Friday 31 March 2023

Three Months Into the Non-Challenge Challenge


Well it's three months into my limited spending challenge and I thought that was a good time to do a few sums and see exactly how I'm doing?

If you remember back at the very beginning of January this year on THIS post, I set off to try and live for as long as I could on the money I had saved up from last year.  I had made the cash by selling my excess belongings on FB Marketplace and at the two table top sales we did.  It was to be used for anything that I needed or wanted.  

There were no real restrictions and the only thing I really wanted to do was to bring down the food stash.  I have quite successfully done this, well to a level where nothing jumps out at me when I open the food cupboard door now and I can easily slide out the freezer drawers without things being jammed in.

 My grand cash total was £ 592.20 ... was there any left?

Yesterday I went carefully through my diary and added all the purchases up, over the first three months of 2023 I have spent:

Food = £340.66
Haircuts - 3 x £23 = £69.00
Car MOT = £45.00
Non-Food Items = £78.20

A total of £532.86 in cash spent.
(And one £10 Booths Voucher)

Leaving me with £65.61 in cash, a new £10 Booths voucher, £21 in M&S vouchers and around £15 in Nectar points.  I think I will be using all my vouchers and points over the coming month in a bid to hang on to as much cash as I can.  Even though I have averaged £175.67 a month for the last three months, April should be a much cheaper month for me, the only family birthday is mine, so no cards or presents to buy.  My next hair appointment is not until May and obviously the car is now MOT'd.

So I have my fingers crossed that I can get at least one more month out of my little non-Challenge cash pot.  What I really need to do is to try harder not to shop, to eat more from the foods that I have already got in the cupboards. I am so easily tempted when Alan says those eight little words ... 'Do you want to come shopping with me?'

Confession time, I have to admit that £37.70 of the 'non-food item' spending was spent on books.  I clearly remember saying that I wouldn't buy any books this year ... oh well I guess most of you realised that that wouldn't happen even if I rather madly thought it would!!

Well the wine might be all gone ... but the books remain.  😄

Sue xx

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Round the Corner, Fig Tree ... and No Wages


I was asked about my shed and where was it in my little garden ... well it's round the corner.  So I thought I would show you it as it is now.

Also around the corner of the annexe, next to the shed is the first raised bed that we put in place.   Last year I had salad crops and courgettes in there, oh and two cucumber plants too that didn't do that well, but we got a few fruits each from them, so it was good to experiment.  Later in the Summer I put the leeks in there and we used them one by one over winter as and when we needed them.  I was supposed to be putting some garlic in the left-hand side last October ... but I forgot!!

So it has just had bamboo canes scattered willy-nilly over the top to discourage Ginger from landing on the soil.  I wouldn't mind while it was empty but he carries on doing it with plants in place if I let him over winter.

Anyway he has his own pussycat shelf to make getting up to and off the fence a much easier and less thudding experience for his old bones.  The gloriously shaggy greenery in the little plant pot next to the planter is what's left of the snowdrops.  Once they have chance to dry out a bit and the leaves dry off, they will go back into the shed to over-Summer ready for next year.

Something that we moved for this year is the Fig tree.

It used to be sat on a paving stone on the corner of the pebbly area of the garden where it annoyingly intersected the washing line, and as it got so big last year it was taking up quite a bit of drying space we decided on Sunday to relocate it to the white wall of the main house.  

Hopefully this will also mean that the lovely morning sun we get in this corner of the garden will aid in us actually getting some ripe figs ... well for Alan to get some ripe figs, I really do not like figs at all, although I love the leaves of the fig tree and the mass of greenery it brings to the garden.

I was reading Sooze's blog post yesterday morning where she was talking about the financial things she had to do, and it reminded me that I had yet to pay my Council Tax.  So before it went out of my head again I went online and paid it in full for the year.  I had forgotten that you could pay it with your credit card, it was only when the options popped up that I remembered that this is how I did it last year.  It means some more M&S vouchers, not many but enough to make it worth me paying it this way ... and then of course I pay off the credit card bill in full as soon as it lands in my inbox.

I do like to pay as many things up front for the year as I can, I just hate having direct debits etc, drip feeding out of my bank account, although of course I can see that it does work for some people. This one off style of payment just works better for me.  The first year you do it is obviously very hard but then you are on a roll and get used to having the money in your savings until it is needed.  

Which reminds me I need to have a word with the accounts department and see why I haven't received my wages yet ... and until I do they will not be getting a cup of tea!!  

The accounts department of our company (along with many other tasks) = Alan.  😄 

Sue xx

Monday 27 March 2023

Ch, ch, ch, Changes ... Our Garden, Then and Now


This photo popped up on my Facebook Memories on Saturday.  

Yes, it's two years now since this property became ours, and the work began over the course of the following three months to fix up the house and the annexe, and to completely redesign the garden to something that suited us and our furry friends.  While the work went on we lived at the flat in town and project managed the re-plastering, fitting kitchens, re-decorating and all that goes with homes that need starting from scratch.

Of course for me the garden was important and as soon as we could, while the builders were working away inside the house, we had a brilliant handyman who worked outside day in day out, taking down all the fences, lifting and relaying the flagstones and following the plan that I had drawn up.

This was how our garden looked on the day we bought the house.

With a long fence separating the annexe from the main house and cutting the garden into two unequal halves.

And this was how it looked a couple of weeks later.

With the dividing fence down and a large area of the flags lifted, with hardcore down ready to be edged with sleepers and for smaller and smaller stones to be poured on top.

We decided to not have grass in such a small space but instead went for stones on one side of the dividing sleeper and a square 'wood chippings bed' in the corner.  Then the first plants went in.  We put in a bottomless barrel and planted it with an apple tree and a few bulbs and small plants.  We planted a few perennial shrubs and sunk the stainless steel sink taken from my original kitchen as a small garden pond.  This is the one thing that really did not work out.

 We didn't really think things through when we first moved in, we are so close to a large amount of water ... the canal ... and with the other bird drinkers that we have in the garden the water in the 'sink pond' just sat there covered in plants, or exposed and turning green.  In fact the only things that went in it were my foot once and Suky, when she reversed away from something and found herself thigh deep in green water.

So this year in our first gardening weekend of the season, after checking for any wildlife ... sadly none ...  Alan dug out the sink and I planted a Rhubarb plant in the space that it vacated.  A much more useful addition to the garden and tasty too. 

The birds can continue to drink from my little antique drinker that is under the bird table.

And also drink and splash in the clasped hands drinker that sits in the righthand corner of the pebbly area.

This weekend Alan pressure washed everything in the garden, I weeded and tidied and we generally got everything ready for the coming growing season.  The long raised bed that we added late last year and the other one near the shed, will soon have all the wooden bits and bobs coverings taken off.  I put them there to keep cats off and it has worked a treat, but looked so messy all through Winter, and has been driving me nuts!!  I think that we will chop and burn all the wood in the chimenea over the coming Summer evenings, and then next Winter cover the beds with something else, I am already saving any nice cardboard boxes that arrive in preparation.

Oh and it's a good job it's nearly the end of the month, as I think that I have just bust my budget treating myself to something that will help me to grow more food from my tiny space this year.

A metal framed, plastic covered greenhouse to start my seedlings off in and then put my tomato plants into ... they didn't do that well completely outside last year.  It's described on the B&Q website as a 'walk-in greenhouse' ... well maybe if I was eight inches tall.  😂😄

Anyway, as we creep towards the end of March it's time to add up my spending for this month, cry over my lack of cash and then cheer myself up by getting some seeds sown, so that eventually I will have some homegrown food to eat once again.

Sue xx

Saturday 25 March 2023

Of Narrowboats, Seeds and YouTube


It may look a bit gloomy, but it's just early in the morning, the world is barely awake but it's nice to be out walking the tow path with only the sounds of the birds singing as my soundtrack.  The crunch of my feet on the soggy gravel barely disturbing anyone.

I love narrowboats and we always get a few different ones to wander past.  It's hard not to look into the windows as you pass, but you can look in the direction of the boats when the curtains are closed without feeling too guilty.

I was desperate to plant some seeds the other day, although I know it's still a smidge too early for me here in Lancashire.  So I quieted the urge by planting two Courgette seeds in a pot.  They sit on my windowsill with their plant pot encased in a reused polythene bag.  Their own tiny greenhouse.

The hope of things to come. 💚

Some Weekend Watching, just a few of my favourites from this week.

Freakin Frugal.   Frugal Daddy in the dumpster again.  I find it so sad that supermarkets throw so much perfectly good food away, and even more sad that animals have lost their lives only for their flesh to end up in landfill.  Happily they rescue a tiny portion of it, and share it with neighbours and others.

Never Too Small.  An apartment with the same square footage as my little lodge.  It's always interesting to see such different layouts to mine and what people have done with them.

Gittemary Johansen.  Zero waste shopping in Denmark with the original sustainable badass vegan.

And finally:

What's for Tea.  Meals of the week from Cheryl in Scotland ... why are other people meals so much more interesting to look at than your own?

  If the rain stays away today I'll be sorting out my tiny garden ready for a Summer of food growing.  Just a little bit in the raised beds and lots of pots, but just a little bit is better than none.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Sue xx

Thursday 23 March 2023

Lockdown Anniversary, Paintings and Green Soup


Angela over on Tracing Rainbows mentioned on her post this morning about it being the anniversary of the first lockdown here in England.  So I thought I would look back at a few of my blog posts around that time and see what I was up to when the world ground to a halt, and we were all sent to our rooms armed with toilet rolls and bags of pasta.  

And as usual, I fell down a rabbit-hole of my own making and had a good read of quite a few old posts.  What I did come across was the original post that showed the picture that I fell in love with.  

I had found the image online, used it for that post and then sent it to my son and asked if he would paint it for me for my 60th birthday, of course never realising at that time that it would be over two years until it actually came into my possession.  Yes, thanks to Covid I never got a sixtieth celebration and my older son missed out on his fortieth, but then we all had far more serious things on our minds.

A couple of days after that blog post, on the 24th March, I had to quickly pack up what I could fit into my car and head back to Wales with Suky as the caravan park closed it's gates for the duration and it made more sense for me to be back on the old homestead and us all to be in the same country.

How things changed, and how much we have all come through in the years since then.

Thanks for all the interest in my £3.50 challenge week on Tuesday's post.  Don't worry I will be posting all about it as soon as I do it, I  just need a couple of days to eat up some of the fresh things that I have in the fridge at the moment.

Lots of green things got made into a pan of soup  yesterday.

And it gave me a cup full of soup for my lunch and three more tubs to go into the freezer.

That should be nice and healthy after a week of limited food groups, and we all know just how precious our health is these days don't we.

Sue xx

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Three Lots of Shopping ... and Hundreds of Missing Photos


Yet again Alan asked if I wanted to go shopping, and even though I didn't actually need anything except some hairspray ... I said yes.

At least I remembered to get the bloody hairspray!!

£36.78 spent.

50p spent

After spending the grand total of 50p for a days food the other day, my mind was wandering over what could be bought if you shopped for a week's worth of food in one trip with the same budget, and what meals you would make with what you bought.

So I went back to Sainsbury's the following day and did it.

This is what I came up with.

£3.47 spent.

The idea is that the weekly meal plan includes toast and marmalade for breakfast most days, and virtually all other meals consisting of something with potatoes and carrots and a smattering of onion.

It will be good to see how interesting I can make it with such limited supplies, although this time I have allowed myself a very basic store-cupboard, from my cupboard ... after all I am supposed to be eating my way through my food stash and streamlining my food supplies.

No wonder my head's in a whirl and I have accidentally moved all my photos from 2005-2010 to somewhere on my computer ... and I know not where!!

Sue xx

Saturday 18 March 2023

Just Words and Pictures


William K Blacklock - The Morning Post

Disclaimer -  She is a real person.  She struggles and she sparkles.
She is no longer afraid to say what makes her angry, sad or what she thinks is unfair.

She's not afraid to admit that at times she feels worthless, lost, or not enough.
She's refusing to hide from love, beauty, aliveness, magic and abundance.

She won't edit the sad or messed up parts of her story, or the magnitude of her triumphs, to make anyone comfortable.  She is a real person.

She struggles and she sparkles, she is a real person.

Tanya Markhul

Have a great weekend, whatever you have planned to do.

Sue xx

Friday 17 March 2023

What Would YOU Eat on 50p a Day?


Yesterday on a Facebook group that I am in we were set a little challenge.  The wording was:  

So, in the true spirit of this group, assuming empty cupboards, and that means not even flavourings, what would you buy?

Must be full price items and no freebies.

I will start you off with Aldi savoury rice 28p and Aldi spaghetti hoops at 16p. total 44p.

You only have 50p. Not a penny over! Just food for one day for one person.

There were lots of interesting answers, and you know me I just had to have a go.

 I did it in the comment section on Facebook, explaining my plans and using Sainsbury's online shopping site to check prices, and then this morning ...

... I just had to go and see if it was actually possible.

My breakfast.

The makings of my dinner and tea.

I washed and peeled the vegetables putting all the peelings, the carrot top and tail and the inner onion skins into a pan which I then covered with water and left to simmer away for twenty minutes.

Once strained, this 'stock' was poured over the now chopped vegetables and brought back to the boil before being allowed to simmer until the potatoes were nice and soft.

I removed enough of the vegetables and stock to make a nice dish of vegetable stew and then whizzed the rest up to make a mug full of soup for my lunch.

Considering this has no salt, pepper or any other flavourings added to it, it made a very tasty soup and I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a smidge too much soup to fit into my cup so that was added to the bowl of stew.

It was a good job that it was nice and quiet in Sainsbury's while I went back and forth until I found the vegetables that exactly matched my spending money.  I started with the potato as I knew that would be the most filling part of the meals and sadly this meant that the carrot was left with only 3p available for it.  But as you can see it all worked out just fine.

Yes I was hungry, an hour after breakfast, and two hours after my dinner, but it shows that when push comes to shove if you only have 50p in your pocket you can find something to eat.

What would YOU buy with 50p to feed yourself for a day with?

Sue xx

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Shopping for the Fifth Time this Month, Vouchers ... and Gravy Bones


Yep, I've been food shopping for the fifth time this month, hopefully this will be the last time, maybe, perhaps ... who knows!!  😄

Seriously though, I needed another card, a sympathy one this time, the dogs needed some chicken and I wanted to buy Alan a sweetish treat for when he arrived home from working away for a few days late last night.  He needs something light and tasty or he'll succumb to cheese and Port, oh how those two foodstuffs lie in wait for him!  I thought a couple of egg custards would fit the bill nicely ... yuk if you ask me ... but he loves them.

The rest of the things were all for me to go with the fresh and frozen vegetables that I have in the fridge and freezer, and reasonably good for my Fast 800 diet.  I'm trying to keep it simple, just having things that I can make without too much thought while I have so much on my mind.

I remembered to say yes to the receipt when the cashier asked me and it is now stuck in my diary for posterity.  I need to add the totals up and see just how much of my original £592.20 I have actually spent.  The only real Challenge with this money is to see how long it is going to last me.  

Well I say 'only real Challenge' but as you know I am also trying to run down the stash in the food cupboard, which unfortunately seems to be mostly full of foods I am trying to avoid at the moment.  This will alter in a week or so when I move away from doing the Fast 800 every day and switch to the 5:2 TRE diet, which basically just doing the Fast 800 for two days each week and eating sensibly, but sticking with time restricted eating for the other five. 

This £10 off voucher for Booths came last week, and I might try and make my actual money last a bit longer by seeing if for one month I can buy everything that I need to go with things that I already have in the house just with vouchers and points.  

Well, maybe allow myself a couple of pounds for when the cost goes a smidge over the total of the vouchers etc., but that should help stretch my money out a bit.  I have M&S vouchers, this Booths one and just over £15 of Nectar points, I need to add them up and see exactly what I have.

Today I'll end with this cuteness as it is here in the lodge at the moment ... it's a pity you can't hear the snores!!


Suky and Mavis

Mavis was signed off by the vets at her check up on Monday, and has been given the go ahead to start eating Gravy Bones again next week, something she will no doubt be very grateful for.  A walk is so much better when you arrive home to a little Gravy Bone snack.

Sue xx

Tuesday 14 March 2023

It Was An Itch That Needed Sorting, Flipping Skills ... and Worktop, What Worktop

Ever since my kitchen was installed and the fitters left me with my lovely new kitchen, a little thing has bugged me.  Where the worktop splashback meets the green of the kitchen cupboards at the side of the hob, there was the joining line.  Just a line where wood meets green minding it's own business ... and bugging me.  It just seemed to look unfinished.  And now eighteen months later I have finally done something about it. 

 I was putting something under the bed the other day in the storage area and I came across the little wooden shelf you see in this photo with the salt, pepper and oil on it ... and I immediately knew where it was going.  Now instead of seeing the line I see a lovely little shelf that is holding things that were previously taking up space on the worktop, and the join is hidden from view.

I have another little shelf that is exactly the same, and yes I wandered around the lodge looking for a suitable place to put that up too, but no joy ... up to now!!

As you can see I took the photo while my breakfast veggie omelette was cooking.  

This is getting to be one of my go to breakfasts, tasty and very filling and coming in at around 250 calories so a perfect meal for the Fast 800 and a good start to the day.  Someone asked me how I was getting on with the diet, after a brilliant first week when I lost 5lbs, last week saw me giving in to cravings a couple of times and with a death  in the family on Sunday, a bar of comfort chocolate may have been consumed.

Somehow I still managed to lose a pound ... for which I am eternally grateful ... as this, along with my coat feeling a bit looser has spurred me on to give it another real attempt this week.

Six pounds down in two weeks, plus sleeping so much better and feeling good means I really do need to buckle down and get on with things.

Yes, my flipping skills are now legendary.  😁

Seeing the photo of the worktop (counter to all you lovely overseas readers) and writing about the kitchen reminds me that a couple of weeks ago someone asked about why all my kitchen shots seem to include this worktop.  Meals shown on this worktop, shopping laid out and photographed on this worktop, and in this mornings case, oiled chopping boards drying out on this worktop.

Well to put it simply, this is the only worktop in my kitchen!!

Just a smidge over three foot of counter space in-between the hob and the sink, that's it folks.  So yes everything food related takes place on here.  So, having that little shelf take a tiny bit of the strain is an even better idea now that I think about it, and not just a cosmetic 'join hiding' exercise.

Yes, there is the breakfast bar, but I have never eaten on it as the height is just not quite right.  It had to go at this height as the radiator is underneath.   But I do manage to use it as an office space as long as I don't sit there for too long.

The joys of tiny home living ... but I love it. 

Sue xx

Saturday 11 March 2023

Old Things, Beautiful Things ... and Lovely Old Souls


I love old things, old beautiful, well used things.  

There is a happy knowledge of love when something has been treasured.  There is not much that is old in this top photo, although I aged it to give a nice tone.  In fact the little round lidded box is the only truly old thing there, picked up from a charity shop ... seemingly in February 2019 according to this blog post.

Something that I do treasure and that is in everyday use, and will be until the day it falls apart, is my lovely patchwork quilt.  All through Winter it stays on my bed on top of the duvet to add an extra layer of insulation.  And in Summer it is similarly on hand, ready to go on top of the summer-weight duvet that I switch to, in case of a cooler night.  I like cold rooms and cosy beds to sleep in.

After all my sorting and decluttering of recent years, it's nice that the things that I have around me now are going to be the things that stay around me for as long as possible.

Yes, exactly this.  💗

Just one Weekend Watching this week, and one that fits in nicely with this post.

Rationbook Rebecca describes what she is up to so perfectly here:  

Memories of my grandparents' farm and a love of personal freedom have encouraged me to attempt at turning my little home into a micro-holding; that may also have the potential to financially sustain me.

My house is a semi-detached with 5%-acre back garden so the whole property is approximately 1/10 acre in the middle of England.

I'm not an activist but a silent rebel! I hope to encourage others to grow their own, live contentedly with less and enjoy life more.

It's not a bad thing to do or way to live is it.  

She seems to be a gentle soul living a very calm and quiet life and has come out of recent health worries even more inspired to carry on.  Her wartime rationing challenge was a really good watch and I'm really surprised she has not got more subscribers than she has ... she really deserves them.  Anyway have a watch a see what you think.

Have a great weekend.

Sue xx

Friday 10 March 2023

Joining in With All the Snow Shots .... Haha!!


When I pulled back the curtains at seven this morning.

And three hours later.

Oh well, the washing is drying on the airer in the ambient warmth of the sunshine through the bedroom doors and the heating has been turned right back down to 17 degrees.

John Gray's snow day is so much more impressive.

Sue xx