Monday 28 February 2022

Shopping ... just for food honest ;-)


We called to Mum's yesterday and on the way home we briefly stopped at her local Marks and Spencer food shop.  It may not be the closest branch to us but it's the easiest one for us to get to, just a quick detour, a ten minute stop and then we can hit the motorway for home.

My £5 voucher was burning a hole in my bag and while I was close to a branch I knew I might as well stock up on the Garlic Kievs while I could ... I might have gone mad and bought some little cheesecakes too!!

At first this is what I wrote on the receipt when I got home.  The crossed off item is Alan's milk, obviously not a part of my Challenge.

But then I remembered that this particular voucher was counted as part of my yearly budget when I did the initial calculations, so I altered it to show £12 spent.  I was also able to use a voucher to get £3 worth of points on any food spend towards the next quarters award, plus of course I have just paid for the holiday on my M&S card so I should be in line for bonus vouchers that will be over and above my Challenge budget next time.  (My credit card bill is always paid off in full at the end of every month, so no interest is ever paid ... M&S Bank must hate me. ๐Ÿ˜‚)

So this months total spend is £56.59, which although over the allowed £50 per month is in fact okay as I can take the £6.59 overage out of the money that I had over from last months really low spend of £24.32 ... phew!!

So I still have overage of £19.09 as an emergency back-up, and I can now put my £50 for March into my bag.  ๐Ÿ˜€ 

I'll take some photos of the fridge, freezer and cupboards today ready for the new Months Food Stash photos that I will post about tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see if there is much difference ... I think there might be.

Sue xx

Saturday 26 February 2022

Thank You ... and Buying to Copy

Firstly, thank you to everyone who commented yesterday.  

It really helped me to think about the Challenge after reading all your comments and I have decided that my No Spend Challenge should really be a LOW spend Challenge.

My food budget is still the same just £50 per month for the whole of the year, but I will be relaxing my No Spend Challenge rules on some things.  For instance I will allow myself to buy any really necessary things that I need ... something else was purchased yesterday and will be delivered in 6-8 weeks for instance.  So if I was going to say I failed, then I failed again yesterday, but I didn't ... I adapted my Challenge for the sake of my health.  

What I am going to do ... and thanks for the idea Allie Jane ... is to keep a journal note of anything that I buy that I have decided is a real need during the course of the Challenge, if nothing else it will keep me focused and enable me to look back over the year at what I have spent.

My new little £7.50 black planter and the green obelisk that will be for the French Beans to grown up.

Thank you again for all the comments yesterday.

And now ... the post I had planned for today.

A tasty little tea last night, it was just an M&S Melt in the Middle No Fish Cake with the last of the Iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes and two spring onions.  Quite tasty and passable  but it was just as it said virtually a fishcake with the fish left out and oozy vegan cheese in the middle ... something I could no doubt do myself much cheaper.

Seemingly it contains:  

Flavourful flakes of rice protein combined with potato filled with a deliciously creamy coconut centre, coated in breadcrumbs. Simply heat the oven for 20 minutes and serve alongside chunky chips. Serves 2. 

But I would just make a mashed potato cake and then place a square of vegan melty cheese in the middle and then coat with breadcrumbs and bake in the Remoska.  Virtually the same outcome just with a cheaper price tag.  But sometimes it's worth buying a product just to see if you can replicate it and this was bought in a pre-Christmas rush of madness to the head when I filled the fridge with M&S goodies.

I think I will call mine simply a Cheesy Mashed Potato Cake ๐Ÿ˜

After making up another batch of Apple Pies in the sausage roll maker earlier I had a little strip of pastry over, once again I rolled it out thinly sprinkled it with cheese, rolled again, sprinkled on more cheese and left it in the fridge.

Then while the Remoska was still hot from cooking the Fishless Fishcake I cooked my little Cheese and Cracker All in One dessert and ate it straight after my tea.  Very satisfying.

Is there anything that you have recently bought and then successfully replicated at home ... for a lot less money?

Sue xx

Friday 25 February 2022

So I Fell at Two Hurdles


The first hurdle.

I had a feeling that I would fall at this particular hurdle when I read one of Bovey Belle's blog posts  recently and she spoke about buying plants ... gosh she even called it Temptation at the Garden Centre.   I thought to myself straight away, while I was still reading it ... I didn't really think about that one did I?

Alan loves to go for a coffee and a meal out and of course I had worked that part of it into my No Spend Challenge rules by saying every time that happened I had to repay his paying the bill for both of us by providing either a home-cooked meal for him, done or a sweet treat or snack ... also done, out of my food supplies.

What I had forgotten to consider is that two of the places we regularly go to, one of them where the dogs are welcome even inside on these cold blustery days, are two of the best places for glorious plants, garden accessories and colour ... and boy oh boy have I been missing colour in the garden.

I didn't realise how much until I saw this photo  that I took last week.  It looked so brown and dreary.  Yes the little Tete-a-Tete daffodils in the small pot have opened up now and that has helped enormously, and the Snowdrops look so pretty now that they are all out, but I wanted colour ... no I needed colour!!

So on Wednesday one trip to the Daisy Clough tearooms and garden centre just up the road from us and next to where I had The Van, was all it took for my hurdle to come crashing down, my blinkers to come off and some glorious Spring colour, a black wooden planter that was reduced to £7.50 and a plant support in my shade of green to come home with me.  Fail number one.

The next fail I hadn't even considered ... Alan's need for sunshine and a complete get away from it all holiday.  Because of lockdowns, moving house and my bad health we haven't even been able to consider getting away for the last few years and it's actually over ten years since we jetted off for some proper sunshine.  He's really feeling the need to chill for a good ten days with nothing to do but sleep, eat, drink and bask in the sunshine.  So how could I say no when he's been working so hard with our company for so long.  Being company owners we just don't get fixed holidays, we just take a day here and a day there in amongst all the work days.
So as of the start of this week we have a holiday booked for ten days in Alcudia, Spain.  
So officially ... fail number two!!

In everything else I am going to continue trying not to fail, my food money is the same, my not wanting to buy anything unnecessary is the same but I have relaxed my rules somewhat in a bid for this Challenge not to fail completely.  After all it's my Challenge and my rules so if something comes up I must try to adapt and continue rather than just throwing in the towel. 

Now if it would just stop these intermittent and very heavy hailstone showers I could go out and plant the last couple of pretty plants in the apple tree barrel and spread a little bit more joy around our garden.  I'll try and take a better photo once it's all done.

Sue xx

Thursday 24 February 2022

Money Boxes and Savings

We were chatting in the comments on PP's Small Treasures blog a few days ago and I mentioned those long slim divided money boxes that used to be all the rage for managing your cash back in the day.  I remember my parents having one each and the labels being Rent, Electric, Gas, Rates, Spends etc

Anyway with a lull in work proceedings and over a cup of coffee I decided to look on eBay to see if they were still around, and they were ... at a price!!

The one above had a Buy it Now price of £19.99 so I kept looking ...

... then I found this one, just listed with a Buy it Now price of £3.99.

At that top price I don't think I would be tempted even if it wasn't my No Spend Challenge year, I'll stick with my little drawer, my box and my enamel teapot for now.

Oh and I also came across these, once given away completely free of charge if you opened an account for your child.  Now available to buy for £10 the pair ... I always wanted one of those cute little houses, but unfortunately I couldn't afford to open my sons a savings account when they were all the rage.

Sue xx

Wednesday 23 February 2022

So Many Storms, So Many Names

  • Wow, there' s  been so many storms over the past week or so and I am struggling to keep up with the names, seemingly the next one is Gladys, sounds such a lovely innocuous name doesn't it, but is she going to be as crochety as her friend Eunice I wonder?
  • I looked up the names of future UK storms and they are already listed at the Met office and awaiting usage.  They are alphabetical and alternate between male and female, and they are chosen from submissions put forward by us.  So if you had a windy old grandad you could volunteer his name for next years submissions.

  • Arwen
  • Barra
  • Corrie
  • Dudley
  • Eunice
  • Franklin
  • Gladys
  • Herman
  • Imani
  • Jack
  • Kim
  • Logan
  • Mรฉabh
  • Nasim
  • Olwen
  • Pรณl
  • Ruby
  • Seรกn
  • Tineke
  • Vergil
  • Willemien

  •  Fascinating, well I found it fascinating anyway.
Why the photo of my kitchen at the top I hear you ask, well that's where I'm staying at the moment ...  in the warm, with the radio on,  making my breakfast while the wind blows outside and various objects seem to be blowing past the slightly opaque glass.

Sue xx

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Not Just Sausage Rolls


Three rolls made in the sausage roll maker that I confessed to buying yesterday, thank goodness I had enough cash left over this month to be able to get it.  Only there are no sausages or sausage meat inside these ones,  inside one there is pate and inside the other two is apple from a tin of apple pie filling that I had in the cupboard.  Yes, the sausage roll maker makes four, but they are so good the other one containing some pate didn't even last long enough to be photographed.

They are a doddle to make using this ready rolled puff or shortcrust pastry.  I have tried both now, this one that I bought yesterday and one of my other shortcrust pastry rolls from the freezer thawed out.  You get three pieces from each ready rolled roll that fit into the maker (two at a time obviously ๐Ÿ˜) so one of my sets of four 'sausage rolls' was a puff pastry bottom and a shortcrust pastry top ... it worked perfectly with no discernible difference between to two types of pastry,  I think the lid pressing down stops the puff pastry from rising but makes it super crispy at the same time.

As each roll is sealed by the machine while it cooks drippy fillings can't escape until you bite into your roll, so these would be brilliant for school lunches or picnics etc ... or simply sitting on the sofa watching scary movies like I did yesterday.

Up to now we have tried:

Linda McCartney Sausage and Sage and Onion stuffing x 4
Pate x 2
Tinned Apple Pie Filling x 2

And for lunch today I am going to try making some potato, cheese and onion rolls.  The world is my oyster and if it can be cooked in ten minutes, fits neatly into the indentations and sounds like it might be tasty wrapped in pastry it will be being tried.  I see a lot of leftovers being turned into very tasty little sausage roll shaped pies over the course of this No Spend Challenge.

Of course one of my main reasons for buying this ... as well as an addiction to sausage rolls and all things pastry ... was to save on having to put my oven on.  My Remoska can cook some pastry items, so it already saves me a fortune with not turning on the oven but but it does seem to cook pastry slightly erratically, so this little gadget is the perfect accompaniment to the Remoska to save me money on the electric bill.  I can use them covering most dishes and leaving my oven switched off except for larger batch cooking sessions or cakes.

And I intend to make up a big batch of homemade pastry and have the right sized pieces stored in the freezer ready for use to make this even more economical.  And I know I have at least three boxes of these sausages in the freezer, which tasted wonderful when thawed and added to some sage and onion stuffing before being trialled as my very first batch in the sausage roll maker.

Winner, winner sausage roll ... and other things ... dinner.  ๐Ÿ˜„

Sue xx

Monday 21 February 2022

Shortest Month and Six Shopping Trips!!

Alan wanted some shopping, I must say it's weird to me just how many times he seems to be shopping ... but of course I joined in, it would have been rude not too!!

I didn't really need to, indeed I should be making do with what I already have in, but I thought why not get the things I have definintely run out of or am about to so that I can keep the cupboards reasonably well stocked.  Hence my rather eclectic range of items.  I had no peanut butter in at all ... which I rather disappointedly found out when I went in the cupboard to get some for my toast ... and the large tub was a very reasonable £3.99 and should last me quite a while.

Bread for my morning slice of toast which is now happily in the freezer, just two potatoes as I fancied a baked potato for lunch one day this week, wraps for quesadillas which make another nice quick but very satisfying lunch, mixed veggies because they were reduced and some more paracetamol to keep the stocks turning over.

I had been tempted by something in the middle aisle but I resisted.

A total spend of £7.42.

One kilo of pure peanut butter .... yum yum  ๐Ÿ˜‹

I was just getting in the car when I thought 'sod it' and went back in to buy the item that was tempting me.  A sausage roll maker for just £14.99.

And a packet of ready rolled pastry to go with it, as all mine is in the freezer and I simply couldn't wait for it to thaw out to make some sausage rolls for my tea.  Aldi's lovely version for just £1.19 for four seem to have been discontinued since November of last year and I have really been missing them.

The other two items on the receipt were Alan's so not out of my budget (two boxes of Macaroni Cheese that you just add water to and microwave ... he said it was delicious).

So I have spent a total of £44.59 this month already, leaving me just £5.41 available for next week if I need to use it.  The shortest month and already almost up to my budget, maybe I do need to do that definitive £10 shopping for one week to get me into a better mindset.

Sue xx

Saturday 19 February 2022

What a Lot of Weather!!

Warm soup on a cold, cold day just what is needed.

 But rather weirdly I'm just not in a soup mood much recently, so the last two portions of this weeks Vegetable Soup have been put into tubs and popped into the freezer, which luckily due to me eating a few meals from it over the course of this last week finally has some space for homemade things to go in.

We have thick snow falling outside at the moment, but I really don't think it will stick for long as the huge flakes dissolve so quickly if you catch one, and also the air temperature seems much warmer than the last few days.  Mavis doesn't like the snow at all, and after dashing out to go into Alan's patio doors on seeing them shut she immediately tippy-toed back into mine and settled herself back in bed.

I hate seeing huge old trees being uprooted and crashing to the ground, but I was especially sad to read on Facebook via my sons girlfriend that a gundogs kennels have suffered the loss of 13 of their dogs.  They were electrocuted when their kennel runs were electrified after being hit by a power line that was brought down by a falling tree.  Two Cockers and eleven black Labradors lost their lives so sad.

So much sadness, but also so much bravery being shown by so many people during all this bad weather ... and as for the three idiots that wanted to go in the sea for a swim and had to be ordered out by the Coastguard ... words fail me!!

I hope all my blogging buddies and readers are staying safe. ๐Ÿ’—

Sue xx

Friday 18 February 2022

A Famous Shed and Dudley


Photo Credit - Michael Coleran -  Dudley over Garstang  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Storm Dudley got us good and proper last night, it was wild and noisy with gusts going on for hours, although there was a weird lull for an hour in the middle before it built up again just in time for bedtime.  

I gave up trying to wedge the wheelie bins in place when they came knocking at the door numerous times and eventually left them lying on their sides with the lids pressed against the wall to stop the contents flying out.

Our neighbour got home from work and accidently opened her briefcase (just how do you actually do that?) and papers flew out.  Luckily she managed to catch most of them but one important piece of paper blew over the back fence between our gardens.  So her husband phoned Alan ... who was in Berkshire ... who then phoned me to let me know the neighbour was about to knock on the door to ask for his piece of paper back.  What a roundabout way to do it, why not just knock on the door?

Anyway it was all sorted and we got off a lot lighter than some people, although local roads were blocked for a while with fallen trees.  Massive thanks to all of the services workers who go out in atrocious weathers to put these sort of things right and keep our towns and villages safe.

My little shed is famous!!

I am currently catching up on some magazine reading and earlier this week I made a start on the January edition of  The Simple Things subscription I have.  I should have looked much earlier because look what I found ...

... I guess I'll have to cut out and keep this for posterity.

I think we have all our magazine appearances from our former new life in the country in Alan's office somewhere, but I don't think this needs to join them.

*** *** ***

Thank you for all the wonderful comments on yesterdays post.  It would seem we are all of the same mindset and they were wonderful to read while I sat at the breakfast bar that is now my mini office space clutching a massive cup of coffee.  Suky snoring rather loudly in the background made it feel very cosy in here while the wind blew even more loudly outside.

Sue xx

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Single Use Plastics, Re-using, Re-purposing and Recycling


Single use plastics and people talking about them seem to be everywhere I look at the moment.  It's funny isn't it that when you think about something and maybe read about it or watch a programme about it, suddenly it's everywhere.

I was sat mindlessly chewing the legs off my Christmas Gingerbread Man ... you have to eat them legs first so you can say goodbye to his face ... watching a Youtuber teaching me all about re-using plastic bags when I suddenly thought 'you're teaching your granny to suck eggs here'  ...

... because in my kitchen draining over the cutlery tub before being put away for possibly the fifth time was a zip-lock bag, a regular occurrence here in the lodge.

It always makes me smile when I think about how many times I use some things, just take my green Stay Fresh bags from Lakeland for instance.  At £6.99 for just 20 that might seem expensive ... indeed at 35p each it is ... but when you think that I usually have around four on the go at any one time and these get used and used and used until they can longer be used and then they are suddenly very good value.  I can honestly say that I have used each of my current on the go ones more than 35 times each making them less than one penny each.  And thinking of the money they save me by keeping my vegetables fresh for such a long time I have saved so much money.

I remember last year visiting my Mum and she was really upset after watching a programme about cotton buds and their environmental impact when they had plastic sticks.  She had a new pack purchased months before waiting on her table to remind her to ask me what to do with them.  'Should I throw them away' she said 'and get some of the new ones with cardboard sticks'.  It only took me a moment to point out that if she used them one by one as she occasionally did and then throw them away it would be much better than putting the whole tub in the bin and  rushing out to replace them.  They would be thrown away in either instance ... but we should use what we have first. 

And that's just it isn't it, those of us of a certain generation were brought up to use what we have, keep what we buy for so much longer and not to replace things for replacing's sake.  We grew up with the milkman delivering our milk in returnable glass bottles, using our own shopping bags to carry groceries home from the shop.  Having our fresh produce and our fish and chip suppers wrapped in paper, and in the case of the chips it was actually recycled newspaper.  I remember taking a pile of newspapers to the chippy with a friend and being rewarded with a scallop each ... the Manchester version, which is a thin slice of heavily battered potato which was deep fried with the fish and usually for sale at 2d each.

Google Image

I think we were the original re-users, re-purposers and re-cyclers.

Sue xx

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Confession and Confusion - Missed Shopping Trip

My head just wasn't in the game last week!!

I went shopping on Wednesday, a last minute 'Do you fancy coming to Aldi with me?' from Alan saw me agreeing just so I could get out of the house for a while.  The sun was shining and it seemed crazy to stay indoors when a little five minute trip up the road and away from my desk would make me feel so much better, so we did.

And I shopped.

And I forgot to pick up the receipt.

 Then I put away my shopping.

 It was only when I went into the fridge later and looked at the Spring Onions in their glass jar on the top shelf that I realised ...

 I had also forgotten to photograph the food.

And when I dug everything out and took the photo and then put everything back, then I realised there should have been bread.

I took it's photo!!

Then I remembered we had also gone into Booths for a cup of coffee and when Alan asked me if I needed anything else, I said yes, curry powder as they hadn't had any in Aldi.

I have just sat on the Aldi website and found the prices of all my purchases and it seems that I spent £8.06 in Aldi and my curry powder was £3 ... what!!

At least it towers head and shoulders above it's friends and should last me a while.  ๐Ÿ˜„

And you lot tell me I'm organised!!

Sue xx

Monday 14 February 2022

Vegetables and Pastry

The last of the potatoes, the last of the celery, a couple of onions and the smaller carrots that I wanted to use up first.  Along with a tablespoon of bouillon and some water and seasoning made the component parts of six meals. 

One of the more finely chopped potatoes was cooked first and then scooped out to cool down and be added to the Cheese and Onion Pasty that I showed yesterday.  Then the rest of the chopped vegetables were added to the already potatoey water along with the bouillon and some more water.  This was then turned into a vegetable stew ... with the late addition of a large handful of peas ... that I had for another meal.  

After the rest had cooled a bit a couple of spoonfuls of the stew left in the pan were then lifted out with minimal water to be added to another strip of the same roll of pastry I used yesterday to make a Vegetable Pasty.  Then what was left was whizzed up with my stick blender to make three good sized portions of Vegetable Soup for some of this weeks lunches.

After making two pasties from this pack of pastry there was a very narrow strip of pastry left.  I could have just made the pasty a bit larger but I had a different plan in mind.

I rolled out the pastry to make it wider and thinner, sprinkled on some of my tastier cheeses, folded it over, rolled it again and cut it into four biscuit sized portions.

They looked like this.

Then I baked my pasty and cheese biscuits together, knowing that the biscuits could come out first and be a tasty little starter while my pasty continued cooking.

Too tasty ... it's a good job there were only four!!

Just like the softest and tastiest of cheese straws but flat and hot straight from the oven.  ๐Ÿ˜‹

And finally the pasty ... just my usual vegetable pasty but very enjoyable.  I didn't bother with gravy just a small dollop of mayonnaise.

Not the most balanced of weekend foods if you just look at the photos I have shown but bear in mind there was also the last three of the mandarin oranges and one of the apples consumed, a spinach and fruit smoothie for breakfast on Sunday and a large portion of liquid apple on both Saturday and Sunday evenings.  ๐Ÿท๐Ÿท ๐Ÿ˜‰

I could of course have just gone out and bought a pack of various pasties or pies but isn't making your own from what you already have in just that much more satisfying?

Sue xx

Sunday 13 February 2022

I KNEW it Would Come in Handy!!


I had a couple of crusts of bread in the freezer that I decided to turn into garlicky fried breadcrumbs to top the pasta bake that I showed on the last post.  

I forgot to take a photo but I can assure you that the addition of crunchy garlicky breadcrumbs to the top of the luscious cheesy pasta bake made for a very tasty meal.

Of course two crusts made a lot more breadcrumbs than I actually needed so my saved jar from THIS post, you know the one where we all sat in a circle and said 'my name is .......... and I hoard pretty empty jars',  came in very useful and the rest are now safely stashed in the fridge for another day.

It's been quite a cheesy weekend because I decided to use part of one of the shop-bought ready rolled rolls of pastry from the freezer, along with the last of the Vegan Ch**se Sauce and some red onion to make myself a nice big pasty.

I've all but given up on cutting out a circle for a pasty and now I just slice off the right size width of pastry straight from the roll and fold it over and crimp.  Anyway I love the edges ๐Ÿ˜„

I used one of my last five remaining potatoes to pad out the pasty a bit and add some body to the filling.  Gosh it was tasty.

I'll be back tomorrow with what I did the rest of the potatoes, because as well as it being a cheesy weekend it was most definintely a pastry filled one too.

Sue xx

For those of you who had a minor panic attack or were worried about my literal 12 hour vanishing trick, it was done by me for a very good and specific reason and there is nothing weird or wonderful going on.  For those of you who didn't even notice ... this makes no sense whatsoever, and I thank you.  ๐Ÿ˜

Friday 11 February 2022

Using Things Up


Two of the things I definitely needed to use up this week were the broccoli that I bought at the end of January and the vegan Cheese Sauce that went out of date last month ... or as it says on the jar Ch**se Sauce.  It makes me laugh the various spellings they use when they veganise foods, so many variations that children are going to grow up not knowing how to spell some things properly.

I noticed the pasta jar was getting quite low, but a quick peek in the cupboard showed me that I really don't have to worry.  I have a couple of packs of pasta shapes and lots of spaghetti.

I cooked up enough for my lunch ... yes that is a mixture of Penne and Fusilli pasta shapes, I tipped them all together when we moved house and gave the jar a shake ... and put the leftovers into an oven proof dish ready to top it with some garlic fried breadcrumbs tomorrow night and there's still a little bit of the sauce left that I think I might use as the sauce in a vegetable pasty or two over the weekend.

The first portion was very tasty, so I have high hopes for the following two.  ๐Ÿ˜€

Sue xx