Friday 28 July 2023

Frozen Assets ... and Retirement


The freezer drawers have been bugging me recently, it would seem with me they are either super organised or a complete mish mash of half opened packs thrown in any available gap.  So I decided to stock take yet again and go from the latter to the former in the space of a few hours.  

I think it was having that perfect new freezer with all it's empty drawers at the flat made mine seem all the more messy and out of control when I got home.

Taking everything out and wiping out the tiny annoying bits of spinach that were stuck everywhere took only a few minutes, so I decided to make a note of what was in which drawer and put everything back nice and neatly.

A proper stocktake. 🗠😀

It's always surprising to see how much food you have when it's usually out of sight behind a door isn't it ... and I've only done two of the drawers up to now.   I have a lovely amount of vegetables in the drawers, enough to keep me healthy for a good few weeks.  Now all I need to do is combine them with the things in the food cupboard and I should have lots of lovely meals at no extra cost to me.

Which is a good thing as we have been talking about our retirement plans over the last week or so, and Alan has finally handed in his necessary 18 months notice, ready for his actual retirement date of April 2025.  

As I am not due to retire until May of 2026 (providing they don't move the goalposts yet again), I would like to actually retire from the day job at the same time as Alan, closing the company down and finally being free.  To be able to do this I need to have a dedicated savings pot of one whole years basic salary, this way I will be able to continue to draw on that for the final year before my State Pension kicks in.

So being able to save money seems even more important just now ... time to sort out the last drawer of the freezer then!!

Sue xx

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Ultra-Processed ... Me?


So I finally finished my book. 

Over the past few weeks it's been a case of pick it up, read a bit, think about things, check things out for myself, do more back-up reading and generally really let what I have been learning sink in properly.  This was no quick and easy read and I felt it was important enough ... to me anyway ... to read this book properly.

I liked that the book tells you right at the beginning not to throw away all your ultra-processed foods but to spend more time reading their labels and assessing how they make you feel ... and boy have I been doing this.

The ingredients for a simple cheese and onion toasty that I was making one day last week. 

 While the toasty was cooking I read the labels of the spread ...

... and the 'cheese'.

I don't find them horrific in any way but they are things that I have been re-evaluating.  I won't buy this particular cheese anymore but the spread will stay as it is one of the better ones I have found.  I do want to avoid eating so many starches, extracts, lecithins etc etc

Of course I had to look at my chocolate bars too.

Fingers crossed for good ingredients here!

The Aldi white chocolate is delicious and although the ingredients list is long I will still be eating it occasionally, perhaps just a little bit more occasionally than I have been recently.  😄

Overall I have found that virtually all the Deliciously Ella products that I have in my cupboards have been in amongst the best foods and treats ingredients-wise.  Take this chocolate as an example, just four ingredients in the chocolate and all of them very recognisable ... and it's tasty chocolate too!

What I will be doing from now on is keeping the NOVA scale in mind when I'm shopping and eating and just trying my best to cut back a bit on the foods that are in the Ultra Processed Foods category.  I doubt I would ever be as close to the 80 natural/20 UPF aim that I would like but I will be a lot more mindful for sure.

Now it's time to relax with a book that is a lot lighter reading.


Sue xx

Monday 24 July 2023

A Successful Weekend at Our Welsh Flat

An original photo taken by me of the seafront at Llandudno.  
August 2015

 We had a very successful weekend at the Welsh flat, sorting out the things that we really needed to sort out, cleaning, hoovering and mowing for all we were worth and generally getting it on it's way to being able to be used.

How about a few before and afters:

The kitchen before ... note the first things to be unpacked were tea, coffee and the new kettle, I have my priorities right!!  😄

And here it is again just before we left for home.  

The fridge freezer and washing machine are now both in place and working perfectly, there is some food in the cupboards as well as the cutlery and crockery to be able to eat at the flat.

The living room.

Alan had just assembled our chairs and unwrapped the television ... supervised very well by Suky.

Sunday morning just before we left and the curtains are up and looking lovely, everywhere is clean and tidy and our temporary 'toaster box coffee table' is still in use.

And it would appear that Suky is still supervising goings on!

The main bedroom when we arrived, with it's freshly painted walls and new carpet being shown off beautifully in this photo.

And two days later with an actual bed, the curtains hung and a new lampshade.

The second bedroom.

We used this as a 'holding' room  for everything that we had brought with us while we worked on the other rooms, so it stayed messy right up until we were ready to leave.  First it held all the new purchases and things brought from home waiting to go into cupboards etc., and then it held all the wrappings and rubbish waiting for us to load the car and take away with us.

At the moment it just contains the lawnmower, some cushions ready for when we find a sofa, and a new cat litter tray for Ginger, who will be travelling with us whenever we go for more than one night.

And talking of lawnmowers ... once the batteries on our new lawnmower had charged Alan cut the grass, watched over intently by Mavis.  The dogs had obviously decided between them that Suky was to supervise the inside jobs and Mavis the outside ones.

And for those of you who like to see actual footage I did a Before and After in video format too, just two very short little clips of live action.

So it was a very successful weekend, the drive home was a bit of an experience with all the heavy rain and standing water on the motorway, but we managed it safely and now we will be seeing if we can source some more of the things we need for the flat from Facebook Marketplace and perhaps charity shops.  We aren't buying much just the basics to make it comfortable and easy to use for us and my sons.

If you have any questions I will answer them in the comments of this post.

Sue xx

Thursday 20 July 2023

Flowers, Good Deeds, Books, Seeds and Deliveries

I was gifted a lovely bunch of pink carnations three weeks ago as a thank you for a little good deed I did via our town Facebook group.  They were unexpected and lovely, and have just lasted and lasted.  No doubt they will be going over in the next few days but while they were here they added an unusual splash of pink to my living room shelf.

The shelf is looking a lot more cluttered than usual at the moment, with my overflow of books having taken up residence since our holiday.  But do you know what I really like it.  There is just enough colour co-ordination to keep it looking organised and not over-crowded.

Well that's my opinion.  😁

A close up of the books for all of you lovely book addicts.  💖

My August edition of Kitchen Garden arrived this week with it's free seeds, which reminded me ...

... I have not yet read the July edition, or sown the red lettuce seeds that I meant to.  I must remedy that over the weekend, and I definintely want to get some cabbage seeds sown in pots ready to fill gaps that will start to appear in the wooden beds soon.

Although it will be a while for gaps to appear if I keep picking my spring onions one at a time. 😄

 I love being able to pick exactly what I need from the garden and not having to buy a whole bunch of something and having to find a use for it all.  Just one of the many perks of growing my own even in a much smaller space than I used to have.

We are off to the Welsh flat tomorrow to start kitting it out ready for use.  Fingers crossed that the first delivery arrives on schedule, it's the bed ... without it we will be sleeping on the floor!!

If you would like to see the flat, I will try and make a small film, or at the very least take lots of photos of it before we put things in.  And then maybe again afterwards, I guess I wouldn't be a true blogger if I didn't now would I.  😀

Sue xx

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Tiny Garlic Breads and Tiny Jars


I had some of these in the freezer last week and decided to eat them over a couple of days.  

One is supposed to be a serving size ... but one little garlic bread really, they are diddy!!  I like at least two any time I have them

The first day I had them with some pesto spaghetti, Tenderstem broccoli  and peas.

The next lunchtime I decided to turn them into two tiny pizzas, gosh they were good this way. 

INGREDIENTS: Fortified Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (16%), Garlic (4%), Flat Leaf Parsley, White Wine Vinegar, Rapeseed Oil, Salt, Grape Must, Yeast, Black Pepper.

The ingredients for the little garlic breads are relatively good too, although I don't understand why there is 'Grape Must' in them.  😕

This photo shows the Basil Pesto that I was using up from the food cupboard and it highlighted to me why it's been taking me so long to work my way through everything, this tiny little jar lasted me for four different meals.  

First use on the spaghetti and then on these miniscule pizzas.

A couple of days later it was used as big blobs dotted all through a cheese, onion and tomato quiche.

 I love using it this way as it adds a real depth of flavour to the whole quiche, it works well dotted onto a pizza too, whether it be a homemade one or a store bought one and it's something that I do regularly.

And finally I finished it off on another bowl of penne pasta, which I don't seem to have taken a photo of.  Four days to get one little jar out of my cupboard.  It will be Christmas before my cupboard is empty at this rate!!

Sue xx

Monday 17 July 2023

Homemade Oat Milk, Menu Planning and Ingredients


I'm getting to the stage of the Food Cupboard Challenge where I am mostly running out of ready made things.  I say 'mostly' as there are still some pasta pot type things and I'm sure there must be some things in the bottom cupboard that I could just tip into a pan and call a meal.  But I have been concentrating on the top cupboard this past couple of weeks.  I went in there yesterday to get a carton of almond milk and found I had already used up the last one.

So with no time to soak almonds (they need at lest six hours or preferably overnight), I decided to make some oat milk to go on my morning weetabix. It's a simple milk to make:

 I just soak 60g of oats for half an hour or so in my Nutribullet cup, drain them, rinse them a couple of times and then put them in back into the cup with 450ml of fresh cold water, and blend for about 30 seconds.  Strain through a fine sieve ... I usually do it twice ... and then decant into a clean bottle and put into the fridge, it's much nicer chilled.

These measurements give you a pint of fresh oat milk.  You will have to shake it up every time you use it as without emulsifiers it does separate.  It's not my favourite sort of homemade milk but when you're waiting for your breakfast it's a nice quick one to make.

I added the leftover oat 'mush' to some scones later that day.

The original recipe is in this book, on page 20.

I haven't been shopping for a few weeks now and I am starting to miss the supermarkets, I've actually found myself watching more YouTubers than usual doing food hauls to get my fix!!  But I quite like that things are visibly finally starting to go down both in my cupboard and in the fridge.  In fact the fridge is so bare I have been wiping down the shelves as they empty ... it's like a long drawn out spring cleaning.  😄

I thought I would make a menu plan for this week to make good use of what's left in there, incorporating some things from the cupboard and the freezer too. Before anyone jumps in and says that I'm not eating enough veggies etc etc, I will be adding things to these planned out meals, but I'm not restricting myself to writing down what ... I'll wait until the actual mealtime and see what I fancy, sometimes I am in the mood for lots of vegetables and sometimes I have to make myself eat peas.

The main point of this particular menu was to space out the last four bread rolls and three slices of bread that I have in the freezer.  I want to try a week without bread next week and I know if there's some lurking anywhere in the lodge I will cave in and eat it, so what I have in has to be used up this week.

Now it's time to grab my hummus, chop some celery and carrots and have my lunch.

Sue xx

Saturday 15 July 2023

From the Potatoes That I Didn't Plant ... and the Cucumber That I Did


Last night, just in time for our tea, I pulled up the first of our potato plants, not one planted by me but a lovely healthy looking volunteer left unintentionally in the ground from last year.

This was it in the central section of this bed just over a month ago, by last night it was twice as tall as it was in this photo, and although it never actually flowered the greenery was starting to go yellow.

It was time to see what we had!!

There was a grand total of 3lb 2oz, which is not bad at all for what I think was two little potatoes left in the soil from last year ... and no work, other than a bit of watering from me. 😀

I washed them and divided them into half for each of us, and we both made meals that made the potatoes the star of the show for our teas last night, we also each have enough for another good sized portion tonight ... well we might as well eat them while they are nice and fresh.

I boiled all mine up last night, so I have the other half ready cooked for tonight, Alan just cooked half of his and saved the rest.

I made myself a nice simple tea, making good use of all the leftover things that I had in the fridge to compliment the potatoes.  Isn't it a good feeling when all those little tubs of bits and bobs get used up in one fell swoop.

And guess what ...

... I could not resist putting the four teeny, tiny potatoes that were too small to cook into a pot of soil.

It will be interesting to see if we get anything from them ... but hey,. waste not want not.  😉

Oh, and I forgot to mention that while my potatoes were cooking Alan came in with our first little cucumber, he wanted to have half with his tea, so I cut it in two and he went off with his portion.  I ate mine straight away while the potatoes bubbled on the stove.  It was very tasty, but it just didn't last long enough to get it's photo taken!

Sue xx

Friday 14 July 2023

No Ration Challenge ... But a Way of Helping Refugees


Any year when I am able to, I sign up for and take part in the Ration Challenge, and my family, friends and wonderful readers usually support me every step of the way.  It's a brilliant way of us all coming together and doing something really positive and helping some very deserving people in the process. 

 (Here's the very start of my journey last year.)

This year there is no Ration Challenge here in the UK, some real diehards signed up and took part in the Australian version, but I thought a year off would suit me better.  I am not always comfortable asking for sponsorship, and I really do believe that occasionally there can be simply too much begging for money especially online.

But when I get a comment like the one I got the other day from regular reader Alison, AKA Fat Dormouse asking for help for a charity that I knew absolutely nothing about, but one that also help refugees in a completely different way, I knew I would have to let my readers know about it to.

Rather than copy and pasting Alison's blog post I will share this LINK to take you directly to her blog entry which describes everything so much better than I could even begin too.  It also contains the links that you can donate through and helps you learn so much more about how this charity works.

I am sharing this today, as a generous individual has offered to double all the donations made over the course of this weekend up to a total of $10,000.  I'm off to donate right now, please could you give a small donation?

Sometimes it's good to raise money to feed people, sometimes it's good to raise money to enable them to contact their loved ones ... and feed their souls.

Thank you.

Sue xx

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Sandwich Spread - Homemade or Bought?


Salad sandwich fillers are a Summer lunch that is easy, quick, tasty and delicious.

My boys used to love this stuff in their sandwiches for their school packed lunches, and I have to admit so did I occasionally.  But I doubt I would eat it now after reading Chris van Tulleken's book Ultra Processed People and then reading the ingredients list on it's label.  

Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Cabbage (contains Preservative - Sulphites), Rapeseed Oil, Water, Carrots, Gherkins (contain Firming Agent - Calcium Chloride), Modified Cornflour, Salt, Onions, Egg Yolks, Red Peppers, Mustard, Stabilisers - Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum, Spice Extracts, Spices, Herb Extract (contains Celery), Flavourings, Colour - Riboflavin, VEGETABLES 35%

For one thing I wouldn't touch Xanthan Gum with a barge pole, especially after learning that it is also an ingredient of wallpaper paste!!

Food is just continuing to shock me at the moment!

These days I make my own sandwich fillers, and I have done for a long time.  

Experimenting with leftovers and a dash of mayonnaise is pretty much guaranteed to make a sandwich filler that is tasty, quick and much better for you than a jar of shelf stable long life 35% vegetable mush.

I tend to use a couple of tablespoons of my choppy salads when I have some in the fridge, it's easy, quick and very tasty.  Chopping the already chopped up salad veggies a little bit smaller and adding just salt, pepper and a squeeze of mayonnaise ... either bought or homemade ... and this time I added some dairy free cheese that I had ready grated in the fridge.  Within minutes I had a fresh tasting and relatively healthy lunch.

If I had to eat some of the jarred stuff I think I would load the sandwich up with lots of crunchy lettuce and cucumber and try not to think of wallpaper paste while I ate my lunch.

What is your absolute favourite sandwich filler?

Sue xx

Monday 10 July 2023

An Expensive Weekend


We seem to have spent the weekend and this morning giving all our money away, well that what it feels like.  Paying for the repainting and re-carpeting of the flat, then equipping it with the basics has not been cheap, but it is all worthwhile.

While we are using it we will have all the things that we need there for a comfortable time, and when we do come to sell it in the future it will be ready for showing.

We have ordered the bed and the fridge/freezer and they are on standby ready to be delivered.   Alan decided to buy himself a new television, so we will take his old one to the flat when we go, along with my old Freeview box and the spare DVD player we have.

We weren't going to buy a washing machine, but after a weekend with a poorly Pug* and lots of doggy bedding to wash, we thought it might be a good idea ... and it will fill the void that is in the kitchen next to the sink.

We went to Dunelm first thing yesterday to purchase bedding, curtains, lightshades and all the other things that you suddenly realise that you need.  Luckily between us we have managed to equip the cutlery and crockery parts of the kitchen and towels for the bathroom, so that is at least a bit of money saved.

But it's a lot of money spent!! 

 Oh well, thankfully it's almost all done now and I can stop gritting my teeth just long enough for my annual visit to the dentist.  Wish me luck.

Sue xx

*  Suky is much better now, it seems to have been a 24hr bug type thing, or perhaps something she picked up ... she's a sneaky, greedy little girl.

**  We are not really buying a set of bunkbeds!!  😄