Friday, 28 February 2014

That Was February, That Was!

Hello and welcome to Ali and did I say hi to Janice Piper yet? Damn my appalling memory.

Right, so it's already the last day of February and time for a review. Did I live up to my Super-Duper-No-Spend-Fabulous-Frugal-February promises.

Well...not exactly. Although I haven't been too terrible.

I have managed to seriously reduce my stockpile...but, unfortunately, not simply by eating everything down.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I've had a massive clear out of my food stockpile and with tears streaming (okay, that's a bit dramatic, but I did feel really bad about it) I binned a load of stuff that was up to 5 years out of date. Seriously, I found a jar of roasted peppers dated 2009. But, I have also eaten mostly from my stores too. I only added to it a little by stocking up on chicken, bacon and pork for the freezer to add variety to meals. My freezer is also now groaning under the weight of all the out-of-date dried beans I cooked and bagged up.  I feel a spate of vegetarian meals coming on, easier for me to serve without feeling guilty now that DD3 and her carnivore boyfriend have moved out. And there's always cassoulet or chicken chilli I can make. That's next week's meals sorted then. 

I have broken my no charity shopping resolution, and my no new wool one too. However, I'm hoping that by selling this -

I'll be able to fund this:-

 And also make a profit.


is Rowan Wool Cotton yarn. 

Internet research tells me the RRP is around £6.50 per 50g ball. In the Hospice charity shop I bought 6 full balls plus several part balls for a total price of just £8. Now, I've always fancied knitting something with Rowan yarn but it's so, so expensive, and there's not enough here to make a full garment so I'm going to sell it on Ebay. Even if I only charge half the RRP for each ball and maybe another £10 for all the part balls I'll still make a profit which will repay what it cost, and also pay for this:-

which I bought to make socks for my daughters and DS2's girlfriend for Xmas. The purple, grey and black yarns were from Poundland at £1 per ball or 3 for the price of 2 (so £6 for 9 balls) and the blue was from Aldi at £2.99 for a pack of 3 balls, so total for all of it was £8.99.

So, I think I'm vindicated because I spent money to make/save money, and hopefully will come out with cash in hand.

The Rowan yarn is the second time I've had a really good bargain from this charity shop. Last year I bought a length of Laura Ashley fabric for £7. When I got it home and measured it there was over 10 yards and research showed it was a vintage 1980s fabric. I sold most of it in 1 and 2 metre lengths on Ebay and made over £100 profit. If only I could have such luck every week.

Anyway, February has been a mixed lot with some necessary spends such as DH's fares to Wales and helping DD3 and BF with their move, and some not so necessary spends such as a couple of lunches out. On the whole though I'm quite pleased with how its gone, especially with how many dinners I've made with foods I already had in stock.

Speaking of which, this was tonight's dinner:-

I made it in my slow cooker and just bunged everything in without any pre-frying. 

I did buy the chorizo ring for £1.49 for a 170g from Aldi, and the kale was from a £1 bag I got from a lovely greengrocers in Deal yesterday, but I only used two-thirds of each of those so the remainders will go into another meal. Instead of butter beans I substituted a bag of the haricot beans I cooked and froze from dried earlier this week, and the butternut squash was half of one I bought for 69p on offer in Aldi a couple of weeks ago. Everything else was from my stocks and, so it didn't go to waste, I tipped in some baked bean sauce leftover from yesterday. 

To go with it I also made cheese and onion rolls using white and wholemeal flours from my stocks and grated cheese from the freezer.Yeast I buy from Aldi for 59p for a box of foil sachets.

The meal was pronounced delicious by my dear husband and one for me to make again.

Right, I think that's all for now. I'm going to watch the Duggars on 19 Kids and Counting tonight at 9 while I knit some more of the baby cardigan. I've done the back and fronts and I'm just about to start on the sleeves. More pictures when it's finished.

Why not drop me a line and let me know how your February's gone.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Vintage Knitting

A quick post tonight to show the vintage pattern I'm working on at the moment. I bought it for 50p in a charity shop at the weekend. 

Not sure why I bought it really since I have folders bursting at the seams with old patterns, but it's not often I find affordable vintage patterns these days, they're generally seriously overpriced. Not having any babies to knit for I'll probably donate this cardi to charity. 

I'm knitting it with an apple green ribbing and the main part a lemon yellow, and if it turns out okay I'm planning on making another one with the colours reversed (yellow ribbing/ green main). I'll get two cardis out of 200g of value acrylic yarn at a cost of around £3.20 for both.

Dinner tonight was chicken pie leftover from yesterday served with chips and beans (for DH) and mushy peas (for me).  The pie came out of the freezer, a huge one made when there were more of us to cater for, so its done 2 meals and DS1 will have the remainder for his lunch tomorrow. That's now all the sachets of Approved Foods chicken in juice used up. 

Tomorrow I'll give a bit of a round up of how well (or not) I've done during Frugal February.

Wot, more socks?

Well, I lost a measly 1/2 lb this week but then that follows since I was only good for 1/2 the time. I've had another bad day today. Just don't know what's wrong with me at the moment. After 18 months of sticking to the plan and eating healthily, thinking I wouldn't ever want to eat the way I used to, I'm now in danger of binging the weight back on, which is what I've always done before after a weight loss. I think being cooped up indoors so much is partly to blame, too much time to think about food even when I'm busy. I'm really hoping that as the weather improves I'll want to eat more salads and fruit, and I'll be able to get out and about more. 

One thing that is good about the rain keeping me inside is I've spent more time crafting in one way or another. There's this pair of socks I finished off for DH. 

They're made with the remainder of the yarn I bought for the Doctor Who scarves. £15 worth of yarn made a super-long scarf, a shorter scarf, a pair of gloves and these socks (although I did add in some extra brown yarn as I didn't quite have enough). DH really loves his hand knitted socks as he gets such cold feet. 

I'm a bit sick of knitting socks for now though so I'm making a baby cardigan from a vintage pattern I bought in a charity shop at the weekend. I'll post pictures tomorrow since it's nearly midnight here and I'm at my volunteering tomorrow morning.

My other crafting project is working more on DS2's scrapbook. It's coming together well now with only about 6 pages left to do, so hopefully it will be finished in time.

And just for fun before I go to bed, here's Halo showing off his intelligence by reading one of DH's computer programming books.

 DH will be testing him on what he's read later!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Fantastic News...and a Confession.

Sorry I've been MIA. I've just been busy, busy, busy. As a consequence I've been nearly falling asleep on the sofa by 9pm so have been going to bed early. 

I'm just dropping in now to tell you all our good - amazing - news. 

My DD2 is engaged. 

DH and I were on our way to Canterbury on Friday to meet up with DS2 for lunch, when DD2 phoned and asked if she and her BF could pop round in the evening. She didn't give any hints but mother's intuition had me saying to DH, 'I bet they got engaged'. I was right. She moved in with him last June and it was their 2 year anniversary last week, so I had been expecting it sooner or later since they're both late twenties and want to have children in the next couple of years. They'll probably have the wedding next year, were thinking of getting wed in Las Vegas but think now they'll get married here and honeymoon in Vegas. 

Apart from that, my days have been filled with enjoying some days out with DH while he was off for half term and the weather has been fine, and sorting out my Approved Foods stockpile that was in our bedroom. 

And here's the confession...I have thrown out food. Not just a little bit, but lots. 

It's broken my heart because I hate waste, but I couldn't in all conscience serve up foods dated 2011. The thing is when I first started shopping with AF there were still 6 of us to cook for and as I wasn't dieting I bulk bought all sorts of stuff that didn't get used once kids began moving out and I started on this healthier way of eating. Anyway, I had an enormous clear out, which was really good because now everything is arranged nicely on shelves where I can see it instead of being hidden in boxes beneath our bed. Also, I've soaked and cooked in my pressure cooker about 12 lbs of chick peas and haricot, red kidney and blackeye beans which were well out of date, but will now last for a long time in the freezer. Today I've sorted through the cupboard in the living room (and thrown more food out) and now I just need to do the kitchen cupboard. We certainly won't starve, apart from the beans we must have enough dried pasta and rice to last us a year. 

I also completed another 4 pages of DS's scrapbook this morning and I'm beginning to think I might actually get it finished in time.

Tomorrow is weigh in day. I've had 3 bad days and 4 very good ones, so the result is very much in the balance this week. I'm hoping maybe I've done enough to lose 1lb of the 3lb I gained last week. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Busy morning

Lovely weather here today, but I've had a lot to do at home so have only managed a quick trip along the road to Aldi.  

Speaking of Aldi, they must be doing well in this awful economic climate because ours is expanding. Our local store is cloaked in scaffolding and wooden boarding at the moment because they are extending out into the car park. I know this because I earwigged in on a conversation between the manager and another customer. They're adding another aisle of goods and an 2 extra checkouts (don't know whay they're bothering with the checkouts since the 5 they have now are never fully manned, or should that be personned). Apparently careful planning means they will only be losing one car parking space. I'm pleased that they will possibly be stocking more items since, after Morrisons, Aldi is the place I shop most often. I only use Morrisons more because they have a better range of goods, but if Aldi has more choice then they could well become my number 1.

So, what have I been up to today that's kept me inside and busy from 7.30 am to 1.30pm when I finally got to sit down.Well, DD3 and BF have the lead roles of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the local am dram production of Jesus Christ Superstar and thay are having a bake sale tonight to raise funds so I've made some more of these:-

I've also spent an hour and a half and completed two double-paged spreads for DS2's scrapbook. 

 And these are the pages I did the other day. 

The ones of him with his bands aren't quite done yet as I need to get some appropriate rock star wording. I now have about 5-6 double spreads to do and a couple of single pages. Apologies for the picture quality I'm still getting to grips with all the camera features on my new phone.

I also made a Sausage Casserole in my slow cooker for mine and DS1's dinner using a 30% reduced price pack of Aldi sausages (normal price £1.09) and veg and cooked kidney beans from the freezer. I also mixed in some bits from the fridge; a little baked bean sauce and some gravy leftover from the liver and bacon we had the other day

This will be served with garlic and coriander couscous from Approved Foods (4 for £1)

While the cakes were baking I whizzed the Hoover around to clean up the mess made by the cat's litter. It seems to get all over the place despite their litter trays being placed on large pieces of lino.

I've also been to Aldi and back, done piles of washing up as a result of all the cooking and I finally got around to emailing my penfriend in Alabama.

Nothing very taxing I suppose but all that standing around in the kitchen and then bending over the table scrapbooking has left my legs and back aching. Perhaps that has something to do with the 3lbs extra weight I'm carrying around...yes, I gained 3lbs this week, but then I've been very, very naughty with my eating for the past couple of weeks. Never mind, its happened before and it will come off again.

Tomorrow is volunteering day and late afternoon DH will be back from Bridgend, so I'm making the most of my last quiet evening.

Hope you are all well out there in blogland and the weather has been better where you are.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Home Alone

DH is in Bridgend. No problems whatsoever on the trains, despite warnings on the First Great Western website. Although I miss him when he's away I also love having the house to myself for a bit. DS1 has been at work most of the day and I've sat on the sofa watching all my daytime TV and knitting for hours (yet another pair of socks for DH). And I don't even feel guilty about it. He'll be staying with his cousin and her husband and will get well fed and looked after, so I'm taking a few days to have a bit of a break from routine as well. He's had quite a few trips down to Wales on his own over the years and I have never been away alone except for one weekend when DD1 was about 2, so 28 years ago. I think I deserve to take things easy for a couple of days.

I've not really cooked, I just fried a couple of eggs with oven chips and baked beans for DS's dinner. I've been having a veg, fruit and yogurt day to try and compensate before weigh-in day tomorrow for all the naughties I've eaten this week . It's a fortnight since I weighed in and last week I ate badly nearly every day so I'm expecting a gain, just hoping I'll have done enough that it won't be too dreadful.

Yesterday we went to DD3 and BF's for dinner and had a lovely roast meal; lamb, mint sauce, stuffing, yorkshire puds, roast spuds, parsnips and carrots, plus broccoli and cauliflower. Dessert was sticky toffee pud and custard for me and jam roly poly for DH. DD even got me a Weight Watchers pud, although I think the roasties, yorkshires and stuffing probably undid any good work. We really enjoyed it and it was a treat to have a meal cooked for us. They're settling in well and making the flat really nice.

Weather here today was dull but dry, still a bit windy but much less so, and its been quite warm. Of course, tomorrow when I have to go out it's due to rain nearly all day. I hope the weather has been a bit better where you are.

That's all I have for today since I really haven't done much of anything. I'm going to knit some more this evening, and then I get to go to bed and have the whole bed to myself and no snoring to keep me awake. I'd better not get too used to it; DH is back on Thursday.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Love is...warm feet!

Hello and welcome to a new follower, Everyday Life On A Shoestring. I hope you continue to find something worthwhile popping over here for every once in a while. I do wonder if my everyday boring little life is really of interest to anyone but me (and even I don't often find much to get excited over) so I am extremely grateful to anyone who takes the time to read and comment.

First, some good news...(drum roll please)...DH went for his interview yesterday and he got the full time lecturing job. They were extremely impressed by him, including the short lesson he had to teach and his interview. He was the last of three to be interviewed, then he was asked him to stay behind when the other two left and he was offered the job. 

He's accepted, of course, but we're not shouting about it yet because the full details, start date, salary etc. haven't been decided on yet. He's still officially employed through an agency as a supply lecturer until the end of February, and we're hoping his salary will be similar to what he's getting now. We could take a small cut as he'll have job security, sick pay, a pension fund and he'll get paid over the holiday periods whereas at the moment I have to put a big chunk of each month's salary aside to cover the periods he isn't earning. If they were to pay him pro rata according to what he was on  when he finished secondary school teaching as head of department he'd be on a really good salary, but we're not expecting that and really, we could manage on quite a bit less as long as it's regular income. 

I can hardly tell you how proud I am of him. After having such an awful breakdown 3 years ago he's pulled himself back up, taught as a supply teacher in some horrible schools before finding his niche in this college, and I am so happy for him that he won't have to return to school teaching. From my point of view it means I can start budgeting properly again knowing exactly what money we'll have coming in every month, and I can make plans for the future. 

On another topic, he loved his Valentine's gift. He even loved the way it was wrapped in brown parcel paper and he's kept the little gift card I put in with the socks and is carrying it in his wallet. 

He sent me a text once he got to work to say how much he appreciated it all, and couldn't wait to put them on and have lovely warm feet when he got in from work tonight.

Our dinner for two tonight was nothing very posh, just liver and bacon with cabbage and mash, but it was really delicious. 

Dessert was a slightly healthier version of one of DH's favourites, ice cream, Flake and cream. Instead of the full fat versions we had Carte D'Or Light Vanilla Ice Cream topped with crushed Galaxy Ripple and low fat squirty cream from a can. Not exactly healthy, but it could have been worse. 

I made a bit of a fuss for the special day with scented candles on the table. 

Ah, sweet. Well, not bad since we've been together nearly 35 years and married for nearly 30. There's still a lot of love floating about in with all the day to day grind of life.

DH is still hoping to go to Bridgend next week to visit his mum, and fingers crossed the weather doesn't look like it will be too dreadful although it is likely to rain...when isn't it? We're expecting really high winds here again tonight, and once again DS1 won;t be home until 10. Thankfully next week he has a few earlier shifts.

Well, I think that's all I have for today. Hope you've had a good day whether you've celebrated Valentine's or not.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Quorn Shepherd's Pie

Tonight's dinner was a two for the price of one meal. I used one 500g pack of Quorn mince, made a Shepherd's Pie for tonight's dinner and saved half the filling to make another meal (possibly a pasta bake) at the weekend.

So, Quorn Shepherd's (Style) Pie:-

500g pack of Quorn Mince - on offer a few weeks ago at £1.49 in Morrisons (1/2 bag = 75p) 
Large Onion - 10p
1/5 catering tin of carrots, chopped - Approved Foods 99p, so approx 20p (can use fresh carrots)
Garlic clove - 5p
Tablespoon of oil - 5p
2 Tablespoons Tomato Puree - from a big AF tin - approx 2p
Teaspoon yeast Extract (Marmite) - 5p
2 vege stock cubes - AF approx 5p
Dried Rosemary and Thyme and black pepper - 5p
1.5 lb potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with a little milk and low fat spread (or butter/marg) - approx 50p
2 oz grated cheddar - 25p

Fry the garlic and onion in the oil for a few minutes,(if using fresh chopped carrots fry them with the onion) add the quorn mince and fry another couple of minutes. 

Add the other ingredients plus about 1/2 pint of boiled water. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. While mince is simmering, boil the potatoes until soft and then mash with the milk and marg/butter/spread. 

Put half the mince mixture in an oven proof dish, top with the potato and sprinkle over the grated cheese. 

Bake near the top of the oven at Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until the top is browned.

I served this with 1/2 a sweetheart cabbage from Aldi (49p so 25p for half).

Use the other half of the mince mix for another meal, or make 2 shepherd's pies and freeze one for another day.

Total cost of Shepherd's Pie plus cabbage = Approx £2.32 or 58p per serving

The other half of the mince mixture (minus cheese and cabbage) is 46p, mixed into 12 ounces of pasta (30p) and topped with 4 oz cheddar (50p) the second meal totals £2.62 or 66p a serving. Add salad and its approx £1 a serving.

I'm really pleased to have used up all the tinned carrots; they were quite horrible on their own but okay in dishes as they seemd to take on the other flavours. 

Right, confession time. I've broken my promise not to add to my food stores. I had a £2.50 voucher off a £25 spend for FarmFoods and as we had absolutely no chicken in the freezer and as I'm trying to eat more healthily and chicken is my favourite low fat meat, I decided to stock up on their chicken breasts. They also had a 3 for £6 offer on their 600g (18 rashers) packs of back bacon. 

I ended up getting 3 x 1 kg packs of chicken breast fillets at 3 for £10, 2 x 1.5kg packs of chicken thighs at 2 for £5, 3 x 1kg packs of pork steaks at 3 for £10, 3 x 600g packs of back bacon rashers at 3 for £6 and a 200g pack of Ham at £1. Total cost was £32 or £29.50 minus the voucher. I now have a wide variety of meats in my freezer which will give us a selection of meals for the next couple of months. I'm still using up my stockpile, making use of sauces, casserole mixes, pasta, rice, couscous etc to add to the basic ingredients.

Tomorrow should be my volunteering day, but the winds have been fierce here today, and we just had a thunder and lightening storm and torrential rain so I'll have to see what the weather's like in the morning before I chance making the 9 mile journey to Deal. DH left work early this afternoon to be on the safe side, losing a couple of hours pay, but he has to go in if he can tomorrow because he has his interview. DS1 is also in Canterbury for work at the moment and will travel back at around 9pm; hopefully his bus is running because there have been problems with the trains.

I suppose we're all asking ourselves day after day when this awful weather will end. DH is supposed to be going to Bridgend in Wales next week to visit his mum in the nursing home but its looking less likely he'll chance travelling. Luckily we havent booked his ticket yet as we were waiting until the last minute just in case.

Okay, that's enough of me rambling on for tonight. Hope everyone sleeps well despite the weather.