

We are also trying some of the basics range - preserves, cornflakes, onions, boxed orange juice, tinned tomatoes, some cheeses,, if we don't like them then next time we will go up a level. Mr C had the next level up for his bran flakes and I still had my "rocks" blackcurrant squash which tastes like squash used to back in the day! (I must remember that this is very concentrated)

There is enough pasta there (2 basics 19p bags, 1 large wholemeal penne and 1 spaghetti) to last us and if we do run out I shall have to learn how to use the pasta maker. the fresh pasta was a treat and cheaper than a takeaway, there is also enough left over for a nice lunch today! We also have 2 organic chicken quarters for dinner on Sunday.

Penny had her treats too - a box of bonios, dental stixs and some rawhide chews - this will have to last her at least a month. We still have enough food for her from a large sack.

On a budget of £150 for myself, Mr C, visiting family and a cockapoo for the month, I have £75 left to cover the box deliveries and any top ups but the freezers still need emptying so some interesting meals ahead, mainly vegetarian as there is not a lot of meat left.

Just to add that this shop was done Friday evening about 7pm so very lucky with the bargains!
Saturday was the first no spend day of august - nsd 1/10

Friday, 1 August 2008

puppy pals

We took Penny (on the left top picture) to meet a friends 5 month old puppy, Ruby, this week, as you can see, after 3 hours of this sort of behavior and tearing round and round the garden, they wore each other out. Penny is a cockapoo puppy and is part cocker spaniel and part toy poodle which explains her fondness for standing up on her 2 back legs a lot! Ruby is part cavalier king charles spaniel, part pomeranian, part jack russell and obviously thought anything Penny could do she could do as well.